|Aw yeah, this game rocked.|
The game was good enough to get a sequel, Rayman 2: The Great Escape aka "one of the best platformer games ever" (my main source being my own personal opinion of course). No seriously, play this game because it's fun. Rayman 2 was more manageable in difficulty, but it traded the sugar coating and the bright colors with a darker and edgier atmosphere filled with giant spiders, poisonous swamps, killer robots from outer space, and zombie chickens.
I'm going to stress the zombie chicken part.
|The writer of this blog still can't play the Tomb of the Ancients level without breaking down and sobbing.|
|Fun fact: Creepy Crawlers the Animated Series is also French. French shows have the worst luck.|
It was planned to be a 13 episode season, but lack of funds and presumably poor writing (although that didn't stop Captain Planet) made the producers pull the plug early. Since Rayman isn't exactly the most popular videogame star in most parts of the world (he's popular in French-speaking countries since he's a French creation, but that's about it) and the relative obscurity of the episodes, this show is pretty much unknown.
But I'm going to talk about this show because what the hell, I might as well. I personally love the Rayman games (at least until they decided that they were going to fill the series with minigame collections instead of releasing a goddamn Rayman 4 like we wanted them to), and it'd at least be fun to see how they interpreted it for the small screen.
That being said, boy, am I in for a ride, because this show happened to follow the Sonic Underground line of thinking in that as long as they stick Rayman in an unrelated setting full of unrelated characters that have nothing to do with the original games, it's still a Rayman cartoon. So thus, let's talk about the first episode of this series. Let's find out what happens when you call a show "Rayman" but really make it about this unrelated blue guy in...
Availability: On DVD...depending on the territory.
Before we begin, I just want to note the intro. Or, rather, the absolute lack of it. Instead of having some sort of catchy yet lame tune that introduces us to the heroes and the villains, we get...the title card of this episode appearing out of a black void with absolute silence playing on the speakers. Knowing this show's background, this is extremely unsettling. I'm sure if you turn up the volume all the way, you'll hear a Ubi Soft animator committing suicide.
We first wade through the wasted time, the overspent money, and crushed dreams of the show's makers by...viewing some really impressive TV CGI for its time. Okay, definitely a good sign that this 3D animation actually looks remarkable when I was expecting something akin to the Donkey Kong Country TV series. I can now assume the reason why this cartoon blew a 13 episode budget on four and a half episodes (the show was cancelled when a fifth episode was nearly finished) is because they wanted to make their animation look really kickass. Props for that.
|Why does this shot invoke 80's synth pop instrumentals in my head?|
I will note that as the circus levitates on by, powered by its own hatred of the laws of physics, we subtly pass by a two-story building that has a poster stuck to the second floor. Take note of the character in the poster and notice that it's not Rayman, but rather a character invented just for this cartoon. Interesting subversion in that the circus's main attraction is not the main reason I'm watching this, but now I feel sorry that Rayman has to play second fiddle to that thing.
|And as soon as Rayman fans saw the blue Jar Jar, their hearts just sank.|
|Wasn't this the premise of We're Back: A Dinosaur's Story?|
...this seems familiar. I sure hope the plot doesn't involve Rayman falling into another dimension and ending up performing in a circus in a city ruled by a dictator who controls a cylinder-shaped army, or else I'm spending the rest of this review talking about the differences between all the Rayman 2 ports in existence. Because seeing it done with Felix the Cat is enough.
|"It's time to face the facts. The makers of the game are going to ignore the fact we exist."|
...dude, District 9/Rayman crossover. Somebody make it happen.
|And then all of those birdmen were horribly disappointed when they found out that |
this wasn't an Italian restaurant with a circus theme.
Characters that look like they're human but aren't quite always creep me the hell out, and Betina is no exception. With a mouth that's way too wide to be normal and eyes that suck out all that is wholesome and good from any mortal soul, Betina ranks pretty high on my list of animation-related nightmares. The makers say she's human but I consider that a horrible lie.
Also, why did they give the tightrope-walking stunt to the creature that can naturally fly? That just kills all the suspense this act would've had.
|The circus's next act is a fish holding its breath underwater.|
...but then again, maybe there's a niche audience for weird blue bucktoothed cockroach/rabbit hybrids that look like something Jim Henson and George Lucas would picture in their acid trips.
|What has science done.|
|Are those horns? Antennae? Somebody clue me in please.|
Anyways, before I got off track, he excitedly pulls the curtains back and congratulates Lac-Mac on a job well done, letting us know that he clearly is playing favorites with his slave performers. Nobody likes that kind of atmosphere in the workplace, Rigatoni.
|Way to overdo it on the lipstick too.|
...yeah, okay, cartoon. This is where it falls apart. I get that you're trying to tie this into the actual videogames, but you seriously telling me that Razorbeard, the leader of a gang of space pirates that enslaved countless worlds and shattered the core of the world, is now playing second fiddle to a circus leader? This is like if Robotnik and Snively switched roles for the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon; it just doesn't work.
