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Jaffa views the Israeli/Palestinian conflict through the lens of young love. —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

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After the success of Duck Tales, Disney decided to produce two more shows for the television market, but the results were rather mixed. TaleSpin took characters from The Jungle Book and placed them in an Indiana Jones-type setting with mostly satisfying results. But Darkwing Duck tired too hard to parody Batman and The Shadow with half-cooked plots and animation.

The difference between them could be demonstrated by their theme songs. TaleSpin has a catchy tune that stays in your head for hours on end, while Darkwing’s theme sounds like a bad Fatboy Slim outtake.

Both shows get big box-set DVD releases this week (Darkwing Duck: Volume 1 and TaleSpin: Volume 1), although neither offers any special features.

Bear Necessities

Takes characters from The Jungle Book and places them in an Indiana Jones-type setting
Takes characters from The Jungle Book and places them in an Indiana Jones-type setting

In TaleSpin Baloo, the lovable “Bear Necessities” ursine from The Jungle Book, is now a pilot for the Higher for Hire (insert drug joke here) air service owned by Rebecca Cunningham, a fellow bear with a body like Nicole Kidman and a voice by Sally Struthers. He’s joined by a navigator cub named Kit Cloudkicker, and his buddy King Louie, the head orangutang from Jungle Book, runs a bar that serves soda and ice cream shakes instead of beer.

All participate in adventures involving airplanes and pirates that are reminiscent of Tales of The Gold Monkey, a failed ABC series from the 1980s that is just waiting to achieve cult status. But TaleSpin nicely takes its place for now.

For a cartoon with only Saturday-morning-quality animation, the stories are not too bad. They are not too farfetched or silly, and adults will not feel too left out by the level of the show’s humor. Some pop culture references can be found (“Hal, open the bomb bay doors”), and the dialogue can get quite clever at times. “It’s not the heat, it’s the stupidity” laments Baloo on one of his employer’s ideas.

No Batman

The genre of a masked avenger seems too tired (it's been done much better elsewhere)
The genre of a masked avenger seems too tired (it’s been done much better elsewhere)

Darkwing fails to achieve the same level of adult tolerance because the genre of a masked avenger seems too tired (it’s been done much better elsewhere). The hero is not very heroic; he’s basically a screwup who is more concerned with his image and how well his picture looks in the paper than with catching criminals.

Plots in Darkwing could not be more convoluted, especially for kids’ entertainment. And the animation looks rushed and unprofessional at times. Darkwing has its moments, especially when it comes to the pop-culture references that older audiences might enjoy. And Launchpad McQuack, the crash-prone pilot from Duck Tales, makes for welcome comic relief. But between TaleSpin and Darkwing Duck, Darkwing comes in second.

Sound and Picture

No one is going to drop more than 10 grand on a home theater system so TaleSpin or Darkwing Duck can be enjoyed in surround sound, and the DVDs acknowledge this with their very ordinary sound and picture quality. Both sets offer Digital Dolby Stereo Sound, but the box adds the disclaimer “May Only Apply To Feature,” so view at your own risk.

Special Features

Nada.

How to Use This DVD

Both shows were made for children, and children often have much different tastes than adults. Both shows will play well with most kids, and some adults will find some enjoyment as well.

...And do not feel ashamed to hum the TaleSpin theme out loud.