|The original Tutenstein.
Self-proclaimed history nerd Jay Stephens
was inspired by a visit to the traveling King
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
channel, and considering they often aired specials dealing with ancient Egypt,
the concept seemed a perfect fit.
|Luxor, Cleo and Tut, falling to pieces.
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
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.
debuted simultaneously on Discovery Kids and their programming
block on NBC
on November 1, 2003. Writers on the series included John Behnke,
D. Peterson, Tim Cahill,
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
|The Scepter of Was.
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
DVD collections containing four episodes apiece, along
with games and documentaries as special features.
Originally published in 2017. Updated in 2021.