Christmas specials: “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land”

Moving on with the Christmas special series, we come to another oldie, 1983’s “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land,” which was a Pac-Man Christmas special.

I’ve written elsewhere about “Pac-Man” as part of a package show, but I’ll sum up its premise below.

Background

In the early 80s, two factors came about: the initial video game boom and Reagan-administration-led deregulation of children’s television advertising. This led to a rash of half-hour toy-based TV shows. These included numerous Saturday morning cartoons based on the earliest video games.

The very first one (and first result of Reagan’s TV deregulation) was the “Pac-Man” cartoon. Airing on ABC, it ran for two seasons, and was produced by Hanna-Barbera. Pac-Man was voiced by Marty Ingels. Ingels has voiced a few other characters for Hanna-Barbera, dating back to Auto Cat in the “Motor Mouse and Auto Cat” segments of 1969’s “Cattanooga Cats” series.

The series involved Pac-Man and his family (Ms. “Pepper” Pac-Man and their baby, Pac-Baby) living the suburban life in “Pac-Land.” Pac-Man is charged with defending Pac-Land and its “Power Pellet Forest” (the source of Pac-Land’s food/energy) against the Ghost Monsters (or “Ghosts,” if you prefer their video game nomenclature):

  • Inky, the ditzy member
  • Pinky, their “strong man”
  • Blinky, the cowardly member
  • Clyde, the surly leader
  • Sue, the only woman ghost

The Ghost Monsters work for the sole human in the series, Mezmeron (a Darth Vader-esque figure), who’s trying to conquer Pac-Land.

Like in the video game, the Ghosts can “chomp” Pac-Man (draining his energy). In turn, Pac-Man can “chomp” the Ghosts after eating a power pellet (turning them into floating eyes).

Like the “rock” puns on “The Flintstones,” Pac-Land made heavy use of “Pac-” or “chomp” puns. For instance, the movie capital of Pac-Land is “Pac-Hollywood.”

The special

“Christmas Comes to Pac-Land”‘s plot revolves around Santa’s sleigh crash-landing in Pac-Land, thanks to the interference mid-air with the eyes of the chomped Ghost Monsters. Pac-Man and some others meet St. Nick, though the Pac-Land residents have never heard of Christmas or Santa before. Still, they decide to help Santa get his sleigh back in the air, as well as round up his toys from the crash before the Ghost Monsters can interfere.

Of course, Santa and Christmas are saved. St. Nick even leaves everyone (including the Ghost Monsters) presents.

The special reflects the cartoon’s general tone. Pac-Man gets help from two friends, Morris (a minor supporting character in the series) and Officer O’Pac, a cop who speaks with a stereotypical Irish accent. (Is there a “Pac-Ireland” for him to have emigrated from? Though one episode does show them traveling around the (Pac-)world, so perhaps so…) There’s also lots of chase scenes between Pac-Man and the Ghost Monsters.

Oddly, the Ghost Monsters, despite not having heard of Christmas either, are still shown singing chomping-on-Pac-Man-themed Christmas songs in a few scenes. Though that’s another series running gag—the Ghost Monsters singing about chomping Pac-Man to the tune of a familiar old song.

On TV/home video

Boomerang usually airs “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land” in December.

Warner Bros.’ Warner Archive service has released this special on the second season box set for “Pac-Man.”

(Updated 12/2/16)

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