Hey boys and girls! Welcome to another edition of From the Console to the TV Station, a miniseries that gives a retrospective look back at all the videogame themed programming that has ever come to be. This week, we will discuss a few such shows that people rarely remember.
A lot of the cartoons previously featured here are the ones that everyone has memories of. The choice of characters like Mario, Link and Mega Man were most likely no-brainers when cartoon companies went to capitalize on the popularity of videogames. It makes sense that the most popular games would make the most popular TV adaptations. That’s why most gamers have things like “Do the Mario” and the fact that Sonic loves chili dogs burned into their skulls, even if they have nothing to do with the games.
With this in mind, consider how things turn out when a much less popular game star gets their shot at television fame. The past has made it clear that this almost always spells disaster; many of today’s examples never made it past their pilot episode. The others were more fortunate, but are never remembered or considered over those with more universally popular characters.
The following are a few of the more oddball choices for television, some successful but forgotten, others not and almost unknown. Get ready, ’cause here they come!
The Bubsy cartoon was very short lived, but even in that small amount of time, it served as proof that videogame adaptations maybe got a little too popular during the 1990s. I mean, if a character who most people hated even during his prime was able to get his own TV show, I suppose that any other character could have. At any rate, the bobcat was pretty well primed for TV stardom with his built-in catchphrases from his games. “What could possibly go wrong?” in particular was used ad infinitum.
Seriously though, they made Bubsy the most irritating thing I have ever witnessed on television. His voice wass grating (even though his voice came from the extremely talented Rob Paulsen, who many of you may know better as Yakko Warner), he shot his catchphrase once every three minutes, and for every point in the numerous pep talks he gave himself or Arnold, a black and white public domain film clip would accompany it. “Let’s take the bull by the horns!” Black and white footage of a man being tossed around at a rodeo. “We’re tough!” The well known man who withstands cannonball to the gut. And so on.
– Pilot episode
Earthworm Jim/1995-1996/Universal Cartoon Studios
Oh yeah… there was an Earthworm Jim cartoon, wasn’t there?
The creme de la creme of videogame themed programming, in my opinion, Earthworm Jim did what many others did not. It clung hard to its roots. All of the characters from the game, both good and evil, made regular appearances on the show (with the exception of Major Mucus). All of the different plots that were used really felt like they could have been a part of the game’s universe. Even most of the new characters that were exclusive to the program didn’t feel tacked on. This is most likely because the game’s creator, Doug TenNapel, was the show’s executive producer, along with David Perry, head of Shiny.
The cartoon kept the game’s tradition of having strange and wacky humor. Evil sofas and cows falling from the sky were everyday events in cartoon Jim’s world. And just like the games, the show still holds up pretty well today. It suffers from a few corny jokes here and there, but that’s nothing compared to what other animation companies did with their game licenses (see above).
– Upholstered Peril
– The Origin of Peter Puppy
– Bring Me the Head of Earthworm Jim
– More Earthworm Jim episodes
After frustrating gamers everywhere, the Battletoads were granted the chance to have their own cartoon. But they got the shaft and ended up having a cartoon career much like Bubsy’s. A pilot episode was the only thing that was ever made. It was aired once during the Christmas of 1992 and later released on VHS.
A man named David Wise wrote this single episode of the show. No, not that David Wise, but one that is just as cool — this particular one wrote almost every episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, among several other highly loved shows of yesteryear (He-Man, Chip n’ Dale’s Rescue Rangers, Transformers). With a man like this at the helm, Battletoads should have been a pretty good cartoon, right?
Meanwhile, in Oxford, California, three geeky teenagers are playing videogames when the bird and girl materialize in and throw the Battletoad juice all over them. Just as the kids transform into the amphibious heroes, the Dark Queen barges in and they get to put their new powers to the test. Just like in the games, their limbs grow to ridiculous proportions every time they attack. But unlike the games, the kids have the power to change back and forth from their Battletoad forms at any time. I get the feeling that this was added just so they could give the Battletoads their two transforming catchphrases a la “By the power of Greyskull!” — “Let’s get warty!” to change into the ‘Toads, and “Let’s get normal!” to change back into humans.
– Pilot episode
Donkey Kong Country/1998/France 2 and Nelvana
Donkey Kong is, of course, a much more popular character than any of the ones above. Even after the makeover that Rare gave him, people just couldn’t get enough of him and his extensive ape family. Donkey Kong Country and its sequels were some of the best selling games for the SNES. So why does no one remember that there was a cartoon? Probably because it came out four years after the original game. Additionally, everyone broke out into song twice per episode.
Back in 1998, a cartoon based on the Donkey Kong Country series made its debut in full, glorious 3D (or glorious for its time, anyway). The style of the cartoon did its best to emulate the style of the games, which is great; I don’t think the series would have felt the same if it were all flat. Everything else about this series was different. Donkey Kong and all of the other Kongs lived on a jungle island named Congo Bongo (instead of Donkey Kong Island). He owned an item called the Crystal Coconut, which was what the villian, King K. Rool, always went after in each episode.
The show went to admirable lengths to explain several things about the characters and their environment. For example, it is the Crystal Coconut that makes the Kongs strong and capable of speech. It created magical bananas that all of them ate before the events of the show. It also explains, in an offhand way, why a factory level existed in the first Donkey Kong Country; it is a barrel factory owned by a Kong created exclusively for the show, Bluster.
That’s it for this week’s FtCttTS, I hope you enjoyed this one, and at least learned something new. Join us next week when the focus will be on what Donkey Kong Country (a French production) hinted at today — foreign-made game cartoons! Groovy!