Tuesday Toonsday: Get to Know the Characters of TaleSpin!

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There are quite a few animated characters in Disney’s TaleSpin, but we’ve gathered up those who are central to the early episodes.  Thanks to the fine folks who put together Wikipedia articles like this one, we’re able to bring you this character guide!  I’ve chopped a bunch of extraneous info, so if you want more, just head on over to the Wiki link.

If you want to pick up the 1990 animated series on DVD, you can do so through our referral links.  Pick up TaleSpin Vol. 1, Vol. 2, and/orVol. 3 right here! Doing so helps to fund the podcast, so thanks in advance!

talespin-balooBaloo  

Baloo von Bruinwald XIII (voiced by Ed Gilbert) is the main character of the series, based primarily on the sloth bear from Disney’s The Jungle Book, but with a flight cap and a yellow shirt (and four-fingered hands instead of his Jungle Book counterpart’s claws). Although lazy, slobbish, unreliable and always broke, he is also an excellent pilot and capable of the most daring maneuvers in the air. He flies a cargo plane called the Sea Duck. He will also selflessly come to the aid of those in need of help. His irresponsible behavior sometimes jeopardizes important situations, as seen in the episode “Your Baloo’s in the Mail” when he fails to mail a winning ticket in the proper way, which puts Rebecca’s ability to receive prize money at risk.   He also has a penchant for getting into schemes that require him to dress up in drag to suit the situation, such as when he became Rebecca’s “female” co-pilot Tan-Margaret (a play on Ann-Margret) in the episode “Feminine Air”.   Some of his mannerisms survive from The Jungle Book, including his nickname of “Papa Bear” by Kit, which Mowgli had given to him. He also calls Kit “Li’l Britches”, as he did with Mowgli. the Hindi word for bear: bhālū (Hindi: भालू, pronounced ˈbʱaːlu ).

talespin-kit-cloudkickerKit Cloudkicker  

Kit Cloudkicker (voiced by R. J. Williams in some episodes, Alan Roberts in others) is a  12-year-old  brown bear cub and the navigator aboard Baloo’s plane, the Sea Duck. His first appearance was in the pilot episode and introductory television movie Plunder & Lightning.   He was originally voiced by Alan Roberts who did his voice for   episodes that aired as a preview-run before the series’ syndicated premiere.    R. J. Williams voiced Kit for the rest of the series (including in the pilot episode Plunder & Lightning).    His trademarks are a green sweatshirt, a blue and red baseball cap worn backward and his ability to “cloud surf” (also referred to in the show as “cloud skiing”). The baseball cap was a gift to Kit from Baloo, as a sign of friendship and trust.

As a   12-year-old who had lived with the air pirates under Don Karnage for one year prior to the start of the series,   Kit’s character was a unique one in the history of Disney – he had a very dark past, partially because the storyline originally had him as being Don Karnage’s protege. The story states that he left the air pirates because he “got sick” of them.    Kit first encountered Baloo when he crashed into him in Louie’s Place, and later rejoined Baloo by grabbing onto the Sea Duck in order to escape from the air pirates because they were trying to catch him.      His ambition was to become a pilot and to purchase his own aircraft.    

talespin-kit-cloudkicker-balooKit had the ability to cloud surf using a crescent shaped metal device called an airfoil and a regular cord attached to the back of the Sea Duck or another plane, thus allowing him to “surf” in a similar fashion to someone wakeboarding or water skiing. It was not made clear where Kit learned this skill, but he demonstrates at numerous times throughout the various episodes that he is incredibly adept at it. He can also use his board to free glide without being towed by a plane. Baloo would often give his permission for Kit to be towed behind the Sea Duck when appropriate, trusting in Kit’s skill to let him have some fun. Baloo also had enough confidence in Kit to keep himself safe on the airfoil when separated and under attack, or when Kit had to be outside for something important. Outside such situations however, he did not like Kit to take unnecessary risks, such as doing dangerous tricks or stunts.   

Rebecca Cunningham  

talespin-rebecca-cunninghamRebecca Cunningham (voiced by Sally Struthers) is a petite brown bear with long brown hair in a french twist style, usually wears a white turtleneck sweater, and a purple-red jacket and matching slacks. She is nicknamed “Becky”, “Beckers”, “Beck” (used only once in episode “A Star is Torn”),    and/or “BC” (used once in “War of the Weirds”)    by Baloo which at first she highly resented being called, but soon grew accustomed to with affection (in return, she calls him “Fly Boy” on occasion). She is an unassumingly attractive, yet shrewd businesswoman with an MBA. Rebecca bought out Baloo’s Air Service and his plane in the introductory episode Plunder & Lightning when the pilot failed to pay his bank loan, and renamed the business “Higher for Hire”.    Although she originally relegated herself to the administrative and sales functions of the business, the series shows she eventually learns to be a capable would-be pilot in her own right.    Baloo’s laziness and carefree attitude towards his responsibilities often infuriates her explosive temper, despite having some possible feelings toward him at times which does come up as a blistering jealous streak, such as in the episode “A Star is Torn”.    Rebecca can sometimes be too quick to jump to conclusions and judge people. Rebecca lives with her daughter Molly in an apartment in an upscale part of Cape Suzette, one which incorporates a waterfall in its design. She occasionally concocts outrageous schemes to quickly make extra money, such as when she buys a pig to sniff out truffles instead of a new pontoon which the Sea Duck needs in the episode “The Bigger They Are, the Louder They Oink”.    She sometimes acts as a maternal figure for Kit Cloudkicker. However, in the episode “It Came from Beneath the Sea Duck”, Rebecca’s confidence in Kit was put to the test.    While Kit was babysitting her daughter Molly, the girl accidentally got separated from him when the wagon she was on rolled down a hill and Kit had to chase it all the way to the docks.    When Rebecca heard that her young daughter had been so far from home, she blamed Kit and would not let him explain what happened, accusing him of being “reckless and irresponsible”.    Later in the episode, her confidence in him was restored when he saved her daughter from a giant squid (voiced by Peter Cullen), and she apologized to him for being too quick to judge him.   

