THE MUMMY: THE ANIMATED SERIES / THE MUMMY: SECRETS OF THE MEDJAI
Universal Cartoon Studios, Sunwoo Entertainment
John Schneider – Rick O’Connell
Grey DeLisle – Evelyn O’Connell
Tom Kenny – Jonathan Carnahan
Nicholas Guest – Ardeth Bay
Jim Cummings – Imhotep, Sir Arthur Fenwick, opening narration (season 1), various
Michael Reisz – Colin Weasler
In 1992, producers James Jacks and Sean Daniel approached Universal Studios about updating the original 1932 Mummy film for the 90s. Universal approved, but wanted the film to be kept to around $10 million. In the following years, the concept went through several ideas and revisions with the likes of Clive Barker and George A. Romero being attached. However, none of the approaches were quite right. In 1997, Stephen Sommers contacted Jacks and Daniel with his desire to make the film. He had grown up liking the original Mummy and wanted to reproduce the parts he liked on a grander scale. He essentially pitched it as Indiana Jones or Jason and the Argonauts vs. the mummy. Around this time, Universal’s management had changed due to the spectacular failure of Babe: Pig in the City and had a renewed interest in revisiting its successful 1930s franchises, so they took to Sommers’ idea and greenlit the movie with an $80 million budget.
The Mummy, set in 1926, saw British librarian and aspiring Egyptologist Evelyn Carnahan (Rachel Weisz) going on a quest to discover the lost city of Hamunaptra when her brother, Jonathan (John Hannah), came into possession of a map he stole from American adventurer Rick O’Connell (Brendan Fraser). They recruited Rick as their guide and found themselves in competition with a group of American treasure hunters led by his former associate, Beni (Kevin J. O’Connor). The Americans discover the Book of the Dead which Evelyn “borrows” and reads from, inadvertently awakening Imhotep (Arnold Vosloo). Imhotep was a high priest and sorcerer who, in 1290 BC, was having an affair with Anck-su-namun (Patricia Velásquez), the mistress of Pharaoh Seti I (Aharon Ipalé). They killed the Pharaoh and she killed herself to avoid capture by his guards, believing Imhotep could resurrect her. However, he too had been captured and mummified alive. It was up to Rick and Jonathan to stop Imhotep before he sacrificed Evelyn to finally resurrect Anck-su-namum.
The Mummy opened on May 7, 1999. Despite mixed reviews, it went on to have the highest non-holiday May opening of all time with $43 million. It proceeded to amass $416.4 million worldwide. Naturally, Universal wanted a sequel and got one in the form of 2001’s The Mummy Returns. Set in 1933, Rick and Evelyn are now married and have a son, Alex (Freddie Boath), who possessed equal parts his mother’s intelligence and mischief and his father’s bravery. Alex accidentally got the Bracelet of Anubis locked onto his wrist, which would kill him within two days if he didn’t get it to Ahm Shere as shown in a vision. Also, an Egyptian cult resurrected Imhotep again so that he could confront and defeat the Scorpion King (Dwayne Johnson) and assume command of Anubis’ army to conquer the world. The sequel opened on May 4, 2001 and while garnering even more mixed reviews went on to gain a $435 million box office.
|Promotional art showing the Manacle of Osiris in action.|
Looking to keep up the momentum of the franchise and attract a younger audience, Universal commissioned the creation of a cartoon spin-off. Developed by Tom Pugsley and Greg Klein, The Mummy: The Animated Series followed a simplified version of the first movie while incorporating elements from the sequel. For the show, Evelyn (Grey DeLisle) was given a promotion at the British Museum of Antiquities for the recovery of the Book of the Dead (which alternated between being bound tablets as in the movie and a traditional book). She, Rick (John Schneider) and Alex (Chris Marquette) were given a dirigible, The Zephyr, to take them to a dig at Hamunaptra. Jonathan (Tom Kenny) tagged along to escape some unhappy people he cheated. Colin Weasler (Michael Reisz), Evelyn’s co-worker who was due the promotion she got, stole the Book and followed them in order to resurrect and control Imhotep (Jim Cummings) and exact his revenge. Instead, Imhotep subjugated Colin and sought to claim the Manacle of Osiris—the object for which Seti had him mummified for trying to steal (since adultery and murder isn’t really kid-friendly)—that had bonded itself to Alex’s wrist. With the aid of old friend Ardeth Bay (Nicholas Guest), a member of the nomadic Medjai tribe charged with keeping the world safe from Imhotep, they drove the mummy off. Every weekly episode featured an ongoing race between Imhotep and the O’Connells to find the Scrolls of Thebes, which meant control over the Manacle.
