TaleSpin (1990)

Spin it!

Premiering on September 9, 1990, TaleSpin was Disney’s sixth venture into television animation, and the third show to revive old classic Disney characters into a new era (not technically true as the series is set in the mid to late 1930’s), whilst adding new characters into the mix. The name of the show is a play on “tailspin” meaning “the rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep spiral”. The “tale” in the name originally referred to the series DuckTales because one of its characters, Launchpad McQuack, was originally going to be the main character of the show, but was replaced by Baloo from Disney’s 1967 film The Jungle Book. The series show’s its roots from the movie, having the role of Mowgli the wild boy supplanted by the young bearcub Kit, and features King Louie and Shere Kahn in supporting roles.

The original concept of the series was embodied in the introductory television movie (or pilot) “Plunder And Lightning” which was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program in 1991, and later was edited into four half-hour episodes for syndication. Many of the show’s 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, and even the visual appearance of the lagoon. 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 relationship between Baloo and Rebecca is closely patterned after 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.

TaleSpin became another hit show for Disney, running the standard 65 episode amount. Its premiere also marked the launching of Disney’s new block The Disney Afternoon and was the first series to debut in the block (the three prior series had all debuted years before). I can’t give an exact date for an ending episode, as two different sources state two different things. One states the series aired its last episode on August 8, 1994; for whatever reason new episodes stopped airing in 1991 and didn’t resume until the end of 1993, which therefore stretched the actual length of the show despite its standard amount of episodes. Why Disney would have delayed new episodes for almost three years is unknown, but in reality the show would have more than likely ended new episodes in 1991 or 1992 if it had continued normally. The other states this in fact was the case, and the show aired its last episode on August 8, 1991. So who’s right and who’s wrong? The show’s last new episode, “Flying Dupes”, was not intended to be the last episode; a second season was rumored but never happened. Also, that same episode was banned in the US for its terrorist theme and was never re-aired following its original broadcast, although it was always aired in Canada (the show was off the air here before the 9/11 attacks, and if still airing that episode more than likely would have been banned here as well). There were also issues with the episode “Last Horizons” due to its World War II satire.

TaleSpin got some merchandising as well, such as Happy Meal toys, a board game, plush figures, books, stickers, coloring books, and videogames. A monthly comic book based on the show was published by Disney Comics in 1991 that ran for seven issues (eleven if you count a four-issue mini-series based on the series premiere). The comic’s early cancellation, which is unknown, terminated several planned stories that would have revealed pieces of background for the main characters. Issue seven even had a preview for the eighth, never printed comic. Subsequent comic stories were featured in the magazine Disney Adventures from 1990-1995 as well as the Disney Afternoon comic book published by Marvel Comics. Like other Disney cartoons at the time, TaleSpin was a deserving candidate for a feature length film, but it was never proposed. It’s worthy to note TaleSpin was the first Disney cartoon to have major use of CGI to create the perspectives of the planes and 3-D backgrounds. Oddly enough I couldn’t find any good production art from the series.

The last time these high flying bears were seen in Canada was on Family Channel around 1999/2000 – that’s a guess mind you, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen any of the episodes. I don’t remember much of it, but I know I did watch it a lot as a kid, and I wonder if I sat down and watched the series now would I still like it or have grown out of it? It looks more watchable and exciting than Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, and I like the character of Don Karnage – his voice actor Jim Cummings makes him a joy to watch. DVD’s of the show first started coming out in 2006, but one Youtube user has uploaded the entire series for viewing online. Of course the opening theme song (and the ending theme) is unforgettable, and this mambo/Latin jazz flavored tune makes you want to get up and dance. I found the various action scenes and editing very face paced for this theme and matched up with the music well – it keeps your attention all the way through. Again, I have no idea who the singer is.

No comments: