Sunday, April 17, 2016

Nostalgia Theater: Disney's TaleSpin Takes Flight!

Just over two years ago I covered Disney's Chip 'n' Dale Rescue Rangers in this column, with the promise that I'd eventually get to TaleSpin, another offering from the famed Disney Afternoon syndicated block. Well, with Disney's live action Jungle Book adaptation now in theaters, I figured this was a perfect opportunity to look back at the time Baloo, King Louie, and Shere Khan took a break from hanging out with Mowgli to engage in high-flying derring-do in and around the fictional South Pacific town of Cape Suzette. Here's the intro, with another catchy Disney theme song:

Created by Jymn Magon & Mark Zaslove, TaleSpin incorporated characters from The Jungle Book (which had been re-issued to theaters the summer before the show hit syndication, so it was pretty fresh in people's minds), and cross-pollinated them into an action-adventure show with elements of screwball comedy. Here, big bear Baloo left behind the bare necessities in favor of a life flying freight on his seaplane, alongside bear sidekick Kit Cloukicker (presumably Mowgli was otherwise engaged), all while doing his best to avoid entanglements with ruthless Shere Khan (now fond of big business and designer suits).

The premise, per the creators themselves, freely drew on the here-and-gone '80s series Tales of the Gold Monkey (the characters even hang out at a local bar owned by King Louie, shades of Roddy McDowall's Lucky Louie), and it really shouldn't have worked. But damned if Disney didn't work its mojo again and make for a pretty darn entertaining series. In addition, the creators also took inspiration from, of all things, the sitcom Cheers, with Baloo's banter with the persnickety Rebecca Cunningham, owner of Baloo's Air Service, meant to evoke Ted Danson and Kirstie Alley.

As part of the first two Disney Afternoon lineups, TaleSpin had a comfortable perch alongside DuckTales and Chip 'n' Dale, and kept itself aloft for sixty-five episodes, also garnering its own video game and toyline in the process. While it was swapped out of the Afternoon in fall of '91, it remained a regular part of the lineup on various Disney outlets on and off until the late aughts. And with the entire show available at a ridiculously affordable price on DVD, it's an easy recommendation, especially if you're in the mood for something different with these characters after seeing The Jungle Book.

One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Powers of Matthew Star

Two Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Spiral Zone -- The Zombie Apocalypse For Kids

Three Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Brief Rise and Immediate Extinction of Dinosaucers

Four Years Ago in Nostalgia Theater: The Sinking of NBC's Man From Atlantis

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