Animation Trails
December 13, 2023 posted by Charles Gardner

Unpredictable as Weather (Part 37)

More wet, dry, and generally unsettled Disney TV offerings this week on our continuing stormchasers’ trek – not necessarily in chronological order, but arranged to fit the confines of the present week’s page-length. (We’ll cover such series as Aladdin and Winnie the Pooh in our next installment).

Water Way To Go (Darkwing Duck, 9/18/91) – Darkwing and Launchpad receive a message from J. Gander Hooter that S.H.U.S.H. agents are being bumped off investigating strange activities in an Arabian desert kingdom – most assuredly the work of F.O.W.L. (Fiendish Organization for World Larceny). The message comes on an inconvenient day, when Darkwing and Launchpad McQuack are in the middle of a labor disagreement. Launchpad is saddened that he never gets to use Darkwing’s high-tech gizmos, and Darkwing reminds him that they are strictly F.H.O. (For Heroes Only). Launchpad insists he can handle the hero stuff, but Darkwing classifies him as only a sidekick. Launchpad finds a bargaining chip, in that he is the omly one of them who knows how to fly to the location of their assignment. Refusing to fly unless a concession is made, Launchpad obtains a humiliating promise from Darkwing that for this one mission, Launchpad will assume the hero role, and Darkwing will act as the sidekick – including carrying the baggage for their trip.

At their destination, Launchpad receives a hero’s welcome from a beautiful oil-rich princess and a banquet with all the trimmings, while Darkwing is ignored as the laughable lackey. Launchpad diffuses a bomb next to an oil well by sheer dumb luck, yanking a random wire Instead of consulting a manual (though Darkwing still takes a blast when he tosses down the bomb in frustration). The two then accompany a caravan to the location where the S.H.U.S.H. agents kept disappearing. There, they are observed through binoculars by F.O.W.L. operative Steelbeak, who, spying Darkwing, sends in his own brand of welcoming committee – a pair of twin cyclones, whipping up a desert sandstorm, courtesy of a portable weather-control device. Darkwing is nearly blown away, but Launchpad abandons the safety of a deluxe traveling cab mounted upon a camel, attempting to save his “former” boss’s life, as any good hero would do. All he succeeds in doing is hanging onto Darkwing’s cape, as the two are transported by the storm into the middle of nowhere. They trudge across the burning sands until Launchpad declares they are saved, as someone has sent in the Navy. To Darkwing’s shock, the Navy does appear to be here – though there is no water. A fleet of battleships is spotted, resting on the dunes – one completed, the others under construction. The crews, however, are not of a friendly nation, but “Eggmen” under the command of Steelbeak.

Our boys are soon captured, and learn that the ships are here because F.O.W.L. intends to capture the oil fields by means of naval attack – using the weather machine to convert the desert into an ocean, allowing the battleships to become “ships of the desert”. In a struggle over the machine, Darkwing causes the rains to be unleashed too soon, covering the desert in a flash flood. Darkwing and Launchpad are swept away, while Steelbeak watches all of the partially-completed ships sink beneath the waves, causing him to swear revenge on Darkwing. Darkwing, meanwhile, is finally the beneficiary of a real act of heroism, as Launchpad saves his life by carrying Darkwing on his shoulders, while improvising a masterful surfing demonstration on floating debris. They are swept back to the palace, in time to hear Steelbeak calling on megaphone from the remaining ship, asserting he now has the weather machine back under control, and demanding the oil fields be turned over to him within the next ten minutes – or else. Darwing breaks out of his assumed sidekick role, and proposes the solution that Launchpad cannot come up with. If Steelbeak wants oil, give it to him – their way. With high-pressure hoses and pumps, Darkwing propels blasts of the gooey stuff upon Steelbeak’s deck and bridge, making the guns too gooey and slippery to be manned. He also succeeds in gumming up the weather machine, then washing it overboard. Leftover lightning from the lingering storm stabs down to set the oil-soaked ship afire, burning it to matchsticks, and leaving Steelveak and the Eggmen helplessly adrift in the flotsam and jetsam. Darkwing receives the acclaim he desired as a hero, but doesn’t forget that he owes his life to Launchpad’s own heroism. He agrees that Launchpad will now be referred to as a colleague and an equal – just so long as he continues, as always, to carry the baggage.

