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Plunder & Lightning: Disney's Jaw Dropper In More Ways Than One!
Pilot episodes are without a doubt; the most important episode in a series. (2015 Gregory Weagle Says: Except for impatient execs who want the buyrate now like a kid who get $9.50 in allowance, buys a slurpee and Pokemon cards; then wonders where the money went.) They should be designed to tell us about the characters in the story; how they think and how they interact ; and finally give us a clear cut premise or beginning idea to the storyline that would help us understand each future episodes's storyline and/or plot. (Actually; you make these in order to explain how the characters came together and set the tone for the show in general.) In simple terms; if you don't get off to a very good start with a bad pilot episode like 101 Dalmatians' "Home Is Where The Bark Is" is an excellent example of this (which contained a the most low rent "Kit in the window watching Rebecca and Molly" scene in DTVA history), the rest of the series will really have a hard time of being taken seriously. (Kick Buttowski and Fish Hooks turned out fine in the end; so pilots don't really hurt the show since ratings are going to be at their highest regardless. On the other paw; it certainly HELPS the show, make no mistake about it.)
So how does Tale Spin's pilot episode known as "Plunder and Lightning" match up to other Disney pilot episodes? In one word: Excellent. And here's the scary part: There are three episodes: "Sheepskin Deep"; "Her Chance to Dream" and "Jolly Molly Christmas" that are even better than Plunder and Lightning. (In terms of quality, you have a good case 1998 Me! Jolly Molly is the best DTVA holiday episode; Sheepskin Deep had some of the best teacher characters in history and really hit home the importance of experience and education being equally important; and Her Chance To Dream was Rebecca's best episode. In terms of historical value, which means a lot more than mere quality itself; those three episodes don't even place. Plunder and Lightning is the most historical pilot in DTVA history because it was focused, none of the acts slowed down, and we got to see an actual Disney movie like episode on free television! Not to mention that I think Stormy Weather and Old Man & The SeaDuck are almost as historic as Plunder and Lightning since Stormy Weather was pathos world in 22 minutes and Old Man & The SeaDuck is the posterboy of how to do an amniesa plot right. Heck; The Incredible Shrinking Molly solved the puzzle on the shrinking trope in creating Doctor Zibaldo for goodness sakes.) And they got a lot of help from Disney's king of pilot episodes: "Plunder and Lightning". That's the power of TaleSpin folks. Only Hercules and DuckTales have come even close to Tale Spin's charm when it comes to pilot episodes. (Actually only Ducktales and Gargoyles have come close. Ducktales had areas where they skidded off the track and Gargoyles had a large chunk of it's pilot being just there. I haven't seen Hercules: The Series yet, so why is 1998 Me so high on it? Maybe he read Juan F. Lara's review and took it as his own opinion. Not a smart move after he stole a lot of Susan C. Mitchell's material for the Kit Cloudkicker editorial.) Excellent artwork along with a clear premise and an excellent balance of action/adventure (Typical of Disney TV Animation in the early 80's.) plus this is the first episode in Disney TV Animation that manages to put emotional drama and heart ahead of humor and light-hearted adventure.
But that's not the scariest part; the scariest part is this: The version I saw was the Politcally Correct version which was released in 1995 on the Disney Channel. Yes; folks: I'VE BEEN RIPPED OFF! One of the few times that a Quack Pack reference actually makes sense.
(Please stop using that bigoted whistle 1998 Me?! And no, I'm not talking about being ripped off. Dewey from Quack Pack had a legit great line in that series that was the epitome of Quack Pack's political mess in 1996. More to the point; the 1995 Disney Channel version is also the Toon Disney cut in that they only edited out violent/racist/implied arson shots. You mean the 1990 November syndication version of the show which is the one that was released on DVD. And while Disney is full of crap for not releasing the first run edition (the September 1990 Disney Channel version); at least three scenes that were cut by Toon Disney were reinstated for the DVD version. So stop blaming Toon Disney for every edit that 1990 Disney did! Okay?!)
After the September 9th showing of Plunder and Lightning on MITV and the Disney Channel; it seemed that Disney wasn't very happy with the final product at all. (Well; there was a lot of lack of polish in the original that even 1998 would have mind seeing cleaned up, even if many of the other edits were outright stupid.) If there is one thing that the Walt Disney Company had never done before was put heart and seering drama (not light-hearted drama like most Disney animated films are) ahead of humor and comedy. So what did Disney do? When the first "remastered" version of Plunder and Lightning aired as a four-part episode on November 19,1990- November 23rd,1990; in less than three months; they butchered; edited and altered a series that took Jymn Magon and his team of Talespinners almost four years to create. (Remember that Jymn had an idea for this show just after becoming a producer for Disney back in 1986.) In reality; there was no surprise and why the public wasn't angry about it the first time they cut it is anyone's guess.