|The O'Connells: Jonathan, Rick, Evelyn and Alex.|
To avoid paying for actor likenesses, the character models designed by Steven Choi and John Suzuki bore only a passing resemblance to the movie cast with Evelyn and Jonathan being given bright red hair, Rick made blonde, and Alex an orange hue. Imhotep was given hair in his human form, although he spent the majority of the series as a purple semi-decomposed entity reminiscent of the early stages of reforming himself upon resurrection in the films. Imhotep also spoke clear English, whereas while he used it in a few scenes (an audio translation for the audience) he mostly spoke in ancient Egyptian. Like the films, Alex was given visions via the Manacle that helped warn or guide him on their journeys, but also gained additional powers like energy bursts and telekinesis. Rick’s propensity for firearms and the small armory he carried with him was removed and replaced with a whip or other offensive objects he found on location during fights. Ardeth did maintain his sword, but rarely used it. Colin, while an original character, exhibited squirrely traits similar to that of the Beni character.
|Imhotep lives! ...Sort of.|
The Mummy: The Animated Series debuted on The WB on September 29, 2001 as part of the Kids’ WB programming block (its debut was delayed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks). Imhotep and Colin served as the primary villains, but typically Imhotep would summon a monster or mummy soldiers to do his bidding against the O’Connells before dealing with them directly himself. Most of the first season was written by Pugsley and Klein with additional scripts by Tony Schillaci, Nick DuBois, Elaine Zicree, Marc Scott Zicree, Marty Isenberg, Robert N. Skir and Steven Melching. The music was composed by Cory Lerios, John D’Andrea and George Gabriel, with Cummings providing backstory narration over the opening theme. Animation duties were handled by Sunwoo Entertainment. Uniquely, before the intro each episode opened up with the episode’s title over a sepia tone globe showing where in the world the story was taking place at that moment. The globe would return again during the episode to show a change in location.
The series didn’t quite attain the heights of the films, and a little creative tooling was done for the second season. Given the subtitle The Secrets of the Medjai complete with a new intro, Alex was taken into the Medjai order to receive their training and to learn how to better control the Manacle. Introduced were fellow trainees Fadil (Jeff Bennett) and Yanit (Jeannie Elias), giving Alex people his own age to interact with and friends beyond his mongoose, Tut. After having been previously, Anck-su-namun (Lenore Zann) was introduced as a recurring villain; made a high priestess whose power and ambition could rival even Imhotep’s to the point of betraying him after he resurrected her. This also led to the integration that Evelyn was the reincarnation of Princess Nefertiri, Seti’s daughter. Another recurring villain was Ninzam Toth (Michael T. Weiss), a dark Medjai who betrayed the order. Pugsley and Klein only wrote the first and last episodes of the season, with William Forrest Cluverius and Greg Weisman joining the other writers for an episode apiece.
|Dark Medjai Ninzam Toth.|
The Mummy failed to find a significant audience, due in large part to The WB constantly putting it on hiatus from its schedule in favor of other programs and shifting its timeslot several times. It was ultimately cancelled at the conclusion of the second season. However, it was allowed to resolve most of its major plotlines while leaving the possibility open for a return; something very few animated series ever get. It remained on in reruns for the rest of that June until it was removed from the network in July. It then aired on Toon Disney until the channel as rebranded as Disney XD.
|Colin Weasler, living up to his name.|
In 2002, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment released three episodes edited together as a movie on the DVD Quest for the Lost Scrolls. That year, Ubisoft published a 2D platforming video game for the Game Boy Advance, which allowed a player to switch between the O’Connells for different fighting styles and skills. A 3D action game for the PlayStation 2 was published by Hip Games in 2004, however this time the player could only use Alex. None of the series’ voice actors reprised their roles. As part of the promotion for the third and final film in the main trilogy, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the complete series was released across three DVDs in 2008, and later as a single set internationally by Mediumware in 2013. It was made available for streaming on Peacock in 2020.
A fourth Mummy film was planned, but ultimately scrapped in favor of Universal’s attempted Dark Universe reboot in 2017. However, the 90s Mummy franchise continued on until 2018 in the form of the Scorpion King spin-off series centering on that character. It debuted with a theatrical film in 2002 and a prequel and three sequels that went direct-to-video. Like its parent series, Scorpion King had also been announced as getting the reboot treatment.