Sunday, December 23, 2012
The Pac-Man arcade game was created by Namco Ltd. of Japan, and debuted in 1980. Pac-Man is among the first Anime characters to become a sensation in the United States (where the characters were licensed to Bally-Midway).
In the early 1980s, Pac-Man characters appeared on anything and everything you could think of. This image from my childhood Pac-Man lunchbox could also be found on a special drinking glass sold at Arby's (and many other places).
When I was in elementary school, lunchboxes were made out of metal.
In those days, things were different. Not better, just different. For example, underpants were made out of sandpaper. Ouch!
You've probably heard about "The Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon." You know, how actor Kevin Bacon is somehow connected to every actor in Hollywood.
Well, forget about Kevin Bacon. Pac-Man has some sort of connection to everyone on the planet.
In 1982, Bally-Midway/General Computer Corporation launched the successful Ms. Pac-Man arcade game.
The Pac-Man characters got a new animated look to decorate the Ms. Pac-Man machines.
Quite a bit of merchandise was inspired by the Ms. Pac-Man game, including PVC figures from Coleco.
The Pac-Man characters were introduced to Six Flags theme parks in 1982, since both properties were controlled by Bally-Midway at that time.
Hanna Barbera produced a Pac-Man cartoon for the 1982 ABC TV Saturday Morning schedule. Once again, the characters got a new look.
The Pac-Man animated series took viewers to Pac-Land, where Pac-Man (voiced by Marty Ingels) lives with his wife Pepper (Barbara Minkus) and their Pac-Baby (a character based on the 1982 Bally-Midway "Baby Pac-Man" pinball game).
Thanks to references on "Family Guy" I guess there are people under the age of 38 who have heard of the TV show "The Electric Company."
The Electric Company was a show aimed at "Graduates of Sesame Street" and like that series, it was created by the Children's Television Workshop.
The Electric Company Magazine featured stories tied to whatever was popular at the time, including a special Pac-Man Christmas.
Marvel's Spider-Man starred in live-action "Spidey Super Stories" on episodes of The Electric Company.
Hanna Barbera's 1982 "Christmas Comes to Pac-Land" special has been airing on TV for years on Cartoon Network and Boomerang.
Pac-Baby was voiced by Russi Taylor, who is famous for her work as Minnie Mouse, Baby Gonzo in Muppet Babies, Donald Duck's Nephews on "DuckTales", Strawberry Shortcake, and Martin on "The Simpsons".
Pac-Man's Dog is Chomp-Chomp, and his unique barks were provided by voice-over legend Frank Welker. If you've seen a movie or TV show with an animal in it, chances are good that Frank Welker did the voice.
The Pac Family Cat is Sour Puss, voiced by Peter Cullen (well known for his role as Optimus Prime in "Transformers").
Pac-Man was constantly chased by the Ghost Monsters. Clyde the orange ghost (Neil Ross, from the animated G.I. Joe series) bossed around his spirited gang. They included Sue the purple ghost (Susan Silo, who was also one of the CopyCats on "Kidd Video"), Inky the blue ghost (Barry Gordon, voice of the Nestle Quik Bunny and Donatello on "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles"), Blinky the red ghost and Pinky (both voiced by Chuck McCann, a Disney veteran known for his work on "DuckTales" and EPCOT Center's Dreamfinder character).
The Ghost Monsters worked for a villain named Mezmaron (Allan Lurie) who looks quite a bit like a cross between Toy Story's Emperor Zurg and Darth Vader.
Even a popular character like Pac-Man was not immune from having a network tinker with his TV show.
By the second season, Pac-Man welcomed a cool Fonzie-type character named Poochie. I mean P.J.
Pac-Man's teenage nephew P.J. (played by Darryl Hickman, voice of Waggs in Hanna Barbera's Smurfs-inspired dog cartoon "The Biskitts") was loosely based on Bally-Midway's 1983 "Jr. Pac-Man" game.
Another new character was Super-Pac (based on Namco's "Super Pac-Man" arcade game from 1982). Super-Pac was voiced by Lorenzo Music, probably best known for his role as Garfield the cat for many years.
As part of The Electric Company Magazine's "Pactivities," Pac-Man lampoons Porky Pig, Batman, Woody Woodpecker, Count Dracula, Pocahontas and the Wolf Man.
Pac-Man even goes Sci-Fi, sending up Star Wars as Dot Vader in "The Empire Strikes Pac."
Who would have guessed that a character that looks like a cut piece of pie would be such a phenomenon?
In 1982, Pac-Man inspired "Pac-Man Fever", a catchy song from Buckner & Garcia that was a huge hit and drove people crazy.
Here are the Cheat Codes for The Electric Company Magazine's Pac-Man Games and Puzzles.
There's also answers to other games and puzzles. One in particular makes me laugh.
By 1983, Pac-Man characters were comfortable in their role as mascots in Six Flags theme parks across the United States. Wearing a big top hat, Pac-Man even performed in a Magic Show.
This brochure mentions many things that no longer exist. The Stars Hall of Fame was a Six Flags property in Orlando. It did not last long. Six Flags sold the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, California. Astroworld in Houston closed down years ago. Free Fall is no longer operating at Six Flags Over Georgia. And the dolphin show has been closed for many years. Sorry to rain on your parade.
Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man got their own Pac-Man Play Fort at Six Flags Over Georgia in 1983. Similar Play Forts opened up at other Six Flags parks, too.
By 1985, Bally-Midway no longer owned Six Flags, and the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes kicked out Pac-Man. Ironically, the Hanna Barbera empire (including the Pac-Man animated series) was eventually swallowed up by Warner Brothers via a merger with Turner Entertainment.
By 1991, Pac-Man rebooted his career with another new look.
The basic Pac-Man vs. Ghost Monsters concept remained, but the characters were given new situations to explore.
Pac-Man game ads were frequently featured in Disney Adventures Magazine during the 1990s.
Ms. Pac-Man is often thought to be a better game than the original Pac-Man.
When Ms. Pac-Man originally debuted, the orange ghost known as Clyde was re-named Sue.
Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man learned to adapt to new game systems.
A new generation could become addicted to Pac-Man. Thanks to Game-Gear, they could play it at school, on the bus, at Grama's house, or at a funeral.
As new Pac-Man games were released, Disney Adventures Magazine offered tips for gamers.
In 1994's "Pac-Man 2", the characters looked and moved like cartoon characters. They were quite different from the original "cut-pie" Pac-Man.
As more advanced game systems were introduced, the arcades mentioned in the "Pac-Man Fever" song were quickly becoming a thing of the past.
In 2003, Pac-Man and the Ghost Monsters began to materialize in the 1980s section of Disney's Pop Century Resort at Walt Disney World in Florida.
In "The One Where Joey Dates Rachel" 2002 episode of the TV show "Friends", Monica and Chandler are given a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game by Phoebe.
When the highly competitive Monica loses the game, she tells Ms. Pac-Man, "Well, you're just a little b**ch, aren't you?"
Pac-Man's look has changed many times over the years. The pie eyed (or Pac-Man eyed) version of the character is charming as a hand drawn character or as a computer animated one.
A brand new CGI animated Pac-Man TV series is slated to debut in 2013 on the Disney XD channel.
It's time for Pac-Man to celebrate another holiday!
It's St. Patrick's Day, Pac-Man! Instead of a pinch, how about a byte?