With DuckTales taking children’s afternoons by storm, Disney unleashed their latest creation upon their unsuspecting audience, sinking them in even further. TaleSpin, loosely based on the characters from Disney’s version of The Jungle Book, saw the anthropomorphic characters in the 20th century, flying planes. Not only did it have an awesome theme song, which I try to sing despite its guttural tones and complexity, but it introduced the next coolest thing in cartoons: skysurfing (no, not that kind).
TaleSpin featured Baloo, pilot of the Sea Duck; Louie, now owner of a bar; and Shere Khan, re-imagined as a Lex Luthor ruthless business type. The other characters, such as Kit Cloudkicker, Rebecca Cunningham, and Don Karnage, were original creations for the show. The show started with Rebecca purchasing Baloo’s business from the bank after he’d fallen behind on payments, changing the company name to “Higher for Hire” (this show’s all about puns).
Baloo’s adventures consisted of making deliveries with his stowaway-turned-navigator, Kit, as they try to avoid the perils of their pulp action world. The show is set in a 1930s era, with radio technology being most prevalent. If Baloo wasn’t getting himself into — or out of — trouble, he was avoiding encounters with Shere Khan or sky-pirate Don Karnage. Did I mention Kit surfed clouds? Baloo would fly as Kit was dragged behind the Sea Duck on his airfoil. Holy crap, did I want to do that. I still do. Considering the popularity of hoverboards at the time, it was a smart inclusion.
Adding to the 1930s motif was the art deco style, which was all the rage in the early ’90s. The episodes took their cues from pulp stories from the era, adding a bit of authenticity. There were a few parody episodes, like “A Baloo Switcheroo” and “Waiders of the Wost Tweasure,” but not as many as DuckTales. The show only ran for its initial 65-episode syndication from 1990-1991. Since then it’s been on reruns. I remember coming home during lunch in college watching the show. Heck, having time to kill in Brazil, we watched TaleSpin, though it was in Portuguese. That is just a testament to the show’s staying power.
Like every cartoon at the time, there was a TaleSpin video game for the NES, Game Boy, Genesis, and Game Gear, with all four titles being different games. You can bet crap like that doesn’t happen now. Strangely, TaleSpin is one of the few properties from the time that has failed to live on in other mediums. No comics, no anything really. The show was just as popular as its contemporaries, but strangely, it’s often forgotten. Then again, that might be just me.
TaleSpin is another great show that should be mentioned in the same breath as DuckTales or Darkwing Duck. Though it’s lived on in reruns, it’s failed to do much beyond that. Watch this with your kids. Or watch it because you’re a big kid. Me, I’m going to continue practicing the theme song.
What was your favorite episode? How badly do you want to skysurf? Comment below!
In addition to THN’s Saturday Morning Cartoons and Nerd at the Movies, Tony writes for his own site, thecredhulk.com, about comics, video games, movies, TV and more, six days a week. You can follow his updates on Facebook or Twitter. Drop by and tell ’em hi.