|With the 1997 debut of Mummies Alive!, action cartoon fans cheered and Egyptologists cringed. It may not have been historically or culturally accurate, but it sure did “kick some Tut” (their joke, not ours).
Modern-day boy Presley Carnovan was the spiritual successor to Prince Rapses, heir to the throne of ancient Egypt. Rapses had been murdered by his father’s trusted advisor, Scarab, despite the protection of four able Egyptian bodyguards. For his crime, Scarab was entombed alive.
In the present day, an unknowing archaeologist opened Scarab’s tomb, freeing him. Scarab now had his eye on immortality, and to do that, he needed Rapses’ spirit-which just happened to be in Presley’s body. Scarab and his zombielike minions, The Shabti, attacked Presley at the new Rapses Museum exhibition, which brought the boy to the attention of the four bodyguards. Now mummified, the bodyguards sprang to life with the cry, “With the strength of Ra!,” fighting off the villains and saving Presley.
With Scarab still on the loose, the mummies became Presley’s sworn protectors. Already powerful, the mummies transformed into body-armored superheroes by means of their Ra-invoking catchphrase. Ja-Kal, the mummies’ leader, donned armor patterned after a falcon, gaining the power of flight and a bow that shot flaming arrows. Rath was the group’s inventor, transforming into cobra armor and fighting with a sword that changed into a snake. Armon was the resident strongman. He was missing an arm, but his body armor gave him a one-ton golden one. The final member was the lone female, Nefer-Tina, armored like a cat and swinging a mean whip. Nefer-Tina also drove the team’s dragster (designed and built by Rath), the Hot-Ra. Even team mascot Khati got in on the act, transforming from a small fraidy cat into a larger, more powerful one.
Most syndicated episodes pitted Presley and the mummies against Scarab (who masqueraded as businessman Harris Stone and had his own beetle-inspired body armor), his serpent Heka, incompetent pet Ammut (head of a crocodile, body of a lion, hindquarters of a hippo), and The Shabti. The mummies were amazed by modern life, though they seemed to have mastered it enough to build advanced vehicles like the Hot-Ra, the Nile-Ator Jet Cycles, and the Skycophagus. Those busy mummies also found time to teach Presley the ancient Egyptian martial art of Egyp-Tsu. When they just needed to get away from it all, the mummies could recharge their inner batteries with a rest back at the Rapses Museum (called “The Sphinx”).
Designed with no other purpose than action-packed thrills, Mummies Alive! delivered. The show was co-produced by Ivan Reitman, who had previous experience dealing with the undead as director of the Ghostbusters films.