Grandpa and the Midnight Mutants

In 1990, Atari and Radioactive Software released an interesting action game for the Atari 7800 system called Midnight Mutants. The game dealt with a young boy’s quest to save his grandfather, who has been turned into a pumpkin by Dr. Evil. What’s really interesting about the game is that, as you can see from the screenshots from the game shown here, the grandfather in question is Grandpa Munster! Or is he?

You see, the game technically wasn’t related to The Munsters. Apparently, only the use of Al Lewis’ likeness was licensed. But, thanks to his appearance being so strongly linked to his portrayal of “Grandpa” from the series and since he was used to represent the captured grandfather of the game’s protagonist, many assumed that the game involved Grandpa Munster. If the rights holders for The Munsters had attempted any legal action, I’d assume that Radioactive Software and Atari would’ve pointed out that since the main character was named Jimmy Harkman, then it would mean that his grandfather would be named “Grandpa Harkman” and wasn’t related to character from The Munsters in any way. I’m not saying that it would necessarily hold up in court, but I’m sure they’d make that sort of argument. Although the character from the TV series is informally referred to as “Grandpa Munster” by many, he was actually referred to as “Count Dracula” in a few episodes of the show. This is because he was only the father-in-law of Herman Munster.

This unusual licensing strategy was also used on other occasions. Lewis hosted horror movies on TBS as “Grampa” during the 80’s and also hosted a series of VHS tapes from Vintage Video (aka AmVest Video). Notice that, although the Amazon listings refer to him as “Grandpa Munster,” he is merely called “Grampa” on the packaging. In these appearances, he did not wear the same makeup design used in The Munsters television series or films (with the exception of Grampa’s Sci-Fi Hits, which marked his only appearance in makeup as “Grampa”).

I have to wonder why they chose to use “Grandpa” in that game. Were reruns of The Munsters really all that popular with the youth of the time? Perhaps they were inspired by a similar game for the NES called Fester’s Quest, which featured characters from The Addams Family. However, unlike Midnight Mutants, this game had licensed the characters. But even if that was the case, one has to wonder why they thought that children of the 80’s would want to buy a game about a character from a 60’s sitcom battling aliens.

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  1. […] ‘Grandpa,’ but not ‘Grandpa Munster’” licensing issue in a previous entry, but I’m still amazed Turner Broadcasting was willing to make such a legally iffy choice as […]

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