The name of the show is a play on "tailspin," the rapid descent of an aircraft in a steep spiral. The two words in the show's name, tale and spin, are also a way to describe telling a story. The show is one of the nine Disney Afternoon shows to use established Disney characters as the main characters, with the others being Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, Goof Troop, Bonkers, Quack Pack, Aladdin and The Lion King's Timon & Pumbaa.
Talespin is set in the fictional city of Cape Suzette (a pun on the dish Crêpe Suzette), in a fictional country called Usland. The city lies in a harbor protected by giant cliffs through which only a small opening exists. The opening in the cliffs is guarded by anti-aircraft artillery, preventing flying rabble-rousers or air pirates from entering the city. The characters in the world of Talespin are anthropomorphic animals. The time frame of the series is never specifically addressed, but appears to be in the mid-to-late 1930s. The helicopter, television and jet engine are experimental devices, and most architecture is reminiscent of the Art Deco style of that period. In one episode, Baloo comments that "The Great War ended 20 years ago," ("Bygones") suggesting that the series specifically takes place in 1938. Radio is the primary mass medium, and one episode even briefly alludes to the characters having never heard of television. ("The Incredible Shrinking Molly")
The series centers on the adventures of bush pilot Baloo the bear, whose air cargo freight business, "Baloo's Air Service," is purchased by Rebecca Cunningham upon his default on delinquent bills with the bank and renamed "Higher for Hire." An orphan boy and former air pirate, the ambitious Kit Cloudkicker, attaches to Baloo and becomes his navigator. He sometimes calls him "Papa Bear." Together, they are the crew of Higher for Hire's only aircraft, a 20-year old modified Conwing L-16 (a fictitious combination of a Fairchild C-82 transport and a Grumman HU-16 amphibian) with the livery of the Canadair CL-215 waterbomber, named the Sea Duck. From there, the series follows the ups and downs of Higher for Hire and its staff, sometimes in the vein of old action-adventure film serials of the 1930s and 1940s and contemporary variations, such as Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Their adventures often involve encounters with a gang of air pirates led by Don Karnage, as well as with representatives of Thembria (a parody of the Stalinist Soviet Union inhabited by anthropomorphic boars), or other, often even stranger obstacles. In deference to contemporary sensitivities, there is no equivalent of the Nazis in the series, although one story in Disney Adventures Magazine, "The Dogs of War!," had the heroes encounter "the Hausers" (members of the "Houn" nationality), a menacing militaristic nationality of dogs from "Hounsland" who wear uniforms that are clearly based on German ones and the senior commander of the Houn airship (Major Heartworm) speaks in a mock german accent.
Baloo von Bruinwald XIII (voiced by Ed Gilbert) — Baloo is the main character of the story, based primarily on the sloth bear from Disney's The Jungle Book, but with a flight cap and a yellow shirt (and four-fingered hands instead of his Jungle Book counterpart's claws). Although lazy, slobbish, unreliable and always broke, as bears often are, he is also an excellent pilot and capable of the most daring maneuvers in the air, as bears often are not. He flies a cargo plane called the Sea Duck. He will also selflessly come to the aid of those in need of help. He also has a penchant for getting into schemes that require him to dress up in drag to suit the situation, such as when he became Rebecca's "female" co-pilot Tan-Margaret (a play on Ann-Margret) in "Feminine Air". Some of his mannerisms survive from The Jungle Book, including his nickname of "Papa Bear" by Kit, which Mowgli had given to him. In the episode "A Bad Reflection on You", Baloo gives his full name as "Baloo Bear" when introducing himself to a guard at Khan Tower. However, in the episode "The Balooest of the Bluebloods", it is revealed that Baloo comes from a prominent noble family and that Baloo's full designation is in fact "Baloo, Baron von Bruinwald XIII", though he himself had been initially unaware; raising the possibility that he was adopted. In this episode, he inherited 500 million dollars in the form of an extravagant estate, which was taken from him to settle the matter of his family's impressively long history of owing back taxes, thus restoring the status quo. Baloo only once mentioned any family, in reference to a gramophone record that had belonged to his father. He also calls Kit "Li'l Britches," as he did with Mowgli.
Kit Cloudkicker (voiced by Alan Roberts for the first 9 episodes; R.J. Williams for the rest of the series) — Kit is the 12-year-old navigator aboard Baloo's plane, the Sea Duck. His first appearance was in the pilot episode and introductory television movie "Plunder & Lightning". His trademarks are a green sweatshirt, a blue and red baseball cap worn backward and his ability to "cloud surf" (also referred to in the show as "cloud skiing"). The baseball cap was a gift to Kit from Baloo, as a sign of friendship and trust. In the episode "Flight School Confidential", Kit's height is revealed to be 3 feet 9 inches. As a 12-year-old who lived with the air pirates under Don Karnage one year prior to the start of the series, Kit's character was a unique one in the history of Disney - he had a very dark past, partially because the storyline originally had him as being Don Karnage's protege. The story states that he left the air pirates because he "got sick" of them. He first encountered Baloo when he hid in the Sea Duck to escape from the air pirates because they were trying to find him. His ambition was to become a pilot and to purchase his own aircraft.
