Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Coming in April: UNCLE SCROOGE # 1 (# 405) from IDW!



I'll say no more than is found in THIS LINK, and just bask in the glory of it all!  

Oh, and you might very well find a backup story dialogued by Yours Truly somewhere inside. 

Thanks to Friends of TIAH Blog Dan Cunningham and Adel Khan for this welcome information!

It's finally REAL, folks!  
See you at the comic shop in April!

In the Comments Section -- and HERE -- is the publishing schedule! 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

R.I.P. Terry Becker.



Actor Terry Becker, best known for his role of CPO Francis Sharkey on the TV series VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, passed away on December 30, 2014, at the age of 93. 

Becker debuted in the role of Chief Sharkey with the first color episode of VOYAGE, “Jonah and the Whale”, to lead off the series’ Second Season, on September 19, 1965.  

Meet Chief Sharkey... and Riley.  First moment for both. 
He succeeded actor Henry Kulky, who played Chief Curly Jones in VOYAGE’s First Season – and who actually died in real-life DURING that season.  The character of Chief Sharkey would serve aboard TV’s Submarine Seaview through the end of the series in 1968.


The Second Season Cast of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA (1965-1966): Richard Basehart as "Admiral Harriman Nelson", David Hedison as "Captain Lee Crane", Alan Hunt as "Crewman Stu Riley", Terry Becker as "Chief Francis Sharkey", and Bob Dowdell as "Executive Officer Chip Morton". 


Chief Sharkey was a favorite character of mine, and a VOYAGE fan-favorite in general.  It’s been reported that he drew more fan-mail than series stars Richard Basehart and David Hedison. 


Though he certainly has fit the bill over the course of the series, it would be inaccurate to describe the character of Chief Sharkey as mere “comedy relief”.  But, Terry Becker’s portrayal of Sharkey lent itself to many needed “lighter moments” on a series that, though often quite bizarre, was rather straightforward and even grim in its overall approach. 

Lighter moments...

...And the other kind!  All in a day's work for Chief Sharkey! 

Sharkey’s frequent sort-of “father and son” conversations with Crewman Kowalski (and sometimes Patterson and Riley), in which the “son” often got the best of the “father”, served as welcome bits of characterization, given VOYAGE’s decided preference for “plot” (and particularly action and special effects) over “character”. 

Kowalski, Sharkey, and Riley in some down-time. 
Make no mistake, though; Chief Petty Officer Francis Ethelbert Sharkey was always ready for action, and well-able to handle himself… even if he wasn’t always completely hip to the strange nature of the threats that came his way. 

I wish I could remember where I read this, but someone once wrote about the character of Chief Sharkey (and I’m paraphrasing from memory):  “He doesn’t always know what’s going on, but he knows he doesn’t like it”.   

What's lurking down that corridor, Chief?  
This was a quality I regard as unique to the talents of Terry Becker.  The ability to portray Sharkey as sometimes “clueless”, yet “nobody’s fool”. 


Some good “Sharkey-centric” episodes of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA are: 

The Lost Bomb” (1966): Sharkey reunites with a childhood friend (from New York's Lower East Side), now a government weaponry expert, in a race against time with a mercenary submarine to recover an activated super-bomb from the ocean floor. 

Old friends. 

The Death Watch” (1966): Sharkey is unwittingly a key factor in a behavior-modification experiment gone deadly wrong.  This show is a “three-character masterpiece”, solely inhabited (in sort-of TWILIGHT ZONE mystery, or Hitchcockian suspense, fashion) by Basehart, Hedison, and Becker – with the viewer left completely in the dark, as to “what the heck’s going on”, until the final reveal. 


Blow-Up” (1967):  Admiral Nelson becomes a dangerous paranoid, nearly sending both sub and crew to a watery grave.  As the ship’s officers and crew slowly move toward the solemn decision of relieving Nelson of duty and confining him for his own good, Sharkey is the “last holdout”.  When he finally declares to stand with his shipmates, you can almost feel his pain.  (Click on each illustration to better read subtitled dialogue)


Becker, Hedison, and especially Basehart are outstanding in this one.  Even the ordinarily “wooden” Bob Dowdell, as Executive Office Chip Morton, shows us a little “something extra” here.  It was also a fine showcase for Richard Bull, who played the Seaview Doctor.

