By: Gregory Weagle
There are points in watch television where I see something that is edged into my brain forever. Something that I will never forget. Something that shattered the impact of my senses and show me that intellegent viewer do matter in television after all. Now of course I am talking about Kit Cloudkicker, the character himself. Now I would admit that Magon's handling of him wasn't the best; however, I have found this inconsistant handling of him to be an advantage since it made him both complex and interesting. The blandness actually helped rather than hurt him as a character. Kit of course; in his preformance in Stormy Weather was the single greatest acting job that I have ever seen. It was beautiful; however there is something that has bothered me over the past year or so. For some reason; I think that I have heard about this kind of plotline before. At this point; it started to hit me and knock me off my platoons as Dan Green would say. I have seen this plotline before....It was used in the cartoon series: The Simpsons.
Now before I continue now; I will give you a small primer on what the Simpsons is. I know that it sounds stupid to do something like this since over 90% of the population who watches television knows what The Simpsons are; however, few actually know a particular episode from the second season of that series. The Simpsons began life as a full-blown series in 1989 (They were shorts before then on the Tracy Ulman (?sp) show) created by Matt G. ; it is a story about the life of a _regular_ family who are clearly disfunctional in every sense of the word. The leader of this family troop of clowns is the father known as Homer J. Simpson; a dad who debuted as the acting stupid father to the world of television (as opposed to the being stupid father that was debutted by Jimmy Neutron and Fairly Oddparents). Homer works at a nuclear power plant (owned by a ultra-shrill boss Mr. Burns), loves lots of food and beer, and comes up with stupid lines that just make you want to shun him as a human being (and then laugh at his expense afterwards.) Marge Simpson is the mother; who wears frizzy blue hair and is the moral rightous person in the family (and the voice of reason). The parents raise three children, the oldest is a little tweenage boy named Bart Simpson; who has a smart (Read: potty) mouth, a bad attitude and is poor in school (and at times he is out of control). More on him later as he is the focus character for that compare and contrast. He has a sister known as Lisa Simpson, an intellegent female who is an enivronmentalist and hates to eat meat. There is also the baby named Maggie (I don't know the gender for the baby); who was famous for sucking on a pacificer and famous for nearly destroying Itchy & Scratchy cartoons (Maggie whacked Homer on the head with a hammer and Marge went on a mission to destroy violence on television) and shooting Mr. Burns (although the alternative ending states it was Mr. Burn's aide Mr. Smithers). Anyway; this is the show that started the appeal that animation can be for adults and not just kids. It is very funny and the stories are very good. Sadly; since season seven the show has fallen from grace. However; there was one episode that bothered me. That episode was called Daredevil Bart because it looked familiar to Stormy Weather.
The reason why I'm writing this editorial is because there will be someone (prehaps a Simpson's fan) that will claim that Stormy Weather is a rip-off of Daredevil Bart. Plus; there is something that I want to explain that there are differences between Bart Simpson and Kit Cloudkicker; thus the differences between TaleSpin & The Simpsons. Let's get the first thing out of the way: STORMY WEATHER IS NOT A RIP-OFF OF DAREDEVIL BART!! If you would check the air dates closely; Stormy Weather debuted on The Disney Channel on June 17th, 1990 (in syndication sometime in October of 1990) while Daredevil Bart debuted on December 6th, 1990. Stormy Weather debuted six months before Daredevil Bart did (two months earlier in syndication). In another useless; but interesting point about this (which is more general to The Simpsons then anything else.) is that the storyboards for Stormy Weather were done by Swinton O. Scott III. This guy was the director of several episodes for The Simpsons and Futurama (although he didn't direct Daredevil Bart). Now at this point; someone (prehaps a TaleSpin fan; Heaven forbid!) is saying that Daredevil Bart is a rip-off of Stormy Weather. However; after some considerable research I discovered that Daredevil Bart is not a rip-off of Stormy Weather. As a matter of fact; my research has shown that the only element that is similar in both episodes is the moral itself which is about not taking stupid risks. What I see here is two very different approches to the moral. These episodes also differ in quality as well. Daredevil wasn't a special episode while Stormy Weather was. Although part of that was the fact that Stormy Weather debuted before this episode; most of it comes from the fact that there have been many episodes that were much better than this. Stormy Weather got a perfect score while I would give Daredevil Bart no more than *** 1/2 overall in good conscience; even through it's a **** 3/4 episode on the _stupid risk premise_ scale; slightly less than Stormy Weather.
