Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors is a French/North American animated TV show which first aired on September 16, 1985. It was produced by DiC Entertainment (originally distributed for syndication by SFM Entertainment), and animated by an uncredited Japanese studio. The show, which spawned 65 30-minute episodes, was created to support Mattel's toy line (which was called simply, "Wheeled Warriors"). The show features an ongoing plot, however like many shows made at the time, it does not have a series finale, and thus the plot was left unresolved.
The show featured two dueling forces. The "good guys" are humans, called the Lightning League. They drove white and silver vehicles with assorted weaponry, and are led by Jayce. The "bad guys" are organic green vegetable-based creatures called the Monster Minds, who tend to take the shape of black and green vehicles. They travel via large green organic vines which can grow in and across interstellar space, that sprout seeds that rapidly grow into further Monster Minds. They are led by Saw Boss.
The opening titles features the phrase:
Thundering across the stars to save the universe from the Monster Minds. Jayce searches for his father to unite the Magic Root and lead his Lightning League to victory over the changing form of Saw Boss. Wheeled Warriors explode into battle - Lightning Strikes!
Most of the episodes were written by French writers Jean Chalopin and Haskell Barkin. The series producer was J. Michael Straczynski, (also notably one of the staff writers for Filmation's He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and would be the creator of and head writer for the TV series Babylon 5 more than half a decade later), and features a theme song written by Haim Saban with an all orchestral music score composed by Shuki Levy (as the two have done for many of DIC's productions).
In the United Kingdom, it was screened on Sunday mornings, on Channel 4 and also on Sky Channel. In France, a French language version of the show titled Jayce et les Conquérants de la Lumière (lit. "Jayce and the Warriors of Light") was broadcast on Les P'tits Loups, a children's show on TF1, beginning on 9 September 1985. It premiered in U.S. first-run syndication seven days later; nearly a decade later it was rerun on USA's "Cartoon Express" block.
Unlike He-Man, no backstory was given with the toys for the Lightning League and the Monster Minds doing battle, and so distinct characters were created by DIC and Straczynski to allow for a structured story (seen below).
The plot concerns Jayce, son of Audric, and his quest to rejoin him. The backstory is that Audric was a botanist who did several experiments with biotechnology, one of which blossomed and became a young humanoid girl named Flora. Audric had also created a miracle crop that could thrive in any environment and was intended to end galactic hunger. However, a burst of radiation generated by a sudden solar flare mutated his plant into an evil, sentient being, and changed other plants around Audric's laboratory into similar creatures, who collectively became known as the Monster Minds, and refer to their leader (the first mutant creature) as Saw Boss. Audric manages to create a magical root that can destroy the Monster Minds, but is forced to flee before he can complete the task, after which the Monster Minds turn Audric's laboratory into their headquarters (which can teleport to other places by means of a mysterious power source known as the "the power of the black light"). Audric keeps half of the root himself and gives the other half to his servant, Oon, whom he sends to serve Jayce. Thus, Jayce and his Lightning League friends are constantly on a quest to find Audric and combine the halves of the root.
Due to less than successful toy sales, Jayce's 65 episode run was not followed up, and it ended unresolved. However, according to Straczynski, a movie had also been commissioned along with the series, following in the footsteps of other toy based animated series such as Transformers and GI Joe; if the series had proven successful in toy sales, production would have began. Straczynski wrote the script, but due to the failure of the toyline, preparation for the movie was shelved.
Had the movie been filmed, it would have provided a sense of closure on Jayce, with his Lightning League meeting with the original Lightning League and being trained on the home world of the Guardians. He would be reunited with his father Audric, but according to Straczynski, Audric would have been killed by Saw Boss as the Monster Minds began a final assault on the galaxy, and in a final battle, Jayce would unite the root and kill Saw Boss, ending the Monster Mind threat forever.
List of characters
- Jayce - Leader of the Lightning League. He possessed half of the magic root, as well as the Ring of Light, a constant deus ex machina to the League's adventures.
- Audric - Jayce's father, and original master of Oon, he created the magic root and possessed half of it. He also accidentally created the Monster Minds and also co-created Flora and the early Lightning League vehicles.
