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Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?

Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? is a Saturday morning cartoon show based on the series of computer games. It should not be confused with the PBS game show Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?. The Earth show was made by DIC Entertainment and originally aired on FOX. Its episodes have subsequently been repeated on both the ABC Family Channel & the iPax network. The series won an Emmy Award for "Outstanding Animated Children's Program" in 1995.

The first season of the series is now available on DVD. Lions Gate Entertainment has released two of the show's three-part episodes ("Retribution" and "Labyrinth") as full-length direct-to-video films entitled "Carmen's Revenge" & "Time Traveler" respectively. A video of the episode "Timing is Everything" is included with some versions of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Treasures of Knowledge.


The need for the show was facilitated by the Children's Television Act. Said Andy Heyward, CEO of DiC in March, 1994, "I would like to say that people felt it was a competitive property in its own right, but I think that [Congress] pushed it over the top." The script for every Earth episode had to meet the approval of Brøderbund Software, which created and, at the time, owned the Carmen franchise. Their cause for concern was the level of the violence on other FOX children's shows such as X-Men and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Brøderbund did not require this of the creators of the World and Time game shows that aired on PBS, presumably since PBS, as the creator of such shows as Sesame Street, had a long-standing reputation for non-violent, educational children's programming.

As with the rest of the Carmen Sandiego franchise, the show's basic premise had the ACME Detective Agency attempting to stop the title thief and her V.I.L.E. gang from stealing artifacts around the world. Specifically, Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego? followed the adventures of two teenaged ACME detectives named Zack and Ivy. Zack and Ivy were also siblings, but their last name was never stated nor was their mysterious lack of parents or a guardian ever explained. Notably, the show was portrayed as taking place inside the computer game of a live-action kid referred to as "The Player".

Although Earth took the premise of the series more seriously than the Brøderbund computer games or the zany World game show, most elements of the series, such as giving V.I.L.E. agents gag names ("Buck N. Bronco", "Dee Tritus", etc.) and having Carmen commit spectacularly impossible thefts, were faithfully maintained. However, Earth often showed how V.I.L.E. perpetrated such spectacular thefts, whereas the computer games left this to the user's imagination, and "serious" villains, such as Lee Jordan and Dr. Maelstrom, were not given such funny names. The World game show also explained how such thefts were committed although their explanations were humorously nonsensical.

Originally, episodes of Earth were quite similar to the typical "formula" of the computer games. An outrageous theft would be committed somewhere in the world and Zack and Ivy, guided by the Player, would try to retrieve the loot and capture Carmen Sandiego. Though the loot would typically be recovered, Carmen, who usually had some kind of "master plan", would always escape. Towards the end of the first season, time travel was added into the show when Carmen built her own time machine and travelled back in time to the American Revolution. Time travel would continue to recur throughout the rest of the show's run.

However, this structure began to be abandoned as the writers started to explore the nature of Carmen's character. Early on, it was established that Carmen only stole for the challenge of it and that she had her own ethical code, but, as it progressed, the show began to increasingly focus on her "good" side and on her weaknesses. By the show's fourth and final season, Zack and Ivy were regularly teaming up with their former nemesis to stop considerably less moral criminals from taking over V.I.L.E. and such. Nevertheless, the show never portrayed Carmen returning to ACME or giving up her thieving ways.

Since they obviously continued to approve the scripts, Brøderbund apparently did not have any qualms about this direction, though they did not incorporate it into any of their games. The lead characters of Earth were, however, featured in Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition, released in 1995.

Main characters


Ivy has short red hair, green eyes and, at eighteen, she is the elder of the show's star siblings. She was voiced by Jennifer Hale and was also featured in the computer game Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition.

Ivy has multiple black belts in the martial arts and is an expert pilot, but, unlike Zack, she has no knowledge of other languages and such. She is more driven than Zack and consequently can get frustrated easily. Zack calls her "Sis" (which she hates) and they seem to have a reasonably nice home in San Francisco, California, which is where ACME Headquarters is based.


Zack can speak many languages (over twenty according to the game manual for Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition) and has a photographic memory. He was voiced by Scott Menville and, like his sister, he was featured in Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition.

Zack has blond hair, blue eyes and is fourteen years old. Zack is a kid genius who knows millions of facts yet still manages to be a cool, floppy haired, baggy-clothed, skateboarding teen. He takes cases less seriously than his sister Ivy, who calls him "little bro".

