Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Spawning numerous video games, a few TV series, and even board games. There have also been spin-offs and many future iterations to come, including the newest Netflix TV series. This was childhood, at least from my perspective. It came and left, just like most current nostalgic noise; however, Carmen Sandiego has failed to leave my mind. Only a mere 25 years later, and I can still hear one of the most catchy melodies placed in a game show. This was one thing that made learning fun, since even many actors and game show hosts had fun with their parts. You learned about certain time periods and their results, and sometimes even an individual state. It felt like there was no end to Carmen Sandiego.
It was a fun time to be a kid, to say the least. Even school hardly felt boring when the teacher brought in a TV just to show something related. There was even an NBC news segment called, “Where in the World is Matt Lauer?” I remember it fondly because it is what my teacher at the time had recorded on VHS for the classroom. Not going to lie, it was the best part about class. In fact, it is quite literally the only memory of that class.
Carmen Sandiego basically took over a small chunk of the 90s. It was for a brief moment, but it did. Let’s discuss some of what was awesome about this franchise. What took you so long to gobble this one up, Netflix?!
Carmen Sandiego? Time, Earth, the World???
Not only was the original game “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” an entertaining medium, but it was educational. It taught different cultures of the world, such as traditional clothing, ceremonies, and governments. You could only guess what information was given to you in a game titled “Where in the U.S.A. is Carmen Sandiego?” From the U.S. presidents to different historical landmarks, if it was notable, it was likely placed in that game.
One of the more memorable games from the series was the reboot of the first “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” Your assignment is to help put an end to Carmen Sandiego’s thieving ways. Typically the chief, portrayed by Cherlynne Theresa “Lynne” Thigpen, would send you a video at the start of each game with instructions. She helped you along the way with various clue to help you solve each case. There were various criminal characters, along with Carmen herself, who was the most uncommon. With this, you needed to catch a description of the suspect which in turn would allow you to get a warrant. Without a warrant, it would be impossible to make an arrest and finish that case. However, you also needed to be exact in issuing that warrant, otherwise if you singled out the wrong person it would be game over.
In “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” you would travel to various locations on the map, typically capitol cities. Each place visited was a potential source for clues, and as such you had to ask possible witnesses questions. Where did the suspect go? Can you describe their appearance? That was the basis, because all you needed in that game was direction and who the person might be. It was simple and fun, and I actually enjoyed learning.
The game shows, they were a thing. Probably the best thing.
Looking back, Carmen Sandiego worked as literally everything. Board games, TV shows, video games, game shows, and even comics and books. However, there is no denying that the game shows which spawned were a big deal. This helped both Rockapella and Lynn Thigpen launch their careers in the U.S. as Rockapella was also coming up in Japan. Similar to the video games, you had to attempt to capture Carmen Sandiego, but unlike those games, the game show had prizes. Even kids at home could sometimes play to win a prize, sending in postcards for a free T-shirt. While the prizes may seem underwhelming today, they were a pretty big deal back then. For most households who didn’t own a computer, you may be shocked that they were giving one away as the grand prize.
Let’s also talk about Cherlynne Theresa “Lynne” Thigpen, otherwise known as “the Chief.” She brought so much life to every role. Lynne dressed up as different characters, going as over-the-top as one could expect. She would just give it her all. Her voice was so distinct that to this day I don’t even have to look at the screen, I know it’s her! It had given people such a warm feeling. You can describe it best as both commanding and fun. The moment you see her pop up on screen, you know you’re going to have the time of your life.
It saddened me to learn of Thigpen’s passing back in 2003 of a cerebral hemorrhage. She was 54 years old. Lynne also voiced Luna the Moon in Bear and the Big Blue House, which had taken a 3-year hiatus due to her passing.
A generation that remembers.
People still fondly remember the shows and various games. In fact, I just had to pick up the 40-episode DVD set, which is what probably fueled my addiction for nostalgic DVD releases. Ever since then, it’s been older cartoons, not just anime. Sonic the Hedgehog, both of them, Super Mario Bros, all of them, and even Dungeons & Dragons, all one disc of them. Now, expect me to start searching for the video games in one form or another. With my mind filled to the brim with cartoon and anime classics, there is no telling what we could get into. This is only a very small portion of a generation that remembers these things, and much less enjoyed it.
Did you know some of the more hidden away cartoons? Well, I sure do! I think I have seen many of them, since there was no better thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday. The fact I also had a confusing and difficult childhood meant that regularly I would watch cartoons during school hours. This results in a lot of what I love watching now and continue to watch. If you don’t even know Mighty Max, then you really are not from my generation. Most of those toys are also very rare and highly collectible. I think I still have some Happy Meal toys sealed… Somewhere…
If you enjoy this article, then be sure to read another one on long running anime!
Also be sure to check out the Carmen Sandiego franchise Wikipedia page!