Now it's time to go into the bag of evidence to show why these two episodes are different.....
In Stormy Weather; Kit Cloudkicker met the owner of an air circus named Dan Dawson who saw Kit doing some cloudsurfing. Dan believed that this kid could make him a lot of money so he attempts to shower Kit with dreams of _making a name for himself_. Remember that Kit was starting to have doubts about his _family dymanic_ because both Baloo and Rebecca were starting to question his cloudsurfing (even though that's hypocriticial of them). Dan puts notions into Kit's head that he could make at $500 a week and have his name in lights; much to the disgust of Baloo as Dan was insulting him to no end. Dan's most memoriable line was never to the let the little people hold you down...no matter how big they are. Dan gave Kit the contract and Kit agreed to it after an arguement with Baloo on another stunt later on in the episode.
In Daredevil Bart; Bart Simpson was at a monster truck rally and he was watching the main event of the evening: a stuntman named Captain Lance Murdoch. He was doing a stunt in which he was supposed to jump over a tank of water filled with white sharks, electric eels, pirahanas, alligators and one lion. He also puts a drop of his own blood to add even more of an element of danger. He does the stunt and nails it perfectly; as Bart is the only person who wasn't scared to watch. Bart is so impressed that he daydreams about jumping over a pool with his skateboard to the delight of his public posse. When Bart wakes up; he proclaims that his future was to become a daredevil; which in turn Homer ignores completely. Bart then attempts his first stunt on the next day; which was to jump over a car. I'll be referring to this moment later in the editorial.
The differences here are pretty clear. Bart Simpson only needed to see one show to get his idea. Lance Murdoch is also not a heel like Dan was; so he had no malice in weither or not someone was influenced or not. Dan was an oily stunt pilot who was more influenced by Kit's cloudsurfing than Kit was influenced by Dan's attempt to gain his trust. The only thing that is the same here is that Kit and Bart both went to entertainment event with Kit going to an air circus while Bart went to a monster truck event. However; Bart need the event to be influenced while Kit was already influenced beforehand.
While this is a very easy contrast here; it is an important one as well. Kit Cloudkicker as I mentioned before is already by proxy a stuntman (or furry). He is not only a cloudsurfer (or cloudskier as Dan Dawson would say); he is in canon; the only one who can do it. So it's pretty certain that Kit _is_ the expert in this field. Bart Simpson on the other hand; while he does know how to ride a skateboard, he is certainly no expert in doing stunts of any kind. Bart has no real idea how dangerous his skateboarding is; let alone doing Lance's stunts. He doesn't even wear proper protection. While Kit is guilty of this as well; the problem is that a helmet and kneepads won't do him any good since he's almost 3000 feet in the air and any fall without the airfoil would kill him instantly (outside of Baloo saves in P&L and Destiny Rides Again). Kit is well aware of the dangers. Believe me; he's had to cloudsurf in the line of gunfire in Plunder and Lightning Part Two. Kit would beat Bart in a stunt contest even on a skateboard... Believe it!
Again; the experience factor plays an important role here. In Stormy Weather; when Kit was seen cloudsurfing with Dan Dawson and Kit does another series of flips and lands on the cockpit; but he slips a bit and needs help from Dan. Kit admits that he slips; but Dan get it into his head that those things are what the public wants to see. In Daredevil Bart; Bart attempts to jump over a car with his skateboard; but he mistimes the jump completely and falls onto the pavement; knocking himself out. The injury was minor; although he did have to go to hopsital and get stiches. Bart didn't even try to be aware that he was doing a dnagerous stunt and he was even making _fun_ of his injuries. I won't even get into what Lance said to Bart when they met in the injury ward either; it's pretty self-explaining. This shows the differences in the characters of Bart Simpson and Kit Cloudkicker; showing that Kit is well aware that he invokes himself in something that can in fact end his own life. Also to point out; is that Kit's cloudsurfing has shown time and time again to being a lifesaver in many jams. Bart on the other hand; isn't even aware of the stunts being deadly and I have yet to see him saving people's lives (not that he would care to given his attitude) with his skateboard. Thus rendering his justification for doing these dangerous stunts to being unjustified.
