Mach One For the Gipper:

An Episode Review

by Joseph “Cleaning the Floor with Bad Kit-less Episodes” Greenlee

 

 

All right, let’s start er’ off, shall we??  The title is a pun.  Big surprise there.  The opening shows the Sea Duck and lots of happy, calming images of clouds that totally contrast with the enormous disappointment that is both a Kit-less episode, Rebecca-less episode, and a total lack of interesting writing.

 

The Sea Duck is hauling cargo along several ropes through the air.  I love how the laws of gravity are defied on this show.  If this was a real airplane you’d have some serious problems… I’m just saying.  So of course, Wildcat is sent out to ensure that a *slightly* askew crate is adjusted to be in synchronization with the others.  (It’s not like they’re watch hands, geez…)  Wildcat is given as much respect as the red-uniformed lackeys that always die on Star Trek.

 

A plane disrupts Wildcat while he’s bonding with said crate, in a maneuver that would have, if done today, either would have resulted in a serious lawsuit or some ill-conceived reality show on MTV.  (they all are, but I digress…)

 

So of course this is our introduction to Ace London.  I like Ace.  I always have.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’ll watch Phil Hartman in anything, and I like the way Ace is drawn.  Not easy to come up with a distinguishable gray wolf.  Phil Hartman voiced him pre his better SNL years, but something tells me not working for Disney later was a good move for him.  I can’t really picture him gelling well with the cast of Bonkers or One Saturday morning.  Unless he was a villain trying to off the characters of those shows.  (Well, a boy can dream, can’t he??)  Oh well, anyway he flies a plane that’s more maneuverable, and he’s thinner than Baloo.  We got the point, already.  He’s competition.  I would never have been able to figure that out what with the fact he’s so enamored with shoving it in Baloo’s face, but we’ll get to that later. 

 

Baloo then, unsurprisingly tells us that yes, he knows Ace.  Wildcat responds with the witless response I’d expect from a teenage girl I’d expect waiting for an N’Sync concert.  “You  know ACE LONDON???”   Wildcat has no good lines in this episode.  It’s sad, but reality.  Deal.  And apparently Baloo has known him since he was a kid, but we never get into that.  No flashbacks of a tormented Baloo as a child; we get to see that in present day.  Which, I admit, is good, because then this doesn’t turn into a Lifetime movie of the week.

 

I should mention at this point Ace does have a cool line.  Whenever someone says his name, he replies with “Ya got that right!”  Which I admit is cool.  It’s not easy to come up with catch phrases.  It’s repeated throughout the episode.  But why is it people love to say his name??  He’s not Norm from Cheers, but the diner people have about the same mentality, so I dunno.  I guess it works. 

 

So anyway, Baloo has to go after Ace-Phil, but it doesn’t matter because he’s just a rip-off of the idea for Plane Jane’s character, but less interesting.  The place they come to is a short runway on a very, steeply inclined hill.  Again, I love how they throw physics to the wind on this show.  American animators don’t care a flying fig about science.  Once inside, we see Ace-Phil is engaging the waitresses and patrons of the diner with tales of his life.  Which shouldn’t be hard.  I mean these people live on a hill in the middle of nowhere; they’d probably listen to me read my grocery list with awe. 

 

So Ace Hartman invites Baloo to some good ol’ fashioned humiliation and pawn that he is, Baloo accepts.  Baloo tries to keep his dignity, fails miserably.  I smell some sort of bad ‘Richie’s friends getting dumped on by cooler guys’ moment ala Happy Days.  The patrons of this diner are remarkably Ace-centric, though.  I mean, Ace deliberately whacks Baloo on the back when he’s preparing to shoot pool.  I think that pool stick could be used in any number of creative ways, but it’s a family show, what’re you gonna do?   After his oh-so-junior-high stunt, no one really gets that it was mean.  Why is that waitress still smiling??  Will someone please slap her?! 

 

Anyway, the conversation is dull.  Dullsville.  I think that would be a good name for their would-be hill-town.  Ace wants to make Baloo even more devoid of life than he already is, because that’s what pointless humiliation is for, right?!  Ace practically drags him across the airfield and shoves Baloo’s face in the hangar to view his “special” cargo.  (Is it from Columbia??  Easy joke to make, but I can make it so there you go.) 

 

Ace:  Ha ha!  My cargo’s better than yours!  Neener neener neener! 

