Martial artist. Actor. Director. Producer. Stuntman. Singer. These are the many hats worn by comedic action star Jackie Chan, who has had a long and varied career in entertainment since he was five years old.
Chan was born Chang Kong-sang in British Hong Kong, where he was nicknamed Pao-pao (Chinese for “cannonball”) due to his energetic nature and always rolling around as a kid. He was enrolled into the Peking Opera School where he excelled in martial arts and acrobatics, eventually becoming part of the performance group comprised of the school’s best students called Seven Little Fortunes. He and some of the Fortunes would appear in the 1962 film Big and Little Wong Tin Bar.
|Chan in the '70s.|
Chan would continue to train in various disciplines and take many small roles in films, becoming a stuntman at 17 in the Bruce Lee films Fist of Fury and Enter the Dragon. His first starring role came in 1973 with the film Little Tiger of Canton, which had a limited release in Hong Kong. Having difficulty finding sustainable work due to the failures of his early efforts, Chan eventually joined his parents in Australia where he worked in construction. A colleague named Jack took Chan under his wing, earning Chan the nickname “Little Jack” that would become his permanent name: Jackie.
|Rumbling in the Bronx.|
Chan’s first major success came with the 1978 film Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, which established the comedic kung fu genre. Chan’s mainstream success came in the film Drunken Master. Under his manager Willie Chan (no relation), Chan attempted to break into the international market during the 1980s, initially having some trouble and choosing to renew his focus on Hong Kong films. He finally conquered North America with the 1995 film Rumble in the Bronx, which eventually led to his blockbuster success with the 1998 buddy cop action comedy Rush Hour.
Chan became widely known for his comedic timing, humorous fighting style, and ability to improvise with any object as a weapon. Being a living cartoon on screen practically begged for him to become a real one, and in 2000 those prayers were answered with Jackie Chan Adventures. Developed by Chan along with John Rogers, the series followed the adventures of archaeologist Jackie Chan (James Sie, who would go on to assume another Chan role of Monkey in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness) after he had been conscripted into the services of the secret spy agency Section 13 by his old friend, Captain Augustus Black (Clancy Brown). With Section 13, Jackie would travel the world to retrieve mystical artifacts in order to keep them out of the hands of various dark forces who would use them for their own ends. Inspired by Chan’s films, cartoon Jackie would be portrayed as a bumbling-yet-competent fighter who tried to avoid conflict as much as possible, often exclaiming “Bad day! Bad day! Bad day!” whenever things would go sideways and saw him fleeing for his life.
|Uncle casting a spell.|
Aiding Jackie on his adventures would be his uncle, known only as Uncle (Sab Shimono). Jackie lived and worked with Uncle in his antique shop, Uncle’s Rare Finds, in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Uncle was an accomplished martial artist from his years as part of the Seven Little Fortunes, and a chi wizard. Uncle could often be heard exclaiming “aiyah!” or saying “one more thing”, usually as admonitions to other characters, and frequently employed a two-fingered slap upside the head in order to get their full attention or chastise them for something stupid.
|Jade: as troublesome as she is helpful.|
At the start of the series, Jackie’s 12-year-old niece, Jade Chan (Stacie Chan, again no relation, and Lucy Liu for the first appearance of her future self), came to stay with Jackie and Uncle. Although she was born in Hong Kong, she was fully Americanized. Inspired by Gosalyn Mallard from Darkwing Duck, she was adventurous and often defied both of her guardians to participate on their exploits. Although she often caused the trouble that would plague Jackie, she just as often came up with solutions. A running gag on the show would have Jackie supposedly locking her up in a secure location before things got too heavy, only for her to appear seconds into the action.
Jackie Chan Adventures premiered on The WB as part of their Kids’ WB! programming block on September 9, 2000. It was a joint production between Blue Train Entertainment, Adelaide Productions, Columbia TriStar Television, Sony Pictures Television and Chan’s own The JC Group; a production company he founded for his works. The series’ intro, set to Wheatus’ “Chan’s the Man” theme, featured a montage of Jackie being caught in comedic danger situations and occasionally having him briefly swapped out for the real Chan. Chan would again appear at the end of each episode to answer a fan question as read by Jade that covered a variety of topics from his career to Chinese culture, as well as in promos for the show interacting with Jade, Uncle or other Kids’ WB! characters. Animation was handled by Dong Woo Animation, with the characters primarily designed by Jeff Matsuda. While the characters were rendered in a clean style, the backgrounds were a bit more abstract; featuring colors that would defy object border lines, much like a child’s coloring book.
