Monday, May 16, 2011

TaleSpinning with Don Rosa

Little known fact: well known comic book scribe and artist Don Rosa took a brief but entertaining detour into the Disney Afternoon in 1990. Otherwise known for his meticulously crafted and lavishly illustrated and designed Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comic book stories, Rosa scripted two episodes of TaleSpin, Disney's high-flying animated adventure series that featured characters transplanted from the Jungle Book into a pseudo-1930s South Pacific setting.

Rosa penned the first two produced episodes of the show, It Came From Beneath the Sea Duck and I Only Have Ice for You. Both episodes were aired as part of a Disney Channel sneak preview during the spring and summer of 1990.  The show debuted the following September as part of the syndicated Disney Afternoon, a two-hour block of programing that aired Monday through Friday in the late afternoon. Of the experience, Rosa once noted, "It was a good job; it paid real well, but there were too many fingers in the pie. And I never intended to be a TV screenwriter anyway. People try for years, and here I fell into it. I didn't enjoy it.''

Rosa's lack of enthusiasm for the project was not in any way reflected in what ultimately made it to the small screen.  Both episodes showcase much of the same cleverness and wit that Rosa infuses in his Duck-based adventures. In It Came from Beneath the Sea Duck, Rosa creates a a comedy of errors when Kit tackles his first babysitting assignment for Rebecca, and the mischievous Molly proves a handful.  Crossing this with bumbling air pirates and an oversize octopus, Rosa fashions an above average story with equal doses of humor and adventure.

In I Only Have Ice for You, Rosa's clever tongue-in-cheek wordplay extends beyond the title when the Hire for Hire gang attempts to retrieve an iceberg for desert Prince Neberhazbinbroke.  The very idea of attaching propellers to an iceberg to get it airborne is not a concept all that far removed from a Donald Duck-Uncle Scrooge adventure story.

TaleSpin was certainly among the best of Disney's character-related television endeavors, and for a brief two episode run it had the added bonus of a Don Rosa pedigree.  Fun times and great memories.