June 19, 2021

VIVA PIÑATA

 

VIVA PIÑATA

(FOX, YTV, CW, August 26, 2006-May 18, 2009)

 

Bardel Entertainment, YTV, 4Kids Entertainment, Microsoft

 

 




            The player takes control of an unseen being whose job it is to tend to a neglected piece of land on Piñata Island. Using a variety of gardening tools, they get the plot ready for the planting of various kinds of plants and erection of structures and habitats. When certain requirements are met, the garden will attract any one of 60 species of Piñatas to come visit (based on real animals, but in wild colors and given cute designations). Meeting further requirements would result in that Piñata becoming a resident. If two Piñatas of the same species take up residence (they have no gender) and their requirements for mating are met, they will perform a “romance dance” that will lead to an egg being delivered by Storkos (a superpowered human woman who retrieved the eggs from Egg Mountain, which the Piñatas had trouble doing themselves). The player can then hatch the egg or send it off to another player. The ultimate goal is to keep the Piñatas happy and healthy.

Professor Pester and the Ruffians.


            The game isn’t just all gardening and mating, however. To add a challenge there are antagonists in the form of Ruffians led by the masked human Professor Pester and Sour Piñatas, all of whom want to wreak havoc on your garden or harm your resident Piñatas. Pester and his Ruffians can be chased off by purchasing certain items or siccing a particular Piñata on them, while Sours could additionally be trapped and tamed into being good Piñatas. Another threat comes from the natural food chain of the island, known as the “doughnut of life”. Some Piñatas are predator and prey to each other and must be eaten for a requirement. If both types are residents, however, they won’t do that unless told, but fights between them could still break out. And what gardening game would be complete without the constant threats of weeds popping up and destroying your hard work?

Piñata Island.


            Viva Piñata was developed by British studio Rare, who was responsible for hit Nintendo games like Donkey Kong Country until Microsoft purchased them outright. Co-founder Tim Stamper came up with the idea of the game for the handheld Pocket PC platform in 2002 and started up a development team on it. After the studio’s acquisition, development moved to the Xbox and eventually the Xbox 360 for its enhanced graphics. Wanting a unified style, the developers settled on the piñata motif which excited them not only because piñatas were rare in their home country, but the idea of their being filled with candy opened up all-new gameplay possibilities. Microsoft’s only instruction to the team was to keep it family-friendly, as they sought to make it the Xbox’s signature franchise and use it to increase its market appeal.



            The game was released on November 9, 2006. In order to meet their deadline, Rare ended up having to cut partial ideas leaving the game incomplete in their eyes. However, the game was well-received by players and performed within the company’s expectations, making it an internal success. In promotion of the system and the game, Microsoft collaborated with Six Flags Mexico to build a 48-foot (15m) tall and 52-foot (16m) long Piñata modeled after a Horstachio (a horse); the largest-recorded piñata ever built. Microsoft greenlit a sequel, which Rare saw as an opportunity to make a more definitive version of the original. They built upon the work they had already done, adding in a new cooperative multiplayer mode, Xbox Live Vision Camera support, more types of Piñatas and areas to catch them, a new plot, fashion show and racing minigames and the ability to teach the Piñatas tricks. Trouble in Paradise was released on September 2, 2008 to generally favorable reviews that praised the additions but felt it was too similar to its predecessor.



            As part of their franchising, Microsoft sought to bring their properties to television. They partnered with 4Kids Entertainment and offered them several options from their library. Seeing potential in Viva Piñata, 4Kids selected it before the game was even released. 4Kids worked closely with Rare in making the show; basing the character designs on the 3D models used in the game, including tips on how to interact with the in-game Piñatas into the stories, and having original project lead Gregg Mayles approve each script for their applicability to the game.

Langston in Piñata Central.


            Like the game, the series was set on Piñata Island, home to sentient Piñatas. The Piñatas went about their days munching on candy and gardening until they reach their full Candiosity, which was detected by a Candiosity Meter that operated like a scale, or their own personal Piñatameter that resembled a smart phone. The meter was monitored by Piñata Central, which fielded requests for Piñatas at human parties. Once full of their limit of candy, a Piñata was loaded into the Cannoñata (a massive cannon) and fired to a party where they were smashed open by the guests. Upon returning to the island, the Piñata was reassembled by robots and they resumed their life until the next time they’re full. Certain Piñatas were exempt from attending parties, such as royalty like King Roario (a lion, voiced by Dan Green) or older more fragile Piñatas in retirement.

Promo art featuring Franklin, Simone, Paulie, Les, Fergy and Hudson.



