Rewatching DuckTales! The series returns to prime time to celebrate freakin’ Valentine’s Day in episode 94, “A DuckTales Valentine.”
What’s all this, then? By 1990, production on DuckTales has pretty much ceased, except someone at Disney was invested in keeping the party going. This included a mid-budgeted feature film in the works and a handful of new episodes to kick off an all-Disney afternoon programming block. And then there’s this, a one-off episode made as part of a Magical World of Disney Valentine’s Day special, airing in prime time on ABC. It was the only new animation in the special, as everything else was old-timey Disney cartoons from the archives.
Here’s what happens: It’s Valentine’s Day, but Scrooge can’t be bothered. He’s preparing an expedition to find the lost temple of Aphroducky. He says the trip is too dangerous for the kids, so of course they stow away. Scrooge catches them, and then everyone’s off in a minisub to explore the sunken temple. They find a message saying love is the greatest treasure of all, which Scrooge dismisses another lame Valentine, and then some golden arrows. A shark attacks, poking Launchpad with one of the arrows. The arrows are magic, and Launchpad falls in love with the shark (!). Everyone escapes to the surface with the arrows.
The scene shifts to Mount Olympos, with the gods Aphroducky and Vulcan. He doesn’t approve her using her arrows to mess with humans’ love lives, and they bicker. She discovers her arrows are missing and sets out to find Scrooge. She appears in Scrooge’s office demanding the arrows back. She threatens him with her magic. In defense, Webby pokes her with an arrow, causing her to fall in love in Scrooge.
Aphroducky moves into the mansion, driving Scrooge crazy. The kids try to come up with a way to undo the spell. Their plan backfires, as they accidentally poke Scrooge with arrow, and now he loves Aphroducky as she loves him. He tears up his property to build her a new temple. The kids think Scrooge has abandoned them. Launchpad has still been in love with the shark this whole time, but then it wears off. The kids deduce that they must get Scrooge to choose between Aphroducky and his beloved money. They trick Aprhoducky into thinking that she’s allergic to gold.
At a press conference, Scrooge announces he’s giving up fortune to be with Aphroducky. In Mount Olympos, Vulcan sees this too, and he is outraged. Scrooge packs up the arrows and decides to leave and live with Aphroducky on Mount Olympus. When the kids say they’re not going with him, that’s the choice he must make, and this breaks the spell. Then Vulcan attacks. After a lot of fighting, the kids poke Aphroducky with the arrows, making her fall back in love with Vulcan. The gods return to Olympos and Scrooge says his family is all the treasure he needs.
Humbug: My thesis is that series-long arc of DuckTales is Scrooge learning that his newfound family is more important than his money. In this one, he first chooses Aphroducky over his money. Then, when the spell wears off and he comes to his senses, he states that his family is the real treasure.
Junior Woodchucks: Scrooge doesn’t want his nephews on the expedition with him. Once he learns they’ve stowed away, he lets them explore the ruins with him in the minisub. He must’ve known all along that they would stow away, right?
Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad falling in love with a shark is odd, but it provides an important plot point. During the big fight, he uses his jet to distract Vulcan.
Maid and maiden: Webby spends the whole episode wanting to give Scrooge a cupcake as a Valentine gift, but spiteful Aphrodite smooshes the cupcake under her foot. Harsh.
Foul fowls: Vulcan on this show seems a little more based on Zeus, living atop Mount Olympos, appearing as a giant, and throwing lightning bolts all over.
Reference row: There are dozens (hundreds?) of myths about the goddess Aphrodite out there, most of them contradictory. For as long as there have been people, it seems, there have been stories about a goddess of love. The main consistency about the Aphrodite myths, from what I can tell, is not romantic love, but her furious jealously. That says a lot about the human condition, doesn’t it?
Thoughts on this viewing: Definitely a throwback to the early DuckTales episodes, where each one felt like a 30-minute Indiana Jones movie. They must have known this was for prime time, because I get the sense the animators were really striving to put their best webbed feet forward.
Next: I love lamp.
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