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Western Animation / Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

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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 Japanese animation studios KK C&D Asia, Sunrise, Studio Shaft, Studio Giants, Studio Look and Swan Production. The show was a 65-Episode Cartoon, created to support Mattel's toy line (which was called simply Wheeled Warriors, and which had no particular story or characters of its own). 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. Although a movie was intended to close out the plotlines, it never came to be. Story editor J. Michael Straczynski has claimed that his script for the film, completely written, remains with him.

As usual for an 80s show, there are two dueling forces— the human-composed Lightning League, who pilot heavily-armed white and silver vehicles, and are led by Jayce. The other faction are the Monster Minds, organic green vegetable-based creatures 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, and are led by Saw Boss.

Before the start of the show, Audric, a galactically famous scientist, began a project to produce a miracle crop and end hunger. Unfortunately for him, a solar flare released radiation that mutated his plant (and several others around his lab) into evil sentient creatures called the Monster Minds. Audric created a magic root that could destroy the Monster Minds, but was forced to flee before he could join the two halves. He gave one to his servant, a living suit of armor named Oon, to give to his son, Jayce. Jayce and his friends reform a legendary band of heroes called the Lightning League. Jayce travels the galaxy battling the Monster Minds and searching for Audric to unite the magic root and lead his Lightning League to victory over the changing form of Saw Boss.

"There's a trope and it comes from deep inside of you":

