Editor's Note: This editorial/profile is dedicated to the heart and memory of Edmund Gilbert who left us on May 9th,1999 due to complactions of an illness. The man who voiced Baloo in TaleSpin; Gus in Kissyfur (which several fans compared to the Baloo/Kit relationship) and many other characters.
This profile/editorial has been created to answer three questions: How did the creators of TaleSpin create the best spin-off character in the history of Walt Disney Television? How could they recreate Baloo's voice to come very close to making fans think that the late Phil Harris actually did the voice when he did not? How come that we love this character? The answers will lie in TaleSpin's real strength: Characterization and the interaction of these characters; not to mention that they actually lie in this profile/editorial. Baloo started out as a cameo character in the Disney version of The Jungle Book; before Phil Harris was supposed to voice Baloo. Phil's voice alone added Baloo so much potiental that the actual cameo character turned into a main character for the Jungle Book; the last film approved by Walt Disney himself before his death. Little did anyone know how popular Baloo was until Jymn Magon decided to recreate Baloo's charm in 1988 by developing TaleSpin. Unlike most popular Disney series; Baloo did something that surprised me. His character actually evolved..... Don't believe me..read on....
Name: Baloo Bear (In "The Balooest of the Bluebloods" his last name was known as Bruinweld; although there is no evidence that he was related to the barons. YET!!)
Possible Names: Poppa Bear (Kit Cloudkicker), Cuz (Louie Lamount), Sonny Jim (Rebecca- had to get this one in..)
Age: about early 30's
Height: About 6 1/2' (Disney never gave an exact height)
Friends: Kit Cloudkicker, Rebecca Cunningham, WildCat, Louie Lamount, WhistleStop Jackson (His "idol"), Katty Dodd, Mrya Foxworthy, Rick Sky
Rivials: Don Karnage, Mad Dog, Dumptruck, Ace London (Although not really evil) , Airplane Jane (Although not evil at all), Col. Spigot
Likes: Airplanes, Kids (Kit and Molly in particular), partying (lots of it), food, treasure hunting, flying.
Dislikes: Work, bosses, trouble, being back-stabbed etc.
First Quote: "Hey Louie; you gotta know my secret to relaxation" - Plunder and Lightning Part One
Most Memoriable Quote: "Oh Baby; This *is* serious!"- Time Waits For No Bear
Weaknesses: Self-centerness; hating to earn a living and will go for easy money.
Baloo's standard attire is a yellow shirt (contains a pocket) which is way too small for him (Some say that he weighs about 450 lbs. Consider that his figure looks pear-shaped.) and a red pilot's hat. He wears a leather bomber jacket for the TaleSpin logo . Unlike most of the main characters Baloo has remained pretty much the same from the first concepts created by Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove in 1988.
First Appearance: " I Only Have Ice For You"; Tale Spin Preview Episode on the Disney Channel 05/05/1990.
First National Appearnace: "Plunder and Lightning"; Tale Spin Special TV Movie on CBC/Disney on 09/09/1990.
Person who voiced Baloo: Edmund Gilbert
A Note About Ed Gilbert:Originally; the late Phil Harris was in fact hired to voice Baloo in this spin-off series; however that effort failed. A search was on that included Jim Cummings and Peter Cullen; at first Peter Cullen was selected. However; after four episodes, even his voice didn't fit Phil Harris' charm. In a show of courage; the TaleSpin team tried for the third time to find someone who could relive the Jungle Book's charm. That's when Ed Gilbert was selected as the voice of Baloo. You can hardly tell the difference between Ed's voice of Baloo in TaleSpin and Phil Harris' voice of Baloo in The Jungle Book.
By the way; Peter Cullen still did voice a character (It Came from Beneath the Sea Duck) and Jim Cummings voiced nearly 40 characters in TaleSpin including Don Karnage and Louie. Ed Gilbert voiced nearly 30 characters in TaleSpin.
Let's face facts here..... The Jungle Book takes place more or less in the real world while TaleSpin takes place in it own world with inspired places and legends. There is a lot of contradication between the two productions; but that was done on purpose and was intended to be that way. Jymn Magon and Mark Zaslove designed a Jungle Book that would test the theories of the famed novel and see how the characters themselves would survive in the new world; a world that is inspired by the real world. Instead of a natural jungle; the Jungle Book characters now try to adapt to a concreate jungle of sorts. The changes from the Jungle Book and TaleSpin world are clearly shown and clearly the character must change and have changed completely in order to co-exist in this brand new world. Shere Khan is no longer a villian; but more or less a netural; while Louie is actually a friend rather than an annoyance in the Disney version of the Jungle Book.[Remember that Louie was not in the original Jungle Book novel.] In fact; every character in TaleSpin has tried something that is new to them and sometimes related to other main characters (Example: Rebecca trying to do Kit's Cloudsurfing in Save The Tiger, The Incredible Shrinking Molly and Mommy for a Day)
However; no one actually changed more significantly than Baloo Bear. Although it didn't start that way.