            The show focused on a primary set of inhabitants: Hudson Horstachio (Green), one of the most popular and famous Piñatas on the island whose ego often needed to be reigned in; Paulie Preztail (Brian Mallard), a red-tailed fox that was clever and no-nonsense with a skill for cooking and a dislike of parties; Fergy Fudgehog (David Wills), a hedgehog who loved candy but had a deathly fear of parties and did whatever it took to get out of them; Franklin Fizzlybear (Marc Thompson using a surfer accent), a laid back grizzly bear who loved to surf and draw portraits of the others; Tina and Teddington Twingersnap (Kathleen Delaney and Jamie McGonnigal, respectively), a two-headed serpent that had sub-par gardening skills and always argued with each other; Ella Elephanilla (Rbecca Soler), an elephant who suffered from short-term memory loss and loved ballet; Les Galagoogoo (Eric Stuart, who also served as voice director), a Galago whose intelligence was often overshadowed by the fact his words came out as high-pitched gibberish (although the others seemed to understand him, they just ignored him); and Langston Lickatoad (Mike Pollock), a toad who was the representative of Piñata Central and responsible for getting a full Piñata to the Cannoñata.

The Sours.


            As in the game, the Piñatas were often accosted by Professor Pester (David Brimmer) who concocted a variety of plans to trap and break open the Piñatas in order to get at the candy they contained. His plans were often ruined by his bumbling henchmen, the Ruffians (Stuart), who also led to Pester accidentally creating the Sours. Another antagonist was the Great Bonboon, a baboon that pretended to be an all-knowing guru and tried various schemes to steal the other Piñatas’ candy. Other characters included Chortles Chippopotamus (Sean Schemmel), a hippopotamus that believed himself to be a comedian; Pecky Pudgeon (Stuart), a gossiping photojournalist pigeon; Simone Cinnamonkey (Soler), Hudson’s resourceful monkey agent; Prewitt Profitamole (Mike MacRae), a mole who was the only mechanic on the island and an inventor, and who performed repairs on Piñatas; Dr. Quincy Quackenberry, a duck and the resident psychologist called on to cure everything that ailed the others; Hailey Horstachio, Hudson’s biggest rival; and Beverly Badgesicle, a badger that was Hudson’s biggest and most obsessive fan.

Ella squishing Paulie.


            Viva Piñata debuted on FOX on August 26, 2006 as part of the 4Kids TV programming block. The series was developed by Norman Grossfeld and Lloyd Goldfine, and was a co-production between 4Kids, Microsoft, YTV (where it would air in Canada), and Bardel Entertainment, who animated it. Each episode consisted of two segments written by Anne D. Bernstein, David Steven Cohen, Robert David, Randolph Heard, John T. Reynolds, Eric Scott and Mike de Seve. The characters’ designs were adapted for the show Ryan Cummings, Jason Cheng, Edmond Mai, Shayan Naziripour, and Carolyn Wong. The series’ music was composed by John Siegler, Mike Brady, Lou Cortelezzi, Sue Shufro, Elik Alvarez, Peter Lurye, Matt McGuire, Ralph Schuckett, Freddy Sheinfeld, Dan Stein and Russell Velázques, with Siegler and Grossfeld doing the theme.




            The first 20 episodes of season one aired on FOX until April 28, 2007. The remaining 6 episodes aired in the weeks leading up to the debut of the second season in November, complete with a new intro. However, after three episodes the new ones stopped airing in the United States. By this time, the relationship between 4Kids and FOX was dissolving due to 4Kids’ failure to pay the network for the air time and the network’s inability to guarantee that affiliates would even carry the block. Ultimately, FOX would abandon Saturday morning programming altogether. In the meantime, the series continued to air on YTV. 4Kids brought the show back onto their CW4Kids programming block on The CW in September of 2008, but took it off again after 6 episodes; leaving 16 episodes unaired in the United States. Viva Piñata finished out its run on YTV in May of 2009, and continued airing reruns through June of 2011. Across both seasons, Viva Piñata aired in over 107 different countries and was translated in 27 languages.



