Animation Trails
December 6, 2023 posted by Charles Gardner

Unprdictable as Weather (Part 36)

When Disney studios decided to enter the television market with full force, producing their first blocks of animated programming packaged for weekend or weekday airings, they created a new wing to their empire, which rejuvenated their animation departments, led to expansion to multiple production units in many countries, set a new standard of quality for artwork in television production, and yielded them a bountiful new stable of marketable characters – together with renewed interest in many of their classic stars from both shorts and features, who would stand at the helm of their own network and syndicated series. Much of the motivation for this bold move came from the wildly successful Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, critical acclaim for which sparked a new interest in quality animation, and an unprecedented round of risk-taking where broadcasters and sponsors seemed suddenly interested in providing higher budgets for quality product, digging themselves out of a rut of nearly a decade of cheap and product-driven drek that had truly leveled television production to the standard stereotyped description of mere “kid stuff”. These higher stakes not only provided opportunity for smooth, full motion, lush background work, and well-conceived character design, but also the ability to attract quality writers back to the medium, to provide wit, personality, and multi-layered storylines as a part of the mix. Animation, as it had been intended in the golden era of theatrical presentations to general and mixed audiences, was becoming once again something that could be enjoyed on an equal basis by young and old alike. Soon, this trend would allow Disney to dominate the airwaves for substantial periods of the broadcast week, with such blocks of animated programming as “The Disney Afternoon” and “One Saturday Morning”.

Among the first of Disney’s production to receive a regular berth on network was “The Adventures of the Gummi Bears”. It is not precisely known how much of a stake, if any, Disney may have had in the well-known candy of the same name, which seems these days to have no exclusive distributor, or whether any candy producer backed the show – as I am unaware of any marketing of candies in the Disney character designs. However, it is possible there was some intended product tie-in, not only as this was nearly the norm for other series of the period, but given that Disney did produce at least one concurrent series which definitely involved product placement – “The Wuzzles”, a short-lived network series based on a series of dolls combining the crossed-features of multiple animal species, such as the character Bumblelion. All such product placement would seemingly disappear from Disney series after the Gummies and Wuzzles ran their course.

Two episodes of the Gummies present weather-relaed elements in their plots. Sweet and Sour Gruffi (10/30/85) saves on special effects by joining the action in the surveying of the aftermath of a severe storm, with all that we see on camera being some continued runoff of a few drops of rain water here and there. The storm has brought down the collapse of one wall of the Gummis’ secret underground home, exposing one room to open view. This presents a problem, as the King is saddling up with several of his knights to travel around the kingdom and view the damage left by the storm. The hole must be blocked up, or the Gummis may be discovered. Gruffi Gummi (a take-charge workhorse of a bear, with a chronically grouchy personality reminiscent of Grumpy) reacts as he always does in a emergency – appointing himself to direct all efforts to repair or camouflage the hole, and barking orders at everyone to work at double and triple speed, without a single kind word of encouragement to them. The family members get fed up with being pushed around, and walk out on Gruffi, converging in the hall where their eldest, Zummi Gummi, presides over the great book of magic spells handed down by Gummis through the ages. A suggestion is made that some magic spell be invoked to make Gruffi lighten up in his treatment of them. Grammi Gummi spots an incantation in the book known as the “Please and Thank You” spell, in which said phrases are utilized as magic words. Zummi strongly advises against it, warning that personality spells are dangerous – but when Gruffi barges in, and accidentally tears the page out of the great book, the temptation to cast the spell upon him becomes too great. The charm is cast – with what at first seem amazing results. Gruffi is not only polite, but – dare we say it – complimentary of the others. However, the utterance of the words “thank you” has an unexpectedly opposite and violent side-effect upon Gruffi – he becomes a raging ball of ferocity, and begins filling the room with more pages torn out of the great book. When someone begs him to “please” stop, he transforms like Jekyll and Hyde back to his polite and cooperative mode.

The others figure out the effect the words are having upon him, and vow amongst themselves not to ever say “Thank you” to him, while Zummi wades through the torn book pages, hoping to find some antidote to the spell. One of the youngest members of the family, Sunni Gummi, is not, however, present during the discovery of how the spell works, and has not yet been let in on what not to say. When Gruffi gets to her first, and for the first time ever compliments Sunni on her wardrobe, Sunni blurts out “Thank you” – three times over. The anger mode hits Gruffi at triple strength, and he begins systematically destroying all the progress they have made on patching the hole in the wall, and almost undermines the entire support-beam structure of the home itself. No number of repeated “Pleases” seems to negate the anger – but Zummi has finally found the antidote page from the great book, and utters a reversal incantation just in time to prevent the home’s total collapse. Gruffi reverts to his old grouchy form – which everyone for once is glad to see. But what of the King, whose squad of knights is only a stone’s throw away from a point where the Gummis’ home can be seen? Taking charge again, Gruffi comes up with an emergency solution to the problem. He orders all the members of the family to take a dose of the magic Gummi Berry juice that gives all Gummis the power to bounce. He then orders them to link hands, and to bounce in unison toward a rocky ledge on the cliffside above their home. Again and again, they hit the ledge with a massed bounce, making the rocks and dirt more and more unstable. By the time the King enters a clearing where he can view the area, all he can see is the aftermath of a tremendous landslide, which has completely blocked any view of the Gummis’ abode. The King ad his knights return to the palace, with report that the storm damage was even more severe than what they expected. Meanwhile, the Gummi family watches from the safety of the peak of the mountain from which they have just brought the cliff down, and remain undetected. Gruffi, though no longer under the influence of the magic spell, nearly shocks the rest of the family into believing he has reverted to polite Gruffi again, when he makes the un-Gruffi-like observation that everyone did a great job in helping him bring down the mountain, and actually tells them all, “Thank you”. However, he follows this remark by barking orders again, and handing out shovels, reminding everyone that there’s still a mountain of dirt they’re going to have to excavate through if they ever want to use their home again. Gruffi is indeed back to normal – and the rest of the Gummis wouldn’t have it any other way.

In Let Sleeping Giants Lie (9/9/89), the first snow of the season begins its fall across Gummi Glen. All of the Gummis are excited, as it is a part of their family tradition to engage in a great celebration and feast on the day of each year’s first snow. That is, all of them but Sunni, who had received an invitation from a friend in the forest to attempt to view a royal ball at the King’s castle from a safe distance. To her, the rituals and celebrations of the others have become boring, especially when compared against a royal ball, and she sees no meaning or relevance to why they are celebrating in the first place. Zummi tells her that it has been a family tradition to commemorate at this time the defeat of a great foe by Gummis of several generations ago. Sunni still doesn’t see why this ancient event should mean anything to her, or interfere with her life. A target game of throwing three objects into the mouth of a carved gourd is engaged in by the younger Gummis, with Cubbi scoring a perfect three out of three. Sunni is directed to take her turn at the game, and, thinking the whole thing to be stupid nonsense, she carelessly tosses the three objects all at once, in an attempt to throw them away. Without even trying, all three objects land precisely in the mouth of the gourd – making the event a tie between Cubbi and Sunni. Though having no intention to get mixed up in such silliness, Sunni finds herself assigned with Cubbi to perform the “task of honor”, of delivering to the mouth of a high mountain cave and tossing in a sack containing a secret powdered potion of herbs and other mystery ingredients Granni has whipped up.

On their way to the mountain, Sunni monkeys around during a sled ride, causing the sled to overturn, and Granni’s sack to fall into a crevasse in the ice. The sack remains just out of Cubbi’s reach. Rather that waste effort to team up with Cubbi for some way to extend their reach into the crevasse, Sunni takes the easy way out. Certain that the whole cave ritual is meaningless to anyone except their ancestors, Sunni wraps a snowball up in a scarf, and insists to Cubbi that tossing this into the cave will serve the same purpose as tossing in the real powder – as nothing would obviously come from either act anyway. She tosses the snowball in – but an unexpected grunting, grumbling sound is heard by Cubbi from within the cave. Sunni attempts to dismiss the sound as just the wind, until it is heard again, even louder – and a camera view inside the cave reveals the opening of a giant eye. Breaking through the roof of the cave like an angry volcano, the head of a towering giant suddenly casts its huge shadow upon the bears. The two youths run for cover, as the giant surveys his surroundings, and sets out over the snow toward human habitations, leaving a path of destruction in his wake. The bears put two and two together, and realize this is likely the same “foe” that their ancestors defeated long ago – and that perhaps Grammi’s powder was some sort of a sleeping potion, designed to keep the giant dormant in the cave. Returning to the crevasse to retrieve the powder, the bears set off on a lengthy trek to follow the footsteps of the giant in the snow, finding the giant ransacking a village. (Some gags in his use of human buildings, vehicles, etc. to serve his needs come very close to an homage to Mickey Mouse’s “The Brave Little Tailor”, and are drawn surprisingly competently for a TV production.) The two bears team up, with Sunni, carrying the potion sack, being lifted in the giant’s hand close to his face, while Cubbi takes out a slingshot. Sunni throws the sack toward the giant’s nose, while Cubbi makes a direct hit upon the sack with a rock, dispersing the powder. The giant is quickly subdued, falling into a deep sleep, and then covered completely by the falling snow. The bears speculate that he’ll probably remain that way for about a year, allowing the bears to keep him in slumber through the delivery of next year’s potion. They return home, with Sunni having a new respect and understanding for the Gummi traditions, and ready for a “giant celebration”.

