Here we go again, Fishing in the Discount Bin, in which I attempt to justify all the time I spend on the couch watching movies by blogging about them. This time out, I do DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp. This originally showed up in my notes at May 31 2015.
Ah, DuckTales. Just the mere mention of the name probably has you humming the theme song, or at the very least singing out "Woo-oo!" When Disney finally decided to get into the Saturday morning cartoon game in the late-1980s, DuckTales quickly grew to be one of their flagship titles. It wasn't on TV for me, until I got cable TV at the age of 12. Then, it was on at like 2PM so I'd set the VCR to tape it and watch it when I got home from school. Before cable, I'd be stuck with renting episodes from the corner store. I was always rather fond of DuckTales.
But that still doesn't explain why I became strangely obsessed with the feature film, Treasure of the Lost Lamp, when it came out in August of 1990.
I remember really, really wanting to see it in the theatre. But I was 13 years old at the time, at that's the age where you're supposed to want to stop watching animated movies and start getting into girls and stuff. I knew making the case to my parents for the family to go into the city and see it would be tough. Even when it came out on video, I didn't know how to recommend it when we out renting movies.
I can't quite explain it. I really, REALLY, REALLY wanted to see DuckTales the Movie, but something deep inside made me reluctant to bring it up to my parents when we were renting movies.
I finally got to see it during my first semester at college. I saw the video store near the campus had it, so I rented it one night. I almost felt ashamed to be renting it. Once I got it from the video store, I hid it in my bag and ran back to the dorm. Not having a VCR of my own yet, I watched it in the TV lounge really early on a Sunday morning when I knew I wouldn't be interrupted.
I know, I sound like I'm renting a porno or something, but somehow I felt that the whole world would cast shameful gazes in my direction if they knew my deep, dark, secret desire to watch DuckTales the Movie.
As I've blogged before, Disney has a movie club, much like the Columbia Record Club of yore. And for the past few years, DuckTales the Movie has only been available as a Disney Movie Club exclusive. But, back in January, they finally gave it a wide release. I'm a grown-up now, and there's nothing to be ashamed of anymore, so I bought it.
Scrooge McDuck is sponsoring an archeological dig to find the fabled treasure of Collie Baba and his 40 Thieves. They do find the treasure, and among it is the fabled magic lamp. Here I've got applaud Huey, Dewie, Louie, and Webby. While they can't wish for more wishes, they quickly figure out that they each get 3 wishes, for 12 wishes total. Way to work the system, gang! But of course, there's villainy afoot. The immortal sorcerer Merlock wants the lamp and the genie for his own nefarious purposes, and so Scrooge and the gang have to keep it from Merlock.
What's amazing watching this is how, just two short years later, Disney gave us Aladdin, and there's actually a lot of similarities between these two tales of the magic lamp. For starters, each one features a Genie voiced by a stand-up comic known for their manic energy. In DuckTales, it's Rip Taylor. And each Genie is fond of sprinkling their patter with pop culture references, and each Genie longs to be freed from the lamp and live their life as a normal person.
Other similarities: the treasures are found in very similar Caves of Wonders, at the climax, our heroes are robbed of their riches by the villain's evil wish, the villain transforms into an animal for the final battle, and the villain is a negative middle Eastern stereotype. Well, in this film, it's not the main villain Merlock, but the villain's sidekick Dijon, a kleptomania of a thief with one of the most comically fake middle Eastern accents you'll ever hear.
It's not just the villains who are evil, though. You see how much of Scrooge is driven by a desire for more profit when he claims the Genie as part of the treasure and declare that genies "aren't people, they're property." That seemed like a very bad thing for our hero to say.
And even though Anastasia was made by a different studio, Christopher Lloyd voicing Merlock almost turns Merlock into a rough draft of Rasputin from Anastasia.
In Disney Animation history, this was the first product from Disney's MovieToon Studios, which eventually became DisneyToons Studios. A completely separate division from their legendary Feature Animation unit, DisneyToons Studios went on to produce all the straight-to-DVD sequels. The animation is a bit better quality than you found on DuckTales, but still not the level of their official animated features.
The music score is pretty good, too. I don't know why, but animated films of this ilk in the late-1980s/early-1990s featured a lot of strings on the soundtrack, so it's very violin-heavy. Although, it does cleverly and subtly incorporate the beloved DuckTales theme song.
At the end of the day, DuckTales The Movie amounts to being a really good episode of DuckTales. Nothing about it screamed having to be on the big screen, but it's a fun adventure nonetheless.
And before I wrap this up, I have something important to say to the youngsters. Kids, we all know that your early teens can be a confusing time in your life. You have urges that you don't quite completely understand. But, understand that what you're going through is completely natural, and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
So kids, don't be afraid to talk to your parents about DuckTales. Woo-oo.