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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pac-Man And The Ghost Monsters Present Haunted Holidays

Nothing captures the spirit of the early 1980s quite like Pac-Man Puffy stickers.  The fact that these have googly eyes adds greatly to their trade value.

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.

In 2012, Pac-Man and the Ghost Monsters appeared in Disney's "Wreck It Ralph" animated feature.  It was awesome to see Pac-Man and the Ghost Monsters on the big screen.

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?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Disney's Country Bear Jamboree At McDonald's

Back in 2002, Disney's Country Bears got stuffed at McDonald's all over the United States. They were part of a collection of eight Teddy Bears (including Ted Bedderhead, #7 in the series) used to promote the live action Country Bears movie.

The movie was loosely based on the long-running Country Bear Jamboree attraction that debuted in Frontierland at Walt Disney World in Florida in 1971. A new super-fan character named Beary Barrinson was introduced in the film.

With his tie-dyed t-shirt, you'd think that Beary would be more likely to follow the Grateful Dead Bears.

The most popular character from the Country Bear Jamboree is Big Al.

Like the plush Big Al that was sold for many years at Walt Disney World, the Happy Meal Toy Big Al (and all the other characters in the series) is a stuffed toy with a vinyl face.

I have to admit that I've never seen the Country Bears movie.

The Country Bears Happy Meal really stands out because the bears have some nice detail work and costumes for a fast-food premium.

In the Country Bear Jamboree, Henry is the host of the show, which stars Audio Animatronic (robotic) Bears.

In the movie, the Bears were actors in suits with animatronic faces, created by the Jim Henson puppet wizards.

The Country Bear Jamboree was so popular in Florida that a version was created for Disneyland in California (it opened in 1972 in a land called Bear Country, which became Critter Country when Splash Mountain opened in 1989). The Disneyland version closed down (it was replaced by a Winnie the Pooh ride) before the Country Bears movie hit theaters.

The Country Bear Jamboree also opened in Westernland at Tokyo Disneyland in 1983, and is still playing today (and in Japan, audiences get to see more than one show, including a Christmas Special during the holidays).

Trixie is one of the diva stars of the Country Bear Jamboree.

The show also stars a Mae West-type character named Teddi Berra. At Disneyland in California, visitors could visit "Teddi Berra's Swingin' Arcade," which featured unique games starring the Country Bears (like the show, the arcade is long gone).

The Country Bear Jamboree had cutting-edge technology when it debuted. However, even Disney has made fun of the show. Nobody can forget the "Lester's Possum Park" sequence of Disney's "A Goofy Movie" (1995).

Characters like Fred Bedderhead still have fans because bears, especially teddy bears, are extremely popular with collectors.

The Country Bear Jamboree characters were originally designed by Disney animation legend Marc Davis.

When the Country Bears movie was in theaters, I thought it could have been much more popular if it had been a computer animated film that used the original Marc Davis character designs---essentially bringing the robotic bears to life on the big screen.

The Country Bears have a groovy tour bus.

The Bus used to belong to The Partridge Family, until the Bears ate them.

The Country Bears tour was sponsored by Charmin, the company that shows us that bears do go in the woods.

The Country Bears refused to perform at Chuck E. Cheese.

Beary would like to see more of the Country Bears.

I bet Beary has a Country Bears website with fan art and fan fiction.

The Country Bears have also appeared in comic books, and I believe an animated series was planned at some point.

For more fun, check out Disney's Country Bears At Grizzly River Run In California Adventure.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Disney's 101 Dalmatians Unleashed At McDonald's

Without question, 101 Dalmatians was Disney's Top Dog at McDonald's.

With promotions for the animated movie, TV series and live action "101 Dalmatians" and "102 Dalmatians," there have been more individual McDonald's premiums based on the spotted canines than any other Disney creation.

There have been so many 101 Dalmatians items at McDonald's worldwide that it would be extremely difficult to collect everything that was produced.

The fun began in the Summer of 1991, when McDonald's promoted the theatrical re-release of Disney's 1961 animated Dalmatian adventure.

This Happy Meal featured four different "action figures." Pongo has always been my favorite character in the film.

When Lucky watches TV, he enjoys chowing down on some Kanine Krunchies.

How is it that no dog food company makes a real brand of "Kanine Krunchies" using Lucky as a mascot?

The Colonel (a sheepdog) is friends with Sergeant Tibs, a rare Disney cat hero. Tibs was written out of the 1996 live action movie. Boo Hiss!

Tibs did appear with The Colonel in the 101 Dalmatians Animated Series in 1997.

Cruella looks fetching in her coat.

You've got to give a hand to the designers of these toys, as they did a great job capturing the essence of the characters in small pieces of plastic.

In 1994, Pongo and two Dalmatian pups were guest stars in Ronald McDonald Presents Happy Birthday Happy Meal.

This was sort of the "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" of McDonald's Happy Meals. This Birthday Train set honoring 15 years of Happy Meals also included cars featuring Ronald McDonald, The Happy Meal Guys, Barbie, Hot Wheels, E.T., Sonic the Hedgehog, Berenstain Bears, Cabbage Patch Kids, Tonka, Snoopy, Muppet Babies, The Little Mermaid, Looney Tunes, and Tiny Toon Adventures.