(First off; it didn't take Jymn Magon four years to create TaleSpin. The idea of TaleSpin started in 1988 which is a full two years before the first episode was released. The actual production of TaleSpin in general started in August of 1989; which is 13 months before Plunder and Lightning even aired. Also; the span of production to completion is nine months per episode. Jymn Magon had an idea when becoming a producer; but it wasn't until after B-Players (which was supposed to star Baloo) was canned and Magon was forced to use an angle planned for Ducktales (Launchpad's cargo service) as a basis for TaleSpin. That said; to say that they butchered this pilot is a gross understatement. All Disney had to do was change the music, the openings, make every gun look like a supersoaker and erase all the letters off signs, and it would be a 4Kids Entertainment pilot. 127 total edits were found, and some of those scenes were re-animated (which makes sense since we have memos (from Tim Van Hal) documenting that several acts in Part I had as many as 20 retakes.). The reason why the public wasn't angry was that it was 1990; and the internet's power of exposing Plunder and Lightning's edits wasn't confirmed until sometime in 2010. I remember being ticked off after finishing up Plunder and Lightning's DC to syndication comparisons.)
Jymn brought up a very interesting note about how Tale Spin was approved back in 1988; that picture of Kit Cloudkicker cloudsurfing on his airfoil was what got Tale Spin approved by Disney officials. Disney officials must have believed that they were going to get yet another light-hearted adventure/comedy series like Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers; Gummi Bears or DuckTales. Sure; we got the adventure and comedy in Tale Spin: that's typical of Disney animation as a whole. The formula is still there even if its not used very well. However; Tale Spin did two things that made the show stand apart from the rest : [A.] Seering drama and geninue emotion which is why Tale Spin has the most heart when compared to other Disney productions and [B.] Character design and how they interact with each other. They almost act like real people (or act like real people should at least. No offense.); two things that Disney never expected that would happen; let alone they didn't like. And who knows what else could've been edited before the TV movie came out. Like I said many times before and as you will see when I reveal some of the edits that you didn't know were edited in the syndication version; the mantra of storytelling is the same: If you cut or edit a sence from an excellent story; you end up ruining that story or at least reducing the impact of that story. (TESTIFY~! Try to imagine the impact of showing Cape Suzette for the first time with Kit and Baloo. Even though it was television animation; we got a sweeping look of the city. Sure; they could have made it longer to create even more impact; or more of a tease to come. However; at least we got a tease period. This would never happen today because execs are morons and they would order anyone who tries it to adhere to the rule of cutting it out for time. They don't have much respect for kids using their brains. Again; I would love to read the studies execs used to justify their decisions, and not the focus groups they used since the conflict of interest regarding neoptism is always hanging from above. Speaking of genuine emotion: Why wouldn't you use it as part of the show? This is supposed to be a emotional medium after all (one of the reasons why scientists shun television when used for "Hollywood Science"). Above all; if there is geniune emotion there; you will care about the characters and have an incentive to watch the show. TaleSpin paid so much attention to this that they barely beat Tiny Toons on it's own without much marketing. This is what makes the editing of Plunder and Lightning so frustrating to me at least.)
[1.] "Home is Where the Heart Is" lullaby by Michael and Patty Silversher (music and lyrics.) sung by Sally Struthers who voiced Rebecca Cunningham. Click here for the actual song and the scene itself in it's full glory and judge for yourself. I'm actually surprised that Silversher/Silversher still worked creating songs for Disney up to 1994 considering that this is the climax of the TV movie.
(I have heard many theories about this; but considering how many records actually use this song, I'm guessing copyright is the cause. One such record actually contains this tune: Alexis Cole, Someday My Prince Will Come . One absurd notion was that the execs had it cut because it was too boring. Yeah sure. If a lullaby is too boring; then the lullaby in Darkwing Duck's pilot should also had been cut. Also to these people with such a notion: If you believe that this is the case, then you must have secret papers on the ratings when the Plunder and Lightning 1990 Disney Channel movie aired on various station. Please release these ratings to us; since it was you clowns who made this extraordinary claim. My citation for my theory that it was cut because it was too dramatic, too emotional, didn't fit Eisner image of milking Baloo and made Kit's fake heel turn even more tragic than it already was is in the entire body of the show since this cut wasn't the only one where Kit is involved in a dramatic situation. Edited out for time is also a reason; however weak it is and it's also believable. However; because copyright is such a force that cannot be stopped, I'm putting my money on that and maybe even due to the fact that Disney released a version of this song with a completely different singer since Sally Struther sang this version of the song.)
