‘Christmas Involves Pac-Land’ Is a Unusual Pac-Man Christmas Particular – IndieWire

On Friday nights, IndieWire After Darkish takes a feature-length beat to honor fringe cinema within the streaming age. 

First, the spoiler-free pitch for one editor’s midnight film choose — one thing strange from any age of movie that deserves our memorializing. 

Then, the spoiler-filled aftermath as skilled by the unwitting editor attacked by this week’s suggestion.

The Pitch: Merry Chompmas to All, and to All a Good Chomp

To start with, Namco created “Pac-Man,” a cute train in 8-bit graphics that options an incomplete yellow circle navigating a dot-filled maze whereas avoiding colourful ghosts. An prompt hit, the sport’s solely apparent flaw was the lack of knowledge supplied in regards to the yellow circle’s genitalia. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than the corporate rectified that drawback in 1982 with the discharge of “Ms. Pac-Man,” an almost equivalent sport whose round protagonist wore a bow to determine herself as feminine, drawing a transparent line within the sand between the reproductive organs of those two-dimensional avatars.

LONDON, ENGLAND – May 29: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY)  Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 29, 2023 in London, England.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood)
Cord Jefferson

The excellence was the primary try at extracting narrative heft from a property that was little greater than a enjoyable maze sport, however it could not be the final. Simply two years after the unique “Pac-Man” sport debuted in arcades, somebody at Hanna Barbara acknowledged the apparent and stated “this yellow circle must staff up with Santa Claus to save lots of Christmas.” 1982 additionally noticed the discharge of “Christmas Involves Pac-Land,” a vacation particular broadcast on ABC that includes characters from the “Pac-Man” Saturday morning cartoon that was airing on the time. And whereas the particular, directed by Ray Patterson and written by Jeffrey Scott, by no means entered the canon of perennial Christmas viewing materials, the copies that exist on-line are everlasting reminders of the weirdness that may emerge from shoehorning Santa right into a world the place he clearly by no means belonged.

“Christmas Involves Pac-Land” begins, naturally, on Christmas Eve in Pac-Land. The geographic location of the idyllic nation isn’t revealed, however Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, their son Pac-Child, and their coterie of ghost nemeses — plus their cat named Bitter Puss and canine named Chomp-Chomp — stay up to now off the map that Santa was utterly unaware of their existence. Their lives largely revolve round “chomping,” a catch-all verb that encompasses their love of munching on small dots, their love of munching on bigger dots, and their love of biting their enemies out of spite and their buddies out of affection. However when Santa’s sleigh unexpectedly crashes in Pac-Land, Pac-Man’s feud with the ghosts should be positioned on the again burner as he makes use of the ability of chomping to assist get the Christmas deliveries up and working once more.

Whereas “Standard Character Helps Santa Save Christmas” is a time-honored format for throwaway TV specials, this one has wormed its method into my mind in a method that few others have. Along with the insane reliance on the phrase “chomp,” I’ve all the time been baffled by how totally incompetent Santa appears to be. A number of the first phrases out of his mouth are “It’s an excellent factor my Christmas checklist is computerized, or I’d by no means get the job accomplished on time.” It’s unsurprising {that a} online game firm within the Eighties would need to promote futuristic know-how, however the picture of Santa as a person who can be helpless with out his units is a curious alternative. He’s additionally compelled to show to Pac-Man as a result of “all the elves are off for the night time,” which strikes me as an unprecedented degree of managerial incompetence. If there may be one night time of the yr that not less than one of Santa’s elves must be on name for emergencies, it could be Christmas Eve!

I’ve watched “Christmas Involves Pac-Land” a number of occasions in my life, and I nonetheless don’t have the faintest thought in regards to the location of Pac-Land or the true definition of “chomping.” However my confusion in regards to the particulars is outweighed by the hilarious context, which is {that a} crew of grown-ass adults tried to make a 20-minute narrative story a couple of round joystick icon and did a surprisingly respectable job. 2023 could have been the yr that Hollywood lastly discovered how you can deal with video video games, with hits like “The Final of Us” and “The Tremendous Mario Bros. Film” discovering methods to fulfill their respective fanbases. However I’ll all the time want the many years when filmmakers had no thought what the hell they had been doing with online game characters however had been compelled to strive anyway. —CZ

The Aftermath: How Does Christmas Work Precisely?

In Santa’s time-honored quest to take care of his standing as essentially the most hapless legendary determine to ever race across the globe in a single night time, his reindeer and sleigh show perpetually finicky.

Whether or not they’re drunk on eggnog or can’t see by means of the climate, the flying Christmas variations of the true deer species answerable for carting round Santa routinely throw up their antlers and go away the massive man completely screwed. And throughout numerous TV specials and Christmas movies, the sleigh itself breaks down and must be fastened, consistently working out of magic energy/Christmas spirit/Zooey Deschanel’s singing voice/what have you ever.

It’s not the legendary mode of transportation’s fault, after all. As Zilko identified, Ol’ Saint Nick isn’t nice at his job and he might stand to be taught a factor or two about animal care. (Pac-Man and Chomp-Chomp positively have the higher pet-parent relationship!) However greater than Santa’s missing work ethic and ability, the mechanics of the magical pink automobile important to delivering Christmas presents every yr for all of time simply weren’t made to final.

Now, that’s to say nothing of the structural integrity of the usual, horse-drawn sleigh that crashes into Pac-Land. Reasonably, the specifics of the long-lasting plane have modified a lot as Christmas media has exploded into the twenty first century that it’s turn into inconceivable to really feel a lot of any lasting connection to Santa lore because it as soon as existed. That’s acquired its pluses and minuses, however there’s one thing to be stated for that diluted preciousness making it simpler to power zany characters into variations on Santa’s story.

Watching Ms. Pac-Man examine Rudolph’s nostril just like the examine engine gentle on a automotive’s entrance sprint, I used to be impressed. Not a lot along with her prowess as a mammalian mechanic (though, slay queen!); more-so with the extent of creativeness that was clearly put into this 22-minute oddity that by no means actually is smart however completely hits. The eye to element on show in Pac-Land — from the surgeon basic’s chomp warning to the ghost-based emergency response system — is hysterical and dazzling.

Because it stands, it’s humorous to assume that the Pac-Man world is in some methods extra firmly established than the oral and written Christmas custom handed down between generations for hundreds of years. I had extra questions on Santa right here than I’ve ever had in regards to the Pac-people. Like, what sort of man is he if he would learn Pac-Child “The Evening Earlier than Christmas,” basically a rhyme-schemed fan fiction tribute to him? When he left his Christmas-clueless helpers a pile of presents, did he assume to even clarify to them what a full-ass tree was doing of their lounge? And, as for inexplicably stumbling into Pac-Land after which leaving with no plan to get again on monitor, critically what?

Co-mingling the muddled legend of Santa with this weird IP extension is a reminder of what makes a lot vacation content material nice. Like an outdated arcade sport that wants an excellent smack to the aspect, “Christmas Involves Pac-Land” is a hiccupy delight and an excellent reminder that within the kaleidoscopic vacation world we stay in as we speak, anybody and something can save Santa. Namco is aware of he wants it. —AF

IndieWire After Darkish publishes midnight film suggestions at 11:59 p.m. ET each Friday. Learn extra of our deranged recommendations…

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