Directed By Buzz Dixon
Starring Chris Latta, Michael Bell, Frank Welker, Arthur Burghardt
There are those animated shows from the 80’s that have grown from children’s programming to iconic pop culture status. One of those shows is The Transformers and another one that’s easily just as popular is GI Joe. When I was growing up I watched GI Joe fairly obsessively but I knew I was starting to outgrow it when I started to compare it to the A Team. The A Team drove me nuts because everyone on that show fired tons of rounds of ammo but very seldom did anyone get shot. GI Joe was the same way. Sure, it’s a cartoon from the 80’s so it makes sense that people weren’t getting killed every week.
Shout Factory is bringing this series to DVD again and as usual they’re doing a much better job with their release than previous iterations. The timing of this new version is very precise as the new live action film is upon us. In a nutshell GI Joe is a group of Special Forces soldiers that work for the U.S. government to defend the world against terrorism. The terrorist group of choice is of course Cobra. Cobra, led by Cobra Commander, Destro, and a few others is dead set on dominating the world at any cost. They constantly come up with new mass effect weapons that they attempt to utilize to meet their goal whether it be a weather control device or a gadget that allows Cobra to transport anything anywhere.
At its core this series is honestly fairly campy. The dialog is often groan inducing, even for a cartoon, and the animation is sometimes quite poor looking even for the era. On the other side of the coin though is that this series seems to have a surprising amount of focus on continuity and lengthy story arcs. Some stories take as many as five episodes to be told from beginning to end. Just the pilot story alone takes five episodes to be told. For a cartoon that came from a toy that’s impressive. The original GI Joe toy was crafted in the 60’s and this series was originally meant as a way to revitalize the toy line. The plan worked to a greater degree than I suspect anyone behind the show could have predicted.
GI Joe isn’t unique in that it came from a toy line. This was common practice in the 80’s. Other examples of shows that came from toys are Super Friends and the mega franchise Transformers. Sure this series is of the era for the good and the bad. The stories are basic good versus evil, bad guy, good guy situations but within that formula there’s some depth attempted here and there and some solid serialization. The show hasn’t aged that graciously but it does remind me of the good old days when there were actually cartoons on in the afternoon when I came home from school and on Saturday mornings. There just isn’t that much attention given to animated shows for young boys today. I’m sure that’s due to things like videogames. We were lucky kids to have fun shows like this one when we were growing up.
This full frame presentation isn’t a restoration by any means. It is as solid a basic transfer as you could hope for though. Colors are often washed out, there’s grain, and the source material is worn a bit. The source material is almost 30 years old so any transfer that isn’t a true restoration is going to display the age of the source material. With all of that said there are occasional bright spots in the presentation and overall the image is watchable.
The audio is similar to the video in that it’s basic and aged but listenable. The stereo presentation is dynamically flat and just a little muffled. The sound effects, score, and dialogue are well separated though making the show easy to follow.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The packaging features some cool retro art that’s quite eye catching and it does a great job of representing the show. There’s also a sheet of temporary tattoos that includes the Cobra logo and the Joe logo. Most fans of this series have outgrown the whole temporary tattoo thing so most of these will go unused inside the little episode guide books.
There’s a bevy of retro supplements that should scratch the nostalgia itch for many fans. There’s a collection of those classic PSA’s that end with “knowing is half the battle”. There’s a 1960’s era video promoting the original GI Joe toy, and some commercials for the toys from the 80’s. The most truly substantial bonus feature is the three part conversation with Ron Friedman covering many aspects of the series. It’s a very talking head sort of thing but there’s still some good information to be found in these featurettes.
So, there isn’t much here but there’s more than I expected.
This is a campy series but it’s still good fun all these years later.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Series 7/10
The Video 5/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features (Not an Average) 6.5/10
Overall (Not an average) 7/10