In the early ’90s, Rare created a series of games featuring the Battletoads, a trio of anthropomorphic toads who would take out various villains, including the wicked Dark Queen, in their quest for justice. The games remain popular today, with the NES version of the first game being particularly well-known for its often brutal difficulty level, but the toads have not seen any action for sixteen years. During their relatively brief life, however, they would become the stars of an animated special created by DIC and aired during Thanksgiving weekend in 1992. The special was actually a pilot for an animated series featuring the Battletoads, but it ended up being the only episode ever made. Today, I shall tell you more about the toads’ very short career as cartoon characters.
In the special, the toads actually began as human characters-Morgan, Dave, and George-who are all junior high students and who are well-known for being losers. What they do not realize is that they are destined to become the saviors of their world, all thanks to the wise Professor T. Bird, who just so happens to arrive on Earth along with the beautiful Princess Angelica. They were in possession of a magical amulet and were being pursued by the Dark Queen, who wanted it for her own wicked purposes. Hoping that the boys, foolish as they were, would help out, the professor uses a magic potion to change them into the Battletoads. Now known as Rash, Zit, and Pimple, the boys could change from human to toad and back again.
In their new form, the Battletoads could now easily take out any of the Dark Queen’s minions, while the princess was being introduced to life on Earth by-of all things-getting a job at a donut shop and the professor was attempting to fix the boys’ car. However, the bad guys attempt to get the last laugh by eliminating the teleporter used to bring the toads’ new friends to their world, while the Dark Queen manages to abduct the princess. Luckily, the professor not only manages to fix the car, but also modify it so that it could blast off into outer space, enabling the toads to seek out the wicked queen. They manage to reach her hideout, save the princess, and, realizing that the queen is a powerful being, take out her generator and destroy her tower.
Not willing to give up so easily, the queen returns to Earth and threatens to use her spaceship to destroy the toads’ favorite mall. This plan, too, is a failure, as the trio manages to put a stop to it, and any other plans the queen might have had, at least for the time being. In an interesting move, they also reveal to their principal, who knew the boys to be losers, the secret that they can change into toads, whereas most other superheroes tend to keep their identities a secret from most people. With the queen defeated, the toads can celebrate their victory. The special ends with the words “The beginning…” at the bottom of the screen, but since no other episodes were made, we will never know what awaited the toads in their further adventures.
The cartoon was intended to lead to an animated series, and Gamepro magazine advertised it as such, but for whatever reason, DIC did not make any additional episodes. It is unknown if the show would have ended up on a major network or in syndication. The special did eventually turn up on home video and it can also be seen on YouTube, but it has not appeared on DVD. An interesting note is that the pilot was written by a man named David Wise, who is not the same man who composed the music for a number of Rare games, including Battletoads, until his departure in 2009. It is merely a coincidence that the two men just happen to share the same name. As for the Battletoads themselves, they starred in a few more games before Rare decided to stop making them, focusing on other original series such as Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark as well as a number of Donkey Kong games.
It is unfortunate that the Battletoads cartoon did not go beyond the pilot episode, because it could have been a decent video game-based animated series. DIC had previously made some neat cartoons starring Super Mario, and would soon do the same for Sonic the Hedgehog, so why weren’t the toads lucky enough to have an animated series for even one season? There was plenty of action, corny but enjoyable dialog, and the promise of new adventures awaiting our amphibious heroes. While not quite as good as the Mario or Sonic cartoons, it was interesting in its own right, and its potential was unjustly wasted. I would have liked to see what an actual animated series would have been like, even if it ended up lasting only a year or two. It will likely never happen, though, given that DIC has now merged with Cookie Jar Entertainment and Rare has yet to bring back the Battletoads in either a new game or at least an Xbox Live Arcade release of any of their classic games.
Battletoads is somewhat forgotten in that only one episode was made, it only aired once (as far as I know), and people tend to talk more about the games than the cartoon. It is a decent cartoon, with some potential that was wasted when the cartoon failed to go beyond the pilot. People who wish to see the pilot for themselves and decide whether or not their should have been a full-fledged animated Battletoads series can look it up online or track down the VHS tape, which has been out of print for years, but still shows up on e-bay occasionally. The toads had plenty of potential to be animated stars as well as video game stars. It is a shame that they were cartoon heroes for an all-too-brief period of time.