TaleSpinis set in the city of Cape Suzette (a pun on the dishCrêpe Suzette). The city lies in a harbor protected by an enormous natural cliff wall. A single cleft in the wall is the harbor's only means of access. The cleft is guarded byanti-aircraft artillery, preventing flying rabble-rousers or air pirates from entering the city. The characters in the world ofTaleSpinareanthropomorphic animals(though normal wild animals exist too, but no humans). The time frame of the series is never specifically addressed, but appears to be in the mid-to-late 1930s, possibly in the last stages of theGreat Depression. In the show, thehelicopter, television andjet engineare experimental devices, and most architecture is reminiscent of theArt Decostyle of that period. In one episode, Baloo comments that "The Great Warended 20 years ago",thus indicating that the series takes place in or around 1938.Radiois the primary mass medium, and one episode even briefly alludes to the characters having never heard of television.
The series centers on the adventures ofbush pilotBaloo the bear, whose air cargo freight business, "Baloo's Air Service", is poached byRebecca Cunninghamupon his default on delinquent bills with the bank (run by the criminal tigerShere Khan) and renamed "Higher for Hire". Anorphanboy and former air pirate, the ambitiousGrizzlyKit Cloudkicker, attaches to Baloo and becomes his navigator. He sometimes calls him "Papa Bear". Together, they are the crew of Higher for Hire's only aircraft, a 20-year-old modifiedConwing L-16(a fictitious aircraft using elements from the FairchildC-82transport, GrummanG-21 Gooseamphibian, and a ConsolidatedPBY-3) named theSea Duck. From there, the series follows the ups and downs of Higher for Hire and its staff, sometimes in the vein of old action-adventure film serials of the 1930s and 1940s, like theTailspin Tommymovies, and contemporary variations, such asRaiders of the Lost Ark.
Their adventures often involve encounters with a gang of air pirates led byDon Karnage, as well as with representatives of Thembria (a parody of theStalinistSoviet Unioninhabited by anthropomorphicWarthogs), or other, often even stranger obstacles. In deference to contemporary sensitivities, there is no equivalent of theNazisin the series, although one story inDisney Adventures Magazine, "The Dogs of War!", had the heroes encounter members of the "Houn" nationality, a menacing militaristic nationality of dogs from "Hounsland" who wear uniforms that are clearly based on German ones and who speak in a mock-German accent.
The relationship between Baloo and Rebecca owes something to thescrewball comedy filmsof the 1930s. More precisely, according to Jymn Magon (co-creator of the series), the two characters were fashioned afterSam MaloneandRebecca Howefrom the then-popular sitcomCheers.