The pursuit of wealth isn’t quite so glamorous anymore. The materialistic ’80s are out. Where millionaires were once an ideal to strive for they’re now under far more scrutiny in our society. So where does that leave the richest duck in the world, Scrooge McDuck, from DuckTales?
Scrooge McDuck was originally created by Carl Barks in 1947 for comics and later brought to even wider notice in the 1980s DuckTales animated series. Since those times values have shifted and the new DuckTales series has changed with it. It’s now quietly but firmly addressing that wealth isn’t bringing Scrooge, or any of the rich characters, the happiness they thought it might.
It even touches on the idea that wealth corrupts. Glomgold, one of the main villains in Scrooge’s rouges gallery, was created because Scrooge refused to pay him a fair wage. It’s socioeconomic commentary you wouldn’t expect from a series that’s made by a giant corporation like Disney but it’s there if you look for it.
DuckTales co-executive producer Frank Angones is quick to give credit where credit is due and that Scrooge McDuck comic writer Don Rosa helped provide an important part of Scrooge’s relationship to money.
“The reason that Scrooge’s fortune is so important to him is because it’s tied to his legacy of adventure,” Angones tells us. “That really became a Rosetta Stone for Scrooge and really having to point out that it’s not really (about) the money at the end of the day.”
Angones says that while Scrooge’s wealth is important to him, the producers of the new DuckTales really wanted to focus on explaining why.
“He’s trying to become the uber man, right? He’s the most rich, he’s the most adventurous, he’s the most Scottish, but that doesn’t really make him a functional human being.”
The show also tackles this idea of wealth not just through Scrooge but the series’ other rich characters, including Glomgold and Mark Beaks (a tech industry billionaire modeled after Mark Zuckerberg). Explaining why they’re so attached to money was just as important for executive producer Matt Youngberg.
“When you have Glomgold who’s obsessed with money more so than even Scrooge, it’s more about money as a substitute for happiness,” Youngberg says. “He keeps trying to fill his life with money but he did it to spite somebody, which is not a healthy place to be. With Mark Beaks (we wanted to explore) what is current money. He’s seen by other people as cool because of his money.”
With Scrooge however, as Angones explains, there’s a push and pull that sets him apart from the other rich characters. His connections to family, treasure, and adventure.
“Those are always kind of like three guiding principles of the Scrooge McDuck family,” Angones says. “Figuring out how we can address that in a modern context that made sense to us has been really interesting.”
Angones believes that Scrooge’s downfall isn’t so much his love of money but his overconfidence. Often when Scrooge is down and needs to pick himself up he’ll shout out, “I’m Scrooge McDuck!”
“When you hear a person say their own name in the third person, you know they’re compensating for something,” Angones says. “We always said way back from the beginning of the show that Scrooge will take all the risks in the world because he has such confidence in himself that if he lost all of his money tomorrow, he knows he could roll up his sleeves and earn it back because he has bought into his own hype.”
That hype will be called into question in the DuckTales Season 3, where Scrooge will wrangle with the notion that, “the most important thing about Scrooge McDuck isn’t being Scrooge McDuck and that became a really interesting conversation to have,” explains Angones.
“For a lot of the third season, it’s Scrooge falling back on his old habits, falling back on his superiority and his adventure and trying to teach the kids to do the same. But he’s going to hit some bumps along the road where he realizes that he’s not as unstoppable as he thought he was.”
This perfectly ties in with the third season being set up to tackle themes of legacy and how it impacts the entire family. Things are different now from when Scrooge was making his wealth and that’s true for the modern world as well. Scrooge will have to change with the times but DuckTales is already way ahead of him.