In TaleSpin; Jymn Magon decided to play it smart and make it look like Baloo was in fact the exact same character in TaleSpin as he was in the Jungle Book; for a while at least. In Plunder and Lightning Part One; we see Baloo partying at Louie's. Baloo looked like 30 year old man still stuck with a teenage-personaility; Baloo feels that his life is perfect: No worries, No bosses, No work, All fun. It is amazing that Baloo would get away with such behavior. One would think that he still believe that he was still in the jungle. In the Jungle Book; Baloo could get away with these actions because Jungle law was much more simpler and more free-forming. However; Baloo was going to soon discover that these actions in this new world were going to get him into major trouble.......
How was Baloo going to react when a small young bearcub come crashing literally into his life; not to mention onto Baloo's big belly? Baloo started off on his usual self; using the presence of his size to settle disputes. (Kit thought his tough-guy routine actually make Pilot Jack pat him on the head and say "Nice Kid..") I noticed that despite his fiery temper; Baloo is not the one who likes to fight; unless he is really angry (From Here to Machinery, Feminie Air, For Whom The Bell Klangs) or really forced into a fight (Stuck On You). He knew he had nothing to gain by picking a fight with Kit when Baloo saw Kit getting into a familiar tough-guy routine. However; Baloo failed to notice that Kit wasn't interested in picking a fight with Baloo and got the wrong (or right at first depending on how you look at it.) impression that Baloo was trying to ignore him. It certainly fits his personality; at least early on.
But then a series of events in Part One of Plunder and Lightning was the start of forcing the carefree Baloo to finally grow up and become a man... First Baloo finds out that if he doesn't find $3000 to pay those unpaid bills that Kit mentioned earlier. Baloo acted like a selfish little child; which protrayed his carefree personality. Then Baloo finds out that the Air Pirates are seemly after him and then finding out by logical means that they were after Kit and tried to force the information out of the young bearcub; not knowing that it is unwise to get into a shouting match with Kit. It once again gave the impression that Baloo only cared about a machine such as the SeaDuck and himself rather than others. This contributes to his weakness of being selfish and self-centered as Kit was unwilling to forgive him ( Which contributes to Kit's stubborness) and he abandoned Baloo after the fact. However; when Baloo found Kit tied up by the Air Pirates later; Baloo suddenly realized for the first time that he had been wrong. He knew now that it wasn't Kit that costed him his plane; it was his own selfish attitude. Kit left because he felt Baloo didn't care about his own feelings. Despite some regret; Baloo decided to finally throw away his investment into saving his plane by letting the Gorilla Birds go free and saving his future friend. Baloo was a bit surprised that Kit would blame himself for losing his seemly last chance to save his plane. However; Baloo started to learn that the natural jungle is not the same as the new "jungle" that he and his relations are now. There is a sense of moral responability and obey the rule of law and it applies to everyone including Baloo.
During his life; Baloo is considered a softie when it comes to beautiful women. (expect maybe Rebecca) In "My Fair Baloo"; Baloo's infacution with the opposite gender clearly showed up when he kept pictures of old girlfriends. (I think the reason behind them dumping him was his attitude.) He also got into a fight with Louie over Princess Lotta Lamour and Katie Dodd simply because they loved her just the same only to find out that there are more pressing matters to attend to. (See "For Whom The Bell Klangs" and "Road to Macadamia.") Again; it has a lot of do with Baloo's own attitude. However; while Baloo seems to want no part of Miss Cunningham at all; you can read between the lines of every episode that Baloo and Rebecca are getting closer and closer to being as one. Baloo will realize soon enough that he needs Rebecca's discipline (while she needs to lay back a little more from Baloo as well.)
Alas; TaleSpin has shown time and time again that like real life, people must show others the right road when the certain person does in fact lapse back into his old ways. Real life and series inconsitenties will always happen. There are so many examples of this. For Kit Cloudkicker; it was in Stormy Weather (which I will touch later on) and in Flight School where Kit simply relapsed (for a while) from a more controlled young kid to the older, more mature "I think that I know what I'm doing" adult. It sometimes makes you wonder if anything in Plunder and Lightning actually meant anything at all. However; this represents real life. Too many times; we think that a person has changed, but really he hasn't changed completely or permenatly and requires us to intervene for the benefit of that person. And Baloo did that song and dance routine way too many times.