Steerminator (Darkwing Duck, 10/10/92) revives a villain only seen in the premiere episode of the series – a villainous bull named Taurus Bulba, who was presumed doomed at the end of the first story. F.O.W.L. has invested millions in rescuing the crippled Bulba, and transforming him (in obvious homage to The Six Million Dollar Man) into a cyborg, whom F.O.W.L. presumes will, in gratitude, swear allegiance to their organization as a super-agent. But Steelbeak meets with an unexpectedly-different reaction from the revived Bulba, who expresses outrage that no one asked his permission, and vows that he only works for himself, blasting his way with his new built-in weaponry out of Steelbeak’s headquarters. Darkwing is called in on the case, but is still in the process of recuperating from two broken legs incurred in a skiing accident – no, not on the slopes, but by dodging overanxious shoppers at a ski-shop sale. Attempting to remain in action in a souped-up wheelchair, he engages in efforts to track Bulba while not tipping off Gosalyn of Bulba’s reappearance, as he fears Bulba’s intentions will be to track down Gosalyn for a clue as to Darkwing’s secret identity, so that Bulba can take revenge on Darkwing.

Despite Darkwing’s best efforts, over-curious Gosalyn can’t be kept out of the action, nor can her neighbor and best friend, kid Honker Muddlefoot. Both are eventually captured by Bulba, and taken to a secret lair behind a waterfall, where they are locked in a cage. DW and Launchpad conduct an aerial search for any sign of a hideout. Darkwing has had Launchpad load the plane with dry ice, hoping to create a rainstorm when they encounter Bulba to create a short circuit. Gosalyn ingeniously signals dad with a paint sprayer she carried in her backpack, found earlier by her nearby Darkwing’s new portable weaponry, which she thought was intended for her. She slingshots the sprayer and backpack out a window, which hook on a branch extending from the waterfall. The sprayer leaves a thin trail of purple paint down the descending water. Darkwing follows the lead, dropping in his wheelchair close to the entrance to the hideout, while Launchpad begins seeding the clouds. A furious fight develops between the bull and the hero, with Darkwing’s weaponry having little effect upon the heavily-armored bull. Taurus’s cannon and ray guns, however, have a near devastating effect on Darkwing, as well as blasting most of what is around them, including the bottom off the kids’ cage. As Darkwing is cornered near a cliff edge overlooking the falls, Taurus’s anger rises to fever pitch – overheating his circuits, and temporarily freezing him dead in his tracks. Honker judges from the heat of his helmet that the circuits will be overheated for hours. However, Launchpad’s rainstorm suddenly arrives at the most inconvenient time, and, instead of producing a short circuit, merely cools Taurus’s wires, restoring his mobility. The bull charges at full speed – but Darkwing, in toreador fashion, dodges to one side, allowing the bull to overshoot and plummet over the cliff, deep into the waters below. Darkwing believes even Bulba couldn’t swim with all the extra weight of his gadgetry holding him down, but, as he reunites with Gosalyn and apologizes for not telling her the truth, they are all surprised by a rising figure over the falls. Bulba has surfaced, with the aid of a pair of extendable wings powered by jet packs. “This isn’t over Darkwing”, vows Bulba, soaring into the skies to recharge and plot his next move, threatening that they will meet again. Darkwing expresses his feeling that his life just became a whole lot more complicated. (Though this left every opening for a cliffhanger, the writers never lived up to the potential, and the series reached its final episode shortly afterward, with Taurus seen no more.)

