Disney XD Is Airing 'Ducktales' 2017 Out Of Order, and that's a Big Problem
The reboot is headed for trouble.
So far, the reviews for Disney's Ducktales reboot have been trending towards the positive. The stories are engaging, and the voice work top-notch. The animation style and character designs, while quite different from the original and a turn-off for some older viewers, are perfectly geared towards the young fans the show will need to attract if it is to survive beyond its already confirmed second season. Right now, it seems there is only one major factor counting against Ducktales' success: The episodes are being aired in the wrong order.
Why is this happening?
Well, there are a few reasons, one being that the Disney marketing department have probably calculated which episodes are most likely to connect with audiences and draw high ratings. They are airing these episodes first in order to help build the series fan-base early in its run. Another reason is that they are airing the episodes centred on the nephews, Webby, and Mrs. Beakley early on, letting audiences get to know those characters better before shifting focus back to Scrooge, who is already well established in the hearts and minds of many viewers.
Some may argue that Huey, Dewey, and Louie are well established too, but given that the boys have more obviously distinct personalities in this reboot than they did in the original Ducktales, it can just as easily be argued that viewers, particularly younger ones, are meeting them for the first time.
A third, just as likely reason is that Disney wanted the series "spooky" episodes, ie, "Terror Of The Terra-firmians!" and "The Living Mummies Of Toth-Ra!", to air in October, with their channels usually taking on a month long monster theme in the lead up to Halloween.
Mixed-Up Down Under
Exactly how much of a problem the mis-ordered episodes are depends a lot upon where you live. In the US, the episodes are airing out of their original production order, which, while common for #animated series, is becoming more of an issue as some series attempt more detailed story arcs. The creators' original plan for Ducktales was to have a big globe-trotting adventure with Scrooge one week, followed by a smaller cool-down episode with Webby and the boys the next. Instead, as mentioned above, most of the Nephews and Webby episodes aired in the first few weeks, followed by a few big adventures in a row, all culminating in the premiere of the creepy "The Living Mummies Of Toth-Ra!" two days before Halloween. While this alters the flow of the story from what the creators intended, it has not impacted upon the series' main story arcs yet.
Unfortunately in Australia, where Ducktales premiered a few weeks after its US debut, it is a very different story. The premiere special, "Woo-oo!", and episode 2, "Daytrip Of Doom!", aired as they were supposed to. Things fell apart in the third week of the series run, with the Disney Channel wanting to air a scary episode for Halloween. So, the US episode 5, "Terror Of The Terra-firmians!" aired in place of episode 3, "The Great Dime Chase!" This meant that the character of Lena appeared on Australian screens before her debut episode, "The Beagle Birthday Massacre!", had aired there. As anyone following the series will know, this spoils the reintroduction of OG Ducktales villain Magica De Spell, as well as the reveal of Lena's relationship to her. The late airing of "The Great Dime Chase" (now scheduled to hit Australian screens on November 4), while not ruining the story arc exactly, has delayed the intended beginning of the series other core mystery: the fate of Huey, Dewey, and Louie's mother, Della Duck.
A Larger Problem
While what happened to Australian viewers is much worse than the US, both situations are problematic, and speak to a larger issue with how networks treat anything they deem "Kid's Shows"—particularly animated ones. What happened in Australia could have been avoided with very little research, like reading the episode summaries, which clearly describe which one Lena first appears in. Instead, it seems someone just picked out the first spooky sounding episode to air the week of Halloween. They probably thought it wouldn't matter. It's a kid's show, and kids wouldn't notice.
Of course, there are a number of problems with this logic. One, Ducktales episodes usually premiere on DisneyXD. This channel is aimed at slightly older kids, who will in fact notice if something is off regarding things happening in the right order. Second, Ducktales was never going to be a show watched only by children. Nostalgia for the original was always going to bring older viewers, many of whom are continuing to follow the show. They have noticed that she show is not airing how the creators intended, and they are not happy about it. While airing the episodes out of production order has not affected the show too badly yet, it may in a few weeks time, as viewers become over-saturated with big adventures.
As more animated series make the shift towards telling a slightly more complicated story, as Ducktales is trying to do, more adults are beginning to find and enjoy them. Networks need to accept this shift and realise that they can no-longer cherry pick which episodes to air, because it is "just a kid's show," and no one will notice. People do notice, and it is ruining their enjoyment of these shows. This will ultimately lead to a drop in the audience the networks are trying so desperately to build. If they want to prevent that, things have to change.