And even if you haven't played the games (and I'm writing this with the expectation that not many people have), this setup is incredibly stupid. For one, why the hell is there a robot space pirate in a circus and why the hell isn't he actually performing? Imagine the possibilities of a robot pirate space circus act. How cool would that be?
|As you can imagine, this show makes very little sense.|
|"The sound of people clapping is the only thing keeping me from killing myself."|
|"The doctor just called. He said it's malignant."|
It is here that we hear Lac-Mac finally speak. While the cage spins in near darkness, painting a very dark picture, he drones out a "Lac-Mac SAAAD". Oh great, a character that can't use pronouns. Those are always fun. His situation, his imprisonment and subsequent performances against his will would be more depressing if he didn't sound like the Cookie Monster.
|"Lac-Mac crawling in Lac-Mac's skin!"|
In conclusion, I'm sure the others have quickly adapted and learned how to tune out her voice.
|Did Rigatoni shove her head in a trash compactor before letting her perform? Seriously, what is up with that face...|
...wait, did they know each other before they were captured, or did they meet in the circus? Seriously, what's their backstory? Such a colorful group of characters has to have some sort of a wacky story detailing how they first met. I'm picturing things like illegal drug dealing, ties to an underground mafia, a revolutionary war, Cookie hijacking a boat and meeting Lac-Mac stowed away in the cargo, and Betina really being the lost princess of Atlantis.
And if none of that made any sense, then welcome to world of Rayman. The last level of the first game is made out of cake, the scariest enemies are undead chickens, and you fight a giant saxophone.
|No, Flips! Don't stare directly into her eyes!|
Oh, and fun fact here. Razorbeard and Cookie are voiced by the same guy; Carlos Alazraqui, aka the voice of Rocko from Rocko's Modern Life. Great voice actor, but here, he doesn't even try to disguise the fact that he's voicing the same two people. Razorbeard and Cookie sound almost identical, just with Razorbeard sounding slightly more pissed off. Even running Razorbeard's voice through a robot voice filter would've saved this.
|I like how Razorbeard wears a pair of pants to hide his enormous ass, and yet can't be bothered with shirts.|
|"Sir, may I suggest we get a more recognizable videogame star like Sonic the Hedgehog or Pac-Man for our act?"|
...oh my god. Billy West's voice comes out of Rayman. Dude, Rayman. He sounds exactly like Fry from Futurama. Rayman is Fry. Fry is Rayman.
If you'll excuse me, I'm going to need a moment to let this sink in.
|"No, Rayman, I don't want to see your fryhole."|
Also, even though Razorbeard's name is, well, Razorbeard, that thing on his face is really a mouth piece shaped like a beard. This really is a strange universe that they live in.
|"Bite my shiny metal ass!"|
"Doesn't look so shiny to me."
"Shinier than yours, meatbag!"
|I would love it if Rayman detached his head, just to freak out Rigatoni.|
Oh, and he was placed in Betina's cell. I feel like that's cruel and unusual punishment.
|"Look, just because you put me in the same cage as her doesn't mean she's going to be my |
romantic interest. Not gonna happen!"
Unfortunately, before we can see anymore on Rigatoni's rich and dark history, he once again buries the skeletons in his closet and starts sucking up to his star, asking him if he can get him anything. Lac-Mac then decides to test his boss's patience by asking if he could go free. Uh oh.
|"Holy crap, man. Chill out."|
But before this carnival of terrors can fly away to parts unknown, Rigatoni decides to pull a really scary face while laughing evilly at the people pulling in the big bucks for him. I guess it isn't a Rayman production without some unadulterated nightmares.
|Well, there goes my ability to sleep tonight...|
And, at the risk of gushing too much about this show, I really like this shot. They really used their textures to the fullest and made it look like a really dismal place. What seals the deal is the empty cage (possibly because the occupants are literally rotting away in the circus dungeon) and the broken Rigatoni sign in the very back.
...although now I'm wondering what they do if they need to use the bathroom if they're in those cramped cells.
|If I was in those cages, I'd try to swing my cage into the cage next to me. Just to be an asshole.|
Also, where did Rigatoni get all of these television sets? I can excuse the flying circus since it's, well, Rayman, but this just seems like a waste.
|"Hooray! I wasted tons of money on a wall of TVs when I only have one security camera! I'm a genius!"|
|He also has a very interestingly-shaped five o' clock shadow.|
|"Here. Please drive this through my skull. I grow tired of living."|
...maybe THIS is why the show only had four episodes. Betina killed everyone responsible for her birth.
Also, as someone who died countless times fighting Razorbeard in the N64 game, seeing Rayman just shove Razorbeard in a cage and be done with him is downright disappointing.
|Really, Razorbeard. You're going to fight your archnemesis with a flyswatter. |
I've heard of Villain Decay but this is ridiculous...
