Pogs. You know what I’m talking about if you grew up in the nineties. I can’t believe someone made thousands of kids in America fiend over small circular cardboard discs with generic images on them, but lo and behold for a three year period in the nineties, pogs were all the rage. Not even the rage, they were massive. Every kid I knew had them, everyone had piles of them and gloated about their images. I had classmates who’d go around stealing them from other kids bags. Some of my friends had books of pogs in plastic displays or in plastic tubes.
One store in my neighborhood, in the Bronx, had an entire shelf devoted to pogs, pog slammers, and specialty cases for pog collectors. I still remember they were put behind a glass casing almost like they were diamond rings and priceless watches. I also remember people loving the goofy pogs like the OJ Simpson behind bars. Kids especially loved the pogs with the flaming skulls. Flaming skulls are always cool. That’s just a rule of the universe.
Pogs were everywhere, and my brother and I were always trying to worm money from our parents just to feed out pog habit. “Just one more, man! Just one more, I promise!” Of course, whenever a trend hits the country, there is always someone there to market on that trend and saturate as much profits from it as humanly possible.
On November 25th of 1994, NBC in America aired an entire morning of animated shows for kids. Some of them were holiday specials for established series and others were basically pilots for shows that may have blossomed into their own series if successful. I fondly remember watching the entire morning’s worth of animated shows and loving every single second of it.
One show among the line up was Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers, a show that somehow found the ability to take pogs and turn it in to its very own concept for an animated series! I suspect the notion of taking cardboard discs and turning them in to a multimedia empire made executives at DiC salivate.
Twenty years later Legend of the Hawaiian Slammers is nothing but a passing joke for animation fans who recall how terrible it was. Back then I thought the notion of superheroes derived from pogs was brilliant, but watching it now it’s not at all surprising why it only lasted one episode that barely anyone remembers at all. Some people deny it ever existed. It doesn’t help either that information on the program is scarce. There’s no information on who wrote, directed, or animated the show, who voiced the characters, and most folks that have written about the series have found it incredibly difficult to find information on the production.
Somewhat reminiscent of Pokemon, the rare “ancient slammers” in the animated special contain magical beings within them that go to battle upon the command of the bearers. Anyone who possesses the slammer has to make it spin and revolve around them to which the spirit is manifested. Some of the ancient slammers contain beings of light, while others contain beings of darkness.
Anyone who owns them all can… I don’t know make them fight for cash, or take over the world, who knows? Announcing you are going to rule the world with ancient pogs would render anyone with bouts of laughter, but lo and behold, that’s the basic premise. As the oh so creative theme song explains “Slammers of Darkness! Slammers of Light! When they come together they fight! Fight! Fight!” Why? The show only lasted one episode, darned if anyone knows, for sure.
Of course, our hero is a young blond boy named Ronnie who loves the game of pogs and accidentally discovers an ancient pog one day. Meanwhile our villain is an old Irish man dressed in all green named Dr. Karl Von Fragman who enters in to the volcano in Hawaii to claim the dark slammer and figures out how to summon its dark creature. The heroes and villains for the most part are about as generic as the images you’d find on a pog.
It feels as if someone took a hand full of pogs, dropped them on a table and asked writers to make something out of their images, no matter how unusual without infringing on copyrights, and they obliged two-fold. Fragman’s minions are Shadow Slammer, a reaper who controls the dark, a lava monster, a living storm woman, a lead golem thing, and a fire controlling man (who seems redundant when you consider our hero, Sun, can control fire).
Speaking of Sun, our hero, he’s a stock sun man with a flowing head of blond hair. There are other heroes as well each based around Rain, Earth, Gold and Ice. Again, all heroes generic enough to dodge claims of plagiarism. There’s never a real explanation as to why the entities in the pogs fought for a hundred years, and now need to be commanded to fight. And there’s no reason what Fragman plans when he has the dark slammers, or what the goals of slammers are at all. But then this is show where the hero persuades a little boy to climb in to the heart of an active volcano to do battle with a dangerous old man and his monsters.
Ultimately, I think DiC was going to aim for more opportunities with action figures, comics, and variants on pogs. I also imagine the action figures would have come with their own collectible pogs, but shortly after airing in 1994, the special faded away and was never aired again. The special is noted mostly for its really bad animation and incredibly bland characters, and it hasn’t aged well at all. It’s also indicative of the quality that the show is based in Hawaii and there isn’t a single Hawaiian in the cast. Fragman looks like a leprechaun, and Donnie has zero personality. I’m also not sure where he lives or where his parents are the whole time, but with twenty two minutes to tell a story, there’s only so much information you can relay.
You can still catch Legend of The Hawaiian Slammers in all its twenty two minute glory online, or, if you’re really anxious to check it out, the actual near mint VHS copies are available on Ebay and Amazon for bargain basement prices.
Until then the show lives on the internet as a painful animated attempt to make wads of cash off of the most baffling fad of the nineties. It just wasn’t meant to be. I mean, an animated series based around marketing cardboard merchandise with images on them would never take off. Right? Oh. Right. Dang.