As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up during the Disney Renaissance, and as a result, Disney was a big part of my childhood. Obviously, this love for Disney wasn’t just limited to the movies, but many of the TV shows that were produced in the 90s. And today, I’d like to talk a bit about one of those beloved shows.
In case you are unfamiliar with the show (in which case you’d better be about 40 years old, or I weep for your childhood) the show features Baloo from The Jungle Book, as the pilot for “Higher for Hire” an air freight business in the fictional city of Cape Suzette. The show itself is centred around the adventures of Baloo, his boss Rebecca Cunningham, his navigator/protégé Kit, as well as Rebecca’s daughter Molly and the mechanic Wildcat.
From The Jungle Book, along with Baloo, the show features Louie as the owner of a motel and nightclub, and Shere Khan as a shady, ruthless businessman (and voiced by Tony Jay, who voiced the terrifyingly dark Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Now, I really enjoyed the show in my carefree youth. So why am I writing about it now? Am I about to point out logical flaws in it, in some deranged bid to destroy my own childhood, along with countless others?
No, of course not. I’m pedantic and nitpicky, but I’m not evil. I’m just going to talk about one, somewhat confusing detail about it, which occurred to me as I was reflecting on the show.
And that detail is this: Why wasn’t Bagheera in the show?
It just seems strange to me not to have him appear. After all, in The Jungle Book, Bagheera and Baloo not only shared the spot of deuteragonist, but also served as character foils to one another. Where Bagheera was stoic and serious, Baloo was happy and carefree.
Maybe this is just me, but surely, such a dynamic would be easy to carry over to a tv-show?
I grant you, some of the personality conflicts between Rebecca and Baloo does present them as foils for one another at times, but I think adding Bagheera to the story would have been a really good move.
Here, let me brainstorm for a bit. Suppose, for a moment, that Bagheera was put in the show, as a business man. Perhaps as a rival to Shere Khan, reluctantly having to employ Higher for Hire to counter Shere Khans more ruthless methods, despite his frustration with Baloo. From there, you can have a friendly conflict of character between Baloo and Bagheera, as well as an interesting professional relationship between him and Rebecca, both being professional business people.
From a character standpoint, Baloo is portrayed as lazy and impulsive, whereas Bagheera, by contrast, would be serious, cynical and more level-headed. And perhaps, it could be revealed that Bagheera has past experience as a cargopilot. That way, you’d have his frustration and disdain being due of Baloo’s more lax attitude towards a job Bagheera has respect and fond memories of, while in still managing to be an excellent pilot.
Now, I’m not saying that Bagheera should have been a main character in the show. But a recurring spot, like Louie, would have been nice.
And really, considering their role regarding Mowgli in the movie, his dynamic with Kit could follow a similar course.
With that, you’d have a setup for character development for Baloo, Bagheera, Kit and Rebecca. With just that premise, you’d have at least three ideas for episodes! Or rather, they would, if they’d gone that route.
So why didn’t that happen?
Now, like I said, I enjoyed the show despite this. And I’m not alone in this, of course. But still, it just seems so strange, when they added both Louie and Shere Khan to the show, to not add Bagheera and take advantage of that potential, all those stories they could have told, and just leave that avenue unexplored.
Not to mention that, by doing so, they essentially robbed us of the possibility of Bagheera crossed with Howard Hughes!