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DVD Shopping Bag: Pac-Man Season 1

Chasing that Saturday morning feeling

By Robert T. Trate     February 14, 2012


“Did you know that the original name for Pac-Man was Puck-Man? You'd think it was because he looks like a hockey puck but it actually comes from the Japanese phrase 'Paku-Paku,' which means to flap one's mouth open and closed. They changed it because they thought Puck-Man would be too easy to vandalize, you know, like people could just scratch off the P and turn it into an F or whatever.” – Scott Pilgrim
This fun bit of dialogue from Edgar Wright’s incredible film reminded me how much fun I had with Pac-Man as a kid. After all the game chomped its way into our lives all those years ago, its impact can still be felt. It was one of the early arcade games that found its way into our home. It drove us all crazy with this innate desire to run a maze, survive a plague of ghosts, and then immediately start all over again. There is no way to way win, but the desire to see how far we can get kept bringing us back. When I do see a big arcade console version of Pac-Man (or any one of his spinoffs) I love to pop in a few quarters and test my skills.
Of course in the eighties the hype of Pac-Man spawned spinoff games (Ms. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and Super Pac-Man) that were essentially just the same. They came in forms of miniature console versions for tabletop play at home and the dreadful Atari version. Then Pac-Man found his way onto Saturday morning with his own cartoon. Warner Archive (see link for clips) recently released the first season of Pac-Man and I wanted to revisit that Saturday morning feeling.
Like many of you I still remember getting up early on my only day off for the week. I say my only day because Sunday my parents always insisted we go to church. This day, Saturday, was mine. I had a routine and even though it changed over the years, many of the shows had been on since my parents were little. Much of Hanna Barbera’s library had been on in prime time in their day but now these shows were for my pleasure. You could always tell a show was not from their era due to a marketing tie-in or a pop culture phenomenon. In the eighties our pop culture explosion was video games. We had the likes Dragon’s Lair (see column), Space Ace, and Pac-Man. These games usually provided interesting twists on the characters. They quickly found themselves nestled in between episodes of The Smurfs, The Pebbles and Bam Bam Show (see link), Mr. T, and Thundarr the Barbarian.
I would say that I have a fairly good memory. I can tell you something about Most of the shows above if not go through one or two of their full episodes. When it came to Pac-Man I drew a blank. I remember it featured Pac-Man and his family, the Ghosts, and took place in Pac-World. Other than that I was drawing a complete blank. Wanting to have those feelings of Saturday nostalgia again, I went for the first season of Pac-Man.
You know that saying: you can’t go home again? Well in the case of Saturday morning cartoons they may be right. Pac-Man was absolutely terrible. The premise of the show has Pac-Man (voiced by Marty Ingels) as the security chief of the Power Forest. The Power Forest is where all the Power Pellets come from. The Ghosts (Inky, Blinky, Clyde, Sue,,,) are under the orders of Mezmaron (Allan Lurie) who wants to control the Power Forest. His reason for doing so will enable him to have complete control over Pac-Land. Pac-Man is usually put into a dangerous situation by the Ghosts and then has to find his way out of it. It regularly ends with Pac-Man using the Power Pellets and eating the Ghosts to save the day.
I know this is supposed to be a show for children to watch on a Saturday morning while they are wrapped in a blanket or chomping down on cereal. I get that and appreciate it. However, I kept coming up with all these questions as the leaps in logic became more and more absurd. Who was Mezmaron? He is a giant human being living in this world of Pac-People. I get that he wants to rule the world (who doesn’t?) but why this one? The Ghosts are obviously his henchmen but why are they the only Ghosts in Pac-World? They walk the streets with all the other Pac-People and no one bothers to stop them. If Pac-Man is our Batman on the show and these Ghosts are his Rogues Gallery (the Joker, Penguin, and the Riddler) then why aren’t the good people trying to stop them, too? At the very least they could be afraid of them. Power Pellets are the key to the show (and the game). While I could see, plot wise, Pac-Man not having them readily available every time he needs them to put him in danger. I then realized this was absurd because he was always in danger. Why would he go outside without them? I kept waiting for his wife, Pepper (Barbara Minkus), to bring it up because she at least had a brain.
