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” 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!


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! 


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!


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.  


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! 


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!  


Gregory Weagle said...

Disney mishandling TaleSpin in DVD form is basically a fitting punchline to Disney's treatment of the series back when it was hot. For all the greatness TaleSpin had; I put all the credit on the cast and crew for the high quality because the marketing department thought bashing Looney Tunes was cool. And there is the screw up with Fox to consider. So yeah.

Great review otherwise. I give The Incredible Shrinking Molly *** 1/2 mainly because the animation and logic was out to lunch (particulars: Seaduck in the lab somehow, and the awful impact stars animation when the Seaduck crashed into the wall near the finish).

Joe Torcivia said...

Thanks, Greg!

I won’t disagree with you too much on “The Incredible Shrinking Molly” but, as I note, it gets the high marks from me mainly due to the zany character of Dr. Zibaldo and, of course, the great opening “Frankenstein” homage. The rat was pretty cool, too!

Zibaldo would have been a really great supporting character to have had over the course of the series. TALE SPIN’s whacked-out version of Gyro Gearloose, to be trotted-out whenever a convenient source of scientific miracles, or “science-gone-wrong” plot contrivance was needed.

As great as it was, the series would have still benefited by a few more appearances by both Zibaldo and the tragically underutilized “Trader Moe and his Goons”.

Chris Barat said...

Joe and Greg,

Underutilized characters who made one or two appearances and then vanished into the animated ether... that's the story of TALE SPIN's (all too brief) life!

I would point out that TALE SPIN had already established a wacky inventor character in a couple of previous episodes. That was Buzz. I wouldn't call him "mad," though. He seemed like more of a gadgeteer, whereas Zibaldo could have been used for higher-concept scientific notions (time travel, etc.).

Excellent job on the review, Joe!


Joe Torcivia said...


Ah, yes… Buzz! I suppose the mere fact that Buzz did NOT come to mind when writing about Dr. Zibaldo buttresses my argument for Zibaldo all the more!

Though I DO see the distinction you make between Buzz the “gadgeteer” and Zibaldo the “high-concept mad, though basically benevolent, scientist”.

Time travel? Dr. Zibaldo inadvertently transferring Baloo and company into forward the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s (that’s all they would have been able to successfully lampoon at the time) would have made for a fun episode – not unlike the “World’s Fair Time Machine” episode of THE FLINTSTONES.

Thanks for the kind words on the review.

top_cat_james said...

Appreciate the review, Joseph, and also many thanks for my newly accumulated facial hair that grew whilst perusing said review. The looooong beard is quite fetching, I think. [rubs eyes] Is it still January?

But, yes, Disney doesn't seem to have much respect for, or confidence in, their vast library of TV product (and I mean all the way back to Disneyland, Wonderful World of Color, etc.).As far as the Disney Afternoon era goes, I've about given up hope of ever getting a collection of The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show.

Finally, Off Topic here, but I'm dying of curiosity - have you ever come across this guy during any of your sojourns to NYCC? *WARNING* a few naughty words.

Dan said...

Joe & Company:

A great look at an outstanding WDTVA series! Surprising to think that with the characters, setting, story potential and smart writing, TaleSpin held no further life in animation than the initial 65 episodes. As I've mentioned elsewhere, the comic book adventures that the 1990s Disney Comics line produced helped continue those adventures, and were far and above the most faithful comic adaptations of any property that came out of The Disney Afternoon.

At that time, there were definitive plans for each of The Disney Afternoon series to "graduate" to the silver screen as they made their way out of the syndicated rotation. This schedule was dropped after the tepid box office reaction to DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp! A cinematic TaleSpin feature surely would have been a huge aerial adventure filled with music, drama and comedy.

