Before we start, I just want to thank those of you for the feedback lately, it's nice to know you appreciate me crawling back out from under my heat rock to spend countless hours chronicling the events of He-Man episodes or Transformers coloring books. I'm going to be archiving the best of the reader mail I've got, with literally thousands of messages to seek through from the past two years. I've never been particularly good with responding to mail, but I've always read it pretty much daily and I'd like to get it on the site's server to insure that I don't lose it all on the inevitable day when my computer finally implodes.
Continuing on with our vast look into the seedy underbelly of the animated world in years past, today we've got Pac-Man, the cartoon! I've talked about this show way back when on the site, but it wasn't until today that I could really show you what it's all about. It's sort of like Pac-Man meets the Flintstones - neither wear pants, but Pac's got the advantage since he has shoes.
Very short lived, the series was one of a number of shows that failed seeking to capitalize on the success of a video game. Everyone from Donkey Kong to Q*Bert has come and gone in animated form almost completely unnoticed, but my theory is that the producers of these sorts of shows don't really expect them to last past one or two seasons. The downside is that cartoons can cost even more than a live-action show, so in the case of Pac-Man, who really wasn't promoting anything besides a video game that everyone on the planet was already playing, just can't be thought of as a success.
I'm sure you're losing sleep over it.
Each show was separated into two shorts, around 11 minutes of so a piece. I had contemplated reviewing both shorts today, but then I remembered that I generally respect my sanity and have little desire to ruin everyone's day with a Pac-Man overload. So, we'll stick to taking a look at just one, which gives you the general idea of the show and will help you decide whether or not you want to spend the rest of your life hunting down the pretty rare videos. Don't worry, I don't think you'll go that far. But you might end up getting a much bigger kick out of eating Chic-a-rina soup.
Things kick off with the ghosts chasing Pac-Man around. The whole show is based on the Ghosts eating Pac-Man or Pac-Man eating the ghosts - it's not exactly Shakespeare's best, but I doubt the four-year-olds who watched it wanted Pac-Man to get involved in a sinister web of romance with Ms. Pac-Man and Sue the Ghost. They just wanted to see Pac eat a lot of power pellets and maybe hear a catchy theme song. Their wishes were granted.
Interestingly, they decided that Pac-Man and other Pac creatures should be bulbous, colorful balls with legs. A far cry from the original representation of the non-video game Pac, who looked more like an evil tennis racket. Also, he sounds like he's being voiced by Jackie Gleason of all people, so this isn't exactly the Pac-Man you probably had in mind. The ghosts share the same attributes as their gaming counterparts - after Pac-Man eats a pellet, they turn sour and run away, and if Pac-Man manages to eat them, their stupid eyes float back to headquarters.
The chase gets more wild and involved, ending up with Pac-Man inadvertently shooting himself out of a giant, L-shaped pipe that happened to be in the middle of the street, causing him to crash into a bunch of garbage pails. Benny Hill eat your heart out. The Ghosties close in for the kill, and the vantage point of seeing Pac-Man knocked on his ass like this gives us a clear view to the truth - he's got a Roman nose.
They're not just chasing him out of spite - Pac-Man is a secret keeper, he knows the hidden way to get to the infamous Power Forest, where all those glorious power pellets reside. The Ghosts are just minions of another character whom we'll meet momentarily, and their job is to get the information from our big stupid yellow hero. Why they need access to the Power Forest is beyond me, since the entire town here is just crawling with Power Pellets from one pole to the other. Maybe they need the forest's pellets so they can inspire an organic-only diet campaign?
Fortunately, Ms. Pac-Man arrives just in time. She's donning a lot more than a bow these days, and while you might think she loses Attractive Points from the lack of tits, I should remind you that her entire body is really one big busty breast and in the world of the Pacs, she's a real hot number. She's also Pac-Man's savior today, turning up just before the Ghosts spook him to death. Of course, the Ghosts don't play dirty, allowing the couple a five-minute conversation while they stand there doing absolutely nothing. It's admirable that they're such good sports, but at the same time, they're granting their sworn enemies a chance to eat some more of those yummy Pac-balls.
And wouldn't you know it, there's a power pellet vending machine right next to 'em! Like a Scooby snack or crystal meth, power pellets afford Pac-Man the opportunity to employ roid rage, running around like a big, giant, lunatic tennis ball eating every supernatural figure present.
I wanted to point out that the Pac family lives in the greatest city ever - the buildings all look like rainbow-colored slices of various cakes, and best of all, there's tons of palm trees. It'd be heaven on Pac-Earth if there weren't so many ghosts pestering everyone. There's also a multitude of other Pac-creatures - they all look basically the same as our hero, but they come in a variety of colors. Racial equality in Pac-land!
This is another story, but when the series started to tank, or maybe before it had the chance, the networks lumped this show on with Rubik, The Amazing Cube in a half-hour block. If you thought this show didn't have much to work with, try picturing a cartoon based on a plastic puzzle that no kid was really interested in anyway. Rubik's Cube was nice to have in the same way a can of pinto beans is. You like having them but you never want to actually use them for anything. Sadly, there were no crossovers on the show, so we never got a chance to see Pac-Man shouting curses like the rest of the world when the Rubik's Cube proved too annoying and difficult to figure out.
Ah, there's our main villain. I forgot his name, but he looks like a cross between Prime Evil and a kiwi, so we'll call him Prime Kiwi. The red-cloaked giant is the leader of the Ghosts and the principle reason there's so much unrest in Pac-Man. Prime Kiwi is obsessed with finding the elusive Power Forest, mostly because he's the type of person who needs to look for something, and he couldn't justify an intense search for
potatoes shaped like Abe Lincoln.