Becker and Bull

Not uniquely-Sharkey, but worth noting is “The Haunted Submarine” (1966) for the private talk that Nelson has with Sharkey, to help him come to an important decision.  It is indicative of the mutual trust and respect the two characters had for one another.  It was also the last time Nelson and Sharkey (or any other character on VOYAGE for that matter) smoked on-camera.  …I guess that would mean that more than one “important decision” was arrived at on that day.  

Nelson and Sharkey "Butt-Out". 
Other series on my DVD shelf, on which Terry Becker appeared, include: THE TWILIGHT ZONE, GUNSMOKE, BONANZA, WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE, THE UNTOUCHABLES, and two turns on PERRY MASON. 


Terrible Terry Becker and his Chopper of Death (at left), on THE UNTOUCHABLES ("The Waxey Gordon Story", 1960)

A particular stand-out among these is THE TWILIGHT ZONE’s “I Am the Night – Color Me Black” (1964), with Becker as a condemned man, in 20th century Mid-America, headed for the gallows. 

  
The DVD set “THE TWILIGHT ZONE The Complete Definitive Collection: Season 5” offers a very pleasant surprise for fans of Terry Becker – an on-camera interview with Becker, focusing on his TWILIGHT ZONE experiences, recorded about 2004 and running for 05:43.  


This is a rare glimpse of the older Terry Becker who, post-VOYAGE, was seldom seen, having moved away from acting and into production.    


Also, Becker’s appearance as a deputy sheriff on WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE (“Three for One”, 1960), offers-up such a surprise twist climax that even series’ star Steve McQueen (in his character of bounty hunter “Josh Randall”) admits “…didn’t figure on THAT!” 

Terry Becker with Steve McQueen, on WANTED DEAD OR ALIVE. 

Mr. Becker’s IMDB credits are found at THIS LINK


Rest in Peace, Terry Becker, and thank you for all the enjoyable “voyages”!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Django Unrestrained!



This one’s for Steve, who dared me to post on this.  …Don’t ask “Steve who?”  He might be modest. 

Sometimes, a running-joke can turn into something so much more! 

Occasionally, on this blog, we’ve touched upon the "Horror and Sci-Fi Film Appreciation Society", hosted by Keith Crocker, that I attend on Thursday nights – most recently mentioned HERE

For a brief time, we will be shifting our focus toward the “Spaghetti Western” genre, and tonight we led off with one of the best.  Franco Nero in the 1966 classic “Django”! 


The running-joke stems from a continuing education course, presented some time ago by Keith, on Spaghetti Westerns.  In it, “Django” drew universal praise, except from me… simply because I’d never seen it.  From there, my not-seeing-“Django” – or, by increasingly wilder and wilder contrivance, not-being-ALLOWED-to-see-“Django” – became a running-joke that took on a life of its own.  Even Esther was in on it.  


No one enjoys a good running gag as much as I do but, eventually, I took steps to correct the situation, and purchased a Blu-ray copy of “Django”. 

I enjoyed it immensely, but one thing was still missing.  That was the experience of “seeing it with the guys”! 


That finally changed on the evening of January 15, 2015, when Keith chose to present "Djangoat our gathering, and I offered my Blu-ray for the showing. 

It went over big, and was a rare instance where the evening’s film garnered unanimous praise from the entire group.  At the end, we each have the opportunity to speak and, as always, the comments are both witty and insightful.  When my turn came, in the spirit of our now-deceased running-joke, I began my contribution thusly: 

“My name is Joe Torcivia and, until late last year, I was a 'Django Virgin'!  But, thanks to the dedicated efforts of Keith and all the guys, I have, at last, been able to overcome this vast cultural deficit!  [Tone shifts from somber to buoyant and enthusiastic]  …Overcome to the point where WE CAN ALL SIT TOGETHER, AND WATCH MY OWN BLU-RAY COPY OF ‘DJANGO’!  For helping me take this giant step forward in my personal development, I’D LIKE TO GIVE YOU ALL A BIG HAND!”  [ Group clapping follows ]

Then I said something about the “majesty” of John Ford westerns, vs. the stark grittiness of “Django”… or some-such.  But that doesn’t matter!  What matters is the great amount of fun that surrounded our group-viewing of this Spaghetti Western classic. 