The method in which the DVDs have been released and curated is a rocky one: with the current nostalgia and emphasis for The Disney Afternoon, I wonder if the sudden completion of the DVD sets are test platforms to see if there's an audience to release each series on Blu-ray or via streaming media? A similar "Movie Club-Only" treatment was lifted for Goof Troop last year... but there remains a lack of special features for all. Which is a pity: with so many of the creatives involved still alive and active, wouldn't it be wise to document the behind-the-scenes of those early productions? Not to mention the numerous animation tests, animatics, rejected formats/characters, and original TV bumpers? That would make for fantastic viewing!

That said, you've tempted me to take another look at TaleSpin—these 11 episodes really show off the variety of characters and settings, and the bold choice to place the "bible" of the show in the late 1930s. Subtle as it was, that choice would likely have modern TV execs thumbing their noses at the concept of any animated program set anytime before the 1980s.

One bit of potential casting that isn't well known: Phil Harris was still active and occasionally asked to provide the voice of Baloo for Disney's ice skating shows, commercials or Disneyland parades. Phil was also brought in to audition for Baloo on TaleSpin in which the voice director decided his voice has aged too much. Don Bluth got wind of this and cast Harris in his 1992 animated featureRock-A-Doodle which would have been recorded around the same time, and Phil sounded perfectly fine and energetic in the role. But that's Hollywood for you.

As voice-over goes, you are 100% correct that Phil Hartman was officially cast as that lunar lout, Captain Zapp Brannigan—Phil was preparing to record the first season not long before his tragic death. Billy West then took over the role, doing an outstanding tribute to Hartman's delivery à la Ace London!

You captured what made the show great with your last words on "Bygones"—this is a rare example of an episode that wouldn't have worked in other animated series at the time. Only TaleSpin had the proper precedent for a more mature sense of pathos to do it justice, without making the premise a meaningless dream or "fish out of water" romp.

I just love what you've done in this post, and boy, it'd be nice to see some NEW adventures in Cape Suzette one day! The world of TaleSpin is just too rich with possibilities to let lie much longer... hopefully today's Disney execs are less gun-shy about using the characters, since they seem to fall under The Jungle Book AND The Disney Afternoon which equals out to two separate licenses (more $$$)

Not to mention the rights issues that were fought, then re-negotiated with Louis Prima's widow on the use of the character of Louie/King Louie. Things became kind of messy for a few years... you might call it a legal "Hulla-Baloo" ;)

– Dan

Joe Torcivia said...


The beard is a nice look. It becomes you… or makes me wonder “what’s become of you”, I’m not sure which! (waggles prop cigar, raises and lowers eyebrows)

When I say “looong DVD review” I ain’t just barkin’ up a tree! “Tree!” “Bark!” That’s a JOKE, son! I better cut it out before THIS GUY has ME up a tree! Or, if not him, THIS GUY!

And, in a complete digression, of all the things I’ve published on this Blog, the post at the FIRST LINK above is my all-time leader in hits – by almost 1,500 views over its closest runner-up. I mean, gosh… I LIKE the character and, to one extent or another, probably most folks do… but All-Time? And by such a margin? Now, don’t you wanna take that link – either out of curiosity, or to further increase its hit total?

Seriously, now… the “looong DVD review” is something I used to do quite often on this Blog and, alas, now rarely have the time to compose. Actually it’s not the “composition” as-such, but more the arduous task of formatting and illustrating it. The initial writing for the TALE SPIN review began in early summer, and finally appeared in January. I used to turn them out much faster, and far more effortlessly, but circumstances (particularly TIME) don’t allow for that anymore. I have more such reviews long-written, dating back as far as 2011 (like the “looong” - even for ME – DVD review of “20 Million Miles to Earth”), that I hope will increase your “beard length”… someday.

We should hold a contest… Will my “looong DVD review” of “20 Million Miles to Earth” actually appear (fully formatted and illustrated) before you obtain that complete collection of The Shnookums and Meat Funny Cartoon Show. …Hopefully, for your sake, I’ll win!