The Chief

The C.H.I.E.F. (Computerized Holographic Imaging Educational Facilitator) is the head of ACME. In the Earth series, the traditional role of "The Chief" was drastically retooled, becoming a wise-cracking sentient computer image not unlike Max Headroom. Playing a slightly more important role than his counterparts in the franchise, the Chief was still limited to providing exposition, alerts of Carmen's recent crime and comic relief. He was voiced by Rodger Bumpass and was also featured in Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition.

This version of the Chief had a very intimate professional and personal relationship with Carmen. They were both trained as agents when ACME was in its infancy (the Chief more likely created as an attempt at an autonomous robotic agent, complete with android body), and were often partnered up with each other on many cases. They became fast friends, and although he was angered and shocked at Carmen's defection to a life of crime, he didn't have the heart to close her file. It's clear that Carmen also thinks highly of their friendship, having once entrusted the help of ACME agents Zach and Ivy to help restore a virus-stricken Chief back to health after she 'kidnapped' him for a Christmas night to 'relive the good ol' days', and once again teaming up with him to capture the criminal Maelstrom, whom they had captured during their detective years and had returned to take his revenge.

Carmen Sandiego

Carmen Sandiego is an international thief & head of V.I.L.E. Despite the name of her organization, she has a strong code of morals and only steals for the challenge of it. She was a former agent of the ACME Detective Agency and her birthday is March 1. Her hair and gloves are black in this show with her hat band, turtle neck and skirt being red. She was voiced by Rita Moreno. Carmen was an orphan raised at the Golden Gate Girls' School in San Francisco. The Chief gave her a home at the ACME Detective Agency and, by age seventeen, she solved more cases than any other ACME agent. However, she then disappeared and turned to a life of crime. Her partner when she was at ACME was a Japanese man named Suhara, who left ACME after she did and appears to now be retired. Unlike in most of the rest of the franchise, the reason for Carmen leaving ACME is not specifically stated in the Earth series, although it was speculated by Suhara. ("Déjà Vu") In the latter seasons of this show, Carmen began to be portrayed as more of an anti-hero than a proper villainess, even teaming up with Zack and Ivy to defeat criminals more unscruplous than herself on several occasions.

Notable villains

As Carmen Sandiego became less villainous and evolved into more of an anti-hero, other characters began to fill her original role as the show's antagonist. Some of these characters were:

Lee Jordan

Lee Jordan is the only ACME agent to have "officially" captured Carmen Sandiego. He went on hiatus from ACME for an indeterminate amount of time, during which his outlook on his career took a drastic turn. Embittered by his fame and the lack of challenge the concept of fighting crime had become, he quit working for ACME & sought out Carmen Sandiego in order to train to be a V.I.L.E. agent. However, his impulsive and unscrupulous nature clashed greatly with Carmen Sandiego's more refined, pessimistic approach and he was fired.

Infuriated by this, he joined the ranks of former V.I.L.E. agents who sought to usurp Carmen Sandiego from her title as 'the world's greatest thief'. He was foiled twice in this endeavor, both by the combined efforts of ACME and Carmen Sandiego, but still remains hostile, violent and dangerous. Unlike Carmen Sandiego, he sees nothing against putting another person's life in danger to further his own gain, and has even kidnapped and used a hostage as blackmail to force Carmen Sandiego into working for him.

Dr. Sara Bellum

Dr. Sara Bellum is Carmen Sandiego's mad scientist who makes all sorts of gadgets for Carmen Sandiego and her V.I.L.E. agents to use. In one episode, she tried to flood the Atacama Desert in Chile to retrieve something important, all while dressed as Carmen Sandiego in an effort to take over V.I.L.E.. Eventually, Carmen Sandiego, Zack and Ivy stopped Sara Bellum's mad plan in time. "Sara Bellum" is a pun on cerebellum, a part of the brain. An unrelated character named Doctor Sarah Bellum appeared in Darkwing Duck. Still another character with that name was featured on The Powerpuff Girls.

Mason Dixon

Mason Dixon is the henchman who betrayed V.I.L.E. in numerous ways in the episode "Timing is Everything". It began in 1989 when Carmen & Mason were in Amsterdam to steal the Rembrandt. Mason was captured & sentenced to 7 years in prison, while Carmen escaped from the police. The theft appeared to be a challenge to see who would run V.I.L.E afterwards, since Carmen mentioned that during the Monitor/Merrimac battle.

