In 2017, Disney rebooted one of my all-time favorite cartoons, Duck Tales. For the new series, one of the biggest changes has to be Donald Duck’s nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. This will be a two-part article, as I have noticed two characters could be head-canoned as autistic. First, let’s look at Huey. My next article will be about the new version of Webby Vanderquack.
Donald’s nephews were introduced in the 1940’s. In their first appearance, their mother dropped them off at their uncle’s house, leaving him a message that she’d had enough and they were driving her crazy. Because she never came back to get them, they continued to appear in other cartoons as well. In those days, the nephews could only be told apart by their clothes. Huey is always red, Dewey is blue, and Louie is green. There was even a mnemonic device that fans created to tell them apart. Huey is red because he’s the brightest of the hues, red. Dewey is the color of dew, which is blue. That “leaves” Louie, and leaves are green.
For the reboot, the show’s head writer Frank Angonez decided that having them wear different colors wasn’t enough to make them different. He also gave them new names, establishing that the names we’ve known them by are actually nicknames. This is actually an old idea from another series, Quack Pack. So the actual names are Hubert, Dewfort, and Louis. Another thing he did was flesh them out by giving each nephew a unique personality.
Huey is introduced as the only nephew who is still a Junior Woodchuck, the Disney comic book parody of the Boy Scouts of America. He is always carrying around their guidebook, which he literally keeps under his coonskin cap. He takes it out on his many adventures with his uncles, constantly referencing what it says about any situation.
Of the three nephews, Huey seems to be the most prepared for adventures. Dewey enjoys the episodes for the sheer fun they bring. Going to new places, and facing new dangers. Louie adventures because he tags along. Huey approaches the adventures from a logical method, using the Junior Woodchucks Guidebook to prepare himself for whatever may happen.
It is the most recent episode “Astro BOYD” that shows off his traits the most. Here, we learn that he actually has the entire Guidebook memorized. When the other Woodchucks are goofing around making Smores at camp, he calls them out on their methods, because they aren’t going by the book, as he is. They tease him about it, mimicking his “robotic” personality . Having had their fun at his expense, they leave him alone. He feels dejected because he lacks the social cues they follow.
Then he meets BOYD, an android introduced in the previous season. The two of them become instant friends, sharing a mutual interest in the Guidebook. Like Huey, BOYD has “practically downloaded the entire Guidebook to his memory banks”. When BOYD begins short-circuiting, Huey brings the android to Gyro Gearloose, an inventor living in Duckburg.
We then learn that Gyro actually created BOYD with help from a scientist named Akita, who lives in Tokyolk, the show’s analog for Japan’s capital city, Tokyo. As BOYD’s short-circuits worsen, Gyro decides that dismantling him may be the only solution. Huey disagrees, and defies Gyro by taking BOYD on a tour of the city. Along the way, he is constantly info-dumping, pointing out everything he’s learned about Japan from reading. This is a textbook autistic trait. Many have referred to it as “Little Professor dialogue” . I myself exhibited this trait growing up. Thanks to all the reading I’d done on various topics, I could go on for a long time. My mom would often call me her “walking encyclopedia” . At one point, Huey realizes he might be boring his new friend, because normally his brothers would try to stop him at a point. But BOYD doesn’t. He is genuinely interested in what Huey is talking about. And more importantly, not once does the android short-circuit. This is because Huey is treating BOYD as an actual person, not a machine. This, as well as the revelation that Dr. Akita had secretly programmed BOYD for a sinister purpose, begins to change Gyro’s mind. In fact, Huey’s kindness is what saves BOYD from being deactivated.
I like that Disney is re-imagining these classic characters for a new generation. This is a positive step toward teaching kids about autism, even if it’s not explicitly stated. Kids who aren’t autistic can learn how to better treat those who are. And autistic children can look at characters like Huey and feel acknowledged. This is why inclusivity is a positive thing. Next time, I’ll discuss how the changes to Webby can match autistic personality traits.