- Gillian - A wizardly mentor to Jayce, co-creator of Flora and the early Lightning League vehicles. He later created additional Lightning League vehicles. He is both a wizard and a scientist, and is implied to be centuries old.
- Flora - A young girl created from a flower. She has telepathic powers, can sense Monster Minds and can communicate empathically with animals.
- Oon - A small Eternal Squire (magically animated suit of armor servant). Outwardly cowardly, Oon is nonetheless devoted to serving his master, Jayce.
- Herc Stormsailor ("Stormsailer" in some storybooks) - A mercenary in the vein of Han Solo who pilots the space barge Pride of the Skies II. He constantly hopes for the day he can finally get paid for transporting the Lightning League through galaxy; Gillian had tricked him into taking them by giving him gold colored lead bars. In the episode "Affair of Honor", it is revealed that he used to be an intergalactic commando.
- Brock - Flora's companion flying fish mount, which "speaks" in chirps and whistles.
- Zoggies - Flora's three pets, block-like techno-organic reptiles that sported lasers.
- Jal Gorda - An anthropomorphic alien spy who acts as a recurring guest character throughout the series.
- Saw Boss - The overlord of the Monster Minds, he can transform into an oversized version of the Saw Troopers, which is noticeably missing the prominent "stripes" seen on the Troopers.
- Terror Tank - Sub-boss of the Monster Minds, he oversees the Terror Trooper clones.
- Gun Grinner - Sub-boss of the Monster Minds, he oversees the Gun Trooper clones.
- KO Kruiser - Sub-boss of the Monster Minds, he oversees the KO Trooper clones.
- Beast Walker - Sub-boss of the Monster Minds, he oversees the Beast Walker clones.
- Saw Trooper Commander - A rarely appearing sub-boss of the Monster Minds, he oversees the Saw Trooper clones in Saw Boss's stead, while Saw Boss rules the entire Monster Minds.
- Dr. Zorg - An evil scientist who coveted Audric's technologies and worked for Saw Boss.
Lightning League vehicles
The Lightning League vehicles can be driven by League members, but can also operate on pre-programmed battle plans without drivers through commands issued on Jayce's communicator.
- Lightning League AI ground vehicles (early)
- Armed Force - A vehicle with a large golden grappling arm mounted atop it. Gillian had intended it for Audric, but gave it to Jayce instead when Audric was unable to join the League. It seats two, unlike its toy counterpart. Another note about Armed Force's toy counterpart is a gimmick dubbed "Stack n' Attack". Any of the other smaller vehicles could detach their wheeled chassis and attach to the top of Armed Force (a promotional comic in He-Man magazine showed two vehicles stacked atop Armed Force, though this was physically impossible using the toys, as only Armed Force featured two lined up holes suitable for another vehicle's underside to attach into). This never happens in the show; instead, the phrase "stack n' attack" refers to the Lightning League vehicles being able to exchange weapons mid-battle.
- Drill Sergeant - A two-seater vehicle with a drill to dig tunnels. It is driven in the opening sequence by Flora, who seems to prefer it, as does Gillian.
- Quick Draw - A vehicle with a concealed gun in a shield atop the vehicle. Gillian drives it in the opening sequence, but it has no regular driver in the series. It seats one.
- Spike Trike - A three-wheeled vehicle built for speed. Herc drives it in the opening sequence, and it is his vehicle of choice during the series, as well.
- Trail Blazer - A large, four-legged vehicle with a front-mounted battering ram, capable of carrying the smaller vehicles. It usually seats one, but has occasionally been seen with unused seating for four. Trail Blazer was stronger and more durable than the other vehicles, but was used much less often for reasons never disclosed (unlike the expenditure of resources that served as an excuse for the more rarely used larger vehicle troopers of the Monster Minds). Trail Blazer is depicted as much larger in scale with the other vehicles than the toy counterparts. While the toy version of Trail Blazer could carry a single smaller vehicle on its back, the cartoon counterpart could carry four of the smaller vehicles within its body, via a platform that lowered from its underside.