Weather or Not (Bonkers, 9/21/93) – No, it’s not a case of deja-vu. Disney used the same title for two episodes of two different shows within a matter of a few years (the other being the Chip ‘n’ Dale episode reviewed last week). While we’re on the subject of French, Bonkers develops such an accent in this episode. He is in Dutch (run of ethic references Intended) with his partner Lucky Piquel (not pronounced “Pickle”, unless you happen to be the Chief, who can’t break himself of the habit) for doing something typically toony-stupid, by sending Lucky on an errand to the dry cleaners with a weather prediction of warm and sunny, despite it being pouring rain outside. Lucky’s suit is soaked, and his temper is not cooled by the moisture. A few insults are exchanged, and Bonkers, in remorse for being a bad detective, attempts ro redeem himself by ordering a super-deluxe self-study toon detective kit, complete with interchangeable toon outfits to take on the personas of Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, Inspector Clouseau, and Columbo. It is discovered, however, that Bonkers was not truly at fault for the bad weather forecast. He got it from a local TV station, on a broadcast featuring a live weatherman accompanied by a quintet of the station’s number-one ratings-getters, “the Weather Toons” (a cartoon sun, cloud, fogbank, lightning bolt, and tornado). Lucky watches a broadcast himself, forecasting slight cloudiness and drizzle, then walks out of the office, meeting with a windstorm that almost blows him off the map. Returning in disheveled form to the TV set, Lucky views another broadcast, catching a reference by the weatherman to it being Valentine’s Day – and realizes the station is playing reruns, as the holiday was last month. Something mysterious is up, and a complicated investigation ensues. I won’t go into all the details (as in actuality, at least one of the plot clues does not make logical sense and conflicts with the ultimate resolution of the case – but after all, this whole caper is a toon).

However, it gives Bonkers a chance to try out all his keen detective guises, and perform his best impersonations of his favorite sleuths. He blows soap bubbles from his Sherlock Holmes pipe. As Sam Spade, he learns that one suspect found out that the Weather Toons had disappeared by means of a phone call and a fax. Bonkers asks for “Just the fax, Ma’am”, then asides to the audience, “I’ve been waiting all day to use that line!”. When smashed by a falling TV prop set while wearing his Inspector Clouseau suit, Bonkers hears a cameraman remark. “That hadda hurt.” Bonkers responds that it doesn’t hurt half as much as doing that terrible French accent. The case leads to a dinner party ar a spooky mansion on a lightning-filled evening, where all the station’s prime suspects are gathered, together with a sinister butler who talks like Alfred Hitchcock. Red herrings abound – literally – until Bonkers reveals the latest in toon crime technology – the ability to dust red herrings for incriminating fingerprints. The lights go off, and a mad chase breaks out. Bonkers finally deduces that the butler did it, and the face and outfit of the butler fall away, revealing the Weather Toons themselves inside a disguise. The toons, revealed to have their own evil motives, confess they staged their own disappearance to prove that the humans couldn’t do without them and weren’t really needed, so they could get their own show. They then start to revengefully destroy the mansion. Bonkers captures them in a fashion that only a toon would fall for. He and Lucky utter the irresistible challenge cry of “Nyah nyah, nyah nyah nyah”, causing the toons to chase them, then Bonkers catches them inside the retracting roll-up of a portable weather map. The toons are jailed for their mayhem, but Lucky and Bonkers get no glory, the Chief torn between promoting them for valor or demoting them for not following orders, so deciding to leave things where they stand and call it even. Bonkers vows to become even a better detective, placing a phone order for the advanced super-deluxe toon detective kit, but Lucky wrestles the phone from him, pleading for him to just remain the old Bonkers.