Thanks, Keith, Steve, Marc, Ethan, and Dave for being such a huge part of this – and for making it so much fun every week, be it horror films, or westerns topped with plenty of spaghetti and cheese. 

Oh, and the part most did not hear was, as I was leaving, Keith and I spontaneously broke into our own rendition of the “Django” theme song.  If only we could have recorded it, so I could annoy… that is, “play” it for Esther!   

Finally, as a Bonus Feature, here’s a REVIEW of that very same Blu-ray of “Django”.  Beware when reading the review, as there is at least one major spoiler revealed therein.  (Good review, but poor form, if you ask me!)  


Saturday, January 10, 2015

DVD Review: Disney’s Tale Spin: Volume 3


HUGE UPDATE:  Please read THIS POST before reading the review.  

This review was prepared in October, 2014, and additional information that is vital toward "getting a better feel" for what I'm about to say in the review, was subsequently released.  

Please read this information - and then enjoy the review!    



Disney’s Tale Spin: Volume 3

(Released: August 27, 2013 by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment)  
Another looong DVD Review by Joe Torcivia

Summary:  A long-awaited release totally mishandled by Disney!

DISNEY’S TALE SPIN was one of the greatest – arguably, THE greatest, in terms of sheer quality – Disney animated series to come out of that “New Golden Age of Television Animation” that began in 1987 with DISNEY’S DUCKTALES and, to one (small, and getting smaller every day) extent or another, continues today nearly a decade and a half into the 21 st century. 



Repurposing characters from Walt Disney Productions “The Jungle Book” (1967), Baloo the Bear, King Louie, and Shere Khan, into a quasi-1939-1940 modernist existence, TALE SPIN added such memorable creations as brave young lad Kit Cloudkicker, boss-lady Rebecca Cunnimgham and her pre-school daughter Molly, dread air-pirate Don Karnage, and Soviet-functionary parody Col. Spigot to form a wonderful mix of personalities.

 
The adventures center on Baloo’s position as a rather competent, but lax, commercial cargo hauler for the air-delivery firm “Higher For Hire”, in service to the sometimes-sensible, sometimes-meddlesome Ms. Cunningham.  With (12-13 year old?) orphan cub Kit Cloudkicker in the navigator’s seat, Baloo takes off from his base in the land of “Cape Suzette” for (often inadvertent) adventures, in his pontoon-plane “The Sea Duck”, across the limitless skies of Walt Disney Television Animation, circa 1990.  

 
You can read a small bit on TALE SPIN’s part in the changing television animation landscape, within THIS POST on Warner Bros. TAZ-MANIA. 
 
 
Two DVD volumes of TALE SPIN were released, 2006 (27 episodes) and 2007 (27 episodes), leaving the remaining 11 (!) episodes, of the original 65, unreleased until 2013.  Prior to this final release, I’d long since given up on the possibility of a complete authorized DVD run of TALE SPIN, as I’m certain most of its fans did.  I enjoyed that which I had, and moved on to other series. 

But, miracles sometimes happen, as it did for ANIMANIACS after a similarly long hiatus.

We waited and we waited, but we finally got it!

However, unlike Warner’s (satisfactory, albeit overdue) handling of ANIMANIACS, Disney chose to release TALE SPIN Volume 3, not through regular retail channels, but via its exclusive Disney Movie Club – which required user registration and heaven only knows what else.  I wanted no part of such a situation, and decided to pass. 

Ultimately, I found a price from a “third party / fulfilled by Amazon.com” that was at my extreme upper limit of what I felt was an acceptable premium price to pay for an item I SOULD have been able to easily purchase at Best Buy (where my earlier volumes of TALE SPIN were from), or at the usually discounted retail price at Amazon.  So, about 10 months after release, I finally took the plunge. 

As is our custom in these reviews, we’ll break it into CONS and PROS.  

...Or, would that be KHAN's and PROSE!


The CONS:


DISNEY!  (PERIOD!)  See Demerit Subsets below:


Disney-Demerit Subset 1: Episode Distribution:

27 episodes in Volume One, 27 episodes in Volume Two… and only 11 left hanging in limbo?  Really?  Couldn’t the distribution be somewhat more even, whether over two or three volumes?  


Disney-Demerit Subset 2: Release Schedule:

And, for those remaining 11 episodes, we had to wait SIX YEARS?! 
SIX YEARS?  Aw, C'mon!

