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Hitting Close To Home: Relevence In TaleSpin
By: Gregory Weagle
So once again we got into the deep realm of critical thinking inside the TaleSpin world. In the very first editorial; Alyson Terry talked about the importance of characters and how the three main characters (Baloo, Kit, Rebecca) interact. The second editorial dealt with the setting in the TaleSpin world and how the creators created a world of wonder without speaking a word. I then took over and created a third editorial which dealt with reading between the lines inside the TaleSpin world and how symbolism creates a unique show. So what does the fourth editorial cover you ask? Well; unlike the previous editorials where you only have to watch the best episodes in order to get the feel about the characters and/or the setting, this editorial deal with how the episodes are seen 15 years later. The previous editorials dealt with the short term consequences of seeing this show while this editorial deals with how TaleSpin relates to people and the long term consequences of watching this show. The two questions I ask are as follows....
[1.] Is TaleSpin relevent today? [2.] What are the consequences presented in the show and how much of an effect do these consequences have?
Question number one is the easiest to answer as after watching almost all the episodes (I still have four more episodes to watch as of this editorial) I can safely say that the answer is a yes. Despite being a comtemptary series with a time period between the 1920's and the 1950's; plus having a true mature edge to it; it's storylines still protray a frightening picture of the adult world in the real world. Despite TaleSpin's uncannyiness to bring a wonderful world to explore, it is brought down to earth by the writer's ability to root the show within reality. It goes back to that last letter that I mentioned in the Five Years of Cloudkicking Address where the writer stated that his perfect little world was shattered when he saw Plunder and Lightning. Let's not forget Stormy Weather and Kit's shattering performance there too. Not to try to sound negative; but there are a lot of episodes in this series that today would hit way too close to home after 15 years of reality has set in. It does make me wonder weither or not this show has become a factor in how we as the viewer see things. Which leads to question two: Where's the evidence? What does TaleSpin have to show to us in terms of issues that are relevent today and were shown 15 years ago? Well; read on...
(2015 Gregory Weagle Says: This was written sometime after 2003 I do believe. Despite how great the characters are and how alive the show is; there is lots of unconfrontable material on this show. Last Horizons and it's Asian stereotypes committing an invasion of a city Pearl Harbour style is problematic. Flying Dupes had a plotline revolved around Baloo unintentionally delivering a bomb that could off a major league head of state. This is problematic. Kit Cloudkicker learning to fly at 12 years old and being Baloo's navigator. That's problematic. Kit being a former air pirate; that's a burial of the show in general. Plus; the biggest problem in the world: bullet shooting guns and lots of shooting and school shootings are still a problem as Sandy Hook can atest to. So much so that Disney at the time went through an aduit of their video games to make sure that there wasn't any real violence in it, even though they were selling a DVD set called TaleSpin that had guns and firearms out of the wazoo, and even went as far as shooting an animal in the arm; and even was shooting a 12 year old AT POINT BLANK RANGE, including one shot that nearly hit him in the head.)