Jungle Cubs, a second series spun off from “The Jungle Book”, never reached the level of story sophistication of most of Disney’s other series offerings, being apparently targeted for a lower age demographic, somewhat in the same manner as a popular show on another network, “Muppet Babies”. The show follows the youthful adventures of most of the animal cast of the original feature in their native habitat, when they used to hang out together (or at least try to get along) as kids – er, uh, cubs. Even a junior version of Shere Kahn interacts with the gang, though generally treating himself as a superior outsider. The ancient temple that would eventually become King Louie’s domain serves as their general meeting place to loaf around, or occasionally discuss something serious. Mich as in the original film, Bagheera takes on much of the responsibility for being the gang’s voice of reason, with Shere Kahn showing equal intelligence but use of his intellect for cunning, self-serving purposes. Baloo and Louie meanwhile represent the polar opposite side of the coin, free-wheeling and footloose fans of play rather than work. Hathi already longs to instill military discipline into this motley crew, but is more bluster than brigadier. Kaa is pretty much – well, Kaa. Thus, the characters remain recognizable. Only the storylines have been watered down to protect the innocent intellects of the grade schoolers from mindrot.

Two scripts of the series deal with weather. Bare Necessities (10/26/96) finds all the “good guys” (Shere Kahn excluded) attempting to prepare for the oncoming mosoon season, under the befuddled direction of Hathi. Baloo, however, is an absentee, preferring to loaf around under a shady tree, scouting up a log full of honey here and there when the whim hits him. Hathi insists they must store food to get them through when the waters rise, but Baloo insists that he only needs to follow his own innate instincts, and sustenance comes to him. “Always has, always will.” Bagheera tries to encourage the portly bear to at least get in shape so he is fit to face any possible emergency, but Baloo continues to find excuses to avoid exertion. Baloo claims he lives by two rules: never break a promise, and never break a sweat. As the monsoon arrives accompanied by occasional whirlwinds, Baloo is off somewhere lazily foraging in the jungle, and has not returned to his lair. Hathi leads the others in a searching party, crossing a stream and passing right by Baloo’s position down-river. Hathi’s group explores a cave on the opposite riverbank for Baloo, just as rising flood waters send a massive wave down the river channel. Baloo gets momentarily swept along by the river, getting a good drenching, but comes up in one piece. The rest of the gang, meanwhile, find themselves in unexpected peril, when a fallen tree is swept up against the mouth of the cave, blocking their escape, while the flood waters continue to pour into the cave’s mouth through what portions of the entrance remain unplugged. Kaa notices a line on the cave walls at a height considerably taller than any of them, dividing lighter and darker-colored portions of the rock faces. Another of the gang recognizes this as the markings left by water in previous instances when the river entered the cave. Then realization sets in that the water level is about to attempt to seek this past high-water mark – with them in it. The gang shouts for help, and is fortunately heard by Baloo. Pot-bellied or no, Baloo is blessed with natural strength and resourcefulness, and uses the leverage principle to snap one of the fallen-tree’s branches off, then wedge its end between the tree trunk and the outer cave wall to pish the fallen tree off and back into the river. Everyone escapes, and Baloo is cut a little slack by the others, who can see that Baloo’s system of non-action really works well – at least for Baloo.

Trouble on the Waterfront (12/21/96) finds the cubs facing the opposite weather extreme – a rare jungle drought. Hathi’s heard the word, but thinks it refers to some kind of an obscure animal. Only Bagheera is expressing concern at the watering hole about how long it has been between rains, and that maybe they shouldn’t be wasteful of the water they’ve got, in case things start to dry up. Most everyone scoffs at him, presuming there’ll always be plenty for everybody, but Bagheera goes off by himself, claiming that if ever the situation changes for the worse, he’ll be prepared. Time passes, and no rains follow. What was the watering hole becomes a dry river bed. The gang become quite parched, with Kaa coming the closest to starting the lose it, his skin turning an unusual shade of gray, and his hypnotic eyes working on each other to hypnotize himself into believing he is seeing quenching pools around him. Suddenly, Hathi’s trunk picks up the improbable scent of – water. The aroma leads them into a rear section of the temple, where a large earthen urn rests. The vessel is found to contain a goodly supply of water, almost to its rim. The surprise appearance of Bagheera from behind the pot discloses who put the water there. Making good his intent to be prepared, Bagheera has saved up what now represents their only remaining drinking supply. The gang ask for a chance to quench their thirst, but Bagheera reminds them that there is still no sign of rain, so this water must be preserved until they are really in need of it, as they have no idea how long it will have to last them. Baloo puts on some over-the-top acting, pretending he is at the breaking point in need for a drink. “Nice try”, says Bagheera, seeing through the hammy performance. An odd allegiance develops, as Shere Kahn arrives on the scene, and for once sides with Bagheera, claiming he wishes to assist in the task of guarding the water supply from being squandered. Bagheera has his doubts about Kahn’s true intentions, but with the others amassing on the opposite side of the issue, and stooping to various tactics to obtain a sip by trickery, Bagheera sees no choice but to accept what help in security duty he can obtain.

