While there aren’t any official numbers, it wouldn’t be surprising that just about everyone has at least one Rubik’s Cube somewhere in their homes. In some cases, that Rubik’s Cube might be one of the older versions bought 30 to 40 years ago and perhaps sitting in a drawer somewhere, still unsolved. Others may have more current versions of a Rubik’s Cube that hasn’t really changed much, despite some variations to keep it in the social consciousness. At 40 years old, the Rubik’s Cube still manages to be talked about in pop culture, even if it seems more indirect now in TV and movies.
Despite artisans still using the cube in art pieces, the only reference we see to Rubik’s Cube on TV lately is the tissue box shaped like the cube seen weekly on “The Big Bang Theory.” Any references to being nerdy will generally apply to any cube references today. But 30 years ago, there was such an explosion of interest in the cube that it spawned many more TV references and in movies. In fact, the public was so enamored of Rubik’s Cube in 1983 that TV producers apparently had no choice except to make an anthropomorphic version for kids.
The Odd Run of “Rubik, the Amazing Cube”
If you’re old enough to remember when Saturday morning TV was a big deal on the main networks during all of the 1970s and through the 1980s, you might remember one brief series called “Rubik, the Amazing Cube.” At the height of the Rubik’s Cube madness, ABC somehow managed to create a cube that came to life, eerily with an alien-like head and little legs. He only came to life when all of the colors matched, and this became a recurring issue with the three children involved who rescued Rubik from an evil magician.
Yes, the above sounds like the same plot to “Frosty the Snowman”, only transplanted into a popular inanimate object. What producers were thinking with the concept is a matter of debate, though it was joined as part of a double bill with another anthropomorphic character: Pac-Man. While the latter Pac-Man series was a little more entertaining, “Rubik, the Amazing Cube” was perhaps a little too strange for kids to relate to. Imagining their Rubik’s cube coming to life seemed almost reserved for a series from the late 1960s when creative departments might have been smuggling in some secret green plants.
The best aspect to this show was that it brought the first animated Hispanic characters to Saturday morning TV. Ultimately, though, the show stopped producing new episodes a few months into its run. ABC, however, aired reruns of that small batch of episodes into 1984, perhaps to recoup costs on the shows produced.
It’s equally one of the most interesting and appalling examples of pop culture gone wrong with something as beloved as the Rubik’s Cube. Fortunately, it was used just as it is in other TV and movies without needing to be a superhero.
Rubik’s Cube in Other Pop Culture
The cube has showed up in various TV shows since the 1980s in quick cameos merely to prove an intelligence failure in a character. This included movies where the most recent use in the sequel “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” has Ben Stiller’s character mention to an ancient character the “Cube of Rubik” as a powerful weapon hidden in the museum.
It’s one of the few toys from yesteryear that still gets sly references in pop culture here and there, though so far hasn’t been the center of attention in a plot utilizing something nefarious. Now it seems more ready for museum exhibits to show more of the endless mysterious elements to the mind-bending toy. With Google giving tribute to it in an interactive Google Doodle recently, plus partnering on an exhibit at the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, New Jersey recently, don’t be surprised if we see the cube again with more up-front pop culture references.
With Erno Rubik himself saying his cube creation was all organic rather than artificial, you have to wonder the endless uses it could still have as a plot device in a new TV show or movie. Producers of Saturday morning TV should have realized that 30 years ago without adding a head to show its power.