Disney-Demerit Subset 3: Needlessly (nay, Inexplicably) Limited Distribution:

And, for those remaining 11 episodes, and those SIX YEARS, what do we get?! 

We get a release that we can’t buy at a *$%@@$$**in’ reasonable price, from mainstream retailers!  THAT’S WHAT WE GET! 

Noooo!  We have to register ourselves with the Disney Machine – or pay a third party premium – for the privilege of possessing these last 11 episodes! 

…WHY?   

If TALE SPIN is not deemed by the Disney Gods as a property significant enough for a standard retail release, then why not go the MOD (Manufactured On Demand) route, as Warner Bros. routinely does with their Warner Archive Collection, or as FOX has done with the final two seasons of THE CLEVELAND SHOW and has now done for the remaining volumes of AMERICAN DAD. 

If it's good enough for ROGER...

That way, everyone could obtain TALE SPIN Volume 3 – and do so at an acceptable retail price, and with no commitment to any “Private Movie Club”! 

Besides, and follow this logic, if TALE SPIN is considered so insignificant a draw that six years pass without that final release… exactly HOW MANY NAMES, and how much personal marketing data, does the Disney Movie Club expect to gain by offering TALE SPIN this way? 

It sure didn’t draw ME into their web!  However, I would have happily have participated in a “no-commitment / open to all” enterprise similar to The Warner Archive Collection – through which Disney could have tracked my purchasing habits, as Warner presumably does via my regular transactions with the WAC. 

No CLUB required!  

Club - BAD!  No Club - GOOD!  Just ask Fred!

All this does is leave a bad taste in the mouths of whatever remaining fans TALE SPIN has. …Oh, but you already know that from reading this!  


Disney-Demerit Subset 4: Cheap Looking Packaging:

I’m probably piling-on here, but look at the first two volumes of TALE SPIN vs. Volume 3.  Inferior. 

 



Disney-Demerit Subset 5: No List of Episodes ON or INSIDE the Packaging:

I’m NOT piling-on here.  Okay, so there are only 11 episodes, but could Disney not LIST them somewhere as part of the package?  Nope, you have to engage a disc just to know what you've got, and what disc (of the two-disc set) it’s on! 

As for me, I resorted to DOING THIS with an Index Card, which I tucked away inside the case to serve as my episode listing for this set. 



Come now, did I really need to do this?  …REALLY? 


Disney-Demerit Subset 6: Episode Distribution Among the Two Discs.  

Okay, yeah… This IS piling-on, but wouldn’t you find it just a little “off” to have the first SEVEN of those 11 episodes on Disc One, and only FOUR on Disc Two?  Especially, if the “extra room” left on Disc Two was not reserved for Special Features? 


Yep!  Only FOUR episodes on Disc Two!  

Disney-Demerit Subset 7: No Special Features: 


I shouldn’t even list this, because no Disney Afternoon animated series DVD set has ever had Special Features.  But, I must ask, WHY NOT?  TALE SPIN was a notable player in the “Television Animation Renaissance” – but if DUCKTALES (which STARTED the whole movement) never included any Special Features in its (still incomplete) DVD sets, why should I even ask about TALE SPIN? 


Don’t look now, but I think we’ve hit a new high number of CONS for these reviews


...Or, would that be a "new high number of..."  
 
NO!  Even I won't do that joke TWICE!


The PROS:

There’s only one “PRO” here, and it’s…

The Episodes (All 11 of them, rated by Number of stars):


Destiny Rides Again”  ****

Baloo and Kit make a delivery to a land of ancient culture, where an old female soothsayer declares that it is Baloo’s “destiny” to find and destroy an ancient artifact that, in the wrong hands, could annihilate the soothsayer’s tiny village. 

For... SOOTH!
Per the prophecy, a series of events sucks Baloo into the foretold adventure, making a believer out of Kit.  


The aforementioned “wrong hands”, are those of “El Gato” a Jim Cummings-voiced adversary (coming across as a combo of “Fat Cat” of CHIP ‘N’ DALE’S RESCUE RANGERS and the creepy “El Capitan” from the DUCKTALES pilot “Treasure of the Golden Suns”), out to claim the artifact and destroy the village! 