The others claim they will separate in attempt to find their own water supplies, leaving Bagheera and Kahn at their post. As the day turns into night, sleep begins to overtake Bagheera, who, despite his better judgment, leaves guard shift to Kahn. Kahn of course seizes the opportunity to sneak a drink himself – but is caught red-tongued by Louie. As Hathi also turns up, chastising the security crew for hogging the water for themselves, and Baloo also claims a fair share, Bagheera reluctantly concedes that everyone should get a chance to sip to make up for Kahn’s acting out of turn. But as everyone resolves to double their diligence to see that there is no further water thievery, the next day’s blazing sun pulls its own trick on all of them – shining so hotly as to evaporate all but about a third of the water from the pot. Not at first understanding what has happened, the eye of suspicion is cast by each of the cast upon the other as to who is the water thief. Finally, one of them realizes the sun will soon make their pot as dry as the river bed.

Amidst all this commotion, only Kaa has not returned to observe the water disappearances. He has been slithering around the jungle, feeling stranger and stranger about his parched skin – intil his skin covering begins to split open like a zipper. Kaa is not drying out, but merely shedding his skin. Feeling a little weakened by the experience, Kaa slips free of his old outer covering, and leaves it behind, taking a breather in the jungle to rest in his new shiny coat of regenerated skin. Baloo stumbles across it – and believes that his old pal has withered away to skin and bones, without the bones! He returns the remains to the temple, where the shocked and saddened cast blame Bagheera for being too stingy with the water to satisfy the true needs of a close friend. A funeral for the skin is held, with Baloo attempting to improvise a eulogy. Kaa was – well, not long on intelligence, not long on courage – just long. Of course, the real Kaa finally shows up, causing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief. Bagheera offers Kaa a drink of water at last, but before the snake can drink it, the clouds return and open their torrents above in tropical rain forest fashion, which the now drenched Kaa refers to as refreshing. Before long, everyone is switching their complaints to remarks about being soaked and water-logged instead of parched. But someone blurts out the observation that for once, Bagheera was right. Bagheera’s ears perk up at the concept that someone is finally complementing his intelligence, but no one will fess up to having made the comment, and Shere Kahn coldly remarks that the effects of their recent ordeal now must have Bagheera “hearing things”.

Recess provides a pair of weather episodes. Rainy Days (11/22/97) explores the old dilemma of what happens to fill in the break when a rainstorm prevents taking recess on the playground. The gang and everyone else are shut in by Miss Finster, and detained in the school lunchroom for indoor recess, as Miss Finster barks out through a megaphone a list of “don’t”s so long, she can’t even say ot all with the air from a single deep breath. “In fact, if you can think of it, you probably can’t do it.” She, however, has her pet snitch Randall wheel out a cobweb-filled cart full of board games (which Detweiler observes “my Dad played”) and jigsaw puzzles with half of the pieces gone. Randall also offers the alternative entertainment of acting as bingo caller. The kids (except for Gretchen, who seems intent on using the extra time to catch up on her homework and plan out her next day’s reading list) are not sure how much of this they can take, until one of them utters the encouraging word that it’s only for a day, and the storm will probably clear up by tomorrow. “That’s what they want you to think”, mutters a shaky, nervous student sitting alone, curled up in a corner. Detweiler demands an explanation, and the student recounts having heard from his big brother (who lived to tell the tale) stories of the big storm of ‘89, a storm so big, it lasted for five days. By day three, the class was beginning to crack, and at each other’s throats. By day 4, cabin fever had set in, and they were laughing at jokes never told, and kicking balls that weren’t there. By day five, all thoughts of recess had been sapped out of them, and they became lifeless and unable to move – the Zombie class of ‘89. “They were defenseless”, continues the student. “They were mine”, chimes in Finster.

