Popping the Balloon on Baloo's Popularity

by Allie Ann and Gidget  

Gidget: Baloo is a very popular character, thanks to Disney 1967 animated feature, The Jungle Book.  In fact, it was the main reason that he starred in his own series as a good-natured pilot.  He’s a frequent customer at Louie’s Place, the swingingest joint around, loves dancing, racing gorilla birds… in short – anything he’s not allowed to do anywhere else. You’d think that this party animal was the most popular guy at Louie’s, but look closer, listen to the dialogue (spoken mostly in asides), watch the resentful expressions of the other patrons.  There’s a whole other subtext to these scenes at Baloo’s favourite bar. His loud glory-hogging and grandstanding really gets on people's nerves.  Baloo's so-called 'pals' (mostly the pilot barflies at Louie’s Place)  

Allie Ann: Buzzzzz....*swat!* Darn barflies. ;)  

Gidget (swats Allie Ann, who yelps): …don't seem to like him much.  With good reason, I might add. He's a blowhard and hogs the spotlight…  

Allie Ann: Blocks the spotlight...

Gidget: You're on a roll.

Allie Ann (as Baloo): Rolls?  You got rolls?  

Gidget (mock-scandalized):  A lady never tells!  

Allie Ann as Yakko Warner: Goodnight, everybody!  

Allie Ann: Interestingly, Baloo's so caught up in his ego and/or having a good time at Louie's Place that he never notices the resentful asides muttered by his fellow pilots. Makes me wonder what the normally jovial bear's reaction would be if he did.  Would he get mad and punch their lights out, or would he be deeply hurt and become depressed, or would he challenge them all to a contest to prove his flying prowess?  

Gidget: I think he’d be deeply hurt and lapse into depression.  He’s an extrovert, and being disliked by anyone would bother him.  

Allie Ann: I think being disliked would bother everybody, except maybe Shere Khan.  

Gidget: He really doesn’t resort to violence unless taunted to his face (eg: Cool Hands Luke daring him to slug him (Baloo’s in drag), making kissing noises at him in Feminine Air; Professor Torque insulting his flying prowess).  

Allie Ann: I love that scene. Torque deserved that slug in the face.  

Gidget (continues): He tells stories about himself ad nauseum. Maybe that's why he dislikes Ace London ... they're so much alike in some ways, except Ace is the 'handsome' one.  Thoughts?  

Allie Ann:  I think Baloo dislikes Ace because Ace is one of the few pilots who gives him any real competition. And, due to his skill as a test pilot, Ace is a celebrity; crowds of admiring fans hang onto his every word. Baloo would love to be a 'somebody', beloved by all.  Maybe Baloo should work on being more charming and get some new stories.  

Gidget:  Those poor pilots at Louie’s… all they want to do is relax with their drinks, not listen to their colleague’s bragging.  It must be very annoying, like having a co-worker who never shuts up and insists on being noticed all the time.  Baloo means no harm, he’s just oblivious to everyone else during his storytelling.  We all know somebody like that. Like a loud, boring uncle at a wedding who monopolizes the conversation at the table, bragging about his job, his family, the money he makes, etc. You just pray that he’ll drink enough to pass out and set you free.  Or for a natural disaster, like a violent earthquake to distract him while you slip away to the washroom.  

Some characters just hate Baloo outright, like Cool Hands Luke in Feminine Air, Professor Martin Torque (From Here to Machinery), for slugging him, and of course, Don Karnage (for foiling his attempts to raid Cape Suzette).  If they don’t dislike him, they at least tolerate him (mostly the more refined types, like Shere Khan. Or else he grows on them, like fungus (Katie Dodd, For Whom the Bell Klangs).  

Episodes that address Baloo's popularity:

1) From Here to Machinery

At the beginning of the episode, Baloo is at the top of Louie's Wall of Fame, indicating that he's the best pilot in the world (or at least out of all the pilots who frequent Louie's Place).   However, not all the customers - a.k.a. pilots - at Louie's agree.  When Baloo strolls in, informing Louie that he trimmed his hedges and loudly requests a "Mango Fandango for the top dog on the Air Race Wall of Fame", one of Khan's pilots murmurs sullenly, "Maybe he should get a job as a gardener."  