After a while, I realized how Hanna Barbera must have pitched the show. It’s Popeye set in Pac-Man’s world. Power Pellets are his spinach and, no matter what, they will save the day. Pepper is Olive Oil and Pac-Baby (who had no real name) is Sweat Pea. If it weren’t for the occasional diversion in the typical plots, I might have thrown myself at a few Ghosts to get eaten. The “Pac-Mania” segments are quick one liner jokes which never last more than a minute and at least make you smile. Another nice diversion was the Roadrunner and Coyote type stories between Pac-Man’s dog, Chomp Chomp, and his Cat, Sour Puss (Peter Cullen).
As I have gotten older I have chased that Saturday morning feeling with these cartoons and found that most were pretty lame. The good ones really were few and far between. For every show like Thundarr (also available through the Warner Archive) there are 10 Pac-Man’s out there. I know you really can’t ever go home again, but it’s still fun to try every once in a while.
Top 5 Picks of the Week:
1. All Quiet on the Western Front Collector's Series [Blu-ray Book + DVD + Digital Copy]
2. Beavis & Butthead: Volume 4 [Blu-ray]
3. Last of the Mohicans (1920) (Silent)
4. Three Outlaw Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
5. Dragon Age: Redemption
Arizona Gang Busters Starring Tim McCoy
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Cry Of The Innocent (UK PAL Region 0) Starring Rod Taylor
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Debt Starring Gila Almagor Yehezkel Lazarov
Don Winslow of the Coast Guard Starring Don Terry, Walter Sande, Elyse Knox and Philip Ahn
Elite Squad [Blu-ray] Starring Wagner Moura, Irandhir Santos, Andre Ramiro
Fightin' Thru Starring Ken Maynard
Gang of Roses II: Next Generation Starring Kellita Smith, Teyana Taylor, Amber Rose and Rocsi Diaz
Killer By Nature Starring Ron Perlman and Armand Assante
Honor of the Press Starring Edward J. Nugent and Wheeler Oakman
Man in the Iron Mask Starring Louis Hayward, Joan Bennett, Warren William and Alan Hale
Modus Operandi Starring Danny Trejo, Mark Borchardt, Mark Metcalf
Mortician Starring David Jensen, Method Man, Wendell Pierce and Edward Furlong
Mysterious Rider Starring Douglass Dumbrille, Glenn Strange, Sr. Arch Hall
Nude Nuns with Big Guns [Blu-ray] Starring Asun Ortega, David Castro and Perry D'Marco
Nude Nuns with Big Guns Starring Asun Ortega, David Castro and Perry D'Marco
The Perfect Weapon [Blu-ray] Starring Jeff Speakman, Mako, James Hong and Mariska Hargitay
Raiders of the West Starring Bill 'Cowboy Rambler' Boyd, Lee Powell, Art Davis
The Rum Diary Starring Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart
The Rum Diary [Blu-ray] Starring Johnny Depp, Giovanni Ribisi, Aaron Eckhart
Six-Gun Trail Starring Tim McCoy
Springtime in the Sierras Starring Roy Rogers, Andy Devine, Jane Frazee and Roy Barcroft
Suspicion Starring Jane Curtin and Anthony Andrews
Sword of Desperation Starring Etsushi Toyokawa
Take Shelter [Blu-ray] Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham
Take Shelter Starring Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Whigham
.hack//Quantum: Complete OVA Series (Blu-ray/DVD Combo) Starring Trina Nishimura, Lara Woodhull and Anastasia Munoz
Chrome Shelled Regios Starring Todd Haberkorn, Brina Palencia and Monica Rial
Hell Girl: Three Vessels Complete Collection (2012)
Beavis & Butthead: Volume 4 [Blu-ray]
Beavis & Butthead: Volume 4
All Quiet on the Western Front Collector's Series [Blu-ray Book + DVD + Digital Copy] Starring John Wray, Ben Alexander, Lew Ayres and Louis Wolheim
The Fugitive (1947) Starring Henry Fonda, Dolores Del Rio, Pedro Armendariz
Last of the Mohicans (1920) (Silent) Starring Wallace Beery
Tall Story Starring Anne Jackson, Anthony Perkins, Bob Wright and Jane Fonda
The Geisha Boy [Blu-ray] Starring Jerry Lewis, Marie McDonald, Sessue Hayakawa
Rock-A-Bye Baby [Blu-ray] Starring Jerry Lewis, Marilyn Maxwell, Salvatore Baccaloni
Criterion Collection
Three Outlaw Samurai (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Tetsuro Tamba, Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira
Three Outlaw Samurai Starring Tetsuro Tamba, Isamu Nagato and Mikijiro Hira
Tiny Furniture (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray] Starring Lena Dunham
Tiny Furniture (Criterion Collection) Starring Lena Dunham
The Dead [Blu-ray] Starring Rob Freeman and Prince David Osei
The Dead Starring Rob Freeman and Prince David Osei
The Devil's Rock Starring Craig Hall, Matthew Sunderland, Jessica Grace Smith
Human Centipede II: Full Sequence Starring Laurence Harvey, Ashlynn Yennie and Maddi Black
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My Pure Joy Starring Lisa Frantz
Paranormal Activity 3
Swingers Massacre (1975) Starring Joyanne Mitchell, Eastman Price and Ushi Digart
Dragon Age: Redemption Starring Felica Day
Neverwas Starring Ian McKellen, Aaron Eckhart, Nick Nolte and William Hurt
Family Matters: The Complete Second Season Starring Darius McCrary, Jaleel White and Reginald Veljohnson
Murder, She Wrote: 4 Movie Collection
Overland Trail - The Complete Series - 17 Classic Episodes Starring Doug McClure and William Bendix
Robin of Sherwood, Set 2 [Blu-ray] Starring Jason Connery
Friday the 13th the Ultimate Collection Starring Kevin Bacon
Robert Trate writes three weekly columns for Mania: the DVD Shopping Bag, the Toy Maniac, and The Geek Life. Follow Robert on Twitter for his for Geek ramblings, Cosplay photos and film criticisms.