Finally, that link of yours did not work, so unless the mysterious presence at New York Comic Con happens to be THIS GUY (who I’ve seen twice, but said no “naughty words”) it may remain a mystery a while longer.

Joe Torcivia said...


Thank you for the kind words. We sure do exchange a lot of them – both ways, I might add!

As I said, TALE SPIN may very well be Disney TV animation’s greatest series, precisely because of all the different things it did well – and the very few things it might have done “not so well”. I can’t even say that about DUCKTALES, groundbreaking though it might have been.

If a “cinematic TaleSpin feature” reflected the production values and overall enjoyment factor of the daily series, it would have been something to behold! I wonder, though, if translating a daily, 22 minute series to the “big screen” might not be the best way to go. It wasn’t exactly BATMAN THE ANIMATED SERIES’ finest hour either. But, maybe that was because there were so many “fine hours” broadcast every day! Who knows…

Oh, don’t get me started on the lack of special features on ALL Disney Afternoon DVD product! They weren’t doing it back when it WAS the norm to do so! And, what a shame it is –especially considering, as you note, that, unlike Looney Tunes and other classics of animation, “so many of the creatives involved [are] still alive and active”!

And, yes… certainly DUCKTALES thru DARKWING DUCK are “classics of animation” (the line becomes somewhat blurry and definitely questionable after that) due to the way they changed American television animation for the better. Pity, it’s changed “back again” in more recent years. Ah, the cyclical nature of life – but I digress.

At the very least, so many commercials and other promos were made back-in-the-day to hype these series (many of them with original animation and voice-work never seen or heard since) and would have made for nice special features. DUCKTALES, in particular, missed the boat by not having a featurette focusing on its Barksian origins. Though I can at least consider the piece on Carl Barks (as seen on “The Chronological Donald Volume Two”) and “Donald Goes to Press” on “The Chronological Donald Volume Four” to compensate for that omission. (Oh, but THOSE are "Limited Editions" and now OUT OF PRINT!) But, a featurette on the “Jungle Book” origins TALE SPIN, or the workings behind the notion of a 1930s setting, would have been nice.

I was completely unaware that Phil Hartman was to play FUTURAMA’s “Zapp Branningan”. That was total speculation on my part (and presented in the post as such) after hearing Hartman perform as “Ace London” on TALE SPIN. Imagine that!

And, when you say:
“You captured what made the show great with your last words on "Bygones"—this is a rare example of an episode that wouldn't have worked in other animated series at the time. Only TaleSpin had the proper precedent for a more mature sense of pathos to do it justice, without making the premise a meaningless dream or "fish out of water" romp.”

That, more than anything else, to me, is what continues to set TALE SPIN apart from the rest!

Just as I’m fond of saying, we’ll never see another LOST IN SPACE… Similarly, we’ll never see another TALE SPIN – because, in both cases, no one will have the courage to so diverge from expected and focus-grouped norms to such a degree ever again!

Mark Lungo said...

Sorry I didn't comment on this great review sooner, Joe. It was a long time coming, but the wait was worth it!

I have to complain again about the lack of extras for Disney Afternoon series. I own box sets of relatively obscure series such as Galaxy Rangers and Defenders of the Earth that still have elaborate packaging, creator interviews, booklets, PDFs, storyboards, etc. Disney could easily do such extras for these series if they wanted to, but they just can't be bothered. To them, these series are just tiny cogs in a huge entertainment machine that always has something new to sell.

Joe Torcivia said...

I completely agree, Mark. And, thank you for the kind words.

Prior to TALE SPIN Volume 3, virtually all of the Disney Afternoon sets were released during a time when Extra Features were the norm for sets like these. Look at what Warner was doing with their Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera, DC / Filmation, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye sets.

The TOP CAT set may have been one of the best of all, in terms of the wide variety of features we got, especially those with on-screen appearances by the then-surviving voice cast members. I’m, SO GLAD that one was released at the time it was, because we wouldn’t have gotten anything nearly as good a few years later.