Here it is flipped on Dailymotion:

Ducktales provided us with Bermuda Triangle Tangle (10/28/87). The third of Scrooge’s shipping fleet has disappeared within the Bermuda Triangle, and Scrooge is determined to debunk the old mysteries of the area and discover the source of the disappearances. He is so determined he can solve the problem in safety on his personal flagship, that he even takes his nephews along for a fishing trip. Unfortunately, the fishing is terrible, as the boys’ lines merely trail from the stern of the speeding ship, racing at full speed. “How can we catch the fish if the fish can’t catch us?” A goofy substitute captain from TempCap, Captain Foghorn (with one year’s experience at sea, and 20 years experience piloting an amusement park boat ride), filling in during the vacation of Scrooge’s regular captain, expresses some fears at Scrooge’s request to pilot him to the “dead center” of the triangle. No sooner is the borderline of the triangle crossed, than the ship encounters a massive storm. The Woodchuck guide says you can tell how close the center of the storm is in miles by counting the intervals between the lightning flash and the sound of the thunder. The boys are barely able to count up to one. Attempting to retreat from the deck to the bridge, Scrooge and the boys are almost swept overboard, Scrooge only being saved by hooking on to the stern railing with his cane. Scrooge wrests command of the ship from Captain Foghorn, who has just experienced a spin-out on the ship’s wheel and been thrown to the deck. Mildly protesting Scrooge’s assumption of his duties, Foghorn dizzily suggests, “I wanna flip for it.’ “I’m afraid you already have”, responds Scrooge. Scrooge successfully navigates the ship out of rough water, but into a dense fog where the nephews can’t see the ends of their beaks. With a shuddering stop, the ship appears to run aground. On closer inspection, what they have hit is not ground, but a massive island of floating seaweed, which has also clogged their propeller so they cannot reverse engines. The seaweed is so thick, Scrooge finds it can be walked upon (which experience the nephews describe as similar to walking upon lime jelly). More solid towards the center, the island is discovered to be the home of at least a century of wrecked ships, hopelessly entangled in the seaweed. Scrooge’s cargo ship is spotted, and even after only a few days is well entangled in the seaweed. What is stranger is that the ship, a total loss, does not appear to be in such condition from merely running aground, but by its side being opened as if by a can opener, and its cargo removed. As our heroes wonder at the whereabouts of its captain and crew, they are surrounded by a circle of persons in the nautical garb of many nations and time periods, including some who appear to date back to the days of ancient piracy. One of the nephews ponders if it is possible to make friends with zombies – but their surrounders begin laughing heartily at the thought of being mistaken for zombies, and prove to be human after all, taking Scrooge and the boys to meet their leader.

Out heroes are “un-welcomed” by an old pirate-dressed captain, Captain Bounty, who rules over the seaweed island. He refers to his greeting comically as an “un-welcome”, since the last thing the island really needs is more people to keep track of and more mouths to feed. He nevertheless attempts to keep up a sense of humor among himself and the island’s inhabitants – the only thing that keeps their spirits up in this hopeless, fog shrouded land of no escape. Bounty has developed a work system for all the islanders. Drinking water is harvested in canvas sails suspended from poles like cups, from the ever-recurring rain that soaks the island. Seaweed is harvested as if from farmland, and converted into seaweed pancakes, seaweed pudding, and the tasty “Sea Dog” – a cold seaweed Weiner in a seaweed bun. But there is one thing Bounty does not have command of – any plans or ideas to make an escape. Content with his post of authority, he merely provides survival, harvesting the cargoes of each new ship that becomes entangled in the seaweed web, and recruiting their crews into harvesting or processing. Scrooge suggests they need a leader with more gumption, know-how, and determination to get them free of ths trap, which Bounty at first protests the thought of. However, members of Scrooge’s old crews are discovered among Bounty’s ranks, who are still faithful to their former boss. They join in attempting to convince the others to muster the courage to challenge Bounty’s ways, and raise hope that some escape can be effected. Bounty ultimately turns out to be not such an iron-willed fellow after all, when he first demonstrates signs of conscientiousness by saving Scrooge from an attack by a tentacled seaweed monster, through soothing him with music from a harpsichord on the stern of an old Spanish galleon. Scrooge and those faithful to him take this opportunity of charitable spirit to vent their grievances and desire to try things Scrooge’s way and try for an escape. Bounty, hearing the will of his people, proves a responsible man, and backs down, allowing Scrooge to effect his plans.