Baloo was not a real fan of Rebecca. In fact; Baloo despies 'Brown-Eyes with her hair tied too tight'. Of course Rebecca was the exact opposite of Baloo: clean, stern and very bossy. On the other hand; Baloo did finally show that although you can consider him a slob, he did care about the people around him despite his problems with Beckey's hard-nosed attitude and Kit's stubborness. It is a sure sign that Baloo have always had the ability to change but his own will wasn't strong enough yet to accept the change and keep it there.
There are many example of which Baloo seemed to relapse into the old character that is known as Baloo. In Bullethead Baloo; he tried to impress Kit and his Jungle Ace friends by creating the persona of Bullethead; a pulp serial comic hero. However; his act went too far to the point where he was by Kit's own words; a disgrace to the pilots that he used to stand for just to impress a few friends over a comic book hero that doesn't even exist. The strange irony is that Baloo's Bullethead routine actually stopped MEL and foiled Dr. Axolott1's plot to kidnap Shere Khan; however, Baloo learned that day that you don't need to look like a superhero or use super powers. As Kit would atest: Baloo is the real hero and no one falls out of a hammock like good old Poppa Bear.
However; one memoriable relapse was in the episode "A Star is Torn" in which Baloo love with beautiful women was exposed for all to me. He was memorized after saving actress Kitten Kaboodle from a self-inflicted accident (although we didn't know it was self-inflicted at the time.). Its diffcult not to love Kitten Kaboodle: She was beautiful; wonderful glassy eyes; beautiful blond hair; she walks lightly on her feet etc. A bear like Baloo; who like Rebecca is trying to find a important other in his life after the pain of childhood and early adulthood still sting to this very day. However; Kitten Kaboodle was a stuggling actress who would now do just about anything to put her career on track. Including manipulating Baloo into doing a stunt that was set up by Kitten Kaboodle to be an accident; not even caring if Baloo actually perishes in the stunt. While Rebecca's attempt to ruin the stunt and save Baloo from the psychological spell that Kitten weaved; it shows that Baloo's desparation for someone to love him as a husband is so great. This episode is just one step closer to Rebecca and Baloo finally becoming more than just relucent partners or just good friends. It will happen someday; much to the cringing of a certain Ted Bear.
Baloo has also been to a lesser degree in episodes such as "The Road To Macadamia" and "For Whom The Bell Klangs"; and most of the time it is for comedy purposes than anything else.
To Baloo; only Kit Cloudkicker is more important than his own "baby" (Baloo always refers to his personal processions), the Sea Duck. A 2-engine plane customed built, part of the Conwing L-16 family of airplanes. Baloo is a ture master of flight; he can do amazing stunts that normal pilots cannot do. (I say normal because Kit can do some things even Baloo can't do. Like cloudsurfing....) Such examples includes the famous "Baloo Corkscrew" where Baloo goes as high as the SeaDuck can go before stalling and then barrell-rolls down as it descends into the pattern of a corkscrew (Heance the name; see "Flight School Confedintial"). One time; he even broke the sound barrier and tested an engine for the army. (Although that was more of an accident and it made a certain ace jealous. See Mach One for the Gipper) In another time; Baloo also did a three-point landing in a volcano. (Don't try that with your plane please!)
Flying is Baloo's life and its clearly shown by various references such as the plup comics on Rick Sky (See Bygones) and the acceptance of WhistleStop Jackson (See WhistleStop Jackson, Legend) which when Kit started to question Baloo on that particular character Baloo couldn't even believe it. (Give the poor kid a break Baloo. Kit is not a mind-reader.) Baloo went into a long-wind conversation about how famous he was without realizing that like real life; sometimes they are not as great or as powerful as they think that they are. Despite the fact that WhistleStop Jackson had such a huge ego and Baloo kept being blamed by Rebecca Cunningham.