The Air Pirates & 9/11
You probably read my list of TaleSpin edits earlier and seen that mentioned that after September of 2001; TaleSpin was taken off Toon Disney completely and wasn't shown until September of 2002. The reason behind this was as a result of the events that happened on September 11th, 2001 when several planes crashed into the World Trade Center Towers and the Pentagon which killed at least 3,000 people. That was the beginning of the war on terrorism and the fact that seeing the planes crash into buildings over and over again, was too much for some to handle. That caused entertainment compaines to evaulate their products both past and present. That also included TV-Y rated shows such as TaleSpin. Sadly; TaleSpin contained images and sequences of airplanes crashing into buildings. Another problem with TaleSpin was a major character design with the Air Pirates: They hijack planes. The real life terrorists hijack those airplanes they used to crash into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York City (and later crashed a plane into the Pentagon in Washington). Think about it for a moment; The Air Pirates hijacked the SeaDuck twice in the very first episode aired "I Only Have Ice For You", two Khan planes in "Plunder and Lightning", a rental plane with Kit and WildCat in "Captains Outrageous" to name just a few. Let's not forget that several Air Pirates unintentionally slammed planes into buildings in "Plunder and Lightning", WildCat did the same with the SeaDuck in "Time Waits For No Bear" and even cut a clock tower with the wing. Also remember that Baloo crashed a helicopter into Khan's building in "Baloo Thunder" and of course the Pand-La rocket attacks on Cape Suzette in "Lost Horizons". In 1990, Disney had the guts to allow this kind of material. However; 11 years later, it seems that Disney's decision was coming back to bite them on the butt. Before 9/11 occured, people who watched the series never gave it a second thought. However; when a lot of people have already seen planes crash into the Twin Towers in real life (and the horror that followed) and then watch a TV-Y cartoon like TaleSpin where several airplanes crash into buildings; it brings back frightening nightmares. Most people who enjoyed watching TaleSpin never see the show in the same way again. Now that is why TaleSpin was taken off the air in September of 2001. TaleSpin did *NOT* cause 9/11. Disney removed TaleSpin from the air for one year because they didn't want to upset viewers who were grieving..and I can understand that. The last thing Disney wants to do is have angry parents complaining that their children are having acute nightmares because real life and a children's show somehow are mirror images of each other. This is the main issue of relevence for TaleSpin; but there are others.
(Someone took the time to write an editorial about this and I seemly cannot find it right now. It was about how 9/11 buried the entire concept of planes crashing into buildings, at least when it comes to new material. Archive materials like TaleSpin on the other hand were not cut from the DVD set. They did take the show off the air after 9/11 for 12 months and then reaired it, and seemly without edits on Toon Disney. Some say it was because of the Prima Estate lawsuit; but that makes no sense since Louie's voice was never altered. Either the WWE/WWF deal applies here; or the Prima Estate is dumb. I hate to say this; but I'm kind of glad new Disney shows don't have weapons; or they are BS&P'ed to death because there is enough of this in the real world as it is, and most people watch television to get away from this, not be reminded of it. Kind of like DTVA was supposed to get us away from Ruby Spears and Hanna Barbera, not remind us of it.)
Government Corruption & Thembria
I probably mentioned this before in my Flight School Confidential rant; however it is worth repeating. Just before the start of 2000; the Liberal Party of Canada was being accused of government corruption and mismanagement as the government program known as HRDC (Human Resources Development of Canada) lost/mismanaged a billion dollars (up to three billion dollars according to some people). The minister of Human Resources was Jane Stewart at the time and needless to say the opposition grilled her for months on end. Jane Stewart also gained a reputation for using soundbytes from media press released as answers to questions. She was also accused of creating a file on personal information from Canadian citizen (really scary if you think about it now.) which should have been the death kneel for Jane; but she remained as minister until Paul Martin became prime minister. That wasn't the end of the accusations as a few years later it the Prime Minister of Canada who was in the hotseat over the ownership of a golf course in his home riding. Now; I'm not going to explain the whole thing because it would take over one hundred pages by itself. However; the main accusation is that Jean owned a golf course before his was elected Prime Minister in 1993 and tried to sel it. He managed to sell it to someone; but the golf course lost money and it was returned to Jean. Problem is that gaining ownership of something like a losing money golf course while being elected Prime Minister which the course is in the Prime Minister's own riding and then using taxpayer's money to save said golf course just reeks of a sign of a conflict of interest. Which is codeword for corruption. Despite all the grilling from the opposition, Jean was still the most popular Prime Minister of all time and both he and the Liberial Party of Canada surivived even after his retirement. So why does this sound familiar to me? Well; in the episode Flight School Confidential we saw that Colonel Spigot bought a bunch of airplanes for the event called The Great Patotric Flounder. There was just one problem: the airplanes were far too small for adult pilots. So instead for taking responsability for the bad order; Colonel Spigot decided to create a scam by creating a flight school (fake) for 12 year olds. However; these kids wouldn't learn any flying and just sit in the airplanes while Major Tiny Bubbles (Thembria's smallest adult pilot) flies the entire plane without the High Marshall even noticing. The similiaries between the real world and cartoon world really gave me a doubletake. Sometimes I wonder if the writers who write this series are really basing their writing on real life experiences (which is considered dangerous in the corperate world)? If that is the case then I have respect for them; albeit tempered with caution. I'm sure that there is an American example of this, but I cannot think of one at this point.