            Microsoft commissioned a video game based on the show, making use of its characters—Hudson, Paulie, Fergy, Franklin and their female counterparts that appeared in various episodes—and voices. However, as Rare was working on Trouble in Paradise (whose plot was influenced by the show, although not as directly as this game), Microsoft outsourced its production to Australian Krome Studios. Unlike the other Viva Piñata games, Party Animals was comprised of minigames in what is known as a party game, a genre popularized by the Mario Party series. It was framed like a game show where contestants competed against each other with colorful commentary provided by announcers, followed by a racing game and random challenge games. The winner was determined by which character ended up with the most Candiosity. Although Microsoft expressed the utmost confidence in Krome to help keep the franchise—and the 360—successful, the end result was a game that was poorly received. Many criticized the fact it leaned towards a much younger audience, and that the minigames felt far too similar to each other. Rare would go on to make only one more Viva Piñata game in 2008: Pocket Paradise for the Nintendo DS. While maintaining the original gameplay mechanics. Pocket Paradise would make use of the cartoon’s characters and clips both within the game and for its marketing.

One of the DVD covers.


            The segments “Chewnicorn in the Garden” and “Horstachio of a Different Color” were released for free download on the Xbox Live Marketplace as a kind of preview before the show’s debut. The latter was also later included on a bonus disc included with the Special Edition of the game. In 2009, Shout! Factory released the first 10 episodes across two DVD collections: The Piñatas Must be Crazy and Other Stories and Lights, Camera, Action! Imavision Canada would release three volumes in Canada containing 4 episodes each. In the United Kingdom, Walt Disney Pictures released 15 episodes across 3 DVDs: Hudson’s Better Half, Invasion of the Boogie Snatchers!, and A Match Made in Court! On the UK releases, segments were mixed up and not paired with their originally aired partners. In Australia and New Zealand, Magna Pacific and Warner Bros. released 12 different episodes across 3 collections.
 
 
EPISODE GUIDE (some airdates vary by source and may not be entirely accurate):
Season 1:
“Cocoadile Tears / Candiosity” (8/26/06) – Tina and Teddington need Cocadile tears to improve their garden. / Fergy tries to decrease his Candiosity so he won’t have to go to the party.
 
“Queen for a Day / A Chewnicorn in the Garden” (8/26/06) – The Buzzlegums grow tired of Beatrice and make Franklin their leader. / Fergy and Franklin try to convince Paulie that Chewnicorns are real.
 
“Legs / Horstachio of a Different Color” (8/26/06) – Fergy has to borrow Chuckles’ legs when he loses his during dance practice. / A new rival turns Hudson off of entering the Spring Fair Horstachio Competition.
 
“Whirlm with a Dream / The Crush” (8/26/06) – Wilson’s stature keeps him from going to a party. / Ella accepts invitations to the dance from Fergy and Paulie, causing problems between them.
 
“Trojan Horstachio / The Piñatas Must Be Crazy” (9/23/06) – Professor Pester and his minions disguise themselves as a female Horstachio to lure Hudson into a trap. / Great Bonboon convinces everyone that a balloon animal is a supreme being.
 
“Franklin Can’t Dance / Les Saves the Day..Again!” (9/30/06) – Franklin’s friends talk up his the skills at dancing he doesn’t have to help him impress a girl. / No one can understand Les’ warnings about the erupting volcano.
 
“Sick Day / Lights, Camera, Action!” (10/7/06) – Fergy takes care of the sick Piñatas in the hopes of catching their cold. / Professor Pester disguises himself as a movie director and everyone wants to be in his film, except Paulie.
 
“Mad Mongo / Hudson’s Biggest Fan” (10/21/06) – Franklin attempts to tame a Sour Macaraccoon. / Beverly Badgesicle loves Hudson so much that she just won’t leave him alone.
 
“Mission: ImPiñatable / My Little Fergy” (11/11/06) – Professor Pester captures Hudson, who takes a liking to Pester’s lair. / Fergy’s mother comes to visit and he’s embarrassed at never having been to a party like he’s written to her that he has.
 
“The Great Gob Rush / Hero” (11/4/06) – Fergy stumbles upon a cave full of golden caramel clusters. / When Franklin saves Hudson’s life Fraklin has trouble with his newfound fame and Hudson has trouble being overshadowed by him.
 
“On a Sour Note / Pig Out Mountain” (11/18/06) – Sour joining the Piñata’s band makes them a success. / Paulie and Fergy join Roary Rashberry’s gang on a trek for a location supposedly loaded with food, which they plan on moving to.
 
“Piñatapartyphobia / Royal Visit” (2/17/07) – Dr. Quackberry tries to cure Fergy’s party phobia. / Fergy attempts to get knighted by King Roario so he won’t have to go to any parties.
 
“The Wraisins of Wrath / Piñata Island Idol” (2/17/07) – A raisin pie turns the Piñatas into their personality opposites. / The Piñatas attempt to raise funs to rebuild the dance hall.
 