talespin-molly-cunninghamMolly Cunningham  

Molly Elizabeth Cunningham (voiced by Janna Michaels) is Rebecca’s yellow-furred daughter. She is an adventurous child who even at her age, is not afraid to speak her mind just like her mother, who nicknames her “Honey” and “Pumpkin” (while Baloo calls her “Button Nose”). Molly has a thing for her favorite ice cream brand “Frosty Pep”, and sometimes pretends she is “Danger Woman” (the action/adventure heroine of a popular kids radio program) while seeking adventure along with Kit and Baloo. She carries a doll named “Lucy”. She often outwits adversaries much older than her. Her middle name, Elizabeth, is revealed in the episode “Mommy for a Day”,    and Molly is the only character to have any middle name revealed. Molly has taken a special interest in snow, which is problematic since it never snows in Cape Suzette.       No mention was ever made of Molly’s father, as series creator Jymn Magon reportedly said that Rebecca is either a widow or divorced, although at a      U.S. fan convention Q&A online chat he did state in roundabout tones that she is actually divorced as originally written in the first TaleSpin press release.   

talespin-wildcatWildcat  

Wildcat (voiced by Pat Fraley) is a clueless and gangly lion who typically wears a mechanic’s outfit. Although very childlike, he is ultimately a mechanical genius. For example, he can fix a smashed telephone in under ten seconds.    He speaks with a slight lisp. Wildcat has a special place in his heart for dinosaurs as they are his favorite animal.    He is also fond of pets and toys. He is honest and truthful, but at times too truthful, much to the annoyance of Baloo.

Don Karnage  

talespin-don-karnageDon Karnage (voiced by Jim Cummings) is the leader of a group of air pirates and captain of the massive hybrid airship, the Iron Vulture. He is the main antagonist in the series. He is a wolf (according to series creator Jymn Magon),    and has orangish-brown fur. He wears a blue Napoleonic-style high-collared captain’s tailcoat (with a red interior, red cuffs, and gold trim and buttons, and with the upper-front part unbuttoned and folded down as a small red triangular fold on his chest), a red belt, light bluish-gray pants, and dark-gray boots with gray cuffs. He is armed with a cutlass, which he wears on the left side of his waist, so that he can easily access it with his right hand. He speaks with an accent that is a blend of Spanish, Italian, and French accents. He pronounces /t/ and /d/ as dental consonants rather than the normal English alveolar consonants. He is a skilled pilot and ruthlessly cunning with an over-sized ego that makes him blunder with whatever scheme or raid he conducts with his pirates. When dogfighting or raiding, he flies a hybrid fighter plane that appears to be based on a low-wing monoplane but with wings added so that it is actually a triplane. Voice actor Jim Cummings has cited Ricky Ricardo as an inspiration.

talespin-shere-khanShere Khan  

Shere Khan (voiced by Tony Jay) is a Bengal tiger who also appeared in The Jungle Book, but here stands upright and wears a business suit. He sports retractable claws, which is a rarity in the show. He is sometimes accompanied by an unnamed emaciated tiger “yes-man” office aide. Khan is an extremely wealthy businessman and the head of the corporation Khan Industries (sometimes called Khan Enterprises) which is the dominant economic force in Cape Suzette. Dour, humorless and slightly arrogant because of his wealth and position, he takes enjoyment out of running small companies out of business (Higher for Hire is sometimes on his hit list) with a sense of ruthlessness to skirt around the law as he chooses. He also likes to feed tiny insects to the many carnivorous plants he grows in his office.    He once even made a deal with Don Karnage and his air pirates to create an artificial oil shortage so he could extort higher prices from the public in the episode “On a Wing and a Bear”.   

He has a well-armed air force and navy, complete with battleships (referred to as “gunships”). This is mainly to protect his shipping and business interests worldwide. However, despite his ruthless and intimidating behavior, Khan is willing to act nobly at times, such as ordering his forces into the air to protect Cape Suzette from the attack Air Pirates. He is also shown to respect Baloo’s piloting skills, most notably in the episode “From Here to Machinery”, in which Khan’s plane had been ambushed by the Air Pirates and the robotic pilot (created by the sleazy Professor Martin Torque) refused to deviate from its flight plan due to its programming, causing an arriving Baloo to forcibly remove the robot and take control of the plane (with Khan’s permission) in order to evade the pirates.    The name “Shere Khan” is derived from Hindi: Shere or Sher, i.e., a lion/tiger (Hindi: शेर,Urdu: شیر‎, pronounced ˈʃeːr ), and Khan, i.e., a South Asian title or surname (Hindi: ख़ान, Urdu: خان‎, ˈxaːn ).

talespin-king-louieLouie

Louie (voiced by Jim Cummings) is a fun-loving orangutan who also appeared in The Jungle Book, but here he wears a Hawaiian shirt, a straw hat and lei, and owns an island nightclub and motel called “Louie’s Place”, located near but outside the protection of Cape Suzette. It also serves as a refueling station/pit stop area for pilots. He has numerous monkey employees that help him run his establishment. He is Baloo’s best friend (not the case in The Jungle Book but like in the later Jungle Cubs) but sometimes can be competitive with him when it comes to women, treasure-hunting and, on occasion, in business matters.    As revealed in the episode “Louie’s Last Stand”, his hold on the island is somewhat tenuous, though through his own ingenuity and the aid of his friends he has managed to avoid losing it.

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