Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 8: Captain N Part 1

Welcome Students to the next Cartoon History Lesson. Today we will begin our 2-Part Lesson about The Cult Classic Series,Captain N: The Game Master.

Captain N was a Cult classic in the 80's and still is today. The Show Lasted 3 seasons and has Thousands of Fans. The Concept is spectaular,I mean who wouldn't wanna chill with their favorite video game Heroes.

Captain N: The Game Master is an American animated television series that aired on U.S. television from 1989 to 1991 as part of the Saturday morning cartoon lineup on NBC.

The show incorporated elements from many of the most popular Nintendo games of the time. There was also a comic book version by Valiant Comics, albeit only featuring characters from produced games by Nintendo.

The premise of Captain N first appeared in Nintendo Power magazine, created by a Nintendo staff member and magazine editor named Randy Studdard. The original concept involved Captain N (originally known as "Captain Nintendo") as a Nintendo employee and Metroid's Mother Brain as a Nintendo main computer that went rogue. Captain Nintendo had the power to temporarily give life to characters and use items from Nintendo games.

The story left a door open for a sequel (Mother Brain is temporarily defeated but her return was said to be inevitable, and Captain Nintendo vows to stop her when the time comes.)

Nintendo later decided to create a cartoon series, opting neither to credit or to compensate its creator. DiC was chosen as the animation studio,and very little of the original concept remained.

At the outset of the first episode, the hero of the series, Kevin Keene, a teenager from the Northridge,California and his dog, Duke, are summoned to another universe known as Videoland by being sucked into a vortex that formed in his television, called the Ultimate Warp Zone.

In order to fulfill an ancient prophecy, Kevin is destined to become the hero "Captain N" and save Videoland from evil forces. These Forces are led by Mother Brain from the floating world/fortress called Metroid. By the time Kevin arrives on the scene, Mother Brain has almost succeeded in conquering all of Videoland.

Kevin (who in Videoland is armed with a Zapper and a belt buckle shaped like an NES controller) and Duke appear suddenly on the other side of the Ultimate Warp Zone before the N Team

The N-Team consists of Princess Lana (the acting ruler of Videoland; a later episode explains the absence of her father the King), Simon Belmont(from castlevania), Mega Man(from megaman), and Kid Icarus aka Pit(from kid icarus).

None of them show any confidence in Kevin's ability in the beginning. After Lana is kidnapped by the enemy shortly after Kevin's arrival, the reluctant group puts their differences aside to go on a rescue mission where Kevin eventually gains the others' confidence.

In most episodes,the N Team's enemy is a group of video game villains usually led by the hidious and loud Mother Brain. Mother Brain is accompanied by her minions: the Bafoonish Eggplant Wizard(from kid icarus),the thuggish King Hippo(from punch-out), and the scheming inventor Dr. Wily(from megaman).

A 'villain of the week' is featured in some episodes when a particular video game becomes the setting. The Count(from Castlevania) is a great example. As he makes multiple appearances.

Donkey Kong also makes an appearance as a territorial, belligerent, Godzilla-sized gorilla in some episodes, but usually serves as a dangerous neutral character posing a hazard to friend and foe alike.

Further recurring characters include Dr. Light (Dr. Wright) from Megaman,Link and Princess Zelda from Legend of Zelda,and Game Boy. Game Boy is a giant Game Boy-shaped Computer who joins the N Team in Season 2.

The focus of the show is mostly action-adventure sourced from the video games they parody. Though there is lots comedic stuff. Cheezy Comedic stuff,but Comedic stuff nonetheless.

Many fans felt the characters of Kevin and Lana were inspired by Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski from another NBC Saturday Morning show,Saved by the Bell.

Before the show's third and last season, NBC made significant budget cuts to their Saturday Morning cartoon programming as they began their gradual move away from cartoons.

As a result, the third season has a cheaper quality of animation with certain elements missing from characters.Elements such as: Simon's goggles,Pit's sandals,and Lana's normal footwear.

