Sunday, April 13, 2014

RR Rayman: The Animated Series

He's back and animated in his very own first TV series!...for the time of 4 single episodes.

Michel Ancel's cartoony hero gets reviewed Eyz-style:

Name: Rayman: The Animated Series or The Rayman TV Series or simply Rayman
Directed by Ubisoft
Original run 1999-2000
Genre Comedy Animated series

To tie-into the release of  Rayman 2: The Great Escape in 1999, Ubisoft produced their very first multi-media project. An animated series starring their own mascot!

Since the development was produced alongside Rayman 2, Rayman: The Animated Series uses some basic similar elements, such as Rayman's design and the general art style of Rayman's universe at that time. But it also diverges quickly into its own thing.

Possibly actually based around scrapped elements from the early builds of Rayman 2. The whole circus theme was going to be part of Rayman 2 storyline, with the pirate robots working for the circus the Rayman 2's main villain Razorbeard only employed there....

Rayman: The Animated Series or simply Rayman the TV Series was CGi animated series TV series that was planned for a worldwide release, only to be canceled early during the production of the show.

In this cartoon, Emmanuel Garijo reprized Rayman's voice in the Fench dub, while Billy West voiced Rayman for the English version.

The story revolves around Rayman and his friends being on the run from the local authorities.

The show begins with Rayman, captured shortly prior to the first episode. Now he is forced to put an act for Rigatoni, an evil ringmaster who owns this private intergalactic traveling circus. This giant flying circus tent goes from one location to another. And Rayman 2's main baddie Razorbeard is only an employee there.

Rayman meets these other circus "slaves". Other captured beings also forced to perform in this circus. Most of the characters on this show act as counterparts to actual Rayman 2 characters. There's this Betina girl who's videogame counterpart would be Ly the Fairy (but she probably also has some of Rayman 1's Betilla the Fairy in her). There's also the gadget-savy genius Cookie, as sarcastic as Murfy. The lovable goofball, super strong and acrobatic Lac-Mac (Globox). And also a little fairy named Flips.

Long story short, our heroes escape from the circus and now decide to lay low in the giant tree-city of Aeropolis. But they now are fugitives and the local police is looking for them. Chief amongst those is police detective Inspector Grub!

On the run and forced to hide in an old house, they discover they actually live now just above Grub!

Will they make it safe and sound in thie strange new town?

Rayman and friends get into several trouble. Mostly dealing with whatever happens to them whenever they venture outside their home. And they have to be vigilante, Inspector Grub is charged to arrest our heroes - one way or another!

Besides the scrapped circus elements that might have been the basis for Rayman 2, there's other direct connection to the games (including a short allusion to Michel Ancel's other limbless protagonist, Tonic Trouble). Cookie's dog/mole-ysh cartoon design might have been apparently recycled from a scrapped enemy from Rayman 1. With Rigatoni himself bearing more than a passably resemblance to the hunters from the original Rayman.

Sadly, only 4 episodes were ever produced. With a possible 5h episode almost completed, but that's when the production was stopped.

There 4 episodes are titled: "Lac-Mac Napping", "No Parking", "High Anxiety" and "Big Date". (the canceled 5th one was apparently "My Fair Lac-Mac")

These new Rayman adventures see our hero escape from the circus before losing Flips (and their car!) because of a parking spot. Cookie ends up locked in an asylum from which our heroes must save him (but Grub visiting his own mother over there that same day!). And last episode is about our heroes trying to help Grub's love life so he will not have much time for them once he has a date.

It's generally pretty funny. And silly.

The show was originally planned for an entire 13-episode run but was shortly canceled in production and only these 4 "pilot" episodes were ever fully produced.

Ubisoft decided to simply release those rather than ditch them aside (considering the time and resources involved).

The actual reason for the show's cancellation is not really clear. Some sources claim it was too expensive and they were making those on a very low budget (despite the great quality of those first few episodes). Other mention Rayman's creator Michel Ancel himself not entirely pleased with the writing of the show.

Those few episodes would only air in France and Canada.

A VHS and DVD release was distributed in some countries in Europe. The DVD was then also offered along some Rayman compilations on the PS2 and PC as well as a "10th Anniversay" GameCub collection.

Overall, it looked fun. It looked promising. And when you think this was one of those early late-90s CGi-animted cartoons... it certainly looks fairly better than most offerings at the time.

Problem is... a lack of funds (this was way too expensive for a cartoon back then), expensive technology and even the creator not really enthusiast by the entire project... Ubisoft simply pulled the plug before too much investment was in it.

A shame.

These first 4 episodes certainly showed some promise, a decent backstory.

Then, the lack of familiar faces from the game probably didn't help it either... (but I'm used to Rayman's entire universe changing radically from one game to another, I always felt this was Rayman's most unique enduring feature)

For Rayman fans, recommended! Why don't you check it out? Most episodes are now on youtube (probably even officially via Ubi's channel).

The French DVD release actually contains both the German and English dub as well.

I give it:
2 / 3 Felixes!

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