 

Does anyone else feel that Ace needs way too much external validation??

 

Baloo is kind of laid back in this scene, as if he’s expecting Ace’s cargo to be something of a let down.  C’mon, Baloo.  You have pickles.  You’re not really scoring points, here.  And okay, you’ve had many incredible adventures that could put Ace to shame.  But you’re not going to convince him of that.  You have pickles.  I digress.

 

Anyway, Ace, who is in the military, tells Baloo he’s carrying a top-secret engine.  Um, Ace?  Remind me to never tell you anything.  On a different note, why are you in the military???  I’ve seen old women at county fairs less willing to show off their pies and quilts.  Sheesh. 

 

Anyway, the pointless harassment continues.  Good-natured Baloo takes off with Ace’s cargo because Ace goofed with the crates.  Um, Ace?  Remind me to never recommend you for a job, either.  I mean, c’mon!  I’ve worked in inventory!  It’s not that hard!!! 

 

My Helpful Hint:  If you’ve been given an important military project you might want to be a little bit more astute instead of berating people who are trying to help you.  Instead of saying “Yeah, park it over there, you’re too unimportant to bask in my aura!”  just try doing your job.  Sufficed to say, my faith in TaleSpin’s/Usland’s military forces has never been that strong and with good reason.

 

So Ace-Phil goes after Baloo and Wildcat.  It’s the type of mix-up you might expect in a Shakespearian comedy, but it’s not Shakespeare, it’s not original, and it’s not that ironic.   It isn’t even that funny!  It’s a comedy of air-ors, I suppose.  See, you could have used that pun and you didn’t!!  Bad Disney!  The toll this episode takes on me. 

 

So he’s going after Baloo and Wildcat, who is peacefully sitting all Zen-like, or maybe he’s listening to the voices in his head.  I don’t know.  Sorry, Wildcat jokes are easy.  But this episode is exasperating, even to the most patient of Spinners. 

 

Ace comes off as a wee tad homicidal in this scene.  He thinks highly of himself, sort of like a Vegas act…(they can’t say no to me…I’m the Amazing Ace London, dammit!)  He yells at Baloo to land, not bothering to tell him why.  Baloo responds with something like “stick it”.

 

Ace responds like he’s just been turned down for a date or something. Um, Ace??  DUH.  What did you expect? 

 

a)      When you humiliate someone, they usually don’t want to talk to you afterwards, and

b)      You didn’t tell him why to land.  Baloo’s not a part of your fan club.  Keep up with us, here.  Why wouldn’t Baloo think you were still lapsing into the oh-so 80’s high school jock character you’ve been parading yourself like throughout this episode?

 

Ace would make a great gym teacher.  Does anyone else get that vibe???  Alas, Ace has power, and no interest or understanding of the psychological concept of:

 

Berate people--------------à They leave!

 

So we have some pretty cool gunfire.  Baloo responds with a mixture of shock, anger, and ‘Corey Feldman as a victim-ish’ charm.  And understandably, Ace is more concerned with his job.  I can understand his position, to a degree.  I’ve had co-workers before that I myself wouldn’t mind shooting out of the sky.  But Baloo doesn’t even work with you, Ace!  Shows how much self-control you have.  Ace’s reaction reminds me of that wacky psychotic girl from Escaflowne who’s always trying to zap people with her giant laser cannon.  Anyway.  High schools have ample room for his personality type, you can be sure. 

 

Of course, Baloo finds the out about the engine.  Well, at least he can tell the difference between an engine and pickles.  I’m sure that could be made into some sort of joke, but I won’t go into it.

 

By this point, the animators decided to throw Karnage in.  This is basically a ‘let’s throw DK in to make things even more complicated’ move.  But it doesn’t, and it just makes Baloo’s ability to make us laugh a little bit harder to come by.  If you want to make things more interesting, tell us what Ace is doing in showing off to Baloo.  Why wouldn’t he bring the waitresses back to look at whatever he’s handling for the military??  Oh, right…family show.  Whatever.  On to DK. 