Amassing the island’s entire population into one concerted effort, they all labor for days at cutting back the seaweed from their most recently-beached ship (Scrooge’s flagship), including the use of diving equipment to clear the propellers of the weeds. Despite another attempted attack by the seaweed monster (dispelled by Scrooge playing his own harpsichord solo), the plan works, and the flagship is soon bound for home, carrying Bounty and the islanders aboard. One small patch of seaweed remains clinging to the ship’s stern, floating along in the rear. Unbeknownst to Scrooge, clinging below the floating seaweed is the seaweed monster. When the ship arrives in home port, it is greeted by a brass band and press welcoming committee, hailing Scrooge as a hero. The seaweed monster chooses this moment to make his appearance, charging for Scrooge. The crowd disperses, leaving Scrooge alone on the bandstand. Scrooge desperately tries to play the monster a melody on each of the band’s instruments, but with no effect on the monster. Scrooge attempts to apologize to the beast, that nobody around here plays the harpsichord anymore – news that in no manner satisfies the monster’s rage. Captain Bounty and the nephews run interference for Scrooge, catching Scrooge as Bounty is swing between the duck and the beast while riding a wrecking ball from a crane on the docks. The beast charges again, but faces a new obstacle which is more than it can bear. The sun peeks out from behind the morning clouds – something the beast has never seen or experienced in its home world of constant fog. The monster writhes in pain from the feel of the suns rays, and retreats for cover under its patch of seaweed, choosing to remain there. Bounty remarks that the triangle is its only real home – and that the same applies to himself, feeling that he’s gone from being a big fish in a little pond, to a little fish in a big fish market in Scrooge’s world of publicity and dense humanity. Thus, Bounty sets sail on a new small vessel provided by Scrooge, bound for the triangle, where he feels there will always be other shipwrecked sailors in need of his survival skills. He also tugs in tow behind him the seaweed patch shielding the monster, vowing to moor the ship and the monster firmly back into the clutches of the seaweed island. The film ends as everyone waves goodbye – even the sea monster, with one tentacle, from below the seaweed patch.

Watch it on

From Chip ‘n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, honorable mention goes to Catteries Not Included (3/5/89). Cats have been disappearing right and left from the city, including the kitten of a little girl which the Rangers vow to seek out and return to her. The trail leads to the laboratory of Professor Nimno. Nimno has devised a multi-story ray device, built upon a pole equipped with an array of giant mechanical hands, and a large surrounding vat capable of containing hundreds of cats at a time. The mechanical hands also come equipped with a vast number of brushes which they can grip and use to vigorously scrub the cats’ backs, stroking the fur the wrong way – thereby building up a massive source of static electricity, which is drawn into the circuitry of the center ray. Nimno envisioned this device as a source of cheap power for the power company, but was laughed at, causing him to seek revenge by harnessing the device for evil purposes, demanding a ransom with the threat of blasting the city with artificial lightning bolts. To acquire his needed supply of cats, Nimno has developed a small troop of mechanical bulldogs, who have dragged in all they can find, including the missing kitten, to be placed in holding cages awaiting the activation of the lightning ray. Tracking one of the bulldogs, and with the aerial reconnaissance of Zipper the fly, the cage holding the missing kitten is located by the Rangers in Nimno’s lab. Monterey Jack uses all his strength to bend back the wire mesh on the cage door, to allow the kitten a means of escaping the cage. But Gadget reminds the gang that they are the Rescue Rangers, and that they must do something to save all the other cats as well. Dale finds a remote control, and assumes that pushing a few buttons will automatically open the cages. Instead, he activates the brushing hands of the ray device. The commotion that follows draws the attention of Nimno, who grabs up the remote, and attempts to sic his robot dogs upon the intruders.

