Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Oh these kids today don’t know how good they have it. Then upon further thought, they probably don’t have it very good at all. The explosion of media in recent years from cable TV, Satellite TV, Internet and such has been great for the transferring of information and the rampant theft of music and other stuff, but some of life’s simple wonders have been trampled on, such as the joy of Saturday Morning television. My twelve year old son has access 24 hours a day, seven days a week to whatever he wants to watch. Not only are there cartoons on 24 hours a day, if he should happen to miss an episode of Teen Titans on Tuesday, and can’t wait until Thursday for it to re-air, he can simply log on to the net and watch it stream from or whoever airs the show. As such, his desire and appreciation for the show can not fester and grow, and as he grows older his memories of the show will not grow with him.

Now when we were kids cartoons came on Saturday morning, and occasionally we could watch some old stuff when we got home from school. That was it. Oh, and we had holidays. Yes, we may have already seen ‘It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown’ last Halloween, but that was the ONLY chance we had to see it since we didn’t have a VCR or DVD player or a TIVO and as such we aren’t going to miss it THIS Halloween. Legendary animator Chuck Jones faithful adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling story ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ is such a cartoon as it came on once a year on one of those four channels we got and by God we were not going to miss it. When I got a hold of a copy ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ I was beyond excited to watch it once again, some thirty years later, to see if it was really as good as I remembered. There’s a lot of stuff we saw as kids that we remember as cool only because we were kids, just to watch it as adults and be shocked at the lameness of it all. For instance, I had gotten my hands on the entire series of ‘Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot’ and forced my boy to sit

down and watch it with me so he could witness how children’s entertainment is supposed to be. After a few of episodes, I had to force myself to keep looking at the TV to avoid losing face. I also noticed my son looking at me out of the corner of my eye, inwardly weeping at what an awful childhood I must have had to have even remotely thought this to be entertaining. But Rikki wouldn’t let me down would he?

No he wouldn’t. ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ is as entertaining in 2007 just as it was when it was first aired in 1975. As the story is told by our narrator the late Orson Welles, Rikki (voiced by Shepherd Menken) is washed out of his home via a violent rainstorm and soon found by little Teddy and nursed back to health. The family is initially concerned as this is a wild Mongoose and all, but once Rikki dispatches of the evil sand snake Karait, saving Teddy’s life, he is now a solid member of the family and spends his days in the garden patrolling the landscape.

Trouble arises when the second most feared beast in the garden, Nag the Cobra, makes his way into the home of Rikki’s benefactors with intentions to kill. Rikki engages in a tough battle with Nag (also voiced by Welles) but the noise wakes up the father who lays Nag to rest with a single shotgun blast. The reason that Nag is only the second most feared beast in the garden is because his wife Nagaina (voiced by June Foray) is the most feared and she has let the inhabitants know that for revenge for her slain husband she is going to kill all of the humans and the troublesome Rikki. Well Rikki ain’t going out like no punk and chooses to take the battle to Nagaina resulting in Rikki being dragged into her lair. No creature has ever entered the lair of the cobra and emerged alive. Will Rikki be the first?

We watched ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ as a family and though the animation isn’t nearly as crisp as a lot of the stuff being churned out today, but Kipling’s story some thirty years later is still a timeless one. Jones did a fine job of making Rikki fluffy and loveable, but also dangerous and lethal. I will admit that hearing Darzee the tailorbird wail on and on with that awful song he would sing had me wishing that Nagaina could fly, just as it did in when I first saw this story, but the voice acting was simply superb. June Foray as the voice of Nagaina would give you nightmares as she menacingly whispered ‘Rikki…Tikki… Tavi…’ Mind you that Miss Foray is ninety years old and STILL doing voiceovers for characters just as she been doing since the early 1940’s. In retrospect, ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ was a fairly intense animation in that it dealt with death, the threat of death, loss and with Rikki stomping on Nagaina’s eggs, which was kind of uncool when you think about it, making ‘Rikki Tikki Tavi’ certainly one of the ‘harder’ animated shows we watched back in the day. Not so much so in comparison to what these children deal with on a daily basis with the myriad of cable channels they have access to though.

As testament to the timelessness of this classic story, unlike the boy’s reaction to ‘Johnny Sokko’ he was as captivated by Chuck Jones retelling of the Rudyard Kipling tale just as his parents were some thirty years prior. If you run across this you should certainly pick it up to show your own children, if you have any, or to just relive the joy of great story told by master story tellers that only lasts an incredibly brief 25 minutes or so.

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