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Disclaimer#1: All images and characters are copyrighted 1990/1991 Walt Disney Company Inc. and are being used without premission. The webmaster has made sure that no money was made in the creation of this page and all material is used with the upmost affection and respect to the Walt Disney Company and the Tale Spin team.
Disclaimer #2: The following is an editorial about TaleSpin. The views expressed here are of my own and does not mean that you actually agree by it. If you have any comments relating to this editorial or any other editorial created by me; then E-Mail me at: email@example.com
"The Impact It Has" - Characterization!!
An Editorial By: Alyson Terry
Well, after writing TaleSpin fan-fiction for nearly half a year now, it's about time I tried to explain just why it is that I love it so. The plots are wonderful, the stories are unforgettable, but to me, to so many fans out there, what makes TaleSpin easy to write, easy to watch, and easily the best show around has got to be the characters. How do you take several characters that have been seen before, such as in the Jungle Book, and modify them, create additions, simply give them more heart, more soul, and create what could almost be classified as an entirely new cast that can interact with each other, and have depth, characteristics, and emotions all their own?
And in a cartoon no less! Unbelievable.
These characters are more believable, have more realistic relationships with each other than most syndicated shows I've seen. The only difference is the appearance they take on and the setting they happen to be in, still very realistic in itself when it comes to timeline. So the question that can be asked, certainly, is why? Why are these characters so unforgettable? What makes them so fascinating? How can they go in so many different directions not only with their pasts and in the present, but with the vastness of their future? How did the show's creators and the talented voice actors that gave Baloo, Kit and Rebecca life do so -- well -- so very convincingly? Why do we love them? And how can we study the relationships they have with so much enthusiasm? The following is merely my own humble opinion, but I wanted to answer these questions as best I could, and perhaps open some doors as to why different writers love the different relationships and characters more than others, but still show how each and every one of them can work so effectively. It's the genius of the creators, it's the foresight of the writers contributing to the series, it's the many, many talented people who brought simple drawings new life and dialog. It's the impact it has, in characterization.
One of the more fascinating aspects of TaleSpin, to me, is watching the characters evolve. And they do in a believable manner, not only in the pilot, "Plunder and Lightning", and not only throughout the series, but they also have room to evolve in the future, hence the many talented writers such as Dan Green, Liz Spencer and many, many others who have shown this so effectively and convincingly. In "Plunder and Lightning" for example, one can see the growth that takes place in a matter of days of not only one, but I believe three characters. In my opinion, Baloo is probably the most significant. In Part 1 we see him as a happy go lucky kind of guy who doesn't have a care in the world and more importantly, doesn't want any. He's seemingly satisfied with his life to date, no worries, no obligations, no responsibilities; basically a teenager trapped in a adult body who still manages to get away with this type of behavior not only here but throughout the series simply because he is Baloo. That's his character. One almost doesn't expect it to change. So when a small bear cub comes crashing, (literally) into his life, what should we expect? Especially if the creators of TaleSpin had gone with the stereotypical mold of placing this character within his bounds, and by golly, keeping him there no matter what! We shouldn't expect the story to become something deeper than what it appears on the surface right? I mean, characters don't fight, grow and learn to depend on each other in a cartoon right? Luckily for us, TaleSpin's creators were seemingly unafraid to bend a few ground rules, and break down barriers. I'm not saying that stereotyping didn't occur, all series have inconsistencies, but when one watches Baloo in Part 1, throughout the pilot to Part 4, the change is extraordinary. But the potential for it always existed, so it's also believable. He opens up to Kit, he demonstrates several times that what matters to him, despite numerous protests, isn't his freedom or his plane, a symbol of the former, but this boy, his navigator. Baloo doesn't go through a miraculous change overnight, these characters have many real-life tendencies to them that makes them easy to relate to; but he does experience a change, subtle in some ways, strong in others. Baloo could almost be a symbol of the potential each of us has to be a part of something better, without having to sacrifice a great deal of what we've known before.
