Baloo, Louie and the gang battle pirates and a fiercely tropical climate to realize Molly and Rebbecca’s dreams of Christmas snow
Following the television cartoon boom of the eighties, Disney felt it high time to entire into the medium. And following the success of Gummi Bears, DuckTales, and Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, the beloved characters of The Jungle Book made their way onto the “Disney Afternoon” in the form of Disney’s TaleSpin.
Rudyard Kipling’s jazzy characters from 1990 to 1967
The television investment – featuring higher-quality budgets and animations, paid off for Disney in a big way – both in revitalizing older characters and in transitioning its “smaller” adventures found in Disney Comics into a burgeoning medium.
After school as known by my generation
TaleSpin premiered in 1990 after Disney proved it could successfully provide affiliate stations with a two block of animation under the branding of “The Disney Afternoon,” and the show would go on to win an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
So unbelievably glad I could finally grab something from the Disney Afternoon stable to write about on A Cartoon Christmas! Compared to the rather cheap, motionless cartoons airing daily on television, Disney took the format to new heights, featuring relatively fluid animation and it seemed Disney comic line had left the writers well trained in presenting plots that weren’t completely asinine.
Rebbecca dreams of a white Christmas
As much as I’d hoped for something from the earlier Disney Afternoon block – prefereably DuckTales or Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers – TaleSpin is the first evidence I found of a syndicated Disney Christmas. Not that that’s a bad thing – I love TaleSpin! Come to think, how could you not? Listen to that theme song!
Once I even got a TaleSpin Happy Meal Toy, fashioned it into a Christmas ornament, and despite some protest, my Mom still sticks that fucker on the tree each and every year.
Oh, the rain outside if frightful
Personal anecdotes aside, this episode is actually a pretty damned sturdy Christmas special in and of itself. Regardless of what you may think of the story, or the warping of Baloo and the rest of The Jungle Book crew into cargo entrepreneurs, this is a warm and subdued Holiday special, featuring a fully orchestrated score throughout.
Wildcat, as dumb as the show gets
The episode kicks off with a melancholy narration from Rebbecca (voiced Sally Struthers, a lady who knows a thing or two about tugging on heart strings) yearning for snow this Christmas. Turns out the tropical shipping port Cape Suzette doesn’t get much powder around this time of year.
Kit Cloudkicker barely gets a line this episode
Little Molly breaks a Candy Cane, but before she can burst into tears over Baloo tells here to stick a peppermint shard under her pillow, and the Candy Cane Fairy…
Of course he forgets
Baloo’s absentmindedness leaves Molly’s faith shaken; if she can’t depend on the Candy Cane Fairy to deliver a nickel’s worth of sugar, how the hell is she supposed to believe in Santa Claus?
“I suppose this is bullshit too?!”
Baloo jumps into damage control and phones up an old friend. He decides to forgo his shipment of Soap powder to enact one of the greatest Holiday fabrications ever concocted in the history of alternate Disney histories!
Why would anyone question it?
Baloo promises to take Molly to see Santa personally, and following a quick retrofitting of Louie’s Place, Molly’s off to see the “North Pole” before Rebbecca can return from her last minute Christmas shopping.
Honestly, we didn’t just fly next door
Molly walks into the TaleSpin’s familiar watering hole, but something’s a little different…
This shit is bananas
Looks as if Santa’s workshop has outsourced its toy cobbling to an un-unionized group of primates lead by none other than…
Looks oddly like the alien from American Dad
Oh yes, King Louie! Fresh from moonlighting as a bar owner, the proud King of Swing now dons the suit and beard of Santa Claus.
This… could get groovy
Louie attempts to shower Molly with every tropically-themed toy he and his band of orangutans could put together, but it looks as if she’s only got one Christmas wish in mind.
Through all the theatrics, Louie forgets to read Molly’s letter
More than anything else this December 25th, Molly desperately wants to give her mom the gift of snow she sought after in the opening. Well, it looks like Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker are gonna have to step this ruse up a notch.
Must a Pirate’s Life condemn us to a lifetime of Hanukkah?!
Meanwhile, Don Karnage’s motley gang of imbecilic pirates are also morosely demanding a Christmas of their own. Karnage, hypothesizes that as pirates, their job is to be bad, which means by duty they’ve been good… so yeah, they’re deserving of a little Christmas cheer, too.
Rain means you don’t have to do your job
Back in Cape Suzette, Rebbecca gets wise to Baloo’s plan, but how can she not fulfill the wish of her daughter when all she desires is to make her Mom happy? So devoted to realizing Molly’s Holiday whim, she’s willing to not only forget about Baloo’s late shipment of powdered soap, she’s willing to dump it across the bay in a faux snowy gesture. That’s commitment to your child!
Starting to like them better than elves, actually
On the flipside of things, Louie’s Place patrons are getting tired of waiting outside as the monkey cohorts do their best to uphold the Yuletide lie. These animated alcoholics are so desperate to get their fix, they’re willing to bust down the door of the very place the claim to love.
Give us our booze, dammit!
Obviously, the snow flake crew has to make haste, but unfortunately, they run afoul of Don Karnage and his quest for Merry Holiday mirth.
Guns? In a Disney cartoon?!
Oh hell yeah! PEW-PEW-PEW
Not sure what’s worse, dumping a bunch of soap into the majestic ocean, or throwing it out the back of the plane to drive people to a sudsy, watery death. Either way, the gang does both!
Although Rebecca, Baloo and Kit make it out safe…
Suck bubble, Karnage!
They’re plum outta soap (snow), and the restless bar patrons break in and obliterate the North Pole facade, causing Molly to get upset and runs away.
She tosses her letter to Santa, containing the wish for her mother, into the wind.
“Now I’m littering too! Whatcha think of that Santa?”
As the whole gang comes out to look for Molly…
Sorry, I just love how well drawn the backgrounds are in this sequence
And they find here staring up into the sky…
The audience doesn’t get to see what Molly saw, but it isn’t important. She made her Christmas connection and that sure as shit was good enough for me. And wouldn’t you know it, something starts to happen…
Through whatever mechanism you care to acknowledge, Cape Suzette sees its first snow, and I think an entire weather front that defies all meteorological tradition is pretty fucking special.
No songs, and no fourth wall-breaking “Merry Christmas, everyone.” Just the gang silently celebrating a Christmas miracle.
The Bible says nothing of talking, package delivering mammals. (Obviously, that would take more than six days.) Conversely, the TaleSpin Christmas special makes no mention of our lord and savior.
Physically, there’s zero Kringle, however I think his presence is all over this special, in addition to having his existence subtly validated at the end.
I think Louis makes a fine Santa, plus I would’ve killed for this level of TaleSpin merch
Given that I only watched this episode of TaleSpin, I can’t speak on as to how the rest of this series holds up. But that’s not really what we do here anyway, and I have to say I was pretty floored with the quality of music, animation, and writing that went into “A Jolly Molly Christmas.” It’s a more subdued episode, both in terms of Christmas and the TaleSpin series, but at least it avoids the hamfisted idiocy and comes off as extremely warm and personal. If you have any fond memories of the show, I can happily encourage you to give this a spin around the Holidays.
PRODUCT INFORMATION (Shop Amazon through us – it helps!)
The complete run of TaleSpin is available in two DVD volumes, with “A Jolly Molly Christmas” featured on Volume 2. Unfortunately, The Jungle Book has gone back into the Disney Vault, undoubtedly awaiting a soon to be announced Blu-ray release. However, it can still be purchased new and used through Amazon Marketplace.