Saturday, January 1, 2011

SMCS Companion Piece #14: TaleSpin

What’s this?  A new Saturday Morning Cartoon Show blog?  That’s soooo 2010 (Happy New Year, by the way).  I just happened to be in town and DJ Muppet invited me back on the show for old time’s sakes so I figured I do another companion blog as well.  This week we “watched” TaleSpin one of the more important cartons in the 1990’s Disney Afternoon block.
TaleSpin was a Disney cartoon created in the wake of the success of Duck Tales.  I once heard that the original concept was supposed to  be a Launchpad McQuack focused spin-off but the idea apparently mutated into what we now know;  bizarre chimera featuring a few (But not all) Jungle Book characters featured in a 1930’s inspired aviator show.  It’s messed up, man.  I seriously wonder what exactly the producers were smoking when they came up with this idea.  Did they think to themselves “Hey bro, you know what the Jungle Book cartoon really could have used?  Aerial dogfights.”  Though to be fair just about everything is better with aerial dogfights.
Exixibt A
In 1990 a TV movie under the name of TaleSpin: Plunder and Lighting was aired and shortly after the series proper began.  Though it apparently only lasted one season it produced 65 episodes and continued to air on Television in some form or another through 2008 (Which means Disney canceled about twenty-two awesome shows before they decided to stop running TaleSpin.  Make of that what you will)   The plot revolved around Baloo the Bear who I guess has grown tired of the bare necessities of life  and somehow ends up in the city-state of Cape Suzette where he buys an airplane that he names the “Sea Duck” and hires himself out as a pilot for hire.  In the first episode he gets tangled up with an orphan named Kit who’s connected to the local Air Pirates and after a bit of action packed swashbuckling in the skies a stuffy lady named Rebecca buys his plane and opens up her own business forcing him to be her pilot in order to keep his beloved vehicle.
It also features Shere Khan as a Kingpin of Crime.  In a damn suit and tie!  Hell yes!
"Bring me the head of Kimba the White Lion"
This whole series is strange, but not in a bad way.  It may in fact be one of the most unique shows ever produced in Western Aniamtion and certainly the craziest spin-off of a Disney movie I’ve ever seen.  Baloo himself seems kind of like a Han Solo type character if Han Solo spent all his time smoking weed to the point that he acted aloof and disjointed all the time (So more like Harrison Ford, really).  In fact there seems to be a few nods to Star Wars, such as Kit’s last name being Skywalker Cloudkicker, but the show has more of a Raiders of the Lost Ark look about it.  I’m not really sure when this show takes place, or even if it takes place in the DuckTales continuity at all, but there’s reference to a “Great War” from nearly twenty yeas back which supports the whole 1930’s atmosphere.   Let’s pretend that Cape Suzzette does exist in the same time frame as Scrooge McDuck and that the old duck could theoretically hire the heroes to help him find some long lost treasure before the Beagle Boys and the Air Pirates find it first.  Mmmm, delicious crossovers….
I’ve noticed the show is downright beloved by many by my generation (Not to be confused with that awful and rightfully canceled 2010 ABC show My Generation.  Bleh) and I suppose I understand why. It certainly was a darker cartoon than Disney tended to create at the time and quality wise was a cut above a lot of its competition, but I never really got over the whole “Jungle Book” thing.  Although maybe if Bagheera had showed up in any sort of meaningful role I would have accepted it more because Bagheera is F'N Metal.  Maybe as the chief of police who’s always annoyed at Baloo’s flying while intoxicated carefree attitude, or perhaps as a rival pilot who unlike the main character is a straight shooter who has his stuff together.  Now that would have been a show!
To be fair panthers are notoriously bad pilots
Even so it’s pretty good and it would be hard not to give it props for what it gets right, especially the awesome theme song.  Though if we’re talking old school Disney cartoons I’m more about DuckTales and Darkwing Duck.  But still if you haven’t seen TaleSpin I suggest trying to find it.  Just not on DVD since Disney opted to not release the last third of the series.  You know, because they hate you.
As if bears weren't terrifying enough now they can fly fighter planes...
For more on TaleSpin click here.  For the Saturday Morning Cartoon Show blog and/or podcast click here and/or here.

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