 

DK says something cliché to his men, like “Onward!” or “We’re gonna get that engine, lemme tell you!   But in all honesty, DK, when have you ever successfully stolen something from Baloo??  I mean, really.  You have guns, and you have dozens of men working for you.  How hard can it be?  I’m just saying…

 

So anyway, he picked up somewhere on Ace’s broadcast Baloo had the new military engine.  Even if he had the engine, what would he do with it??  I doubt the Vulture could take that kind of stress.  I doubt any of the pirates are even smart enough to figure out how to use it.  It’s not in the electronic kits.   They’d probably try and use it as a keg.  I guess DK could sell it or take it for ransom, but I just picture him going after windows of opportunity that could be a little more useful to his own immediate personal gain.  I digress.

 

DK shoots at Baloo.  What. A. Shock.   Haven’t seen that before.  I guess if Kit’s not in the episode, something has to happen.  Baloo needs an Advil big time at this point.  Dodge pirates; dodge Ace.  It goes on like that.  DK shooting at Baloo.

 

Where are the nice, pretty clouds from the beginning??  I miss them… 

 

Baloo finally lands and asks Wildcat to help him take a look at the engine.  Baloo seems unimpressed.  Like he’s one to talk.  You don’t have any experience in engineering, Baloo.  You’re not earning any points here, either.  Yes, it looks weird, there’s a reason for that.  It’s new.  Keep up with us, here.  Wildcat, meanwhile, looks like he’s found a new friend.  Good for him!  We need to fill the time somehow, I suppose. 

 

This is accompanied by Baloo having to take off again, and avoid pirates, and Ace’s men, yada yada, who wind up crashing into one another amongst the sea cliffs.  I like those cliffs, by the way.  They remind me of islands outside of California…the Channels.  Never been there, but I wish I was there now, because at this point the episode just becomes embarrassing. 

 

Okay.  So Baloo and Wildcat have gotten the idea to strap the engine, which they don’t know how to operate, on top of the Duck, as one of the engines is damaged.  Good plot point, dumb excuse.  You’re talking about placing a supersonic engine on top of a plane with rope.  Rope.  Uh huh.  Good.  That’ll work.  I so love the way science is treated like Kit in this episode: ignored utterly.  It’s fun, though!  I realize that.  It’s supersonic.  Ooh.  Like eye candy for some of those eager for aviation standards to be updated in the TS world.  I’m not one of them.  I don’t care.

 

Anyway, back at Ace’s airfield/base of operations/whatever, several military personnel are awaiting the transport of the engine.  Didn’t that scientist used to work for Khan?? Well his voice is similar, at least.  Maybe he had a “species change”.  Anyway, it’s a far cry from P&L. 

 

And then there’s Ace’s boss, commander, whatever.  I have to say, though, what is UP with that guy’s cheeks???!  I’ve always been bothered by them; they droop in uncomfortable proportion to the rest of his head.  Ew!  Is he a charpe??  Bulldog??  And that uniform!!!  He looks like a mad bellhop!  Or a Paris runway (no pun intended) model in a fashion show with some ill-conceived military theme that didn’t work.  His voice sounds like the voice of the colonel that Sideshow Bob stole a bomb from in the Simpsons, only whenever this guy speaks I’m unimpressed.

 

By the way, what century is that uniform from???  And his hat, which I think he borrowed from Vendela, or Tyra Banks or someone, is also kind of annoying.  I want to call him Captain Crunch.  He should be trying out for cereal mascot status.  Actually, Ace would make a better one.  He had a better voice and I can picture him winking from a box of Ace Flakes or something.  If Disney would only listen to my ideas --- the profits they could make.  Don’t look at me like that.

 

So all we have left is the inevitable conclusion where Wildcat has to go up on the roof without a red uniform, which is a shame, because he really needs one, and try and jumpstart the engine.  By this point they’ve been toying around with it, having it go back and forth, back and forth.  I think the Duck looks like its happy meal counterpart.  I can picture it zooming through the air in the hand of some grubby, overweight child.  Anyway.

 

So then Wildcat clicks the thingamijinger, and then it’s sound barrier-ho.  Ace is left behind.  Good.  I’m sick of him at this point.  And I think he needs something on his head.  A hat or a bandana or something.  Get rid of the hat on his boss and give him one.  But not the same hat.  I don’t think I could take that.  I’m just trying to relieve my boredom here, folks. 

 

So the Duck goes wild, and Wildcat is tugged along through the air, holding soundly onto the control box, because if they went the reality route, Wildcat would be charred or fall into the sea like Icarus on hallucinogens.   I suppose their version is better, given the choices.  Baloo screams for him to turn it off.  I wanted to turn the TV off, but then I realized he was talking to Wildcat.  Silly me.  Wildcat responds in a panicky voice.  I can’t, blah blah.

