Hey! Y’all remember Viva Pinata?
For those who don’t, Viva Pinata was a 2006 life simulation game developed by Rare and published by Microsoft Game Studios for the Xbox 360. The game inspired a Saturday morning TV series of the same name, which was produced by an American company, 4Kids Productions and Bardel Entertainment, a children’s animation company in Canada. Since today we’ll be looking at both the game and the cartoon show, this article is a hybrid: part Videots, part Cartoon Couch.
Here’s the show/game intro:
Viva Pinata the video game revolves around the player tending to a neglected garden in Piñata Island, in which different variations of piñatas must be bred whilst fending off disruptive interlopers. The player uses gardening tools, such as shovels and watering cans, to plough their garden, sow seeds, create ponds, and sculpt the garden to their liking. When certain requirements are fulfilled, the garden will attract a black-and-white outline of a given piñata species. After fulfilling additional requirements, the piñata will become a resident, changing into a full-color version. Once two piñatas of the same species are residents and their mating requirements are met, they can perform a “romance” dance. If the player successfully completes a maze minigame, the romance results in a baby piñata egg, which is delivered by a stork. The piñatas are not gendered, and hence any two piñatas of the same species can mate.
All of the various pinata species names are a portmanteau of some animal species and a type of confectionery/dessert. They were:
The game’s antagonists include the “Ruffians” led by Professor Pester and “sour piñatas” who occasionally enter the player’s garden with the sole intent of wreaking havoc: eating seeds, dropping poisonous piñata candies, and destroying objects. The player may tame sour piñatas by constructing fences around them. Weeds may occasionally sprout in the player’s garden and will quickly spread to destroy vegetable rows if the player does not kill them in time.
The game also boasted a unique cast of characters:
- Seedos: Originally named Sidos, he is the youngest child of Jardinero. Even when he was small, he had a natural knack for raising Pinata, displayed by his sucess in raising a family of Shellybeans. After Lester lured Stardos into the jungle, Ruffians swarmed on Jardinero’s garden, destroyed it and stole the Pinata. Sidos ran and hid in the swamp with his Shellybeans. Until Jardinero returned, Sidos lived there with the Shellybeans and the time greatly changed him. From then on, he loved seeds (as all Shellybeans do) and changed his name to Seedos. He wanders your garden and gives you seeds when you talk to him. He is the only one you can get brand new seeds from when you cannot buy them at Costolots.
- Leafos: Jardinero’s oldest daughter and second child; she proclaims herself the ‘brains of the family’ and is the creator of the Journal. When the Ruffians attacked, she hid in the house. She occasionally gives advice and gossip, both true and false, when spoken to.
- Dastardos: A witch doctor who lives in the gnarled tree on the outskirts of Jardinaro’s garden. It is heavily implied that he is Stardos, since he was first noticed sometime after Stardos went missing and Jardinaro comments that “he reminds [him] of someone he used to know”. Whenever a Pinata gets sick and Doc Patch does not arrive soon enough, Dastardos will float out of his tree and destroy the Pinata.
- Willy Builder: Builds pinata home so the pinatas can romance. He also can build any other building. He is married to Lottie.
- Costolot’s: The store run by Lottie. Most items can be found in this store. She is married to Willy Builder.
- Gretchum Fetchum: A Pinata hunter. She finds Pinata’s for people who pay her.
- Doc Patchingo: A recent graduated doctor that comes to the rescue when pinatas are sick. He is always nervous when you talk to him.
- Ms. Petula: She sells some pinatas and clothing for pinata. She claims that her parents are the real owners and she is there while they are out. She has a fishbowl with a living golden fish on her head.
- Bart: He is a “Tuner-upper”, and, for a price, he will modify your things to some better by three ranks bronze (the cheapest and with less probabilities to have success), silver (the middle point) and gold (the most expessinve and with better results than the other two).
- Arthur: He is the owner of Arthur’s Inn where he hires helpers to help you.
- Ivor: He is an apparent begger and owner of Ivor Bargain once you give him 1000-2000 chocolate coins.
- Jardinero: He is the elderly father of Dastardos, Leafos, Storkos and Seedos and former owner of the garden. He moves around on a motorized wheel chair.
- Mother: Jardinero’s seafaring wife. Went off to sea in search of how to obtain a rare Dragonache.
- Storkos: She is the third child of Jardinaro. She brings eggs, from Egg Mountain, to pinatas that have romanced.
- Frannie: She is the lovely and sweet postmistress of Piñata Island that sends all packages to xbox live. According Leafos, she opens love letters with steam for a novel that she is writing.
- Professor Pester: He is the main villian in the game. He kidnapped Stardos when he was younger and transformed him into Dastardos. He is the leader of the ruffians, and the former assistant of Jardinaro (Pester was then called Lester). He is the man who destroyed the garden.