When Mason was released, Carmen began searching for a Civil War era sofa in the Appomattox Courthouse. The caper failed, resulting in Carmen being furious with Mason. As retaliation, he stole Carmen's time machine, and went back to 1989 to change the outcome of the Rembrandt theft so Carmen would go to jail and he would run V.I.L.E. as the world's greatest thief.

Mason, with Carmen's unwilling aid, began stealing a series of items that would change the outcome of the Civil War. Carmen helped Zack & Ivy recapture him & take back control over V.I.L.E., making her the world's greatest thief once more. His name is a play on the surveyors Mason and Dixon who divided the North and South in the 1860s via the Mason-Dixon Line.

Dr. Gunnar Maelstrom

Dr. Gunnar Maelstrom (pronounced goonar) is a hostile & extremely violent criminal whose arch enemy is Carmen Sandiego. He was voiced by Tim Curry. Maelstrom considers her a threat because she & Chief captured him back in her detective days at ACME in 1985, and got him sent to Folsom State Prison in northern California. In "Carmen's Revenge", he escapes from prison by using a bomb attached to his watch as a diversion so he could escape through the back door. Carmen Sandiego was forced to team up with Zack & Ivy to help capture him & send him back to prison.

Other characters

  • Stretch the Crime Dog - Featured prominently in Carmen Sandiego: Junior Detective Edition, which included the lead characters of this show, Stretch the Crime Dog appeared in one Earth episode.
  • Lars Vegas - Lars Vegas is a big shot and V.I.L.E.'s greediest member. He always complains when he is trapped in a net because it messes up his hair. His greediness can always foil his plans. Lars Vegas is a play on "Las Vegas".
  • Hannah Lulu - Hannah Lulu is a V.I.L.E. agent and an expert when it comes to Hawaiian treasures and locations. Hannah Lulu is very superstious and is afraid of almost everything. In one episode, Carmen Sandiego tried to make Hannah Lulu face her fears by stealing an object from the place where a Hawaiian queen died. Hannah Lulu is a play on "Honolulu."
  • The Player - Shots of The Player are used to introduce and close the program. He appears as a 10-14 year old blonde boy, though not much else is revealed about him. The Player is the only live-action character on the show and is always viewed from behind.

List of episodes

  • Season One
    • "The Stolen Smile"
    • "A Higher Calling"
    • "Dinosaur Delirium"
    • "Moondreams"
    • "By a Whisker"
    • "The Good Old, Bad Old Days"
    • "Rules of the Game"
    • "Music to My Ears"
    • "Chapter and Verse"
    • "The Play's the Thing"
    • "A Date With Carmen, Part 1"
    • "A Date With Carmen, Part 2"
    • "Split Up"
  • Season Two
    • "Skull and Double-Crossbones"
    • "Scavenger Hunt"
    • "Hot Ice"
    • "All For One"
    • "When It Rains"
    • "Déjà Vu"
    • "Boyhood's End, Part 1"
    • "Boyhood's End, Part 2"
  • Season Three
    • "The Tigress"
    • "The Remnants"
    • "Curses, Foiled Again"
    • "Birds of a Feather"
    • "Shaman Spirits"
    • "Follow My Footprints"
    • "Labyrinth" (a 3-part episode released on video as "Time Traveler")
      • "Labyrinth, Part 1"
      • "Labyrinth, Part 2: Woman of the Year, 2101"
      • "Labyrinth, Part 3: When In Rome"
    • "Just Like Old Times"
  • Season Four
    • "The Trial of Carmen Sandiego"
    • "Trick or Treat"
    • "Retribution" (a 3-part episode released on video as "Carmen's Revenge")
      • "Retribution, Part 1: Unsinkable Carmen Sandiego"
      • "Retribution, Part 2: In Memoriam"
      • "Retribution, Part 3: Maelstrom's Revenge"
    • "Timing is Everything"
    • "Cupid Sandiego"
    • "Can You Ever Go Home Again, Part 1"
    • "Can You Ever Go Home Again, Part 2"

Theme song

The opening theme song for the show is "Singt dem grossen Bassa Lieder" from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail with new lyrics, pop instrumentation, and a backbeat.


External links

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