Monterey Jack runs interference, getting one dog to chase a metal wrench as if it was a bone in a game of fetch, while the chipmunks and kitten peel off in opposite directions. One dog sets off after Chip, Dale, and Monterey, while another chases the kitten. Nimno further activates the ray machine, which places all the other cats into the vat, and charges up with vigorous cat brushing to develop the bolt with which to strike the city. The lost kitten cleverly chooses to leap upon and cling to the seat of Nimno’s pants, causing a mechanical dog to brainlessly pursue Nimno. A funny shot has Nimno running from one dog in clockwise circles around the lab, while the other dog pursues the Rangers in counter-clockwise circles around them. Monterey, in the lead in his chase, spots the remote dropped by Nimno, and tosses it up to Chip and Dale, who are now riding on the back of the dog pursuing Jack. They push a few buttons, then leap off the robot with the remote. The ray device’s mechanical hands descend, then clap together around the dogs, compressing them into the shape of basketballs, and shooting them into wastebaskets for three-point shots. Though briefly regaining the remote, Nimno again becomes target for one remaining robot dog, when the kitten again clings to his trousers, then leaps off just as the dog lunges. Nimno remains trapped inside the tummy of his own robot, wondering where he misplaced his can opener, as the Rangers and cats all make their escape.

Weather or Not (11/22/89) finds the Rangers filling the Ranger Plane with the makings of a grand picnic. Gadget has been up to her usual gadgeteering, and has built a semi-portable weather forecasting system to keep the Rangers properly prepared for their missions. Testing the device, she forecasts a hot, sunny day. Monterey Jack has contrary thoughts, as his tail, the twitches of which he has always relied upon to predict the weather as accurately as a bunion, has given him a warning of the approach of a sudden blizzard while on a walk in town gathering items for the picnic. He tries to bundle up the Rangers in snow gear, but can’t understand why he and everyone else are perspiring. Can his tail have for the first time gone haywire? A police call is detected, which the Rangers investigate at a local bank, where a vault has been broken into – by being cracked apart while it is ice cold. Monterey insists there must be some connection between this event and his tail prediction, but the chipmunks speculate that maybe the bank’s air conditioner merely malfunctioned. Monterey continues to puzzle about the mystery while patrolling past an old warehouse, when his tail springs to life again, with the same forecast. The doors of the warehouse burst open, smacking Monterey. When he revives, he witnesses a small cloud moving down the street, pouring snow and ice upon the road. The ice trail is spread in front of the path of an armored car, which skids and crashes. The cloud descends upon the rear doors of the armored car, then ascends, leaving the car doors open and the vault’s contents emptied. Monterey attempts to keep up, using ice cream bar sticks for skis, but ski-jumps off the incline of one of the open armored doors, and lands in a heap in a trash can. He sees the typical circle of cartoon tweeting birds circling around his head from the impact of his hard landing, much as Roger Rabbit would see after having a refrigerator dropped on his head, but with a unique comic twist – the birds each carry in their beak a numbered card, awarding scores for the jump as if judges in an Olympic event! Monterey responds to the sight, “What, no tens?” Upon reviving, Monterey makes a report to the Rangers, but, again, no one will believe his wild tale.

Monterey realizes that both readings from his tail took place while passing the same warehouse, and a third twinge upon return to the scene causes him to gain entry inside. A sight within makes him to disbelieve his own eyes – the same cloud, hovering in the air on the inside of the warehouse. It descends, then its vapor dissipates – revealing Professor Nimno, in a smoke-screen equipped flying contraption. The mechanisms of his flying machine contain controls to develop artificial weather of various kinds, and Nimno ponders using rain in his next crime – robbing the First National Bank. Spotting Monterey inside the warehouse, Nimno chases him with a barrage of miniature lightning bolts, but Monterey diverts his attention, ricocheting one bolt off the warehouse’s steel door, and setting fire with it to the sacks of stolen money from the armored car heist. Nimno is forced to shift his machine into rain mode to save hs loot, while Monterey makes an escape.