Along with Rogers, the series was written by David Slack, Duane Capizzi, Kevin Campbell, Tom Pugsley, Greg Klein, Alexx Van Dyne, Dean Stefan, Eddie Guzelian, Mark Seidenberg, Patti Carr, Lara Runnels, Andrew Robinson, Henry Gilroy, Jan Strnad, Dave Collard, Ken Goin, Hilary Bader, William Forrest Cluverius, Steven Melching, Rob Hoegee, Adam Beechen, Brian Kaplan, Michael Jelenic, Louis Hirshorn, Joelle Sellner, Raf Green, Marsha F. Griffin, Marty Isenberg, Nicole Dubuc and Dean Orion. Campbell, Slack and Melching served as story editors. Jim Latham and Christopher Ward provided the music.
The series became popular, running for a total of five seasons and expanding beyond Saturday morning to air up to six days a week on the network. Each season had its own overreaching story arc and new primary villains, which were incorporated into the intro for that year. The first season focused on the hunt for twelve magical Talismans representing the animals on the Chinese zodiac. Each Talisman had its own unique attribute: Rat could give inanimate objects life; Ox bestowed super strength; Tiger could split a being’s Yin and Yang; Rabbit granted super speed; Dragon fired pure, fiery energy; Snake granted invisibility; Horse provided healing abilities; Sheep allowed astral projection; Monkey allowed shape-shifting; Rooster gave the power of levitation; Dog granted immortality; and Pig bestowed heat vision. The powers once belonged to the demonic dragon Shendu (Sie) who ruled China until a chi wizard cast him in stone and divided his ability amongst the Talismans some 900 years ago.
Seeking freedom and revenge for both him and his siblings, the Demon Sorcerers, Shendu managed to contact and ally himself with Valmont (Julian Sands for the first two seasons, Andrew Ableson after), the leader of the criminal organization known as The Dark Hand. Valmont was a criminal mastermind and a martial arts expert from the United Kingdom who could match and even best Jackie in a fight. However, like most bosses, he preferred to leave the fighting to his men; specifically, a group in his organization known as The Enforcers.
|The Enforcers: Hak Fu, Chow, Finn and Ratso.|
The Enforcers were comprised of Irish comedian Finn (Adam Baldwin), who had a strong affinity for the 1970s and sang disco at weddings before the Dark Hand; Ratso (Brown), a nerdy strongman with an innocent demeanor that wore a bandage across his nose as a fashion statement; Chow (Sie), the shortest and youngest member of the team who wore yellow-orange sunglasses; Hak Foo (Jim Cummings in season 1, John DiMaggio after), a red-haired martial artist who liked to announce animal-related descriptions to his attack of choice at the moment; and Tohru (Noah Nelson), a very large Japanese man who began to question his role with the Dark Hand. Eventually, Tohru defected to Section 13 and became Uncle’s employee and apprentice in his shop, learning chi magic and becoming a valuable member of Jackie’s allies. Shendu also had his own minions, the Shadowkhan, who looked like ninjas with glowing red eyes and gray skin.
|Shendu and a Demon Portal.|
The second season saw Shendu’s life in peril from his siblings for his failure to free them. He made a bargain with them to allow him to possess someone on Earth, preferably Jackie, in order to work at saving them again. They agreed, but Shendu accidentally ended up possessing Valmont instead; bound to him due to a curse Shendu’s siblings placed on him. As a result, both often vied for control at a given time. The Dark Hand went after a legendary Pan’ku Box that will lead them to the eight portals needed to free the Demon Sorcerers: Po Kong (Mona Marshall), the mountain demon; Tchang Zu (Brown), the thunder demon; Hsi Wu (André Sogliuzzo), the sky demon; Tso Lan (Glenn Shadix), the moon demon; Dai Gui (Frank Welker), the Earth demon; Bai Tza (Marshall), the water demon; and Xiao Fung (Shadix & Corey Burton), the wind demon. The season also saw the introduction of Dark Chi wizard Daolon Wong (James Hong), who was the antithesis of Uncle (jokingly referred to as “anti-Uncle” by Jade) and utilized warriors empowered by Dark Chi. Wong sought to increase his powers by absorbing Chi energy through the mouths located on his palms.
