September 05, 2015

RUBIK, THE AMAZING CUBE

RUBIK, THE AMAZING CUBE
(ABC, September 10-December 10, 1983)


Ruby-Spears Productions

MAIN CAST:
Ron Palillo - Rubik
Michael Saucedo – Carlos Rodriguez
Michael Bell – Reynaldo Rodriguez, Ruby Rodriguez
Jennifer Fajardo – Lisa Rodriguez
Angela Moya – Marla Rodriguez

            While working for the Academy of Applied Arts and Crafts in Budapest, Erno Rubik devised a “Magic Cube” in order to devise a solution to the structural problem of having multiple moving parts move independently without the entire mechanism falling apart. The cube was comprised of 26 smaller cubes that interlock with each other and connect to a central core. That allowed for each row of three cubes to be pivoted around the others vertically and horizontally. Each face of the main cube is covered in a solid color that has to be reassembled perfectly after the cube is mixed up.

The Rubik's Cube all mixed up.

Realizing he inadvertently created a puzzle Rubik obtained a Hungarian patent in 1975 and began releasing the Magic Cube to Budapest toy stories in 1977. The Ideal Toy Company approached Rubik with the intention of marketing the Cube worldwide, and they came to an agreement in 1979. The following year, Ideal debuted the Cube at a series of toy fairs while also working to bring it up to Western safety and packaging standards in order to sell it overseas. A lighter Cube was the result, and Ideal decided to rebrand it “Rubik’s Cube” to avoid any witchcraft connotations with the word “magic.”

Character model sheet.

The Cube gained tremendous popularity in the early 1980s. The act of Speed Cubing was started, where people would try to rapidly solve the Cube. In 1981, The Guinness Book of World Records held the first Speed Cubing world championship in Munich. The first international competition was held in Budapest the following year. A number of informal competitions have also been held, challenging competitors to solve the Cube in various conditions such as while blindfolded or underwater.

Rubik comes to life.

At the height of its popularity, it was decided to try and expand the product’s recognition further with a Saturday morning cartoon. Produced by Ruby-Spears Productions, Rubik, the Amazing Cube focused on an alien cube named Rubik (Ron Palillo) who possessed a variety of magical powers (usually as situations dictate within the episodes). Rubik fell out of the chest of an evil magician and was found by the Rodriguez siblings; the eldest Reynaldo (Michael Bell), the middle Carlos (Michael Saucedo), and the youngest Lisa (Jennifer Fajardo). Once Carlos solved the puzzle and matched up Rubik’s colored sides, Rubik came to life.

Promo art featuring Lisa, Carlos, Reynaldo, Sparky and Rubik.
Along with more supernatural threats, Rubik and the kids often dealt with normal, everyday social problems like bullies, corporate greed and thievery. To heighten the drama, Rubik could be easily scrambled by something as simple as a fall, rendering him inert. Only Carlos could solve his puzzle and revive his friend; sometimes needing to do so during a dangerous time which could make him take longer than usual.

Pac-Man/Rubik title card.

The series aired on ABC beginning on September 10th, 1983. Despite the Cube’s popularity, ABC decided to hedge their bets on the series by pairing it with their then-popular Pac-Man show in what became The Pac-Man/Rubik, the Amazing Cube Hour. Unfortunately, the series was a hard sell regardless of its lead-in or source material and only ran for a single season of 13 episodes. It did continue on in reruns until the following September as a separate show. The show did receive praise, however, for its main human characters being of Latin descent; a rarity at the time. To further fuel the Latin flavor, the series’ theme song was performed by the popular Puerto Rican boy band, Menudo. Three VHS collections of the show were released.

Some varieties of the Cube.

While the popularity of the Cube has tapered somewhat once the 80s ended, it still remains a best-selling toy. It’s often featured in movies and television shows as a character’s gimmick or a sign of intelligence. The Cube has been released in different sizes and difficulties, both in physical form and in computer programs. Books have been written about the best ways to solve it, and competitions continue on around the world. 

EPISODE GUIDE:
“Pilot” (9/10/83) – Halloween night takes a strange turn when Carlos, Reynaldo and Lisa find and awaken Rubik.

“Back Packin’ Rubik” (9/17/83) – Rubik joins the kids on their camping trip.

“Rubik and the Buried Treasure” (10/1/83) – Rubik uses his powers to try and catch fish and finds a treasure instead.

“Rubik and the Lucky Helmet” (10/8/83) – Reynaldo enters a cross-country bike race.

“Rubik and the Mysterious Man” (10/15/83) – Carlos, feeling neglected, throws himself a party.

“Rubik and the Pooch Nappers” (10/22/83) – Rubik decides to give Sparky a bath,

“Rubik and the Science Fair” (10/29/83) – Chaos erupts at the school science fair.

“Rubik in Wonderland” (11/5/83) – When the TV goes out, Rubik takes the kids on a trip to Wonderland.

“Honolulu Rubik” (11/12/83) – Rubik enjoys the family’s vacation to Hawaii.

“Rubik’s First Christmas” (11/19/83) – The kids visit their grandmother for Christmas and end up having to help retrieve a stolen truck full of toys.

“Saturday Night Rubik” (11/26/83) – Clumsy Reynaldo wants to learn how to dance.

“Super Power Lisa” (12/3/83) – Rubik gives Lisa super powers in time to help save an orphanage from a crooked construction company that wants the land.

“Time Travelin’ Rubik” (12/10/83) – Rubik brings the kids to 2183 where they promptly find trouble.

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