This Fall, Namco Bandai is preparing to bring its mascot, Pac-Man, back into the mainstream spotlight with Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, a new computer-rendered cartoon show which effectively rebuilds the franchise from the ground up. It’s been in development for years, but if you’ve seen his appearances in Pac-Man Party or even Street Fighter X Tekken (well, the PlayStation versions, at least), then you’ve already had a glimpse of what they’re doing with the yellow dot-munching hero and, in the former case, his ghostly rivals.
I actually spoke about this a few years ago in these two articles over on RipTen. To sum up, Namco Bandai has partnered with Arad Productions (headed by Avi Arad, who is well known for his work with bringing Marvel Comics’ properties to Hollywood, including the old X-Men and Spider-man cartoons on Fox Kids and many of the recent films) and 41 Entertainment to produce 26 episodes to air on the Disney XD channel in the United States.
What’s more, this won’t just be any CGI cartoon, but it will be available in full high definition and stereoscopic 3D as well. Such production doesn’t come cheap– 41 Entertainment is boasting a cost of $600,000 per episode.
This isn’t the same hat-sporting Jackie Gleason-impersonating family man we saw back in the early 80’s; instead, he’s described as follows:
Pac is your average teenage PacWorlder, except for two things:
• He’s a little rounder than most of his fellow citizens.
• He and his family happen to be the only YELLOW PacWorlders on the planet.
Beyond that, you’d hardly be able to pick him out of a crowd. That being said, since he’s yellow, he’s fairly easy to spot.
Pac is an upbeat gung-ho teenager and his enthusiasm can occasionally get the best of him. When he’s “on a roll”, which is often, he goes rolling around school and around town at a pretty good clip, and he’s been known to crash, bump, slam and bounce into things on a regular basis.
Pac is a conscientious kid and not like many of his peers who spend their days chasing the latest fads or coveting the newest high-tech gadgets. The fact is, he wants more than that out of life.
Pac wants to make the world a better place and have fun doing it. He wants to know why things are the way they are and when things aren’t working right, he wants to figure out a way to fix them.
Instead of Ms. Pac-Man and a whole Pac-Family trailing him around, this younger version has friends in fellow Pac-Worlders Cylindria (aka “Cyli,” the pinkish-purple one) and Spiral (the larger red one), who use their own special Plasma Sucking Cannons (PSCs for short; they turn the ghosts to slime and suck them up, while Pac-Man can just eat them) to deal with the invading ghost and (inedible) mutant monster armies of the Netherworld, led by the evil Commander Betrayus. The kindly scientist Sir Cumference is also on hand to assist the group with new weapons and devices, while a steady supply of pellet-like berries from the Power Palm Tree imbue the trio with different, random superpowers and abilities.
Speaking of Ms. Pac-Man, though, she nor any of the other members of the Pac-Family have been seen thus far. If Ms. Pac-Man were to surface, it should be interesting to see what role she plays– would she be a romantic interest, or perhaps… a relative? Only time will tell.
Pac-Man isn’t the only one from the games here, though. As noted before, the four ghosts– Pinky, Inky, Blinky, and Clyde– will be on hand as well with their own new redesigns, but as allies rather than enemies. At least, when Betrayus’ evil eye-in-the-sky isn’t on them, anyway. As for the female Pinky, she seems to have a certain interest in our yellow hero, as well as a bit of rivalry going with Cylindria.
The companies behind this aren’t messing around, either. There are licensing deals in place for all kinds of merchandise, from clothing to backpacks to calendars to, of course, toys and video games from Bandai America, K’Nex, and Namco Bandai, respectively. There are even plans in place for a Burger King Kids Meal promotion in January of 2014. Home video plans are also in place in North America, while other licensing deals have been made for other countries around the world.
– Pac-Panic Battle Spinners™ Action Figures — 2 in 1 Action Figure plus Battle Spinner! Transform these awesome action figures into ultimate battling spinners! Battle with your friends in the fight for good vs. evil, just like in the animated series. And take your Pac-Panic Battle Spinners into the Pac-Panic Battle Arena (sold separately) for ultimate battling action!
— Talk’n Chomp’n Pac — Bring Pac-Man to life with this 12” Talk’n Chomp’n Feature Plush. With his signature “waka waka” chomping action, you never know what he is going to say! Watch Pac’s mouth move from slow to super-fast chomping action with over 25 signature phrases and wacky sounds from the show. Time for Pac Power!
— Gooage Spewing Gigantic Pac — Gross goo & ghost eyeballs spewing action just like on the show! Drop the goo in, press down on Pac’s head and check out the goo spewing action! With Gooage Spewing Gigantic Pac-Man the “grossly” adventures never end.
Get a load of the transforming fruit vehicles. Pac-Man might just give a certain sponge a run for his money where the title of “coolest yellow cartoon character in a pineapple” is concerned.
On top of that, you can see what K’Nex has in store for the line here. They’ve done some cool work with the Mario Kart line so far… hmm, come to think of it, maybe now we can finally recreate some of those Pac-Man vs. Mario races from the Mario Kart Arcade GP titles.
Overall, I have a really good feeling about this. Pac-Man is a video gaming icon from the earliest years of the medium, but you honestly would not know it if you were looking around today. In the early 80’s, Pac-Man fever was a phenomenon– besides toys and video games, he had an animated series, a cereal, his own Chef Boyardee pasta, and a chart-topping single called, fittingly enough, “Pac-Man Fever.”
In more recent times, it’s felt like Pac-Man’s glory days are by and large behind him with re-releases of the original arcade games as digital downloads and plug-n-play joysticks being what remains of when he was on top of the world. There have been other titles, including the excellent Pac-Man Championship Edition and its DX follow-up, but even those have only offered a fraction of the spotlight he once commanded.
33 years following his debut, it feels like the bulk of those still willing to show Pac-Man some love were the same people who were there three decades ago. But now he has a new chance to become relevant again, and I think this cartoon and marketing push can do it. Granted, the script seems to skew a little young, but that’s undoubtedly what they’re going for here– to make Pac-Man relevant in a way that appeals to today’s generation, rather than those from so long ago, and will hopefully keep him relevant for years to come.
I’m hopeful that it will catch on, and that Namco Bandai makes the most of this second chance– Pac-Man Party didn’t exactly set the world on fire, after all. But if they do pull this off, it would be great to see an older generation and a newer one tied together by a common love for the ghost-gobbling hero.
It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Mario, Mega Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog; just about every release and appearance they make still commands attention far and wide. Pac-Man deserves to be among them in that regard as well, and I have my fingers crossed that this new effort will do just that.
To cap this off, here’s a look at two clips of the show, plus a gallery of screens.
This first one is actually a few years old now, originally shown at E3 2010 in 3D (hence the blurry visuals). Some things might have changed in its development since then, but it gives us a good feel for what the show will be like:
Personally, I think it looks like the creators of this clip (if not the show as a whole) are big fans of the games, particularly in how they work in the different cues and things. And be sure to watch to the very end for a great example of that.
Next, we have a more recently-released clip of the show (sans 3D effect), with President Spheros taking Pac-Man and his friends to meet Sir Cumference:
Incidentally, it should be noted that this scene plays up the humor aspect over the action, which was cut from this clip to make it flow better. On the way there, some ghosts attack and the Pac-Team has to fight them off.
The Pac is back, and I can’t wait to see him on the attack.