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crooked deal

TaleSpin

TaleSpin is a half-hour American animated television series that first aired in 1990 as part of The Disney Afternoon, with characters adapted from Disney's 1967 animated feature The Jungle Book. The name of the show is a play on "tailspin", the rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep spiral.

Background

After a preview of The Disney Afternoon that aired on the Disney Channel in May 1990, the series began its run in September of the same year. The original concept was embodied in the introductory television movie Plunder and Lightning which was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (Prime Time for Programming One Hour or More) in 1991 and was later re-edited into four half-hour episodes for reruns. The show was often seen either on its own as a half-hour show, or as part of the two-hour syndicated series The Disney Afternoon. TaleSpin ended on its 65th episode which ran in 1994. However, reruns continued to be shown on The Disney Afternoon through late 1994 till 1996. Afterwards, it was moved into Disney Channel and later into Toon Disney.

Several of the characters are loosely based on characters from Disney's animated film version of The Jungle Book: in particular Baloo, the hot-shot pilot hero of the series; Louie, the owner of Baloo's favorite bar; and Shere Khan, a business tycoon who appears in many episodes. Kit seems to be a stand-in for Mowgli, since Baloo calls him by the same nicknames his Jungle Book counterpart called Mowgli, like "Little Britches" and "Baby Bear". Shere Khan's soldiers are black panthers, resembling Bagheera.

Also, many of the series concepts seem to be based on the 1982 ABC series Tales of the Gold Monkey, including the main concept of a cocky flying boat cargo pilot and his rocky relationship with his girlfriend, his scatterbrained mechanic sidekick, the era and designs of the aircraft and costumes, the Pacific Islands setting, the secondary character relationships, even the visual appearance of the lagoon. Also, the protagonists of both series fly planes named for waterfowl (Cutter's Goose and Sea Duck) and are regular denizens of taverns named "Louie's".

The series was largely developed by writers Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove, who were also the Supervising Producers on the series as well as Story Editors. There were four production teams, each one headed by a Producer/Director: Robert Taylor, Larry Latham, Jamie Mitchell and Ed Ghertner.

Synopsis

TaleSpin is set in the fictional city-state of Cape Suzette (a pun on the pancake dish, Crêpe Suzette), a harbor town protected by giant cliffs through which only a small opening exists. The opening in the cliffs is guarded by anti-aircraft artillery, preventing flying rabble-rousers or air pirates from entering the city. Characters in the world of TaleSpin are anthropomorphic animals. The timeframe of the series is never specifically addressed, but appears to be in the mid to late 1930s; the helicopter and jet engine are experimental devices and most architecture is reminiscent of the art deco style of that period. "The Great War" ended "nearly 20 years ago", and radio is the primary mass medium.

The series centered on the adventures of bush pilot Baloo the bear, whose air cargo freight business is stolen by Rebecca Cunningham(through a crooked deal with Shere Khan), and renamed "Higher for Hire". An orphan boy and former air pirate, the ambitious Kit Cloudkicker, attaches to Baloo and becomes his navigator. He sometimes calls him "Papa Bear". Together, they are the crew of Higher for Hire's only aircraft, a modified Conwing L-16 named the Sea Duck. From there, the series follows the ups and downs of Higher for Hire and its staff, sometimes in the vein of old action-adventure film serials of the 1930s and '40s and contemporary variations, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Their adventures often involve encounters with a gang of air pirates led by the histrionic Don Karnage, with representatives of Thembria, a parody of the Stalinist Soviet Union inhabited by anthropomorphic warthogs, or other, often even stranger obstacles. In deference to contemporary sensitivities, there is no equivalent of the Nazis in the series, although one story in Disney Adventures Magazine had the heroes encounter "the Hausers," a menacing militaristic nationality of dogs who wear uniforms that are clearly based on German ones.

The relationship between Baloo and Rebecca owes something to the screwball comedy films of the 1930s. It is even more closely patterned after the later years of the television sitcom Cheers—in both shows, a buttoned-down businesswoman named Rebecca takes the reins of a struggling company, then hires its previous owner (a fun-loving but irresponsible slacker) to do most of the work for her.