Now, Warner gives us nothing, save occasional “grand releases” like the “Looney Tunes Platinum Collections” – and even those features were mostly ported over from the prior “Golden Collections”. And, now they’ve even cancelled the “Platinum Collections”.

Shouldn’t there have been at least a featurette on BATMAN: THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, TAZ-MAINA, or (especially) SCOOBY-DOO MYSTERY INCORPORATED? But, noooo…

So, I couldn’t imagine anything would be included with TALE SPIN Volume 3. But, Disney was “cheaping-out” even when Warner wasn’t, so that makes it all the worse.

As Dan expressed, we should celebrate these creative folks (or at least lay bare their motivating thoughts and experiences) while we are able. DVD Special Features have been a valuable educational tool for those who are interested in films, TV series, and animation. And, I’m very thankful for those insights which we’ve gotten – but will always wish we could have gotten more

scarecrow33 said...

Great review, Joe!

I especially appreciated the episode summaries. I totally agree that the Baloo/Louie pairings are top of the line. I didn't realize that this was a direction the series originally might have gone. This and the two-parter on one of the earlier sets make for the very best of the Talespin episodes.

On the subject of the 30's setting--I honestly don't think too many kids would have noticed, as the attitudes and slang reflected the 90's. The time period is a little ambiguous, especially with a single working mother and a "juvenile delinquent" character (Kit). The 30's references are sly and subtle--Cape Suzette could just as easily be a "retro" city in a modern age. (Kind of like the way in Mayberry they always used those 30's style telephones.)

I realize that cartoon characters can be dropped into any setting with no explanation, just as Huckleberry Hound could be a Robin Hood clone or a Pony Express rider or Tom and Jerry could be musketeers in pre-revolutionary France. But lately I've been toying with the idea of a linking story to tie in the end of "Jungle Book" with the beginning of "Tale Spin." Why did Baloo leave Mowgli and his jungle friends? How did he learn to be a pilot? Why did Louie decide to forsake his crown and open up his own island resort? How did Shere Khan become a CEO? Why did they all start wearing clothes? The more I think of it, the more it seems remotely possible that such a "tale" could be "spun." It would sure be fun trying, anyhow. The fact that Baloo's creator, Rudyard Kipling, passed away in 1936 seems to keep the time frame in a plausible range. Maybe "TaleSpin" should just be "TaleSpin" and "Jungle Book" should just be "Jungle Book," but I still can't help being intrigued by the idea of bridging the gap between them.

top_cat_james said...

Strange thing, Joe - when I tried my link on your home page, it indeed does not work. But, when you click on the comment count and go to the comment thread with the white background, it does. This is where I was trying to direct you-

I suspected treachery afoot,and so after investigating all afternoon and evening, my fears were sadly confirmed - your blog has been hacked by Shnookums and Meat in retaliation for dissing their show and home-video prospects. They were supported and trained in this act of cyber-terrorism by their number one fan, Kim Jong-un, who reportedly considers the cat and dog duo "delicious" (Uh, meaning "delightful" and "pleasurable", of course! Yeah, that's it!).

Also unfortunately, your personal e-mail account has been hacked, as well. Your private correspondence - including Yogi Bear revealing his secret lap-band surgery ("I said my weight loss was from diet and exercise, but it was all nothing but a pack of lies. Hey Hey Hey!"), Mister Magoo and his year-long relationship with a department store mannequin ("By George, the sex was great, but she had a wooden personality."), and Wile E. Coyote's pending lawsuit against Acme Corp. ("My pseudo-Latin name for this outing shall be 'Sues-us Yerassoff-us'.") - among other juicy tidbits, has been exposed. All are being leaked to "Access Hollywood" and "TMZ" as we speak.

I apologize for my unwitting role in this situation. I was being used as a beard by a derivative cartoon twosome who - I can see now - deserve to languish in obscurity forever. I don't blame you for being angry towards me, but please, no onslaught of naughty words in my direction - I'm in a fragile enough state as it is.

