Day 18 - Christmas Comes to Pac-Land

Those who know me know I love Pac-Man. I grew up with video games. When I was young, they were all blocky pixels with simple plots: bounce a square across the screen, move a frog across the road, eat dots and ghosts. I was lucky enough to live in a beach community where there were arcades galore, so I was no stranger to these video games. But I have a soft spot in my heart for Pac-Man, after all, we both were born in the same year. One of my earliest memories is my mom holding me on a Pac-Man arcade cabinet so I could "play" the game. "Play" is in quotes because all I was doing was watching the demo screen.

Pac-Man and its sequels were there throughout my life. In the mid-1980s, I had one of those tabletop Pac-Man games from Coleco. I loved that thing. I asked my parents when I was in my teens about whatever happened to that little tabletop game. They told me I had left it on our old floorboard radiator and it melted. So, if anyone is looking for a gift to give me, start trolling eBay.

And if it weren't for Ms. Pac-Man, I would have never gotten through college. On those late nights studying or writing papers, I would play a few quick games of Ms. Pac-Man on my computer, helping me keep my sanity and keep my brain sharp. These days, much to the amusement of my friends who would rather I play Ghost Recon or Halo 4 nonstop, I'll play a few games of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX on Xbox.

So, thanks to YouTube a few years ago, I became reacquainted with Christmas Comes to Pac-Land, a 1982 TV special based on the Saturday morning television show, based on the video game. Thanks to Boomerang, I got to watch it on the big screen this year.

It was ridiculous and kind of awesome.

Sometime in 1981 or 1982, a bunch of writers got together and wondered how the hell they were going to write a television cartoon series about a yellow circle that eats ghosts. Lo! and behold, they somehow did it. It wasn't fantastic, but then again, many of the cartoons of the early 1980s weren't that great in retrospect. Damned if they didn't hold a kid's attention, though. I shouldn't really be too surprised about developing a backstory and world for Pac-Man. There was also a Q*Bert cartoon, which was even more ridiculous.

Christmas. It doesn't exist in Pac-Land. Sure the Pac family builds snowmen (or snow ghost monsters) and the ghost monsters sing Christmas carols, but they have no idea who Santa is until he crash lands in Pac-Land. He had been flying around, got lost due to his new computer, and somehow was rerouted over Pac-Land before the reindeer were spooked. Turns out the reindeer are afraid of the eyes left behind by ghost monsters who just got chomped. Who knew? Rough looking crash, too.

Speaking of the reindeer, Santa's flying in a sleigh pulled by eight of them, one of whom is Rudolph. Wonder which on got the shaft in this special?

Evidently the Pacs have never heard of Christmas. Santa says nothing of having neglected them for years, but mentions that he has to get his shit together or else everyone else in the world won't have a Christmas. Sled's a mess, the reindeer are beat up, and Santa's frazzled. What can be done? Well, some ancillary Pac characters fix the sled, Ms. Pac tends to the wounded, and Pac-Man heads out to find the missing bag of toys.

Meanwhile, the ghost monsters find the bag of toys first. I don't know what they're so excited about, though. It's 1982, video games are everywhere, we've got toylines coming out the wazoo, and all the toys Santa has are horribly generic. Would you fight over the generic board game "Game" like these ghost monsters?

Since the ghost monsters are distracted, Pac-Man comes up with an awful idea of how to get the toys back: dig through the snow and come up underneath them. Of course, that goes horribly wrong and he gets chomped by the ghosts. In the game, Pac-Man dies; in the show, it's the equivalent of him getting the flu. I don't know what the ghosts get out of it, but they seem pleased and I guess leave him to die. But Pac-Man is on a mission. He and his faithful dog Chomp-Chomp grab the bag and head home.

But it's too late! Santa goes all emo and says this'll be his first missed Christmas and he'll never get anything done. Before he goes to slit his wrists in the Pac-Bath, Pac-Man comes up with a predictable idea. What else do you do in Pac-Land? Eat power pellets. They go to the lightly guarded Power Pellet Forest, get the reindeer all hopped up on the magic Pac drug, and Santa and his sled are on their way. Without explaining too much more, Christmas comes to Pac-Land, complete with a Christmas tree and presents for all the characters in this special, including the ghost monsters.

I've saved the best for last. Sure I could end this with a moral from the special about how Christmas is a time for peace and love so much so that even Pacs and ghost monsters can get along, but I want to showcase the best characters of all: Chomp-Chomp and Sourpuss.

These characters are not background characters. In fact, they are "voiced" by some pretty big names in the cartoon community. Chomp-Chomp's Pac barks were voiced by Frank Welker, who also did voices for The Real Ghostbusters, Animaniacs, Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II from The Simpsons, and Nibbler from Futurama. Sourpuss's voice, as well as Santa's, was done by Peter Cullen. He's only done a few voices here or there, like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and Optimus Prime from Transformers.

Chomp-Chomp does, in fact, save Christmas. He'll deserve a big piece of steak, or whatever the hell dogs in Pac-Land eat, for dinner. Sourpuss, though, knows his place in the house. If you have cats, you know this to be true. One scene displays this perfectly.

As Santa is reading "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" to Pac-Baby, Sourpuss is snoozing happily by the fire.

When Santa gets to the part about "stockings were hung by the chimney with care," Sourpuss sees an opportunity.

What we have next is typical cat.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, December 19, 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response.

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