Also, many episodes only featured only a few of the main characters,mainly the ones who were first party Nintendo characters (Kevin, Pit, Game Boy) to avoid paying royalties to Konami and Capcom for the uses of Simon Belmont and Mega Man respectively.

The episodes were also shorter and some didn't have many tie-ins to Nintendo games but other things such as fairy tales and sports.

Because Captain N took place in a universe where video games existed as reality, a multitude of video games were used in the thirty-four episodes of the series. In some cases only areas and elements from the game were used, but the protagonist was absent; some examples include Wizards & Warriors, Dragon Warrior, and Metroid.

The following video games were portrayed at least once during the series' run:

The Adventures of Bayou Billy
Bo Jackson Baseball
California Games
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest (the music only)
Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse
Donkey Kong (music)(although Donkey Kongs World was 96% jungle,there was a Donkey Kong game simulator used in one episode)
Donkey Kong Junior (the music only) (Simon Belmont thought he was Donkey Kong Junior when he had amnesia in one episode)
Dragon Warrior (now referred to as Dragon Quest)
Final Fantasy
Kid Icarus (the music also)
Marble Madness (the music also)
In the episode "I Wish I Was a Wombatman", the studio world of Marblopolis is structurally inspired by Marble Madness, right down to a giant black marble weapon with which Mother Brain attacks the N Team. Also, in the earlier episode "The Trojan Dragon", the theme from the first level of Marble Madness can be heard several times.
Mega Man (the music also)
Mega Man 2
Mega Man 3
Metroid (the music also)
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! (the music also)
Puss 'n Boots: Pero's Great Adventure
Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
Super Mario Bros. (In the first episode, Kevin briefly compares the Ultimate Warp Zone to this game. Many of the sound effects came from this game, such as jumping. The music for both the underground and fortress stages also is featured.)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (the music only)
Tetris (the music also)
Wizards & Warriors
In "Nightmare On Mother Brain's Street", the N Team traveled to the world of Wizards & Warriors and battled the resident villain, the wizard Malkil, who also appeared on a few times on The Power Team opposite his enemy, the Knight Kuros.
The Legend of Zelda (The music only)
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link

Although nearly every major Nintendo franchise at the time was represented at some point or another in the show (as well as a few obscure ones, such as Puss 'n Boots).

The Super Mario games were noticeably absent, although a line mentioning the game is included in the pilot episode, comparing the Ultimate Warp Zone that brings Captain N to Videoland to the warp zones in Super Mario Bros. This is because The Super Mario Bros. Super Show was airing during the same season, which featured the characters and world of the Mario games.

While the premise was supposedly derived from The Chronicles of Narnia, Captain N also made many other references to other sources.

The series also shared many similarities to the movie Tron, including a human being drawn into a "game" world to save it, and the large supercomputer program with a face serving as the chief antagonists.

It is also reminiscent of Kidd Video and Dungeons & Dragons,two 80's cartoons where "real" people are pulled into another world.

Captain N was syndicated on The Family Channel in 1992, and on local affiliates weekdays in the Fall of 1992 as Captain N & The Video Game Masters. This hourly show was a package which included Captain N, The Legend of Zelda, The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3, and the ill-fated Super Mario World.

This compilation package is commonly referred to as "VGM" for short in the Captain N fandom.

VGM had its own theme song, followed by a commercial break, followed by the theme song of whichever series was being shown on that day. The lyrics consisted of "The world of Captain N is here" sung four times.

Like The Super Mario Bros. Super Show, original airings of the first season typically featured current popular music of the day,such as Bob Seger's "Shakedown" in "Kevin in Videoland" and "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins in "Mega Trouble for Megaland".

But when Captain N episodes were aired in the VGM package, these songs were removed and replaced by an instrumental version of the "Mega Move" song from Season 2's "The Feud of Faxanadu".Which is also used for the syndicated runs of The Adventures of Super Mario Bros. 3.

It's also worth noting that in the episode "The Most Dangerous Game Master",a woman sung some of Michael Jackson's "Thriller". This was done to avoid paying royalties to the (now dead) King of Pop. However,in the VGM,this too was replaced by "Mega Move".

