Pole Position

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CBS (ended 1985)

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6.6
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SHOW REVIEWS
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Pole Position

Show Summary

Pole Position was a Saturday-morning animated action/mystery series loosely based on a popular 1980s racecar video game. It followed the adventures of three children, teenagers Dan and Tess Darrett and their younger sister Daisy, who worked for a secret crimefighting organization called Pole Position, run by their uncle, Dr. Zachary Darrett. With their computerized talking cars Roadie and Wheels, and their squeaky mascot Kuma, the children travelled around the country on missions, using a racing stunt show as their cover. Picture Speed Racer crossed with Inspector Gadget, with a few elements of Knight Rider and Scooby-Doo, Where Are You? thrown in for good measure. The show premiered on CBS in the fall of 1984 and ran for 13 episodes, which were rebroadcast until the end of August 1985, and again on other networks such as USA through the remainder of the decade. It was also on the Family Channel (now ABC Family) in 1991 - 1992. The Cast Dan Darrett: Dan is the eldest of the Darrett siblings. He tends to be a bit stubborn and arrogant, especially about his driving, and to say and do things without thinking. Dan drives Roadie, the blue Pole Position car. Tess Darrett: Tess is Dan's slightly younger sister, but is definitely the more mature and levelheaded of the pair. She drives Wheels, the red Pole Position car. (Trivia: In the show's development, Tess was originally named "Tase" -- rhymes with "ace", short for Anastasia -- because the creators wanted a slightly unusual name for their female lead.) Daisy Darrett: Daisy is the youngest of the three Darrett children, looking to be about ten. She dreams of being a racer like her big brother and sister, but has a tendency to sneak off and get herself nabbed by the bad guys. Daisy likes video games and playing with Kuma and the car computers. She seems to have a special bond with Wheels in particular. Roadie: Roadie is the computer module for the blue Pole Position car, a more modern 1980's hot-rod than Wheels (with some resemblance to a DeLorean, complete with gull-wing doors). Roadie loves to race and exchange banter with Dan, while trying to keep him out of trouble. Wheels: Wheels is the computer module for the red Pole Position car, based on the classic muscle cars of the 1960's (particularly a Mustang convertible). Wheels is something of a worry-wart, often voicing concerns that he's getting too old and run-down for crimefighting work. (Trivia: Wheels' voice was provided by Mel Franklin of the Temptations, who passed away in 1995.) Kuma: Kuma is the Pole Position team's squeaky-voiced mascot, a hybrid of several different kinds of animal. His antics provide much of the show's comic relief. (Trivia: "Kuma" is Japanese for "bear", and was the name of Michael Reaves' dog at the time he developed the show.) Dr. Zachary Darrett ("Uncle Zach"): Dr. Zachary is the head of Pole Position, gives the kids their missions, and serves as a source of information, though he rarely tells them the full story until it's over. Questions and Answers Q: Where can I get episodes of Pole Position on tape? A: In North America, four commercial Pole Position tapes were produced by Karl-Lorimar / Kideo Video. Two compilation tapes, Racing to Adventure (#138) and Road Fever (#190), were released in 1986/1987. Racing contains the episodes "The Code", "The Canine Vanishes", "The Chicken Who Knew Too Much", "Strangers on the Ice", and "The Race". Road Fever contains the episodes "The Thirty-Nine Stripes", "The Thirty-One Cent Mystery", "Dial M for Magic", "The Bear Affair", and "To Clutch a Thief". There is also a mislabelled copy of Road Fever that was packaged in the Racing to Adventure box, hence some possible confusion about both compilations being identical; they're not. In 1989 two single-episode tapes, "The Secret" (#485) and "The Trouble with Kuma" (#486), were released. All of these are relatively available online, though you may have to look a bit. Good places to start are eBay, Half, and Amazon, or you can search the web for used or out-of-print video dealers. Expect to pay around $15 - $25 apiece for the compilations, but the single-episode tapes can usually be had for about $5 - $8. If the condition of the outer packaging is important to you, be warned: A lot of video stores cut the oversized compilation boxes to fit a standard VHS plastic case. Uncut boxes can be difficult to find. Unfortunately only 12 of the 13 episodes were made commercially available. The only way to get "Shadow of a Trout" is to find someone who recorded and kept the shows when the networks aired them. (That's a shame, as this episode contains one of the best