Baloo!  It’s a TEMPLE… It REALLY IS your destiny!

No, I’d say this is nature’s plan to REALLY RUIN my weekend!” 

 
 
Mach One for the Gipper” ****  

Celebrated heroic pilot, insufferable egotist, and annoying acquaintance of Baloo, Ace London, is charged with safeguarding the TALE SPIN world’s first ever JET ENGINE!  A game-changing breakthrough, in that world of prop planes!  The resulting mayhem, when the crated engineering marvel is mixed up with Baloo’s intended delivery of a crate of pickles, finds Baloo pursued by both Ace London’s sky forces and Don Karnage’s air pirates.  Kit is not in this episode. 

Ace... Who should BE in a hole!  

The late Phil Hartman guest-voices the incredibly aggravating Ace London in like fashion to a strikingly similar character who would slink onto the animated stage at the end of the decade – “Zapp Brannigan” of Matt Groening’s FUTURAMA (1999-2013).  Zapp Brannigan was voiced by FUTURAMA star Billy West, but in a way that evokes Hartman to the degree that I’ve always felt that Hartman (a regular voice on THE SIMPSONS) would have been cast as Brannigan, had he not passed away in 1998.  …And, in one of those great coincidences, FUTURAMA was also centered upon the exploits of an air-delivery service, its staff, and crew. 


The past and future of air freight!  
 


THIS is the FUTURE?!  

You know Ace London?


Enough to wish I didn’t!” 


Stuck on You”  *** 

During a physical altercation, Baloo and Don Karnage become stuck together, after getting doused with a super glue!  The adversaries form a pact of truce during their forced togetherness, and go to extraordinary lengths to conceal their predicament from both the staff at “Higher for Hire” and Karnage’s band of pirates (presumably for fear of embarrassment). 


Written by Len Uhley (perhaps the Disney Afternoon’s best individual writer), I should really like this one A LOT LESS than I do, considering that the pair are “bonded” by glue that appears to be only on Baloo’s flight jacket and Don Karnage’s long coat – and, I must note, no glue seems to be on THEIR ACTUAL PERSONS – therefore, all they should have to do is REMOVE THOSE GARMENTS and go their separate ways!  Their respective modesty can’t be THAT GREAT!   But the interplay between Ed Gilbert and Jim Cummings (as Baloo and Karnage) manages to overcome even that monumental flaw! 

C'mon!  It's just your CLOTHES, guys!

Pirates Mad Dog and Dumptruck appear throughout the episode, but are silent, likely saving on the use of voice artists Charlie Adler and Chuck McCann for the outing.  Kit is also not in this episode.   

Don Karnage?  You’re ALIVE?” 

Oh, jess!  Very much so!  And, I’m HANDSOME, too!” 


The Sound and the Furry” ***

“Crazy Edie” (an apparent name-parody of 1970s and ‘80s New York electronics retailer “Crazy Eddie”) controls a quartet of cute little gremlin-like beings that “go nuts” at the sound of an electronic tuning fork, and furtively sabotage aircraft engines while under the aural influence. 


She then charges unwitting pilots a premium to repair the damages her captives cause.  Her next stop is an air show in which Baloo is a participant, and where the bear is unjustly blamed for the damages to the other pilots’ planes – and finds himself confronted by an angry aviator mob.  Kit is not in this episode either.  


Let’s TAR AND FEATHER ‘im!

We don’t have any TAR… and we don’t have any FEATHERS!” 

We got AIRPLANE GREASE and SPOONS!”  (Joe’s Note: “Spoons”?  Why Spoons?) 

GREASE an’ SPOON ‘im!” 

 

The Ransom of Red Chimp” ** ½ 


Begins with an actual TITLE CARD!  Louie’s (who is no longer “King Louie”, but just plain “Innkeeper Louie”) Aunt Louise – a wild and crazy party animal of a stunt pilot drops in for a havoc-wreaking visit, and is kidnapped and held for ransom by Don Karnage.  


As the parody title suggests, Karnage gets far more than he reckoned for.  A fun episode to be sure, but it loses points for relying too heavily on that “lustful female vigorously pursues fleeing male object of her desires” thing that Tex Avery did so well in MGM’s “Swing Shift Cinderella” (1945) and was seen in other, lesser-known cartoons like Paramount’s “Possum Pearl” (1957) and the Walter Lantz Woody Woodpecker cartoon “Red Riding Hoodlum” (also 1957).



