The 1997 cartoon Mummies Alive! may not be a show that many of you are aware of — it ran for only one season. What we got was 42 episodes of pure '90s craziness; that exclamation mark is there for good reason. Stop me if you’ve heard this: An evil, immortal Egyptian sorcerer called Scarab is awoken in modern times but he barely misses a beat in resuming his plot to wreak vengeance on the reincarnation of the Pharaoh’s son, Rapses.
Who would protect the small boy? This is where our heroes come in — the four guardians called Nefer-Tina, Rath, Armon and Ja-Kal. Oh yes, and we shouldn’t forget the cat named Kahti (get it, get it?). Of course, all of the guardians are reanimated mummies who have different fighting techniques. Just pure awesomeness.
If it all looks a bit similar to Gargoyles, then you aren’t wrong, because it is the same head writers as the third season of that show. Some leveled the accusation that it was nothing more than a clone of that show, but this DIC Entertainment animated show has a charm of its own.
It was originally created with an older demographic in mind, and it shows; it can get pretty dark and mature at times (even despite the silliness). Nefer-Tina, the female member of the group, had to pretend to be a male in her past life to have the same opportunities as her compatriots, who are actually surprised when they learn her gender.
The protagonist, 12-year-old Presley, also has to try and manage while his father is absent (away on business). His mother struggles to balance work and raising a family. It is a quite realistic depiction of family life and not at all the idealistic vision that had been conjured up by cartoons before it.
Fun isn’t out of the window though. The mummies use a fighting style known as “egyptsu," which is like a blend of akido and snake-style kung fu. Not exactly factually accurate but loads of fun and escapism. A lot of liberties are taken when depicting the various Egyptian gods. For instance: Bastet is depicted as a total jerk (she was benevolent), Sekhmet is a vulture here (she was actually lion-headed) and Anubis and Seth are the biggest of buddies in Mummies Alive!.
What may be the weirdest though is that the mummies walk around in '90s San Francisco with the flimsiest of disguises, without anyone looking at the grey-skinned warriors twice. None of this detracts from the fact that the armor and transformation sequences (definitely some of the best #animation in the show) look really cool and fuse the ancient Egyptian aesthetic with over-the-top theatrics really well.
Despite its many similarities with other shows of its ilk, Mummies Alive! manages to imprint its own brand of style, from the aesthetic to the horribly good jokes and catch phrases (“Let's kick Tut!” anyone?). The show tapped into a love for ancient history for kids watching and was surprisingly popular in some parts of the globe, including parts of south India in the early 2000s. It came to a premature end, but it remains an interesting example of Western #animation.
Were you a fan of Mummies Alive! — who was your favorite mummy?