Viva Pinata the TV series originally aired on 4KidsTV from August 26, 2006 to January 18, 2009. 4Kids TV and The CW4Kids in the United States stopped airing the show on August 2, 2008 and October 25, 2008 respectively, but it continued to air in Canada on YTV until June 24, 2011. The TV series had a somewhat different premise from the game, and featured Looney Tunes-style slapsticky situations and gags. Not all of the jokes landed, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for zany, and since Viva Pinata was one of the few comedy cartoons on a lineup that was dominated by action shows, I could give it a pass.
TV Synopsis: In a garden on Piñata Island, a multitude of happy, colorful Piñata species live, frolic, dance, and grow. The goal of the piñatas is to fill themselves with candy, so they can be chosen by Piñata Central to entertain at birthday parties or retirement parties and other special celebrations. The piñatas have their own gardens and love to party. Each species is a portmanteau of an animal and a sweet type of food.
It is here in the garden, among the burrowing Profitamole, the bovine Moozipan and the tree-swinging Cinnamonkey that we will find a small band of Piñata friends that have known one another since they were children when they first came to the garden.
Being a piñata means something different for piñatas. Some Piñatas can’t wait to reach their maximum candy level so they can leave the Piñata Factory over and over again, bringing joy to children and partygoers all over the world. Others are not happy about the prospect of being shipped off to a strange place where happy children in festive hats hang them from a tree, bludgeon them until their limbs fall off, and devour their innards. Still others physically train for the parties as if they were off to the Olympic Games—hardening their bodies to create a challenge for the children clamoring to get at their candy.
Why is it that Piñata Island is the only place in the world Piñatas can be found? Even the Piñatas don’t really know—but with so much happening in the garden, what with weird new Piñatas arriving all the time, crazed black-market Piñata poachers trying to muscle in on Piñata Central action, mysteries to solve, violent garden pests known as sours to contend with, and constant opportunities to dance—who has time to worry about it?
The only thing upon which these Piñatas can agree is that on Piñata Island, anything can happen.
On the show, the pinatas themselves each boasted distinct names and personalities, and there were no human characters anywhere to be seen on the island.
- Hudson Horstachio: (voiced by Dan Green) A horse piñata with a green teal body like a pistachio, Hudson is one of the most popular piñatas in the business. As a celebrity he sometimes has to disguise himself when in public. His friends often have to keep his ego in check. He enjoys dancing and making extravagant statements about himself.
- Franklin Fizzlybear: (voiced by Marc Thompson) A brown grizzly bear with purple and yellow stripes. He enjoys surfing, and typically speaks with a surfer accent and related expressions. He is fairly laid back and occasionally has moments of intellectualism. He is not good at lying. He also draws portraits of the other pinatas. In the video game, his surfboard is an item that the player can purchase.
- Paulie Pretztail: (voiced by Brian Maillard) A cross between a pretzel and a red-tailed fox, Paulie is a no-nonsense kind of pinata who is easily considered to be “the clever-cloggs” of the main cast (besides Les) and Fergy’s best friend. He shares Fergy’s aversion of being sent to parties, though it seems more of an annoyance to him, rather than Fergy’s idea of thinking of going to a party as frightening, and frequently avoids them. He seems to be good at cooking as shown from the episode ‘ Recipe for Disaster’.
- Fergy Fudgehog: (voiced by David Wills) A cross between fudge and a hedgehog, Fergy loves candy, but fears parties and Paulie’s best friend. He is frequently sought out by Langston to attend parties but always manages to escape his bugcatcher’s net. His catchphrase is “Oh, fudge!”
- Ella Elephanilla: (voiced by Rebecca Soler) A cross between an elephant and vanilla, Ella suffers from short-term memory loss, thus contradicting the saying that an elephant never forgets.
Ella enjoys ballet. Because of her elegant moves, this caused Paulie and Fergy to both get huge, temporary crushes on her. They even asked her to a dance, but she forgot they had both asked her. No evidence has been shown that both Fergy and Paulie still have a crush on her, if they do, they are very subtle about it.
- Les Galagoogoo: (voiced by Eric Stuart) A cross between a Galago and GooGoo, Les is smart and dextrous, however, when he speaks, it comes out as high-pitched gibberish. Les ranked second place in the 4Kids Viva Piñata character poll. It appears that the main cast may be able to understand him, but simply ignore him. In one episode, he was able to speak, but he was ignored as he always had been.
- Tina & Teddington Twingersnap: (voiced by Kathleen Delaney and Jamie McGonnigal) A two-headed serpent crossed with gingersnap. They share a body, but argue a lot. They have both been shown to have sub-par gardening skills. Despite the fact that they appear to hate each other (after all, they are Brother and Sister), in one episode when they are accidentally separated, they end up greatly missing their other half. Teddington is the worst singer on Pinata Island and for some reason has a refined British accent.