…Then again, maybe I should GIVE it points for doing that stuff in a Disney TV cartoon! 


Great Bit: The pirates Mad Dog, Dumptruck, and Gibber pretend to put up a fight against Baloo and Louie.  Louie swings with a fist and misses, but all three go down!   No Kit, yet again! 

We have kidnapped your Aunt Louise!  I know… amazing, but true!” 


The Road to Macadamia” (Special FIVE STAR designation!) 

Here we are at last, on the road to Macadamia!

That sounds suspiciously like a SONG CUE to me!

Is that a REQUEST?” 

No, I was warnin’ the camels so they could COVER THEIR EARS!” 

Do they HOPE to CROSBY that bridge when they come to it?
...Or, was that joke a "bridge" too far? 

Legend has it that, before Rebecca, Molly, and the still-AWOL Kit, the original concept for TALE SPIN was Baloo and (King) Louie as a sort of “Hope and Crosby, and their adventures in traveling the globe”.  If ever there was evidence to support this, “The Road to Macadamia” is IT, right down to the title! 


In the desert kingdom of Macadamia, Baloo is out to collect 192.12 for an air freight delivery, and Louie is along to pick up ten sacks of nuts for his restaurant.  Instead, they wind up in the thick of helping a princess foil a plot by the evil “Chancellor Trample” to usurp the throne of Macadamia from her unwitting father, the King – with the pair spending the bulk of the episode in the guise of phony shtick-spouting fortune-tellers.

 
HIGHLIGHTS: After repeated physical expulsions from the walled kingdom, Baloo and Louie finally “burrow” their way in a la Bugs Bunny, complete with the requisite trail of “upturned earth” marking their path!  And, in his frustration, the Michael Rye-voiced Chancellor Trample slips into “Joe Besser Mode” when ordering his minions against Baloo and Louie:  “Go!  Give them SUCH A PINCH!” 

No entry here.  

TALE SPIN’s trademark multi-species cast is on full display with Baloo and Louie (Bear and Orangutan), Chancellor Trample a vulture (natch) with huge rhino guards, the king is a goofy looking rabbit (with Howard Morris’ “Ed Wynn-esque” Genie voice of from DUCKTALES’ “Master of the Djinni” 1987), and the princess a (figurative and literal) fox. (Let’s not worry about how a rabbit fathers a fox!)  There was also a running gag of ravenous weasel-subjects running around in pursuit of a chicken.    


At the end, Baloo and Louie are presented with a chest containing a reward for their heroic deeds.  Safely aloft, they open the chest to find the 192.12 Baloo is owed for the delivery and Louie’s ten sacks of nuts.  They stare at each other momentarily…

Wanna go back to Macadamia?

No, I’ve had my fill of those nuts!

Pause for a beat, as the Sea Duck flies off into the sunset. 

We goin’ out on that joke?

Looks like it!” 


All in all, a GREAT FUN ROMP that makes you wonder what TALE SPIN would have been like, had the series adhered to its alleged original direction!  Oh, and need I say this outstanding episode was written by Len Uhley? 

Poisonous Cobra:  "HISSSS!"

Can’t you charm a snake with MUSIC?

Yeah, I’ll SING!

I’ll take my chances with the SNAKE!”    


Digression:  Thus far, we have FIVE straight episodes of TALE SPIN, inexplicably sans Kit Cloudkicker!  Two famous fictional characters were observed to be having a conversation on this very topic.  Let’s listen in, shall we?  


Tell me, Watson… In your estimation, what seems to be unusual about these five consecutive TALE SPIN episodes?

No KIT, Sherlock!” 

(Sorry about that… Let’s move on!) 


Your Baloo’s in the Mail”  **

Okay, Kit’s back (and Molly, too), so all’s right with the world! (…So, why does this episode rate only Two Stars?  Keep reading!)


Rebecca wins a 100-thousand dollar sweepstakes, but the ticket must be received by mail at the sweepstakes office before 8 AM the next day.  She gives Baloo a 20 dollar bill and asks him to mail the envelope S.S.T.I.S.D.D.  That’s “Super Speed Triple Insured Same Day Delivery” at 17.50 a pop.  Told he can keep he change (…but NOT told of the errand’s importance), Baloo stops for some “pop” and tons of burgers and fries too, leaving only 2 cents to mail the precious cargo 18 th class!  

