Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 21-B: From Games to Toons Pt.2

Mina: We are now gonna cover the Cartoon that capitalized on Pac-Man Fever. It's Pac-Man:the Animated Series.

Pac-Man,aka Pac-Man: The Animated Series,was produced by Hanna-Barbera based on the video game,Pac-Man by Namco,which premiered on ABC and ran from 1982 to 1984. During the first airing of the show, the large number of advertisers sponsoring it caused commercial breaks to double their normal length.

Later episodes featured normal commercial break times. The arcade game Pac-Land was based entirely on the cartoon, and Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures drew significant influence from it as well.

Also, the Tengen release of the original Pac-Man arcade game for the Nintendo Entertainment System features box art based on the cartoon. This series along with The Smurfs and other Hanna-Barbera adaptations of properties were completely different from the studio's trademark signature cartoons.

The show's initial success inspired ABC's rival CBS to create Saturday Supercade, which featured other video game characters from the Golden age of video arcade games. This marked a first in H-B's twenty-five year history that the studio produced an animated series based on a video game.

The show follows the adventures of the title character, Pac-Man, his wife Pepper (who is supposed to be Ms. Pac-Man), their child Pac-Baby, their dog Chomp-Chomp and their cat Sour Puss. The family lives in Pac-Land, a place in which the geography and architecture seem to revolve around spheres and sphere-like shapes.

Most episodes of the show center around the ongoing battle between the Pac family and their only known enemies,the Ghost Monsters: Blinky,Pinky,Inky,Clyde,and Sue (a fifth, female ghost).

They work for Mezmaron,(a mysterious figure who resembles Darth Vader and acts similarly to Gargamel),whose sole mission is to locate and control the "Power Pellets", which serve as the primary food and power source for the city.It's also the deus ex machina in virtually every episode.

For whatever reason, nearly everything in Pac-Land takes the shape of a sphere (or is round, at the very least). Everything from natural backgrounds to houses to cars to animals and even the people assume the form of a ball.

Another recurring theme is the common use of "Pac-" as a prefix for verbs and famous or common existing nouns. For example: Pac-Hollywood,a town famous for its film studios.

This is reminiscent of The Smurfs,an animated show which replaced or altered several existing words with "Smurf". In fact,the series was referred to as "Pac-Smurfs" around the Hanna-Barbera studio. Pac-man himself is often referred to the nickname "Packy" by Pepper.

In a typical episode, the ghost-monsters are eaten in the beginning, and their eyes fly back to Mezmaron's lava-lair closet to get new ghost suits and plot something evil. Power Pellets seem to be the focal point of nearly every episode, as Mezmaron and the Ghost-Monsters are intent upon finding them.

In actuality Power Pellets are plentiful and easy to find around Pac-Land. Mezmaron and the Ghost-Monsters' ultimate goal is to control all the power pellets by taking over the Power Pellet Forest where power pellets are grown on trees.

Although their primary purpose appears to be enabling the Pac-people to "chomp" Ghost-Monsters,Power Pellets also seem to be part of their diet (in addition to the city's source of power). Pac-Baby is fed power pellet milk for example.

It's interesting to note that when Pac-Man eats a power pellet,instead of turning blue (like in the games),the "Ghost-Monsters" (known simply as "Monsters" in the game) turn "purple with panic" after which they make an obvious note of their situation.

Mina: My Turn. Other changes from the video games include: Super Pac-Man being a separate character who lives in a parallel dimension,Clyde being the 'head' ghost-monster,instead of Blinky,The names of the orange and red ghosts (Blinky and Clyde) are swapped,and Ms. Pac-Man being called "Pepper".

Mina: Also When the ghosts catch up to Pac-Man in the early episodes, they trap him and "chomp his bones", leaving him a disheveled version of himself. It was a very shocking visual for the predominantly young audience, and in future episodes, Pac-Man just appeared beat up or in a weakened state rather than internally gobbled.

