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Building Entertainment: The Animated Films of the Walt Disney Studio. Disney MovieToons Edition. DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

Welcome to my weekly discussion of the animated films of the Walt Disney Studio. I’m proceeding mostly chronologically. The title comes from a quote from Walt, “I never called my work an ‘art’ It’s part of show business, the business of building entertainment.”

Title: DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp

Year: 1990

Source materials : The Uncle Scrooge comics by Carl Banks, which inspired the series Duck Tales

Budget: $18 million

Plot: Scrooge McDuck travels to the Middle East to inspect a recently discovered treasure chest he is certain contains the treasure of the great thief Collie Baba, accompanied by Huey, Dewey and Louie, Webby Vanderquack, and Launchpad McQuack. Although initially disappointed when the chest seems to only contain old clothes, Scrooge is excited when an ancient treasure map is found in the pocket of an old robe. Guided by the thief Dijon, they set out to find the lost treasure, unaware that Dijon actually works for the evil sorcerer Merlock, who desires something Collie Baba owned. The group discovers Collie Baba’s treasure in a sand-covered pyramid. Webby sees a lamp in the treasure, which Scrooge lets her keep since it does not retain any value.

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After packing up the treasure for transport, Scrooge and his group are trapped in a room full of monstrous scorpions by Merlock and Dijon, who steal the treasure. However, Merlock discovers that the lamp has been stolen; he drags Dijon with him to locate it. Scrooge and his friends manage to escape from the pyramid and, with nothing more than Webby’s lamp, depart for Duckburg.

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Days later, the children discover the lamp holds a Genie. Ecstatic about his freedom, the Genie grants the four children 3 wishes each; to trick Scrooge, he poses as the boys’ Woodchuck scout friend Gene. Their wishes include a baby elephant (which runs amok through Scrooge’s mansion) and a giant ice cream sundae, among other things.

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Fearful of a bird flying by at night, Genie tells them about Merlock, who used his wishes for eternal life and the destruction of Atlantis and Pompeii, which were both popular vacation spots; Merlock’s magic talisman, which allows him to take various animal forms, also overrides the lamp’s rules, granting him unlimited wishes. Collie Baba stole the lamp from Merlock and hid it away with his treasure, and Merlock had spent the centuries since searching for it. The children suggest that they wish for the talisman, but Genie says that this is the only wish he is unable to grant. They must prevent Merlock from obtaining the lamp or the world will suffer.

The next day, Webby uses her last wish to bring all her toys to life, which forces the children to reveal the Genie’s true identity to Scrooge. Wishing to impress the Archeological Society at their annual ball, Scrooge wishes for the treasure of Collie Baba, and brings the lamp and the Genie with him to the ball. He is followed by Merlock and Dijon, who violently ambush Scrooge. In the ensuing struggle, Scrooge mistakes a gravy boat for the lamp and leaves the lamp and the Genie behind, after which they both fall into the hands of Dijon, who is convinced by the Genie to keep the lamp instead of giving it to Merlock.

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Having wished for Scrooge’s fortune, Dijon takes possession of the Money Bin and has Scrooge arrested for trespassing. However, Scrooge is immediately bailed out by Launchpad, his nephews, Webby, Mrs. Beakley and Duckworth, who agree to help Scrooge set things right. Scrooge, the nephews and Webby infiltrate the Money Bin in an attempt to steal the lamp, but are stopped by Merlock, who recovers the lamp. With the Genie under his control again, Merlock wishes for Dijon to be turned into a pig for his disloyalty and then for the Money Bin to become a fortress, which flies into the air high above Duckburg.

When an indignant Scrooge threatens him, Merlock wishes him “out of my house”, and Genie reluctantly raises the wind to send Scrooge to the edge of the fortress, hanging on for dear life. The nephews use a slingshot to knock the lamp out of Merlock’s hands, tossing it to Scrooge, who loses his grip and falls towards the earth. Merlock recovers his talisman and pursues as a griffin, grappling with Scrooge in the air, but Scrooge knocks off the talisman from Merlock’s hand, causing the sorcerer to lose his power and fall to his death.

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Recovering the lamp, Scrooge uses his second wish to return himself, his family, and his Money Bin back to Duckburg. Back in the Money Bin, Scrooge declares that he has had “enough of all this wishing” and threatens to use his final wish to bury the lamp where it would never be found again. Instead, he wishes for Genie to become a real boy. Without the Genie, the lamp crumbles to dust, and thus removing its magic forever. While the children play with their newest friend, Scrooge discovers Dijon, recovered from Merlock’s wish, stuffing his trousers with his money. Scrooge chases him outside, yelling “Somebody stop those pants!”

Background: Director/producer Bob Hathcock revealed in an interview that the film began as a five-part episode for the TV series, adding: “Our first idea was to see if there was a way to release that as a feature.”

Voice Cast: Alan Young, Russi Taylor, Terrance McGovern, and June Forny voice their characters from the series and other Disney properties. Christopher Lloyd and Rip Taylor voice roles as well.

Critical Reception:

  • Richard Harrington of The Washington Post criticized the film for its predictable plot twists.
  • Dave Kehr of The Chicago Tribune noted the lack of credit for Carl Barks, adding: “‘DuckTales’ is not a movie that the founding father would have been proud to put his name on.”
  • Charles Solomon of The LA Times faulted the lack of backstory, and regarded the character Dijon as a “cringing stereotype”: “The Disney studio has been identified with the very best feature animation: ‘Duck Tales’ suggests that identification has become a thing of the past.”
  • A more positive review came from Chris Hicks of Deseret News, who claimed he went in, “with very low expectations … I was pleasantly surprised at how clever and funny the film is.”
  • Reviewing it for TV, ABC’s Joel Siegel said: “Here is a movie you can take the kids to you’ll all enjoy.”
  • Variety called the film a, “lushly animated, smartly scripted, wise-quacking adventure.”

Legacy: The television show proved an immense success for Disney, who decided to commission other cartoons with a similar level of quality, which included Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and TaleSpin. Duck Tales has recently been rebooted with David Tennant as Uncle Scrooge.

Duck Tales (screen grab) CR: Disney XD

My take: It’s essentially a long episode of the show, but better animated

Available on Disney +?: Yes

Next Week: rocketeer?