Friday, August 19, 2011

Pole Position

The animated show called Pole Position was named after the Atari video game, but there was nothing in common between the show and the game other than they both featured cars. The show resembled the Americanized Japanese anime Speed Racer more than anything else. Perhaps there was a lot of influence from Knight Rider, too. The show is about three siblings who are agents for an investigative/secret agency that uses auto racing and stunts as a front. Even in the show's intro it lays out how these kid's parents were lost in the line of duty prior to the events of the show and their Uncle Zachery, head of the Pole Position Agency, acts as a surrogate father for the kids, or perhaps is the legal guardian. The agency issues the kids a semi-truck as a mobile base of operations and two cars that each have unique artificial intelligence as well as a wide array of gadgets that Q-Branch would be jealous over.  Dan drives the futuristic concept car named Roadie which sort of resembles a blue DeLorean. Tess drives the red 1965 convertible Ford Mustang named Wheels. Daisy is their younger sister who always gets involved with the case or mystery providing many-a plot point, getting kidnapped and what-not with her cohort, Kuma, who is a lemur or a hybrid monkey cat of some sort. Most animated shows of the '80s had a token animal companion with a highly irritating voice and Kuma was Pole Position's. However, they stayed one step in reality by keeping the creature as an intelligent animal with no ability to verbally speak.
Pole Position - by rsj

In 1984 Pole Position stood out beyond it's peers in several areas. The sci-fi of the show was fantastical, but never went over the top. Sure there were talking cars with artificial intelligence that displayed emotion, but the events and stunts were almost always within a believable boundary. There were hints at some elements of espionage and spies.

The show had a very smooth animated quality to it compared to many other shows of that era and even decades after. Where most other shows of it's type seemed very choppy with fewer frames of animation per second, Pole Position's integrity was etched into my memory as quality.

The musical score throughout each episode features variations of the theme song and fluctuates through many styles of music. There are some recognizable themes, all very nicely done. All of it was composed and arranged by Jef Labes under Saban Productions. He clarified some of the details behind the production of the music here:
Dear Jeffrywith1e,  I was actually the composer/arranger who wrote and produced the entire library of music for the whole Pole Position series, when I was a ghost writer for Saban Productions in L. A.  The actual theme song was composed by my boss, and I did the rest.  The same tactic was used to creat the library of music for Heathcliff, Kissifur, the Getalong Gang, Wolfrock, and several other shows, mostly the animation products of DIC production from Japan.  Saban Prod. specialized in Sat. morning cartoon soundtracks back in the early 80's, and eventually got into the full production of Power Rangers and other shows of that ilk.  I moved up to the Bay Area in 1985, and though I look back fondly on those busy days and nights in their studio in Studio City, I left behind the maelstrom for the quieter life in Marin.  Cheers, Jefwith1f 
Pole Position-Roadie by GI-Joe09
The show aged rather well. The music may be the one thing that really stands out as genuine '80s. In the concept car and the '65 Mustang make the show timeless. The character design also is nicely timeless. The show looks like it could air today. The entire series is available for free at this time on hulu. Check it out right here hulu.com/pole-position

I tell you what, my son loves this show. The only reason I even thought of it lately was a toy set he got from his grandparents for his 4th birthday. The Fisher-Price Shake N Go Xtreme Race Set. The two cars that came with it match the car's colors in the show. The designs vaguely do too. The blue car looks more modern and concept like Roadie and the red car has a more classic muscle car look similar to Wheels. I wonder if this was intentional on the part of some geek toy designer, but who knows. The toys are actually very cool. Each car has a tiny differential in their rear axle so there is a pretty sophisticated design going on in there (you can tell by spinning one rear wheel and seeing the opposite wheel spin in the other direction!). I think he thinks the show IS about these cars.

I think this setting could be good for a pulpy action roleplaying game. If I were to tackle it, I'd go with Savage Worlds or Ubiquity System and scrape the chase rules out of Spycraft 2.0. It could easily be done.

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