Saturday, December 3, 2016

Christmas Movie Marathon Day 8

           I'm trying something different to get in the holiday spirit this year. Every day, from now through Christmas, I will be watching a different Christmas movie or television special. I have compiled the list of features ahead of time and am drawing one, at random, from my Christmas stocking everyday to determine what gets watched. Thank you for joining me in this endeavor. Let's find out what we are watching for day 8.

Christmas Comes to Pac-Land (1982)

           Eight days in and we are finally at a title that makes the name of this blog make a lick of sense. Rest assured that post-Christmas we'll have more things here that fit that theme, but that is not what we are here to discuss right now. Right now we are discussing Christmas Comes to Pac-Land. Released in 1982 this special is from an era when Pac-Man was an unstoppable marketing machine. Plushies, pasta, board games, lunch boxes, cereal, you name it, there was likely a version of it with Pac-Man's pizza shaped face slapped on it. Part of this marketing blitz included a Saturday morning cartoon produced by Hanna-Barbera. In an age when the FCC still wasn't allowing cartoons based on toys, video game cartoons were rather common. What was uncommon was one of them getting a prime time network Christmas special.
           This special aired originally on ABC and has, in recent years, aired on both Cartoon Network and Boomerang as part of their holiday programing. Despite multiple opportunities, I am fairly certain that I have never actually watched this special from start to finish. I obviously knew of its existence, otherwise it wouldn't be on this list. And, I know that I have at least started watching it before but something else must have come up before I have ever reached its end. Anyway, now is the time to finally give this special a proper viewing. Here we go.


           Christmas Comes to Pac-Land opens on what later is revealed to be Christmas Eve. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Pac-Baby are playing in the snow when they are set upon by the ghost monsters. After a brief altercation, our heroes come out on top with the aid of some power-pellets and the ghost monsters are headed back to their place as nothing more than floating eyes. However, on their way back to regenerate, the ghost monsters float past Santa's sleigh spooking the reindeer and causing the whole thing to come crashing down in Pac-Land.
           After brief moments of hesitation, the assembled Pac-people learn about Christmas and decide to help Santa get back on track with his deliveries. They set about fixing Santa's sleigh and getting Santa and his reindeer back in shape to travel. The only other problem is that Santa's bag of toys fell out in the crash. So, Pac-Man and his dog, Chomp-Chomp, head out in search of it. They eventually discover it but, unfortunately, the ghost monsters have found it first. Pac-Man and Chomp-Chomp are able to get the bag back but Pac-Man gets chomped by the ghost monsters in the process, greatly weakening him. He and Chomp-Chomp do eventually make it back home but it takes them longer due to his weakened state.

I really hope that Santa is wearing underwear under there.
           Everything is finally ready to go but Santa is afraid it is already too late. There is no way for them to make all their deliveries on time. His reindeer would have to be super energized to be able to catch back up. This gives Pac-Man an idea and soon they are headed to the Power Pellet Forest. The ghost monsters set up a road block and for a moment it seems as though Pac-Man, Santa, and company won't reach the forest. However, Pac-Man gets out of his car and explains Christmas to the ghost monsters and they relent and let our heroes through. Pac-Man has the reindeer eat some power-pellets and soon Santa is off like a rocket. Pac-Man and the others are wondering whether or not their help was enough to get Santa back on schedule when they return home to find Christmas gifts and decorations arrayed in their living room. Christmas is saved.

Like Skeletor, the ghost monsters are swayed by the spirit of Christmas.

Final Thoughts

           I didn't think that it was possible but this special may be even more cheesy that He-Man and She-Ra: A Christmas Special. Further, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land doesn't really feel much like a special. It feels more like just a Christmas episode of the regular Pac-Man series. I don't know if this is due to the fact that the run time is the same ~24 minutes that a regular episode would be or if it is because the plot seems slapped together and rushed. Either way this special does little to make itself remarkable. The story is almost non-existent and the animation is the typically weak Hanna-Barbara effort.
           In spite of all of this I did find some fun in watching it. I am a retro gamer through and through and I collect lots of vintage Pac-Man merchandise. This is something that makes me weird in many circles so it was odd to consider a time when Pac-Man was popular enough that one of the big three networks would gamble a half-hour of holiday prime time on an animated Pac-Man special. Of further consideration is the fact that I legitimately enjoy watching bad movies. The sum of all this is to say that your mileage with Christmas Comes to Pac-Land may vary. If you are still interested in it, there is a good possibility it will air on Boomerang at some point this season. As for owning it, Christmas Comes to Pac-Land is available as a special feature on the season two Pac-Man DVD available through Amazon. Not something that I can really recommend but not the worst thing either.

"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good chomp!" - An actual line of dialog in this special.  Ugh...

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