Disney’s shockingly excellent reboot of DuckTales has given us countless joys: The introduction of Huey, Dewey, and Louie’s mother Della; David Tennant voicing Scrooge McDuck; and the origin of Chip and Dale and the Rescue Rangers, just to name a few. But the series has also given me a scene that changed everything I thought I knew about Disney cartoons, if not my very existence.
I’ve been running a bit behind on my DuckTales viewing, so it was only recently that I watched the episode “They Put a Moonlander on the Earth!” which originally ran in late September. To try to set it up for you succinctly, Scrooge and crew stop an alien invasion from the moon, and the result was that the Moonlanders who had been involuntarily drafted into the war stayed on Earth.
This includes the militarily minded Captain Penumbra, who’s having a tough time adjusting to life in Duckberg. As a result, Dewey and Webby decide to take her to the boardwalk in an attempt to get her to have fun. In their montage of games and rides and fair food…
…the Ducks feed the ducks.
Did I lose my mind when I saw this scene? I did. Then I laughed because it is hysterical and a perfectly executed visual gag: the happy obliviousness of Dewey and Webby juxtaposed with Penumbra’s perfect expression of utter bafflement and growing unease at the incomprehensible scene before her.
I’ve also been thinking about it ever since because it has huge ramifications not just for Duckberg, but the entire Disney Animated Universe (for want of a better name). First, it proves anthropomorphic ducks like Scrooge — who I will refer to as capital D Ducks, for simplicity’s sake — evolved from regular, Earth-style ducks. Just as humans evolved from apes on our world, certain ducks evolved over time to walk upright, use tools, develop speech, and build civilisation as Ducks. It’s shocking to see ducks and Ducks together at first, but it’s really no different from how humans and apes co-exist now. As one of the Redditors who posted a gif of the scene pointed out, this is just the DuckTales equivalent of humans feeding monkeys at the zoo. No big deal.
Counterargument: Maybe it’s a huge deal?
Look, there’s something incredibly disconcerting whenever the anthropomorphic animals of the Disney Animated Universe interact with regular animals. For one, it doesn’t happen very often, so it’s always extremely noticeable when it does. Secondly, it always raises questions that have no easy answers. For instance, now we know regular ducks exist alongside Ducks, doesn’t that have to mean there’s an evolutionary chain between them? Mustn’t there also be millions of years of different species connecting ducks and Ducks, slowly beginning to walk upright, wings becoming prehensile hands, skulls growing to accommodate the increasing size of brains? Is there archaeologic proof of these species? Is there a museum in Duckburg containing their skeletal remains? And what would a cross between a duck and a Duck look like? Furthermore, is this true for all of the anthropomorphized animals of DAU?
At any rate, most of the time animals show up on DuckTales they’re of the supernatural variety, which is fine; they’re all basically supernatural monsters, so they have no bearing on the biological and social issues of the DAU. It’s when animals show up as food that things get more bewildering. In this episode, along with others, Huey, Dewey, and Louie eat hamburgers with great relish (pun unintended, for once). It’s a little uncomfortable to realise these ducks became omnivores on their journey to being Ducks, but Ducks also have fingers and build fast-food chains, so whatever. What’s weird is when you remember hamburgers are made of cows, and Cows absolutely exist in the DAU (as proven by the existence of the evil Bull scientist and Darkwing Duck foe Taurus Bulba).
What do Cows think about Ducks eating cows? Presumably, they’re ok with it to some degree, otherwise the DAU would be in constant warfare over who gets to eat and who gets to be eaten. So I guess I probably shouldn’t be too upset about this:
And yet I am, because the Ducks are planning on eating some kind of fowl in the near future.
I would have to guess it’s a turkey based on its size relative to Dewey, but it could be a large chicken — although it doesn’t matter because if Ducks eat turkey, they’re also eating chicken. I guess the human equivalent would be for us to eat chimpanzees or orangutans, but please take a moment to imagine sitting down to dinner where a whole golden, roasted chimp lies on a platter before you. Try to think of any position that chimp could be put in where you wouldn’t feel like you wouldn’t be eating a small human. Just typing that sentence made me throw up in my mouth a little.
Regardless, if Ducks are eating turkeys and chickens, it stands to reason that other Animals are eating ducks as well. But the biggest question is, of course, do Ducks eat ducks? Is it taboo to eat a member of your evolutionary chain, or is it de rigueur? Should it be legal for supermarkets to sell duck to a Duck? If a Duck goes to a fancy party and discovered duck was being served, is this a huge social faux pas on the part of the host, or would the guest Duck be forced to emotionally deal with it and accept it? Would good manners dictate he eat the duck?
Plus, given that Scrooge and company live in Duckburg, is it against the law for ducks to be sold as meat? That would make sense, along with all the other locations that have “duck” or duck-related words in their name, like Maceduckia and Ithaquack. The DAU isn’t just made up of Ducks, although anthropomorphic avians seem to make up most of the world’s population. Do they have similar, local laws banning the consumption of their genetic ancestors? Wouldn’t it be far less creepy if it was illegal to eat any fowl everywhere in the civilized world? And if that’s true, is the Duck family about to eat an illegal turkey obtained on the black market through Scrooge’s immense wealth?
This is all speculation, of course, but the undeniable truth is this: 1) ducks exist, 2) Ducks eat fowl, and 3) someone out there is eating ducks, and there’s absolutely nothing simple about that. Oh, and 4) this is an outstanding gag, which the makers of DuckTales are well-aware of:
— Frank Angones (@FrankAngones) September 28, 2020
So let me leave you with one undeniable truth to haunt your dreams tonight: Goofy — at least the Goof Troop version of Goofy — made an appearance on DuckTales, so there either are or were dogs in the DAU, from which Dogs evolved. It’s the proof we’ve needed to finally put the bed the unsettling mystery of how Mickey Mouse has an anthropomorphic, talking Dog for a friend (Goofy) and a non-anthropomorphic, traditional dog as a pet (Pluto). However, the ducks of DuckTales look like regular ol’ ducks. Presumably, the dogs of the DAU look like normal dogs as well.
Pluto does not look like a normal dog. He looks like this:
Specifically, Pluto looks he has Goofy’s face on an abnormal dog body — paws too big, proto-fingers too long, legs missing its haunches as it begins its evolution to walking upright. In conclusion, Mickey Mouse keeps a canine neanderthal as a pet. And if DuckTales truly solved the Goofy/Pluto mystery, the answer is far more disturbing than anyone could have anticipated.