Original Pac-Man cartoon series hits 30th anniversary
Thirty years before the Angry Birds appeared on every type of merchandise known to man,Pac-Man was the hottest product license on the planet. The 1980 arcade hit appeared on seemingly every type of consumer product of the day, from clothes and bedsheets to school products and cigarette lighters.
On September 25, 1982, a cartoon based on the Pac-Man games debuted on ABC television. This highly hyped series, produced by Hanna Barbera, marked the first time ever that a video game property was licensed for a mainstream entertainment series.
The cartoon featured Pac himself, along with his wife Pepper (aka Ms. Pac-Man), their young child Baby Pac-Man and their pets. They all lived in Pac-Land, an obviously fictional city full of a number of different shades and shapes of Pac-people. The monsters from the video game series were also present, led by an original character named Mezmaron.
The series took some liberties with the characters themselves, as might be expected by any licensed property-based cartoon series from the 1980s. Most of the male characters, including Pac-Man himself, sported a variety of hats. The ghost monster characters for Blinky and Clyde switched places from their video game roles with Clyde becoming the smart alpha of the group and Blinky becoming the dim witted follower of the group. Sue, the female ghost from the Ms. Pac-Man game, appeared in a shade of blue rather than the orange color from the game, likely in an effort to make her stand out more from Clyde.
Entertainment veteran Marty Ingels voiced the lead character. Somewhat ironically, voice acting legends Frank Welker and Peter Cullen voiced the often-feuding pets of Chomp-Chomp and Sour Puss. Two years later they would voice the characters of Megatron and Optimus Prime in the original Transformers cartoon.
From 1982 to 1983, Pac-Man aired on ABC Saturday mornings as part of a cartoon block featuring older properties such as Richie Rich and a cartoon version of the Little Rascals. The second season, which introduced the Super Pac-Man and PJ Pac (Jr. Pac-Man) characters was paired with another eighties icon in Rubik The Amazing Cube, based off the red hot toy of the time.
The series was cancelled at the end of the 1984 television season, cut loose as the North American video game industry suffered a near-fatal crash. Influence from the cartoon would continue to be felt for years, however, including the packaging artwork for the Pac-Man Chef Boyardee food products and Nintendo Entertainment System version of the original game. Namco released Pac-Land in 1984, a side scrolling game that pre-dated Super Mario Bros. and also featured heavy influence from the game in Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures, a 1994 16-bit title.
While the original series itself was short-lived, the Pac-Man cartoon opened the doors for video games to be licensed as television and film properties, a practice that is still ongoing today. A newPac-Man cartoon series, in fact, is set to debut on Disney channels in 2013.
The original series was released on DVD earlier this year.