Determined to lure the Rangers to the scene of the crime, Monterey pilfers one of Gadget’s weather devices, and leads them on a chase to the bank’s window. A twinge of Monterey’s tail tells him, in a read mirroring “Poltergeist”, “He’s here”. Inside, the cloud is delivering a full rainstorm, causing the bank doors to burst open, and customers, tellers, and money to pour out in a flood. Now, Monterey has the Rangers’ attention. Gadget employs Jack’s tail in harness with her weather devices, to plot longitude and latitude of the next location from which his tail detects a disturbance, but, despite locating Nimno at work icing a jewelry store, the Rangers are unable to stop him, and are ejected from the store, temporarily frozen in an ice block (ultimately melted upon the griddle of a street vendor’s hot dog stand). Gadget decides the only way to thwart Nimno is to fight weather with weather. They wait outside Nimno’s warehouse, until Monterey gets a reading of rain. As Nimno’s cloud emerges, the Ranger plane drops a small sack of dry ice into Nimno’s cloud, causing it to rain away its water content before reaching the next bank. Nimno shifts into fog mode. The Rangers counter by hijacking three hair-dryer chairs from a local beauty parlor, dissolving away the fog with their blasts. However, by this time, Nimno is already inside the bank, having frozen the security guards, and iced open the vault door. With so much loot to carry, Nimno attempts to produce a tornado to lift it away. The Rangers provide a distraction by setting off the bank’s smoke detectors, causing Nimno to mistake the sprinkler heads’ downpour as rain instead of tornado from his own machine. A battle of heat blasts from the dryers versus icicles and lightning bolts from Nimno’s machine ensues. Chip and Dale engage in a little cowboy action with electric cord lassos, to wrest Nimno from the chair of the weather device, long enough to allow Gadget and Jack to commandeer it, wiring it up to the bank’s own HVAC system. With a flick of a switch, a snowdrift is produced from the bank’s ventilating shaft, dropping upon Nimno to freeze him in his tracks. Chip uses a remaining hair dryer to thaw out the security guards, while Dale builds a snowman out of Nimno, using pennies and dimes for the button eyes and nose. The episode ends with the Rangers planning another picnic, and now relying upon Monterey’s tail for weather prediction. Monterey predicts fair and sunny – but the Rangers open the door to see a downpour and thunderclap. Monterey concludes his prediction: “with a 10 percent chance of rain.”

Watch it on You Tube.

Plunder and Lightning (9/7/90) was the two-hour series premiere of TaleSpin, one of the best of Disney’s original series, recasting several principal characters of “The Jungle Book” in an Indiana-Jones style tale of action-adventure set in the 1930’s in the tropical metropolis of Cape Suzette. Baloo is the ace pilot of a customized twin-engine seaplane he calls the Sea Duck, but spends most of his time at Louie’s Place, a hangout for pilots on a nearby island, carousing and dancing in typical laid-back Baloo fashion, only taking on cargo jobs when he really needs cash. On one such day, Baloo encounters Kit Cloudkicker, a young bear of juvenile age, who has a past. Kit is being pursued by a band of air pirates, headed by a wily fox captain with faux-Spanish accent known as Don Karnage. Karnage has just heisted a large red jewel from a cargo plane of local industrialist Shere Kahn, but Kit has ripped off the jewel from him almost as fast as Karnage acquired it. Cloudkicker has made an escape from Karnage’s squadron using a portable folding flying wing, on which he cloud-surfs in a dizzying dive, in tow behind the tail of another passing plane. Kit makes a crash-landing, sliding in the front door of Louie’s. Karnage makes a flamboyant entrance, ransacking Louie’s establishment, but Kit hides the jewel inside a Tiki mask on Louie’s wall, then races outside, where Baloo is just taking off, hitching a ride on Baloo’s wing. Knocking on the cockpit door, Kit is let inside, and the two become closer acquainted. Kit’s knowledge of aircraft impresses Baloo, and Baloo proposes the idea that Kit might make a good navigator. An attack from the air pirates catches Baloo by surprise, him having no idea what he has that the air pirates could want. Kit conceals his secret from Baloo, as Baloo executes some masterful flying to evade the attack. He eventually makes a safe return to Cape Suzette, where gunnery crews on the high cliffs guarding the entrance to the city’s harbor are constantly on the watch for pirates, and fend off the pursuing pirate planes with their cannon fire.