In Stormy Weather; when Kit was starting to show off in front of Dan (who was unknown at this point) Baloo was starting to get pretty upset even then. It was in a way understandable since there was thunder, lightning, rain and wind present. After Kit executes a dangerous stunt by jumping up onto the top of the SeaDuck; Baloo turns around and see that Kit was apparently gone. Baloo was really upset at the _loss_; but Kit appears out of nowhere and covers Baloo's eyes. Baloo grabs Kit; hugs him harshly and outright yells at him. They both begin to argue which continued at Higher for Hire until Dan shows up again to rub it into Baloo's kisser. Later; after Kit visited Dan again at his air circus, Baloo started to feel quite uneasy when Kit was ignoring him and his stories to focus on Dan's mantra. Baloo just plain hates Dan as he put notions into Kit's head to stay away from Baloo. Baloo could only respond by grabbing Kit and oversee him like a vulture. During suppertime; as Kit talks about how Dan likes him, Baloo leaves in disgust. Rebecca comes out to console him. Baloo is upset because Dan is sweeping Kit away from his own life. Rebecca tells him that Kit is talented; but reminds Baloo that Baloo doesn't usually give up without a fight. So he decides to take Kit fishing. Morning arrives and Baloo realized that Kit is missing and he thinks Kit has gone for an errand from Rebecca even though WildCat clearly states that Kit went to the airfield. Baloo gets really frustrated after a good long while until Kit arrives and perfectly nails the Cloudkicker Surf To Doom. The initial shock would turn to anger as he was yelling at Kit again and grabs his airfoil. This would continue into the night as Baloo would crumple the poster up and forbid Kit from seeing Dan Dawson ever again.
In Daredevil Bart; when Homer wakes Bart up and Bart states that he wants to be a daredevil; Homer just simply shruggs it off thinking that Bart was just kidding around. Even after Bart goes to the hospital and Dr. Hibbert (his debut on that show) shows the injury ward of children who were injured by imitating stunts on television, movies and stage; Homer simply ignores the warning. So did Bart; as he continued to do the stunts including jumping over Homer which he doesn't notice. It wasn't until Lisa told Homer that Bart was planning to jump Springfield Gorge; that Homer decided to punish Bart by sending him to his room. Springfield is the place where the Simpsons live if anyone has guessed it by now.
The analysis here is pretty interesting here because Baloo and Homer are completely different characters. Both maybe considered overweight; but their styles are completely different. Baloo was starting to show concern for Kit the moment Kit started to twirl around on his airfoil and do things to show off. Homer never realized that Bart was even considering doing Lance's stunts. Baloo tries to make the effort to care about Kit like a father should; however, his lack of experience makes him screw up at every turn. He's just not the role model for a father. I'll explain that more in the next section when the _son's_ reaction is displayed. Homer Simpson; on the other hand makes no effort to show that he is the father of this rebel son of his. It wasn't until Lisa ratted out on Bart before he did anything. It seems that Bart is little more than inconvenice to Homer and Homer makes no effort to enforce the rules. That causes Bart to rebel with malice unlike Kit's rebellous nature.
Kit: You can't tell me what to do! You're not my dad!!
Kit then throws his baseball cap right between Baloo's eyes in anger. Then in a moment that may never be fully explained; Kit runs to the bed and flops on it with a sign of regret on his face as tears rolled his cheeks
Bart: You can't watch me 24 hours a day...The minute your back is turned, I'm grabbing my skateboard and heading for that gorge!!
