Remember that one day when you could wake up without an alarm? When you would get your favorite bowl of cereal and sit between the hours of 8 and 12? This is a blog dedicated to the greatest time of our childhood: Saturday mornings. The television programs you watched, the memories attached to them, and maybe introducing you to something you didn't realize existed. Updated every weekend.
You always hear
stories about how something doesn’t do so well in America, but blows up in
popularity overseas. Well, this story goes in reverse.
The original arcade cabinets: North America on the left, Japan on the right.
On May 22, 1980, Pac-Man
was released to arcades in Japan as Puck-Man
to a lukewarm reception. Games like Space Invaderswere
dominating the Japanese market, and a slow game like Pac-Man held no interest for Japanese gamers.
Pac-Man tabletop game flyer.
conceived and developed by Toru
Iwatani and an eight-man team for Namco that had a running
food theme. The primary goal was to maneuver the character around a maze and
gobble up all the pellets while avoiding ghostly enemies to advance to the next
level. Bonus points would be gained from eating fruit that would appear on the
screen, a different type each level. Each level also featured larger pellets
called Power Pellets. They were inspired
by Popeyewith his spinach and gave Pac-Man the ability to ingest the ghosts, leaving
them floating eyeballs that had to return to their home base for regeneration. The
Power Pellets lasted only for a limited time that decreased the further along
in the game a player went. Pac-Man’s shape was inspired by a pizza with a slice
missing, as well as being a rounded simplification of the Japanese character
for “mouth,” kuchi.
The minimalist design was Iwatani’s attempt to allow the player to use their
imagination to define the character. The maze and cute ghost elements were designed
to expand beyond the typical demographics and attract female players to the
arcades as very few games made were geared towards them.
Midway's ad for the North American release.
picked up the rights to manufacture it for North America. The cabinet art was
changed, as was the pace and level difficulty in order to appeal to western
audiences. The name was also changed to Pac-Man
in order to avoid vandalism with people changing the “P” to an “F”. Midway’s
version was released in October of 1980 and became an unexpected hit. 350,000
cabinets sold in the first 18 months, pulling in $1 billion in revenue to
become the best-selling game in North America and making it one of the most
influential video games of all time. It established the maze chase and stealth
game genres; created the first gaming mascot and opened to the door for the
potential of characters in games; was the first to feature power-ups, which
would become a staple in many games to come; and was the first to feature cut
scenes with comical interludes featuring Pac-Man and the ghosts chasing each
Some Pac-Man merchandise.
Pac-Man also became one of the first licensing
successes from video games, with the logo and image being plastered on t-shirts, board games and other
items, as well as receiving many popular song treatments such as Buckner (no relation) & Garcia’s 1981
hit “Pac-Man Fever”
and “Weird Al” Yankovic’s Beatles parody, “Pac-Man”. Of course,
the inevitable Pac-Man clones unauthorized by Namco hit the market, becoming
just as popular as the original while never managing to surpassing it. Notable
copies included Hangly-Man(an English corruption of the word “hungry”), which featured
Japanese names for the ghosts and increased the difficulty by making the inside
maze walls vanish after eating a Power Pellet; Lock ‘n’ Chase, which
featured a crook stealing gems while avoiding police; and Mighty Mouth, which differed so little from the game that Midway
won a summary judgement for copyright infringement.
Flyer for Ms. Pac-Man cabinets.
In 1981, Midway was growing impatient waiting for
Namco to release the sequel to Pac-Man. A
group of programmers from General Computer Corporation developed an enhancement
kit for the game called Crazy Otto. After a lawsuit by Atari over
their conversion for Missile Commandprevented them from selling kits without manufacturer consent,
they showed Otto to Midway. Midway
bought the game, modified it, and released it as Ms. Pac-Man. Similar
in design to the original, it featured the addition of feminine features on the
character sprite, new patterns for the ghosts, new maze designs, moving bonus
fruit, new music and other tweaks. Midway’s Stari Jarocki had declared it was a
thank you to the patronage of the large number of female players that
contributed to Pac-Man’s popularity. Originally,
it was going to be named Pac-Woman before
they settled on Miss Pac-Man.
However, fearing the baby
she and Pac-Man had in a cut-scene would illicit protests of being out of
wedlock, they changed it to Mrs. Pac-Man and
finally Ms. Pac-Man as it rolled off
the tongue easier. It became the most successful American-produced arcade game.
The cast of the cartoon: Sour Puss, Super Pac, Chomp-Chomp, Pac-Man, Pepper, Baby Pac, and P.J.
With all the success in the arcades and in
merchandising, the next logical step was to conquer television. Hanna-Barbera was
commissioned to produce a Pac-Man animated series largely inspired by the Ms. Pac-Man cut scenes. Pac-Man featured the titular character
(Marty Ingles), his wife Pepper (Barbara Minkus) and their baby (Russi Taylor).
