Generation Series – Jan-Mar 2003

Manimal, The Legend of The Man Animal

Translated from the original French, so readability is a little strange.  Translated by SMCFP Member Nadeia

The man-animal, is one of the most popular myth: Minotaur, Sphinx, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Island of Dr Moreau, Tarzan, The Fly, Spiderman, The Incredible Hulk, Werewolf, the Beast of Gévaudan, Cat people, The Creature from the black Lagoon, and The Man from Atlantis, to list only the most famous which inspired widely legends, literature, movies, comics and television.

After the bionical man (the six million dollars man), knight rider (K2000), cybernetic man (Automan), the writer-producer-director Glen A. Larson and Donald Boyle, decided to adapt the myth of the man-animal.

The title comes from the equation man+animal = manimal.

Manimal is Jessie (?? J.C. miss heard maybe – sw) Chase as introduced by the trailer :

“Doctor Jonathan Chase, wealthy, young, handsome, a man with the brightest of futures and the darkest of the pasts….From Africa’s deepest recesses to the rarest peaks of Tibet … Heir to his father’s legacy and the world’s darkest mysteries. Jonathan Chase, master of the secrets that divides man from animal and animal from man. Manimal!”

The trailer shows the young Jessie near his dying father who tells him the secret of transmutation and as a last advice: “My son you must have the faith, and learn this is not the end, but the beginning.”

Thanks to this knowledge inherited from his dad, Chase can become the animal he wishes: black panther, eagle, horse, cat, lion, bear, cobra, buffalo, shark…

He looks like a playboy, drives a red sport car and works as a criminologist for the university of New York. He decided to use his powers for justice and to protect the weakests people. Sometimes he uses his powers to help the police to fight the crime.


Manimal’s Assistants

Tyrone “Ty” Earl is Jessie’s confident and friend since the Vietnam war when they were prisoners. Jessie helped him to escape from Vietcongs becoming a panther. Ty (say it “Taï”) knows Jessie’s secret. Schemer, smooth talker, he’s the funny guy of the team.

New York police detective, Brooke McKenzie is a lovely young lady, dynamic and brave, she never fears the fighting. She knows Jessie’s secret too. She may be in love with him, but they don’t let us know if they were having a romance. She easily falls in traps from which Manimal always sets her free. She is sometimes a bit blunderer: she has captured a dangerous cobra in her hands, convinced it was Jessie and blacks out when the real Jessie appears in front of her.

NYPD police lieutenant Nick Rivera is Brooke McKenzie’s chief. He appeals Chase as an animal behaviour consultant.


Manimal’s Missions

Our amateur policeman’s missions are to protect the vulnerable people, victims of criminals and to fight organized crime. This way, he stops terrorists on their way to get a nerve gas (Pilot movie), a tiger to be killed (“Illusion”). He also protects a young girl who had been brought up by wolves (Female of the Species), finds a stolen horse (High Stakes), helps a chinese restaurant owner victim of a racket (Breath of the Dragon), rescue an old seaman from a stealer gang (Scrimshaw) and prevents mafia from taking control over an hotel (Night of the Beast).

The choice of the animal for the metamorphosis is never an accident, it depends on the missions. If Jessie turns into an eagle, it’s because he needs to fly to follow the criminal’s cars, or to help a stunt man in trouble with his parachute, or else to steal a camera. If he chooses to become a black panther, it’s to frighten criminals. And if he turns into a shark, a lion or a bear, it’s to get away with an enemy.

Obviously, Manimal’s stories are lacking of original feature, and just like “Spatial Commando” tv show, they are closer to a comic book than to a TV show.


Manimal’s Artists

As for “Spatial Commando”, the real authors of the TV show’s success were not the writers, but the special effects man, Stan Winston and the animal trainer Ron Oxley. Chase’s transformation into a black panther is very well executed. Before each transmutation, Jessie breathes deeply, his hand contracts before becoming a paw with claws. Then the face changes, the mouth becomes a muzzle then you see the whiskers and teeth appear.

This transmutation was Stan Winston’s creation, master of special effects and make up, who worked on Steven Spielberg’s “A.I” and “Jurassic Park III”. The transformation has been made by steps. First Simon MacCorkindale had some make up, then his face was moulded with latex with some little whiskers and the first characteristics of the animal. Then a mechanic head with wheels remote controls did the go-between before the real black panther trained by Ron Oxley. Later, tricks of filming and montage did the rest.

Those metamorphosis were very expensive and used to take a lot of time. The producers, lacking budgets, decided to have all the transformations made once for all for the pilot movie, and to use it for the next episodes. The TV show, aired on NBC on Friday night at 9 pm, between September 30th and December 17th of 1983, had to stop after only eight episodes. The scripts, poor and often incoherent, and the use of the same images always for all the transformations got the viewers fed up with Manimal’s exploits.

This has been a bad knock for the NBC who used to pride itself of having more audience than “Dallas” shown at the same time on CBS. What happened was all the contrary.



Simon MacCorkindale (Jonathan Chase), was born on February 12th 1952 in Cambridge. He’s a British actor. His first appearance on the big screen was in “Terror on the Britannic” (1974), for television he plays in several miniseries: “I, Claudius” (1974), “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977), “Fantasy Island” (1981). Apart from Manimal, he is a regular on several series: as Greg Reardon in “Falcon Crest” (1984-1986), Peter Sinclair in “Counterstrike” (1990), Read Horton in “Poltergeist : The Legacy” (1999). Now he is Harry Harper in Casualty (2002).  He is also executive producer on “Queen of Swords” (1999) and “Relic Hunter” (2000)

Melody Anderson (Brooke McKenzie), was born on December 3rd of 1955 in Edmonton, Canada. When she finished journalism school, she becomes a correspondent for the radio in Australia. Then she moves to Hollywood, where she made some appearances in series like “Dallas”, “Galactica”, “The fall Guy”, “The A Team”. On the big screen, she is Dale Arden in “Flash Gordon” (1980), she played nurse Jill Roberts at the end of the first season of “St Elsewhere”, and in 1991-1992, she was Neely Capshaw in “Jake and the Fatman”. She also appeared in TV films such as “Elvis” (1979) and “Marilyn and Bobby” (1993) where she played Marilyn Monroe.

Michael D. Roberts (Tyrone “Ty” Earl) is a regular in Glen A. Larson’s TV shows (“Knight Rider”, “The Fall Guy”…), thanks to this he replaced Glynn Turman who was Ty in the pilot movie. His first appearance was in 1975, playing Rooster character in Baretta.

Reni Santoni (Lieutenant Nick Rivera) is since 1965 a regular in various series such as “The F.B.I;.”, “The Rockford Files”, “Hawai – Five O”, “Charlie’s Angels”, as Danny Santana in “Hill Street Blues”, “Midnight Caller”, “Miami Vice”, “NYPD blue”, and Judge Thomas Agajanian in the second season of “Murder One”.

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