[2.] "Always" word. R.J. Williams said quietly this line (voice of Kit Cloudkicker) two seconds after sending his message to Baloo. This is the most inexcusable edit in TaleSpin. It doesn't shorten the film at all. The only reason I can find is to reduce the emotion of the line and make it sound like Kit is asking for help. (Which he is not!) This is proof that Disney cannot and doesn't accept seering drama; which is something the public wants more of nowadays.
(Yeah; why did they mute this word?! Funny how that works since the overall line Kit spoke on the radio in Part IV 100% still protrays the overall message of what Kit is saying. Kit is not asking for help because he knows that he's dead and done. Kit sent the message knowing that it would not save his life. All he did was to make sure Baloo no longer thought that Kit had actually betrayed him (heck; when Baloo actually saves him minutes later; Kit was in shock that Baloo even came back.). Even without the 'always'; the message still retains all of it's power. There are only two reasons to cut it: R.J. Williams said one word too many and was an audio mistake; which is not a bad thing to edit since it doesn't serve the message much; or it was intended and Disney thought Kit was implying that he was about to commit suicide. The later explaination holds more water than the former since Kit says always with a somewhat tearful whisper. The former also holds some water because in the comic book "Take Off #4"; they kept this word anyway many months after the syndication version had been aired. This can be constructed as evidence that Disney doesn't want moral guardians to think Kit is committing suicide because if it was merely because they hate drama; they would have changed the line to Kit pleading for help instead. The actual line Kit said and not changed didn't change the overall message, and removing merely reduced the emotion only because it was implying that Kit was going to commit suicide. That said; removing always is pretty petty since Kit being an air pirate in the first place is much more problematic than that.)
[3.] I'd like to thank Richard Lowman for this edit; this took place on the Seaduck in Plunder and Lightning Act III just before Kit admits that he *was* a pirate himself:
Well, before he shot out that reply, there was a brief moment where he took the compass that he was using, had it closed, and had it jabbed into the navigation board that he was using. The look on his face at that point was as if he was hit over the head with a grand piano, that look of anger that he gave Baloo, with his eyes tightly shut. That's what I mean by 'getting even' with Karnage somehow. There's also something there that Kit could'nt say about what happend to his father. Was his father connected with the air pirates, or did he cross Karnage for the last time? That was cut out from the orginal showing of 'Plunder And Lightning', and I Hate That because as short as it is, it told volumes about Kit's father, and what might have happend to him. - Richard Lowman
I agree totally with Richard; even if I didn't see it that way at first. Kit thought that Baloo was insulting his father which tells me that he proably knew his family from the start. The sence was only five seconds long for goodness sakes and again; it follows the same thread that the previous two examples Dan Green mentioned in his editorial: another emotional moment which Disney deemed too serious for its younger viewers and they basically wanted to "spare" them too much emotional content. I have five words for that: SPARE ME YOUR EXCUSES; DISNEY!
(Okay, okay; no need to shout 1998 me! The reason why people hated this being cut is because they make it as if Kit snapped for no reason whatsoever and there was no build to it. In the original; when Baloo was prodding questions to Kit; Kit slowly got more and more angry. Then when Baloo ask if Kit's dad was a pirate, it slowly build to that overboiling point in a "I don't want to get angry at the guy who saved me; but please stop asking me that question?" and once the pencil broke sounded; Kit had enough and admitted he was a pirate. That is how you build emotion for a scene so that you can sympathize with the character. By cutting that; Disney effectively insulted the audience by making Kit snap out of nowhere for no reason thus reducing the amount of sympathy for Kit Cloudkicker. They also cut out a shot of Kit stammering and giggling before officially accepting Baloo as Papa Bear and hugging as well. This is also a bad edit because it implied a lot of things; Kit not believing that Baloo would accept him and in a way making Kit's fake heel turn make more sense in the long run; and making Baloo's reaction to it even less idiotic than it already was. Why? Because the way Kit accepted Baloo before hugging him in the 1990 DC version made it look like a playful interlude to Kit turning on him "for real" and make that convincing to even the audience. Without this; no one was convinced that Kit really turned on his family "for real". See how editing cuts the dot connecting of each scene? Oh; and Baloo did insult Kit's dad in the comics when he did that stupid smile on Kit when asking about Kit's dad as a pirate.)