Things get more complicated for Baloo when he returns to home base. Having ignored bank bills for six months, the bank threatens to repossess his plane by morning. To raise emergency cash, Baloo takes on the most distasteful cargo job he can find on the local job board – a live cargo of a rare species known as gorilla birds. En route, the air pirates attack again. They briefly capture Kit on an island where the plane is forced down, but Baloo, sacrificing his chance to pay off his debts, releases the birds as a diversion to rescue Kit. The bears escape the pirates again, but Baloo finally figures out that what the pirates have been seeking is his own navigator. Kit comes clean about his past – orphaned, he spent a year in the command of Karnage, but grew sick of the pirates, and, when the jewel became available for the taking, made his move to escape them and start a new life. Baloo continues to take “little britches” under his wing. When they return to Cape Suzette, to find that the Sea Duck and Baloo’s charter service have been purchased from the bank by an enterprising young female business-bear named Rebecca Cunningham, who has moved in with her daughter Molly, Kit, feeling responsible for Baloo’s loss of the Sea Duck, tells him of the jewel hidden at Louie’s, and agrees to split its worth 50/50. Baloo stays on as hired pilot for Rebecca, though intending to use the plane to acquire the jewel at Louie’s, then buy the Sea Duck back for his own.

After another round of air acrobatics with the pirates, Baloo and Kit successfully regain the jewel at Louie’s. They ask Louie to inspect the jewel under a jeweler’s glass, for a rough idea of how much it may be worth. “Zero, zip, nada”, responds Louie – “It’s man-made.” Baloo and Kit can’t understand why Karnage heisted it if it has no worth as a treasure, but when Baloo learns from Kit that it came from one of Shere Kahn’s planes, Baloo ponders whether there might be a sizeable reward for its return. For safe-keeping, they hide the jewel inside one of Molly’s dolls.

Karnage and a couple henchmen manage to slip past the guns of Cape Suzette on water instead of in air, disguised as gondoliers. They ransack the offices and residence at Baloo’s former headquarters (now renamed by Rebecca “Higher for Hire”), and leave a note demanding return of the jewel, or they will never see their friends again (referring to Rebecca and Molly, whom they have kidnapped). Baloo and Kit run a rescue mission, through a perilous “back-door” entrance into a volcano-crater hideout of the pirates. Rebecca and Molly are located, but all are surrounded by the pirates. Kit pulls a switcheroo, cleverly convincing Karnage that he faked swiping the jewel from the pirates in a plot to drum up a ransom of $100,000 from Shere Kahn, with intent of bringing the ransom money back to Karnage – until the other pirates loused up the scam by committing the kidnapping. He produces the jewel to Karnage out of Molly’s doll, and proclaims that he played Baloo for a sap to get himself back to the pirates. Baloo feels he has been betrayed, though Rebecca is not so sure, as Kit attempts to work in a release of the “saps” in his spiel to Karnage. Baloo grabs a sack of gold dust from Karnage’s treasure pile, tossing it into Karnage’s eyes for a diversion, and he, Rebecca and Molly escape in the Sea Duck, with the help of an emergency overdrive Baloo has among his customized features, only capable of running for a short time without risk of burning the engines out. Kit is left behind, feigning re-allegiance to the pirates, but secretly feeling sick at heart.

Baloo and Rebecca are nabbed by the drivers of a black limousine immediately upon their return to Cape Suzette, and ushered away to the private office of Shere Kahn (who refers to the business world as “a jungle”). Kahn inquires as to the whereabouts of the jewel, and is sorely disappointed when he finds it has fallen back into the hands of the pirates. While Kahn has no further use for Baloo and Rebecca, they learn from Kahn’s scientific assistant that the jewel is a device for harnessing and amassing electrical energy, capable of powering multiple industrial plants. Unbeknownst to all, Karnage is well aware of its purpose, and is concurrently engaged in a run of cargo heists that seem to avoid items of great worth in favor of routine shipments of bric-a-brac such as glass bowls, metal components, etc. These stray items are being assembled together by Karnage’s own technical man, with the assist of an issue of “Popular Mechanics”, to create a massive lightning gun, with the intent of using the weapon to knock out the cliff cannons of Cape Suzette, and then to plunder the city. The device is installed on a giant airship propelled by multiple helicopter-style props which Karnage uses as an air-base for his flying squadron, known as the Iron Vulture. Kit is not let in on the plan until an assault is already under way upon the cannon battery. Kit is too late to stop the destruction of the Cape’s defenses, and even a launch of aircraft from the Cape’s airfields is no match for the power of the electrical weapon. Karnage calls out a warning of his presence to the population below, and demands turnover of the city’s valuables, or else will commence destruction and plundering. Not hearing a resounding “Yes” floating back to his ears from below, Karnage begins shooting up various landmarks around the town. Kit can stand no more, and yanks the jewel from the ray gun. He locks himself in the radio room, and issues an all-frequency mayday, seeking “Papa Bear” and stating that “Little Britches” is in trouble.

