I hope you guys all had a pleasant tax day this Wednesday, April 15th! If you got all of your finances settled, great! If not, maybe you can cheer up and better prepare yourself next year by taking a lesson from Disney's wealthiest character, Scrooge McDuck, in his debut short, 'Scrooge McDuck And Money!'
After opening to a jingle about circulation (just like every Disney short), we open to Scrooge doing what he loves doing most: counting and basking in his money. That's interrupted though, when Huey, Dewy, and Louie visit their uncle with the hopes of having the money in their piggy bank (which is $1.95) saved along with the hopes of one day having their own money bin. Scrooge agrees, but only after he teaches his nephews more about money first. He start with the history of money, explaining how salt was used by the Romans as the earliest form of money. He proceeds to teach them about Greeks using obols, stone wheels from the Island of Rai, and even teaches about pieces of eight decades before Pirates of The Caribbean: At World's End did.
This leads to the song 'We Need Money,' which chronicles the history of money from the cavemen days and how they likely traded to our modern world of checks and credit cards.
When one of the nephews asks 'Why don't they just print a few billion?' Scrooge groans, and starts to teach about inflation, explaining that 'a billion dollars stacked up would be eight times the height of the Washington monument,' or 'would circulate the the globe four times over,' or 'could build a six-feet-wide arched bridge from California to the beach of Waikiki.'
Scrooge then proceeds to teach about the word 'economics,' balancing the budget, and even income tax; explaining in precise detail all the necessary things the government uses with our taxes such as bridges, schools, and places to play. Most interesting is when Scrooge explains he actually spends his money, explaining money shouldn't stagnate but circulate. Ultimately, Huey, Dewey, and Louie decide to invest their money with Scrooge with the hopes of it growing (though Scrooge being Scrooge of course manages to collect a 3 cent tax from his nephews).
If you go into Scrooge McDuck And Money expecting a DuckTales adventure, you're setting yourself up to be disappointed. This isn't so much a narrative story, rather a educational short Disney made in the tradition of Donald In Mathmagic Land, Jiminy Cricket's I'm No Fool shorts and The Story of Menstruation (Disney still does something similar today with Timon and Pumbaa's Safety Smart videos). Though it was theatrically released with The Adventures of Bullwhip Griffin, the main goal of this short was to make its money from TV airings and schools.
Despite its educational intent, this short is still very well worth watching if just to see Scrooge McDuck's first animated appearance. Despite being introduced in 1947 and having a very popular comic-book line, it somehow took two decades to see Uncle Scrooge in animated form (unless you want to include a very brief appearance on The Mickey Mouse Club).
Having grown-up with Alan Young's performance of Scrooge McDuck, though, I have to say Bill Thompson isn't quite as good. While the nostalgia bias plays some role, sure, but you just can't help but wish that Thompson emphasized a Scottish accent more. Still, it is very interesting to see (er, hear) another actor's portrayal of the role.
The short itself also succeeds at what it aims to do, which is to educate the public on the history of money and how finances work. In fact, I would say that kids may find the information presented in the short rather overwhelming, even at the end of this short when Uncle Scrooge ask Huey, Dewey, and Louie if they understand everything they reply 'No, but it sounds like a good deal!' Adults will probably get more out of it than kids, heck, there's more than one person on either Wall Street or Washington D.C. today that could learn a thing or two from this short. Beyond the educational value of this short though, this short claims merit on the basis of what other Disney program are you going to hear songs about balanced budgets, inflation and investments (well, besides 'Fidelity Fiduciary Bank' from Mary Poppins)?
Scrooge McDuck And Money is currently unavailable on DVD (or VHS for that matter). This could make for a pretty cool DVD bonus feature with the remaining 25 episodes of unreleased DuckTales episodes. Unfortunately, with Disney's interest in the home-video market shrinking with each passing year, that's unlikely to happen. But with last month's announcement that DuckTales would be returning to the Disney Channel by 2017, anything can happen! Until then, there are rumors going around that an obscure little website called 'YouTube' has it available to watch'