Thursday, July 7, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 21, "The Bad Baboon"

And now for something completely different... a character who has it in for someone other than Kimba (in this case, Dan'l Baboon). Actually, the "bad baboon" Big-O (Gilbert Mack, reprising his Billy Bully voice from "Catch 'em If You Can") winds up broadening the scope of his evil efforts and tangling with Kimba anyway. IMHO, this is a fatal move that makes the episode rather less successful than it otherwise should have been, but primarily because Big-O's "bigger scheme" winds up making absolutely no sense whatsoever.

This is as close as the series gets to a Dan'l-focused ep, and the contours of the old baboon's personality are traced pretty expertly, I think. Starting out as obsessed with meeting Big-O's challenge to one-on-one battle -- a battle that Dan'l's pals, thinking that he doesn't stand a chance of winning, try to keep their friend from entering -- Dan'l shows flexibility when he decides to change his tactics. This is a good encapsulation of Dan'l's general attitude towards Kimba's plans for building up jungle civilization: Dan'l sometimes pays a bit too much obeisance to the way things always have been (remember the "it's the Law of the Jungle" arguments from "A Human Friend"?), yet he's willing to unbend when circumstances warrant.

I suspect that we may have a few more "unacknowledged kills" (of the generic lion and rhino) in the opening scene. For sure, the lion appeared to be gouged quite badly, and, while the rhino is "only" seen tied up, I don't see any of Big-O's monkey minions going back to untie him after the fact.

I presume that "Mr. Stork" of the Richard Haydn voice (Ray Owens) is the same character whom we saw in "Go, White Lion!". Evidently, the stork has been a jungle denizen of long standing, which would explain why he seemed to have a clue as to little Kimba's "true mission" in the pilot episode.

The outcome of the "big baboon boss battle" (try saying that three times fast) is somewhat ironic in that the loser, Big-O, wound up being far more of a "boss" in the stereotypical sense (imperious manner, cowering cohorts) than did Dan'l. Dan'l does have a grand and glorious moment of inspired leadership in the upcoming "Gypsy's Purple Potion," but even that is more of a "rally the flagging troops" scenario than an "assemble the minions" situation. If Dan'l has ever acted like a "boss" -- and, if it happened at all, it was probably after Caesar's death but before Claw tried to muscle in and take over -- then he probably used the velvet-glove approach of Tom Platt, the "Easy Boss" of political fame.

The sudden switch to the ongoing fight between Dan'l and Big-O is a little jarring. I am unaware of any cuts being made in this scene, but wouldn't some sort of "So, we meet again!" scene have been called for here? It quickly becomes clear that, rage though Dan'l may, his friends made the right decision in trying to protect him from fighting. He is already "on the canvas," and Big-O hasn't even begun flinging the... well, um, the stuff that monkeys usually wind up flinging at some point.

....AAAAAAND Kimba makes a TREMENdous open-veldt tackle!!

Big-O's sudden decision to "abandon the field," trailing vaguely sinister threats in his wake, is our first hint as to what he really has planned for Kimba's kingdom. The problem is that he appears to resolve to "do the dirty deed" at this very moment, and we learn later that this is not actually the case.

Hal Studer again voices Cheetah, but with a different voice than the one he used in "Restaurant Trouble." Again, we're led to believe here that Big-O's plan to "destroy the animals" is entirely contingent upon Dan'l's willingness to continue the fight. This allows us to feel sympathy for the cave-jugged, semi-hysterical Dan'l, since all he wants to do is to conclude his "baboon business." As we'll see, though, it wouldn't really have mattered if Dan'l HAD broken out and immediately fell to fighting with Big-O.

I gather than the "Sulfur Valley" referenced here is the same location where Cassius trapped Kimba in "Battle at Dead River." This whole sequence of Pauley scouting, Big-O's minions singing, and Pauley's comedy pratfalls at the paws of the monkeys is evidently meant to be comic relief, and it's actually pretty successful, largely because (1) Gil Mack is at his funniest as Pauley and (2) the monkeys' "Oompa Loompa"-style song is decent as such things go in Kimba, albeit with a couple of strained rhymes. ("Rack and roooon?" Sounds like a bar frequented by D&D conventioneers.)

I'm not sure whether the input of Roger Ranger (whose role here is oddly -- and atypically -- of the "fifth wheel" variety) was really necessary in order for Kimba and the other animals to figure out Big-O's "gas-iose" plans, but I DO know that the hysterical search for the pipeline was completely unnecessary, since Pauley visited the site and saw the pipe being laid. The only reason the search was inserted here was probably to give Dan'l the time to escape, overhear the animals talking, and then resolve to think of "something else" to stop Big-O, apart from fighting. Pretty clumsy plotting.

If I were Big-O, I certainly wouldn't have broadcast the intended time of my attack (and BTW, Cheetah, villains are "unreasonable" by nature). Kimba seems unusually harried and nervous at the emergency meeting. Perhaps he was thinking, "Maybe I should simply have asked Pauley where the pipeline was"?

And now we learn that Big-O... intended to take over the jungle all along?! SWERVE!! To add insult to injury, he's only going to take over AFTER all of the animals have been destroyed. Isn't Big-O up to date on his Megavolt quotes? "If [Negaduck] destroys St. Canard, there'll be nothing left to rob!" Unless Big-O intends to repopulate the jungle with his monkey minions -- I believe a chap named Drax had a similar plan some 30 years ago, and we all know how (aesthetically) well that turned out -- I rather doubt that ruling over a poisoned patch of land filled with animal corpses will provide a thrill for more than, oh, half an hour or so.

In the scene where Big-O finally starts the gas attack, our opinion of the investigative skills of the animals in Kimba's kingdom drops another notch. So, the pipeline extended across an open field and they still couldn't find it? Luckily, it's Dan'l to the rescue with his big wad of "mystery grass" (I wonder how he knew exactly what grass to use to neutralize the poison). Kimba gets re-roped long enough to stage a dramatic breakout, tackle Big-O, and show forgiveness by leading the monkeys to safety after the pipeline breaks.

In the end, Big-O joins Claw in refusing to accept Kimba's forgiveness, and some extra punch is provided by the fact that Big-O's minions are (apparently) accepted into the kingdom, leaving the villainous baboon to wander Africa alone. And, no, he isn't coming back (unlike Claw, who has an interest in taking over WITHOUT destroying that which he intends to rule). An unusually bleak and nihilistic conclusion.

Another one of my particular faves awaits...

Up next: Episode 22, "Dangerous Journey."

No comments: