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Location: Milwaukee, WI
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Out of luck animator who's doing comics for a living now


Animation, Comic Art

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Mysterious Cities of Gold


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animated series The Legend of Zelda © DIC Entertainment / Saban / Nintendo Co Ltd
The Legend of Zelda
Rated it: 3
posted: Oct 10, 2007
In the very late 1980's, Nintendo partnered with DiC Entertainment to produce a Live Action/Animated kids show called “The Super Mario Bros Super Show.” Monday through Thursday the show featured 15 minute Mario cartoons with live action Mario segments at the beginning and end of each episodes. They were bizarrely artistic, quirky in their plots, and very cartoony and light-hearted. But Fridays were a totally different story.

On Fridays Mario relaxed while a 15 minute Legend of Zelda cartoon aired instead. Based on the first video game, it featured Link as a hired hero in Hyrule Castle who has been charged with protecting the Triforce of Wisdom from the evil and power hungry pig, Ganon. The show only ran for 13 episodes before the “Super Mario Bros Super Show” was canceled, despite the show being named THE # 1 kids show of 1989.
The Zelda segments were much more mature than the cartoony Mario counterparts. There was more action, more excitement, and more detailed characters. Link, Zelda, the King, Sprite and Ganon were all given exceptional personalities, which was quite a feat with how little information was known about the Zelda universe.

In keeping with the first NES game, Link was a brown-haired hired hero. It was his JOB to protect the Triforce, and he slept in the uppermost tower watching over it. He would much have preferred to be out in the open, fighting monsters, having an adventure, and saving damsels in distress. But he had one great big crux. He was in love with Zelda. Always one for romance, he tended to use his heroic deeds to win Zelda’s heart and possibly sneak a quick kiss. Of course something always came up and prevented them from actually kissing.

Zelda was no mere Damsel in distress either. While she loved to order people around, especially Link, she was also quite willing and ready to fight along side him. In many episodes she saves Link as much as he saves her. Her favorite item was a crossbow.

Ganon was as evil as the rating boards would let him be. Like most power-hungry cartoon characters, his schemes are always elaborate, insane, and usually doomed to fail from the start. He was always cooking up schemes to steal the Triforce of Wisdom, conquer Hyrule, or do away with the impetuous Link. While he himself was actually quite perceptive, his cohorts were not. Most of the time Ganon’s plans fail because of his dim-witted group of monsters.

The show was actually quite accurate to the video game, with how little we actually knew of it. It’s best to remember that back in the late 1980's only 2 Zelda games existed, and neither of them really provided a lot of information on who was who, what was what, and why things were. DiC came up with some creative solutions out of their difficulties, one of which was Link’s pouch. To explain how Link is able to carry bombs, boomerangs, Shields and other nifty items, DiC used Magic to shrink the items down so they could fit in Link’s pocket. Because Link couldn’t actually KILL anyone (mostly due to the rating board) DiC invented the EVIL JAR. A big Jar of pink smoke resided in the underground lair. Whenever Link zapped an enemy with his sword, they got de-energized back into the jar. An interesting convention and one which explains why when you hit an enemy in the game they just disappear.

Many episodes actually featured HINTS on what to do in the original NES game. It’s hard to imagine, but back then we had no internet to look up cheats or walk-through’s. We had no MAP of the land and had to remember it all in our heads. There was no strategy guide to help us till MUCH later so we had to do it all ourselves. The TV show helped with little hints like having a power bracelet fall from a Red-Statue’s hand, or draining the water in a pond to reveal a secret entrance.

The show was actually quite witty for it’s time, with several jokes intended for not just kids, but adults as well. In one instance, Link sees Zelda emerge from her bedroom onto her balcony in her robe. He whistles out at her “Lookin’ GOOD, Princess... Especially from THIS angle!” to which she eventually smacks him a good one in the face. There was a quasi-love/hate relationship between the two and when Link’s romantic advances were rejected he usually uttered his infamous catch phrase “Excuuuuseee ME, Princess!” This catch phrase was so popular that he uttered it 29 times in the short 13 episode span.

Growing up as a kid I loved Nintendo. My favorite games were Mario and Zelda and when a TV show came out with the two favorite characters that I loved, I became hooked. But the Zelda TV series got me especially. The Mario segments, much like the games, were whimsical and entertaining. But the Zelda segments really infused my imagination. Being brown-haired had something to do with it, because I could dress up as Link and look the part too. I enjoyed watching the show because it offered a glimpse into this strange and open-ended world that is known as Hyrule. In the first game you wander around quite aimlessly, and this TV show actually took that world and fleshed it out and gave it meaning. I remember quite fondly that my friends at school and I would wait around till Friday, speculating on what the next episode was going to be like (for they had teasers throughout the week). We’d go home separately and watch the show separately, but then on Monday at recess we’d all group together and discuss what had happened in Friday’s episode. It was an incredible bonding experience for me.

I had a VCR and would tape each Zelda episode. Waiting around for Friday was torture, but I eventually got all 13 episodes recorded on one single VHS tape. Then, weeks after the show as cancelled, my dad accidentally used my tape to record a court-room proceeding for his work and taped over all but 2 episodes. I was crushed and incredibly sad. Everything I had enjoyed was suddenly taken away from me in one swoop. Even in Syndication they did not show the Zelda segments, so any hope of re-recording them was useless. The internet was not available for us yet, and there was no way to watch it on the computer, or download it or anything. You couldn’t even find the official VHS releases in stores anywhere.

For 16 long years I was Link-less. In that time Link evolved. He became blond, and more Anime-ish. He moved from the 2-D to 3-D and even featured in a Cell-shaded cartoony game called Wind Waker. Hyrule evolved too, and it’s history and story began to take shape, radically different from the Hyrule I knew from the cartoon series. Ganon morphed from a pig into a human named Ganondorf. There were THREE Triforces not two. And the biggest change was that each game featured a NEW Link. Unlike the first two games where he was the same person.

Finally... in 2006 the Zelda cartoon was put together into a collection and sold on DVD. I was overjoyed. Without those cartoons for 16 years, I had forgotten a lot of it and re-watching it brought back fond memories of my childhood. Memories like dressing up as Link for Halloween and discussing the show on the playground. The DVD even included the actual line-art model sheets used in the creation of the show. These are the real model sheets that animators would use to ensure that Link was drawn the same in each episode. As someone who went to College to become an Animator and who has a BFA in Animation, that was a tremendously fantastic treat for me.

However, with the release of the DVD there suddenly appeared a backlash from the Zelda community. Most of the avid Zelda fans today never grew up with the show and found it to be “horrible and insulting” to the Zelda franchise. Even now as I look through these threads I find numerous jabs and mockings of this show. People unwilling to see a brown-haired Link, or to have him be in-love with Zelda. Even the once popular catch phrase “Excuuuseee ME, Princess” has taken a turn for the worse as people ridicule how annoying it has become (especially since someone on YouTube made a video editing ALL 29 times he said the phrase into one horribly annoying clip). To me, this hurts greatly on a personal level.

The Zelda TV show was the highlight of my youth. Sure, it may not have had the highest production values, and in retrospect Link’s catch-phrase IS quite annoying, but the problem is that no one is willing to give it a chance. To make matters worse there is a horrible set of Zelda video games which Nintendo wishes were never made, but thanks to the wonders that is YouTube you can view in perfect horrific detail. These CDi games were loosely based on the TV series versions of Link and Zelda and many die-hard fans think that they are in some way related given the poor production values. All these things combine to make a stigma that people are just not willing to let die. If you can ignore the CDi games, ignore everything else you know about Zelda now, and ignore the fact that Link is kinda immature, the show really is worth watching.

I even was able to get some young kids hooked on the show as well when I was working at a video store. They were the sons and daughter of the Chinese restaurant’s owner who lived in the same strip mall area that my Video store did. Bored of sitting around all day, they would come bug me (Because I could draw and cuz I had a large quantity of Game Boy games). I introduced them to the GBA classic remakes of the first 2 Zelda games and they enjoyed them so much that I thought I might show them the TV show. Despite it’s age, it held up pretty well and the kids had fun watching it. Which only goes to show one thing: The show is meant for kids. If I can get modern day kids interested in this show, there’s no reason for this horrible stigma that plagues it. It’s a fun, enjoyable, entertaining, and family friendly show that no one should be “ashamed” to watch. Please take a moment to just remember that it was created BEFORE all these other games and before anyone knew ANYTHING about the world of Hyrule and of it’s hero Link. Don’t compare it to modern day cartoons or video games. It’s unfair and undignified.

Production values have risen greatly since the 80's and the Zelda world has changed. But for me, Link will always be a brown-haired lad clad in green, anxious to get a smooch from his beloved Zelda.