In the summer of '82 ABC aired a special to preview their new Saturday Morning line-up. Designed as a dance show, Dick Clark hosted the prime-time event that featured some of the weirdest cartoons ever, nearly all based on popular TV shows.
There was the teenage Mork & Mindy cartoon; Lavern and Shirley in the Army with the roomates taking orders from a drill sergeant pig voiced by Ron Palillo (Arnold Horshack); The time traveling Fonz and the Happy Days Gang; a new version of the Little Rascals, and of course Scooby and Scrappy-Doo; but the show that headlined the event was the TV premiere of the most popular video game star of them all, Pac-Man. After all, the special was called, the ABC Pac-Preview Party.
- Pac-Man (aka Pac-Man the Animated Series, Pac-Man Cartoon)
- Premiere: Fall 1982
- Production Company: Hanna-Barbara
- Network: ABC
- Seasons: 2
- Number of Episodes: 40 + 1 Prime Time Special
In an alternate universe lives the town of Pac-Land where all of the inhabitance resemble yellow balls, and just about everything is circular, from the buildings and trees, to the pets and furniture. While he isn’t the Pac-President or Pac-Police Chief, the most important citizen of Pac-Land is Pac-Man, along with his middle-class Pac-Family consisting of his wife Pepper (aka Ms. Pac-Man), their rugrat, Pac-Baby, the family pets, Comp-Comp, and Sour Puss.
While Pac-Man lives a fairly typical nuclear family life, he’s continually getting attacked by a sinister gang of Ghost Monsters: Inky, Binky, Pinky, Clyde and Sue. On orders from the evil Mezmaron (the only human in the show), the Ghost Monsters endless mission is to to find the source of Pac-Land’s main sustenance, Power Pellets.
There is no true explanation as to where Mezmaron came from, how he’s became the only human in Pac-Land, or why the heck he wants the location of the Power Pellet forest. All we know is that he is super evil and for some reason wants to rule Pac-Land.
So why is Pac-Man so important to Pac-Land and constantly haunted by those sinister Ghost Monsters? Because he is the “keeper” of the Power Pellet Forrest, dedicated to protecting its secret location. This is important because, in Pac-Land the only food is Power Pellets. Not only are these their singular diet, but gobbling these pill-like fruits give the Pac-folks a power boost that help them beat those baddy Ghost Monsters.
The primary weapons of the series, and the climax of each episode seems to be eating. While Pac-Man can literally eat the Ghost Monsters, all they can do to him is put the chomp on the hero. If the Ghost Monsters put the bite on Pac-Man, the hero is weakened, and looks like a half deflated balloon. However, when Pac-Man and family gobble down a Power Pellet it gives Pac-Man and crew the strength (and hunger) to literally chomp the Ghost Monsters, leaving them as floating eyes who must return to Mezmaron for a new set of bodies.
The Minds Behind the Cartoon Pac-Man:
The show was produced by the kings of Saturday morning cartoons, Hanna-Barbera though a license from the Japanese company Namco, owners of the Pac-Man franchise. To transform a coin-op arcade game with absolutely no narrative whatsoever, animation writer Jeffrey Scott was brought on board. One of the top writers in his field, Scott has been credited with over 600 cartoons. Just three years after working on Pac-Man Scott would win his first of three Daytime Emmys for his work developing another property into a cartoon, Muppet Babies.
The Voice of Pac-Man:
To give Pac-Man a voice, the raspy energetic vocal cords of seasoned character actor Marty Ingles was secured. While Ingles voiced numerous animated characters over his career, including Beegle from the Great Grape Ape Show, he’s best known to retro gaming fans as Griff from the PC classic Zork: Grand Inquisitor.
The show lasted only two seasons, the first as part of the The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show, with the second season paring it up with another game-based cartoon, The Pac-Man/Rubik, the Amazing Cube Hour. The second season also introduced another Namco arcade spin-off Super Pac-Man, as well as Pac-Man’s teenage nephew, P.J.
While Pac-Man was high quality series with solid animation and writing, as well as being heavily promoted, it drew quite a bit of controversy. Parent and child safety groups considered the program, and other shows based on toys and games, a 30 minute advertisement.
Where to Watch:
Unfortunately the show has never been released on DVD, likely due to rights issues between Namco and Hanna-Barbera, who has since been absorbed into Warner Bros, but after years of being completely unavailable fans can finally find episodes on Xbox Live in their downloadable TV offerings. Additionally Cartoon Network annually airs Pac-Man’s only prime time holiday special, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land.