  • Adaptation Expansion: The toy line had no real plot or characters to speak of beyond the "Monster Minds" going crazy and the "Lightning League" mobilizing to stop them. The show had to spin an entire universe around a couple of vehicle designs.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Herc, on occasion. When Flora shushes him in "Steel Against Shadow", he responds: "Pardon me. I think I'll just go out back and stick my face in the starboard engine."
  • Demonic Possession: Along with an Artifact of Doom it happens to Jayce in "Steel Against Shadow".
  • Disappeared Dad: Audric, Jayce's father. Jayce and the Lightning League spend much of the series searching for him, but are always just a little too late to meet up with him.
  • Evil Is Bigger: While it never actually comes up outside a brief moment in the first episode, the Monster Minds tower over humans in their humanoid forms. Suffice to say, no apparent mass shifting takes place between their humanoid and vehicle transformations.
  • Expy: Herc Stormsailor is pretty much Han Solo with the serial numbers (and apparently a few brain cells) filed off. Other members of the Lightning League also have clear Star Wars parallels (see Follow the Leader on the Trivia page), but Herc is without competition the most blatant one.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Like in any story where the heroes are trying to find some elusive thing that would automatically defeat their enemies. In most episodes the Lightning League are a hair's breadth from catching up to Audric, but get distracted by Saw Boss's Evil Plan. They save the day but Audric has had to move on again, starting the chase all over.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Herc with the rest of the Lightning League. Like Han Solo he starts out purely motivated by money and isn't completely sure he likes these people he's been hired to ferry around in his ship. Over the course of the series, many adventure and several life-threatening danges, he does come to care for them.
  • Heroism Won't Pay the Bills: The Lightning League regularly save entire planets, but Herc never makes a dime chauffering them around the universe.
  • "I Know You Are in There Somewhere" Fight: Jayce in "Steel Against Shadow".
  • Informed Ability: Oon's (allegedly) magic lance. In this case, however, Oon is the only one who believes it's magic.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Herc.
  • J. Michael Straczynski: One of the writers for the TV show; also wrote The Movie, as noted above.
  • Large and in Charge: Subverted with Saw Boss; he's pretty big, but there are bigger Minds.
  • Left Hanging: We never got to see Saw Boss' defeat.
  • Lovable Coward: Oon, though with more than a few traces of Cowardly Lion.
  • Lovable Rogue: Again, Herc.
  • MacGuffin: The Root, which when the two pieces are joined will exterminate the Monster Minds at once.
  • Magical Counterfeiting: Gillian hired Herc with lead he temporarily transmuted into gold, and after it changed back he insisted on sticking with the Lightning League until he paid up.
  • Market-Based Title: A number of dubbed versions are known by some name that isn't "Wheeled Warriors". Examples include "Jayce et les Conquerants de la Lumière" ("...and the Warriors of Light"; French), and "...e os Guerreiros do Espaço" (...and the Warriors of Space; Brazil), although the Spanish dub was called "...y los Guerreros Rodantes", which is similar to the English name.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Early on, this results in a few weird, out-of-place bits of dialogue, such as Gillian announcing he's installed "stack and attack mode" in the vehicles- and even then, that's not what that's supposed to mean (in the toyline, it referred to how the smaller Lightning League vehicles could detach from their wheels and attach on top of Armed Force; in the show, it referred to the ability to swap weapons between vehicles- which doesn't make much sense name-wise). The toy line didn't do very well when it debuted, and the writers didn't work around those constraints.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Oh boy... the Monster Minds are *takes a deep breath* magically and biomechanically engineered alien plants mutated by solar radiation into evil giant humanoid plant people that can morph into cars.
  • Opening Narration: As provided by the former Ghoulardi, the voice of The Love Boat, the syndicated run of Break the Bank (1976) and ABC, Ernie Anderson: "Thundering across the stars to save the universe from the Monster Minds..."
    • However, the French dub (Jayce et Les Conquerants de la Lumiere; lit., Jayce and Warriors of Light) has its own version.
  • Plant Aliens: Perhaps the only series with plant alien CYBORG VEHICLES.
  • Plant Person: Flora. Looks human, but she's botanical in origin.
  • Really 700 Years Old:
    • Gillian is a perfect example of Wizards Live Longer and is well over a thousand years old, without this having slowed him down any.
    • Oon is possibly even older than Gillian; it's established that he's been around for at least two thousand years, and he's had a lot of different masters in that time.
  • Ring of Power: Jayce's Ring of Light, AKA The Ring Of Plot Resolution. However, he can't simply command it to One-Hit Kill Saw Boss and save everyone a lot of running around; it's implied the ring only works in situations where there's no other way out. In one episode ("Bloodstone") you can see a face in the ring's light, further implying the ring is alive and decides when its help is and isn't necessary. Although Jayce was too much of a righteous dude to ask for its help when he didn't absolutely need it anyway.
  • Robot Buddy: Oon. He's not actually a robot, but an "Eternal Squire," essentially a magically-animated suit of armor.
  • Running the Blockade: In "Blockade Runners", the Lightning League does this when the Monster Minds' vines cut off planet Baz from the rest of the galaxy.
  • Running Gag: Herc's continuing frustration at actually getting paid for hauling Jayce all over the universe. Something seems to happen every other episode for him to add to Jayce's tab.
  • Science Fantasy: The Star Wars roots aren't exactly subtle here.
  • Signature Move: Whenever Armed Force (Jayce's preferred vehicle of choice) comes across a plant vehicle with a wrecking ball, it merely grabs the ball and tosses the vehicle over his head.
  • 65-Episode Cartoon
  • Space Pirates: An all-female crew appear in one episode.
  • Title, Please!: As usual with DiC productions of the era, the episode titles aren't shown onscreen.
  • Toyless Toyline Character: An unusual example. The vehicles featured in the cartoon were in the toy line, but the characters weren't. Mattel planned to make action figures of the Lightning League and Saw Boss, but they were never released.
  • Two Halves Make a Plot: Jayce has one half of the magic root, and his father has another. Stern Chase ensues.
  • Unrealistic Black Hole: The heroes are able to create one in an episode to destroy a large colony of Monster Minds, and it is suggested the place had "almost enough density" to collapse into one already.
  • Villain Teleportation: Saw Boss uses "the power of the black light" to teleport his headquarters from place to place.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Gillian combines this with Really 700 Years Old. He casually mentions visiting places 600 years ago, and says at one point that a thousand years isn't all that long a time to wait for something.
  • Wizards from Outer Space: Gillian, Jayce's mentor.