There’s no better gift than expired copyright law. It’s the reason why we have so many Cthulian Sherlock Holmes stories. It’s how we got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and the arguably superior Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. It’s also how Bram Stoker’s Dracula ended up being a character in the Pac-Man universe.
Now, Dracula is fairly well-travelled in pop culture. He’s received major film adaptations and TV shows. He’s even made an appearance in Scooby-Doo. (But then again, everyone has.) What you might not be aware of is he also has a very special place in Pac-Man canon. So important he nearly starred in his own spin-off arcade machine.
The story of Pac-Man‘s Dracula, known as Count Pacula, began at renowned animation company Hanna-Barbera.
In the mid-1980s, HB snapped up the rights to the Pac-Man brand and ran it through the ‘Scooby-Doo‘ TV generator. What came out the other end was a light-hearted mystery show where Pac-Man investigated threats to Pac-Land and eliminated the ghosts wandering his village.
By the show’s fourth episode, Count Pacula had landed on the scene.
He was a spherical, mutant Pac-Person created specifically to terrorise Pac-Man and replace his ordinary (and incompetent) ghost foes. Like Dracula, he had the ability to turn into a bat and was allergic to sunlight. He ended up being chomped by Pac-Man and turning back into a real bat — but the Count’s story didn’t end there.
Around 1982, publishers Midway were looking for its next big hit. This took the form of the proposed and quickly-cancelled Count Pacula arcade machine. While the game’s exact origins are unconfirmed, the timing aligns with the airing of HB’s Pac-Man series. So it’s likely the main character of the game was directly inspired by the Pacula episode.
In this version of the classic arcade game, players controlled Pacula as he was hunted down by the steak-wielding Pac-Man family. He’d be able to consume Power Pellets, giving him the ability to defeat the family in the same vein as the original Pac-Man.
Despite the game never coming to fruition, the proposal documents have been discovered and are now held at the U.S. National Museum of Play. A listing for the documents indicates they won’t be available for research until 2048, but their existence is confirmed and safe.
Thankfully for all those Dracula/Pac-Man fans out there, this wasn’t the last appearance for Count Pacula.
In 2013, the round Count again appeared in Pac-Man media, making a cameo in the 2013 animated TV show Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.
Pacula was transformed into of a hook-nosed egg, but he retained the same characteristics as earlier counterparts. This episode is an important piece of Pac-Man history because it finally restored the legacy of the Pacula character, who hadn’t been seen for decades.
While the hopes of a Count Pacula spin-off seems long dead, the character will live on in our fond memories. Nobody should ever forget Count Pacula.
Public domain can often be a prickly subject when it comes to media preservation and retaining the rights of content creators but in the case of Pacula, we can all give thanks. Without the expiration of Bram Stoker’s copyright claim, we would never have known this legend.
If you’re on the lookout for more obscure trivia or Pacula factoids, stay tuned to Kotaku Australia. There’s plenty more in store.