“To Catch a Piñata / Invasion of the Boogie Snatchers” (2/24/07) – Fergy becomes the new Piñata wrangler. / Professor Pester hypnotizes the Piñatas to get all of their candy.
 
“Cannibalism / Pecky Pudgeon, Private Eye” (3/3/07) – Fergy is charged with cannibalism after he eats a chocolate Bunnycomb he said was his cousin. / Pecky searches for the missing Ella.
 
“Rocket to Nowhere / Twingersnapped!” (3/10/07) – Bonboon offers to send Fergy to another planet for all of his candy. / Teddington and Tina split into two after they get lost in the jungle.
 
“Franklingestion / Confetti-it is” (3/17/07) – Franklin can’t remember a party he went to, or figure out why he’s spitting up vegetables. / Franklin’s coat falls out when he contracts Confetti-it is and goes to Dr. Quackberry for a cure.
 
“Soil and Green / I, Pretztail” (3/24/07) – Fergy and Paulie discover a Whirlm that can make plants grow anywhere he digs. / Paulie learns he was mistaken about his origins due to a misplaced file.
 
“Free the Piñatas / For My Next Trick” (4/7/07) – Professor Pester convinces the Piñatas to destroy the Cannonata in Piñata Central. / Professor Pester sets his sights on Franklin’s new magic wand.
 
“Treasure of Piñata Madre / Between a Flock and a Hard Place” (4/21/07) – Professor Pester seeks to claim a found treasure chest. / When Goobaa rampages his flock through the gardens, Teddington gets the blame.
 
“High Plains Drafter / Pester’s Party” (10/13/07) – A caricature artist visits the town and destroys the confidence of the Piñatas. / Professor Pester changes the Cannonata’s coordinates to launch the Piñata’s to his party trap.
 
“Mouse Flap / Snow Place Like Home” (10/20/07) – Monty Mousemallow gets angry when Franklin accidentally sits on him. / Paulie and Fergy’s retirement destination ends up being in the Arctic.
 
“The Abominable Jeli / Mirror Shmirror” (10/27/07) – Franklin, Fergy, Hudson and Les find themselves in the middle of a snowball war. / Franklin falls into another dimension and encounters an evil dictator version of himself.
 
“My Pal Langston / Snail’s Pace” (10/27/07) – Fergy and Paulie plot to become Langston’s friends so he won’t send them to any parties. / Fergy’s soccer team must overcome their handicaps to deal with suddenly facing off against a team of Sours.
 
“Hudson on Hudson / Wild Horstachios” (11/3/07) – Hudson’s puppet show starring a puppet of himself gives him a crisis of ego. / Hudson ends up living in the wild for the first time with a group of Horstachios.
 
“My Sweet Sours / Six Million Dollar Piñata” (11/10/07) – Professor Pester reminisces about the beginnings of his sinister plans. / Fergy gets a bionic upgrade and has trouble controlling his new abilities.
 
Season 2:
“A Terrible Tribute / Pester the Piñata” (11/17/07) – Hudson is placed on a show where he meets Piantas from his past. / Professor Pester gets amnesia and believes he’s a Piñata.
 
“Fudge Match / Hudson’s Holiday” (11/24/07) – Fergy becomes jealous of a visiting Fudgehog and challenges him to a race. / Hudson is forced to take a vacation on a deserted island.
 
“Hudson Tells All / Langston’s Jameleon Cousins” (12/1/17) – Hudson’s talking doll records a rant and offends the other Piñatas. / Langston’s cousins visit and pull pranks on him.
 
“The Fudgetive / She Stomps at Night” (2/17/08 CAN, 9/13/08 US) – Fergy tricks the Piñatas into believing he’s been captured by a vacationing Professor Pester. / Professor Pester attempts to lure a sleepwalking Ella to his lair.
 
“Les the Jet Setter / Slayin’ em at the Sands” (2/24/08 CAN, 9/20/08 US) – Fergy uses Les’ jetpack to avoid parties. / Professor Pester puts on a comedy routine to make Paulie’s cousins lose their candy.
 
“Crimes of Passion Fruit / The Antlers are Blowin’ in the Wind” (3/2/08 CAN, 9/27/08 US) – Thinking the big boss of Piñata Central—a bowl of fruit—is ignoring him. Fergy smashes him with a stapler. / Paulie and Fergy are joined by Machi Moojoo in their attempts to avoid parties.
 
“Sumo Tsumani / Recipe for Disaster” (3/9/08 CAN, 10/4/08 US) – Fergy becomes a sumo wrestler so that he can gorge. / Fergy and Paulie enter a cooking contest to win a lifetime supply of candy.
 