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millean 2/14/2012 11:01:54 AM

I used to watch this.  No, it was never great, but it does take me back.  I can still remember the jingle for the Pac-Man cereal.  That, I can retain for years.  So why can't I remember where I left the remote 30 seconds ago???

themovielord 2/14/2012 12:45:37 PM

 the music in the show had a starnge calming effect on me... maybe it zoned me out to what was going on

Wyldstaar 2/14/2012 7:08:23 PM

While I often wax nostalgic for Saturday morning cartoons and mourn their loss, it's articles like this that remind me that it wasn't really all that great.  There were a few gems in there, but the vast majority of eighties Saturday morning fare was beyond horrible.  Right after Pac-Man came Rubic: The Amazing Cube.  There was a Q*bert and a Pole Position toon in there somewhere, too.  So many other animated tragedies spring to mind.  Fonzie's Happy Days Gang, Laverne & Shirley Join the Army, Mork & Mindy, Casper & the Angels, Punky Brewster, Karate Kid, Fred and Barney (as cops) Meet The Thing (a teenage boy who turns into The Thing with a pair of rings), Alf, Ewoks/Droids Adventure Hour, Mighty Orbots...

I don't know if todays kids are any better off with cartoons like Beyblade, Pokemon, Yugioh, or Bakugan, but I doubt they're any worse off either.  It's all still mostly crap, just different crap from what we had.



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