I also kind of love how everyone kind of lingers in front of the hole, most of them adopting a questioning look as Rayman seriously suggests that they jump. Fun times.
|"Lac-Mac seriously doubting Lac-Mac's chances of survival by jumping out of flying circus."|
Also, Rigatoni decides to be creepy by shouting "Where is my Lac-Mac! I want my Lac-Mac!". Ha ha, eww. He really needs a girlfriend.
|"Near, far, wherever you are|
I believe that the heart does go on..."
I also want to point out that, in all three of the main Rayman titles, Rayman can slow his descent by turning his earhair into a helicopter. Not once do they do this in this cartoon. For some reason, this pisses me off.
|"On my signal, everyone grab onto Flips while Flips flies us to safety!"|
I like how he addresses himself as "The Great Rigatoni" over the phone, by the way. Uh, you were only in that city for one night, Rigatoni. You can't really call the shots.
|"Goddamn Verizon, putting me on hold for 30 minutes..."|
I also like how this scene is set up. He receives the phone call and then runs out of the office, never to be seen in this episode again. It's quick, it establishes a character, and boom, he's out of the door. Great pacing. Just wish his office didn't look so much like the interior of an abandoned submarine.
|I bet he likes all of his friends to address him as Marshal Sam McCloud.|
|They didn't die instantly either. They suffered for days underneath several tons of broken beams |
before dying of exposure.
And okay, I actually really like this scene. This is impressive work for a CGI TV show made in 1999. The lighting and the layout is really great and it personally kills me that great shots such as this are buried in a show that 98% of the world will probably never see. This is the Beyond Good and Evil of cartoons, which is ironic, considering both this show and that game were made by the same company.
The group led by the Planet Express delivery boy sort of aimlessly wanders through the city outskirts, discussing on what they should do in order to avoid getting captured by Rigatoni again. I love how none of them are worried that someone might recognize Lac-Mac even though his derpy face is plastered on every flat surface in the city and the entire police force is now looking for him. I thought he was a big star, guys! Could you be a little bit more discreet?
|"Just so we're all clear, the first person who tries to sing "We're Off to See the Wizard" is going |
to get stabbed in the eye."
Enter a city resident with a broken down car. Convenient of him to have a broken down car right in front of that big spooky forest just so hikers can walk up to him and demand it from him, but there you go.
And, since I have no where else to put this, I've come up with two theories on what species these creatures, these strange beasts that populate this city, are. One theory is that, with the big noses and everything, they're sort of an offshoot species of Rayman's species and, since they have limbs, they're far more common and far less magical. The other theory is that they're the living versions of the zombie chickens that plague both every haunted area in all of the Rayman games and my nightmares, because that would explain why the games have a million zombie chickens when there's a million of these nondescript grey avians.
...aww, I just made myself feel bad, because I'm inferring that this city ends up getting wiped out and I end up killing these guys in my videogames.
|"Don't ask me why my car looks like a giant hunk of cheese. It's paid for!"|
In short, Rayman, with his delightful Billy West voice, is committing grand theft auto. I don't care if the mechanic expressed the intent to abandon (he said that anyone that can fix this doomed project can keep it out of frustration); that strange wood car is not his to take.
|I'm sure that mechanic isn't going to call Detective Grub and send him on your way, right?|
The Moral of this Cartoon
To be a famous ringleader, you have to kidnap rare and exotic animals and make them as miserable as possible while keeping them in basic, run-of-the-mill steel cages. After all, who runs a circus legally? Failures, that's what!
When I watch this, I see a show that had the potential of being really good.
I think it's a real shame that this show only lasted four 11 minute episodes, because from what I've seen in this series opening, I'm actually interested in what happens next. Everything seems to lead into another, this looks like a show that would've had a strong sense of continuity, and I cared for what happened to the characters.
The strongest point for this show was definitely the animation. It's hard to see in stills, but this cartoon looked and moved better than Jimmy Neutron, a show that came out three years later. They actually knew what they were doing and I applaud them for it. CGI as a medium gets hounded a lot for not looking as nice as 2D, but this has a really nice atmosphere to it. This cartoon wouldn't have been as effective as 2D, so it did its job well.
I think the only problems are really Betina and Razorbeard. To me, Betina just feels like she didn't do much of anything other than give a speech that could've been uttered by our main star. Razorbeard, it's really odd seeing him as such a lowly servant character when in the videogames he was pretty much plundering and enslaving an entire population of people. He wrecked an entire planet and creating a huge cataclysm that weakened the god of the world. Seeing him go from that to cracking whips at giant lizard bunnies is just off-putting.
Also Rayman should've been more important in this show. It felt like the plot was mostly about Lac-Mac with Rayman just kind of showing up and giving everybody more confidence.
Other than Rayman not being important enough in his own show, an odd usage of Rayman 2's main villain, and an ugly character model, this show wasn't bad. I would watch this again, and it's nice to give an example of 90's TV CGI that doesn't make you want to gouge your eyes out.
Just man, Betina is probably going to replace the zombie chickens in my nightmares.
...okay, maybe not. Excuse me, I'm going to have a good long cry now...