From the Console to the TV Station: Part 4

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!

Bubsy/1993/Calico Creations

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.

Yes, it was even the freakin’ title of the damn pilot.
The show was more based off of Bubsy II than the original game, as far as the characters went. His armadillo sidekick, Arnold, and twin nephews made appearances as supporting characters. But no other elements from any of the games were thrown in; there were no yarn aliens, no traveling to different themed worlds, no collecting yarn, no tumbling down water slides, and no sign of Bubsy’s real roots. It’s as if the show’s creators wanted to rip the characters out from their natural habitat and bring nothing else with them. As someone who actually likes the Bubsy games, this makes the show feel very awkward.

What could possibly go wrong with a Bubsy cartoon, you ask? A *lot*.
All that was ever made was a pilot episode. As far as I can tell, Bubsy was set to be an adventurous fellow that got himself in over his head on a regular basis. It’s probably for the best that the series never got any further than it did, because Bubsy seems to be even more annoying when in his animated form.

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.

They may look the part, but even these kids can’t top their uncle Bubsy in being irritating.
Blech. That’s about all I can say. It exists, but it has very little to do with the game and does nothing to improve Bubsy’s reputation.

Additional material:
Pilot episode

Earthworm Jim/1995-1996/Universal Cartoon Studios

Oh yeah… there was an Earthworm Jim cartoon, wasn’t there?

No misfigured versions of characters we all know and love, and everyone’s accounted for.. everything looks to be in order here!
It isn’t as completely obscure as some of the others mentioned here, but it is one that isn’t as remembered as it ought to be.

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.

Okay, I admit that an evil version of Jim does seem like the sort of character that was likely to be tacked on, but Evil Jim was still cool.
The show lasted for two seasons and aired Saturday mornings on the Kids’ WB block. Each episode consisted of a long story that took up most of the air time, with two very short stories (one shown before the opening credits and one shown after the middle commercial break). Most of the big stories were centered around Jim’s enemies’ attempts to steal his power suit or muck around with the universe in general, but then there were some really odd stories to balance these out. For example, in one episode, Jim and Peter Puppy stumble into an alternate dimension that is based on The Wizard of Oz. Another is about Jim’s journey to return an eggbeater to his neighbor.

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).


Jim as he appears in Norse mythology. Why? … Why not?
Additional material:
Upholstered Peril
The Origin of Peter Puppy
Bring Me the Head of Earthworm Jim
More Earthworm Jim episodes

 

Battletoads/1992/DiC

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?



From nerds…
Well… it’s faithful to the source material, to say the least. Professor T. Bird and Princess Angelica are on the run from the Dark Queen, who wants to swipe the princess’s amulet. The good guys find a vial of Battletoad essence, which will turn whoever it is poured on into Battletoads, creatures who protected the princess long ago. They rush off to a planet where they will not be found by the Dark Queen: Earth.

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.


… to nerds in frog bodies.
The show quite obviously snapped at the heels of the ultra-successful TMNT, but failed to capture the attention of the audience it was marketed toward. DiC were also the minds behind Street Sharks and Extreme Dinosaurs. They tried so hard to make the next Turtles for many years. Lucky for the Battletoads, they always kind of fit the formula.


Not to mention the character design is extremely close to that of the game. The Dark Queen is still hot? Check.
Additional material:
Pilot episode

 BONUS!
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.

Additional material:
Bad Hair Day
Ape Foo Young
Booty and the Beast

 

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!

Ashley Davis