Once he learns the truth, he and Kit go through heck – and as much “tampering with the mails” as they can get away with – to get it there on time.  Fun, but (unlike the last episode) very predictable, to the point where it’s the kind of thing that Hanna-Barbera would have done “thirty years before” this almost quarter-century old episode.  30 PLUS 25?  That’s a LOT of predictability! 

The Mail Must Go Through... SLOWLY! 
Oh, and how many times do you think the actors, charged with the difficult task of rapidly and repeatedly saying “S.S.T.I.S.D.D.” (purposely, or otherwise) ended that mouthful with “S.T.D.”?   Sorry, again…

Gosh, you know… that envelope looks familiar!

Oh, man, look at the time!  Sorry, Becky, gotta go! MOOSE SEASON, you know!  Gotta be up early to catch us a CHOCOLATE one! 


Paradise Lost” (Another Special FIVE STAR designation!) 

Baloo and Wildcat fly to adventure with the shifty “O’Roarke”, a big bull of a safari guide who leads them to a remote section of the “Mogabi Desert”.  In this land of legend is said to exist “…a lost paradise, 100 million years old, suspended in time in the desert sands.”

Once every 100 years, at dawn”, exults O’Roarke, “ a door opens in the desert.  Through this door pours ancient water from deep in the earth!” 

 
Demonstrating his claim with a small quantity of the special water he somehow acquired, he pours the liquid onto a small bagful of sand… and a “mini-jungle”, complete with “equally mini-dinosaur life” grows from the sand, before Baloo and Wildcat’s eyes! 


What would tourists pay to see a full-size version of THAT, eh?  Plenty!” 

Unknown to our heroes, O’Roarke’s anxiously waiting “tourists” are actually HUNTERS, looking to bag a unique trophy for the ages! 

An intriguing and fantasy-laden plot, is further livened by unusually good backgrounds!  We
even see the Sea Duck’s wheeled landing gear engage.  Didn’t see that too often! 


Finally, for those who have read Disney Comics’ MICKEY MOUSE ADVENTURES # 4, 17, and 18, imagine if, instead of O’Roarke, the episode used Wiley Wildbeest!  The episode and the comics appeared around the same general time period, and that would have made for some really great “Disney synergy”! 

...And here Wiley Wildbeest even hunted dinosaurs! 

I didn’t join up with you to help these critters go extinct AGAIN!”  
 

The Incredible Shrinking Molly” **** (Yes, really!) 

It is to TALE SPIN’s great credit that it took until Episode 63 of 65 for the dreaded and inevitable “Shrink Your Characters” trope to manifest itself.  And, to its equal credit, that it turned out as unexpectedly good as it did! I’ll confess, I feared watching this one, on its unoriginal title alone!  Was I ever wrong! 


We open with Baloo, Kit, Rebecca, and Molly in a movie theatre watching a nicely executed parody of / tribute to Universal’s 1932 classic horror film “Frankenstein”, which prompts Molly to “see mad doctors” everywhere.  Funny thing is, she’s RIGHT… about the occupant of the heretofore unseen large gothic-style building directly across from “Higher-For-Hire”! 
It's ALIVE!  

“Dr. Zibaldo” is a wonderfully characterized hyperactive fox of a “mad doctor”, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, who is clearly “trying-out” the zany-insane voice that would soon attach itself to DARKWING DUCK villain “Megavolt”.  Oh, and need I say he accidently shrinks the curious Molly, and the other um… “three bears” work with him to get Molly back to home and hearth!  

Rebecca and the great Dr. Zibaldo. 

Forget the “shrinking-stuff”, Zibaldo is the true star of this episode and the best reason to watch it over and over again.  Too bad he didn’t debut until there were only TWO episodes left to air.  He would have been a great addition to the cast! 


How can you think of FOOD, at a time like THIS?!

Beats SHMOOSHING shrunken little girls, doesn’t it?”       
 
Bygones”  ****

Baloo shares an adventure with the hero of his favorite comic book; the time-displaced “Rick Sky and his Squadron of Seven” (READ: The Blackhawks), in which he picks up Commander Sky from a vast body of water, while evading Don Karnage and the Air Pirates in a fierce rain storm. 