The second, very significant evolution is Kit. Kit Cloudkicker, one of the most interesting yet confusing characters ever created. It's almost ironic that he's Baloo's navigator. It's true that he does have to show Baloo time and time again the right path to take and which way is the safest, most effective way to go, both in the plane and out, and despite the frustrating fact that Baloo doesn't always wish to follow the boy's well meaning directions. The irony lies in the fact that Kit, possibly more than anyone else, needs direction. He's very lost, he thinks he knows where he's headed, yet....he really doesn't. It's very hard to explain, various fic writers have tried it, and all have convincingly shown the inner conflict within this cub, yet there really isn't an easy way to show a solution. He's been hurt, what little is known about the character's past, doesn't bother to hide that fact. He's made mistakes, he's only human...(er, so to speak). Yet he remains not only likable, but a character with a great deal of heart and integrity, whose altruistic tendencies have the ability to not only endear him to others, but to open new doors for him in the future. An incredibly complex character, so many paths, yet all can fit within his personality. How does one show his changes? His growth? We know the depths of his integrity, the strength of his morals. Where he got them, unfortunately, isn't certain. What's remarkable is the fact that a 12 year old boy had more courage, and more foresight than most of the adults around him. He sacrifices his reputation and his precious, fragile bond which obviously was life to him with Baloo, and Rebecca in order to save them. He was unselfishly willing to go back to the life he so desperately wished to get away from, and was even willing to risk incurring their wrath, mistrust, even hatred to keep them safe. That's strength. Especially taking into consideration how hard it was for the boy to simply open up in the first place to someone. To have to go back on it, to give up the unconditional friendship and love was excruciating. Yet despite his pain and personal loss, Kit also feels obligated to help Cape Suzette by once again risking his own life without any outside promptings, or without any certain knowledge that he would get out of it in one piece just to try to help people he didn't know, and to save a city which quite possibly would never have acknowledged his efforts. Where does a character like this come from? I would dearly love to see the model which Kit was based on. Mowgli, from the Jungle Book was the role beside Baloo which Kit was compared to, but the two characters are certainly not the same. Finally, the clincher: the fact that Kit's last thoughts still weren't geared towards himself, but towards Baloo, with the one last hope that the bear would forgive him and finally see why Kit had been forced to do what he did. The audience can truly see what kind of a boy this is, and I for one, was amazed. Kit's unselfishness was rewarded, even if it had quite a few bumps along the way, and he remains a fascinating character with more depth, soul and overall mystery than most actors I've seen elsewhere. He changed, he reaped the benefits, but he still remains on the outside, haunted by his own phantoms and unwilling to completely forget. He has a rather unconditional form of stability, an even more unconditional family....but still he remains uncertain of what really lies ahead. He has one goal, but the road is so rocky. The future's open for him, he has love and support, but he's suffered and neither he, nor anyone who truly tries to understand this character, can forget it.
Then there's Rebecca. Her character may be the most consistent throughout the series, but that doesn't mean she doesn't have the ability to surprise us. She is also, in her own right, a very complex, complicated person who has many sides to her character that one can best see when she interacts with others. Arguably, with Baloo, in some episodes, and in Part 2 of Plunder & Lightning, excepting her beautiful and touching "Home is Where the Heart Is" demonstration, she's at her worst. Naive, bossy, domineering, impulsive with money making schemes and ideas and a bit uptight. But remember, this is Baloo, basically anyone would seem wound up, annoying and an overall busybody in comparison. She's also witty, compassionate, and has a tender, nurturing side which shows itself wonderfully with Molly and Kit. Two children, one her daughter, the other a very vulnerable but closed off young man. It's incredible that the character seems to know how to reach both, so different, yet each in need of what she alone can give. Her journey and evolution seems less a personal one, but it is certainly present. She is placed in the position, one that later we will see her in many, many times, of watching anxiously, uncertainly but always with faith, the development and struggles of Kit and Baloo. We know little of her personal life, she's a mother, her emotions and tendencies toward Molly are very conventional. But the fact that she reaches out selflessly to be the strength, at times even the reason behind the stormy turmoil within the uncertain, if always affectionate relationship that occurs between Baloo and Kit shows her a very noble side to her personality. She knows the boy already, which shows she has insight. That's not saying Baloo doesn't also have any, or that Rebecca doesn't have the capabilities to think and act with her emotions, she simply is able to look past the hurt of losing Kit and see what happened for it's truthfulness. She unsuccessfully tries to convince Baloo of her view point as well. Now...why exactly should she put so much effort into it? Isn't this after all, simply a business, and these two just her employees? Surely she can hire another navigator? Or pilot? What exactly is going on? She cares, even with the short amount of time she's known Kit and Baloo and with her own responsiblities and obligations, she still cares. And the fact that she does affects those who can see it. Subtlety within emotion, touching but not overwhelming. Dignity in a harsh world, courage despite grief in the past. These are truly admirable qualities that Rebecca possesses. Her journey was probably made the most willingly. This is also admirable in that when it's all said and done, and when the fact exists that she may have to be the one to pick up the pieces or to let these two go without having much right to stop them, she still evolves and changes quickly, with trust, and without looking back.
