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Disclaimer#1: All images and characters are (C) 1990/1991 Walt Disney Company Inc. and are being used without permission. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org .
Speaking Without Words- Setting in the TaleSpin World
An Editorial By: Alyson Terry
Well, after thinking long and hard about what affects me the most after the extraordinary characters of TaleSpin, I must say that it has to be the setting. But what is the setting, exactly? The colors and animation used, the cities in which our characters live and correspond with each other, or can it go beyond that to cover a certain time period, drawing a parallel between our world, and our history, to a universe created entirely for the purpose of setting the stage to a show which would break it's own boundaries. The definition of setting is certainly open to anyone's interpretatin, all of this is just my opinion on the many, many different aspects that all combined together to create something utterly unique. There are many different things from the technical settings, to the art of animating, to the worlds that were created and the worlds which are left to us to create and expand on. As a major in a field which is left almost entirely up to personal interpretation, and after four years of essay writing, I must say that I have to agree with all of my well-meaning professors when they say that the most difficult place to start, is in....well, the beginning, in trying to form exactly what one is trying to say in a coherent and at least sincere manner. With that in mind, let me try and explain without losing sight of the original goal of each and every fan's different view on what makes TaleSpin special. It is not bound to a specific time period, it is not bound to any specific world with the maps and cultures laid out in stone, it only adheres to it's own unique storyline, the extra details can be anything one wishes it to be.
It's impossible, certainly, to try and explain exactly what first caught my eye about TaleSpin without subjecting my poor, innocent readers to a shameless flashback. (Eerie music fills the room, everything grows hazy) Plunder and Lightning, it's premiere in September of 1990. Any true-blooded fan can recall exactly what I'm talking about, whether they were fortunate to experience it or not. I caught it entirely by chance, not even in the comfort of my own home. These boring details are leading up to something my loyal yet bored friends, promise. Y'see, what's important to remember is the fact that I knew nothing about these characters, the plot, etc., etc. Admittedly, the fact that it was signature Disney, and by that I mean the animation or the way the characters were drawn, did hold my attention, but I was never too big of a fan of previous Disney series, with the exception of Rescue Rangers. (I was 12, cut me some slack) I saw only Part 3. What can I describe exactly? It was extremely fine animation, no doubt, but there was so much more. The color and vividness of everything, the SeaDuck, the ocean beneath it, the cliffs of Cape Suzette, even Cape Suzette itself, literally knocked me off of my seat. (I got back up again) The use of color was such as I have never seen before, and I can safely say after. No other show, particularly, no cartoon I'd experienced ever placed so much detail into it's surroundings. The sun setting inside of the SeaDuck and the fact that the viewer can almost feel the changes in light and dark. Absolutely extraordinary. The artists paid a great deal of attention to making this series stand out in it's wide array of bright vs. shadows, not to mention the color that leaves an impression all it's own with the boldness that the artists were not afraid to take. Pirate Island, going into the volcano, the surrounding clouds all casting a reddish tint on the characters and plane.
Even in different episodes such as "A Bad Reflection on You" part 1, with the opening sequence showing a rainstorm, the lightning effects and again, the use of darkness against light has the remarkable ability to astound someone, even a viewer as unaccustomed to mundane details as I was. Two other examples of the wide color schemes used here, again, Plunder and Lightning Part 4, with the lightning gun and Karnage bombing the city. Looking carefully at the water right after the gun's beam hits it, even there there are subtle changes in the hue and the after affects of the animation. The Iron Vulture, Cape Suzette during the attack and that one dramatic, breath-taking scene where Kit is falling, falling and Baloo manages to grab him just in time. Always one of my absolute favorites, what would it be without the many different aspects of it that made it so special? It was how much the two characters, particularly Kit, had endeared themselves to us, but more than that, what would it be without the searchlight focusing our attention on Kit, or the darkness of the harbor beneath him? To any artist it may or may not be a simple matter to create such contrasts also to create the surrouding elements that added to the scene, but if the emotions that accompany it say anything at all, then I would say it certainly speaks for itself. Second example, "Stormy Weather", also an episode which pays almost flawless attention to the surrounding details to create something marvelous. The opening scenes, with first the yellowing sky, then the rainstorm, accompanied by the lightning streaks that just add to the suspense of the horrible moment when Baloo does actually believe that Kit has fallen. It would be truly something by itself, with all that comes with it, it is unforgettable.