- Langston Lickatoad: (voiced by Mike Pollock) A cross between a licorice and a toad, Langston operates the Cannoñata. He regularly tries to catch the stealthy duo Fergy and Paulie in order to send them to parties.
- Professor Pester: (voiced by Michael Alston Baley) The main villain of the series. In all the episodes he appears in, he and his Ruffians try to capture and destroy a piñata, (usually Hudson) if not all of them, to obtain their candy. Note that he does not appear to be a piñata. When he had his personality reversed and happily gobbled up all of Fergy’s candy, he was scanned on the way to the Cannoñata and found to have no candy. Nor do any of his ruffians appear to be piñatas; an episode shows that they were the result of a disastrous Sours experiment. His catchphrase is “I have no regrets”, and he always says it when his plans backfire and he ends up losing. He and the Ruffians are the only non-pinatas from the games to have made it to the show, though to be noted Leafos makes a split second cameo in the theme song right when the announcer states “Welcome to Pinata Island” as the screen is panning over a field..
- Beverly Badgesicle: Hudson’s biggest, very obsessive fan.
- Cecil Cocoadile: Cecil is the only piñata on the island who thinks Chortles’ jokes are funny, causing him to burst into tears laughing. In the piñata world, cocoadile tears make excellent fertilizer, so while laughing and crying at his bad jokes, he is also helping Chortles with his garden.
- Chortles Chippopotamus: (voiced by Sean Schemmel) Chortles has a horrible sense of humor, but fantastic gardening skills. Only Cecil Cocoadile thinks his jokes are funny, and Chortles uses Cecil’s tears to help his garden grow.
- Dr. Quincy Quackberry: A doctor and psychiatrist with a Groucho Marx-like personality. He wears glasses and a tie, and he customarily tells groan-inducngly bad jokes and puns.
- The Great Bonboon (or just “The Bonboon”): A creature who pretends to be an all-knowing guru to steal candy from gullible piñatas like Professor Pester. He is usually meditating, but when no one is present, he talks to his friend Sid Sarsgorilla on the phone in his normal voice. Paulie is the only pinata who sees through his ruse.
- Hamilton Horstachio: (voiced by Sean Schemmel) Hudson’s rival, who later on turns into a zumbug.
- King Roario: (voiced by Dan Green) The King of Pinata Island.
- Mabel Moozipan: She owns a well-kept vegetable garden and despises trespassers. She is friends with Florence Fizzlybear.
- Pecky Pudgeon: (voiced by Eric Stuart) Pecky takes photos for the local newspaper of Piñata Island, the Pinata Yada Yada. He loves gossiping about everyone and will go to great lengths to bring in a juicy scoop for the paper. (He makes a cameo in the game taking a photo of Gretchen when she first appears.)
- Pierre Parrybo: (voiced by Pete Zarustica) Pierre organizes various activities on Piñata Island. He’s also the DJ for a call-in radio show.
- Ruffians: Professor Pester’s bumbling henchmen who usually ruin his plans, since they don’t comprehend orders well. They waddle from side to side in their walk, and they love to prank one another. According to Pester, three are boys and one is a girl.
- Petunia Pretztail: (voiced by Sieko Shih) A kung-fu warrior who is friends with Florence Fizzlybear, Francine Fudgehog, and especially Haily Hostachio, and teaches Fergy and Paulie how to find their own “fu”.
- Prewitt Profitamole: (voiced by Mike MacRae) A brilliant animal who seems to be the only mechanic on the island and he is a wonder at inventing. He also has a love for soaps, and watches them avidly.
- Shirley Shellybean: Shirly is optimistic and always is ready to start a new adventure.
- Simone Cinnamonkey: (voiced by Rebecca Soler) Hudson’s brisk and resourceful agent. She speaks very quickly, rapidly counting off Hudson’s schedule. Sometimes, she seems to want her pay more than Hudson’s fame, but she is occasionally shown to care for him in both stern and encouraging ways.
As with another animated series based on a Rare video game franchise, Donkey Kong Country, I find it kind of odd that the producers opted to not just make the series the game in TV show form; perhaps they felt the premise of raising, keeping and breeding pinatas was too close to Pokemon, who knows? While I didn’t necessarily have a problem with Viva Pinata: The Series, my personal take on the show would have been a mix of both the game and the show; I’d keep Fergy, Paulie, Hudson et al, but I’d also add Leafos and her family and the other locals as well (sort of a Harvest Moon meets Animal Crossing kind of deal, but with a tropical island makeover), allowing me to potentially get chafed by straddling the fence.