|The original Tutenstein.|
Self-proclaimed history nerd Jay Stephens was inspired by a visit to the traveling King Tut exhibit in Canada to develop one of his future comic creations: Tutenstein, a portmanteau of Tutankhamun and Frankenstein. The concept was initially designed with Nickelodeon Magazine in mind, but it was shot down by the comics editor. Tutenstein finally made his debut in 1997’s Land of Nod #3 by Black Eye Productions and was subsequently featured in several of Stephens’ following publications. Tut caught the attention of Fred Schaefer of Porchlight Entertainment who approached Stephens about adapting the character into animation. Stephens would work on designs and script ideas to shop around to various networks, but found little success. Discovery Communications was looking for content for their Discovery Kids channel, and considering they often aired specials dealing with ancient Egypt, the concept seemed a perfect fit.
|Luxor, Cleo and Tut, falling to pieces.|
Tutenstein followed the adventures of the 10-year old Tut Ankh En Set Amun (Jeannie Elias, Maryke Hendrikse & Donna Cherry) who had become the pharaoh of ancient Egypt and wielder of the Scepter of Was. When his sarcophagus ended up in the museum where archeology enthusiast Cleo Carter (named after Cleopatra, voiced by Crystal Scales & Leah Lynette) often hung out, he was revived when lightning struck the staff. It also gave Cleo’s cat, Luxor (David Lodge), the ability to speak and a desire to serve Tut. Tut, being 10 and a former ruler, acted about as bratty as could be expected; using magical scrolls to cast spells for his own self-gain that often backfired. Tut was also put at odds with various ancient gods who could be just as arrogant and petty as he; in particular the god of chaos, Set (Lodge), who wanted to claim the Scepter of Was and free himself from his underworld prison. Professor Horace Behedty (named for the god Horus, voiced by Lex Lang as Vince del Castillo) was the museum’s curator and believed he was the smartest in the room; always looking to get more publicity for himself (and sometimes the museum). Walter Jacobs was the museum’s underpaid and dimwitted security guard, often tasked by Behedty to perform jobs not really in his function. Dr. Roxanne Vanderwheele was the professor’s colleague and a bit more open-minded and up-to-date in her approach to archaeology.
|Barlow's series-launching image.|
Character designer Fil Barlow was responsible for adapting most of the character and set designs, and in fact it was his rendition that helped sell the show to Discovery. Stephens was on hand as a creative consultant, overseeing all aspects of the production. Egyptologist Kasia Szpakowska provided reference material for Barlow to work off of in order to get the designs to feel as authentic as possible. Barlow’s designs also led to the running gag of Tut’s body parts either falling off or becoming separated from his body somehow. After his 20-episode contract expired, Barlow was replaced by his student, Thomas Perkins, for the remainder of the series.
|Set. And he looked like such a friendly guy.|
Tutenstein debuted simultaneously on Discovery Kids and their programming block on NBC on November 1, 2003. Writers on the series included John Behnke, Rob Humphrey, Brooks Wachtel, Cynthia Harrison, Charlotte Fullerton, Scott D. Peterson, Tim Cahill, Kevin Campbell, Julie McNally Cahill, Michael Merton and Philip Morton. With Spzakowska and Karen Hill-Scott, Ed.D. serving as the educational consultants, each episode was able to inject a little factuality into its comedic approach. The ancient gods, for example, were largely accurate to the Egyptian depictions of them. The show was animated by NIC Entertainment Inc. with music by Guy Michelmore.
|The Scepter of Was.|
Tutenstein ran for three seasons, concluding with the film Clash of the Pharaohs. The series was nominated for three and won two Emmy Awards in 2004, 2006 and 2007. In 2004, Marvel Comics published a promotional comic in association with Discovery Kids that saw Tut and friends meeting up with Spider-Man and some of the X-Men as they banded together to thwart Set’s latest scheme. In 2007, Discovery Kids released three DVD collections containing four episodes apiece, along with games and documentaries as special features.
Originally published in 2017. Updated in 2021.