As ominously predicted, the rain has not ceased by day 2. Detweiler has to make good on a boast that if the rain wasn’t over by now, he’d play bingo – but one round is all he can tolerate. The board games are becoming pointless, and the kids are desperately trying to finish puzzles by forcing the pieces of one puzzle to fit into another. Day three finds the kids in verbal battles with one another, as Mikey’s desperate attempts to compose poetry about the rain, but can’t even find real words that rhyme. Detweiler awakens in the night, believing he’s already experienced day four, where in his dream he imagined himself and the kids looking out the school window, to see, floating by in flood waters a doghouse, a rowboat, and finally a whole house followed by a coast guard cutter. The real day four reduces the valley-girl “Ashley” clique to an endless repeating chant of the single word, “Whatever”. Randall collapses at his post as bingo caller. Even Gretchen has completed all the homework she ever expects to see through High School. Day five appears to follow the dreaded prediction of zombification. Everyone lies motionless (even the girl who always hangs upside-down from the monkey-bars, who loses the grip of her legs upon a lunchroom table, and collapses on the floor). Detweiler too cannot hold on, despite his last ounces of determination not to succumb – but is revived by a few drops of rain water leaking through a hole in the ceiling. “It’s only water”, he remarks to himself – then suddenly is hit with a revelation. He shakes and revives the others, stating that what they’ve been afraid of is only H2O – the same fluid they drink, and bathe in. So what if it’s raining? Detweiler sees no reason this should keep them from doing what they like – on the playground. Removing his shoes and socks, Detweiler prepares to make a break past the sleeping Finster to the front door, and enjoy his recess splashing in puddles. Detweiler’s friends announce they’re in, and when the gang reach the front doors, the rest of the class stampedes to join them. Finster is awakened, but too late to stop the kids’ cavorting outside. She angrily barks orders to come inside, but is ignored. “I was this close”, she moans, at the thought of losing her chance for another zombie class. At this moment, the sun finally breaks through, causing the kids to cheer that they’ve won the battle. A short-lived victory, as the bell sounds no more than a few seconds later, signaling the end of the recess period. Detweiler and the gang vow that nothing will ever take away their recesses again – though they do it between sniffles, sneezes, and unexpected hot spells, as each of them develops symptoms indicating that a sick-day cannot be long in forthcoming.

Not quite as creative is The Coolest Heatwave Ever (2/29/00) – This time, the school is in the middle of a record heatwave. The electric fan in the classroom offers small respite – until it breaks down. The teacher remarks that the janitor could fix it – if he hadn’t had to take leave for heat prostration. She suggests that one effective means of cooling remains to them – visualization in their minds of being in the coolest places imaginable. All but youngest of the regular gang Gus (the newest kid who has moved around a lot on account of coming from a military family) ignore such a suggestion, quickly leaving the classroom when the recess bell sounds. But it is out of the proverbial frying pan into the fire. The monkey bars are of no use, as one girl attempts to touch them, and gets her hands burned. Basketball is out, as the rubber ball, and even the asphalt, begin to melt at the first impact of a dribble. The shady spots (even the shadow left behind one fat kid) are already occupied by the student body before the gang can even think of reaching them. And the line of kids waiting for the water fountain is a mile long. Suddenly, the line disperses – and the gang finds out why. The water supply has been shut off, and Gretchen surmises that the demand on the pipes was so great, the system thought there was a leak, and engaged an emergency shut-off valve. With no janitor around to restore the service, the kids prepare for meltdown – until a school “informer” slips them word of a fabled back up override valve located on the other side of the playground, that hasn’t been located or used since the dust bowl. The gang sets off on a mission to trek the burning playground wasteland to reach the valve, Detweiler warning that they will have to conserve their energy and avoid the mind-playing tricks that happen in all desert movies. Only a few yards into their wanderings, and the gang are showing signs of the heat taking its toll. Mikey converts a potato chip bag into a replica of a sheik’s burnoose. They observe other students on their journey, frying (and burning to a crisp) eggs on the pavement. Nearing the halfway point of the journey, Spinelli and Mikey begin to see mirages, each visualizing the playground merry-go-round as, respectively, a giant water valve, and a giant dish of flavorful sorbet. Gretchen is wringing streams of perspiration out of her braids.