- Battle Base - A mobile fortress that houses all the other vehicles and is usually attached to the Pride as its bridge. The main weapon is a large elevating gun turret. Battle Base, like Trail Blazer, is of a much larger relative scale in the animation than in its toy form. The toy for Battle Base had three garages that could each hold a single smaller vehicle, and its control bridge seated two. In the series, not only could Battle Base contain all of the smaller vehicles, but even Trail Blazer was seen to be able to enter it. The bridge was a rather large full room.
- Lightning League AI ground vehicles (created later by Gillian)
- Fling Shot - A vehicle equipped with a catapult, built in "The Stallions of Sandeen." A toy was designed, but never produced.
- Spray Gunner - A vehicle with a cannon that sprays various fluids, that was added later in the series, but has no introduction episode. The toy did not reach the production stage.
- Motor Module - A low-riding vehicle with a powerful drive system, often used to field repair other vehicles, or to haul loads in an attachable trailer. It was added later in the series, but has no introduction episode. The toy did not reach the production stage, but was designed to be motorized, and could "Stack-An-Attack" as Armed Force could (the toy version of the gimmick remained unused in the cartoon).
- Lightning League aerospace vehicles (not reflected in the toy line)
- Pride of the Skies II - Also known as "the Pride" for short, it is the space barge owned by Herc Stormsailer and home to the Lightning League throughout the series.
- Space Scooter - a small air-bike.
- Emergency Cruiser - the Pride's seldom used shuttle craft
Monster Mind vehicles
Generally, Monster Mind battles are carried out by clones of the main Monster Minds that are grown from vines. Saw Boss is able to communicate with these clones (and communicate with others with a clone as a medium) telepathically. These clones are referred to as "troopers"; Saw Trooper, Terror Trooper, K.O. Trooper, etc. The true Monster Minds change from their humanoid forms into vehicles upon leaving their headquarters, although they are significantly larger and more powerful than their mass-produced clones.
- Monster Minds ground legions (early)
- Saw Troopers - Vehicles with a large buzzsaw on a rotating stalk.
- Terror Troopers - Tank-like vehicles with a large, venus flytrap-like mouth mounted on the body.
- Gun Troopers - Vehicle with a cluster of cannons clenched in its teeth. The main weapon was a multi-headed spiked flail mounted on top of the body.
- K.O. Troopers - Truck-like vehicles with a large wrecking ball-like stalk.
- Beast Walkers - Large, four-legged vehicles with a front-mounted claw weapon that are the powerhouse of a Monster Mind clone army. They were seldom used, due to requiring more energy to spawn.
- Monster Minds ground legions (developed later)
- Flapjacks - Van-like vehicles with a catapult; they were designed, but not produced in the toy-line.
- Lurchers - Vehicles with a front ram, again, not produced in the toy-line.
- Snapdragons - Smaller four-legged walking vehicles with front-mounted "petals" that opened like a flower to expose a laser cannon.
- Battle Stations - The Monster Minds' answer to Battle Base, it was unproduced in the toy line. Used in only one episode as it took enormous amounts of energy to spawn.
- Monster Minds aerospace legions (unrepresented in the toy-line)
- Cruisers - Larger Monster Mind spacecrafts.
- Scouts/Satellites - Smaller Monster Mind spacecrafts. Both names referred to the same vehicle type in the animation.
- Drill Vines - Small rocket craft with a drill nose-cone, containing a Monster Mind vine cluster, which were used to penetrate targets and release a growth of vines.
- Pods - Plant-like insertion craft launched by Cruisers or Scouts, when Drill Vines are not called for.
- Space Fighters - Small Monster Mind starfighters, used much less commonly than Scouts.
- Monster Mind network legions (unrepresented in the toy-line)
- Expansion Vines - Large vine growths used to infest a planet and spawn Monster Mind Troopers, also sometimes used to connect planets through open space.
- Spore Vines - Not as large as Expansion Vines, used to deploy biological weapons in the form of gases.
- Recepticles - Block-like plants that are used to form a teleportation point for Saw Boss's headquarters (originally Audric's lab).
- Brains - A small plant mass with a single central eye, used for communication by Monster Mind agents of other races.
