Wednesday, July 20, 2011

THE BEST (AND REST) OF KIMBA, Episode 25: "Too Many Elephants"

"Too Many Elephants" contains one of the very few Kimba scenes that I was able to distinctly remember well into adulthood. The scene isn't nearly as significant or arresting as that wonderful, dramatic shot of the despairing Kimba on the tree limb in "Jungle Thief," but one can't have everything. As fate would have it, "Elephants" was the ABSOLUTE LAST Kimba episode to come my way when I was (re)accumulating the eps in the 90s, so there was a period of time there when I was halfway convinced that my recollection of the scene was faulty. To the contrary, my memory proved to be quite accurate.

Like "Battle at Dead River," "Elephants" is one of those Kimba eps with "convenient character amnesia" as a prerequisite. In this case, two bits of previously established information are flatly contradicted here:

(1) Roger's blustery uncle Mr. Pompus (Gilbert Mack) comes to the jungle to try to convince Roger to come home, but Mr. P. doesn't seem to remember that Kimba was once Roger's pet and that they even shared an adventure or two (e.g. the "incident on London Bridge" in the flashback section of "The Magic Serpent"). I'd never accuse Mr. P. of being overly bright, but this leonine lacuna is decidedly puzzling.

(2) The sweet 'n lovable Captain Tonga returns (in the guise of a government official, as in "The Hunting Ground") and spies Kimba one or two times, but she doesn't recognize him. This contradiction, we may be able to resolve. Given Tonga's well-established obsession with "the white lion that I've got to catch" in her two previous appearances, it's tempting to back-date this episode to a time before "Catch 'Em if You Can." As we'll see, the result of Tonga's "maybe-sort-of-first-encounter" with Kimba certainly provides a plausible starting point for an obsession.

There's some great, understated humor in Ray Owens' opening narration: It's a peaceful day in Kimba's kingdom until Mr. Pompus arrives. Blink and you might miss the joke -- that is, provided that ears can blink.

The opening scenes clearly establish why Mr. Pompus wants to convince Roger to leave the jungle but says absolutely nothing about how Mr. P. found out where Roger was. GPS devices were still some years away, so the only reasonable explanation would be that Roger somehow got a letter to his uncle with a description of his location. Maybe the animal postal service of "The Runaway" was used here.

I have to laugh a bit at the depiction of the "game preserve" that Kimba visits to investigate the report of impending animal killings. Nicky and I visited a wild animal park on a trip to California, and, believe me, there's no way we could get up that close to the animals and take pictures! Kimba's comment that the park is "as peaceful as usual" suggests that he's been there before, which certainly seems plausible. Like Tonga's hunting ground (the HQ of which, oddly enough, has the same "government issue" look as the HQ of the preserve), the park is clearly located very close to Kimba's jungle, and the security certainly is lax enough to permit outside visitors, as Kimba demonstrates to us when he saunters on in.

Packer Dermus (Ray Owens) is unquestionably the nastiest critter we've yet met who doesn't have direct designs on Kimba's kingdom. Of course, he's having so much fun throwing his weight around on the preserve that expanding his rule probably hasn't crossed his mind. Kimba makes the mistake of purposely trying to rile Packer up (can't really say that I blame him, but some animal backup would have been helpful before Kimba attempted this) and quickly falls in with a big, bad crowd, at least until little Peewee offers him an egress. I don't know who did Peewee's voice, and it's probably a good thing. Even Dot, Dash, and Dinky sound less cutesy than Peewee.

Mr. Triggerman (Hal Studer), the gent with the mustache and dark specs, is indeed Tonga's "Daddy" -- her foster Daddy. We'll learn more about this in "Such Sweet Sorrow." Tonga sounds a bit younger here than she did in either of her previous appearances, another indication that this may "really" have happened before the "hunting ground" episodes.

If that's a "hunting party," then maybe the missiles (?!) are the candles on someone's cake?!? Talk about overkill... and, speaking of overkill, a much more humane way of solving the "rogue elephants" problem practically shrieks to have been used here. Simply identify the most destructive elephants (Packer, I'm looking at you), tranquilize them, and ship them out to an isolated location, or even put them back in the wild. If worse comes to worst, then the absolute baddest of the bad could be "destroyed," but "getting rid of" all of the elephants is a classic case of cutting off one's trunk to spite one's face. Packer's herd (which we won't see in full until a bit later in the ep) is huge, and only a small number of Packer's immediate peeps are actually seen hoarding food and committing other atrocities upon the landscape. Many of the other elephants in Packer's herd are probably like Peewee and his mother and should not be made to pay the ultimate penalty just for tidy-mindedness' sake. Evidently, the people running the game preserve and the hunting ground think of elephants as some sort of "easily renewable resource," just as the paper companies used to think of forests. It doesn't seem to have occurred to them that, if they "destroy" all the elephants, then a fair number of picture-takers are going to be mighty disappointed.

Ever hear that famous definition of insanity, Kimba? Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result? All that persistence resulted in nothing more than "repeated ovulation" (being turned into an egg for flight-pattern purposes) and a subsequent brief burst of frustration-fueled elephantophobia directed at poor Peewee. Thankfully, Kimba quickly recovers his aplomb and hides Peewee away in the loft house. This "hiding scene" is the one that I managed to remember for all those years. Perhaps it was because I had a bunk bed?

Something funny in the scene in which Mr. Pompus tries to leave the jungle... we're led to believe that the leopard and the cheetah are keeping Mr. P. from leaving! Well, Kimba did give them orders of sorts before leaving for the preserve, so this may be the animal equivalent of "I was just following orders."

You have to feel for Kimba when he realizes that Packer's herd has been wiped out. To a young prince imbued with a strong sense of duty and the need for animals to cooperate in order to improve their civilization, the "failure to communicate" with the recalcitrant Packer must have seemed like the worst sort of defeat. Perhaps his sorrow would have been assuaged a bit by the realization that, with the worst of the elephants gone, the other animals in the preserve are now going to have a much happier time of it... but any such budding thoughts are driven out of Kimba's mind by the presence of Peewee and his mother and by Tonga's sudden spasm of blood-lust (the girl is thorough, I'll give her that). Kimba's flight results in the destruction of the copter, but I think that he's giving himself too much credit by claiming to have "licked" it. Isn't this the same lion who leaped over a flying copter in "Diamonds in the Gruff"? That seems a lot more physically impressive. Considering that no one appeared to be steering the copter while Tonga was trying to blast Kimba to bits, I would have been surprised if the copter hadn't crashed. If this really did take place before "Catch 'Em if You Can," then I can readily understand why Tonga became obsessed with capturing Kimba; the sense of shame and humiliation must have been acute.

Kimba is pleased to see that the "TALE SPIN Parachute Postulate"
holds true in his series, as well.

We end with a classic "group goodbye" as Mr. Pompus' mercurial nature secures a few more episodes' worth of jungle work for Roger. (I wonder where they got the tools to fix Mr. P.'s fall-apart car.) A good episode, despite the continuity lapses, and we will be seeing Peewee again on a couple of occasions. I imagine that the memories of life under Packer's rule were so bad that Peewee and his mom were only too happy to move to Kimba's kingdom.

Up next: Episode 26, "A Revolting Development."

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