The “Jumanji” animated series celebrates its’ twentieth anniversary
By Colin Hickson, Staff Writer
Chances are that many viewers have heard of Adelaide Productions, as they gave many 90’s kids
shows based on movies, such as “Men in Black: the Series” and “Godzilla: the Series”. But
before those shows, Adelaide took viewers on a trip to the jungle in “Jumanji”, which aired on
UPN (now the CW) for its’ first two seasons, and in first-run syndication for it’s final season
from 1996 to 1999.
Despite being based on the 1995 movie of the same name, “Jumanji” has very little to do with
either the film or the original storybook, instead opting to tell its’ own story. As the series opens, siblings Judy (Debi Drewberry, more known as the voice of the eponymous main character on “the Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius”) and Peter Shepard (Ashley Johnson, aka the voice of Gretchen “Recess”) have just moved to the town of Brantford with their Aunt Nora (Melanie Chartoff, Didi Pickles “Rugrats”), and, naturally, are not enjoying the change. But
while in the attic of their new house, the two stumble across an old board game called “Jumanji”,
and decide to play the game. But with a roll of the dice, Judy and Peter are transported to a
bizarre jungle. It is here they meet Alan (Bill Fagerbakke who voices the character Patrick Star),
a player who has been trapped in the game since he was ten, as he never saw his clue. After a
rather hectic first encounter with the game, the kids decide to keep playing until they can free
Alan from the hellish world of Jumanji. And fortunately, they live up to their word in the series
finale, freeing Alan once and for all, and deciding to destroy the game.
From the first episode, viewers can tell that “Jumanj” is more of an in-name-only take on the
film, but that actually works in the show’s favor, as it gives the show its’ own identity. Plus, the
show did what neither the book nor the film did, by taking viewers the actual world of Jumanji.
And “hellish” is the most appropriate description for Jumanji, as this place makes Australia look
like Disneyworld in comparison! In addition to trying to solve the game’s clues, the main
characters must also contend with more aggressive versions of animals, despicable villains like
the sociopathic hunter Van Pelt (Sherman Howard) and other threats. It is also shown that the
game has sentience, and, like in the movie, can invade the real world. As opposed to the book or
the movie, the series has a much darker tone, which is helped the character designs provided by
animator Everett Peck.
If the show does have a flaw, it is that its’ darker tone and more horror based tone could turn
viewers off. But for others, it can be seen as a decent take on a movie that forged its’ own
identity. The series is currently available on Hulu and iTunes, so if you wish to relive the
adventure, check it out…if you are game.