I ate in a relatively new restaurant in the college town I live in, and was instantly captivated by the atmosphere of the place. All around the walls, a cityscape illuminated with cool lights decorates the dining room. On one wall, there was a mural I could not take my eyes away from. What on earth was it that was mesmerizing about this place? When I figured out what it was, I knew I had to post it here. The mural is of a cityscape as well, but it is drawn and painted. There is a yellow plane flying over a pristine skyline, and it has the distinct art-deco feel of the thirties and forties. I like to eat at the City Grille because it looks like TaleSpin.
The food was great, so I started talking about taking my parents there next time they visited, and so I took my mom. Then my dad. Then both of them. By the time my mom had eaten there twice, she was onto me. She shrewdly assessed the mural and the cityscapes (and, quite coincidentally, the rather Louie's Island type of desserts they sell) and started laughing. "You like this place because it looks like TaleSpin."
If my mom said it, it must be true.
I realize that by "least favorite" everyone really means "loved it less than the rest". At least that's what I mean by it. I swear, there is just something about even the "worst" (total gratuitous use of quotes will run rampant in this post, I fear) episodes of TaleSpin that make me wish I was back in the early '90's just to see it again for the first time. I'm in total agreement that Jumping the Guns was silly, and that there were the occasional strange moments in TaleSpin history (dinosaurs and furry Smurf-looking "lobsters"?)
I'll confess that just seeing the skyline of Cape Suzette was enough to make me wish I was a cartoon critter in junior high, and that I used to pretend that the Goodyear Blimp was the Iron Vulture (okay, so maybe I still engage in the occasional flight of fancy in that regard, but it's too late for me now!) Point being, even the weaker episodes still make me happy simply because they gave me yet another glimpse into the city and characters that were more real to me than real life at the time. (Junior high sucked!) To this day, I find myself repeating things from TaleSpin. I've been known to say, "Hang on to your kneecaps!" while "piloting" my car, "Today is Saturday, and it's all your fault!" after waking up with a raging hangover, and replied, "No, but I've seen it done a million times" when asked mid-task if I've ever changed a tire before. You know, people really don't think it's nearly so funny when you're on the side of the road at midnight and you're not entirely sure what "lugnuts(?)" are for. I believe Wildcat could have taken care of that whole mess with a sledgehammer alone.
I loved Last Horizons simply because Becky yells, "I love you, Baloo!" at the end. I love the Baloo/Louie episodes because they show what Baloo was like before Kit came along. I love the show mostly because it was one of the first shows I watched where the heroes were not perfect. Becky was bossy, Kit was a bit TOO independent for a child, Baloo was cocky and overweight, Wildcat was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, Molly was a pain in the rear. However, Becky learned to admit when she was wrong, Baloo learned the dangers of his overconfidence (Big mirrors bad!), Kit learned how to be a kid, Molly grew on me gradually, and Wildcat...well, bless his heart! They made the same mistakes over and over again, and I think that must be why the show resonated with me so well. Even though they were "critters", they were so...human.
Honestly, what other cartoon show could satirize corporate America (Khan Enterprises) Communism (The People's Glorious Republic of Thembria), crime (gangsters, Trader Moe), and the impossibility of getting something for nothing (the multitude of get-rich-quick schemes that never worked) without being preachy? TaleSpin never had the forced, PC-or-die like feel of cartoons like Captain Planet and the Planeteers (only you can prevent brainwashing!), and the "wheel of morality" feel of even subsequent Disney ventures like Goof Troop. Okay, I've gone on and on for a long time now. I like nostalgia, in case that didn't come through clearly from my crazy, 1:30 AM mega-post.
--Sara G. (who should stop thinking about cartoons so darn much and DO something with her life...)
Aug 1, 2001
WWII, the Beatles, and Cape Suzette...
All right, here's that mega-post I've been promising. This essay was inspired by the "TS in the 1960's" question, but it is kind of own category as well.