 

So finally the thing runs out of juice, and the Duck…(okay I actually like the animation here…) lands on the runway, which looks kind of cool.  And we can all breath a sigh of relief now!!  Deeeeeeeeeep breaths.  Bad episode near an end.   And ooooooouuuuuuuuut. Good.  Don’t we all feel better??  Meditation can be utilized in so many helpful ways. 

 

So then Captain Crunch greets Baloo, in the colonel from the Simpson’s voice.  I want Sideshow Bob to blow them all up.  Oh well.  (Once again, a boy can dream, can’t he??)  At least the setting looks like a military setting.  I really buy the setup.  Buildings, airfield.  Very nice color schemes here.  I digress.  Captain Crunch says something like “What in the blazes!”  (For some reason I think he should be giving directions to Flash Gordon or Captain America)  Baloo looks either happy to be alive or timid or both.  Whatever.  Baloo better have some explainin’ to do.  What is he, Lucy?? 

 

Ace pops up onto the scene.  Baloo stole it.  Blah blah, yak yak.  Um, Ace?  Baloo’s right there.  At least do yourself the favor of not making things worse.  See, he could have blamed DK right there, and it might have eased things, but no, it’s Baloo.  It’s always about Baloo.  Baloo, Baloo, Baloo!  Anyway, big scowl on Baloo’s part.  It’s about frikkin’  time.  Then their voices catch up with them, and echo through the air as if they were shouting in some really big mall.

 

What is that???

Scientist:  You broke the sound barrier!!!

 

Ace has a minor anxiety attack at this point.  And might I bring up the absence of a sonic boom??  It’s like, okay, I realize you have a limited budget guys, but sonic booms always accompany breaking the sound barrier.  There’s no getting around that.  You could have just at least mentioned that in passing.  No?  Well, then I’ll just mozy on along and finish this review.  Science be damned!

 

Anyway, Ace doesn’t really get that he screwed up here, because one of his men pops up…(I like this guy…couldn’t he have had a bigger role???) and says Duh, Ace.  He’s right.  You lose.  Do not pass go.  So Captain Crunch covers the list of things we already know about and have heard enough; he shot at civilians, blabbed about a secret project, tried to cover it up.  Now, of course in a realistic setting, Ace would have been demoted or fired.  I can’t imagine the LAPD getting away with something like that.  Still, Baloo is happy with the ironic punishment of Ace delivering his cargo of pickles.  And Ace,  Ace-Phil, Ace Hartman,  or Ace: Frozen Caveman Lawyer will forever in my book be simply known as:  Pickle Boy.

 

Once again, everyone loves to say his name.  But this time it’s ironic!  Like an Alanis Morisette song, but in appropriate use of the word.  See, because Ace thinks of himself as such a big shot, and so much better than Baloo because he doesn’t have to run all the crummy civilian runs that Baloo does.  Well, good for you, Ace.  Now in the last shot he’s weeping over the pickles in his biplane.  Alone.  All alone.  Just weeping and carrying pickles.  I dunno, usually Talespin episode endings are slightly more upbeat.  (shrugs)  But there you have it.  We bid farewell to Ace London. 

 

To cap it all off, what were the animators on???  I suppose glue, as they have it readily available to them.  Disney doesn’t skimp on the cost of their art supplies, I’ll give them that.  In total, I suppose I have to give this episode 2 stars out of 5.  I’m being generous because it had a nice catch phrase, and I liked the clouds.  Oh, and the ending was wonderfully bleak.  In retrospect I admire them for that.  Ace is totally depressed at the end.  It’s Bergman-esque, and we really need more influence from Ingmar in our animation, don’t we??   Well, I think so.  If anyone does a follow up fic on Ace, could you please, please tell me what the obsession people have with saying his name is all about??? I don’t think anyone famous would walk into a room and say:  “Because I’M—AUDIENCE???”  It comes off as annoying.  Learn to say your own stupid name, moron.  I realize we like to set trends, but try to involve others less in your introductions; it’s just less messy that way.  I know if I had to go through the trouble of waiting for the signal to say someone’s entire name every time I saw them, I’d probably start avoiding them.  And with that food for thought, I think I’ll go grab a sandwich, probably without the pickles.

 

 

Joe

 

July 2000

 

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