Hamtaro and Meby Wallis Lindsey, Jun 9th 2002
Hamtaro and Me
On Monday, May 20th, my two daughters and I were fortunate to witness the premier of the Americanized version of Hamtaro at Zion Prep Academy in Seattle, Washington. Zion Prep is a private non-profit elementary school that was founded to provide an academy learning experience for inner-city African American students. My eight year old had seen Hamtaro merchandise and was excited to see the really cute hamster and my thirteen year old was hoping to see the Ham-Ham dance that she had heard so much about.
The girls and I arrived at a quarter to one and duly noted the 8-foot wide screen was set up in the cafeteria. At the other end of the cafeteria was a large sheet cake cut out with the Hamtaro logo and decorated as such. The Producer from the Cartoon Network and his Public Relations group were hard at work interviewing and filming the proceedings. The press included two film crews and 3 separate photographers. The air was very charged and the Hamtaro contingency was very psyched. My girls and I hung out in the back of the cafeteria as the kids were brought in by classroom and sat on the floor in front of the screen. The kids were very excited and it took some time for the kindergarten through third grade to arrive.
The Principal of Zion Prep introduced the producer of the American series of Hamtaro, John Easum. Eastly introduced Hamtaro as the number one kids' show in Japan and bigger than Pokémon. He plugged the show-with the times of the program (twice a day, starting on June 3rd on the Cartoon Network) and he also hinted to watch out this Christmas for something very special from Nintendo for the Gameboy.
The show started and gosh, golly, gee whiz, the hamster is cute with very big eyes and a not-very-annoying-dub-voice. The episode dealt with Hamtaro's owner, Laura, getting cast in a concert (really a play) called Cinderella. The crisis is that Laura has left one of her glass slippers for the play at home and Hamtaro and the Ham-Hams (his fellow hamster-but not-as-cute-as-Hamtaro friends) must go on a perilous journey to get the slipper to Laura's play to save her from acute embarrassment. The young audience, mostly the third graders, did get bored at moments. This was noted by the producers and film crew. My eight-year old enjoyed it, but was not wild about the show. The thirteen year old thought the hamster was cute and funny, but not something she would watch on a regular basis. All three of us did enjoy the Ham-Ham Dance that is danced by a chibi Hamtaro as the closing song/ending credits are played. It is a cute show, not too annoying, and has 98% more plot then Pokémon. I put it in the TV baby sitter category; it is better than the average TV offerings for the K-3 age group. The show will no doubt attain Mom approval as it works on familiar themes of sharing and working together as a team to attain a goal. It will probably be very successful.
After the show ended, a check was presented to the school for $5,000.00 in partnership with the Community in Schools program. The check was signed by Shopro, Hasbro, Viz, Nintendo and the Cartoon Network.
The Hamtaro mascot rolled out. The kids went wild; immediately surrounding and touching this thing. The camera guys went wild too, stepping into the kids to get film and photos. The Hamtaro contingency smiled and slapped each other on the back. Hamtaro then rolled up to the cake, where selected students were photographed with Hamtaro and the cake. The kids were then sent back to their classrooms. The cake was then cut up and brought to their rooms. After the kids left, there were more pictures of Hamtaro and the cake, and more interviews. I was able to get permission to take a couple of photos. Please take a look at www.angelfire.com/wa3/ham_kun.
I did corner the producer, thanking him and telling him how much we enjoyed the show. I introduced my daughters and they also thanked him. I asked him if he could do the hamham dance and he said almost, but he was too embarrassed to do it in front of everyone. At this point, his personal film crew came up and started filming our conversation. How did we know about Hamtaro? he asked. I told him that my girls were very much into anime and that we had heard about it through the news sites (aka Anime News Network) and that we appreciated that he had kept the original intent of the show and not re-done the plot as had been done with Cardcaptors. This was the only school CN was going to visit other then some after school promotions. As our conversation continued, it became very obvious that this tour was to hype the show big time to help create an audience.
So there it is another one of my brushes with greatness. As we were leaving, we saw the actress climb out of the Hamtaro mascot costume. She sat inside on her fanny with her knees to her chest. The back of the costume is on little rollers. Her feet and hands were gloved and she had to take teeny steps in order to walk. Even though she had been in the costume for only 30 minutes, the poor actress was covered in sweat and was very grateful to get out of it. Looking at her reminded me of the days when I, as an actress, worked as a dancing carrot. Oh the memories...