(I think Jane Stewart got by just fine and I don't know what she has been up to since 2000. So did Paul Martin for that matter; until Stephen Harper became Prime Minister and made things only slightly worse. I do recall making the joke (not on this website or any website; but it applies here concerning a promo Debra Gray cut on some guy whose name escapes me at the moment, but it's irrelevant to the joke. It was "If you are going to call him Binderboy; you might as well call her Miss Soundbyte!" in reference to Debra's promo. Debra Gray was great at the House Of Commons; in fact, Oniz Mecha in my fanfics when Oniz became leader of the opposition is supposed to be a cross between Debra Gray and Mary Walsh from This Hour Has 22 Minutes. As for Flight School Confidential; there was a lot of double takes, one of them being Kit Cloudkicker going to the world's equalivant to the Soviet Union, and if the creators had not been stopped at the pass: Nazi Germany. How do I know that this was considered: It was because memos indicated in recording that Danny Mann was supposed to be Colonel Spigot; but as I noted during the fisking of said memos, Michael Gough was brought in much later to redub Spigot since Disney caught wind that Spigot was going to be a Nazi character. BS&P ruled the roost on this time; but it's understandable since they are releasing the show in Germany, which has strict laws against Nazism in general, not just symbols.)
Corperate Corruption & Khan Industries
This one is a pretty easy one. The last several year's headlines were all about CEO's and their accountants cooking their books and causing workers to lose their jobs while those CEO's enjoyed lavish parties and bought lavish products at the expense of the company, the law and moral ethics. WorldComm, Tyco and Enron are prime example of corperations where the CEO's ran wild using company funds to fund their escapades. Several people ended their lives and many others either await trial or have been convicted of fraud. The bone-chilling effects on the culture of business has been that many compaines are relucent to be creative because of the fear that it will cause their books to be cooked as well. It's a pretty bad situation in America and yet corruption was a topic that TaleSpin tackled head-on back in 1990; dealing with Khan Industries actions of corruption and actions of corruption againest Khan. In the case of the later, the corruption came in the form of corperate esiponage from Miniversal Corperation as Robert Saltin used Perry to spy on Khan's new helicopter which would make millions in Baloo Thunder. The former dealt with rising gasoline prices not unlike what happened after hurricane Katrina in On A Wing And A Bear when Mr. Khan made a deal with Don Karnage to hijack oil tankers in order for Khan to justify raising oil prices. The second act of corruption was in Whistle Jackson, Legend where Mr. Khan tried to kill a competitor's star pilot (Whistlestop Jackson who works for Higher For Hire) in order to win a contract. It shows just how CEO's can show signs of being a psychopath as one popular book has stated a few years ago. (I don't remember the title.)
(Yeah; this is why if TaleSpin is ever rebooted, Khan would be an outright heel instead of the tweener we ultimately got in the show.)
Children Being Treated As Adults
There are many instances in TaleSpin (many of them involve Kit Cloudkicker) where children act out like adults. Many that include Kit doing hard work to earn money in Double or Nothing; or Molly pretending to be a mother in Mommy For A Day. It takes a certain amount of maturity to write and protray child characters that are not spoiled brats (Bart Simpson; I'm looking at you!) For the most part in TaleSpin, the protrayal of child characters were positive. However; there is one moment in TaleSpin that under normal viewing would not be noticable and yet today if you watch carefully it would caused us to do a double-take. It actually happened in the episode "Flight of The Snowduck" where WildCat and Molly played in the snow while in Thembria. They were playing on a metal cone sled when the Thembrian Police start chasing them. The police catch up to them and arrest both WildCat and Molly for playing in the snow and smiling. However; not only did the police handcuff WildCat (who's an adult); they also handcuffed Molly Cunningham as well (who's a six year old girl)! I call it a gutsy move on Disney's part nowadays because I remember an incident that happened months ago when three police officers handcuffed a five year old girl for assulting a teacher (and kicking her in the shins) for apparently taking her jellybeans away. When I saw the video on CNN, it was scary to say the least because I didn't feel that that three officers were needed a handcuff a five year old girl. Then the Thembrian trial that followed and it's ending reminded me of a young person who got prison time for throwing a spitwad in school. Years ago; this two scenes wouldn't surprise me because this is Thembria and they have a weird way of doing things . However; after 12 years of reality, these two scenes gave me pause as a human being and as a fan of this series. I'll explain more in a moment.