Mina: Sue (the only female ghost-monster) is now just a separate character and the fifth ghost monster. In Ms. Pac-Man, Sue replaced Clyde in an attempt to give Ms. Pac-Man a rival of her own. When she was around, Pepper was usually the one who chomped the Sue. Even though in the cartoon Sue is purple, in the arcade game she is orange, the same color Clyde is in the Pac-Man game. However in Pac-Mania, Sue appeared in her original purple color as a fifth ghost, joining the original four, and three additional ghosts.

Mina: The ghosts all wear hats or,in Sue's case,earrings. This was done so that the animators/painters could tell the ghosts apart. Pinky and Inky had abilities the other ghost monsters did not. Pinky was able to alter his shape. For instance he changed into an inflatable rubber raft to travel on a body of water. Inky was able to produce many supplies and items from his clothing. Inky is even able to retrieve items larger than himself.

Mina: An example of this is when he took a very long ladder out of his clothing to climb a wall to escape from Pac-Man. This ability is similar to Hammerspace. Each of the ghosts have a distinct personality. Aside from Clyde and Sue's mentioned personalities, Inky is the stupid one, Blinky is the cowardly one and Pinky is the tough one.

Mina: The ghost monsters have a child cousin named "Dinky". Dinky and Pac-Baby would get along, not like the adults. Dinky appeared in two episodes.

In the second season, besides Super-Pac, Pac-Man's teenage cousin, P.J.,appears semi-regularly on the show. The two characters never appeared together in any of the episodes.

Mina: This show had both a X-Mas Special and a Halloween One.

Cartoony and Corny as this show was,It contributed to Pac-Man Fever. Anyway,our next show is Another Namco Video Game,Pole Position.

Mina: Pole Position was produced by DIC Entertainment. The show sought to capitalize on the popularity of the video game. However, there is very little in common between the game and the show. Pole Position ran for 13 episodes on CBS in 1984 as part of their Saturday morning line-up.

The show featured three young sibling crime fighters, two of whom were stunt drivers and part of a secret government operation under the guise of the "Pole Position Stunt Show" that was run by their uncle.

The youths inherited the role after their parents died in an unfortunate car accident. The team is equipped with two high-tech talking vehicles(similar to Night Rider's KIT) named "Roadie" and "Wheels."

Mina: 2 Stereotypical Car names.

The vehicles featured numerous hidden gadgets like water skis and hover jets. The vehicles' computers themselves are portable and can be removed from the dashboards and carried around using handles (thus they are often referred to as "the modules"). They have often appeared as computer-drawn faces displayed on video screens.

Mina: Y'know,in a way,This Cartoon is kind of a rip-off of both Speed Racer and Night Rider.

Dragon's Lair was a short-lived series by Ruby-Spears Productions based on the 1983 video game of the same name. Thirteen half-hour episodes were produced from 1984-1985,airing on ABC's Saturday Morning Block.

The Saturday Morning block ceased the shows run when it was cancelled in 1985. Between the late '80s and the early '90s, the show's first and only rerun was on the USA Cartoon Express.

The series chronicles the adventures of Dirk the Daring, who is best knight in King Ethelred's kingdom. Dirk performs all sorts of great deeds while protecting the kingdom and his love, Princess Daphne.

The show was great and boasted an unusual feature: to keep the show in the spirit of the game, before each commercial break the storyteller would ask what the viewer would do to solve the problem facing Dirk the Daring.

After the commercial break, the outcomes of the various choices were shown before Dirk acts on the correct idea (with the occasional exception) to save the day.

Mina: Not much info from Pole Position or Dragon's Lair,huh? Let's just hope and pray that the next batch of shows are a bit more informative.

For the most part they will be. Next up. The Super Mario Bros. Super Show.

1 comment:

KingsSideCastle said...

Wow I didn't know a lot of these classic games had cartoons based on them. Have to try and find an episode of the Pacman one online. :-) Nice series Stefan.