June 06, 2015


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

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

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 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 Popeye with 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.

Midway 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 other.

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 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. 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 Show programming 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 Party hosted 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-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 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-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 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 Cube to 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 & 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. 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. 

DVD cover.

Reruns of the show would air as part of USA Cartoon Express, on Cartoon Network, and Boomerang. 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. It was also made available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

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?

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.


“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.

Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2020.

1 comment:

LTYSON said...

A show of the times. It's based on the arcade craze of the 80's. It was a special time but a time you can only truly appreciate if you were a child of the 80's. Always going to the mall or to the store down the street to waste your money 1 quarter at a time. It was fun but hard to save money a s a child of the 80's. We had Atari system for home play but the graphics were not as good as the true arcade games.