Jordan is often regarded as one of
the greatest basketball players of all time. A third overall draft pick for the
Chicago Bulls in 1984, Jordan quickly
emerged as a prolific scorer and defensive player, as well as a leaping ability
that earned him the monikers “Air Jordan” and “His Airness”. By 1991, he won
his first of six NBA championships with the
Bulls on top of other awards and accolades. Jordan also became one of the most
effectively marketed athletes of his generation, leading to the popularization
of the NBA around the world by the time the 1990s rolled around.
|A cool customer.
Gretzky was a player for the NHL for 20 years between four different teams:
the Edmonton Oilers, Los Angeles Kings, St. Louis Blues and The New York Rangers. Known as “The Great One”
and regarded as the greatest hockey player ever, Gretzky became the leading
scorer in NHL history achieving the feat of 200 points in one season four
times. He also achieved a score of 100 points in 16 seasons, 14 of them being
consecutive. Gretzky’s lasting contribution was by changing the scope of hockey
to become more of a team-based sport; where each player on the ice was a
partner in accomplishing the scoring of a goal. That strategy helped lead the
Oilers to becoming the highest scoring team in the league.
Jackson was a double-threat, being
both a prolific football and baseball player at the same time. Jackson was
initially selected in the 1986 NFL draft by
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but he opted
to play baseball for the Kansas City Royals
instead. Although the Buccaneers’ attempts at recruiting Jackson by sabotaging
his baseball career briefly soured him on the sport, Jackson’s interest was
piqued when he was drafted in 1987 by the Los
Angeles Raiders and allowed to continue playing for the Royals. Jackson
became an All-Star in both sports, gaining a lucrative merchandising deal with Nike for their “Bo Knows” campaign alongside Bo Diddley (the original commercial also
featured cameos by Jordan and Gretzky). By 1991, a hip injury ended his
football career and he was soon cut by the Royals. Jackson returned to baseball
later that year with the Chicago White Sox.
|Jackson, Jordan and Gretzky animated.
With these three men at the heights
of their careers, it was decided to use and combine their star power to conquer
Saturday morning television, as well as spread the pro-social moral lessons the
FCC so loved. The resulting show was ProStars, which depicted the three
athletes as superheroes during their off-seasons utilizing a wide variety of
sports-themed crime-fighting equipment. Gretzky had a previous association with
something called “Pro Stars” in the form of a cereal by General Mills, which would go on to
feature tie-in merchandise with the cartoon. Typically, the ProStars received a
VHS from a kid who needed help somewhere in the world as their home was being
threatened by an eccentrically-themed supervillain. Instances of villainy would
include environmental irresponsibility, thefts of something sports-themed, or
roughnecks terrorizing the populace.
|Jackson and Gretzky in the live segments.
Gretzky and Jackson appeared in
brief live-action segments to set up the episode’s story for the audience, talk
about the show’s moral lesson at the end, and answer questions from kids. The
segments were edited together to make it seem like they were talking to each
other in the same studio rather than in the separate locations where they were
filmed. When it came to the actual program, their characters on the show were
voiced by professional voice actors. Jordan (Dorian Harewood) was the leader of
the group, displaying a high-level of intelligence and aptitude with
complicated devices. Gretzky (Townsend Coleman, trying his best hand at a
Canadian accent) was lacking in the intelligence department, played as the
group’s comic relief and always obsessed with food. Jackson (Dave Fennoy) was
the group’s strong-man with abilities approaching superhuman levels. Aiding the
ProStars was Mom (Susan Silo), a Jewish mother stereotype who created all the
gear the ProStars used on their missions. Mom’s attempts at demonstrating the
ProStars’ new gear usually resulted in them going haywire and injuring their
next door neighbors, although she has been shown to be able to handle her own
against the ProStars. Her assistant was Denise (Diana Barrows) who wanted to
help the ProStars but usually ended up accidentally causing trouble for them or
getting abducted by the week’s foe. The ProStars headquarters was located on
the top floor of Mom’s gym.
|Mom, "large" and in charge.
was initially a project made for ESPN,
but the network decided to limit itself exclusively to live-action programming.
The show ended up finding a new home on NBC
beginning on September 14, 1991. To promote the series, it was featured in the
promotional comic NBC Saturday Morning Comics by Harvey Comics along with
the rest of the new shows debuting on NBC that year. Initially, the theme song
was “We Are ProStars” by series composer Eric
Allman, which was an homage to Queen’s
“We Will Rock You”.
Halfway through the series, the song was slowed down and altered slightly. The
song also made reference to Jackson’s Nike campaign with the lyric “Bo knows
everything” (Jackson’s character also frequently stated “Bo knows” during an
episode). The show was produced by DiC Entertainment
with animation handled by Sei Young
Animation Co., Ltd., although the title sequence was animated by Canvas, Inc. and featured
footage of the real-life stars in action.
The series aired for a single season
of 13 episodes, with the final being a clip show. If there were any chances of
it being renewed for a second, they were dashed the moment the series was
picked up by NBC. After the 1991-92 season, NBC decided to cash in on the
success of Saved by the Bell by revamping their entire Saturday
morning line-up to be more teen-oriented. They jettisoned all of their animated
programming in favor of live action shows for the programming block dubbed Teen NBC (or TNBC). After the
series ended, Buena
Vista Home Video released episodes
to VHS the following year. In 2007, NCircle Entertainment released
three episodes on a DVD called Slam Dunking with the Airman. DHX Media, current owners of the DiC
library, published seven episodes to one of their YouTube channels before their
merger and name change to WildBrain.
|Denise seems unsurprised that something went wrong.
As for the pros themselves, Jordan continued to play basketball until 1993 when he would retire and go on to play minor league baseball for the Birmingham Barons (as chronicled in the 1997 film Space Jam). The 1994-95 MLB strike led to Jordan quitting and returning to the Bulls in 1995 until he retired yet again in 1999. Jordan would return to play one final time in 2001 with the Washington Wizards for two years. Jordan’s #23 was permanently retired. Gretzky continued playing Hockey with two more teams until ultimately retiring in 1999. He was quickly inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, bypassing the standard three-year waiting period, and his #99 was retired league-wide. Jackson played for two years with the White Sox in 1991 and 1993, with his sitting out 1992 for his hip replacement surgery. Jackson finished his career with the California Angels in 1994, deciding to retire and focus on his family.