Joe Torcivia said...

No “onslaught of naughty words in your direction”, TCJ for two reasons…

1: That Psuedo-Peter video was so “freakin’ sweet!” Nope, somehow managed to not see the guy. If I had, I would certainly have posted on it. I mean, if I posted on ZOMBIE MARK SANCHEZ, as well as Freakazoid! (linked-to in my last reply to you), you KNOW I’d have mentioned this!

HERE’S the link for everyone to enjoy. WARNING: Psuedo-Peter’s comments can be as uncensored as the FAMILY GUY DVDs.

2: Any “hacking” ‘round here was admittedly of my own design – in order to draw more publicity and get more hits for this Blog! (collective gasp from the readership)

…And, MAN, did it ever work! That FOGHORN LEGHORN POST now has more pageviews than ever before! No other post will EVER catch it now, though try they might for the whole “doo-dah-day”

Though, in retrospect, I *do* regret any embarrassment those self-induced “leaks” may have caused DC Comics and Warner Bros. for revealing that Wonder Woman is paid significantly less than Green Arrow. …But, they DESERVED it! DC Comics for “The New 52”, and Warner Bros. for still not releasing the rest of HUCKLEBERRY HOUND on DVD! …Ha-Haa-Haaa! …Burn in Heck, suckers!

The details of how my scandalous and shameful acts, and cheesy disguise as “The Phantom Hacker”, were exposed can be found in an upcoming issue of my favorite comic book, SCOOBY-DOO TEAM-UP, where the Mystery Inc. Gang joins forces with the members of sixties Hanna-Barbera series THE SPACE KIDETTES!

Yes, I’ll say it for you… “ I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for those meddling Kidettes!”

Joe Torcivia said...


Yes, there should have been more “Baloo and Louie” adventures. Certainly, based on what little we DID see of the pairing.

I tend to agree that kids might not have readily noticed the ‘30s setting of TALE SPIN. Though I know *I* would have noticed things like “black-and-white movies”, and such – and at least wondered about them.

That, to me, is just another reason why TALE SPIN was such a great series. It operated on different levels, for kids and for older viewers. As applied to me with Looney Tunes, Rocky and Bullwinkle, and the earlier Flintstones, it would probably do well for the younger kids of 1990 to revisit TALE SPIN today. They might very well find lots of stuff they missed. Not necessarily for the “jokes” (as with the other series I mention) but more for the richness of the depicted period.

I’ll disagree slightly with you on “juvenile delinquents”. Didn’t the Depression spawn lots of them? Movies like “The Public Enemy”, “The Mayor of Hell”, and “Angels with Dirty Faces” seemed to bear that out.

And, even if it might not have been the societal norm, THIS 1939 FILM certainly made a case for strong women.

You put forth a fascinating exercise in fantasy, in attempting to tie the actual JUNGLE BOOK characters to TALE SPIN! For my part, I simply regarded JUNGLE BOOK and TALE SPIN as having occurred on “Two Different Earths”, as was so prevalent with alternate character versions in DC Comics. But, YEAH…. I like it! There could be a place for Bagheera and Kaa, but how do you fit Mowgli? Though his “nickname” did port over to Kit.

Long before Don Rosa gave us his origin of Flintheart Glomgold, I’d imagined that (…at least within the context of The Disney Afternoon frame of reference) that Scrooge and Glomgold were each set upon their respective trajectories (the former “making it square”, the latter not) as a result of an early encounter with TALE SPIN’s Shere Khan!

And, for all we know, Rudyard Kipling’s passing in 1936 COULD very well have been at least partially responsible for TALE SPIN being set in the time period it was. Though, I’d also throw a little weight toward creating a “Casablanca-like” world, as well. GREAT OBSERVATION!

Dan said...

