June 06, 2015

PAC-MAN



PAC-MAN
(ABC, September 25, 1982-November 5, 1983)

Hanna-Barbera Productions, Namco America, Inc., Bally-Midway



MAIN CAST:
Marty Ingles – Pac-Man
Barbara Minkus – Ms. Pac-Man
Russi Taylor – Pac-Baby
Allan Lurie – Mezmaron
Barry Gordon – Inky
Chuck McCann – Blinky, Pinky
Neil Ross – Clyde
Susan Silo – Sue
Frank Welker – Chomp Chomp, Morris, adult Pac-Baby
Peter Cullen – Sour Puss
Lorenzo Music – Super-Pac (season 2)
Darryl Hickman – P.J. (season 2)


            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 Invaders were dominating the Japanese market, and a slow game like Pac-Man held no interest for Japanese gamers.

Pac-Man tabletop game flyer.

Pac-Man was 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. Popeye also 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 included Hangly-Man (an 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 Command prevented 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-Man in 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-Man in 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 Show programming 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 Cube Hour


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 Boyardee’s Pac-Man 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 & Pal introduced 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. 

DVD cover.

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 DVDs.

Saves the forest, still gets balled by the boss.

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 Tekken to 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?
 



EPISODE GUIDE:

Season 1:
“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 steal.

“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 Pac-Baby scouts.

“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 the zoo.

“Nighty Nightmares / The Pac-Mummy” (12/18/82) – The ghosts have nightmares about Pac-Man. / Mezmaron uses a mummy to kidnap Pepper and Pac-Baby.


Season 2:
“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 the Olympics.

“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.


Specials:
“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.
 

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