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.
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. Pac-Man’s shape was also 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 an
attempt to expand beyond the typical demographics and attract female girls to
the arcades as very few games were made geared towards them. Popeyealso inspired
the creation of the Power Pellets, four larger dots in each maze that gave
Pac-Man the power to eat the ghosts for a limited time that decreased with each
level; reducing them to floating eyes until they returned home for a new sheet.
Midway's ad for the North American release.
Later that year Midway picked up the
rights to manufacture the game 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”. The game was
released in October 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. Pac-Man became
one of the most influential video games of all time. It established the maze
chase and stealth game genres. It created the first gaming mascot and opened to
the door for the potential of characters in games. It was the first to feature
power-ups, which would become a staple in many games to come. It was the first
to feature cut scenes with comical interludes featuring Pac-Man and the ghosts
chasing each other.
Some Pac-Man merchandise.
It 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 surpassing it. Notable copies
English corruption of the word “hungry”), which featured Japanese names for the
ghosts and included levels that consisted of just the ghost house and outside
border; 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.
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. Midway’s
Stari Jarocki had declared was a thank you to the patronage of the large amount
of female players that contributed to Pac-Man’s
popularity. 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. 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.
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 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 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 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.
With the release of these games, new characters inspired
by them 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.
Comic book ad for ABC's 1982 line-up.
The show began as part of The
Pac-Man/Little Rascals/Richie Rich Showprogramming block for the 1982
season, which was followed by a separate Pac-Man
half hour. Pac-Man’s popularity was so high at the time that he headlined
the 1982 ABC Saturday Morning preview special
which was called the Saturday Morning Pac Preview
Party. The show received so many advertisers that commercial breaks
were longer than normal until the fervor died down during ater episodes. In
1983, Pac-Man continued on as a
separate show while the original programming block was retitled as The Little Rascals/Richie Rich Show. During
its second season, Pac-Man was paired
up with Rubik, the Amazing Cube to
become The Pac-Man/Rubik, the Amazing
The Pacs meet Santa.
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
pasta, which game in original, meatball and chicken flavored varieties.
Games produced immediately following the animated
series 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. 1994s Pac-Man 2: the New
Adventures, a point-and-click adventure game, featured Pac-Man’s family
and a main villain leading the ghosts.
In 1982, Worldvision Home
Video Inc. released a VHS called Pac-Man
and Family in Australia, which contained several episodes and the two
holiday specials. In 2012, Warner
Archive released both
seasons several months apart as part of their Hanna-Barbera Classics
Collection, available through their online store and Amazon as manufacture-on-demand
“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 ghosts
“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.