[4.] In Plunder and Lightning Act IV; Molly did in fact see Kit falling from the Iron Vulture. Disney cut this out in the syndication version and my best guess for this one was again Disney's hatred for seering drama since this sence shows Molly seemly horified of seeing the only real playmate she ever had in years fall to his "death". Again; another emotional moment (not as much as [1.] [2.] or [3.] but still enough.) that Disney deemed too serious. A pattern seems to forming now isn't it. One final note: Since this sence involves a six-year girl watching a possible gory sence occur: Why didn't Disney cut the line "Shut Up!" which Kit said to Molly back in Plunder and Lightning Act III; which I deemed even more emotional than this edit. This makes no sense to me. (This was clearly written before 9/11; and after the news reports of people jumping out of airplane height buildings to their deaths, I can perfectly understand why they snipped out Molly seeing Kit Cloudkicker falling off the vulture. Problem is; Kit falling from that height after being tossed by Dumptruck is even MORE closer to what happened on 9/11 and in real life, most broadcasters would refuse to show it because it's extremely traumatic and doesn't do anyone any favors, yet in TaleSpin in 1990; they allowed throwing a 12 year old kid off an airship and then followed it up by having Baloo being chased in a city and the CT-37's crashed into buildings. Seriously, all of this happened and none of this was edited out in future broadcasts even though TaleSpin was off Toon Disney for about a year after 9/11. Someone even wrote an editorial on this which no one will ever allow again. Not to mention that Baloo crashed a helicopter into Khan's office in Baloo Thunder.)
[5.] Other edits: "This is no time for a Chinese fire drill"- Don Karnage, Plunder and Lightning Act I. This one is pretty easy to explain. I guess Disney didn't want to upset China at all. Unlike most edits; I can make a weak arguement about this one. However, if it does bother you so much Disney; then why did you allow Jymn Magon or Mark Zaslove to use it in the first place? Actually; this line wasn't cut in the syndication version; but was later cut for the Disney Channel running in 1995.
[6.] "I'm Gone"- This was sung by Baloo and Louie in Plunder and Lightning Act I. The syndication version still has much of the song intact; however, the second verse and much of the ending is "solid gone". My best guess here is two-fold; the song may have exceeded the length that Disney wanted in the syndication version and two; because there is a Christan reference in the song which must have got the Disney officials upset. (You know Disney nowadays; something that I will never mention on this website.) I don't understand this one; it was pretty light-hearted compared to the other edits.
(Yeah; the Chinese Fire Drill line probably should have been redubbed to something like Thembrian fire drill; since China is supposed to be Mynah in the TaleSpin world as per the audio book Drumming Up Business. Only using parts of a full song is standard practice when a scene is planned to have such a song. Many songs in anime openings, endings and even in the show itself are edited according to how long the scene takes. It's standards practice; and is not an inexcusable edit. Same with Home Is Where The Heart Is; which didn't use the complete song either in the 1990 Disney Channel version. A much bigger legit edit to this was the "joke edit" of repainting the SeaDuck back to it's original colors even though the recap in Part III showed that the SeaDuck was never repainted in the 1990 Disney Channel version. That was so bush league that I swear I'm watching a 4Kids cartoon. Why was Kit's blanket navy blue and not purple?! Also; let's not forget that Disney added a dance scene (and crumbling trail) to the syndication version in order to completely cut out the buzz saw trap in Part III. Those were stupid edits; although they should have kept the dance scene anyway. They also reanimated the beginning of Kit's upside down scene in Part I: The camera angle was corrected as it should have been; but it completely removed the spot where Gibber was out of position and had to run back just in time for Don Karnage to lean on him. They also reanimated Louie examining the Sub-Electron Power Ampifilier too. )
There are many more edits; however, it would take too long to even mention them. (No kidding 1998 Me! That why I created the TaleSpin Edits page in the first place! 127 edits mind you!) Those edits do not include possible edits that may or may not have been have before Plunder and Lightning aired on September 9th,1990; plus the edits that took place for the Disney Channel version of Plunder and Lightning and the entire Tale Spin TV series (And let's not forget that the last episode to air in syndication: Flying Dupes was cancelled completely because the plot revolves around a bomb. That should at least get Martin Donoff ticked off) (Flying Dupes is now on DVD unedited and has been on Youtube long before this because Toon Disney aired the episode once by mistake. It also aired on non-American stations during the blacklisting of the episode; so it wasn't the major league ugly self-control people thought it was because Disney couldn't control non-American stations from airing it. Family Channel Canada aired Flying Dupes by the way until TaleSpin was off the air for good in the 2000's.) . The good