Wheeled Warriors suffered from an extremely bad toy launch. The toys arrived on shelves in 1984 in order to hit the Christmas season, before the launch of the cartoon. The manufacturer then panicked and pulled them from shelves before the cartoon could build a following. Further, the toys featured blank slate humans and rubber brains for pilots, while the cartoon had actual human characters and Monster Mind "bosses" who changed from plant beings to vehicles and had hordes of "troopers" that grew from plants. The cartoon also made almost no use of any weapons except the ones featured on the toys and lasers.
- 1. Escape from the Garden
- 2. The Vase of Xiang
- 3. Steel Against Shadow
- 4. Silver Crusaders
- 5. Ghostship
- 6. Flora, Fauna and the Monster Minds
- 7. Fire and Ice
- 8. Space Outlaws
- 9. Future of the Future
- 10. Underwater
- 11. Frostworld
- 12. Critical Mess
- 13. The Purple Tome
- 14. Hook, Line and Silver
- 15. Bloodstone
- 16. The Slaves of Adelbaren
- 17. The Hunt
- 18. Blockade Runners
- 19. The Sleeping Princess
- 20. Deadly Reunion
- 21. Sky Kingdom
- 22. Quest into Shadow
- 23. Unexpected Trouble
- 24. Bounty Hunters
- 25. Double Deception
- 26. Gate World
- 27. Space Thief
- 28. Moon Magic
- 29. Affair of Honor
- 30. Doomed Flower
- 31. The Stallions of Sandeen
- 32. Brain Trust
- 33. Lightning Strikes Twice
- 34. The Liberty Stone
- 35. The Vines
- 36. The Space Fighter
- 37. Heart of Paxtar
- 38. Appointment at Forever
- 39. What's Going On?
- 40. Dark Singer
- 41. Swamp Witch
- 42. Deadly Reflections
- 43. Early Warning
- 44. A Question of Conscience
- 45. Life Ship
- 46. The Mirage Makers
- 47. Do Not Disturb
- 48. Dreamworld
- 49. The Children of Solarus II
- 50. The Gardner
- 51. Armada
- 52. The Chimes of Sharpis
- 53. Galaxy Gamester
- 54. Circus Planet
- 55. Common Bond
- 56. Mistress of Soul Tree
- 57. The Life Eater
- 58. Wasteland
- 59. The Oracle
- 60. Short Circuit, Long Wait
- 61. Time and Time Again
- 62. The Source
- 63. The Raid
- 64. The Squire Smith
- 65. Final Ride at Journey's End
- Darrin Baker as Jayce
- Charles Jolliffe as Gillian
- Luba Goy as Oon
- John Stocker as Gun Grinner
- Dan Hennessey as Audric, K.O. Cruiser and Saw Trooper
- Valerie Politis as Flora
- Guilio Kukurugya as Saw Boss
- Len Carlson as Terror Tank and Herc Stormsailer
- George Buza as The Opening Announcer
The entire series exists in French, as two DVD boxed sets released by Manga Distribution. In English, several compilations were available on VHS tapes in the 1980s, and ex-rental copies can occasionally still be found on eBay. Jade Entertainment once provided a Region 2 DVD entitled The Lightning League (6 episodes).
Until recently, the only available English language DVD in Region 1 was Escape from the Garden of Evil (4 episodes) from NCircle Entertainment. However, Shout! Factory announced that a DVD release of the complete series was in production. Volume 1, containing episodes 1-33 spread over four discs, was released in the US on March 25th 2008 (however, some Best Buy stores had put it out a week early). This represents half of the episodes produced. Volume 2 containing the remaining episodes will be released depending on sales success of Volume 1.
Amazon.com recently listed "Jayce and The Wheeled Warriors #2 for release on region 1 DVD on the 1st July.
An uncredited, unfinished comic based on the series was once published in the French comic magazine Pif gadget #922. Strangely enough, the 13-page adventure ended on a cliffhanger, the next issue of Pif gadget did not include the follow-up story, and in the end, the conclusion to that story was never published. It included characters created specifically for the comic, such as a white-haired young sorceress called Algora who was "an ally of Saw Boss".