Of course, as minimalist circular objects would be boring on television, the
Pac-Family was designed with arms, legs, and full faces on their round bodies. Together
with their dog, Chomp Chomp (Frank Welker), and cat, Sour Puss (Peter Cullen),
they lived in Pac-Land where geography and architecture assumed sphere-like
shapes. Pac-Man’s primary job was head of security for the Power Pellet Forest,
where the Pellets that fed and powered the city grew.
Mezmeron and his ghostly minions.
The Pac-Family fought against the evil Mezmeron (created
for the show and played by Allan Lurie), who sought to locate and control the
source of the Power Pellets. Mezmaron was assisted by his multi-colored ghost
minions: the blue Inky (Barry Gordon), the red Blinky, the pink Pinky (both
Chuck McCann, with Pinky’s sex changed to male for the show), the orange Clyde
(Neil Ross) and purple Sue (Susan Silo). Sue actually replaced Clyde and
assumed his color in Ms. Pac-Man but gained
her own color in future Pac-Man installments.
Like the games, when any of the Pacs ate a Power Pellet, they gained “Pac-Power”
and were able to consume the sheets the ghosts wore, forcing them to return to
Mezmaron’s lair for a new wardrobe as floating eyes. Also, the ghosts were
given hats (or, in Sue’s case, earrings), to further distinguish them.
Comic book ad for ABC's 1982 line-up.
Pac-Man became the first animated series based
on a video game. It debuted on September 25, 1982 on ABC as part of The Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Showprogramming block, which was delayed by two weeks due to an animator’s
strike. However, viewers got a taste of the show on September 19th as
Pac-Man was the central focus of ABC’s Saturday morning preview special, Saturday Morning Pac Preview Partyhosted by Dick Clark. ABC was banking on
the game’s success to draw in the viewers, and the show itself received so many
advertisers who wanted a spot during its run that commercial breaks ended up
being longer than usual for the first few months. Because the cartoon was doing
so well, ABC broke it free of the block to give it its own half-hour.
Super Pac-Man promo flyer.
A month after the show began airing Namco finally
released their sequel called Super Pac-Manin
Japan (North America saw a December release). Super brought radical changes in that Pac-Man now had to eat keys
to unlock doors to get to and eat all the items in a level. A new power-up
called Super Pellets allowed Pac-Man to “fly” over the ghosts (who grew flat to
show the change in perspective) and doors to eat items without needing keys.
The changes proved unpopular, making Super
the least successful entry in the original franchise.
Jr. Pac-Man cabinet art.
In January of 1983, Midway released their third
sequel (they released the video game/pinball hybrid Baby Pac-Manin 1982)
called Jr. Pac-Man. Jr. added mazes that were double the screen width, making half of
the maze unseen at all times. Toy bonus items, such as bikes and kites, would
increase the point value of pellets they came in contact with (but eating them
would slow Jr. down) and would cause Power Pellets to explode. Clyde was
replaced by new ghost Tim, and the cut scenes focused on Jr.’s budding
relationship with a red female ghost named Yum-Yum. Jr. was also given a
propeller beanie that would remain behind when the ghosts finally caught up to
and touched him.
New characters inspired by these games were
incorporated into the cartoon’s second season. Super-Pac (Lorenzo Music) was a
superhero from another dimension that appeared via portals from his Super
Timewarp Space Home. The portals were inspired by the corridors that allowed
Pac-Man to instantly appear on the other side of the mazes in the games. He was
more ineffectual than he cared to believe and often a source of exasperation
for Pac-Man. P.J. (or Pac Junior, played by Darryl Hickman) was Pac-Man’s
nephew who came to stay with his relatives. During its second season, Pac-Man was again paired up with Rubik, the Amazing Cubeto become The Pac-Man/Rubik, the Amazing Cube Hour.
The Pacs meet Santa.
The series was largely written by Jeffrey Scott, with Don Dougherty contributing in
the second season. The music was composed by Hoyt Curtain and Paul DeKorte. For Halloween in
1982, the episodes “Pacula” and “Trick or Chomp” were combined into the Pac-Man Halloween Special and aired in
prime-time on October 30th. An original special, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, aired
the Thursday before the first season finale and featured a human Santa Claus
(Cullen). In 1984, the cast and characters of the series starred in a
commercial for Chef Boyardee’s Pac-Man pasta, which
game in original, meatball and chicken flavored varieties.
Games produced immediately following the animated
series’ debut featured elements inspired by the show. 1983’s Pac & Palintroduced
a green female ghost named Miru who would steal the items Pac-Man needed to eat
to progress through the levels. Alternate versions of the game featured Chomp
Chomp in Miru’s place under the title Pac-Man & Chomp Chomp.
In 1984, Namco released a direct adaptation called Pac-Land. Unlike previous games, it was a side-scrolling platform
game whose objective was to get a fairy residing in Pac-Man’s hat home. While
the Japanese version used a sprite that resembled their packaging artwork, the
American version used the designs straight from the show. Both versions featured
the show’s music. 1994’s Pac-Man 2: the New Adventures, a point-and-click adventure game,
featured Pac-Man’s family and a main villain leading the ghosts.