But Gus seems unphased, and keeps attempting to tell the gang the way to beat the heat, without anyone listening. Gretchen’s map of the school plumbing system leads them to a halfway point at the Ashleys’ exclusive playground clubhouse (constructed from a pile of old rubber tires), where she assumes even the Ashleys should be human enough to offer them a brief respite. But the Ashleys are still acting as elitists, sunbathing in the rear of the clubhouse with pitchers full of imported water, until they notice even their water is evaporating. They retreat into the shade of the clubhouse (which even includes a portable air conditioner), and shut out the gang. Everyone starts blaming everyone else for stranding them all out here, with no strength or hope of ever reaching the valve – except Gus, who shouts above the clamor for everyone to be quiet. He finally gets them to hear that he has been using the teacher’s visualization idea all this time, and found no need for water or shade. He explains that he has been visualizing a past mission with his Dad, on the cold snow slopes of a polar mountain range. A story-within-a-story is told in flashback, with a chase of a villain who wants to alter global economy recounted in a spoof made to resemble “Johnny Quest” – complete with a mask-eyed dog named “Robber”). By the time the story is over, Gretchen finds herself stumbling over a weed-covered section of pipe – connected to the emergency override valve. While visualizing Gus’s story, they have all made it across the last half of the playground without collapsing. Detweiler allows Gus to do the honors of opening the valve, and the school’s grass-sprinkler system goes into full action, leaving the student body happily cavorting in the refreshing fluid for the iris out.

Still more Disney doings, next week.


  • “Jungle Cubs” was part of a trend in the late ’80s and early ’90s of animated series re-imagining established cartoon characters as juveniles, a genre that also included “The Flintstone Kids”, “A Pup Named Scooby-Doo”, and “Yo Yogi!” Fortunately the trend burned itself out before such potential atrocities as “Cadet Cave Boy and the Angel Babies” could be inflicted upon the world.

    I was initially put off by “Recess” because of the pig-nosed character designs that prevailed among all the children regardless of age, sex or race, but I came to enjoy it once I gave it a chance. Mikey’s poem about “Mud, mud, glorious mud” comes from the “Hippopotamus” song of Flanders and Swann, the finale of their 1956 revue “At the Drop of a Hat”. A few years ago a hard-rocking version of it was used in a TV commercial for four-wheel-drive vehicles; I forget which brand.

    The Ashleys’ clubhouse calls to mind the eco-friendly home built by actor Dennis Weaver in the New Mexico desert a few years earlier out of old tires and packed earth. It doesn’t need artificial heating or cooling systems because it’s so well insulated, so much so that Weaver’s son could play his electric guitar at full volume without disturbing anyone in the next room. Sounds like a nice comfy place to wait out a heatwave, or a cold snap, as the case may be.

    Not that it matters, but it sounds to me as though Gus’s dad is calling their dog “Hoodlum”, not “Robber”.

  • “Weather or Not” is an unsurprisingly ubiquitous cartoon title. Filmation’s 1971 version of ‘Sabrina the Teenage Witch’ had an entry by that name in which our heroine develops a bad case of the “Hong Kong Fluke”, causing her every spell to create inclement weather (fog, snow, and the like). Hilarity does not ensue.

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