Earthworm Jim (found unaired test animation of Kids' WB! animated series; 1995)
A photograph from an unknown video game publication, showing stills of the test animation for Earthworm Jim.
Date found: 23 Aug 2022
Found by: gooberloll
Earthworm Jim is a 2D side-scrolling platformer, created by Doug TenNapel and developed by Shiny Entertainment. In 1995, an animated series was created by Universal Cartoon Studios and aired on Kids’ WB!, which would go on for two seasons. Before this, a test animation was made, featuring a slightly different design for Jim. Information on the test animation is scarce, with very few sources coming forward over the years to provide information about its development. Due to this, the test remains partially found, with clips and promotional stills giving us some insight into the development process of the cartoon series.
Per the former website of comic and animation artist Will Meugniot (who was working on another Universal series at the time, Exo-Squad), StoryboardPro.com, Doug TenNapel created a series of gag sketches for the reel; these sketches were extrapolated into a storyboard by Meugniot and then into a fully-animated reel; TenNapel also provided most of the voice work for the reel.
The full contents of the test animation are currently unknown at the time of writing. By reading the timestamps provided in magazine scans and promotional stills, some have come to the conclusion that the test is only a minute long. However, this is just speculation, and the actual length of the test is unknown.
Clips of the test have been used to promote the Earthworm Jim cartoon series, and are featured in promotional bumpers for the show. From what is shown, there’s very little dialogue but Jim’s voice more closely matches that of his video game counterpart at that time (as provided by TenNapel). Characters that would end up not appearing in the final cartoon series, such as Major Mucus, are shown in the test for a brief amount of time.
In June of 2018, Twitter user @AWDtwit provided a magazine scan with images of the test, with the following caption:
"Finally found it! Look at these really creepy screencaps for the Earthworm Jim cartoon test. I'm curious what the whole thing looked like... and why did they make him so fat?..."
Details about the magazine have not been provided, and it’s currently unknown which publication it comes from. Sources have narrowed down the publication as possibly being from Electronic Gaming Monthly, but the year and month of the magazine the article was featured in are currently unknown.
A user in the same Twitter thread claims to have seen the test aired on the television network TCC, claiming that the test was only a minute long. However, with no other sources to confirm this claim, it’s currently unknown if this is factual.
The whereabouts of the Earthworm Jim test are currently unknown as of the time of writing. Efforts have been made to contact individuals who could possibly have a copy of the test animation, but no new footage has surfaced. It’s possible that another copy of the VHS screener exists but it’s debatable if the collector or current owner of the tape would wish to upload the test online. A full copy, in Windows Media format, was previously available from StoryboardPro.com but said site has since gone offline. However, on August 23rd, 2022, YouTube user "gooberloll" uploaded the animation test to his channel.
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- A Tweet by the user @AWDtwit, featuring promotional stills of the test. Retrieved 21 Jan '21
- A Tweet by user @dbMisadventure about the test animation possibly airing on TCC. Retrieved 21 Jan '21