Revisiting DuckTales: “Ducky Horror Picture Show”

With the current DuckTales between seasons (and with the third season promising us an almost complete revisit of the Disney Afternoon block) it’s a prime time to take a look back at its predecessor from 1987. When it debuted, it brought with it comics, video games, toys, and even a movie whose relative failure caused that branch of Disney’s animation branch to shut down. While there’s an article I’d like to do about that movie, today we’re here to look at an episode entitled “Ducky Horror Picture Show” in which Scrooge McDuck encounters a whole slew of classic movie monsters and is far more worried about the damage they’re doing to his bank account than any actual danger they might pose.

He’s an actor in low-budget horror movies, but what he really wants to do is direct them.

The episode begins with Huey, Dewey, and Louie at a showing of Quackenstein, which is Frankenstein if the monster looked kind of like Launchpad. It’s part of a monster movie maratahon Scrooge is running at his theater, which is shaped like his hat, which doesn’t really figure into anything but felt to be worth noting. As they watch the movie and declare that Scrooge’s marathons are a success because he only shows quality movies, Quackenstein tears an obviously flat tree out of the ground.

As they leave the theater, these three young ducks who have met any number of fantastic creatures and regularly butt heads with a sorceress who once sicced a dragon on them wonder if monsters are real. While that particular dragon was a transformed Beagle Boy, I’m certain they’ve witnessed an actual dragon as well. What I’m saying is that if these three thought their question through for a moment, they’d realize that their lives had been in danger enough times from inhuman creatures that they’d have their answer. Despite this, they’re terrified when they run into Quackenstein outside of the theater. Luckily, Scrooge is there to tell them it’s just an actor he hired to drum up business for his theater but that there are real monsters because he probably recalls, along with other things, the time he had to fight an evil sentient robot and creatures from Greek myth. It’s just Quackenstein that’s not real.

Scrooge has bigger fish to fry, anyway: he’s bought a dilapidated waterfront property and he’s determined to make a profit on it. To that end, he converts it into a convention center and books the group of the fellow in the above picture as the inaugural visitors but, it turns out, that the fellow is actually a werewolf and his group is Monsters Anonymous. Things do not bode well for Scrooge, who has yet to make a profit on his convention center and who also agreed to allow this man and his group to use Scrooge’s mansion as a hotel. What follows is a montage of the werewolf calling up Count Drakeula (because Count Duckula was taken, no doubt) and Duckymodo so they can send out invitations to all the other monsters.

It’s never explained why this universe’s Dracula analogue (who, by the way, is public domain) is hanging out in a cave.

We’re also treated to a montage of most of the monsters. In addition to Duckymodo and Count Drakeula…

HE IS THE TERROR THAT FLAPS IN THE NIGHT. Wait, no, wrong guy.

There’s the Blob…

…the Creature from the Blue Lagoon…

…the real Quackenstein and his wife…

He’s not strangling her, he’s about to kiss her. Also, at no point is his status as a reanimated pile of corpse parts referenced so it’s entirely possible that Quackenstein is just a guy in this universe and not, you know, a reanimated pile of corpse parts.

…and references to the Mummy, the Daddy (yes, this was a show for children, to whom this joke might be new), Bigfoot, and some kind of pumpkin monster who was turned into a pie. Everyone is quite excited, but then the day comes and all the monsters arrive in a pink bus and Scrooge begins to think that something might be up.

The monsters knock Scrooge into the water and proceed to demolish his convention center, putting him on the bad side of the police chief who informs Scrooge that the monsters have gone to their hotel where the nephews and Mrs. Beakley stand ready to serve their needs and no one is wise to the fact that they’re actually monsters, thinking that they’re more actors Scrooge hired to promote his marathon which has been going on for the length of the renovation of an entire convention center, plus however long it took for all the monsters to get to Duckburg. Scrooge was also knocked into the water at night and emerged the next day, which occurred after a commercial break but how long was Scrooge in the water? In any case, no one at the mansion realizes something is amiss. Scrooge, at this point, is still concerned about turning a profit from his convention center purchase and renovation and seems apathetic about the fact that a bunch of monsters are going to be in his house nephews and elderly housekeeper. In all fairness, these monsters are destructive and chaotic but seem relatively safe.

Pictured: Count Drakeula trying to shove a tail onto the Invisible Man. Yes, really.

Once the monsters are revealed as being actual creatures of terror, no one really cares all that much and the nephews even offer to pay Scrooge to let the monsters stay in the mansion. He had already decided to do that, but not because he saw that the monsters were misunderstood and worthy of pity. No, Scrooge was cowed by the werewolf saying that if the monsters left they’d want a refund. By this point, Scrooge sees no salvation: these monsters have royally screwed him over and there is absolutely no way his convention center purchase will be anything other than a colossal blunder. That’s not the worst of it: another monster has arrived! Meet Ping Pong!

They really went the extra mile by giving him a paddleball. I’m completely serious, I love that detail.

Scrooge and Duckworth race over, with Scrooge concerned that Ping Pong is going to damage his Money Bin because it’s the tallest building in Duckburg. To make matters worse, the police chief doesn’t believe all this monster nonsense and thinks Ping Pong is a robot or a balloon and wants it gone or he’s tossing Scrooge in jail for the chaos his “publicity stunt” has caused. Oh, and Scrooge’s insurance won’t cover any of the damage done to either the convention center or mansion. Scrooge’s investment looks poised to fail and there’s supposedly a riot going on at his theater.

It’s actually the monsters having what appears to be an orderly protest since the theater is technically promoting a negative view of monsters. They want it to stop showing monster movies and don’t put together that Scrooge owns and operates the theater which, well, look at it:

The monsters don’t realize that this theater, which bears his likeness and name, until he tells them that he owns it. This makes the monsters quite irate and they’re all set to destroy yet more of Scrooge’s property when a small child arrives and requests the werewolf’s autograph. It turns out that most people don’t fear the monsters, they love them! This gives Scrooge an idea to save his investment and get the police chief off his back.

He finances a live show for the monsters and it’s such a rousing success that, even after repairing his mansion and convention center and giving half the profits to the monsters, he’s finally turned a profit on his earlier investment. The day is saved.

This was not one of the stronger episodes of the original DuckTales, which remains one of my favorite cartoons and a touchstone of my childhood, but I have nothing but fond feelings for it. I’m guessing that for a lot of children this was their introduction to most of the Universal Monsters (and King Kong) and I was no different. While I was already very familiar with Godzilla and King Kong, the other monsters were still moderately mysterious. However, this episode didn’t really inspire me to find any of the movies and while I’ve learned a lot of the lore surrounding them I don’t think I’ve ever seen the actual Universal Monster movies. I’ve seen a number of Hammer films, but never Dracula or Frankenstein or any of their ilk.

I should probably do that. Anyway, this episode does succeed as a way of getting all these monsters into it to interact with Scrooge McDuck and I think his obsession with recouping his investment allows for the monsters to simply be present without posing any kind of major threat. While it would have been great to see Scrooge McDuck take on the major Universal Monsters (and King Kong) this way allowed for a message of peace and understanding to prevail. Also, of capitalism, because it was 1987. That’s how I’m ending this review. Or rather, this is:

This is adorable. Also, were they referencing that one Blue Lagoon where the teenagers banged when they re-named this Creature? I honestly wouldn’t have put it past them.

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