Joining the illustrious ranks of the Disney Afternoon TaleSpin found a home right next to Ducktales, Rescue Rangers and Darkwing Duck. Running for about a year and a total of 65 episodes, TaleSpin was a lot of fun though obviously not as successful as Ducktales and Rescue Rangers. The show was still entertaining and had a much wider audience than Darkwing Duck thanks to its cheerful nature.
Just like the shows that featured Scrooge and Chip & Dale, TaleSpin brought some more of Disney's already established characters into a new world. From the Jungle Book Baloo, Shere Khan, and Louie found themselves in brand new roles. Instead of chasing around a brat in a loincloth (sorry Mowgli) Baloo was presented to his new audience as a swashbuckling adventurer akin to Indiana Jones with a pilot license.
The series exists outside of our time period (obviously) and doesn't ever try to explain the change in venue from the Jungle Book. The story seems to take place in an era inspired by the 1930s with art deco all over the place and a form of media dominated by radio. Planes are the best source of transportation since the world appears to be broken up into small islands amidst a vast sea. Don't worry though, this place isn't quite Waterworld and Baloo isn't a merman like Kevin Costner (thank God). Oddly enough though there are pirates.
Life in the serene harbor side metropolis of Cape Suzette has been pretty peaceful for Baloo. He's got a great place right on the water and a sweet plane called the Sea Duck that he uses to take on jobs (when he wants to) and fly to Louie's bar. Sure the stack of bills is months old and he can't afford to pay for the plane that he calls his baby, but he's a carefree bloke without a worry in the world. That is at least until he bumps into a kid named Kit Cloudkicker at Louie's.
If you ever watched the show then you know Kit tends to land himself in trouble. Along with the tike came Don Karnage and Baloo's life was never the same after his fateful run-in with the kid. His world was turned upside down and thusly found himself in the services of Rebecca Cunningham who hired him for currier services. What happened after that were the formulaic standalone adventures that TaleSpin was known for. That bad guys would show up with some cockamamie or another and somehow Baloo and company would find themselves in the thick of things. The first DVD volume did a great job at supplying us with some fun episodes and luckily the trend continues for the second installment.
The follow-up release for TaleSpin includes 27 episodes spread across three discs which is a common theme with the Disney Afternoon DVD sets. The presentation of episodes on the Afternoon series has been somewhat haphazard but for the most part they have gone in order of either production or airing. TaleSpin's second outing goes for the latter with a good cluster of adventures from well beyond the halfway point. After looking at each episode, I found the quality was mostly good though I must say that there were a few missteps here that wound up lacking.
The better episodes that fans can look forward to include the two-part story "For Whom the Ball Klangs". In this episode Baloo and Louie go on a vacation together and wind up meeting a woman named Katie. From that point they get caught up in a quest for a lost city and an ancient weapon. Naturally a villain pops up, Thadeos E. Klang, who is also looking for the ringing tool of mass destruction. A mad dash transpires but in typical TaleSpin or Disney Afternoon formula the outcome is very predictable. Throughout these episodes the plot was a lot of fun even if it was a little hokey at points.
That was the only multi-episode storyline from this volume which wasn't really surprising. TaleSpin was mostly made up of standalone adventures but that doesn't mean the show skimped on entertainment. On the contrary, I always felt this show was one of the better Afternoon cartoons if only for the fact that the formula was well-constructed. TaleSpin knew what it was and it never really broke that mode by experimenting. This does give way to a load of repetition but in short bursts you'll find this cartoon to be well worth the trip.
Of the better standalone episodes "Last Horizons" definitely comes to mind. In this episode Baloo reminisces about his journey to a place called Panda-La and bemoans the fact that he hasn't had a parade in his honor. When nobody buys his story he sets out to prove that he's not lying and seeks Panda-La once more. Once he arrives the residents treat him like a god and soon enough he heads back to Cape Suzette. Upon his return the rest of his neighbors discover he was telling the truth when a well-armed fleet of Panda-La comes bearing down on Suzette.
"Save the Tiger" was another strong episode that brought Baloo and Kahn face to face in an amusing way. Basically Baloo saves Kahn's life and the grateful tiger offers to repay his heroic services. Baloo begins small by asking for minor rewards but eventually gets in over his head with Kahn who kidnaps him. I also enjoyed "War of the Weirds" for its Martian induced antics. In this episode Baloo wants some time away from Hire for Higher and manages to con Becky into thinking he's been accepted for a mission to Mars. Along the way he was forced to bring a radio to communicate with her and eventually gets fed up with it. After claiming to be attacked by Martians he tosses the radio into the drink but the outcome was much different than he had planned. The military was listening in on the conversation and begin preparing for an alien invasion.
All in all the episodes here are mostly good with a few that really stand out within the collection. As far as the rest of this volume is concerned I'd say there are about four or five bad episodes and the remainder finds itself in the middle. The quality here isn't quite as good as TaleSpin's first installment but I wouldn't say it's terrible by any means. If you enjoyed the first batch of Baloo's adventures you'll appreciate what's here but the episodes certainly don't take the series any further than it has already gone.
Just like Darkwing Duck and all the other Disney Afternoon shows, TaleSpin is presented with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio and looks only slightly better than an old VHS tape. Like the previous release the second one comes up with picture quality that leaves a lot to be desired by today's standard. The video for this release is very soft with blurred edges which gave it a worn appearance. Grain and dirt were also a problem throughout these episodes and it wasn't uncommon for a perfectly fine shot to be littered by both. Fans dying for an official release will be pleased by the simple fact that they can toss out those ancient tapes but collectors may be left scratching their heads regarding the quality.
TaleSpin's later production date granted the show the ability to have a stereo presentation rather than a mono one. This helped somewhat and made the English track more robust but in the end it wasn't enough to spruce the show up to levels it could have been at. The soundstage is flat and a tad on the lackluster side but it's serviceable for this kind of show. I didn't encounter any problems with the volume and the quality of the material came through well on this release. English and French subtitles are included as well.
While I love the Disney Afternoon shows and appreciate their release on DVD I have feel nothing but disappointment with regards to their supplemental features. There is absolutely nothing on any of these sets and unfortunately TaleSpin's second release is no different.
TaleSpin's second volume is a strong follow up to the first with a good cluster of 27 episodes. Taken in spurts the episodic content is very entertaining but I found watching them back to back highlighted the weaker inclusions. However you approach the DVD it's hard to deny that when it comes to Disney cartoons this one was one of the best. Fans will likely add this to their collection though I'd suggest newcomers to the Disney Afternoon start with something like Ducktales. Still, TaleSpin was a lot of fun and this set was no exception!