Rebecca Cunningham (voiced by Sally Struthers) — Rebecca is a petite brown bear with long brown hair in a french twist style, whom usually wears a white turtleneck sweater, and a purple-red jacket and matching slacks. Nicknamed "Becky," "Beckers," "Beck" (used only once in episode "A Star Is Torn") and/or "BC" (used once in "War of the Weirds") by Baloo which at first she highly resented being called, but soon grew accustomed to with affection (in return, she calls him "Fly Boy" on occasion). She is an unassumingly attractive, yet shrewd businesswoman with an MBA. Rebecca bought out Baloo's Air Service and his plane in the first episode ("Plunder & Lightning") when the pilot failed to pay his bank loan and renamed it "Higher for Hire". Although she originally relegated herself to the administrative and sales functions of the business, the series shows she eventually learns to be a capable would-be pilot in her own right. Baloo's laziness and carefree attitude towards his responsibilities often infuriates her, despite having some possible feelings toward him at times which does come up as a blistering jealous streak ("A Star is Torn"). Rebecca lives with her daughter Molly in an apartment in an upscale part of Cape Suzette, one which incorporates a waterfall in its design. She sometimes acts as a maternal figure for Kit.
Molly Elizabeth Cunningham (voiced by Janna Michaels) — Molly is Rebecca's yellow-furred, 6-year-old daughter. An adventurous child who even at her age, is not afraid to speak her mind just like her mother, who has nicknamed her "Honey" and "Pumpkin" (while Baloo calls her "Button Nose"). Molly has a thing for her favorite ice cream brand "Frosty Pep" and sometimes pretends she is "Danger Woman" (the action/adventure heroine of a popular kids radio program) while seeking adventure along with Kit and Baloo. She carries a doll named "Lucy". She often outwits adversaries much older than her. Her middle name, Elizabeth, is revealed in "Mommy for a Day", and Molly is the only character to have any middle name revealed.
Wildcat (voiced by Pat Fraley) — Wildcat is a clueless and gangly lion who typically wears a mechanic's outfit. Although very childlike, he is ultimately a mechanical genius. For example; he can fix a smashed telephone in under ten seconds. He is infamous for being able to build the rare "overdrive" for airplanes. He has something of a lisp. Wildcat has a special place in his heart for dinosaurs as they are his favorite animal. He is also fond of pets and toys. He is honest and truthful, at times too truthful much to Baloo's annoyance.
After a preview of Talespin aired on The Disney Channel from May 5 to July 15, 1990, the series began its syndicated run in September of the same year. The original concept was embodied in the pilot episode and introductory television movie "Plunder & Lightning" which was the sole nominee for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming More Than One Hour) in 1991. After its premiere on September 7, 1990, "Plunder & Lightning" was re-edited into four half-hour episodes for reruns. The show was often seen either on its own as a half-hour show, or as part of the two-hour syndicated programming block The Disney Afternoon.
Talespin ended on its 65th episode which aired on August 8, 1991. However, reruns continued to be shown on The Disney Afternoon until September 1994. On October 2, 1995, Talespin began reruns on The Disney Channel as part of a two-hour programming block called "Block Party" which aired on weekdays in the late-afternoon/early-evening and which also included Darkwing Duck, DuckTales, and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers. Later, the show was aired on Toon Disney, where it was first aired from April 1998 until January 2006, and later from January 2007 until May 2008.
Several of the characters are loosely based on characters from Disney's animated film version of The Jungle Book: in particular Baloo, the hot-shot pilot hero of the series; Louie, the owner of Baloo's favorite bar; and Shere Khan, a business tycoon who appears in many episodes. Despite its strong likeness to and re-use of several characters from the film, Talespin has never been intended to be a "spin-off" or a parody of The Jungle Book. There is also a more than passing resemblance to Hayao Miyazaki's film Porco Rosso about a pigheaded man who flies a seaplane and fights air pirates, which the creators of Talespin explain by the influence the previous Miyazaki's films had on them, and the possibility of Miyazaki watching Talespin at some point. While the film was released in 1992 (two years after Talespin had already aired) Porco Rosso is based on Miyazaki's manga, Hikōtei Jidai which was first published in 1989.
The series was largely developed by writers Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove, who were also the supervising producers on the series as well as story editors. There were four production teams, each one headed by a producer/director: Robert Taylor, Larry Latham, Jamie Mitchell, and Ed Ghertner.
Talespin has a total of 65 episodes spread over 1 season that were produced from May 1990 to August 1991.
- ↑ "The Jungle Book (re-issue) (1990) ". Box Office Mojo. 1990-09-04. http://boxofficemojo.com/movies/?id=junglebook90.htm. Retrieved on 2013-02-08.
- ↑ "Talespin ". . 1990-09-07. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/0,,20268084,00.html. Retrieved on 2010-10-19.
- ↑ "Disney's 'Tale Spin' Gets Late Nomination for TV Animation Emmy ". 1991-07-25. http://www.apnewsarchive.com/1991/Disney-s-Tale-Spin-Gets-Late-Nomination-for-TV-Animation-Emmy/id-23ac628d5d351899898219ee2395c5a0. Retrieved on 2013-01-24.
- ↑ "Talespin and The Jungle Book ". Animationsource.org. http://www.animationsource.org/talespin/en/custom_questions/Why_The_Jungle_Book/157.html&nump=1338. Retrieved on 2010-06-03.
- ↑ "Talespin and Porco Rosso ". Animationsource.org. http://www.animationsource.org/talespin/en/custom_questions/Porco_Rosso_likeliness/232.html&nump=1338. Retrieved on 2010-06-03.
- ↑ "Four production teams for Talespin ". Animationsource.org. http://www.animationsource.org/talespin/en/custom_questions/Production_information/147.html&nump=1338. Retrieved on 2010-06-03.