Disney's Talespin on laserdisc
Buena Vista Home Video, in 1991 and 1992, released a total of 16 episodes of Talespin (about one-quarter of its run) on NTSC VHS tapes and NTSC CLV laserdiscs, for distribution in the United States and Canada. (Some sources quote 15 episodes, counting the two parts of For Whom the Bell Klangs as one episode.)
The VHS releases contained two 23-minute episodes on each tape, in a total of eight volumes. Further information about the Talespin video tapes, including episode lists and cover art, can be found here.
The laserdisc releases contained the same episodes and used the same cover art as the VHS tapes, however each laserdisc contained the equivalent of two of the VHS sets, with two episodes on each side of the disc. The retail price of the four laserdisc editions were, accordingly, much higher than the individual videotapes.
Laserdiscs, which look similar to CDs except in their size, are a combination analog (video) and digital (audio) format which typically gives a far superior picture to VHS tapes, as the laserdisc format allows almost double the picture resolution and much greater color fidelity. Further, since there is no physical contact between the media and the laser reading it, laserdiscs do not degrade in quality with repeated plays, as magnetic formats like videotapes do. For more information about the laserdisc format, see this FAQ.
At about the same time as the American releases, a different set of episodes was released on PAL VHS tapes for European markets. I do not know if there were PAL laserdisc releases of these episodes. Laserdiscs were an even less popular format in Europe than they were in the United States (where, at the peak of the format's 'saturation,' less than 3% of households owned an LD player), so I'm inclined to doubt that PAL laserdisc releases of these episodes exist (although if I'm wrong - let me know!)
A number of the episodes selected for the US videos - like Stormy Weather and Her Chance to Dream - consistently rank among the fan favorites. But - and not to make you jealous here - the PAL-only episodes included The Time Bandit and The Bigger They Are, the Louder They Oink. The four-part Plunder and Lightning was not officially released, in its original or its cut form, anywhere in any home video format (probably due to its length.)
The NTSC Talespin laserdiscs, in quality, are a typical later CLV studio release: which is to say, they are generally excellent. The picture is taken from clean elements. It isn't evident whether the original source was digital or film (at the time this was released, it could well have been either) - although the somewhat "soft" vertical edges suggest that it may be a transfer from film. It whomps the VHS picture handily, of course, and at full resolution, is about 30% sharper than the original TV broadcast quality. There is very little analog 'warble' in the picture (this is often a problem in older discs), and although some color noise is occasionally noticable, it stays generally spot-on. The audio is PCM-encoded true digital stereo. An advantage that all of the home videos share (not just the laserdisc versions) is that they are uncut - episodes of Talespin shown in syndication were often edited for time, and further, Disney itself has made cuts to some episodes due to objections about violence.
Until (and if) Disney releases quality transfers of Talespin episodes on DVD, the laserdiscs are unquestionably the best quality versions generally available to fans. If you are interested in acquiring a set, likely sources are eBay (check it regularly), online laserdisc dealers, and perhaps your better local Mom-and-Pop video rental stores (some of these still have some used LDs to sell off.) The Talespin laserdiscs are not particularly common, but they still turn up once in a while. You can pick them up for around $5-$10 a disc if you're extra patient and can wait for a good deal; they almost never go for more than $20, though. Working used laserdisc players - if you don't have one - are commonly available, often for less than $50.
Here are some galleries of screengrabs taken from the laserdiscs; besides being fun, these should illustrate the quality of these video releases very well:
You can also see the pictures, sorted by character, on this page, with descriptions. When you view the pictures from these pages, you can also leave comments or rate the images. There is also a random picture feature, which works by character. Baloo and Rebecca have by far the most pictures right now - here is a direct link to a random Baloo picture or a random Rebecca picture.About the captures: Click on the thumbnail on the image card to see the full-sized version. These are 696 pixel-by-528 pixel JPG files. (The "real" deinterlaced vertical resolution is 482 pixels, with a smaller horizontal resolution; these pictures are upsampled to give the proper aspect ratio. Also, since the laserdisc source video went through an MPEG-2 filter while being captured, and the individual frames have been saved as lossy JPEG files, there are some compression artifacts present in these screengrabs not present in the original video.)
TaleSpin Animated .GIFs
Just for fun, here are some Talespin animated GIFs that I made:
Here are some high-quality TaleSpin scans taken from my Panini sticker collection:
TaleSpin ASCII Art
One of the ways people used to amuse themselves before the invention of CRT raster displays and the wheel:
Special secret surprise section