Pilot episodes are without a doubt; the most important episode in a series. They should be designed to tell us about the characters in the story (how they think and how they interact. etc.); 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. In simple terms; if you don't get off to a very good start with a bad pilot episode (101 Dalimations' "Home Is Where The Bark Is" is an excellent example of this), the rest of the series will really have a hard time of being taken seriously.
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. 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. 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 (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.)
After the September 9th showing of Plunder and Lightning on CBC and the Disney Channel; it seemed that Disney wasn't very happy with the final product at all. 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.
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.
[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.
[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.
[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 emotionial moment which Disney deemed too serious for its younger viewers and they basically wanted to "spare" them too much emotionial content. I have five words for that: SPARE ME YOUR EXCUSES; DISNEY!
[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 emotionial 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 emotionial than this edit. This makes no sense to me.
[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.
Edit#2: "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.
There are many more edits; however, it would take too long to even mention them. 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). 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'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.
Finally; I like to tell you why I'm doing this. Tale Spin 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. 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. 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.)
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. 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.
I can hear Don Blunt laughing now.... That's my opinion; I welcome yours. See you next time.