Baloo brags that it will be too easy to beat the Auto Aviator, but it only lands him in hot water.  Because he couldn't stay awake for 40 hours, he lost the race.  

Not only does he lose the race with Torque's robot, he also loses the respect of his fellow pilots.  The loss of their jobs makes them despise the man who was the cause of it, evident when Baloo walks past the soup line and all the pilots glare at him.


2) Mach One for the Gipper

Ace London : the only man capable of out-bragging Baloo.  "You got *snap* that right!" He has had more exploits, more publicity, better stories, not to mention a better physique than Baloo, thus giving him worldwide fame.  I bet he even has his own MovieTone clip!

Gidget:  LOL!  And you just know that with a little more fame and charisma, Baloo would be an Ace London.

Allie Ann:  Then Rebecca would never get any work out of him.  He'd be too busy posing for photographers and signing autographs.

Gidget:  Oh, would he ever!  :P


3) Last Horizons

To prove himself a somebody and rate a parade like the world's greatest explorer, Monty Mangrove, Baloo circles the globe in search of Panda-La, city beyond the last horizon.  He does eventually find it, but his short-lived popularity takes a nosedive when the pandas follow him back to Cape Suzette with designs to conquer it.  It's only after he saves Cape Suzette - again - that he gets his parade.

Gidget: I noticed something.  Just about every time we see Baloo at Louie’s, he’s either euphorically happy, especially when partying raucously or else sulking by himself in a corner, especially when someone else gets the spotlight.  And if he gets too pouty, either Rebecca or Kit tell him, “Don’t be such a baby.”

Allie Ann: Are you referring to the beginning of Last Horizons when she tells him that not everybody can be a somebody? I thought that she was sympathizing, not chastising.  

Gidget: Maybe it was Whistlestop Jackson, Legend... I forget.  And I dunno about sympathizing.  She may have meant it that way, but it’s still a passive-aggressive way of telling someone that it’s okay to be a loser, to just ‘be themselves’, and be happy with their lot in life.

Allie Ann: It makes Becky sound bad, telling Baloo that it's okay to be a loser. :P  She also tells Baloo, "You're just jealous, because the name Whistlestop Jackson means something in this business, while the name 'Baloo' just means Baloo."

Gidget:  Exactly.  I thought that was really nasty of her.  Um... why do we want these two together again?  I forget.  ;-)

Allie Ann:  Because they seem so perfect for each other.  At least that's what I used to think...



4) A Bad Reflection on You

After receiving the 'Best Pilot in the World' trophy from Shere Khan, the big-headed Baloo is sent on a top-secret, extremely dangerous route called the Master Run. Of course, before heading out, he stops at Louie's to brag about his trophy.  Louie is not impressed when Baloo insists that he is the best pilot, not Wiley Pole. 


5) The Sound and the Furry

Thanks to Wildcat removing Homer the 'lobster' from the Sea Duck's engine, Baloo is able to complete the obstacle course.  In fact, he's the only pilot able to complete the obstacle course.  Everyone else's planes were destroyed by Crazy Edie and the 'lobsters'. When Baloo returns from the obstacle course, he jumps out of the plane, saying, "I bet they carry me on their shoulders."  To his utter amazement, the other pilots are not pleased with his success and instead think that Baloo fixed the race by having Wildcat sabotage their planes' engines.  In retaliation, they 'grease and spoon him' and threaten to wreck the Sea Duck.


6) Flight School Confidential

Even in a Kit episode, Baloo's ego makes an appearance.  This illustrates Baloo's lack of story material.  

Baloo: "That pirate stays right on my tail, but I know just what to do."

Louie: "You pull back on the stick, head straight for the sun, and do the ol' Baloo Corkscrew."

Baloo: "Were you there?"

Louie: "Feels like I was, cuz.  Heard that story forty-seven times now."

Other pilots laugh.

Baloo (complacently): "Go ahead, laugh.  I know I'm a great pilot."  

Gidget:  Which is a positive attitude to have, actually.  Like what he advises Li’l Britches.  You know who you are, an’ that’s all that matters.”    

Allie Ann:  Another moral sneakily inserted into what might have been an entirely entertaining show.