Sending the Ghosts out with no ulterior back up plan proved unsuccessful, so Prime Kiwi and the Pussycats conjure up a new dastardly plot: kidnap the president of Pac-Land and hold him for ransom. Surely Pac-Man will give up the forest's secret location if they threaten to circle around his chosen leader making googly oogly faces, right?
With little trouble, the Ghosts infiltrate the president's lair and capture him, proceeding to set up a video camera so they can broadcast their mission statement to Pac-Man.
I don't know who the orange Pac-creature he's sitting with is, I think Pac-Man called him 'Grump' but he looks more like Hitler. More importantly, they're both sitting in floating chairs so either this show takes place in the distant future, or in the lost super-world that was Atlantis. Either way, neither are too keen on the idea of giving up their sacred forest to a bunch of spooks, so Pac-Man promises to put an end to the Ghosts' threats once and for all. Or at least until the next episode.
Oh, I'm sure maybe two of you out there are curious to know what the Ghosts names are. If you stand by a Pac-Man machine and just watch the credits roll, you can learn 'em that way, but then you'll have to look really stupid because a study of Pac-Man ghost names is really something to be done in the privacy and secrecy of your own home. So, here they are: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, and Sue. And one more, but I'm keeping his name a secret because I'm not sure you're ready to hear it. It's just that clever.
Pac-Man pulls a full-sized blowup doll version of himself, literally out of his ass, to trick the stupid Ghosts while he frees the president. The plan works, but our heroic idiot forgot to bring any power pellets, so really, all he accomplished was getting two citizens under Ghost control. Making matters worse, one of the ghosts expanded into the size of a hot air balloon, picked up the entire house, and now they're threatening to crush everything if Pac-Man doesn't reveal the secret location of the Power Forest. With much hesitance, he finally does.
Isn't it amazing that Pac-Man forgot to bring the power pellets, but somehow remembered to bring a life-sized blowup doll of himself? I bet he had that specially made months ago, and was just dying for the opportunity to show it off. And Christ Pac-Man, couldn't you just wait till the huge ghastly political threat was over with? I mean I understand what it's like to get a cool new toy, and to want to trump it around for bragging rights. But this just isn't a good time - now those ghosts are gonna be able to do whatever it is ghosts do with power pellets. Maybe they want to craft an albino pool table. Don't count Pac-Man out just yet though, he's always got something up his sleeve. Or in this case, radiation gloves.
After they arrive at the spot Pac-Man said the forest was hidden at, Prime Kiwi arrives, ready to sample the wears. Unfortunately for him, it was all a trick - this isn't the Power Forest, it's a regular forest. Of course, the big metal gates actually did say this was the 'Power Forest' so unless Pac-Man secretly hired out a movie prop warehouse, something ain't right. I'm not sure what's in those trees if they ain't power pellets, maybe lemons? Prime Kiwi shouldn't be so dissatisfied with that - think of all the rind he could sell to gourmet shops for use in pastries!
All the bad guys display their feelings about being tricked, mainly by holding their arms against their hips and pouting. I guess the standard villain method of dealing with disappointment - pulling out an uzi and screaming their allegiances - didn't really apply in Pac-Land lore. In cartoons like this one, this would usually be the point where the villains go home, promising to fight another day. But in Pac-Man, the heroes are vindictive little bastards and aren't going to end their show without opening a can of Pac-Whoopass.
Power pellets start flying around the air, and all of the sudden, it's like a shark feeding frenzy with dozens upon dozens of Pac-people running around, chomping on Prime Kiwi and his many ghosts. The Power Forest is saved, and the battle is won, at least for today. The End.
Overall: It's easy to see why the series was so short-lived - I'm betting the novelty of watching Pac-Man eat matzo balls and biting the sheets off of the Ghosts became pretty boring after the 56th viewing. Of course, this episode was only a sampling of what the show had to offer - Baby Pac-Man was also part of the soiree, but he usually chewed on a pacifier instead of pellets. I'm pretty sure a few networks are still rerunning this cartoon sporadically, so you may wanna check it out if you were ever into Pac-Man. And even if you weren't, it's worth watching once because you never know when the show will come up in conversation during a job interview.
Pac-Man: Well honey, we did it. We saved the day.
Ms. Pac-Man: We? I was the one who brought the power pellets!
Pac-Man: The point is, we're alive and well. Now give me some sugar.
Ms. Pac-Man: Oh Pac, you know that's impossible. We don't have sex organs.
Pac-Man: My nose, your ear...let's play pretend.
Ms. Pac-Man: Jesus. How'd we ever have a kid, anyway?
Pac-Man: That's not a kid. I just stuck cardboard eyes on a grapefruit.
Ms. Pac-Man: Then how does he talk?!
Pac-Man: Looks like somebody didn't send P.O. Box 455 two bucks to learn the secrets of ventriloquism!
Pac-Man was a great game, one that still influences an entire industry to this day. But we've all played it so much that the merits seem to have lost their luster. Don't fret - there's another Pac-Man game out there you might not have played that updates the schematics and turns our hero into an Olympic pole-vaulter -- Pac-Mania!
I don't know where it came out originally - my version was for the Nintendo. There were others for Sega systems and arcades, too. The idea was the same, you had to guide Pac-Man through the various stages and have him eat all the balls up before a ghost could run into him. The difference here is that the boards are scrolling, much much larger, and ten times more engaging. Plus, Pac-Man can now jump over the ghosties, even switching directions in midair! If you've got an emulator, you can certainly find the rom on the net if you search hard enough. If you don't have an emulator, just get a medium-sized cardboard box and spray paint a golf ball yellow. Animism is almost as good as the real thing.
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