These two lines is one of the main reasons why I wrote this editorial. They basically said the same thing here and this is where the phrase _rip-off_ may be spoken. However; the proof that there are no rip-off's here is how they said it. Listen to the tone of voice that each of the subjects speak of and of course; their actions afterwards. Kit spoke his anger with compassion as if he was trying to say that he was being betrayed. Then when he tried to physically hurt Ball by throwing his cap into Baloo's face; he in a split second showed signs of regret. He never meant to hurt Baloo's feelings or to insult intellegence. Bart on the other hand said his words with malice as he went to his bedroom. He was basically daring Homer to watch over him. The question I ask here is this: If both Kit and Bart had the same ability, who would you feel sorry for? Bart Simpson? The boy who basically talked like a smoker who refuses to quite because he thinks that it's his body and his life? It's very diffcult to feel sorry for someone like that when we are the ones who have to pay his medical bills and suffer as a result. When someone gets injured; it will cause untold pain and suffering which cannot be measured in any physical amount. Real people just don't want to pay the price for someone's foolish ambitions. Kit on the other hand; can gain sympathy because he is correct on all counts. I'll explain that in the next section of the editorial. There is also something else to consider: Why is Kit so inclined to join Dan Dawson's air circus? Some people say that Kit was doing it because he was trying to gain a foothold on the unfair social-ecomonic ladder. That is a perfectly valid point considering what he had to go through. However; I believe that it runs even deeper than that. I think Kit was trying to prove himself to Baloo that he is more than just a mere sidekick or conscience. As Chris Barat stated in the editorial Wings; when Kit is handled in this matter it can shatter the impact of _ANY_ viewer. Bart simply has nothing to prove because he clearly has no experience in skateboarding stunts and is playing on a whim that if Lance can do those stunts; he could too. I wonder how Homer can even sleep at night sometimes....
In Stormy Weather; after Kit flops onto the bed; Baloo's anger instantly turns into shock. He tries to say something to Kit and Kit refuses to respond. Baloo simply tells Kit good night and turns off the lights as Kit sheds tears. Morning arrives and Baloo wakes up only to find that Kit was gone and goes into a panic. (Kit places his baseball cap on the bed to make Baloo think he's been kidnapped.) Rebecca tells him that Kit's gone to the air field. Baloo goes there and sees Kit in a cute blue suit riding in the airplane with Dan. The plane takes off before Baloo can do anything and Kit preforms his magic perfectly as he nails the stunt to a cheering public. Baloo suddenly becomes depressed and admits defeat. He returns to the SeaDuck stating that Kit has won.
In Daredevil Bart; Homer siddenly went into guilt mode as Bart went into his bedroom. Homer cries and feels helpless. Marge tries to convince Homer to reason with Bart and Homer reclucently agrees. He goes upstairs to talk to his son and manages to gain his attention before Bart can escape through the window. He tried to convince Bart to really promise that he would not jump across Springfield Gorge. Bart promises (which sounded like he was lying; but Homer didn't notice) and Homer leaves to finish eating his dinner. However; before Homer can even eat again; Bart skateboards past him and heads straight for the gorge. Bart warms up to his posse as Homer goes upstairs and notices Bart is gone. Homer is fed up....Bart then begins his descent; however, Homer manages to tackle Bart before he can even start and Homer takes away Bart's skateboard.