A video game by Capcom was also released on the NES and Game Boy. Sega produced a different version for the Sega Genesis and Sega Game Gear. A third incarnation was produced by Hudson Soft for the TurboGrafx-16.

Famed Uncle Scrooge comic writer and artist Don Rosa contributed to episode 6 "It Came From Beneath the Sea Duck" and episode 9 "I Only Have Ice for You".

Characters and cast

Episodes

DVD releases

Disney released the first 27 episodes (including the 4-part pilot) of TaleSpin on DVD in Region 1 on August 29 2006. Volume 2 of the series was released on November 13, 2007, which includes the controversial episode "Last Horizons". Disney has yet to confirm a third volume with the remaining episodes, and there is no word on whether the other controversial episode, "Flying Dupes" will be included, (see "Controversy" below).

DVD Name Release Date Eps#
Volume One August 29, 2006 23eps. with 4-part pilot.
Volume Two November 13, 2007 27 eps.
Volume Three TBA 11 eps.

Controversy

Banned episodes

Two episodes of Talespin drew varied amounts of controversy, enough for one episode to be temporarily banned and the other to be permanently banned.

The first of these, the episode "Last Horizons", was temporarily banned and taken off the air. Investigation of the event has since revealed that the reason for its temporary removal was the alleged stereotyping of Asians. The villain in the episode is an anthropomorphic panda Emperor named Wan Lo (voiced by actor Robert Ito) living in a mock-pre-WWII Asian nation called "Panda-La", who takes Baloo into his country to exploit his naiveté and attacks Cape Suzette. There is a reference to how their lust for conquest is not shared by all of their species with "Good Pandas especially dislike us."

The fictitious nation may have been a take on Japan, which attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. That incident ushered America's entry into the Second World War.

The second episode, coincidentally the last in the series, titled "Flying Dupes" was aired for the first time on August 8 1992 and was immediately pulled from the lineup afterward, not to be seen again for more than ten years. It made a brief re-appearance on Toon Disney several years ago, possibly by mistake, and has never been re-aired since. Considered by Disney to be a banned episode, the apparent reason for this episode's permanent removal from the airwaves is the terrorist theme associated with it. Despite this ban, the episode was aired repeatedly by independent stations, including Seattle-based KSTW-TV and Family Channel in Canada. They also get aired on German TV (dubbed) practically anytime the series gets broadcast.

The general synopsis of the episode starts with Baloo being asked to deliver a goodwill present (a cuckoo clock he is told) to the High Marshall of Thembria from Cape Suzette. Baloo is unaware until the end of the episode that the package really contains a time bomb planted by munitions manufacturers who wish to provoke a war between Thembria and Cape Suzette in order to boost weapons sales.

Voice impersonation

A controversy related to TaleSpin involved the character Louie. In 2001, the widow of Louis Prima, who had voiced the scat singing orangutan in The Jungle Book, filed suit against Disney for "breach of contract, non-payment of royalties, unjust enrichment, fraud and negligent misrepresentation". At issue were back royalties owed for profits made from video and DVD sales of The Jungle Book and unauthorized use of her husband's voice and its likeness in shows like TaleSpin (Jim Cummings's impersonation of Prima's voice was near-perfect). Although the case was eventually settled out of court, Disney has since chosen to avoid any further trouble and has refrained from using the character in anything else. Illustrating this point was the appearance of a Louie doppelgänger in an episode of the Disney's House of Mouse, "King Larry Swings In." Here "Larry" was identified as Louie's identical twin brother to avoid offending the Prima estate. It was also due to this lawsuit that Louie was conspicuously absent from The Jungle Book 2 (2003); he is the only major Jungle Book character who did not appear in the 2003 film.

Comics

A monthly comic book based on the show was published by Disney Comics in 1991, running for seven issues (eleven, counting a four-issue mini-series based on the series premiere). Bobby JG Weiss was the writer for issues 1-4 and 6-7. As issue 5 was adapted from the episode 41, "The Old Man And The Sea Duck", Weiss only is credited for adaptation.

