Thursday, June 17, 2010


Hey, remember "Jumanji?" The wacky family adventure movie (heavily expanded from a short children's book) in which Robin Williams is a crazy wildman who grew up in the jungle dimension of a magical board game? Did you know they made a cartoon the following year? Did you know it went on for three seasons? And did you know that the entire character design team just consisted of Everett Peck, the creator of Duckman and about half the ghosts from The Real Ghostbusters?

Well, if you didn't, now you know all of those things. Good for you!

The Jumanji cartoon, like a lot of Peck's work, had incredibly ugly, awkward looking humans with some remarkably cool and creative creatures. It wasn't the prettiest animation, but for a kid's show adapted from a kid's movie adapted from a kid's book, the writing was amazingly not terrible. In fact, having run out of everything else to watch on the internet (that happens when you're unemployed and single) I just watched almost every single goddamn episode of goddamn Jumanji while I was drawing monsters, and there were quite a few things interesting enough to me to screengrab.

As in the movie, siblings Peter and Judy find a magical board game in their new attic. When they roll the dice, the game tells them a riddle they need to solve to end the turn. Unlike in the movie, every turn sucks the kids into the Jumanji world, where they end up solving the riddle with their jungle-man pal Alan, who doesn't know his own riddle and has been trapped in Jumanji for over twenty years. Now, here's where things start to get imaginative; we never find out Jumanji's origin, but the jungle world, infested with deadly creatures and traps of every sort, functions a lot like a video game where you can actually die. Villains re-spawn when defeated, various actions can unlock special secrets, clues or items and there are even some "glitches." In a few episodes, we even see that there's machinery under the ground, the sun is a strange flaming satellite-like device, and that some of the local creatures are partially or fully mechanical inside. The entire game dimension seems to have some level of sentience, and becomes more aggressive if it feels threatened or insulted.

Jumanji even has its own avatar; a fashion-conscious reaper whose purpose is to kill a player who becomes too big a danger to the game. Too bad he only appears twice.

Another recurring element, but not entirely villainous, are the Manjis. These awesome little guys don't just wear tribal masks, they are tribal masks. They're dangerous if offended and attempt to cook and eat human beings in more than one episode, but they're usually helpful. The one time they're strictly antagonists is in an episode where Peter becomes more and more enamored with their lifestyle, and is finally invited to join them. During a weird ritual, he enters a bubbling cauldron and emerges with a mask of his own, which becomes his body when he puts it on. The longer he spends as a Manji, the less he remembers ever being a human, and can only change back if he willingly removes the mask himself. They never explain if this is a special case or if all the Manjis used to be human, but I think it's implied.

Now, the most important part of the Jumanji world is its wildlife, and here's where Everett Peck gets almost as creative as he did with Ghostbusters. The movie only had a bunch of real-world animals, big spiders and some predatory plants, but the cartoon features all-original beasts in every single episode, and exaggerated monster versions of conventional creatures. Some of my favorites:

A giant magma-dwelling toad.

Crescent-faced, stampeding beetles.

A giant glue-spitting "caterpillar" (Velvet Worm?) clearly designed by Peck's buddy, Fil Barlow!

A vicious, killer lemur!

An acid-tongued frog. One recurring villain, the mad scientist Dr. Ibson, mentions inventing these in another episode, making them machines.

"Berbalangs!" These are explicitly androids. We meet Dr. Ibson for the first time when the Berbalangs malfunction and he shows up to fix them. And yeah, that's Alan there. Not a pretty design.

This river reptile wouldn't be that special if not for it's indescribably weird cry.

This is clearly a giant mole-rat, though they never say so.

And how about giant, killer anteaters?

Or flesh-eating sloths?

These giant, sentient ants fight a never-ending war over an artifact they call the Bahoot. The black ants call it the Black Bahoot, and the red ants refer to it as their Red Bahoot. It is, of course, equal parts black and red. It's also just a worthless ball of dirt held together with spit. I wonder if there's some sort of heavy-handed moral here about war? Nnnnnnnnaaahhhhh...

The single coolest thing I've seen in the show? Deadly, swarming, meat-eating butterflies who are only thwarted when Alan leads them to their natural predator; carnivorous flowers which lure deadly, meat-eating butterflies with the smell of rotten meat. Someone really knew their biology.


Blogger Jared is Leader said...

I probably haven't thought about this cartoon in a decade, had completely forgotten until now. I think that the Manjis were my favorite characters and a vaguely remember some of the animals and of course the human designs. Thanks for reminding me about this! :O

8:42 PM  
Anonymous ScutigeraColeoptrata said...

Wow, now I wish I had watched this show when it was on television. The trailers I saw for the film made Jumanji seem like a silly family comedy, but this story and setting actually seem pretty interesting. I think my favourite creatures here are the crescent beetles.

9:29 PM  
Anonymous dodoman1 said...

Link me to the episode with the river reptile, plz?

11:19 PM  
Blogger Ozark said...

They made a cartoon of this? Wicked.

12:05 AM  
Anonymous Alucard said...

I haven't seen that show since it originally aired. I liked the way people were drawn in that show.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Ryan said...

I remember one beast called the Jurossarus or something, a hippo/elephant hybrid. In the same episode there were some evil featherless ostrich-type things. Great show!

The "best" episode was the one where Alan kept getting killed, so they'd keep rewinding time to save him from one danger, only for him to die another way, and so on.

8:30 PM  
Blogger Lee said...

I was totally unaware of this cartoon, but that's not really surprising, since I stopped watching cartoons in 1994, and only know ones that came out later if they're A. really popular, B. featured in somebody's blog, or C. in Mark Hamill's I.M.D.B. profile.

But this is some serious creature goodness. Reading this entry brightened my day.

2:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These are great! Could you also so put up pictures of:

The sabre-tooth lemur creature from episode 13

The giant crab and the one eyed sea beast from episode 14

The Jumockis from episode 16

The spiny rhino thing from episode 18

The giant leech from episode 20

and the juroceros from episode 27

6:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I forget what episode it's in but there is also a worm -like creature with a triple-hinged mouth. Also more pictures of the "fashion-conscious reaper" would be nice.

7:15 PM  

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