TUTENSTEIN is the nickname of a 10-year-old Pharaoh named Tut-ankh-en-set-Amun (meaning "The Living Image of the Place of Amun") who was brought back to life after a lightning bolt hit his sarcophagus. Although dead for centuries, Tutenstein still acts like he is the ruler of the world and expects to be pampered in the manner to which he was once accustomed. Headquartered in the dusty old International Museum of World History, Tutenstein hangs out with Luxor, his faithful (talking) cat servant and advisor who is sworn to protect Tutenstein; Cleo Carter, a twelve-year-old girl who tries to keep Tutenstein's resurrection a secret after accidentally setting it in motion (she nicknamed him "Tutenstein"); Walter the museum's nervous security guard; Professor Horace Bedety, the museum's pompous archeologist; and Dr. Roxanne Vanderwheele, the professor's open-minded colleague and Cleo's mentor. One big disadvantage of Tutenstein's rebirth was that it opened up a Gate between the Underworld and the Overworld. Now the evil of Set, the ancient Egyptian god of chaos and disorder, has also awoken and covets Tutenstein's symbol of power, the Royal Scepter of Was. With it, Set plans to conquer the 21st century using a vast legion of demons.
The Emmy Award winning TUTENSTEIN cartoon series is currently shown around the world in several languages, with a loyal following of both children and academics, especially in the field of archeology. The character is available in downloadable phone games, has teamed up with Spiderman and the X-Men in a special comic book, and has had a massive float in the world famous Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade. You'd never know the little pharaoh had such humble beginnings!
Originally conceived as an idea back in 1994 for a Nickelodeon Magazine comic strip, Jay Stephens was then living in a dark, leaky, tomb-like apartment with his siamese cat, Taboo... the obvious inspiration for a little dead character with lofty ambitions. Jay still fondly recalls seeing the touring Tutankhamen exhibit as a young boy, an experience that triggered his lifelong interest in Egyptology, mythology, and the ancient world. The ideas gelled, and Tutenstein was born. Unfortunately, the comics editor at Nickelodeon rejected the Tutenstein proposal, suggesting that kids would be turned off by a little dead king, and Tutenstein went back to the drawing board.
A couple of years later, Jay was working on a new comicbook series called THE LAND OF NOD. Each issue focused on a different character and story, and issue three was set to be Tutenstein's official debut. A two-panel comic showcasing Tut appeared on the back cover of issue two, and this tiny taste of Tut was enough for producer Fred Schaefer of Porchlight Entertainment to take an interest in the character. Tutenstein was optioned in 1996, and Porchlight set about developing Tutenstein for animation.
Issue three of The Land of Nod came out in early 1997 amid great expectations. Unfortunately, the curse of the mummy was to strike again! The comic book was misprinted in a couple of places due to a publisher error, and the rhyming, children's book- like prose was utterly ruined. The whole print run had to be recalled and pulped, and Tutenstein's first full-length debut was tragically short lived.
Focusing his energies on the cartoon development, Jay worked up piles of drawings and script ideas for Porchlight, shopping them around to various TV networks without any success for several years. Finally, it seemed a perfect fit had materialized... Discovery Kids Channel was interested in developing it's very first animated show, and they thought Tutenstein would be a great match for their network. Tutenstein then entered what is commonly known as 'development hell'. A great many writers and artists (including Jay, of course!) tried their hand at giving Discovery what they were looking for before the network settled on the designs by Fil (Ghostbusters) Barlow and the pilot script by Mark Seidenberg. Jay Stephens settled into his role as Creative Consultant, keeping up with all creative aspects of the series.
After a long struggle, the 26 episode half-hour 2D TUTENSTEIN series premiered in November 2003 (seven years since the option) on NBC saturday mornings, and throughout the week on Discovery Kids. The little mummy boy was finally off and running. A second season is currently on the air, and one of the writers is, believe it or not, the Nickelodeon editor who rejected Tut back in 1994!