Besides the remarkable color schemes, and the standard trademark Disney animation that has sadly gone downhill in the last few years, there was also the blink and you'll miss it aspects to the show. I have always been fascinated by TaleSpin's amazing attention to small, almost completely overlooked details, but for one to actually catch them, it adds so much to a simple episode. For me it shows that this was not something cut and pasted together to make money, or a good idea gone bad with shoddy work done on the surrounding scenery, or environments, it shows that those who worked on the show had a care about what it was that they were trying to create. A small example, in "Louie's Last Stand", in the last scenes of the show, our attention is pushed away from the three heroes, Kit, Baloo, Louie, for one moment to focus on the dock, then the ocean. A single fish jumps out of the water, catches something the audience really cannot see, then retreats back. The silvery, almost irridescent quality of the entire, small seqence, with the moon reflecting on the water and the glowing lights behind create something beautiful that I picture time and time again with any type of writing, reading or simple brainstorming that I ever try to accomplish. It is not, despite she who doth protest too much, that I have too much time on my hands. That is precisely the point, the fact that I'm not really looking for things such as this means that it takes a few times to truly sink in. One really doesn't catch it right off the bat, showing that it is not meant to attract attention by means of itself. It is simply part of the atmosphere, and what a unique one it is.
Turning away from the more technical aspects of the setting and getting into what the characters of TaleSpin visit, see or reside in daily. The show followed other examples of not exactly another world, but almost an alternative universe, with animals playing the part of humans, however TaleSpin was unique in that in many different parts of it's character's surroundings, it is all too easy to draw comparisons to the planet and world in which we live in, only in a different time. The deserts, mountains, oceans, islands, and most significant of all, the frozen wastes of Thembria all seem to be pointing to a counterpart that is not too difficult to find in our own world. Jymn Magon did state that the Thembrian model was a combination of two worlds, best forgotten to some. The Soviet Union, and Nazi Germany. That leads directly into the time period. This is a rather touchy subject, but one I continue to believe rests in one particular area that suites the TaleSpin world more than any other. The 1930's, better known as the Great Depression. As with the previously mentioned models, this time period for both of these types of governments or countries would fit extremely well into the '30's. Even the various characters thrown into the mix are undoubtably pointing towards someone who is no longer, thankfully, in our time. What was going on in the '30's in our time is certainly no secret. TaleSpin does not delve into such depressing and at times hopeless mentalities as that which many people were forced to deal with, world-wide, in the Great Depression. It does, in some episodes, however, draw reference to it.
"From Here to Machinery" deals with the nasty topic that often confronted many people during this and earlier times, that of unemployment. Lightly touched on throughout the series, this is one of the few episodes that really shows the affects any new technology would have on this kind of an atmosphere. What surprised me was that Disney, or more specifically the show's creators would so accurately portray the mistrust, yet growing dependency this era placed on "gadgets and gizmos", even one so useless and ill-begotten as the Auto Aviator. But Baloo's talents win out over modern machinery once again at the conclusion of the episode. The question I have is, for how long? Another question, why set a cartoon, any cartoon, even one with such an interesting blend of emotion, action and heart as TaleSpin, in such a bleak time, even if it is only slightly implied? The only answer I possess is that it is simply the show's creator's desire to create something that had not been seen before, with Cape Suzette's architecture, with the design of planes, with a world that did not yet fully know of television and jet engines, but were about to stumble onto them. This leaves so many different avenues open, a fantasy in at times all too real situations. This gives a bit of grit to a show already ready to push the limits with it's relationships between characters and pure emotion.
Oh my, I've gone on for far too long than what can be healthy. (Have the same problem with my essays too, length vs. quality, *sigh*) A few more things. Setting in the TaleSpin world is obviously much more than anything any simple definition can place upon it. It is more than a specific time, place or even a specific universe. It is a tangible and solid thing, almost another character to a show with an already wide variety. It is open to a hundred different interpretations, each one placing it's own validity in the fact that the universe that was created can support it, anywhere the writer or the fan wishes to take it.
-Alyson Terry (2015 Gregory Weagle Says: Outside of formatting and clairty work; nothing has been changed.)
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