7) Bullethead Baloo

Baloo loses the Kit’s respect when he dresses up as “Bullethead”, a fictional superhero and embarrasses him in front of his friends.  Not only that, but Kit abandons the idea of becoming a pilot to join the ‘Bullethead Brigade’.   Yeah, Kit wants to be a superhero when he grows up! 

Allie Ann: *gasp* Not a superhero!

Gidget: Not so unattainable, according to a Kit-‘shipper.  ;-)

Allie Ann:  Meaning someone who ships Kits?  Btw, where are we shipping him to?  Abu Dhabi? 


8) Feminine Air

Thanks to a smear campaign by a jerk named Cool Hands Luke, Baloo’s reputation as a pilot (and a man) is dragged through the mud for ‘working for a skirt’.
Allie Ann:  Rebecca wears skirts very rarely.  In fact, you could say that she wears the pants in the relationship.  
Baloo (mournfully): She wears the pants, period.


Episodes that address Baloo's fragile ego:


1) On a Wing and a Bear

After failing his pilot license test, Baloo is down in the dumps.  He perks up only when reminded what a great pilot he is by his true friends.  It's sweet that Becky organizes a pepper-upper party for him. :)


2) From Here to Machinery

When Baloo's picture takes a dive from the top of Louie's Wall of Fame, so does his ego.  He nearly leaves Cape Suzette - without the Sea Duck, an almost unthinkable thing!


3) A Bad Reflection on You

The 'World's Best Pilot', Baloo, falls for Don Karnage's trap, crashing upside-down in the ocean.  To make matters worse, Karnage derides his gold-plated trophy, thus making him feel like the worst pilot in the world.  After being thrown in the Iron Vulture's clink, Baloo mopes.  He's so depressed that he doesn't help Kit escape.  Kit has to coax him the entire way to the Sea Duck and it's only after Kit admits that he thinks Baloo is the best, the big guy perks up.  

Gidget:  I notice that Baloo mopes so much he’s practically suicidal – he actually endangers himself and his friends by his refusal to help save them because of his self-image as a loser.  He really needs to get over himself.

Allie Ann (as Rebecca): That's a lot of bear to get over. ;)


4) Plunder and Lightning part 4

Baloo imposes a self-inflicted grounding for a week following the Sea Duck's demolition by the lightning gun. He flat-out refuses to fly any plane but the Sea Duck, almost as if he's mourning its loss. Once again, Kit has to coax him - er, drag him - out to the dock to fly the newly-restored Sea Duck.

Gidget:  Like I said, Get over yourself, Big Guy!  There he goes, pouting in a corner again.

Allie Ann:  Baloo's ego is so fragile that it can crash and burn faster than he can down a Louie's pizza. I felt sorry for Baloo at the end of P&L.  All he had left of his 'best friend' was the control yoke and he wasn't giving that up for anything!

Gidget: When the Big Guy gets down, he lands hard.

Allie Ann: (as Baloo) *slips on the wet dock and falls*  Oof! *then stands up, rubbing his backside* Tell me about it.  


5) Balooest of Bluebloods

Baloo really needs the help of Rebecca, the friend/boss he snubbed after he realizes that billions of dollars won’t protect him from the ‘curse’.  Strange that he doesn’t beg for help from Louie or Kit, his so-called ‘best buddies’.  Even tells her to ‘bring Wildcat!’, almost as an afterthought.

Allie Ann:  I thought that Baloo seeking Rebecca's help - not Louie's - was odd, too, especially after he told her to stick her job 'in her ear'.  

Gidget:  He's really not as popular as he thinks.  His only real friends are Louie and the H4H gang. Kinda sad, isn't it?  

Allie Ann: Isn't that the way with most people, though?  Isn't it common to have lots of acquaintances, but few real friends?  

Gidget: Baloo is a little slow on the uptake when recognizing a true friend.  It’s easy enough with Kit, Wildcat, and Louie, per se, but with someone he has nothing in common with (if they’re female, wealthy, more refined), it takes more time.  He gradually recognizes a kindred spirit in Rebecca, but only after she goes to extraordinary lengths to prove that she’s his friend, as well as his boss when she sells Higher for Hire and the Sea Duck in Save the Tiger, risks her life often, notably in A Star is Torn.  Being Baloo’s friend is huge responsibility.  