Another thing worth noting is that instead of using cover songs from popular artists,Season 2 created their own songs,with most of them being loose parodies of existing ones.

The Zelda episodes were cut for time when aired in the VGM package, and two episodes were shown in each half-hour block. Also, at least once,the episode "Doppelganger" oddly aired with the title "Underworld Connections", which is a completely different episode.

In the Family Channel and VGM airings,the second season's opening theme song had the Mario segments cut out.

It is generally regarded that there are thirty-four unique episodes of the series. However,alternative versions of some episodes exist(mostly as a result of editing in the third season and later syndication).

Here is a list of episodes with alternate versions:

"How's Bayou": The original version of this episode that aired on September 16, 1989 differed from the version that aired on all later airings. This version featured some dialogue changes/rearrangements/etc., an alternate piece of instrumental music in the Kevin/Lana dancing scene, and several other small changes here and there.

The Shout Factory DVD release contains this episode (albeit with the cover of Born on the Bayou replaced with the generic Mega Move instrumental.)

Some of the episodes were remade to 15 minutes long for airing in season 3.

The Episode "Quest For The Potion of Power" was split into 2 episodes in Season 3.

"When Mother Brain Rules",a "clip show" episode that has at least two different versions. There are many scenes with dialog but no music, and vice versa.

In alternative versions of the episodes, many of these sequences are changed around.
Many episodes also received some minor changes as well. The only major change was removing the "popular" music and replacing it with the instrumental music from the "Mega Move" song from "The Feud of Faxanadu".

Now,just for Fun I'm gonna talk about the DVD releases.

Captain N was released on DVD on February 27,2007 by Shout! Factory and Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Though the set is called "The Complete Series", there are some omissions.

Season 3 is not included. This is because Season 3 is considered to be part of a different series, due to sharing a half-hour block with the Super Mario World cartoon on NBC in the fall of 1991.

The copy holders required that the Captain N and Super Mario World episodes be released together. Captain N & The New Super Mario World has since been released on DVD in a separate two-disc set.

Episode 27, "When Mother Brain Rules", which was a clip show episode, was not included on the master tapes that DiC sent to Shout! Factory, so this episode is not included on the DVD set. In fact,NBC made the episode,not DiC.

Contrary to what many sites said prior to the release of the set, the primitive, first version of "How's Bayou" is included in this set.

However,it's the only version on the set. The better known,second version,unfortunatly isn't featured in this package.

The tapes that DiC lent Shout! Factory to make the DVD set are the ones from the NBC broadcasts,which apparently do not lose quality from copy to copy. It's unknown why DiC did not provide its own master tapes.

The opening "teasers" are not included on the DVD set,as these were not a part of Shout! Factory's deal with DiC. The only teaser on the disc is the one for "Kevin in Videoland", featured as a bonus feature on disc one.

A scene about two minutes long from the episode "Queen of the Apes" is oddly absent from the DVD, making the episode 19–20 minutes as opposed to its original running time of 21:39.

Also Missing from the DVD is the entire "underwater piranha battle" scene involving Kevin and Simon, and some of the "hoisting Mother Brain's body up a cliff" scene with Kid Icarus and Mega Man.

Brian Ward of Shout! Factory has stated that this was an authoring error and a replacement disc program is being initiated.

The popular remade songs from season one are not included,and have been replaced by an instrumental version of the "Mega Move" song from "The Feud of Faxanadu", even though Shout! Factory promised "similar sounding music." This is obviously due to rights issues involving the songs.

The songs in Season 2's episodes were not actual popular songs, but songs done exclusively for the series, so they are kept intact.

The DVD set is packaged in two double-disc thin packs. The booklet planned for the set was omitted due to time constraints,as no further delays were wanted.

Well that's gonna do it for today class. Next time we'll cover Part 2 of this lesson. Class Dismissed.


KingsSideCastle said...

I think I only saw about one episode of Captain N when it originally aired. For me the biggest thing I remembered was that they had a Gameboy character.

Anyway great lesson SFD!

Stefan said...

Thanks,KSC. You should watch the show on youtube,It's pretty cool.