Sunday, February 12, 2017

Huey, Dewey, Louie, and Pinocchio

This is in part an answer to a posting, "Things From Another World," by Tom Mason, dated July 27, 2009, on a site called (unless I misread things) COMIX 411. Tom Mason seems to have felt very uneasy about a story he found in WALT DISNEY COMICS DIGEST #23, July 1970, called "The Magic Brew," mixing up characters from Duckburg, Pinocchio, and -- since there is no wicked witch in PINOCCHIO (either Collodi's original or Disney's version) -- one who looks very much like the villainess of SNOW WHITE in her witch disguise. Mr. Mason doesn't seem to like crossover stories. Me, I love 'em. Yes, I confess it. (Adv.: My own BLOODY HERRING mixes up at least one character from each of the 14 G&S operas into a single storyline -- e.g., Princess Ida takes over Castle Bunthorne -- while my DANGEROUS PERSUASION is a mashup of characters from RUDDIGORE with Jane Austen's NORTHANGER ABBEY and, of course, PERSUASION. THE BLOODY HERRING is available right now from Wildside Press, DANGEROUS PERSUASION is included in my projected HAUNTED MURGATROYDS OF RUDDIGORE MEGAPACK planned to appear from Wildside Any Year Now.) My fascination with crossovers goes back to early childhood. I already suffered from it the Christmas -- must have been 1954 -- when on a family visit to friends, I encountered a story bringing together Huey, Louie, and Dewey with Pinocchio. With keen interest, I set in to read it. Alas, I had read a mere three pages when, in a figurative sense, Midnight Struck, and we had to go home. That friend tended not to keep comic books around very long, and before my next visit, it was gone. Had I been able to finish reading that story in 1954, chances are that my memory would have swallowed it down, disgorging only a stray image here and there. Left with HLD watching in horror as the wicked witch flew away with Pinocchio, I wondered all my life, in odd moments, what happened next. Such an odd moment taking me in autumn 2016, in curiosity I ran in Internet search on "Hudy, Louie, Dewey, and Pinocchio," and to my gratified astonishment, it turned up that very story, telling me it first appeared in WALT DISNEY'S VACATION PARADE No. 5, 1954. Apparently this is not among the costliest collectors' items, because Comic Book World had a copy available for under $20, incl. S/H. (Another adv., but take this one with caution: not long after buying this comic book, my bank account got hacked and it could have cost me hundreds of $$$ had the bank not refunded. I can't say for sure it was Comic Book World: I have two or three stronger suspects. But CBW did start peppering my e-mail and home page with ads, apparently based on the assumption that anyone who buys an old comic book MUST, q.e.d., dote on superheroes. The only superheroes I ever made an effort to collect were the Inferior Five: otherwise, superheroes rather bore me, and I feel quite sure that Huey, Louie, and Dewey, armed with the Junior Woodchucks' Handbook, could defeat Superman if by some strange quirk they found themselves on opposing sides.) So at long last I was able to finish reading the story; in the 1954 printing, I can find no title except "Huey Dewey and Louie," so am guessing that "The Magic Brew" was a title added in the 1970 reprint. On initial perusal, it did not quite come up to that lifetime of wondering about it. But as I let it percolate in my brain, more of its virtues surfaced. Tom Mason summarizes it, but knowing that not everyone immediately looks up every cross reference, I shall do so again. HDL accept Pinoke's invitation to visit him in his hidden tree house. Seeing them go there together shows the wicked witch where it is, and she manages to kidnap Pinoke and dunks him into her magic brew, turning him into a solid gold statue, which she plans to sell for big bucks. HDL have meanwhile started running away (this was the point where I had to stop reading in 1954), but as they cross the bridge, they see their reflections show yellow in the water. So they go back, catch the witch by surprise, and threaten to dunk her unless she tells them how to disenchant Pinoke. She tries to trick them by giving them directions that in practice turn Huey and Dewey into (talking) apples. To her frustration, Louie happens to be out of range at the crucial moment, so he dunks her into a golden statue, then explores her house until he finds a book with true directions: touch the person to be disenchanted with a feather and say "Abba Kadabba." He uses one of his own tail feathers, and soon Huey, Dewey, and Pinoke are themselves again. Also (first being bound) the witch, whom they tell from now on to dig for her gold like everyone else, and then leave her to get herself untied. The story ends with the nephews gratified to see their reflections are no longer yellow. It has holes. Leaving aside the detail that Pinocchio is still drawn as a wooden puppet -- he becomes a real boy at the end of both Collidi's story and Disney's version, but everybody always ignores that and remembers only the puppet (just as everybody always ignores Ebenezer Scrooge's conversion) -- having seen HDL go into the treehouse with Pinoke, why doesn't the witch capture them right away, too? Surely four golden statues would bring more money than one. And then, a life-sized statue of solid gold would surely be much, much heavier than the story seems to imply. And just leaving the wicked witch as they do hardly seems the most secure long-term solution. On the other hand, the bridge over a small river looks like a solidly folklorish signal of entering a faery realm, especially when the water reflects some quality in whoever is crossing the bridge. And what a pregnant piece of symbolism, to have Louie pluck one of his own feathers for the magic tool he needs! True, Pinocchio seems very much a passive plot device: but the opening panel identifies this as a story about "Huey, Dewey, and Louie," not about "HDL Meet Pinocchio." And it is primaril about the newphews, how they find their courage. With the slightly cynical adult touch that courage alone does not always or necessarily save the day -- had Louie not by good luck been out of range, all three would have been turned into helpless apples for having done the right and courageous thing. I have tried to figure out how it could have been written not as a crossover story, but with only characters appropriate to the disney Duck cycle. Carl Barks could have pulled it off -- using, say, Magica de Spell, with Don himself in the Pinocchio part, and the disenchantment formula turning up in the Junior Woodchucks Handbook. But I cannot remember HDL ever showing run-away cowardice even temporarily in a Carl Barks tale. Perhaps, even though this one is not by Barks, we might take it as a prelude to his saga: how HDL got to be the plucky juvenile heroes they are in the tales by Barks. So far, my efforts to run down two other non-Barks Duck Tales I remember from my 1950s childhood -- one about Don and nephews on an alien planet, and one in which the nephews share Don's dream of himself as a medieval knight, by lying down and dreaming themselves into it -- have failed to meet the surprisingly instant success my "Huey, Dewey, Louie and Pinocchio" search had. I ventured once onto Facebook. Was immediately hacked and even without this -- which COULD of course have been coincidence -- found the experience so unsatisfactory that I plan never to go back there again. It is probably as safe as anything can be in cyberspace, however, to post my e-mail address here: iolanthe3@yahoo.com.

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