Allie Ann: It's also dangerous!  Speaking of Baloo and Rebecca's friendship, they really do think alike in some eps, especially War of the Weirds.  Probably comes from being around each other so much.  

Gidget: I noticed that too!  Especially when they yell in unison, “Go away!” (Your Baloo’s in the Mail and some other episode).

Allie Ann: In War of the Weirds, they both exclaim, "You?!" Is that what you're thinking of?  

Gidget: No, I’m sure they said it in another ep too.  

Allie Ann:
I don't think they say 'Go away!' in unison in any other ep. Nothing's coming to mind, anyway. 

Oh well… If I figure it out sometime, I’ll just add it.  

Allie Ann: Are you thinking of this scene at the end of I Only Have Ice For You

Can I fly?  Can I?
Baloo & Rebecca:

Gidget: Close enough.  Baloo starts to recognize his few real friends in Last Horizons.  When he becomes a pariah for inadvertently
leading the invading pandas into Cape Suzette, he goes on a suicide mission to set things right.  Wan Lo, the panda leader catches him and orders him thrown from a pagoda kept aloft by a hot air balloon to his death.  

Wan Lo: I would throw you in our dungeon, but we have none.  Guards!

Baloo:  I'm warning you, Wan Lo.  This is your last chan-an-aaaaaaaance!  

Gidget: Just in time, he’s saved by Kit, Louie, Rebecca, and Wildcat. When they’re surrounded by Panda-la storm troopers, Baloo says, “Well, since I’m all outta friends… RUN!”

Allie Ann: You know, thinking about Baloo's popularity (or lack thereof) made me realize what an excellent job the TaleSpin writers did.  Because Baloo is the main character and the 'world's best pilot', they could have easily made him a Mary Sue with all the other characters worshipping at his shrine.  Instead, they created a complex character complete with emotions, quirks, and faults that often get him into trouble and sometimes cause others to dislike him.  It makes him a more believable, well-rounded character, one that I can relate to.  Not everyone can get along with everybody all the time.  Besides, it's fun to see Baloo wriggle out of the scrapes he gets himself into.

Gidget (nods): He's mischievous and endearing, like a little boy.  Except it's not so cute in a grown man, er, bear, and that's where Rebecca is often unfairly put in the disciplinary role, like Bagheera in The Jungle Book. Frankly, he's a flake, and since she's the figuratively the 'warden' in his life, she's often made to look like the bad guy who's out to ruin his fun. What he doesn't always get until the problem turns into a crisis, is that his good time endangers both his job and Higher for Hire.  He needs to be yelled at, shaken, something to make him take responsibility for his actions. It's not always enough to screw up and apologize. You need to fix it -- which he always tries to do.  Or better yet, not get into those situations in the first place.  Rebecca wouldn't be so irritable if he didn't provoke her so much.  He brings a lot of his problems on himself.

To name a few examples, Baloo ignores his bills, causing him to lose his business and the Sea Duck (Plunder and Lightning). Thanks to partying at Louie's all night, his delivery is late, costing Higher for Hire $10,000 (Time Waits for No Bear).  Because he bought some burgers and fries with Rebecca's money for an expensive stamp to mail her ticket to the Sweepstakes office instead of buying the stamp first, he ends up scrambling all over town, and finally chasing a garbage truck for it in Your Baloo's in the Mail.

Allie Ann:  Not to mention almost getting Rebecca shot in The Time Bandits just so that he could attend Louie's Carmen Meringue Night.  Spending all of Kit's money in Double or Nothing to get a record. 

Gidget: You get the idea.  When he screws up, he screw up royally.  He's maddening.  Even his napping is irresponsible -- he sleeps in a hammock tied to the dock (or the Sea Duck's wing), where he could easily fall out and drown!

Allie Ann: Or on a beam in the warehouse, where he could fall and break his neck. 

Gidget:  Right! And he leaves the cargo door open, where anyone can enter and rob him (Molly Coddled and Time Waits for No Bear). It's a miracle that someone hasn't strangled him in his sleep.  

Rebecca:  Believe me, there have been plenty of opportunities, since that's a big part of his day. *looks thoughtful, then crafty, then resigned* Who am I kidding?  I'll never get my hands around what he has for a neck.

December 2007  

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