In 2015, it was announced that Disney would be rebooting Duck Tales. As one, if not the most popular Disney Afternoon cartoons, it was so exciting to see it come back to the air for a new generation. It premiered in 2017 to rave reviews. The cartoon managed to blend the content of the original series with Carl Banks’s comics that inspired it, creating a series rich with intertwining backstories and references to not only its original series but to almost all the other shows that fell under the Disney Afternoon banner.
When I heard Chip and Dale were getting a reboot as well, I was excited for another show that would have grown up with me and built upon the original. The first trailer, showing a behind-the-scenes look at the cartoon, was interesting, instantly bringing up memories of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The cameo appearances it promised got me excited, and I laughed a bit at the new cast—John Mulaney as Chip and Andy Samberg as Dale—but I admit I was losing hope that I’d get what I wanted.
What I got when I watched the movie was a mixed bag. The story involves Chip and Dale meeting in 3rd grade in 1982 at a cartoon-integrated school and instantly hitting it off. They make their way through Hollywood starring in commercials before getting their big break—Rescue Rangers—while somehow skipping over their previous appearances in Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons. RR is a huge success, but Dale gets his own show and the two split up until Monterey Jack reaches out to both for help.
Monty’s gotten himself caught up with the Valley Gang, who’s been kidnapping cartoons and “bootlegging” them, a process that changes their looks enough to skirt around copyright so they can make terrible rip-off movies. The gang’s led by Sweet Pete, an adult Peter Pan with a guy and a 5 o’clock shadow. He tells the story about how when he grew up, he was thrown out of the studio, paralleling intentional or not, the story of Bobby Driscoll, Peter Pan’s voice actor, which comes across as insensitive and tone-deaf. It’s really one of the worst parts of the movie if you’re aware of his story.
The rest of the story of the movie to me is a mixed bag, making very minor connections to the Rescue Rangers, instead focusing on mostly non-Disney, non-cartoon characters like Seth Rogen’s video game dwarf character, whose name I don’t think was even mentioned, and a polar bear that might have been from Polar Express or a Coca-Cola commercial. Fat Cat made a few appearances, but none of the other villains in the show were ever mentioned. Some episodes get name-dropped, but then in the same scene, a character says there were 120 episodes in all, and only half that number exists. Gadget and Zipper show up in the end (in a really surprising and kinda icky way), but both of them and Monty are barely represented in the movie and given so little thought. Monty and Gadget are exactly what they’re like in the cartoon, unlike Chip and Dale, and Zipper (played eloquently here by Dennis Haysbert of 24), who made up their characters, made worse by Gadget outright stating just that.
I was amazed at the sheer amount of cameos Disney was able to cram into the movie both from within and without the House of Mouse. The presence of non-Disney characters, like blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances from Blaster of the Transformers, the My Little Pony: FIM main cast, Shrek, Garfield, and Voltron, brings instant comparisons with Roger Rabbit. But while there it felt like a huge deal seeing Mickey Mouse sharing the screen with Bugs Bunny, here it felt just empty since it wasn’t given any real recognition.
One of the biggest characters in the movie outside the titular pair is Ugly Sonic, the original design from the Sonic movie before fan outrage forced a redesign. Other notable appearances are Skeletor and He-Man, brought to life by Skeletor’s original voice actor Alan Oppenheimer (whose He-Man needs a little work), and Optimus Prime’s foot.
Speaking of voice actors, personally, I disliked both of the lead actors as Chip and Dale. It felt too much like an SNL Digital Short for me. Not that I wanted them to talk in their fabricated high-pitched voice throughout the whole movie, but it felt extremely odd for them to talk in their new voice while Monty and Gadget sounded the same as they always did. Seth Rogen felt way out of place as well, but his role did payout with two of his Dreamworks’ characters showing up for a joke at least. And as much as I love Will Arnett’s Bojack and Lego Batman, I felt he didn’t put in nearly as much work playing Sweet Pete. The voice cast is rounded out with JK Simmons playing Detective Putty, a stop motion cop, and he delivers his usual perfection.
For me, I think this reboot would have worked much better with another of Disney Afternoon’s stars, Darkwing Duck. As the character was always concerned with his image and brand, it plays well with the reboot being centered on fan appeal. Not to mention, it would have allowed a lot more references to the crowded superhero genre. Even though felt this way through most of the movie, Darkwing Duck himself echoes my sentiment at the end of the film.