In retrospect, the concept behind Disney’s TaleSpin cartoon was hilariously bizarre. It took several of the principal characters from the 1967 animated film The Jungle Book, and placed them in a world that was a mix between Indiana Jones and Casablanca, with just a hint of Star Wars. Baloo the Bear become a blend of Jock Lindsey and Han Solo, piloting a cargo plane for hire. Sher Khan, the principal antagonist in the film, became a ruthless business executive who runs a company in Cape Suzette (like Crêpes Suzette, get it?) called Khan Industries. King Louie, the singing, dancing orangutan, became a Jimmy Buffet like character who wore a straw hat, Hawaiian shirt, and lei, and ran a small bar on the waterfront. Then there were the new characters: Kit Cloudkicker, a spunky young bear who became Balloo’s sidekick, Don Carnage, a fox who terrorized the area as a sky pirate, Rebecca Cunningham, the woman who owns “Higher for Hire”, the company Baloo works for, and Wildcat, a hapless lion who works as Baloo’s mechanic.
The show debuted in 1990 on the Disney Channel, before going into syndication later that year. It only ran until August of 1991. The Capcom video game, produced by Stephan L. Butler, was released for the NES four months after the show ended its run. A Game Boy version came out the following December.
TaleSpin was a side scrolling shooter. Players controlled Baloo in his plane the Sea Duck. In the game, Sher Khan has hired Don Karnage and his air pirates to stop Baloo from making his deliveries to Higher for Hire out of business. The gameplay had a few unique features. As you piloted the Sea Duck, you could occasionally flip the plane to shoot behind you, and even to scroll from from to left on the horizontal portions of each level. Your plane started off with only rudimentary controls and weaponry. They could be upgraded by Wildcat after each level.
There were eight levels to complete and each level had a boss. The levels were a somewhat strange assortment of locations, ranging from the Alps, the jungle, and over the sea, to inside a haunted house and in a baseball stadium. The final showdown featured two boss fights, first against Don Carnage and then against his enormous airship, the Iron Vulture. There were also bonus levels, where players controlled Kit Cloudkicker on his airfoil, a bit like a flying surfboard. As Kit, you flew around popping balloons to gain extra points.
Nintendo was’t the only company to create a TaleSpin game. A similar game was developed by Radiance Software and Interactive Designs (later Sega) and was released for Turbografx-16 in 1991 and for the Sega Genesis a year later.