The comic's cancellation seven months later terminated several planned stories that would have revealed pieces of background for the main characters. Issue 7 explored Kit's past, and how he joined up with the pirates. According to the letter page in #3, a planned story for the comic's annual would have explored the origin of the Iron Vulture. #4-7 would have letters 'answered' by the characters.

A collected edition called Disney's Cartoon Tales featuring TaleSpin came out in 1991 (ISBN 1-56115-269-2). It reprints #4 and 6 from the regular comic book series.

Subsequent comic stories were also printed in Disney Adventures from 1990 to 1995 then re-appeared in the Summer 2006 Disney Adventures Comic Zone Magazine, as well as in the Disney Afternoon comic book published by Marvel Comics.

TaleSpin #8

While issue #8 of the monthly comic series never made it to print, the end of issue #7 included a preview for it:

"Spies in Cape Suzette?! There are some mighty mysterious folk sniffing around Shere Khan Industries. When Special Agent Booker shows up to handle the problem he finds that battling foreign agents is easier than dealing with Baloo as an assistant in... THE SPY WHO BUGGED ME!"

Relationship

At some point during the series, Baloo and Rebecca's relationship matures into a strong friendship with possible romantic overtones. Several episodes feature Baloo serving as escort to Rebecca for various social occasions though often with a degree of reluctance from one or both. In "It Came From Beneath the Sea Duck", Baloo accompanies Rebecca on a shopping spree; in "Her Chance to Dream", Baloo becomes slightly jealous when Rebecca is courted by the ghost of a Victorian era sea captain; in the beginning of "A Star Is Torn", the two have a dinner date as "friends". Baloo's statement to Rebecca of "Remember the last time we went out?" suggests that this is not their first date; In "Feminine Air", when Rebecca reveals that she could tell her co-pilot "Tan Margret" was really Baloo in drag, she calls Baloo her "best friend"; "Gruel and Unusual Punishment" both Baloo and Rebecca ready themselves to go the annual Pilot's Ball with her getting a new dress (which is a leftover from "Her Chance to Dream") and him losing weight when she threatens to take someone else and they get just a little bit closer (but not a lot) in the closing moments of "My Fair Baloo." In addition, at the end of "Lost Horizons," Rebecca clearly shouts with joy at Baloo's escape from certain death, "I love you, Baloo!"

Trivia

  • The "Tale" in the name was originally meant to connect the new series to the earlier animated series DuckTales, because Launchpad McQuack from that show was originally going to be the star of TaleSpin, but was replaced by Baloo.
  • Prior to Talespin, voice actors Ed Gilbert and R.J. Williams starred as father and son in the NBC cartoon Kissyfur.
  • Kit Cloudkicker's first name is leftover from a never produced Disney TVA series called "Metro Mice" which starred two mice detectives: Colt Chedderson and Kit Colby. Metro Mice eventually evolved into Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers.
  • Don Karnage's massive airship, the Iron Vulture was originally going to be called the Sky Shark. It also had a much more fishlike appearance in the early concept art.
  • Baloo is the only character to appear in all 65 episodes
  • In the show, Baloo would use recycled lines from previous Disney works. He often mentioned "bear necessities" and called Kit "little britches", both hand downs from The Jungle Book (1967 film). In Plunder and Lightning he said "One more time.", a line said by Louie in The Jungle Book. In A Bad Reflection on You he said "This ain't no hay ride, lets move it on out of here.", said by Little John in Robin Hood (Disney film), a character also voiced by singer/voice actor Phil Harris, who originally portrayed Baloo for Disney.
  • In one episode of the Aladdin cartoon the Genie, Princess Jasmine, Abu and Iago attempt to stop an evil genie by flying a plane very similar in design to the Sea Duck. Genie is dressed as Baloo, and resembles him facially; Jasmine is dressed like Rebecca, Abu like Louie, and Iago like Kit.
  • The plot for episode 38, "The Time Bandit" was recycled from an episode of DuckTales, "Allowance Day", which premiered less than eight months earlier.
  • This is the first Disney show to have a major use of CGI to create the perspective's of the planes and 3-D backgrounds. This is very noticeable on the pilot episode. This would be later used in Goof Troop.
  • A smaller Sea Duck look-a-like appears in Total Drama Island.

References

External links

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