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1984 Olympics, Sam Eagle’s Cartoon, and The Magnificent Marble Machine
With the Summer Olympics starting this month, I started to look backward at the Games of 1984 that took place in Los Angeles. This includes a wonderful full upload of the complete opening ceremony on YouTube. If you have 6 hours to spare, I suggest you give them a look.
Watching those ceremonies really captures the excitement and energy of the games. I enjoyed the pageantry, the music, and most of all Sam Eagle.
Who was Sam the Olympic Eagle?
Sam the Olympic Eagle was announced in 1980 as the official Mascot of the 1984 games. Designed by Disney Legend Bob Moore, the character would famously be incorporated into the logos for each Olympic event. As well as a host of other products.
Originally the plan was to use a bear, the animal that appears on the California flag as the mascot of the games. Fortunately for eagle lovers, the bear was used by the Soviet Union when they hosted the 1980 games. So the mascot was switched to an American eagle in a patriotic top hat and bowtie.
Here is some great footage of Sam’s introduction from the UCLA Film & Television Archive.
Sam was a hit here in the United States, but he might have actually been a bigger hit across the Pacific Ocean in Japan. There he had his own animated series.
Fun Fact: The first Olympic mascot was Schuss from the Grenoble Olympics in 1968. He is a VERY stylized person skiing.
Eagle Sam the Cartoon
In April of 1983, the Tokyo Broadcasting Company (TBS) started running a cartoon based on the adventures of Sam. The series developed a decent following and would run for 51 episodes, finally ending its run in March of 1984.
The show is about a private investigator named Sam who is transformed into an eagle that bears a striking resemblance to the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Mascot. Along with assistant, Canary, he gets into adventures and fights bad guys using his magical hat and the power of the Olympic rings.
Details about the show are scattered across the internet, but the show remains mysterious because, despite being very popular, it is no longer available anywhere.
The only thing out there now is a single episode, that someone was nice enough to subtitle. Enjoy the magic.
I hope that one day they find and re-release Eagle Sam. It is some exciting “lost television.”
I have a few other shows that have also disappeared that I would love to see. Top among them is a game show called…
The Magnificent Marble Machine
In the summer of 1975, a daytime game show called The Magnificent Marble Machine premiered on NBC. Hosted by Art James, it had a lot in common with other gameshows at the time in that it was quiz-based and paired contestants with celebrities.
These celebrities were great, but they were hardly the stars of the show. That honor went to The Magnificent Marble Machine itself, which is a big pinball machine. And when I say big, I mean GIANT.
Here you can see the Machine in action and get the incredible mid-Seventies vibe of the show.
The wonderful program only lasted a few months and sadly just a couple of episodes can still be seen.
Even though it is not being broadcast on the small screen anywhere, the show has been immortalized in the film, The China Syndrome. In the movie, footage from the show is used in the background, although no credit to the show is given for it.