There isn’t much in gaming that can top Nintendo’s world famous plumber, Mario. As a matter of fact the only mascot more well-known than the Italian plumber from Donkey Kong is Pac-Man. As a survivor of the Atari generation, memories of the game’s music is forever embedded in my memory. Back in the days of bus drivers being able to do pretty much whatever they wanted, Pac-Man Fever was often blaring through bus speakers between, the Go-Gos, Joan Jett, and Rick Springfield. It’s not just this writer’s childhood memories that dictate Pac-Man’s popularity, The Guinness Book of World Records had eight Pac-Man related records in their 2008 Gamer’s Edition book.
For a few years now, Warner Bros. has been releasing niche properties under their made-on-demand Warner Archive banner. The latest release is from the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection, Pac-Man: The Complete Second Season. The series which began in 1982 has occasionally been seen on the various cartoon cable networks but was never previously available for sale. The first season of Pac-Man was released earlier this year, and the second and final season is available now.
Capitalizing on what was known at the time as Pac-Man fever, Hanna-Barbera got to work on adapting the game for Saturday cartoons. Pac-Man became the first video game to make the jump from arcade and video game console to TV. The cartoon first introduced viewers to Pac-Man’s family of Ms. Pac-Man and Baby Pac-Man. The cartoon did take some license with the adaptation. As in the game, Pac-Man does battle with the ghost monsters but now there are five: Inky, Blinky, Pinky, Clyde and Sue. Also new is Mezmaron, an evil mastermind intent on stealing Pac-land’s precious power spheres.
The second season introduced Pac-Man’s teenage cousin PJ and a somewhat reluctant superhero, Super-Pac. The 16 episodes are included along with a bonus that actually aired during the first season. The half-hour long primetime holiday special, Christmas Comes to PacLand, has Pac-Man, Pepper, Baby, and the Pac-Pets enjoying an unexpected snowfall when a ghost attack sends Santa’s reindeer off course. The total runtime of the disc is about 216 minutes.
Hanna-Barbera’s treatment of Pac-Man is bound to rub many fans the wrong way. Re-watching this show for the first time in almost 30 years, one of the first things that struck me was how much Marty Ingels’ voicing of Pac-Man sounds like Danny Devito. That is the first indication that the cartoon wasn’t geared toward the right audience. Saturday morning cartoons were there to keep kids in their pajamas, glued to the TV until around noon, giving parents the ability to sleep in the weekend. All kids would do it, because that was it for cartoons until early Monday morning. Though, the idea of bringing games to cartoons would be copied, Pac-Man never really felt like it was geared solely toward kids.
Pac-Man is a cultural icon and a pop-culture phenomenon. That’s almost reason enough to check out the Warner Archive treatment of the cartoon. While none of the game-to-television adaptations came off particularly well, Pac-Man is probably in the bottom half of those. That being said, it is significant if for nothing else than it was the first.
The video transfer shows its age on the DVD but, instead of looking bad, the dark, over-saturation is almost nostalgic and reminiscent of watching cartoons 30 years ago. Pac-Man: The Complete Second Season is of course presented in the original 4X3 aspect and given the Dolby Digital stereo treatment. As with the rest of the Hanna-Barbera Classic Collection, the disc is a DVD-R and may not play on some devices. However, no issues were found on a variety of devices for this review.