All right Ted; I can bet that he is saying that the whole _father_ thing is stupid because Kit's an orphan. I am about ot get to that point now. This is why what happened in Stormy Weather would not work in Daredevil Bart nor would what happened in Daredevil Bart would work in Stormy Weather. Here's something to remember: Homer Simpson is Bart's father by blood while Baloo and Kit are merely partners in canon. Homer is 100% resposible for Bart Simpson while Baloo isn't techinally responsible for Kit. That's why I said earlier that Kit was in the right that Baloo's not his _dad_. Baloo is _not_ Kit's father (blood or otherwise) and Baloo more importantly knows that. Baloo and Kit are partners; so they must agree on equal footing. If Kit wants to leave Higher for Hire for Dan's Air Circus; he could without any second thought to Baloo. Baloo simply cannot tell Kit what to do; even if what he is doing is in Kit's best interest. It would be simply a betrayal of trust. When Kit spoke those curel words; Kit was simply stating that Baloo betrayed his trust; a trust that was already fragile bu the violence and betrayal that he suffered before meeting Baloo. Kit turely believed that Baloo was just like everyone else. Dan finally put the final cracks into the bond by starting the plane and flying into the sky as Kit ponders if Baloo was going to see him just to make sure that Kit continues to believe that Baloo hates him. After the stunt and the public cheers him; Baloo realizes that he couldn't convince Kit to come back. He believed that he was a failure as Kit's partner and that he was useless to a kid who was bigger than him. This also reveals a very cruel side to Baloo; he really does hate himself. The whole teenage acting is just an act. He doesn't like himself very much at all and requires a buddy like Kit who in kind doesn't like himself that much either. This scene tells a tale that cannot be forgotten.
Homer of course gives up even before he has a chance to do something. He is by proxy; a very poor father (which was cause in part by poor parenting by his own parents as seen in later seasons from his runaway mother and his prudest father.) Marge of course; shows her somewhat good parenting skills and concern by convincing Homer that Bart's their son and giving up would make him into a heel. Homer cannot do anything without Marge it seems. However; when push comes to shove; Homer knows how to parent when he really needs to and he proves it by the tackle of Bart before he does his stunt. He does care about Bart more than his words and some of his action would state. Homer does know that he is Bart's blood father and as a father he has the right (and responsbility) to tell Bart what to do and do what he must to show Bart the right path even if Homer himself may not know that path.
In Daredevil Bart; after Homer takes the Bart's skateboard; Homer decides that reasoning, punishing and ordering wasn't going to work. Homer tells Bart that the only way that he can teach Bart a lesson is for Homer to get on the skateboard and jump the gorge himself. Het gets on the skateboard and it seems to work because Bart is begging and promising to never jump the gorge ever again. Homer then gets one of those bonding moments before he forgets to realize that the skateboard was actually moving and he goes down the hill and manages to jump the gorge....only he misses the jump by a few feet and he falls into the pit below; possability breaking every bone in his body. He would in the end go to hospital (I'll leave the details as an exercise to the reader.) and share a room with Lance. Homer then shoots down Lance; telling him that he's got guts because he raises Bart Simpson (or any kids for that matter).
If you want the end to Stormy Weather and my thought on it; please read my Stormy Weather Rant found on my website. If I attempted to write that again onto this editorial; it would be three more pages or notes just for that alone. This editorial is already too long as it is. Anyway; to be perfectly honest with you, I liked Daredevil Bart's ending slightly more than Stormy Weather for one reason. It shows that Bart Simpson is _NOT_ a special character at all. I wrote this editorial because I'm sick and tired of hearing how special Bart is just because he can say dirty words that Disney simply wouldn't allow on their show. (Except for the phantom _hell_ word apparently spoken by Rebecca in Her Chance to Dream) Homer _IS_ a special character. To actually risk his life to teach Bart a lesson (something Baloo could never do) was really a heartful moment for me and to tell Lance off about having courage to raise kids was pretty powerful. Raising kids is a job that NO ONE can take lightly. It can be as dangerous as doing a stunt. The only difference is that raising kids advances the human race; stunts do not.
To end my editorial; (the longest one that I ever wrote.) doing that compare and contrast has taught me a lot. It has taught me what Mark Zaslove had stated all along. No one works in a vaccum; there are only seven or eight plotlines in the world and every story is a variation of those plot lines. It's like cooking where there are only four recipes in the world: bake it, boil it, fry it or screw it up. While that may be ture; I have also learned that just because two episodes have a similiar premise; it doesn't make one of them a rip-off of the other. I believe that the quality of an episode should be the main factor. _All_ plotlines have room for improvement. As I compared the two episode based on the premise alone; I would give them both about the same score. They both handled the main premise well; despite their mountains of differences.
There it is; my last editorial of the year! That's my opinion; I welcome yours. See you next time....