In 1996, Disney released a live action version of 101 Dalmatians starring Glenn Close.

For this Happy Meal, 101 different toys were sold in white packages, making each toy a surprise (by the way, the pup wearing Mickey Mouse ears is named "Fidget" per the embroidery on the back of his hat).

McDonald's understood that this promotion could potentially drive collectors stark raving mad, so complete 101 Dalmatians sets were sold through a mail-away offer.

The Dalmatian toys also double as Christmas ornaments.

The figures in the boxed set were not in packages, so I guess no collector can have a truly "Mint In Package" 101 Dalmatians collection.

The characters in this set are primarily generic Disney Dalmatians, but aside from Fidget, you can also "spot" Jewel here.

Wow, I wonder how long it took to design this set.

It is interesting that the cartoon Dalmatians are used to promote the live action film.

Notice how similar many of the toys are.

Were there any variants or chasers in this set? I'm not sure.

Pongo and Perdita weren't in the Happy Meal, but they could be found in the Dalmatian Snowglobe set McDonald's also offered.

There were four of these, but I only got two of them.

In 1997, Disney TV Animation launched a 101 Dalmatians Animated Series. Perdita was voiced by actress Pam Dawber, who played "Mindy" on the TV series "Mork and Mindy" with Robin Williams.

In the Animated Series, the Dalmatians live in the country next door to Cruella. Scorch the Ferret is Cruella's loyal pet.

The TV show is a mix of the animated film and the live action one, plus something different.

Two-Tone the Dalmatian was originally a character from the live action film. Lt. Pug was created for the TV series.

Lucky (voiced by Pamela Adlon and Debi Mae West) is the leader of the Dalmatians.

Cruella (voiced by April Winchell) is more of an annoying neighbor in the show than a real threat to the dogs.

Rolly (voiced by Kath Soucie) is quite the chow hound. The pigs on the farm might want to watch their backs.

The "Flipcars" used for this Happy Meal were first seen in the "Tiny Toon Adventures" Warner Brothers Happy Meal circa 1990. Kath Soucie was the voice of Fifi the Skunk on that show.

Dipstick the Dalmatian was portrayed as a rather goofy character.

Notice that the character names are not found on the packaging. I had to do some research to figure out that the snake is named Cydne.

Tripod the three-legged Dalmatian was new for this show.

Dumpling the Pig was voiced by Christine Cavanaugh, who also voiced Babe the Pig in the movie "Babe".

Like Rolly, Cadpig the dog was voiced by Kath Soucie.

Spot the Chicken (voiced by Tara Strong) thought she was a dog.

Like all the characters from the original "101 Dalmatians" film, Pongo was redesigned with a new look for the Animated Series.

The Swamp Rat is a character that I don't really remember much about.

In 2000, Disney released a sequel to the live action film called "102 Dalmatians."

This was the first big live action movie directed by Kevin Lima, who had previously directed "A Goofy Movie" and "Tarzan" for Disney.

Once again, McDonald's was the promotional partner for "102 Dalmatians." This time, the toys did all sorts of tricks. Some were wind-up toys, pull-back vehicles, light-up toys, train cars, had fabric features or other specialties.

The "102 Dalmatians" Happy Meal must have been very expensive for McDonald's to create.

This time, Cruella and other characters made an appearance in a movie set.

The movie characters each have a special feature. Cruella has two faces, Oddball has spots that magically appear, Fluffy has hair, Waddlesworth has sound, and Little Dipper is a squirt toy.

McDonald's and Disney really upped the game for 102 Dalmatians. Each week, a couple sets of different types of toys were released. Here we see the Movie Set, the Wind-up Set, and the Ice Set.
The Wind-up Set includes an acrobatic Dalmatian similar to the Little Brother the Dog toy seen in 1998's Mulan McDonald's Happy Meal. It also features a roll-over Dalmatian similar to the Thomas O'Malley cat from the European AristoCats Happy Meal.

Here we see Dalmatian Spinning Tops, Light-Up Dalmatians, and Flocked Dalmatians.

We also see Pull-Back Dalmatians and Rolling Dalmatian Vehicles.

Here we have Dalmatians with Clothing, the Dalmatian Train Set and Dalmatian Water Globes.

Don't forget the Dalmatian Village and the Dalmatian Band (with Sound!).

In the Land Down Under, things were appropriately turned upside down.

In Australia, McDonald's had toys that looked like the live action movie characters.

101 Dalmatians were also part of another really big set of McDonald's Happy Meal toys. The 100 Years of Magic Walt Disney World promotion celebrated 100 years of Disney with 100 different toys. This promotion is a bit confusing, since Walt Disney World opened in 1971, so it is clearly not 100 years old.

Walt Disney World in Florida does not have a 101 Dalmatians attraction, but you can stay in a Dalmatian hotel of sorts when you visit Disney's All-Star Movies Resort.

There have been even more 101 Dalmatians Happy Meal Promotions at McDonald's all over the world (Pongo was even in a Euro Disney Resort Happy Meal in 1992). If you ever try to track down all of them, use Lucky the Dalmatian to help you. Because you're gonna need all the luck you can get trying to find everything.