The other characters within the series, while possessing richness with dialog, individual personalities and adding as wonderful contributions to the show itself, don't really show the growth that the main triad do. Molly remains sweet, cute, but still a bit of a hellion throughout. Wildcat, the lovable, conclusively dim-witted but surprisingly talented comic relief with a heart that is undoubtably bigger than his brain. Louie, the all around fun guy that can still open up and show emotion, a source of strong friendship and the lighter, happier side of TaleSpin. Shere Khan, the ruthless businessman, yet still likable, if not quite personable. He possesses power not only in his own realm, but in his own self-knowledge and nearly overwhelming confidence that is well placed and respected by all the characters, villian, hero, neutral. Don Karnage, one of the villians, a complex character in his own right in that we just can't find it within ourselves to dislike him too much, despite his despicableness. After all, he's got an ego, he's got a lackluster crew, he's got ambitions and more mirrors in his personal cabin that what can possibly be healthy; but doggone it, we like him. He's funny, he can't be taken too seriously at times. One may even go so far as to say he's redeemable, but don't quote me on that. And the rest can't even be classified as true villians. Colonel Spigot and Sergeant Dunder. Not even in the environment of Cape Suzette but Thembria, a bold undertaking by the show's creators to tactlessly poke fun at two scourges of our century. To be able to laugh at this way of life and these two typical products of such a system as the one that exists in Thembria and under the High Marshall, (e.g., you figure it out), is truly remarkable. They can act as allies or they can act as speedbumps in Baloo's treasure hunting skills, but they always remain on the outside of the norm, and one knows that they'll always go back to the location that they know best, outcasts in lifestyles and ways of thinking everywhere but in an upside-down world.
Maybe the reasons behind why we these characters are so endearing to us should remain unanswered. Maybe the real reason is that they remind us of ourselves, what we wish to change, what we see in spite of ourselves, what we hope to be. In a different environment, a different setting and with an unconventional means of telling many different heart-felt stories about love, sacrifice, faults, errors, friendship, and growing, the characters are what brings it to life. In TaleSpin they just happen to be more than what they seem and their interactions with each other create an unforgettable atmosphere. Baloo and Becky's hilarious bickering, unspoken feelings and deep, enduring friendship, despite differences, Kit and Rebecca's bond, innocent, sweet, touching. Even lesser known relationships such as the subtle but strong friendship that exists between Louie, Baloo's best friend and Kit, Baloo's navigator and I believe surrogate son. It exists, and the fact that we know it exists without it being dragged out in the open ruthlessly is incredible. Molly and Kit's friendship, protective on his part, not quite worshipping but hopefully respectful on her's. She's forever in the role of the little girl, while he'll always remain a young boy with an old soul. They can still relate to each other in spite of it. There are so many others, Molly and Rebecca, Kit and Wildcat, Baloo and Wildcat, Louie and Rebecca, even Don Karnage's various encounters with the main cast. The list goes on and on. I can't let this go without showing what is, to me, the most important of them all, however. Baloo and Kit, an unconventional bond, strong and deeply touching, sometimes unspoken, other times shown for it's power in episodes such as "Stormy Weather" and even shown for the problems which all partnerships have, such as in "A Bad Reflection on You" It was this relationship that caught my eye and forever touched me about TaleSpin. You have to see it to try and interpret it and no amount of reasoning can explain what was created. I'll only mess it up if I attempt to explain further. So I try and show it with words and dialog, with thoughts and emotions and with my writing. It's the only way I know how. I think it is about two people who were lost, and found each other. Two deserving people who needed a second chance and wanted more out of life even when they didn't quite know what it was that they wanted, and they got it. It's about compromises and about forgiveness. And it's very special. I'm grateful to the show's creators for having the courage to try something out of the ordinary and very, very extraordinary and for creating something like the characters in TaleSpin, then letting the loyal fans decipher and work within their broad universe that was made, seemingly without limits. I'm glad that so many talented voice actors breathed life into the cast of TaleSpin and made it even better than what could be imagined. It takes very special characters for that, and it takes a very special show to let me ramble on like this continually and shamelessly. It's certainly the impact it has.
Thank you Alyson Terry! With the exception of some editing for clairty, I have not changed this editorial. - Gregory Weagle, 04/07/2015.
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