However; there are some pilots who believe that they are better than Baloo and love to rub it in most of the time. One of those is Airplane Jane (See Waiders of the Wost Tweasure) who defeated Baloo in an air show race on a clever move where she cut the balloon by throwing the knife at the rope and grabbed the rope just after it was released. It is quite ironic to create a character that was a female equalivant to Baloo. (She was big; and had just as big an ego as Baloo did.) Both pilots were to recover a treasure from Walla Walla Bing Bang for Princess Gwace called "The Wuby Wings". Their squbble over some trivial part of their past got them into trouble over "Prince" Rudolph (who was nothing more than an imposter trying to become the king and overtake Princess Gwace's right to the throne.). Afterwards; Baloo and Airplane Jane saw each other that despite their egos; they were pretty much the same in ability and should work together. In the end; Princess Gwace got her wings, Airplane Jane got her reward and she helped Baloo pay for him using the paperweights to help stop the fake Prince. (Because Baloo did in fact help Jane during the episode.)
Another ego-guy in the TaleSpin was Ace London (voiced by late Phil Hartman); whom Baloo still to this day cringes everytime he hears London or even sees him. London has without a doubt the biggest ego in the world and why not? He does claim to have put root bear (don't do that with your plane please! You'll regret it! Although you can put it in your toilet tank.) in the fuel tank when it ran out of plane fuel. He always loved to tease Baloo saying that London was always one step ahead of him. "Behind the 8 ball so to speak". To a certain extent; London is right. Its not often that an Ace pilot like London would be given something so important as a secret engine. However; London's own recklessness and cocky attitude like Baloo's would prove to be his own undoing. He mistakenly switched cargo with Baloo's pickle shipment and then he blamed Baloo for stealing a top secret engine. Baloo attempted to give the engine back to London after finding out that he got the engine instead of the pickle shipment which he was supposed to deliver; however Ace London and several pilots shot at Baloo and also got the Air Pirates involved because of it. However; Baloo's decision to use the engine not only allowed Baloo and WildCat to break the sound barrier and become heroes but also exposed the weaknesses of Ace London and an ego that is even more bottomless than Don Karnage. London's shameful display costed him everything and his life has never been the same since. Yes; folks despite all the faults Baloo has, he has his limits.
Plunder and Lightning; the Emmy award winner for the best animation program (one hour or more) is TaleSpin's greatest episode and Disney Television Animation #1 pilot episode. The series will always be remembered for just one sence involving Baloo in Part III of Plunder and Lightning. This is after Baloo was just betrayed by Kit Cloudkicker (in an attempt to save Baloo and the Cunninghams); and while being in Shere Khan office. Shere Khan was dissapointed in Baloo's failure of getting the stone back to him; but then responded with another line that would speak volumes of Baloo's past:
"I don't need to be told cause I'm an expert!!! They get close to you and stab ya in the back.....!!!" - Baloo, Plunder and Lightning Part III.
Prehaps its just a reaction to Baloo's own 'take-it-easy" attitude; however, this line pretty much spoke volumes about Baloo himself. His ture past is revealed and it is just like Kit's: filled with tragic thought and constant betrayal. The free-wheeling behaviour of Baloo was just a by-product of a deep problem. Baloo never really liked himself very much. Everything he did was just an act and not based on his ture character. Again; it shows the hardship that he has suffered before he met Kit and when Kit left Baloo in Stormy Weather. Baloo and Kit are turely similar in psychological terms; although they are completely different on the surface. When Kit made that message to Baloo after he stole the crystal and betrayed Don Karnage for the second time; he saw the ture meaning of his real friendship. Luck didn't bring them together; it was ture fate. They were meant to see each other and the purpose was to blend together and become as one; making their lives whole. If Kit Cloudkicker had not be saved by the overdrive motors by Baloo; as one person spoke about the episode Flight School: There wouldn't be one hole in the mountain; there would be two. Love Baloo or hate him; Kit and Baloo cannot co-exist without knowing that the other is alive and well. It was ture in Plunder and Lightning; It was ture in Stormy Weather and its was ture in Flight School. If one perish; the other will follow in the end. It's the ture undeniable love that TaleSpin brings.
So to end my attempt at a good Baloo profile/editorial which I still believe that Gidget or Laura Ann Trombley can do this better and I could ever since I'm a fan of Kit; Baloo is a powerful character. Behind that 400 pound of fat and jolly good humor is a bear trying to reclaim his plane and having to grow up in the process. While the journey has not ended for Baloo; the road is getting shorter. However; no matter what, Baloo's comic and heart will always shine over his seriousness and that should not change for anyone. The only change is that he heart and comedy is geninue and not the act that he had been forced to play because of the unwritten tragic events that he experience. With Kit by his side and Rebecca's discpline; Baloo can finally gain what his real 'need' in life: peace. Good luck Poppa Bear! You are really something.....to me!
That's my opinion; I welcome yours. See you next time.