news about this is that despite Disney's hacking in 1990 and in 1995; it hasn't damaged the show to the point of being unliked. The sad news is that Disney make the biggest mistake by shunning a genre that the majority of people want. Jim Kellogg was the first to say that Disney Animation has lost its heart; I believe that it lost its heart the moment it started shunning seering drama and pure heart by editing out all the emotion sences that mostly involve Kit. (That is true; and it also hurt Rebecca's complex character as well.) That's quite an irony because it was Kit Cloudkicker that got the TV series and this jaw-dropping pilot episode approved in the first place. (Yeah; but you know execs. They really trust no one. In reality; they pretend to trust someone until it's time to stab them in the back after getting all the money.) Finally; I like to tell you why I'm doing this. TaleSpin is not the only production that has faced Disney hacking. Not one TV series in Disney TV Animation expect for DuckTales has been untouched by Disney hacking. (Nope; all of them were edited in syndication in some way. Some has additional scenes not found in the original airings and some have cuts from the original airing. I think Gargoyles suffered from this too, along with Aladdin: The Series.) If this editing of Plunder and Lightning bothers you so much Mr. Eisner then why didn't the Disney Company just put Plunder and Lightning on VHS? I think I know the answer to that. The company would be taking a risk on bringing out an untested, untapped and basically unknown genre. (Nope; it's because bashing Tiny Toons is cool. Never mind that doing that proves that you are a childish, petty punk who cannot compete with Warner Brothers, even though the alternative to Tiny Toons was RIGHT F'N THERE and you didn't bother to support it because of your holier than thou ego.) The DuckTales movie had it easy because it was on TV and it was doing very well. (There is nothing wrong with Ducktales; I think it's a great show; but I don't think it is the best show.(Yeah; I manage to even convince the late Christopher Barat of this, which surprised me the most.) I'll never forget the experience that Plunder and Lightning gave me and every Tale Spin fan that saw it in all of its forms. (Again; this is why Plunder and Lightning should have been the movie because it was a compelling experience and would have benefitted from even better animation from Walt Disney Animation France. We have see enough Ducktales plots to last us a lifetime; no one is going to see a glorified Ducktales episode for $7, if they can experience it for free. Plunder and Lightning is as new as new gets; and it feels like a great movie even though it's on free television. The origin story is so compelling; people would be watching it for $7 again and again and again. The purists hate you anyway; you broke your word back in 1987 for goodness sakes. Go all the way with it! TaleSpin P&L would have made about $100 million at the box office easily. I realize that this is 25 years too late; but goodness it's still stupid to bash Tiny Toons when you had your weapon right there to use and win.) It is just too bad that no one expect maybe Jymn Magon will ever see it in its purest form and its time to send a message to Disney that they are turning their backs on everyone who has been waiting for a pure character-driven seering drama series (Like Tale Spin, Gargoyles and to a lesser extent: Chip and Dale's Rescue Rangers). If this continues; then Disney fans should do the same: turn their backs on Disney and tell their children a lesson about intergity which I believe Disney has now competely lost; and it takes many years; maybe decades before that can even be restored completely. (What intergity?! Corporations aren't people and most execs don't want to be people; they want to be gods. They only use people because it's a dog whistle for total domination of everything and everyone. It doesn't work when you honestly admit that you want to rule the world. Most of the boys turned their backs on Disney anyway because Disney wasn't cool anymore; and Disney said; "don't let your butt hit the door on the way out." and focused on girls who were so glad to see the boys take their ball and pout on home. Disney ruled on the backs of them; until they became so over confident that even their main audience started to see them as being bush league, forcing Disney to depend on third parties like LucasArts and Marvel in order to regain the male audience again. Disney didn't want to do a job and because they are a bloated company who cannot die anymore, they become an easy subject of mockery. Still; 2015 is Disney's best year in a long time. When you decide to reboot Ducktales on Disney XD, you have made progress even though I'm certain they will find some way to screw it up; and I cannot wait for this either. Tons of fun will ensue.)
I can hear Don Blunt laughing now. (No you cannot; because Don Blunt's creditability went down the toilet several years later when he became a "me too" in the animation world and Michael Eisner outlasted him. Michael is the one who was laughing, until he was outsed by Bob Iger; and it was Bob who showed some respect in giving us the syndication version with no Toon Disney edits and reinstated Flying Dupes for all to see on DVD. So thanks Bob!) That's my opinion; I welcome yours. See you next time.
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