Sunday, July 3, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA: Episode 20, "Restaurant Trouble"

The plot of "Restaurant Trouble" could not be sparer or more to the point. By opening up "diners" where animals can take their meals in peace without having to fight over their food, the animals of Kimba's kingdom take one more step up the ladder of civilization -- and are promptly hit by blustering blowback in the forbidding forms of Boss Rhino (already established as foul-tempered human-hater) and Kelly Funt, the (occasionally) Irish-accented leader of a more-or-less-autonomous herd of elephants. BR and Kelly's antagonistic efforts, Kimba's responses, and a bunch of "eating gags" are pretty much all we've got to work with here.

One thing I particularly like about this ep is Pauley Cracker's failure at running his own restaurant (which prompts him to join forces with Dan'l Baboon). No, I don't like the failure per se; what I like is the fact that Pauley's problems are not really of his own making. In previous episodes, Pauley has had a tendency to get himself into trouble with his big ideas; recall, for example, his scheme to stop the invading alligators in "Diamonds in the Gruff," which Kimba slapped down hard. Here, much like Donald Duck in certain Carl Barks stories, Pauley is primarily victimized by technicalities and misunderstandings, so we're legitimately sorry when he doesn't succeed.

You could probably pick two more "logical" animals to fight over grass than a hippo (Gilbert Mack) and a gorilla (Hal Studer), but at least it makes for a good lead-off scene.

Pauley references his past life in a hotel ("Two Hearts and Two Minds") when arguing with Dan'l, but wasn't his perch (not "cage") attached to the front desk? So where was that hotel restaurant located, anyway? (Or how long was that chain on his leg?)

Nice to see the zebras finally cooperating with one of Kimba's plans, as opposed to bolting when times get tough. No doubt, the zebras' respect for Dan'l played a role here.

You must admit that Kelly Funt (Gilbert Mack, NOT using an accent) has reason to be angry over his elephant grass being taken for restaurant purposes. Even so, his bellowing seems just a tad over the top, as if it were being done for effect. Keep this in mind for later.

Kelly kind of wimps out during the first fight with Kimba, doesn't he? "Since my friends want me to stop, I'll let you win this time" is not exactly alpha-male-worthy dialogue. Despite the parting threat against the restaurant, this is our first indication that Kelly's bark is considerably worse than his bite. Part of the reason why is that Kelly, while he doesn't cotton to changing his ways, does not have the soul-curdling anti-human animus of Boss Rhino. The difference between Kelly and BR is much like the difference between a conservative and a reactionary.

Cheetah (Hal Studer) is unusual among regular supporting players in that, while he always looks the same, his personality and voice change on a regular basis. Here, Hal Studer appears to be channeling Paul Lynde, but with a somewhat higher voice. If ever a Kimba character could be described as "light in the paws"... More celebrity impersonations ensue as Papa River Hog (or Ground Pig -- Ray Owens) sounds a bit like Alfred Hitchcock, while the leader (Mack) of the clutch of lions and leopards who chase Cheetah is clearly modeled on Sheldon Leonard's "Hey, bud" character. This latter group must just be "passing through" as they seem to have no clue as to who Kimba is or the local restriction on meat-eating.

You have to admit, Pauley works his feathers to the bone trying to make his diner a success, braving confused advertising messages and difficult customers before coming a cropper vs. the elephants' literalism. This scene gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "eat you out of house and home." Interestingly, Kelly makes no reference to still holding a grudge against Pauley and Bucky before demolishing the place. If he's using the handbill loophole as a convenient cover to fulfill his promise to destroy the business, then it's an extremely effective cover.

The final battle scene isn't put together all that well, to be honest. We aren't given any particular reason for Kelly's change of heart (or, at least, lessening of antagonism) about the restaurant apart from the comment about Kimba "fight[ing] for what [he] believes in." We still don't even know what his true motivation for claiming Pauley's Gourmet was. A "glue scene" making this transition believable would not have been out of place, but I don't know whether such a scene existed in the Japanese version of the episode. If not, then the Titan crew fell down on the scripting job. Then, after Kelly stops Kimba's friends from helping Kimba during the fight with Boss Rhino, Kelly abruptly changes his own mind when he sees Kimba go down hard. If Kelly knew Kimba better, he'd realize that Kimba will take this temporary setback as just another challenge -- and, sure enough, Kimba winds up "on top" after, well, doing something behind that convenient dust cloud. This "Super Lion" feat (which Kelly, with no tangible evidence to back him up, attributes to Kimba's superior intelligence) is mocked by the later episode "Volcano Island," in which Kimba engages in a far harsher and far more physically punishing fight with Boss Rhino. Since Kimba obviously didn't lose strength between this episode and that later one, we have to put the quick K.O. in "Restaurant Trouble" down to the desire to wrap the ep up as quickly as possible.

The final scene doesn't exactly cure my chilblains, either; it seems to be begging for a product placement! Overall, an average effort, at best.

Up next: Episode 21, "The Bad Baboon."

1 comment:

Bob Thing said...

To most of his “subjects” Kimba is a god, an untouchable brilliance that they can only admire from a distance. Those who know him personally want to possess him. They reserve the right to criticize him themselves but they are intolerant of any others who do so. He is everyone’s personal treasure. Kelly wants to slap Kimba around a little for his latest affront, but seeing Kimba in real danger pushes Kelly over a mental cliff. Kelly even offers to fight in Kimba’s place which makes no sense unless you understand that like everyone else Kelly thinks of Kimba as his personal property. These complex emotions that Kimba arouses in all those who know him is part of the magic of the show and is the essence of Tezuka’s genius in creating the character. Kimba is at once your best friend and your worst enemy. Animals like Kelly are forever doomed to hating him and loving him simultaneously with equal passion. As this episode demonstrates, that can really mess them up.