Cult Cartoon Essentials

Cult Cartoon Essentials: Pole Position

“From now on, like your parents were, you are the secret force of Pole Position”

Pole Position was a Saturday-morning animated action/mystery series loosely based on a popular 1980s race car video game. It was produced by DIC Entertainment and premiered on CBS in the fall of 1984 and ran for 13 episodes, which were rebroadcast until the end of August 1985. The name Pole Position was used under license from Namco, who held the rights to the name due to the video game Pole Position. The show sought to capitalize on the popularity of the video game. However, there is very little in common between the game and the show.

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Pole Position followed the adventures of three children, teenagers Dan and Tess Darrett and their younger sister Daisy, who worked for a secret crime fighting organization called Pole Position, run by their uncle, Dr. Zachary Darrett. Their parents were the original Pole Position team, Tess and Dan inherited the role after their parents died in a accident. 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.

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CAST

Dan Darrett (Voiced by David Coburn): 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 (Voiced by Lisa Lindgren): Tess is Dan’s slightly younger sister, but is definitely the more mature and level-headed 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 (Voiced by Kaleena Kiff): 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 (Voiced by Darryl Hickman): 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 (Voiced by Mel Franklin): 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 crime fighting work. Mel Franklin was a member of the Temptations, he passed away in 1995.

Kuma (Voiced by Marilyn Schreffler): 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 (Voiced by Jack Angel: Dr. Zachary is the wheel chair bound head of Pole Position, he gives the kids their missions, and serves as a source of information, though he rarely tells them the full story until it’s over.

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EPISODES

Episode Title Aired Summary
1 The Code 15 September 1984 A spy steals the control codes to Roadie and Wheels in an attempt to get his hands on the high-tech cars.
2 The Canine Vanishes 22 September 1984 The team goes to the Florida Everglades looking for Pandora, a lost dog that is carrying an important vaccine. They must find the dog before enemy agents gets their hands on her.
3 The Chicken Who Knew Too Much 29 September 1984 The team protects a chicken, given to them as a gift from an archaeologist. But when a bad guy shows up to abduct the fowl, the team must figure out the bird’s link to finding a hidden treasure.
4 Strangers on the Ice 9 October 1984 The team is assigned to deliver satellite equipment to a mountain research station but the equipment is stolen, and a snow storm thwarts the kids’ attempts at getting it back.
5 The Race 13 October 1984 The team enters a race suspected to be used to smuggle a computer chip out of the country.
6 The Thirty-Nine Stripes 20 October 1984 The team is assigned to protect museum paintings that are being mysteriously vandalized; the cut pieces secretly contain a diagram for an advanced computer chip.
7 The Thirty-One Cent Mystery 27 October 1984 Kuma uncovers a plot to steal an Indian totem hidden somewhere at Mount Rushmore. He tries to warn the others with a quarter, nickel, and a penny (31 cents) all of which have the same presidents as the monument; Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.
8 Dial M for Magic 3 November 1984 The team gets stuck in a weird town controlled by a strange illusionist.
9 The Bear Affair 10 November 1984 The team searches for an abducted engineer who designed Roadie and Wheels. The only clues to finding him lie in a talking teddy bear.
10 To Clutch a Thief 17 November 1984 Tess is made carnival queen during a hometown festival, but an amulet she wears gets stolen. Clues lead to a jealous woman angry that she wasn’t chosen as queen.
11 The Secret 24 November 1984 The team is stranded in an unfriendly town and harassed by the local sheriff. The unwelcoming treatment leads the team to suspect criminal activity at the town’s gold mine and that the sheriff may be involved.
12 Shadow of a Trout 1 December 1984 Uncle Zach is missing, and the kids find out they are suspects in his disappearance.
13 The Trouble with Kuma 8 December 1984 The kids go to an island threatened by a tsunami to rescue Dr. Lungo (Kuma’s creator). They find that Lungo’s shady assistants are trying to kill him and steal his genetic research.

 

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