Rewatching DuckTales, and… OMFG, they made a DuckTales movie!!! DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was released on August 3, 1990, to mixed reviews and poor box office, but nonetheless remains a big part of the show’s history.
What’s all this, then? DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was the first film produced by Disney’s Movietoons studio, created to produce mid-level (some might say lesser) animated movies to run alongside the big blockbusters made by Disney Animation Studios. Most of Movietoons’ output were those numerous direct-to-video sequels to Disney classics that flooded stores in the late ‘90s/early 2000s. Movietoons’ biggest success was 1995’s A Goofy Movie, which most Disney fans have accepted as part of the Disney renaissance canon. Tracking the history of this stuff can be maddening because as time went on, Movietoons changed its name a few times and became a different type of studio, calling itself Disney Video Premieres and then Disneytoon Studios. Wikipedia alleges that the studio went defunct in 2018. Additionally, DuckTales the Movie was co-produced by Disney Television Animation, who made the TV show, and Walt Disney Animation France S.A., who contributed additional animation.
Here’s what happens: Scrooge and family travel to an unnamed foreign country in search of long-lost treasure of Collie Baba (heh). The shape-changing wizard Merlock and his pickpocket sidekick Dijon are also after the treasure. After a big action scene, Merlock gets the treasure, except for a seemingly useless oil lamp, which Scrooge lets Webby keep for her tea set.
Back at the mansion, Webby rubs the lamp, and of course there’s a wisecracking genie, whom the kids nickname Gene. We get a bunch of comedy bits where the kids make wishes, only to learn how easy it is for the wishes to turn out bad. He warns the kids that if the lamp is combined with Merlock’s magic amulet, then Merlock will gain godlike power. Scrooge figures out what’s going on, gets the lamp, and wishes for the treasure of Collie Baba, to impress the Duckburg Archeological Society at the annual ball. Merlock and Dijon show up at the ball. After another big action scene, Dijon is the one who gets the lamp. He wishes for Scrooge’s fortune for himself.
Dijon has Scrooge thrown in jail for trespassing. Launchpad bails him out, and then it’s another action scene as Scrooge and family break into the money bin to steal back the lamp. Merlock transforms into an insect to sneak along with them, snatching the lamp before Scrooge can. He combines the lamp and the amulet, basically giving him unlimited wishes. He transforms the money bin into his own giant flying castle. Huey, Dewey and Louie manage to get the lamp away from Merlock and to Scrooge. As Scrooge falls from the castle, he wishes everything back to normal. Merlock chases after Scrooge, only to fall to his death (!) after Scrooge knocks the amulet out of his hand.
Then there’s the question of what to do with Gene and the lamp. Scrooge wants to bury the lamp in the center of the Earth. The kids want to keep Gene around, though, as he’s become their friend. Scrooge grows a heart and uses his final wish to turn Gene into a real boy. With no more magic in it, the lamp turns to dust. Gene asks if he can call Scrooge “Uncle,” and Scrooge tells him not to press his luck. Then there’s an ending gag with Dijon stealing some of Scrooge’s coins from the money bin, and Scrooge chasing him through town.
Humbug: Scrooge wants the treasure not to add to his own wealth, but to show it off in front of the Archeological Society. When push comes to shove, his final wishes are to save his family and to help Gene, showing he does have a heart after all.
Junior Woodchucks: The movie starts with Huey, Dewey and Louie messing around with their marbles, and this becomes their super-power throughout the movie, even using them to separate Merlock from the lamp during the final fight.
Fasten your seatbelts: Launchpad’s most significant scene in the movie is in the first few minutes, when he of course crashes his plane. Knowing this was for the big screen, it seems the animators approached this as being the biggest crash they can do. It’s a big set piece, as the plane knocks over a bunch of pillars and causes all kinds of destruction.
Maid and maiden: For her wish, Webby wants a pet baby elephant, which she says is the one thing she’s always wanted. Okay, sure. Mrs. Beakeley is on hand for comic relief. While everyone else uses binoculars during their break-in on the money bin, Mrs. Beakeley uses her opera glasses.
In the Navy: You may have noticed that the movie is only 1 hour and 14 minutes. To hit the 80-minute mark for theatrical releases, they padded the runtime with 1951’s Dude Duck. It’s an unbelievably weird cartoon about Donald visiting a dude ranch along with a bunch of beautiful women (!). He wants to go horseback riding, but the horse would rather be ridden by the women. Dude Duck is not currently on Disney Plus, probably because of how horny it is.
Di-cringe: Yes, Dijon is culturally insensitive to a nightmarish degree. Even worse, the creators decided that out of all the new characters introduced in the movie, freakin’ Dijon would be the one to break out and become a recurring character in the next season of DuckTales. Not the smartest move.
Foul fowls: Merlock gets a heck of a backstory. He’s immortal, and he’s the genie’s former master. During that time, he used his wishes to cause the destruction of both Atlantis and Pompeii. Never mind that this wasn’t mentioned when Scrooge visited Atlantis in episode #38, “Aqua Ducks.”
Down in Duckburg: Gene the Genie never appeared again, except for a one-panel cameo in a Darkwing Duck comic. Let’s all hope he got adopted by some loving family.
Reference row: Let’s not forget that Scrooge and company met a genie (djinn) back in episode 12, “Master of the Djinn.” Also recall, however, that episode ended with the timeline being reset to where Scrooge and co. never actually found that lamp, and no one has any memories of that incident. And once again, stories about the djinn originated from ancient folklore, but popularized in the classic work 1,001 Arabian Nights, also known 1,001 Nights or just The Arabian Nights.
Thoughts upon this viewing: Of all the concepts they could have done for a DuckTales movie, why do another genie story? I’d rather see the ultimate clash of Scrooge versus the Beagle Boys and/or Glomgold on the big screen, but the filmmakers wanted this to be “entry-level” for newbies. That results in a simplistic story with a lot of running around and very little plot. On the plus side, the movie looks great for its mid-range (cheap?) budget. The scene where the money bin transforms into Merlock’s castle is especially eye-popping. So, the movie is entertaining but the best episodes of DuckTales have more story and adventure than this.
Next: Like a rock.
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