Pac-Man: The Complete First Season is a Warner Archive release that collects all thirteen episodes of the 1982 Saturday morning animated series on two DVD-Rs. Each copy is manufactured on-demand when purchased, meaning Warner doesn’t have to press more copies than they need of a niche title. And Pac-Man sort of defines “niche,” in that the series was an utterly disposable piece of junk. It’s terribly dated and unlikely to entertain even today’s easiest to please children. That’s an important bit of info: this cartoon series was originally produced for children. There’s nothing meta or post-modern about it. This is a baker’s dozen of half-hour commercials, designed to sell more Pac-Man product.
The first arcade superstar, Pac-Man was ubiquitous in the early ‘80s. Pac-merchandise of all kinds – from chewable vitamins to breakfast cereal to toys – was produced by the ton. One-hit wonders Buckner & Garcia’s song “Pac-Man Fever” landed in Billboard’s top ten singles in 1982. A Saturday morning cartoon was inevitable, and Pac-Man ran for two seasons. It was just another cog in the Pac-marketing wheel. Why anyone would have a use for more than a few minutes of one episode, for pure nostalgia’s sake, is beyond me. Each episode contains a pair of short cartoons centering on the Pac Family: Pac-Man, his wife Ms. Pac-Man, their child Pac-Baby, and their pet cat and dog (Sour Puss and Chomp-Chomp, respectively).
If you’ve played the arcade game before, you know that Pac-Man’s arch nemeses are the Ghost Monsters: Blinky, Inky, Pinky, Clyde, and Sue. What you may not know (or care to know) is that the ghosts’ boss is an evil overlord named Mezmaron. The battle in Pac-Land involves the power pellets used for food by its inhabitants. Mezmaron seeks to control the supply of these pellets. The singularly uninspired and unsophisticated plots of each episode pit Pac-Man against these villians. “Chomp or Treat” finds the Pac-Family having their Halloween spoiled by the ghosts. “Presidential Pac-Nappers” involves an attempt by the ghosts to kidnap the Pac-President. In “The Bionic Pac-Woman,” Mezmaron clones Ms. Pac-Man in a plot to trick Pac-Man. If any of this sounds like fun, be warned: it’s not. All flatly animated in the same sickly colors with an atrocious score, this series reeks of a throwaway effort by all involved.
I have an acquaintance who was tickled absolutely pink by the release of Pac-Man: The Complete First Season. He has expressed great love and adoration for the children’s animated shows of the 1980s. I should point out he has no children to share this with. He apparently wants to simply revel in the past, reliving his childhood. More power to him, I suppose. But there are such better alternatives than watching this example of marketing run amok. In their day, these cartoons provided children a way to rot brain cells while zoning out in front of the TV. It inspired them to ask their parents to buy them more Pac-stuff. Although I understand the power of nostalgia and longing for simpler times, I can’t think of anything else this Hanna-Barbera-produced series has to offer a viewer in 2012.
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