Baloo has meanwhile left Rebecca, paying her off with a sack of gold dust nabbed from Karnage’s treasure room, and taking back the pink slip to the Sea Duck. He kills time at Louie’s, trying to convince himself he is happy, but still emotionally wrought at the thought of Kit’s betrayal of him. News of the mayday call reaches his ears – and Baloo realizes that the betrayal was just a ploy, and that Kit may really be in trouble. He races back to Cape Suzette, knowing the only way he can cover the miles in time to do anything for Kit is to push the overdrive to its limits. One engine catches fire, but the cliffs of his home are soon within sight. Karnage has by now gained entry to the radio room with a blow-torch, then cornered Kit at the edge of the Vulture’s forward doors. Karnage grabs away Kit’s portable flying wing, snapping it in half, and also receives the jewel from Kit at sword-point. One of Karnage’s men then hurls Kit off the airship, into free-fall. Baloo swoops underneath just in time, saving Kit’s life. Before the pirates can reinstall the jewel into the gun, Baloo commits himself to a suicide move – aiming the Sea Duck directly at the mouth of the Iron Vulture. The plane collides with the deactivated gun, smashing it. The plane further careens into and crashes in the back end of the flight deck of the airship, de-commissioning what is left of any squadron. Karnage retaliates by opening bomb-bay doors, jettisoning the crippled Sea Duck. Baloo and Kit survive a perilous dive, out of control into the bay below. Shere Kahn, observing the fight through binoculars, orders the remaining planes of Cape Suzette scrambled against the airship, driving off the weaponless pirates in a gimpy flight back to their lair. Baloo and Kit rise from the waters of the bay, but the remains of the Sea Duck sink beneath the waves.

One week later, and Baloo has done nothing but sit around his room and mope. But Rebecca has been busy. Kit leads Baloo outside, informing him that Rebecca has acquired a new plane for him to fly. Baloo is shocked, to see, of all sights, the Sea Duck, in one piece ad almost as good as new (minus the burnt-out overdrive). Rebecca utilized the gold dust to rebuild the plane piece by piece – but in the process, re-acquired title to the wreck, placing her in possession of the pink slip again. Baloo will have to stay a hired pilot longer than expected, though he still holds out hope of purchasing the Duck back again. He closes with the observation that he still is not partial to Rebecca’s renaming of his business “Higher for Hire”, and Rebecca responds, “Get used to it.”

Next time: More TV Disney.


  • Since Rescue Rangers was brought up, I just have to bring up how hilarious the Bluray release is. Despite the remastering being simply stellar (good work all around, I am clapping), a single episode was upscaled from SD. Disney somehow losing the film master aside, the upscale is just not looking good. Watching Prehysterical Pet on DVD is superior to the Bluray upscale, the upscale is that bad. The Batman Beyond Bluray also had a few episodes being upscaled, but whoever was responsible for that one actually did a good job. While Disney did not.

    And of course, if the master is ever found, where would they put it? I’d buy it, whatever it is.

    Tale Spin and Darkwing Duck remasters would be fantastic by the way.

  • Gorilla birds? Now I’ve heard everything.

    You’re right that Gummi bear candies are made by a number of different companies. They were originally put out over a hundred years ago by Haribo, that is Hans Riegel of Bonn, at a time of terrible hyperinflation and food shortages in Germany. Haribo remains the leading manufacturer of Gummi bears but by no means the exclusive one. I’ve sure Disney’s legal department vetted the issue at the time and decided that, while Gummi bear manufacturers wouldn’t object to a cartoon series that gave publicity to their product, they might be inclined to take action if Disney tried to cut into their market share.

    I don’t suppose there’s any chance of Disney making a cartoon called “Pecan Turtles”, but I’d definitely watch it.

    Gadget is certainly a cute and resourceful character, but if I live to be a hundred I’ll never understand what all those weird Russian cultists see in her.

  • One quick note:
    The villain in “Rescue Rangers” is Nimnul, not Nimno.

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