This is Devildriver1313 bringing you another installment of “Cheesy Cartoons!! Love ‘em or hate ‘em but we still watched ‘em!!” And I have got to work on that title. Oh well. Few creatures of the night have captured our imagination like vampires. What is it that fuels our deep fascination with vampires? Is it the overwhelming power, lust and control? What hidden parts of our psyche are aroused and captivated by the legends of the undead? Who doesn’t like vampires, right? As long they are cool. In the 90s, vampires were awesome thanks to movies such as “Lost Boys”, “Interview with the Vampire” and “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” before they were tarnished by the tween hit “Twilight”. But before Bella moped about her feelings towards the glowing pretty boy vamp Edward, there was another show that took the vampire myth where it shouldn’t have gone.
Van-Pires was a CG animated series about a group of teens who fought against a dark horde. As the title suggests, the show takes the vampire mythos and crosses it with the Philadelphia Car Show and adds a touch of Power Rangers. Four high school students spent their time hanging out in a junkyard with a burned out hippy when one night a meteor crashed into the yard. The resulting crash fused them with various vehicles, turning them into the Motor-Vators. At the same time, the meteor’s radiation brings cars and trucks to life turning them into creatures of the night that thirst for gasoline. These are the Van-Pires. Yeah sounds cool, right? In idea, yes. In execution… That leaves something to be desired.
CHEESE FACTOR!! The vampire theme runs throughout the series. Nocturnal vehicles that feed on the gas of other vehicles. A group of hunters who lead the fight against them. However, this motif runs dry quick. The Van-Pires are led by Tracula, a variation of Dracula. He is a purple truck who resembles the Count depicted in the 1992 film portrayed by Gary Oldman. One of minions is called Cardaver. Yeah, big surprise. He is a hunchback hatchback with a passion for the macabre. Okay, he’s a vehicular version of Igor. The Van-Pires can turn other vehicle into more automotive automations of darkness just like actual vampires and they are vulnerable to sunlight. Wait, they’re cars. How the heck can they be weak against sunlight? It’s weird and about to get weirder. The good guys, the Motor-Vators, ripped of the Power Rangers terribly. And Voltron. Like aforementioned shows, the group consists of mostly males save for one girl (the Rangers had two). The Motor-Vators, consisting of Axle, Snap, Nuke and Rev, jump into their vehicles or Carfins (see, it does get weirder) to become their automotive robot forms using the command words “Mission Ignition!” Weirder still is that the Motor-Vators have the same weaknesses as the Van-Pires. The need gasoline to sustain themselves and are also weak against sunlight. I know the intent was to even the playing field but really. But the oddest thing is that their “mentor” is named Van He’llsing. And the vampire references have been down with that. He’s a hippy. He plays guitar and uses outdated lingo such as “far out” and “right on, man”. And the one-liners were so lame. The Motor-Vators had a terrible habit of making ear-numbing puns that were supposed to be wise-cracks. Phrases such as “Let’s kick asphalt!” and “Time to get motorvated!” (dear god, smh) got tired quick. It’s a car themed vampire series, we get it.
WHY WE WATCHED?! Van-Pires was a cool idea at the time. But, as mentioned before, the jokes and references were overkill by the middle of the series. So this eventually ended up being a time filler series. We watched it just to kill time. And like so many other short-lived series, this faded into the void of television history.
Despite all the raunchy Romano goodness, the series was rated #1 in its time slot during several broadcasts in various United States and International markets. Van-Pires was the first children’s CGI-animated television series to be produced using the 3D modeling and animation software 3D Studio MAX (aka 3ds max, Autodesk). It was only the third CGI-animated television series of its kind to use 3D animation in every episode, and ultimately received a Sci-Fi Award. Van-Pires lasted just thirteen episodes, however. But those episodes were hard driven, action packed, cheesy goodness that will continue to linger in our minds like bad limburger.
Because hardly anyone remembers it.
Here’s how it all started!