Updated on November 26, 2022
Moving on with the Christmas special series, we come to another oldie, 1983’s “Christmas Comes to Pac-Land,” a Pac-Man Christmas special.
In the early 1980s, two factors came about: the initial video game boom and the 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 video game-based cartoon was “Pac-Man.” Airing on ABC, the Hanna-Barbera-produced show ran for two seasons. Pac-Man himself was voiced by Marty Ingels. Ingels had voiced a few other characters for Hanna-Barbera, dating back to Autocat in the “Motormouse and Autocat” segments of 1969’s “Cattanooga Cats” series. (“Motormouse” was basically “Tom and Jerry” with a late 60s drag racing/motorcycle theme.)
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 power pellets, Pac-Land’s food/energy) against the Ghost Monsters (or “Ghosts,” if you prefer their video game nomenclature):
- Inky, the ditzy member
- Pinky, the “strong man”
- Blinky, the cowardly member
- Clyde, the Ghost Monsters’ 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.”
“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. 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.
While there’s no relation to the 1982 series, the 2013 CGI animated series “Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures” introduced its own version of Santa Claus, for a holiday episode.
On TV/home video
Boomerang often 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.”
Image by Satheesh Sankaran from Pixabay