Starring Frank Welker, Peter Cullen, Chris Latta, Dan Gilvezan
Directed by Peter Wallach
Getting to take a trip back in time to this classic bit of pop culture was good and bad. Some things don’t stand up well to the test of time and some things do. Seeing how this show would hold up on its 25th anniversary was my biggest concern as I popped the first disc into the DVD player.
The Transformers was a television series created to sell toys. Hasbro actually had the toy long before they had the TV series or the comic books. That was a common practice back in the 80’s. So the show is highly pinpointed at kids of the 80’s so it’s a requirement to keep that in mind as you watch these episodes. The season begins millions of years ago with the hero Autobots and the villainous Decepticons fighting a war over their home planet of Cybertron. The transforming robots crash land on Earth and go dormant for millions of years. Both sides awaken in modern times and the war begins anew. This time the two sides are fighting over the energy on earth that they’d need to return to Cybertron. This entire back-story is told rather boldly in a three episodes story arc. The rest of the season follows the two sides fighting at a frantic pace only pausing for brief moments to introduce new toy lines such as the Insecticons.
The stories are built on really basic morality plays with the good guys triumphing over the bad guys and saving the day. These shows aren’t crafted like modern ones such as The Amazing Spider-man or X-Men where levels of complexity for older viewers are subtly integrated so the show can be for all ages. With that said the frenetic pace and some unintentionally humorous dialogue still make this season a good watch for fans that group up with the transforming robots. An episode here or there is like a serving of cotton candy. It tastes great but you can’t make a meal of it.
Thin action laden story arcs work fine in this format much better than in the newer Michael Bay feature films but after watching this box set there’s no denying that Bay really tried to bring this animated series to life, for better or for worse. The comic books actually tried to deepen the story a bit more than the TV series did and that can make the mythology a little murky but overall again, this is just good ole’ 80’s cartoon fun, nothing more, nothing less.
The full frame presentation here is best the show has ever looked on home video. Shout Factory has repaired animation flaws from previous releases, color corrected the image as best as possible, and cleaned up the image to the best of their ability. Overall the image looks good but due to the age of the source material it’s just not consistent. Some bits are vivid and clean and other featuring interlacing issues and grit on the source material. It’s not HD but it’s the best the series has ever looked on home video.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 presentation is surprisingly clean and well executed if a bit basic. Dialogue, score, and sound fx are separated and clean throughout the episodes. Dynamic range is fairly flat and there’s not much subwoofer use but still for a 20 year old series it sounds fairly good.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The three disc set comes packaged in two slim amaray cases all presented inside a cardboard box. The cover art is exactly what you’d expect from a season one release although for a 25th anniversary edition you’d think the packaging would appear a bit more epic. Inside the packaging is also a fantastic Autobots logo magnet.
On the last disc there’s a really interesting documentary called “Triple Changer: From Toy to Comic to Screen”. The 20 minute featurette covers the creation of the toy as it was brought over to the states from a Japanese company called Takara and the comics and television shows that followed. The people that worked behind the scenes to create the pop culture phenomenon tell the stories of how the Transformers came to be all the way down to where the “Autobots” and “Decepticons” names came from. They actually reveal that the Go Bots were first to market but the Transformers hit the market blazing with comics and a television series before the toy ever even hit the market. This featurette is fascinating and I would have loved to have seen it run twice as long with even more detail. The only thing missing are the iconic voice actors. They make no appearance at all in the bonus features.
Other than the featurette there are three commercials from the 80’s that are a blast to watch, a public service announcement, and a printable script.
Some participation from the voice actors is painfully missing. Some cast or director commentaries on the episodes would have been great too. The documentary featurette is well done and fascinating though.
Overall (Not an average) 7.5/10
The Season 6/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 8/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10