Although Pac-Man Fever is not as strong as it once
was, Pac-Man is still the most consistently published game with new
games in the franchise, ports of classic games for home consoles, and hand-held versions.
Pac-Man has also made appearances in other games, such as Mario Kart Arcade GP, Super Smash Bros.,and
Street Fighter X Tekkento
name a few, and has a permanent place in pop culture. The character was also
featured as an alien villain in the 2015 movie Pixels. Not bad for a living yellow ball, huh?
“Presidential Pac-Nappers / Picnic in Pacland” (9/25/82) – The
Pac-President is kidnapped by Mezmaron to force Pac-Man to lead him to the
Power Pellet Forest. / The Pac-Family and ghosts decide to picnic at the same
time, and the ghosts decide to cause trouble.
“The Great Pac-Quake / Hocus-Pocus Pac-Man” (10/2/82) – Mezmaron gives
the ghosts an earthquake-making machine. / Baby-Pac disappears in a magic hat.
“Southpaw Packy / Pac-Baby Panic” (10/9/82) – Pac-Man challenges the
ghosts to a baseball game to see who leaves town. / The ghosts steal a sack of
Power Pellets, with Pac-Baby inside.
“Pacula / Trick or Chomp” (10/16/82) – Mezmaron’s latest scheme
involves transforming a bat into vampire Count Pacula. / The ghosts interrupt
the Pac-Family’s trick or treating.
“Super Ghosts / The Pac-Man in the Moon” (10/23/82) – The ghosts are
given super powers. / Pac-Man and Pepper must reclaim the space shuttle the
“Journey to the Center of Pac-Land / Invasion of the Pac-Pups”
(10/30/82) – Mezmeron tries to get to the forest from underground. / Pac-Man
tries to get rid of a litter of Pac-Pups.
“Sir Chomp-A-Lot / The Day the Forest Disappeared” (11/6/82) –
Mezmeron sends the ghosts into the past where they meet Pac-Man’s ancestor. /
Mezmeron successful steals the forest.
“Neander-Pac-Man / Backpackin’ Packy” (11/13/82) – Pac-Man tells
Pac-Baby about the discovery of Power Pellets. / Pac-Man becomes leader of the
“The Abominable Pac-Man / The Bionic Pac-Woman” (11/20/82) – Pac-Man
and Pepper race the ghosts to Power Pellets where a creature lurks. / Mezmaron
makes a robotic clone of Pepper.
“Chomp-Out at the O.K. Corral / Once Upon a Chomp” (11/27/82) – The
ghosts try to ruin the Pac-Family vacation out west. / The fairy ghostmonster
gives the ghosts a book to trap Pac-Man.
“The Pac-Love-Boat / The Great Power Pellet Robbery” (12/4/82) – The
ghosts try to ruin Pac-Man’s anniversary. / Mezmaron gives the ghosts a truck
to retrieve the Power Pellets.
“A Bad Case of the Chomps / Goo-Goo at the Zoo” (12/11/82) – Pac-Man
is rushed to the hospital for chompitis. / Pac-Baby frees all the animals at
“Nighty Nightmares / The Pac-Mummy” (12/18/82) – The ghosts have
nightmares about Pac-Man. / Mezmaron uses a mummy to kidnap Pepper and
“Here’s Super-Pac! / Hey, Hey, Hey…It’s P.J.” (9/17/83) – Super-Pac
arrives in Pac-Land and saves Pac-Man from the ghosts. / Pac-Man must convince
P.J. to stay in school.
“The Super-Pac Bowl / Journey into the Pac-Past” (9/24/83) – Pac-Man
and Super-Pac must replace the football team. / P.J. accidentally turns the
washing machine into a time machine.
“The Old Pac-Man and the Sea / Public Pac-Enemy No. 1” (10/1/83) – A
sunken pellet shipment lands Pac-Man in Paclantis. / Pac-Man is mistakenly sent
to prison for Pretty Boy Pac.
“The Genii of Pacdad / Computer Packy” (10/8/83) – Pac-Man and
Super-Pac fight the ghosts for a genii. / P.J. tinkers with Pac-Man’s computer,
sending Pac-Baby inside it.
“The Greatest Show in Pacland / Pac-A-Thon” (10/15/83) – The ghosts
encounter the Pac-Family at the circus. / The ghosts are allowed to compete in
“Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Pac-Man / Around the World in 80 Chomps”
(10/22/83) – Mezmaron creates Power Pellets that turn Pac-Man into a werewolf.
/ Mezmaron tries to find another forest.
“Super-Pac vs. Pac-Ape / P.J. Goes Pac-Hollywood” (10/29/83) – A
Pac-Monkey eats a Power Pellet and becomes a giant. / Pac-Man is tricked into
stunt work on P.J.’s action movie.
“Pac Van Winkle / Happy Pacs-Giving” (11/5/83) – Pac-Man drinks a
potion that causes him to sleep for 20 years. / The Pac-Family hears a story
about the first Pacs-Giving.
“Christmas Comes to Pac-Land” (12/16/82) – When Santa crash lands in
Pac-Land, the Pac-Family tries to help him complete his deliveries.