I keep hearing Disney canabalize itself by trying to make their theme park attractions into movies. It’s the result of Hollywood’s current trend of pretending there aren’t any ideas in the world anymore and running around trying to find quick, easy-to-wrap-your-head-around concepts that are already branded in the public eye. Of course, they’ll point whole-heartedly to Pirates of the Carribean as an example of making a movie franchise based on a theme park that goes on to gross millions. But those Pirates movies had little or nothing to do with the theme park ride. I don’t remember undead skeleton warriors, a Kraken, a witch, or even Jack Sparrow in that ride. They were just fantasy pirate movies. And remember, there are other theme park movies that utterly suck (Country Bears and Haunted Mansion [soon to be remade by Guillermo DelToro] spring to mind). Now prepare yourself for Space Mountain and Tiki Birds as they’re prepped for production.
I’m no fan of remakes and rehashes, but if they must do it, they should draw from the very best of inspiration – not effing Spinning Tea Cups: The Movie. Aside from the obvious success of Pirates, I don’t know why Disney is choosing park rides as their primary choice for film inspiration when they sit on a literal mountain of creative legacy. Geez, they could do anything. What about making The Reluctant Dragon as an actual movie and not the behind-the-scenes making-of movie the original was? Or do a new Zorro? Or a live-action Lady and the Tramp? Or anything?!? It’s Disney for eff sake. Well, I have a suggestion for a decent movie makeover. Back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, Disney was entering a golden age of TV animation for the company. They never really showed anything animated on TV other than cut up versions of their old theatrical shorts, but they started animating their own stuff for TV with the Winnie the Pooh Saturday morning series, then moving to the coveted afternoon syndication slot with the Disney Afternoon block featuring Gummie Bears (which could make a decent live-action film, but not by Raja Gosnell), Duck Tales, Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck, and my all time personal favourite, and the subject of this article: Tale Spin.
I love all of the Disney Afternoon shows, but Tale Spin was awesome. It had that amazing adventure feel to it, with secret islands, artifacts to retrieve, lost cities, creepy bad guys that seemed to follow the heroes wherever they went, etc. It was Indiana Jones, but with cool air planes and air ships. For villains, there were the air pirates lead by Don Carnage (who spoke like Desi Arnaz), U.S.S.R. inspired villains, the Thembirans, who hated capitalist Cape Suzette, and Sheer Kahn, a Lex Luthor-esque corporate villain who ran the city of Cape Suzette. That town is a fortified island city, housed by giant rock walls with guns to keep the air pirates and other threats out. Don Carnage’s apprentice, Kit Cloudkicker, escapes and befriends a big, lovabale lug, Baloo, who runs a shipping company with his Sea Duck airplane. That company gets taken over by a feisty single mother, Rebecca Cuningham, and Baloo and Rebecca bicker constantly about how to run things with Baloo pointing out that he know s to fly and she doesn’t. There’s also Wildcat, the resident mechanic who can fix anything, and Louis, Baloo’s best friend who runs a bar off the coast of Cape Suzette and has connections and information on everything. The series followed Baloo’s, Kit’s and Rebecca’s adventures in running their company Higher for Hire while running into obstacles like the Thembirans, the air pirates, Sheer Kahn, or get rich quick schemes dreamed up by Baloo and Louis, leading to the aforementioned islands, artifacts, lost cities, etc.
I would replace all of the anthropomorphized animal characters with real actors, thus severing the ties even further from the obvious Jungle Book inspiration for their designs and names (sorry diehard fans). I mean, John Goodman would be obvious for Baloo. You can recast everybody and make a live-action film with fast paced action sequences involving the planes, like a rapid-clip chase through a narrow canyon, or a race to Crepe Suzette and the safety of the giant cannons before air pirates overtake the Sea Duck. Just take the 2 hour pilot movie, Plunder and Lightning, as inspiration (it was nominated for an Emmy at the time for Outstanding Animated Program). I see this as a summer tent-pole picture with whatever stars you want to bring into it for added box office clout. And please retain that amazing musical score:
Or you can actually make something original.