Joe & Company:

Just a quick afterthought on the lack of DVD extras... isn't it equally crazy that there's never been an "Art of" book for The Disney Afternoon overall? There are beautiful hardcover & coffee table "Art of" and "Making of" volumes for nearly every NEW animated film that gets released, as well as individual current series like Spongebob Squarepants and Adventure Time, not to mention anthology books on Nickelodeon's animated shows and the Dreamworks SKG animated output.

No, I don't want a full, exhaustive book on the development hell that brought us Bonkers (though it'd be a good primer on exactly how NOT to produce an animated series!)—but there's got to be TONS of great development material on The Disney Afternoon up to 1994 or so. Wonder if such a project was ever proposed and/or shot down?

I know if it was done well, *I'd* buy a copy! Heck, I'd put the thing together myself... with the new attention paid to those shows the past few years, I imagine that kind of book would be a HUGE holiday release.

To track back to your earlier reply on the storyline of a TaleSpin feature film is concerned: I see what you mean in that the show held a pretty wide scope on a daily basis. Moving the timeline forward to the start of WWII is a fun notion, but I suppose there's plenty of evil axis elements that wouldn't quite be appropriate. But just imagining Col. Spigot in a Hogan's Heroes capacity as a reflection of another famously inept Colonel makes the mind reel with fun possibilities! – Dan

Joe Torcivia said...


The “art book” is a great idea but I cannot imagine, from their behavior over the preceding quarter century and more, Disney regarding these series as worthy of such an endeavor. …And, more’s the pity for us.

TALE SPIN leading up to, and entering, its own WWII Era? THAT is fascinating!

Gregory Weagle said...

I just realized that there is another con for this volume set: No subtitles like the previous two volumes. I wonder if it's because Disney's captioning team doesn't know what it is doing.

Joe Torcivia said...


As if I didn’t already have a record number of “Cons” for a DVD review… Yep, you found another.

Our friend and commenter Elaine also mentioned this in an e-mail. Shame on me for missing it… and shame on Disney – PERIOD!

Is this the case for ALL “Disney Movie Club” releases, I wonder? I never ding Warner Archives for not having subtitles (as much as I wish they did) because that’s just the way they do it – no frills, MOD.

But a supposed “premium” item, that required joining a “club” to obtain, should be different – and certainly more “special”.

Gregory Weagle said...

@Joe: Chuck Tately's answer to a tired trope: Just book an awesome character to make the fanbase forget that there is a shrinking/expanding episode going on. If only Chuck's plotting was tighter.

I didn't join the Disney Movie Club because it was BS; but since no one bought it from DMC; they decided to put the product on their on-line store and I thought: "GREAT! I'll just buy it on-line directly from them!". No sooner than I saw it; it had the disclaimer that they only ship to the main 48 states in the USA. Yes; I got screwed out of the deal until Disney realized how dumb that was and then they sold it as Wal-Mart, which for all of it's BS, I was happy with that and got the third set easily. Sadly; the Volume 2 Season 2 Gargoyles set was sold out (what a shocker?!); but I was able to get both Goof Troop sets.

By the way; to answer your question on subtitles, the answer is no. And it's clearly no since it is not written on the back.

@Dan: I want extras as much as the next guy, but again; Disney thinks that it costs too much money just to repeat stuff that is already shown on the internet (until it gets disappeared down the memory hole).

@Chris: I would pay good money to see Buzz, Olhmeyer and Zibaldo in a feud to see who is the most insane mad scientist babyface of all. Again; why did the execs decide to bash Looney Tunes?

Joe Torcivia said...


And I’d say that Zibaldo was indeed that “awesome character”! If only we’d seen him again!

Gregory Weagle said...

RE: Subtitles

Okay; I made an error here. There are subtitles in the third volume; but there is no options menu to be able to select them from the DVD disc itself. However; if you have VLC; you can select the English track subtitles from the subtitles menu on the VLC program. So it's only half of a demerit instead of a full one.