“Mr. Unbustable / Too Many Fergys” (3/30/08 CAN, 10/11/08 US) – Fergy plots to work out hard to make himself unbreakable. / Fergy ends up in a time portal that sends him back to yesterday.
 
“Party Parasite / Hibernation Nation” (11/4/06) – Hudson learns a parasite is eating all of his candy. / Franklin invites his friends to a hibernation party.
 
“The Old Piñatas Home / Shirley Sells Out” (4/6/08 CAN, 10/18/08 US) – Fergy and his friends decide to spruce up his uncle’s retirement home. / Professor Pester gives Shirley a potion that changes her into a Sour.
 
“The Transparent Trap / To Catch A Pester” (6/8/08 CAN) – Great Bonboon convinces Fergy that a tonic turned him invisible. / The Piñatas lock up Professor Pester in their new jail, but he turns out to be an annoying houseguest.
 
“My Sweet Swanana / Ella Forgets to Forget” (12/8/07) – Fergy and Paulie set Rory up on a date in an effort to get him out of Paulie’s house. / Fergy uses Ella’s forgetfulness as a service, but she ends up beginning to remember the secrets she’s told.
 
“Motivational Break / Bringing up Cluckle” (4/20/08 CAN) – Langston enlists a drill sergeant to get Fergy and Paulie ready for parties. / Joining a big brother program puts Hudson in charge of a mother Cluckle’s three kids.
 
“Beauty and the Beasts / The Talented MR. Hck” (4/27/08 CAN) – Disliking the entrants he has to judge for the Miss Piñata pageant, Hudson has Fergy, Franklin and Paulie enter disguised as women. / Hudson’s hiring of a double backfires when the double really does try to take his place.
 
“De-Mock-Racy / Her Royal Forgetfulness” (5/18/08 CAN) – Hudson takes the lead in the vote to replace Langston. / Fergy takes advantage of Ella’s new status of being a queen to play her husband and get out of parties.
 
“The Wrong Stuff / Piñatametermania” (5/25/08 CAN) – Hudson is sent to a party on the moon that ends up being a trap by Professor Pester. / A mix-up at the theater leaves the Piñatas with the wrong Piñatameters and jobs as a result.
 
“Heads and Tails / Speechless” (6/22/08 CAN) – A faulty repair robot puts Hudson’s head on Fergy’s body and he ends up put into a circus. / Teddington takes advantage of Tina’s laryngitis to engage in his terrible singing without her complaints.
 
“Good Cop, Bad Cop / Announce This” (6/29/08 CAN) – Hudson becomes a cop and arrests everyone on the island—even himself. / Hudson, Pierre and Pecky compete to be the announcer for the Party Animals Championship Challenge.
 
“Ruffians On Strike / Zip It Good” (9/7/08 CAN) – Hudson helps the Ruffians strike against Professor Pester…now he needs to get them back to him. / Hudson takes a vow of silence.
 
“Tabloid for Two / All Spun Out” (9/14/08 CAN) – Rivals Hudson and Hayley are forced into a wedding when their agents promote their having a relationship. / Professor Pester opens a nightclub to lure in the Piñatas and steal their candy.
 
“Arctic Invasion / Say Uncle Hoofy” (1/11/09 CAN) – Hudson and Langston work together to get rid of the sensational new visiting band. / Hudson and Fergy fight over who’s the favorite son when Fergy’s mother and Hudson’s uncle get married.
 
“A Match Made in Court / Hudson’s Better Half” (1/18/09 CAN) – Beverly takes Hudson to court and is awarded the right to be within 10 feet of him at all times. / Hayle and Hudson’s teams compete in an obstacle course that both want to lose.
 
“Hudsonly Ever After / Hudson Who-Stachio?” (9/8/07) – Hudson tells his dummy a bedtime story to help him sleep and inserts himself into it. / When Hudson is ignored at a party he falls into a personal crisis.
 
“The Horstachio Who Never Was / Fergy Drops Out” (9/15/07) – Hudson creates a new identity for himself that the others like more than his original one. / Fergy and Paulie flee a party re-education course and Fergy finds himself named the master of a group of party-rejecting Chocstriches.
 
“Super Hero Hudson / The Amazing Hudini” (9/22/07) – Hudson gains super powers and becomes a hero, but ends up taking things too far. / Hudson attempts to revive his career by becoming a stunt performer.
 
“Variations on a Theme Park / Masters of Klutz Fu” (5/18/09 CAN) – Hudson prevents Rodney from building his theme park. / Fergy and Paulie decide to create their own martial art to fend of kids at parties.

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