The Jungle Book was a milestone event in the history of Walt Disney’s animation history, so it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the studio would tap this source for future adventures. The Disney Afternoon series has been a chance for the studio to continue many of the beloved characters. Tailspin was just such a series. The show is set in the Jungle Book world but minus little Mowgli. Now lovable bear Baloo runs an airline service with his new little friend baby bear Kit Cloudkicker. All of the other characters show up, from Shere Kahn to King Louie. This isn’t a musical, so the songs aren’t there, and there is no real mention or connection to the events in The Jungle Book. The stories are a kind of Indiana Jones affairs with plenty of tomb raiding and high flying stunts and narrow escapes. Ed Gilbert takes over the voice of Baloo, and while some of the original intonation is there, it’s clear how much the voice of Phil Harris gave Baloo so much character and charm. Obviously none of the same voice cast returns. The cost would have been prohibative for a television show, and unfortunately many of those voices are no longer with us.
The animation is pretty good, again for the television market where 22 minutes must be finished in mere weeks. Understand that the hour and a half of the original Jungle Book literally took years to create. Still, there’s plenty of Disney charm to be found, and the episodes are often quite engaging. These shows are a welcome change from some of the overstylized animation that has replaced the simple style many of us grew up with.
So what’s going on in the lives of our Jungle Book friends? Baloo is now living in the town of
Some of the better stories from this set include my favorite, The Baloo Switcheroo. Dr. O’Bowens is basically Indiana Jones including the hat and whip. He gives Baloo a precious idol for safekeeping. The idol ends up switching the minds of Baloo and Kit. Well… the Doc warned ‘em. In Save the Tiger, Baloo saves Shere Kahn’s life and gets greedy when the grateful feline offers him anything in payment. There’s a four part story called Plunder and Lightning which is a nearly 2 hour pirates’ romp. There are more pirates and a living mummy to get in the way in In Search Of Ancient Blunders. The action never stops, and there’s plenty for you grown kids out there as well.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 track lives almost entirely in the mid ranges. Dialog is really all you need, so it comes out fine. Some of the music has a near distortion grate to it that I found worked better by reducing the highs. Again I suspect this will sound pretty much like the broadcast versions.
I absolutely loved the cartoons but was fairly disappointed in the presentation. For these children’s shows I can easily forgive a lack of extras, as I’m sure the kiddies aren’t looking for them. Still, it would have been nice to spend at least a little bit of time on the transfer quality. Perhaps reducing the number of episode per disc to 6 would have helped a ton with compression problems. I guess the argument for that is that the kids just won’t notice, and the extra disc would increase production costs by another 6 cents. All in all I can’t complain that I got to watch some good Disney cartoons and call it work. Heck. “This is almost too easy.”