moments of the entire series.) Try a Google search on "Pole Position cartoon". There are plenty of fans out there who will share their episodes. (Legality and quality cannot be verified) In the U.K., Pole Position was sold commercially on PAL-format tapes containing two episodes each. Not for certain which episodes were released, but one tape (#LR 2223) with "The Code" and "The Canine Vanishes" has been confirmed. In Australia, "Racing to Adventure" (Roadshow-Lorimar, #2668) was also released with 5 episodes, so it's possible "Road Fever" and the single-episode tapes were too. Others likely exist as well, including versions in other languages. The series was also aired in France and Brazil, and possibly Italy, Spain and Germany. If you would like to help petition DIC Enterprises to release the entire series on DVD, you can write to them at the address below. ATTN: K.R. Hartlove Home Entertainment Coordinator DIC Enterprises 4100 West Alameda Avenue Burbank, CA 91505 You can also vote online to express your interest in purchasing the series on DVD. Q: What are the lyrics to the theme song? A: (UNCLE ZACH: From now on, like your parents were, you are the secret force of Pole Position.) They're movin' real fast They're the only ones who can get there on time (TESS: Let's go, Dan!) (DAN: O-kay, sis!) And never too far behind They are always fighting crime (ROADIE: Step on it, Dan!) (DAN: Ready when you are, Roadie!) Round the turn they will face an adventure In the danger zone Pretty soon they'll be off on a mission Come and watch them go! (DAN: Hydrofoil mode, Roadie!) (ROADIE: Hydrofoil engaged, Dan.) Pole Position! What's behind their stunt show? (TESS: Wheels, hovercraft, quick!) (WHEELS: Anything you say, Tess.) Pole Position! What's behind their stunt show? (Kuma squeaks, Daisy giggles) Pole Position! Only their Uncle knows! Pole Position! Sit back and watch them go-ooo-oh! Hey-Oh! Hey-Oh! Hey-Oh! Hey-Oh! Hey-Oh! Q: How do you know the episode titles? A: Episode titles for Pole Position were never given in the actual shows. During the initial CBS run they were revealed in a brief "coming up next" snippet immediately prior to each episode. Reruns on other networks omitted these, so they are hard to come by nowadays, though a couple of the commercial tapes give the title of the episode on them. Q: What kind of creature is Kuma, exactly? A: Writer Marc Scott Zicree says that the original concept was for an "intelligent raccoon", but Kuma has also exhibited characteristics of a cat, a monkey, a dog, and possibly a koala. The show never says specifically. Q: What happened to the kids' parents? A: The Encyclopedia of Animated Cartoons by Jeff Lenburg states that the Darrett parents "disappear in an unexplained explosion during a stunt race", and the show never elaborates. Uncle Zachary seems to believe they're dead, or at least never hints otherwise to the kids. Co-developer and writer Michael Reaves tells me that the original plan was for the kids to eventually come across clues about their spy parents. Unfortunately the series didn't last past the first season, and no specific planning was ever done for a second. The episodes were written as stand-alones, with no extended formats or "mythology", to allow them to be run in any order and still make sense. Given the show's nature for surprise twists ("Shadow of a Trout"), it wouldn't be too surprising to learn that the Darrett parents were still alive (possibly in an episode titled "Mr. and Mrs. Darrett"?) Q: Who is the older sibling, Dan or Tess? A: The show never specifically says, but Michael Reaves tells me that Dan is older. Q: Why do so many Pole Position pages, including the Internet Movie Database, list Helen Minniear in the role of "Teacher"? A: Not sure - Jeff Lenburg's Encyclopedia has it too, but there is no teacher character in any of the episodes, and the name Helen Minniear does not appear anywhere in the show's credits. In fact, Pole Position is the only credit the IMDB gives for her! Michael Reaves had no idea either. Maybe it's an error, possibly a credit from another show, that got entered by mistake on one site and has propogated across the Net ever since. Q: I heard this show was actually a dubbing of a Japanese cartoon that was renamed Pole Position for the U.S. distribution. Is this true? A: This is a persistent rumor, but it is not correct. Itseems to stem from the fact that the show's animation style has a Japanese appearance to it, and the inevitable comparisons to Speed Racer. Head writers Marc Scott Zicree and Michael Reaves, the latter of whom co-developed the series with Jean Chalopin have stated that, although the animation was done by a Japanese studio (hence the look and feel), the series itself was conceived and created in the good old U.S. of A.moreless
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SUBMIT REVIEW
  • Use formula Racers, Not formulaic Writing.

    7.5
    I did and still do enjoy this show, enough to animate a short "Where are they now?" tribute to the characters (still in concept art stage).

    I even put the intro on a Cartoon Intros CD I burned recently, and occasionally play it in the car when on the highway (I recommend trying it at least once... but I'd try to go easy on the gas :) )



    For some reason that intro still gets me pumped to watch the episodes... but just minutes later the excitement fades. For me it has everything to do with the storywriting.



    Because it's a kids' show from the eighties, I guess that the CBS network didnt want teens engaged in violent acts like punching out the bad guys especially in front of their nine year old sister. I get that kind of thing.



    Another reviewer up there mentioned that Michael Reeves said the show was to have the kids travel across the world in exotic locales- to discover clues that shed light on their parents' disappearance.

    That would've made it more exciting.

    (by the way, Roy_stantz, thanks for the note on Reeves' info. And also, Lisa Lindgren, the voice of Tess, died of cancer in 2005- 5 years after Marilyn Scheffler did. I like your VA cast suggestion. You're right, Kuma and Daisy were kidnapped too much. That gets to be boring really quick).



    The reason I didn't rate it higher is for the complexity of the challenge. There were several episodes (actually most) that suffered either from a McGuffin plot device, bad guys who were too incompetent, or both. There were a few episodes that I found were actually good that are worth watching repeatedly ( including Episodes 1 "The Code" , 6 " The Thirty One Cent Mystery" , 13 "The Trouble With Kuma" ), with the rest being fair or just plain boring.



    So, I welcome Pole Position back.

    Just make better premises, or in this show's case, stick To the original premises of the show.moreless
  • OK, but a bit repetitive.

    8.5
    Now here's a short-lived cartoon that has a cult following to this day. Pole Position! Thank you David (my older brother), for getting me the DVD when it came out!



    Now, named after the Namco arcade racing game, Pole Position is an animated television series all about a family of three siblings called the Darretts, who, after their parents disappear in an unexplained explosion during a stunt race, run a stunt-driving show as well as work for a secret government run by their uncle Zachary Darrett. With their sentient automobiles Roadie and Wheels, and their squeaky pet Kuma, teenagers Dan and Tess, and their younger sister Daisy, travel all over the United States of America catching bad guys and solving mysteries about ancient artifacts.



    Now, the show was pretty much cool whenever the Darretts chased after the bad guys in their cars. Unfortunately, there wasn't that much of a plot, the formula for all the Pole Position season one episodes just went basically like this:



    1.The Darrett siblings drive their truck and/or do a stunt show.

    2.Dr. Zachary radios in and briefs the Darrett siblings about their mission to either protect an ancient artifact or an important person, whether it be a human or an animal, from a random bad guy.

    3.Kuma shows off some of his special acrobatic tricks, as Daisy looks on.

    4.The Darrett siblings investigate the scene of the crime.

    5.Daisy and/or Kuma get kidnapped by the bad guy, then get later rescued.

    6.Dan goes out of his way to be a hero, almost killing himself in the process, only to be saved by either Roadie or Tess.

    7.The Darrett siblings, riding Roadie and Wheels, chase after and catch the bad guy in a high-speed chase.

    8.Uncle Zach explains the whole story behind the artifact/person, solving the mystery.

    9.Kuma does something stupid, causing the Darrett siblings to laugh.

    10.Repeat next episode.



    See what I mean? Now, according to co-story editor Michael Reaves, the original plot for Pole Position was to have the Darrett siblings travel around the world, looking for clues about their parents' past as spies. But however, the deal fell through somehow. Now, considering how the show has a thing for surprise twists (such as finding out in "Shadow of a Trout" that Dr. Zachary is wheelchair-bound), it's possible that the Darrett parents are still alive!



    And now, my final thoughts:



    DiC Entertainment, please make another Pole Position cartoon! You guys are making another Inspector Gadget cartoon, right? That's a good reason to also make new cartoons of C.O.P.S., Pole Position, and M.A.S.K.!



    If DiC ever do make a new Pole Position cartoon, it should involve the Darrett siblings travelling all over the world, looking for clues to finding their parents, and here's the many world cities the Darretts would visit: Paris, Toyko, Moscow, Hong Kong, Astmerdam, Hungary, London, Turkey, and so many more! The new Pole Position cartoon could also involve the Darretts actually fighting bad guys with their fists and feet, just like Speed Racer. Also, here's who the voicecast should be:



    Bumper Robinson as Dan Darrett (just in case David Coburn isn't available)

    Kath Soucie as Tess Darrett (I don't know if Lisa Lindgren is still doing voice-acting)

    Tara Strong as Daisy Darrett (well, Kaleena Kiff is nowaways a director and a mom)

    Jack Angel as Uncle Zachary Darrett (last time I checked, Jack's still doing voice-acting, so he'll probably love to reprise his role)

    David Kaye as Roadie (I know Daryl Hickman is still alive, but he's probably retired by now)

    Kevin Michael Richardson as Wheels (due to Mel Franklin passing away in 1995)

    Frank Welker as Kuma (how can you go wrong with the Man of a Thousand Animal Voices? Besides, Marilyn Schreffler's been dead for 20 years)



    So there you have it, my thoughts on Pole Position. This is Roy Stantz, over and out.moreless
  • 80's saturday mornings

    5.2
    they only made about a dozen episodes of this show. but they replayed them over and over throughout the 80's. it was a pretty cool show the first year. but the same thing over and over, it got old. i do not remember the premise of this show, i just remember the two cars.

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Themes

mind bending moves, siblings, extraordinary situations, characters with hidden agendas, characters with double lives