I'm well aware of the fact that all signs point to me being a geek. Sure, sometimes we deviate from the present course of things on this site to make fun of fat carnival guys and hair removal gel, but generally, it's toys and cartoons. Or sometimes, both. What we're gonna talk about today is a sadly pretty much unknown cartoon/toyline of the 80s, and one of my secondary favorites. It's one of the articles you guys highly requested - Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors.
The show originally aired in the U.S. in '85 and '86. That right there tells you why it never met with much success. If you drink too much, you'll get sick. If you watch too many cartoons, you'll start drinking and get sick too. Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors arrived during a time when G.I. Joe, He-Man, Transformers, She-Ra, and Voltron were all at their peaks of popularity. There's only so much animated goodness one can stand, so Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors' arrival went pretty much unnoticed. Their subsequent exit went even less noticed.
With some shows, that's deserving. The Tortellis didn't last long as a sitcom because Cheers and Growing Pains were so popular...it didn't last long because it sucked. It's a little different here though, Wheeled Warriors was actually a great cartoon that mixed all the most popular elements from various shows - machines from Transformers, plants from Inhumanoids, and cooky hair styles from Jem. Combining all of those elements together into a good show was tough, but Wheeled Warriors not only pulled it off - they also managed to include one of the strangest plotlines I've ever heard of.
Here's the basic plot of this sordid tale of fantasy and plantlife, bear with me...
Wheeled Warriors takes place in an alternate universe where magic and technology peacefully coexist. Unlike in our universe, where they're consistently bickering at each other like Archie and Edith. There's a scientist named Audric who unwittingly created a demonspawn from hell team of plant creatures who call themselves The Monster Minds. While they aren't going to win any creativity prizes for their monacher, the Monster Minds are pretty successful at causing trouble.
Audric isn't one of those people who makes a mistake and hides the evidence. He wants to right a wrong, so he works on a 'good' plant. For reasons unexplained, his theory is that if he created two halves of a magic root, somehow all the bad things the Monster Minds are doing will cease to be. As fate would have it, the roots get seperated. Some shenanigans go down, and one half of the root ends up square in the hands of Audric's son with the silly hair, Jayce.
Things are a bit different in this universe though. Father and son don't live together and go on fishing trips. No, father and son are apparently so far away from each other, that Jayce spends the entire series in search of Daddy so they can unite the roots and stop the Monster Minds once and for all. Of course, if he did this quickly, we'd have a pretty boring cartoon, so there's going to be a lot of misadventures along the way.
So, Jayce and some of this weird friends form the Lightning League, which is kinda like the Monster Minds only with a little more emphasis on the pink cotton candy and hugging. The roll call for this hedonistic bunch of misfit heroes? Gillian, a wizard who's more than a century old. Herc Stormsailor, who you might better recognize by his given name, Han Solo. Then there's Oon. He's an 'Eternal Squire', but I'm really not sure what the fuck that means. I'm pretty sure that means he's the guy who blows the trumpet at the beginning of the battle. Oh yeah, there's also Flora, who has giant pigtails and is actually born from a plant. So I guess in this particular universe, male shovenist flowers can impregnate girls and run off to the local bar. As if the cast wasn't getting esoteric enough, Flora has a giant flying fish named Brock.
Jayce has a magic ring and a group of friends, and his goal is to find his father, all the way battling the evils of Saw Boss and his gang of miscrient plants/machines. The series never had a finale, but I'm pretty sure that given enough time, Jayce would've found his father. Especially since in cartoons, people seem to be able to get from one planet to another in about thirty-five seconds. It was only a matter of time.
As mentioned, our main villain is Saw Boss. He was pretty fat and useless and didn't like to move much, but his vehicle was pretty rockin'. Most of the other villains were your usual fair. In others words, dumb.
And oh yeah, every character was accompanied by a vehicle. Each vehicle had all kinds of weird mechanical/plant powers. Some could drill things, other had guns that flew around in circles instead of firing.
I know it doesn't sound like much, but the end results were pretty neat. Don't take my word for it, see it for yourself. The show was on in reruns a few years back, but now that the Cartoon Network's been doing so many of their own original shows, you won't have a chance to see it there. That's why our resident media guru, Dr. Rocket, took the time to upload an episode for ya. Be warned, it's one of those episodes where the heroes meet with a new supporting cast who will never be seen again after the episode. In other words, you're not gonna see too many classic villains. But! It does have that lovely atypical ending from an 80s cartoon - someone making a bad joke followed by 40 people laughing at it for 2 full minutes before the screen finally fades to black.
To download an episode of Jayce & The Wheeled Warriors, Click Here. It's a RealPlayer file, about 5 MB.
Now, the series was formed after Mattel wanted to boost sales for their Wheeled Warriors line of toys. In terms of premise only, the show absolutely kicks the shit out of the toyline, where the only info you got was: Lightning League good, Monster Minds bad. That whole Jayce fiasco was only really added to the toon to differentiate it from the myopia of different mechanical-based shows going on at the time. If you had Transformers and Tranzor Z at the helm, chances weren't too good that you were gonna watch a show that was just called 'Wheeled Warriors'. Jayce was their trump card.
Ironically enough, the toon which was meant to promote the toys ultimately became far more popular. I'm not saying the show was bad, but it's pretty surprising, since these were some pretty cool toys than I never seemed to be able to find as a kid. I guess Mattel's advertising budget was placed squarely in my city, since these things were never on the shelf.
These were the kinda toys we got. Vehicles that had more parts than a Lego set. They looked really cool, but if you ever wanted a toy that guaranteed you'd be missing parts within an hour, this was it. The good guys came with a generic 1.5" tall human figure that had no facial features. The bad guys came with little green squids or something. Most of the parts were interchangeable between vehicles, leaving it totally up to you to create illegal mutant Wheeled Warriors toys at will.
You could also purchase accessory sets, which were a must considering how easy it was to lose pieces. Years and years and years ago, I remember seeing these things at Toys R Us on clearance for the all-time greatest low price of 8 cents each. Every time I could convince my parents to bring me there, I'd get like ten of these things, even though all my Wheeled Warriors toys were already trashed. I'm sorry, but you don't turn down anything for eight cents a pop. Hell, I'd pay eight cents to have people burn me with matches. That's how attractive of a price it is.
Some of the vehicles came in the super-deluxe variety. I don't remember the one pictured above's name, but I do remember owning it and never knowing what the fuck it was. Thank god for the internet.
Wheeled Warriors' greatest contribution to our collections was perhaps this, the Battle Base. I was always a sucker for the toys no one would ever buy me. This one was huge, and much like that Robo-Force fortress we talked about awhile back, it could fold up and double as luggage. This thing had over 50 different pieces. Unfortunately, most of those pieces were the size of a penny, so they didn't last long. Or maybe I was just really bad with toys. My Mask toys ended up looking like those stripped cars you see at the side of highways after around five hours.
And, of course, no toy/toon line is complete until you have the opportunity to go to bed reading about it. That's why the Wheeled Warriors storybook was a must. Within it's 12 pages, learn how Saw Boss is so dejected only because he's angry about being given such a derivative name, and how Jayce can't stand the fact that half the people who only vaguely know about the show swear the main character's name was Joyce.
Cool show, watch it!