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Darkwing Duck & Talespin: Volume One (September 7/06)

I think everyone at a certain age probably remembers the Disney Afternoon, with its lineup of shows having included stuff like Ducktales, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers (both already available on DVD) and the two shows reviewed here, Darkwing Duck and Talespin. If the mention of “the Disney Afternoon” or shows like Ducktales and Talespin doesn’t give you a warm, nostalgic feeling, well then, these probably aren’t the DVDs for you. There’s nothing wrong with either show, but both are probably best left either to people with fond memories of their original run, or kids.

Darkwing Duck, which premiered in 1991, features a bumbling, Batman-esque superhero and his faithful sidekick, Launchpad. The show generally features the duo taking on a supervillain of some sort, with Darkwing’s adopted daughter Gosalyn often being worked into the mix. The show features some surprisingly decent animation, particularly compared to some other animated television shows of the era. It’s well-made and generally entertaining; Darkwing himself makes for an engaging enough protagonist, and the characters he’s surrounded with are equally affable. The humor tends to lean towards the juvenile side (this is a kids’ show, after all) though each episode is generally peppered with a few references bound to sail over the heads of its younger viewers.

Talespin is probably the superior of the two shows, though I suppose this ultimately boils down to personal taste, as both shows share a pretty similar tone. A spin-off of sorts of the 1967 film The Jungle Book, Talespin follows the adventures of that film’s supporting character, Baloo, who has apparently gone from lounging about in the jungle to flying a plane for a charter delivery service. This turn of events (a bear flying a plane) isn’t too bizarre in the context of the show, as it (as well as Ducktales) seems to take place in some alternate universe where humans don’t exist (or have been subjugated somehow by their animal oppressors). Baloo proves to be the ideal central character for a show like this, and his easy-going likability gives the show much of its charm.

Though both of these sets will probably find their warmest reception among those who were fans of the shows in their original runs, these are still shows of a fairly high quality. Their primary audience – kids – are sure to enjoy them, but I think even adults will be able to find something worth embracing here. Talespin’s appeal seems to be slightly more universal, and will probably hold a slightly greater appeal to adults than Darkwing Duck, though both shows are certainly better than your average Saturday morning fare. The video quality on these DVDs is iffy, and the special features are non-existent, but the price is right, particularly considering the amount of episodes you get in each set. If you’re a fan of either of these shows, picking up one (or both) of these sets is pretty much a no-brainer.

-Michael Nusair

About the DVDs: Darkwing Duck and Talespin have both been released by Walt Disney Home Entertainment, and each set contains 27 episodes spread over three discs. The picture quality is less than stellar, but certainly passable (if you have the Rescue Rangers or Ducktales DVDs, you pretty much know what to expect). Both collections are about as bare-bones as they come, with only a few trailers for upcoming Disney releases in each set.
© David Nusair