Confusion on swift wings shall come to anyone who tries to make sense of the mistitled MUMMIES ALIVE! THE LEGEND BEGINS, actually a compilation episode from the tail end of the run of a strange 1997 TV cartoon series. Presley, a 12-year-old modern San Francisco boy, is actually a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian pharoah. A noble quartet of mummies (quintet...read more
Confusion on swift wings shall come to anyone who tries to make sense of the mistitled MUMMIES ALIVE! THE LEGEND BEGINS, actually a compilation episode from the tail end of the run of a strange 1997 TV cartoon series.
Presley, a 12-year-old modern San Francisco boy, is actually a reincarnation of an ancient Egyptian pharoah. A noble quartet of mummies (quintet if you count a mummy kitty cat), sworn to defend the boy king more than 30 centuries ago, have come to life and use their superpowers to battle another
revived ancient, the power-hungry wizard Scarab. The mummies are visiting a new museum exhibit when henchmen of Scarab burst in to try to steal two sarcophagi on display. The bodies turn out to be Arakh, evil brother of lead mummy Ja-Kal, and Arakh's adolescent son Kimas. Revived by Scarab, Arakh
is only too happy to battle Ja-Kal in a case of millenia-long sibling rivalry. But Kimas accidentally meets the other mummies while exploring San Francisco and befriends them, even using his inherited superpowers to fight Scarab when the villain materializes. In fact, Kimas is just as treacherous
as his father, and plans to lead Scarab to the mummies' secret hideout. However, Ja-Kal's repeated kindness towards his nephew makes Kimas have a change of heart, but only after he's led Ja-Kal into an ambush by the bad guys. In the fracas Kimas deliberately crushes the stone talisman that brought
him and his father back to life. They vanish back "through the Western Gate," and Scarab beats a hasty retreat.
Narrative-wise it would have been more merciful to dump an origin episode on tape, rather than plunge the poor viewer into a whirlwind of grotesque characters and riotous fights--mostly against Scarab's shabti, humanoid clay warriors liable to break into pieces when struck, a surprisingly
disturbing visual for a children's cartoon. A hefty pyramidful of Egyptological imagery and arcana went into the conception of "Mummies Alive!" and director Seth Kearsley's previous work on the classic cartoon satire "The Simpsons" shows in the abundant dust-dry humor and deadpan puns. But this
particular episode cycle makes a poor intro to the quirky enterprise. The animation is cut-rate, using repetition of mummy fighting stances whenever possible to keep costs down.
Although movie mogul Ivan Reitman (MEATBALLS, GHOSTBUSTERS, DAVE) shares producing credit, the idea for the "Mummies Alive!" allegedly came from co-executive producer Andy Hayward after seeing kids' fascination with mummies at a museum. Funky superhero mummies with shape-shifting body armor--not
unlike Japanese fantasy figures like the Guyver--rival the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for kitschy absurdity ("They're going to save the world today/The Egyptian way" goes the theme song by Raw), although the bandaged ones never enjoyed the turtles' measure of success. After its first season in
syndication the program went on hiatus. Disney's purchase of ABC-TV, parent company of the animation studio DIC, led to MUMMIES ALIVE: THE LEGEND BEGINS coming out on the Magic Kingdom's Buena Vista home-video label. (Violence.)