Picks and Pans Review: Ducktales: the Movie

updated 08/20/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/20/1990 AT 01:00 AM EDT


Huey, Dewey, Louie and Uncle Scrooge without Donald arc something like Jermaine, Marlon, Tito and Jackie without Michael: There's a certain superstar spark missing, but they're still entertaining.

This 74-minute feature, spun off from the Disney TV series about the nephews' adventures with Scrooge, their friend Webbigail and hapless pilot Launchpad McQuack (who looks a bit like Donald"s cousin Gladstone Gander), is typical.

It uses the reliable genie-in-the-lamp premise to embroil everyone in a treasure hunt that bounces along in amiable, wholesome fashion, even if it sometimes seems as if the animation and writing come out of the Disney B-team staff.

Christopher Lloyd, recycling his Judge Doom mode from Who Framed Roger Rabbit, lends some weight as the voice of the villain, a wizard named Merlock. Comic Rip Taylor provides the lively voice of the duckbilled genie (though he sounds rather more like Daffy than seems kosher). Alan Young does Scrooge with a lilting brogue that softens the curmudgeonly demeanor of the old skinflint. Russi Taylor—Pebbles Flintstone and Strawberry Shortcake in other incarnations—does all the ducklings' voices (they don't have any of Uncle Donald's speech problems), and veteran comic actor Richard Libertini speaks for Dijon, a rally little assistant villain whose English is tinged with an East Indian accent.

Scriptwriter Alan Burnett's main credits are TV's dreary Smurfs and The Superpowers, but his writing here is snappier. There's a nice homage to Jack Benny's famous your-money-or-your-life joke when the genie says to Scrooge. "What's more important, a fortune or your life?" and Scrooge does a long "Well..." take before answering. And when the ducklings first find the magic lamp and one of them goes all sanctimonious, saying that he "should probably wish for peace and happiness all over the earth," the genie impatiently answers, "Please. These are wishes, not miracles."

Donald makes an appearance in the zippy cartoon short, Dude Duck, that's playing with DuckTales in all theaters. He has gotten to be the animated equivalent of Sir Laurence Olivier at the end of his career, picking his spots and consistently living up to everyone's high expectations. (G)



Cleverly written by Anna Ross, this series presents younger versions of familiar Sesame Street characters in learning situations. It gives the crawling set their own books to explore, drool on (they're wipable) and enjoy.

I Did It! suggests numerous ways that even a small child can control his world. From little Elmo drawing his first picture to little Herry going down a slide solo, an enlightening time is had by all.

Say the Magic Word, Please talks about manners and respect for other people in ways that should satisfy grandma and grandpa while entertaining the children. Little Bert learns to ask to be excused after a meal, and little Ernie figures out the fringe benefits of saying "please." And Ross refreshingly allows baby Cookie Monster to characteristically eat all his cookies before asking, "Cookie, please."

I Have to Go deals with toilet training. Young Grover goes from friend to friend, trying to find his mother to tell her that he has to go potty. (Not many human children, or grown-ups for that matter, could demonstrate such perseverance under the circumstances.)

In Naptime, junior Big Bird displays savvy that even a wily child would have to admire, as he thinks of all possible excuses to put off taking his nap, from wanting to fingerpaint to climbing monkey bars to playing hide-and-seek with an already napping Ernie. He finally realizes he's not necessarily going to miss "something wonderful and exciting" and is ready for sleep.

Norman Gorbaty's illustrations are snappy and easy to grasp, flexible enough to entertain rambunctious 1-year-old Robert or all-knowing (so far) 6-year-old Matt. (Random House/Children's Television Workshop, $3.95 each)

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