When last we met on this topic (almost 4 years ago – hem-hem), Len Uhley and I were still trying to hash out the cast. After coming up with a cast list on Aug 18th, 1988, we held another brainstorm session to nail down the main characters. Here are some excerpts from a transcript of that conversation.
- LU: You got your dog, you got your platypus. You got your not-an-ostrich.
- JM: My favorite animal, the non-ostrich.
- LU: You don’t want Sammy Platypus.
- JM: I’m not saying I don’t, I just… Look, when we went to sell Rescue Rangers, we had all these characters, and it was a funny lizard and a funny rat, [however] at the head of the whole thing was this macho character called Colt Cheddarson. [Sadly, the reaction from Management was], “Yeah, he’s good, that’s nice,” but it wasn’t like, “Yow! This guy’s gonna be a star!” I just don’t feel like there’s anyone here. I know they’re B-Players, [but] there are no stars here.
- LU: Well, then bestow upon me your wisdom with respect to what the lead should be, and I don’t mean dog or chicken or whatever, but I mean, I’m missing what you feel is missing.
- JM: Okay, let me put it in terms of Michael Eisner. You’ve been asked to spend $22 million on a series, based on — THIS CHARACTER! [So who is it?]
- LU: My question, do we need to take an established Disney character, just like we did with Chip ‘n’ Dale?
There it is, folks. The realization that we needed someone BIG who would front the show. But who could it be? We couldn’t use Mickey or Goofy, cuz they were A-Players. We wanted someone vivacious like Roger Rabbit or silly like Bullwinkle J. Moose. But we couldn’t think of anyone like that.
So then we started thinking about comedy teams – Abbott & Costello, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Laurel & Hardy, Laverne & Shirley. One smart, one dumb.
- JM: Laurel and Hardy and the Honeymooners. You always knew that Stan Laurel and Ed Norton were funnier, but you were never allowed to forget that the other ones were the leads. If you get Roger Rabbit and you get this little platypus nebbish sidekick, what you’ve got is…
- LU: Two idiots. Maybe we do need to think along the lines of — cat and mouse. Think about it. You have a big, well-meaning sheepdog and you have a slightly more clever cat.
Ah-hah! See where this is going? The door is opening for a bear and a rat!
- JM: We’re looking for a Rocky and Bullwinkle. Rocky is Jackie Gleason. He’s there;
he’s the star; he gets top billing, but you know the funny one is the other one.
- LU: So basically we’re doing Roger Rabbit and Humphrey the Bear. That’s the problem. We’ve got to find a talking Humphrey the Bear.
Hmmm… who could that be???
Anyway, Len and I went on to discuss Hope & Crosby, plus Asterix & Obelisk. Inseparable buddies.
- JM: When I was working with Mike Post, we created a rock & roll band [called Halyx for Disneyland]. And one of the things that Mike said was, “When you watch the Beatles, there is an instant rapport when two of them sang off the same microphone.” There was a camaraderie there that you couldn’t sell with tons of words; all you had to do was see them. It instantly gets me thinking about the way that Butch and Sundance would jump onto the same horse and ride off. That even though you knew they were completely separate people and would go their separate ways, there was an understanding [between them].
Admittedly, we never achieved that kind of relationship with Baloo and Ricky, but it’s interesting to note that this friendship blossomed later with Baloo and Kit Cloudkicker.
- LU: Okay, let’s take it down to characters of ours for a sec. Maybe it’s Gusto [Gummi] and Tummi – as different animals, of course.
- JM: Tummi to me is John Candy in STRIPES. He’s a complete sidebar. He’s not part of a team; he’s funny on his own.
- LU: That kind of “Let’s go out and do something wild” stuff conforms to what you’re talking about for our lead in this. He’s a little more firmly rooted than Gusto, but not by much.
- JM: All right, if that’s what you want… Baloo the Bear. You’ve got the big dog thing. Make him a B-Player just the way he is. He’s a perfect B-Player. It’s very much like Roger, “I just want to entertain, I just want to be myself,” you know? He can’t see past that.
- LU: Okay, let’s use him. That’ll satisfy Eisner. [Then we] create a new character, and he’s playing with Baloo the Bear.
- JM: [Eisner] will never let us have him.
- LU: No?
- JM: Not unless we suggested we do JUNGLE BOOK as a TV thing. God, that would be great.
Wait, isn’t that Tale Spin? Jungle Book in the sky? Ha-ha-ha!
- LU: Okay, you sell it as, it’s Baloo – as a St. Bernard.
- JM: Yeah, you don’t make it Baloo; you do exactly what they did in ROBIN HOOD. They’re never gonna do Robin Hood as a series. Make him Little John. Same character. And it was Phil Harris doing the [same] voice, and it was the big, fat, dumb bear, you know?
- LU: He’s be a great B-Player.
- JM: Remember how [Little John] sweet-talked Prince John, “Hey, PJ. you look beautiful.” and then he’d take the Snake and tie him in a knot. And he’d dress up like a woman and put [coins] down the front of his dress, and when somebody caught him, he’d go into this coy thing and start dancing around. It was that mentality of…
- LU: Milton Berle.
- JM: That’s it! Milton Berle starring in the B-Players.
- LU: That’s right. He’d love that, wouldn’t he? The kind of thing where he’d do anything for a laugh – no shame.
- JM: Hope and Crosby. Baloo would be Crosby. More laid-back, the bare necessities. He likes things to come easy – never has to work at it. Baloo would go up to a tree and bump it with his hip, and the bananas would fall into his lap. [Or] he would send [Bob] Hope up the tree.
That was the end of that day’s brainstorm session. As you can see, Baloo had fallen into place. Now we had to figure out his sidekick, his buddy, his pal… And that’s tomorrow.
Excelsior! (is packing material)