(There have been people on the internet comparing Thembria to North Korea in recent years. I should note that the Thembrian officers who arrested Molly and Wildcat also had a gun; and not only they were found guilty, they were sentenced as a capital offense to hundreds of years in prison. Let me put it to you this way, in the "Too Long, Don't Care Version": In 1990; Disney allowed a kid to be part of a group who hijacks planes and plunders cities if given half of a chance. They allow kids to be shot at (the opening has three shooting scenes including one involving Kit!). They allowed kids to be shot at, at point blank range and near misses from one inch in the head. Kids are also allowed to light explosives, flares and use knifes. They can move dynamite. Kids can go to the equalivant of the Soviet Union to learn how to fly. They can even be allowed to cut themselves on potato peelers. That's pretty much all you need to know in four lines or so. The rest is overkill.)
Even Guest Characters Aren't Immune
Has anyone watched Bygones? If you don't know about this episode, here is the short summary: Baloo is being chased by Air Pirates in a storm and manages to find a stranded pilot in the ocean. When Baloo saves the pilot; he discovers that this bear pilot is none other than Rick Skye, who is now considered a traitor since he and his Squadron of Seven disappeared with a plane load of silver which was supposed to be delivered to Lyndon. Baloo must find a way to clear Rick Skye's name weither he wants to or not. Anyhow; the scene that gave me a double-take was when Baloo flies Rick to the White Cliffs of Dover and there we see a bunch of airplanes encased in a block of ice. The viewer soon finds out that Rick Skye was also encased in a block of ice. How Rick Skye melted from that block of ice is still unknown. However; I do know that someone found out that recently; two climbers discovered an ice-encased body of a pilot whose plane crashed in the Sierra Nevada glacier during World War II. The only difference is that Rick Skye actually lived. It almost reminds me of the opening to another cartoon called Yvon of The Yukon where Yvon was encased in ice and was thawed by a dog's bodily functions. That sight is enough to make me wonder sometimes how Rick Skye got thawed too.
(Why is this even on the list? Rick Skye's thawing is a shoutout to Captain America for crying out loud. Joe actually explains in his review of Volume 3 of this series: That is exactly what separates TALE SPIN from other cartoons of its ilk. The ability to deftly combine mythic (even supernatural) yet somehow believable adventure with comedy, and do it with well-realized “funny-animal” characters. I don't know why I even bothered to mention Yvon Of The Yukon when that show was awful. While I like many Canadian shows, this one is not one of them.)
Those are just a few of the moments that made us rethink about this series as a whole. Now I did not include the USSR angle since it is not as relevent today as it was back then when the series was released in 1990. Still; the entire Thembrian/USSR angle does give me pause today since the show was taken off of Russia's airwaves after just 26 episodes (and then reinstated in 1997 as a cult hit). I know that a lot of the stuff that I just mentioned in this editorial is pretty negative compared to my more uplifting praise in previous works. I wrote this as a way to say that we do not live in a vaccum even if we would be better off living in one. For all the positives that TaleSpin has created for itself after 15 years of reality and time set in, there is lots of baggage which has caused Disney to ban episodes like Flying Dupes and edit other episodes like War of the Weirds. Still; despite those; it is important to note that in the end, the good guys win. (Except if there are no heels; then the main characters don't win. See Her Chance To Dream and Pizza Pie In The Sky for examples.)
Even if they never become the same being again and sometimes that's a good thing. That's my opinion, I welcome yours. See you next time....
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