SKY:  “Last I remember, my men and I were hauling a shipment of SILVER for the WAR EFFORT…Then we ran into this blasted snowstorm!

BALOO: “War? What war?

SKY:  “The GREAT WAR.  Surely, you’ve heard of it.  Made all the papers.”  

BALOO: “Uh, the Great War ended twenty years ago!

Rick Sky

But the “Ronald-Coleman-esque” Rick Sky was frozen in time in an ice mass, not unlike Stan Lee’s Silver Age origin for Captain America, and worse, blamed for the disappearance of the cargo of war-effort silver. 

After a few misunderstandings (Don’t ALL heroes have ‘em?) Baloo, Rick Sky and the now-also-thawed Squadron of Seven recover the silver and defeat Karnage.  Realizing they have no place in “modern world”, and for the sake of a tidy ending, Sky and the Squadron head off… “Out there, somewhere”! 

 
Baloo reads from his comic book at episode’s end:

And when it was over, the Squadron of Seven flew off, never forgetting the LONE PILOT who helped them recover the treasure, and their HONOR.”  -- and the final panel of that comic now pictures Baloo’s plane, “The Sea Duck”!  WOW!  Twilight Zone, anyone? 

It's also in THIS comic!  

That is exactly what separates TALE SPIN from other cartoons of its ilk.  The ability to deftly combine mythic (even supernatural) yet somehow believable adventure with comedy, and do it with well-realized “funny-animal” characters.  Even DUCKTALES can’t quite match it in that “believability” factor. 


Flying Dupes (Imagine that!  A parody title OF a parody title – Laurel and Hardy’s “Flying Deuces”):  *** ½

For the first time in this set, and for the last TALE SPIN episode ever, we get to enjoy the absurdity of the TS world’s version of the Soviet Union; “Thembria” – and its Number One Functionary, the excitable, “original crashing Boar” known as Col. Spigot. 


But, we’re not at war with Thembria!

Yes, thanks to our very own Department of International Relations – and the BRAVE VOLUNTEER PILOT who will FLY TO THEMBRIA and deliver this PRESENT FOR PEACE!

Ah, but the “present for peace”, destined for the Thembrian High Marshall’s new summer home, is a BOMB, and the “Department of International Relations mission” is a hoax by some rogue Thembrian arms merchants, looking to profit off the resulting war between Thembria and Cape Suzette.  …Imagine today’s Disney sanctioning a plot like that, even with a high slapstick quotient! 

Teach me to fly - NOW! 
Baloo’s ruse to fly the package through Thembrian air space involves providing Col. Spigot with the flying lessons that he suddenly needs, lest he be exposed as the head of the Thembrian Air Force who achieved said position via a bureaucratic clerical error. 

NICE TOUCH:  The Thembrian equivalent of “Louie’s” is called “Ivan’s”! 

Spigot, you are the only one who has clearance to disturb me at my summer home – but, don’t, or you’ll be shot!” 


Oh, and the AWOL Kit is not in these last two episodes.  …Maybe his VOICE changed, and his design did not!   

"Don't Ever Change", Kit! 

OVERALL:

TALE SPIN may have been the “most consistently good” (forgive the awkward phrasing) series to come out of the Walt Disney Television Animation factory.  Very few “peaks and valleys”,  that other series of all stripes have, but pretty much a consistent “Three-to-Three-Plus” episode rating throughout the series.  


 
Disney may have completely mishandled getting TALE SPIN Volume 3 into the hands of its awaiting audience, but at least it eventually got there – which is more than I can say for other series such as DUCKTALES and DARKWING DUCK. 

Unhappy as I am with the series of events that led me here (…and, make no mistake, I REMAIN UNHAPPY over this), I still enjoyed the episodes immensely… and that may be the ultimate decider.  


TALE SPIN Volume 3 is recommended for Disney Afternoon animation fans, fans of the late-eighties thru nineties animation renaissance in general, and those that can appreciate and enjoy “all-ages” animation regardless of era. 


 

It is not recommended for those loathe to join a Disney “club”, or pay a third-party premium, in order to obtain something that should be generally available at, or discounted from, retail in stores or via online merchants. 
Are Baloo's HANDS UP because he's being ROBBED?
You decide!