|Animals of power.|
The third season put renewed focus on the Talismans when Wong and the Dark Hand simultaneously attacked Section 13 for them. In order to stop them, Jackie destroyed the Talismans and unwittingly released their energy to possess noble animals around the world. A new quest began to find the animals before Wong could absorb their Chi energy, leading to the introductions of Scruffy the dog, Sasha the tiger, Nick the rat, Hai-Ku the monkey, Egbert the rooster, Mordecai the pig, Lucky the rabbit, Bab the sheep, Sampa the snake, Royal Medicine the horse, and Yaka the ox. With all dragons extinct, the combustibility power fell to Shendu who proceeded to trick Wong into giving him corporeal form.
The fourth season had Wong attempt to re-summon the Shadowkhan, accidentally summoning their king Tarakudo (Miguel Ferrer) instead. He and his generals each had an Oni mask that allowed the wearer to summon a different tribe of Shadowkhan with abilities different from what has been seen on the show until now. When those masks were gathered into one place, it allowed Tarakudo’s generals’ spirits to break free from the masks and gain form on Earth. Shendu’s son from the future, Drago (Michael Rosenbaum), came to the present in order to free his father but ended up setting his sights on the powers of the Demon Sorcerers. Drago also recruited The Enforcers to his cause, giving them an upgrade and new powers. In the final season, Drago went around the world to find the cursed objects of the Immortals that imprisoned the Demon Sorcerers in order to free them and conquer Earth.
|The J-Team: Viper, Tohru and El Toro Fuerte.|
During their adventures, the Chans sometimes required help from others they met. In Mexico, they befriended El Toro Fuerte (Miguel Sandoval), a masked luchador who prided himself on never removing his mask (even though he ended up doing so in every episode). With him was always his number one fan, Paco (Franco Velez), a young boy around Jade’s age who had a conflicted relationship with her, as well as a crush. Viper (Susan Eisenberg) was initially a thief when she met Jackie, but gave up her life of crime to become a security consultant after a run-in with the Dark Hand. Jade idolized her, which annoyed Jackie who felt Viper was a bad influence. Regardless, they had proved valuable allies on occasion, and when assembled by Jade, along with Captain Black and Tohru, they formed the J-Team. Jade would also assemble the empowered animals at one point to create the T-Troop, with her as an equally empowered T-Girl.
In 2001, Playmates released four action figures and three deluxe versions based on the show. Despite the show’s popularity and longevity, these were the only toys Playmates made and are incredibly rare, although not valuable. Burger King, Hardee’s, Wendy’s and Carl’s Jr. all included various toys in their kid’s meals featuring the show’s characters. From 2002-2003, Grosset & Dunlap released a series of easy reader novelizations based on the series, while Tokyopop produced several volumes of manga from 2004-2005. Eaglemoss International also published a magazine from 2003-06 that adapted almost every episode into comic format.
|Jackie on DVD.|
Between 2001-2002, Sony Pictures released four episodes on individual VHS tapes; three in the United States with one in the United Kingdom. In 2002, the first nine episodes were released across three DVD volumes in the United States, with the first two also released overseas. The complete first season was released in 2004, but only in Region 2. The complete second season was released as a manufacture on demand DVD in 2012 in the United States, and then as The Demon Portals Saga in 2019 by Mill Creek Entertainment. Two video games were released based on the show: Jackie Chan Adventures: Legend of the Dark Hand was released in 2001 for the Game Boy Advance by Activision, while Jackie Chan Adventures was released by Sony for the PlayStation 2 in Europe and China, with the United States release cancelled after the intended publisher, Hip Games, went bankrupt. The PS2 version was made compatible with PlaySation’s EyeToy.