Many comedies dominated pop culture throughout the 1980s, with many of the movies and television series fondly remembered to this day. Many of these comedies were driven by the proven talent found on Saturday Night Live. However, others were built from the ground up with a cast of whacky misfits. This group dynamic allowed the Police Academy franchise to rise to prominence and dominate the 80s with movies, television series, and toys.
Police Academy began in 1984, with the film that introduced the whacky antics of a class of unfit police cadets. This introductory film introduced Steve Guttenberg in his first major role, Carey Mahoney. During a time when the mayor had opened up the police academy to any willing recruit, Mahoney was given a choice to either join or go to jail. Thus, the frequent offender decided that his best move was to feign reforming by going through the training.
Under the oversight of the absent-minded Eric Lassard, Mahoney and multiple other cadets tried to prove their mettle. Meanwhile, veteran cops like Thaddeus Harris despised the idea of open enrollment, so he tried to sabotage the training. The class included Larvell Jones, Eugene Tackleberry, Moses Hightower, Debbie Callahan, and Laverne Hooks. By the end of the film, the cadets were able to quell a riot and pass their training.
The quirky antics of the Police Academy cadets made the movie a hit at the theaters. It became even more popular as it hit television, especially with younger audiences. Thus, the sequels of the original R-rated film toned down the antics so that it could cater to these younger audiences. Moreover, the decision to aim for younger audiences later led to the franchise gaining a cartoon series.
The first sequel, Police Academy 2: The First Assignment, appeared in theaters in 1985. As it followed up the story of the first film, the previous cadets were now sworn-in police officers. They were sent over to the 16th precinct to assist with The Scullions, a gang terrorizing that area. Despite heavy opposition and interference from Mauser, the team was able to take down the gang. This film notably introduced Carl Proctor, Carl Sweetchuck, Zed McGlunk, and other new officers. This film also concluded with the wedding of Tackleberry and Kirkland.
The next sequel, Police Academy 3: Back in Training, hit theaters in 1986. This time around, the governor had announced budget cuts to the police academy system. Thus, the current academies had to complete to prove which one would stay open: Lassard’s or Mauser’s. By the end of the film, Lassard’s academy proved successful as they handled a group of thieves that had infiltrated the governor’s ball.
Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol, the final film featuring Steve Guttenberg, made its debut in 1987. The new element of this film was a program that allowed average citizens to behave as officers. The city formed the Citizens on Patrol, or COP, program to alleviate the overworked and understaffed department. Despite many officers considering the program an affront and joke, the COP members proved their critics wrong. By the end of the film, they played a crucial role in detaining multiple escaped convicts.
The loss of Mahoney did not stop the Police Academy franchise, for Police Academy 5: Assignment Miami Beach came out in 1988. Rather than keeping the plot within the original city, Lassard and his former trainees visited Florida. As Lassard’s mandatory retirement was past due, he was being pressured to retire after receiving the police officer of the decade reward. During their time in Miami, the crew dealt with jewel thieves. As Lassard played a crucial role in taking down the thieves, he was allowed to continue active service until he deemed fit.
The next film in the franchise, Police Academy 6: City Under Siege, made its debut in 1989. This time around, a dangerous gang of jewel thieves was threatening the peace of the entire city. Thus, the governor brought in Lassard and his team to assist another precinct that was failing to adequately respond to the situation. The team then successfully thwarted the Willson Heights gang during a city-wide blackout.
The final film in the franchise, Police Academy: Mission to Moscow, came out in 1994. This film brought the team to Russia, where Ron Pearlman’s character, Konstantine Konali, and his mafia ran amuck. Earlier, the Russian Commandant assigned the case, Alexandrei Nikolvaich Rakov, left a meeting with Lassard on a positive note. Thus, he called upon the American officer and his team to deal with the Russian mafia.
Years later, plans for an 8th film began to take shape in 2003. While the film’s production had planned to shoot the film in 2006 and then release it in 2007, it never materialized. Thus, the Police Academy film series has remained dormant.
During the height of the Police Academy franchise, an animated series began to air in 1988. Ruby-Spears Productions along with Warner Brothers Television brought the whacky antics of the officers to the small screen. It ran for two seasons with a total of 65 episodes before it left in 1989.
The animated series’ story was set around the time between the fourth and fifth films. It featured characters like Cadet Carey Mahoney, Cadet Larvell Jones, Cadet Carl Sweetchuck, Cadet Zed McGlunk, and Cadet Moses Hightower. It also included Cadet Laverne Hooks, Cadet Thomas “House” Conklin, Cadet Eugene Tackleberry, Sergeant Debbie Callahan, Captain Thaddeus Harris, Sergeant Carl Proctor, Captain Ernie Lassard, and Commandant Eric Lassard.
Later, the live-action Police Academy: The series aired from 1997 until 1998. The one-season run included 26 hour-long episodes. Warner Bros. Television produced this series with the assistance of Protocol Entertainment. It notably only had one cast member from the movie series: Michael Winslow’s Larvell Jones.
Police Academy also received a comic book adaptation. Marvel’s Star Comics Presents label published six issues that used the animated series as a jumping-off point.
One of the most beloved aspects of the Police Academy franchise was the toy line from Kenner. Created in 1989 to profit off and market the animated series, this toy line featured characters from the series. Moreover, the designs and feel of the toys matched the whacky, animated fun of the cartoon. Each of the 5” tall action figures featured action gimmicks that matched the character’s traits. They also came with weapons or accessories like safe traps.
The first wave of standard action figures from 1989 included Carey Mahoney, Claw, Eugene Tackleberry, Larvel Jones, Moses Hightower, Mr. Sleaze, Numbskull, and Zed. Kenner then added these characters in the 1990 wave: Flung Hi, Karate Larvel Jones, Kingpin, and SWAT Eugene Tackleberry. There were also Rookie figures introduced in 1990. These action figures included Sky Glidin’ Zed, Snack-Attack House, Stakeout Sweetchuck, and Undercover Carry Mahoney.
Kenner also created a few playsets, role-play toys, and vehicles for the Police Academy toy line. The play sets were Copper Corner and The Precinct Police Station. Meanwhile, the role-play toys were a Cadet Set, Handcuffers, and Loudmouth Bullhorn. The Police Academy toy line’s vehicles included the Clash Cycle, Crazy Cruiser, and Jail Jalopy.
As with many other toy lines, Kenner had planned to release more toys, like 2 additional vehicles. However, they never fully produced these toys.
As with the rest of the franchise, there have been no attempts to revive or recreate the Police Academy toy line. Thus, the only current way to obtain these toys is on the second-hand market.
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