One of the most interesting things for me about TaleSpin was always the time period in which it was set. The 1930's might have been the decade of the Great Depression, but they still felt deceptively calm. I'm going to draw the obvious connection between Usland and America for the purposes of this post. The Cape Suzette we are shown in TaleSpin is a portrait of American/Usland life in the 1930's. Like a picture, (well, really it IS a picture if you think about it literally, it being animated and all!) it captures a sense of a particular time. It does not emphasize change. The viewer can expect Cape Suzette to remain the same from episode to episode, and likewise, the characters go to bed and rise in the morning with little indication that they expect things to be any different when they awaken.
Like America in the 1930's, Cape Suzette is a modern place with just enough hints and throwbacks to the past to be comforting. In the 1930's, it was still commonplace for farmers to drive a wagon instead of a car, there was still a sense of the "Wild West" to some degree (Clementine and her strange, tumbleweed-infested mining town?), and Hollywood (Starrywood) was king of the imagination.
TaleSpin had several episodes in which a one-time character served as a conduit to the past. The old guy who has, "seen it done a million times.", the fading star of an aging pilot who triumphs over "big business", and the Squadron of Seven literally frozen in ice and in time. Other throwbacks include Baloo's embracing of the Boogie-Woogie-one-Banana-Blues (I don't think that was exactly right), a tune that was a favorite of his father, Rebecca's stubborn notions of romance that temporarily thwart her liberated stance, and Don Karnage's obsession with the swashbuckling life of a pirate.
I wrote about nostalgia and TaleSpin before, but this time it goes deeper. The reason I connected the idea of nostalgia with this show and its characters has to be because they embrace it as much as I (and I suspect a few others as well!) do. In its own way, the thirties were nostalgic for the twenties (where Baloo's record must have come from) and for a time when notions of romance and swashbuckling were not so far from reality. Nowdays, we're just nostalgic in general. I just know that the recent return of Swing music was a symptom of the same phenomenon. I think it's pretty cool.
This is not to say that TaleSpin was all about the past, or that it lacked foreshadowing for the future. Rebecca, Plane Jane and Broadcast Sally are all three examples of the future of women in business. Technology is alive and thriving (who ever heard of a radio with pictures, anyway?). The threat of the Iron Curtain is represented by Thembria, the Bamboo Curtain by the invasive Pandas of Panda-la. Although I am not certain of this, I always considered the episode with the Pandas to be one of the last ones of the series. Maybe it's because of the "I love you, Baloo!" line, and I just wanted to think that the series ended like this. I kind of compare the Panda attack on Cape Suzette to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. It was America's wake-up call that the rest of the world was at war. Maybe the Panda attack was Cape Suzette's.
As to where I see the characters in the future...hmm, let me see. As Kit is only twelve, he will probably be too young to have to go to war. I think he would definitely grow up to be a pilot, though. He's terribly smart, so maybe he would even get into designing navigation systems for modern planes. Perhaps he would have been a part of the generation that embraced the Beatles and whose idyllic world collapsed for a second time with the assassination of JFK (who would be represented by some other figure in the Usland world). Wildcat is that kind of dear soul for whom the passing of time will make little difference. He will continue to fix things and use his beloved imagination, oblivious to the changes that are taking place around him. Khan Enterprises would continue to flourish through the war, and provide the many planes and other things necessary to fight. I've got an image of Louie's Island as a sort of Casablanca kind of place. Maybe Lotta or Katie Dodd comes back into Louie's life, and he gets to say, "Here's lookin' at you, kid." I can so totally see that. Rebecca is a successful businesswoman, eventually marries Baloo, and they live happily ever after, of course. Don Karnage is never caught. He continues to plunder (or attempt to) until he's too old to do it anymore, then fades gracefully (he thinks!) into legend. The Iron Vulture is turned into a tourist trap where kids buy Karnage souvenirs. He writes his memoirs and it is turned into a blockbuster summer movie, making him richer than he ever would have gotten from plundering. Molly becomes a cop, and a superhero by night. She guards Cape Suzette from villains and can be summoned by way of a beacon in the shape of a spatula.