Disney // 1990 // 617 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // March 19th, 2008
Stamp Your Passport For Fun And Excitement!
Here's a question. Who the hell, in their right mind, gives a bear a pilot's license?
Originally conceived as a Duck Tales spin-off starring Launchpad McQuack, TaleSpin, after a change of heart by its creators, instead re-imagined characters from Disney classic The Jungle Book and placed them in the fictional town of Cape Suzette, centering its story on air freight pilot Baloo. Along with his boss Rebecca Cunningham and his young partner/navigator Kit Cloudkicker, the trio transports cargo under the name "Higher For Hire" in their aircraft, the Sea Duck.
Of course, if it were that simple, the show wouldn't be much fun, so wisely series creators Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove throw in air pirates led by the dastardly Don Karnage, along with other perils to spice things up. Every episode of TaleSpin would see the crew of the Sea Duck getting into adventures that, I'm pretty sure, go way beyond those that most couriers face on a daily basis.
TaleSpin: Volume 2 contains 27 episodes spread over three discs:
* "A Baloo Switheroo"
* "Whistelstop Jackson, Legend"
* "Double Or Nothing"
* "Feminine Air"
* "Last Horizons"
* "Flight Of The Snow Duck"
* "Save The Tiger"
* "The Old Man And The Sea Duck"
* "War Of The Weirds"
* "Captains Outrageous"
* "The Time Bandit"
* "For Whom the Bell Klangs -- Part One"
* "For Whom The Bell Klangs -- Part Two"
* "Citizen Khan"
* "Gruel And Unusual Punishment"
* "A Jolly Molly Christmas"
* "My Fair Baloo"
* "Waiders Of the Wost Tweasure"
* "Flight School Confidential"
* "Bringing Down Babyface"
* "Jumping The Guns"
* "In Search Of Ancient Blunders"
* "Louie's Last Stand"
* "Sheepskin Deep"
* "Pizza Pie In The Sky"
* "Baloo Thunder"
* "Bullethead Baloo"
Having dipped their toes into the waters of the animated TV series with Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears and The Wuzzles and finding some success, Disney made the decision to take characters from its vast back catalogue and use them in its new lineup of high-quality animated TV shows. While Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers and DuckTales had given Disney success by reinventing beloved characters, what came next was a far bolder step. While Scrooge McDuck and Co. were mere supporting players previously, Disney would turn to one of its most beloved titles, The Jungle Book, as the inspiration for TaleSpin.
Thrusting Baloo into the spotlight, re-imagining him as a cargo pilot with a penchant for dapper headwear along the way, the series completely removed the human element that Mowgli gave to The Jungle Book and instead, presented a world populated by anthropomorphic animals. Not that Mowgli's presence isn't felt; the character of Kit Cloudkicker is Mowgli by another name...and species. Taken under Baloo's wing, Kit will frequently refer to Baloo as "Papa Bear" and clearly regards Baloo as his mentor. Throw in Rebecca Cunningham, Baloo's and Kit's boss, and the hottest cartoon bear since Yogi's lady friend Cindy, and the show's central trio is complete. Baloo, however, is not the only alumnus of The Jungle Book to make the transition from the big to small screen. King Louie, now just plain old Louie (clearly Cape Suzette is a republic), is the owner of Louie's Place, the local nightspot. Shere Khan also appears sporadically throughout the series, now portrayed as a wealthy businessman, his pleasure coming more from running smaller businesses into the ground than the hunting his former self enjoyed. Now he represents a wholly different kind of evil.
TaleSpin: Volume 2 offers up 27 episodes of the show, and is a fine mix of comedy and adventure that caters to the younger members of the family perfectly, though that's not to say older viewers will not be entertained. Unlike so many animated films/series released nowadays, TaleSpin doesn't feel the need to throw in double-entendres or references that only adults will appreciate, simply going straight over the heads of any children watching. Instead, TaleSpin utilizes solid writing, creating exciting stories to keep any watching adults entertained.
While the majority of the stories are certainly praiseworthy, from the excitement of a globetrotting adventure in "For Whom the Bell Klangs," a two-parter which ups the action stakes, to the loveliness of "A Jolly Molly Christmas," what really keeps Talespin so enjoyable is the richness of its characters. Indeed, the sheer charisma of Baloo, or the slapstick of Wildcat, the mechanic at Higher for Hire (and possible relation of Tigger, sharing his looks and lisp), means that episodes such as "A Baloo Switcheroo" or "The Old Man and The Sea Duck," which deal with well-worn plots involving characters switching bodies and amnesia respectively, are never dull.
Perhaps of most interest to fans of the show, is the episode "Last Horizons," which is one of two episodes of Talespin that was actually banned. With obvious allusions to Pearl Harbor, the episode was apparently banned, albeit temporarily, due to its alleged stereotyping of Asians. Beginning with Baloo's attempts to be worthy of a parade, he sets out to discover the fabled land of Panda-La, home to a race of anthropomorphic Pandas. Upon discovering Panda-La (relatively easily, but hey, it's a cartoon) high up in the mountains, Baloo is initially welcomed by its ruler, Emperor Wan Lo. Unbeknown to Baloo, Wan Lo's hospitality is a ruse, and hides his real intentions. Following Baloo back to Cape Suzette with his airborne squadron, Wan Lo launches an invasion wiping out Cape Suzette's somewhat unprepared air defenses. It's an excellent episode full of action and excitement, and though the references to the Japanese during World War II are undeniable, the episode goes to some lengths to stress its not aiming to paint everyone with the same brush when Emperor Wan Lo points out, "Good Pandas especially dislike us."
The fact that there are no extras to speak of is a big disappointment, though not exactly unusual for these Disney box sets.
Audio and video are both probably about as good as you can expect for a show that is eighteen years old. There's the odd scratch or bit of dirt evident, but nothing to really worry about.
Honestly, it's hard to find fault with Talespin: Volume 2. Yes there are a few episodes that are not particularly original (or in the case of "The Time Bandit," an almost identical retread of the DuckTales episode "Allowance Day"), and the animation is a little dated, but beyond that, though Talespin never truly reaches greatness, it offers up utterly entertaining Saturday morning TV.
When you can still find a TV series entertaining, despite having crammed in 27 of its episodes in one week, it must be doing something right. Despite repetitive themes running through many of the episodes, re-watching Talespin: Volume 2 proved to be an enjoyable experience; one that reveals a show well worth revisiting.
TaleSpin: Volume 2 is found not guilty. Baloo, however, is asked to remain behind and explain certain items found in his cargo hold.
Review content copyright © 2008 Paul Pritchard; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 617 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site