“Did you ever hear of Atlantis? It was everybody’s favorite resort until Merlock couldn’t make any reservations. Then down she went! Poor Pompei. Mount Vesuvius would never had blown its top if Merlock hadn’t blown his!”
FROM JASON’S ELEMENTARY SCHOOL DAYS — I’m not sure I can explain to you kiddies just how important DuckTales was. For years, it was the anchor of The Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block of after-school cartoons that included The Gummy Bears, Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers, TaleSpin, Darkwing Duck, and a spin-off of the Aladdin movie.
To a pre-adolescent boy, these shows had everything that mattered: Swords, exploration, gadgets, villains who were evil for the sake of being evil, pirates (and air pirates), zombies, superheroes, supervillains, robots, curses, lasers, dungeons….
So when I stumbled on the 1990 DuckTales movie on YouTube, I had to sit and watch.
The first 20 minutes had everything I remembered that made the show great: Exotic traps, faux history (Collie Baba and his 40 thieves, anybody?), sumo-wrestling scorpions, pith helmets, and lushly-painted desert and pyramid scenes.
The rest was significantly meh as we stayed in Duckburg and dealt with the whole genie-in-the-lamp Pinocchio story and the be-careful-what-you-wish-for business.
The Plot (Such As It Is)
Real quick: Scrooge has been hunting his entire life for the lost treasure of Collie Baba. When he finally finds it, a shape-shifting wizard named Merlock swoops in and steals it.
Merlock doesn’t care about jewels; all he wants is the magic lamp containing a genie. Merlock has a magic talisman, which will allow him to force the genie to grant unlimited wishes — and giving him unlimited, unadulterated evil control over the entire world.
But Scrooge’s niece, Webby, filches the lamp and makes friends with the genie, who she calls Gene. Along with Huey, Dewey, and Louie, she starts making wishes, until Merlock comes to Duckburg to collect the lamp again.
Using his magic, he takes over Scrooge’s mansion, and the boys have to break back in and free Gene and the rest of the world from slavery. It’s almost the exact same plot as Disney’s Aladdin movie in 1992.
The Dire Consequences
There were rumors. Boy, were there ever rumors. Back in the pre-Internet days of 1990, that’s all we had to live by — that, and various hints in video game magazines.
The rumors said that Disney had lots of other DuckTales movies up Michael Eisner’s sleeves. The rumors were right.
Unfortunately, Disney, perhaps as the spiritual ancestor to FOX, decided to cancel those plans when Legend of the Lost Lamp only made $18 million at the box office. My parents paid good money for my little brother and I to see it, but apparently that wasn’t enough. The other movies were canned, as was a Rescue Rangers feature-length film (which I would bankroll today if I had the means).
DAMN YOU, WALT DISNEY COMPANY. DAMN YOU STRAIGHT TO HEEEEEELL!
The Geek Connections
If you’re a geek, you know everyone who had a hand in this movie. Even if it’s only by proxy, you know their work. You’ve seen their shows. Let me show you the way.
Alan Young, the voice of Scrooge, is better known as Mister Ed’s owner, Wilbur (“Gee, Wilbur!”) in the 1961 TV show. He’s also a bat-shit crazy Christian Scientist and is down with the Focus On the Family crowd. I can almost — almost! — forgive him, though, because he was also Haggis McMutton in the LucasArts game Curse of Monkey Island.
Russi Taylor, who voiced Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Webby, was also baby Gonzo on Muppet Babies and has been the voice of Minnie Mouse since 1986 — including in the RPG Kingdom Hearts.
Terry McGovern, AKA Launchpad McQuack, is also a Lucas-ite. His early films include THX-1138 and American Graffiti. In 1977, The Lucas hired him to do voice-overs for stormtroopers in A New Hope (“Close the blast doors!”).
The genie was voiced by flamboyant ’60s comedian Rip Taylor, known for crying on stage, doing Mofaz the Persian-type routines about his bad luck, and for his recent work with The Bloodhound Gang and Jackass.
The mack-daddy of them all — and if you don’t recognize the voice immediately then you are dead to me — is Christopher Lloyd as Merlock. You know him as Doc Brown from Back to the Future, Kruge in Star Trek III, the Rev. Jim from Taxi, and… god help us… as John Bigboote in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eighth Dimension.
Oh, and about six dozen other shows, many of them crappy, including Amazing Stories, Cyberchase, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Addams Family, Suburban Commando, Angels In the Outfield, and Baby Geniuses. I have to admit that I love watching Christopher Lloyd. It’s a testament to his ability and personality that he can make such shit watchable.
I almost forgot. Frank Welker (Optimus Prime) did some voices in Legend of the Lost Lamp, too.