Thursday, December 5, 2019

"The Duckburg Ice Festival"

Today's story is "The Duckburg Ice Festival," which doesn't have anything explicitly to do with Christmas, but which is certainly more thematically appropriate than that Van Horn story. This is the first of two stories written by Janet Gilbert and drawn by Vicar. I definitely badly undervalued Vicar in the past, probably because his art has often been in the service of stories of questionable value, but he was damned good at what he did. I can't say that much about Gilbert; I've undoubtedly read others of her stories, but I can't say I have any kind of mental catalogue of all these sundry Egmont writers.  I had to create a "Janet Gilbert" tag just for this post.  However, inducks DOES have a picture of her with a fish on her head:

So that's fun.

The set-up is immediately familiar from various Barks stories, though this one differs from those in that Donald isn't involved in the contest (well, there is "The Golden Nugget Boat," but that's a little different).

What it is is a sort of self-consciously "madcap" thing, with a number of intersecting plotlines: the Scrooge vs Gladstone bit, of course...

...and this thing where Donald and Daisy are trying to win an ice skating contest against this Eurotrash couple (whom I think are quite well-drawn to suggest their character)...

...and this business with HDL trying to sell hot chocolate only to be overshadowed by a rival chocolate-seller.

The whole thing is reasonably well-done, with energetic action and some nice cascading disasters. The problem, as it oft is with such things, and the reason I rarely write about them, is that I don't necessarily have that much to say about it.

Well--I have only myself to blame! So I think that rather than providing an overview of the whole story, I'm going to zero in one particular part of it that I think is at least moderately interesting and deserves some discussion. It feels kind of excessive to go on and on about an ultimately fairly trivial story like this, but, well, here we are.

Right. So as I said, HDL--in Woodchuck guise--are trying to sell their cocoa. But oh no! They have competition, in the form of the massive, faceless, megalithic corporation known as Mighty Mocha, and I think the way the story deals with this plot is sort of problematic, and worthy of consideration. So, firstly: is Mighty Mocha some kind of giant company unfairly muscling HDL out of business? Or at least, there's no evidence of such? If this is meant to be some sort of Starbucks analogue, that is left extremely unclear by the story. Sure, they have a slightly fancier stand than the Woodchucks do, but really, it's only slightly fancier. It wouldn't have required that much of an investment to set up. The idea, clearly, IS that they're supposed to be unfairly squeezing HDL's simply, down-home chocolate, but the story really doesn't present any evidence that that's the case.

They're not interested in buying your chocolate because they're busy with this contest. They're not ignoring you out of spite, and they're not buying stuff from Mighty Mocha instead. You have zero right to be offended here. And yet...I'm pretty sure we're supposed to be sympathizing with you here. But how can I? You don't come across as sympathetic; just kind of whiny.

This isn't really relevant to the discussion, but COME ON: if you've been soaked in frigid water in the middle of winter, your first priority is going to be changing into dry clothes, not buying drinks. You friggin weirdos.

But that is neither here nor there. You might think that that sign doesn't make sense: they had it up when there wasn't demand for their cocoa, but now there IS demand, and anyway, we see them taking money, so it's obviously not still free. Now, it would be reasonable to infer that they just didn't have time to change the sign, but in a visual medium like that, you really should make that apparent. So yes, thanks to Elaine for letting me know that it is indeed just a mistake. Here's a Finnish version that Lieju posted on Feathery Society:

So instead, they've increased their prices. This is what started me thinking about this story in earnest. I guess initially, I just sort of had the hazy idea, oh look, they're being Good Samaritans, and giving the cocoa away to people in need!  This somehow seems more Woodchuckesque.  But...nope. Which is more logical within the story, but does it actually work? So on the one hand, the logic dictates that this should be a triumphant thing; initially they were struggling, but now they're raking in the dough! Yay for them! And yet...when you think about what they're actually doing, it doesn't seem so pretty. What do we call people who jack up the prices for good when people are in desperate need of them (and no, obviously nobody literally "needs" cocoa, but it's definitely presented that way; otherwise, Scrooge certainly wouldn't be willing to pay)? "Profiteers" is the usual word, and it's, uh, not generally considered a good thing. I feel like this story is relying pretty heavily on us just supporting HDL because they're good guys and we like to see them come out ahead, but for me, that just doesn't work. At the very least, the story would need to include some instances of the other characters being jerks to them, but it doesn't even have that. What is everyone else being punished for, exactly? Nothing that's adequately depicted. Don't get me wrong; I still think the story is okay. But...well, sometimes when I write about a story, I grow to appreciate its good points by means of enumerating them. But I kind of think the opposite has happened here, a bit. Suffice to say that I definitely prefer the other Gilbert story we'll be looking at.

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Blogger Pan Miluś said...

The woman running Mighty Mocha also looks like a very nice lady. At least they could made the seller some Dick Dasterdly looking dude so the reader would go - "I'm on HD&L side here, that other join is clearly evil!"

December 6, 2019 at 2:32 AM  
Anonymous Elaine said...

Hmmm. I agree that the price gouging is morally questionable. If what people told me on Feathery Society about other countries' versions of the sign reflects the authorial intent and the boys are meant to raise their price at the end to double the original price or more, that feels a bit off for JWs. I'd have preferred it if they would have reinstated the original price.

On the other hand, I think it's quite clear that Mighty Mocha is a corporate mega-chain. You really think one could build that mug-shaped booth with just a little effort? With the perfectly curved walls, the curved awning, the mug handle and the solid thing on top representing steam rising? I don't think so. Two other pieces of evidence of its corporateness: (1) The fact that everyone is going there rather than to the homemade stand for "plain ol' Junior Woodchuck cocoa"--I think the huge demand is an indication that "Mighty Mocha" is a brand everyone knows. (2) The uniforms the two Mighty Mocha sellers are wearing. Those have to be employee uniforms, with the MM logo on them. And I must say, if you want evidence that it's a nefarious corporation...any company that makes its employees wear a superhero cape and a propeller beanie is suspect in my book.

December 6, 2019 at 8:48 AM  
Blogger Debbie Anne said...

"The Duckburg Ice Festival" may not be the most memorable story ever created, but there's an interesting flow to the story. After setting up our three subplots, they take turns almost like a recurring melody in a piece of music. Things really start getting out of control once our three stories start crashing into each other (literally as well as figuratively). Yes, there are a few holes in the plot, but it all moves along and escalates into a disaster so quickly that some little details are easy to overlook. It almost plays out more like a cartoon short than something a bit more Barks or Rosa-like. The ending with the cocoa being sold would have been a bit more forgivable if Huey, Dewey and Louie were acting out of their own interest and not representing the Junior Woodchucks.

December 7, 2019 at 12:03 AM  
Blogger Sidious said...

Ditto, Debbie Anne. In fact, I'd even say it'd have made more sense if it had been the *pre-Woodchucks* triplets, the ones who constantly pranked their uncle and set a cracker off under their father's chair. The cartoon version of the characters, in sum.

December 9, 2019 at 12:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not ENTIRELY sure, but I believe "Mighty Mocha" was originally called "McDuck Cocoa", which probably puts a somewhat different spin on things. Especially with Scrooge paying up at the end there.

December 14, 2019 at 12:30 PM  

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