My favorite episode is the one with time traveling ice cream, dinosaurs, diamonds, and, of course, adventuring ducks…
I love TV, and I’ve watched a lot of it, so it’s hard to pick my favorite episode of any given series, let alone all of them. Most people would expect me to pick something from The Twilight Zone or DuckTales, and I won’t disappoint. However, I am going to cheat a little – I’m picking one of the DuckTales TV movies, “Time is Money.”
I still remember when this aired on my local Fox affiliate in a two-hour block, making one of my favorite cartoons somehow more epic and exciting because it was telling a longer story. Since a young age, I’ve always loved the rare multipart episodes of TV shows, the anticipation and frustration of reaching the end of the show only to be greeted with “To be continued…” These perhaps prefigured today’s ubiquitous season long story arcs, which have done away with that teasing line because every episode is continued.
The first show I really recall doing this is Thundercats, which aired Lion-O’s anointment trials in five amazing episodes, and subsequently had several stories premiere as TV movies that were later broken up into 25-minute episodes.
DuckTales did the same with its pilot episode, a movie called “Treasure of the Golden Suns,” which I do love; however, I didn’t see the original full-length version of it until I was well into adulthood. As a kid, it was simply a (great!) five-part episode. So “Time is Money” was the first time I saw a DuckTales story in its longer format and could compare it to the episodic versions (which oddly added scenes that were not in the first broadcast).
The short short version: Uncle Scrooge uses a time machine called the Millenium Shortcut, which runs on a special popsicle made from a substance called bombastium, in order to travel back in time and claim first ownership of a valuable diamond mine. A cave duck and his pet triceratops, named Bubba and Tootsie, respectively, accidentally stowaway to the future. Hijinks ensue, and after nearly losing his fortune and his sanity, Scrooge ends up adopting Bubba. Oh, and Scrooge manages to keep all the diamonds too.
To be honest, I don’t even like Bubba Duck beyond this episode much, but I’m a sucker for time travel adventures, and this one is funny and creative. If you dig deeper, the episode also gets kind of heavy. At one point, Launchpad McQuack, Scrooge’s bumbling pilot, is stranded in ancient Rome for years before he can return to his friends—but hey, that’s played for laughs. Scrooge, or “Skooge,” as Bubba calls him, also learns to take responsibility for his actions that plucked the little cave duck from his own time—instead of blaming the kid for all his problems. He’s come a long way from grudgingly taking guardianship over his grandnephews Huey, Duey, and Louie!
As much as it pains me to admit, “Time is Money” is far and away a better DuckTales movie than the actual theatrical feature, Treasure of the Lost Lamp. In fact, so is “Treasure of the Golden Suns” and the third serialized story, “Super DuckTales” which introduced the Iron Man-esque hero Gizmoduck. Perhaps the limits of the television format, with commercial breaks and the need for the movie to be divided into shorter segments, fostered more creativity rather than restricting it—or DuckTales is simply better suited to the smaller screen. This episode works just as well when it’s serialized in five parts, each with their own fabulously punny titles: “Marking Time,” “The Duck Who Would Be King,” “Bubba Trubba,” “Ducks on the Lam,” and “Ali Bubba’s Cave.”
So it seems that even way back as a child of the Eighties, I had an affinity for serialized fiction like ReMade: episodes linked together to make a whole story that’s greater than the sum of its parts. I blogged a bit more about “Time is Money,” and specifically the Millenium Shortcut, here. You can watch it (in five parts) yourself on DVD in DuckTales volume 3 or buy the episodes for the streaming platform you like best.