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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Action > Animé TV > Transformers - Original Series box sets

Transformers – The Original Series Complete (All 5 boxed sets)


Picture: C+     Sound: B-     Extras: C     Episodes: C+



Until recently, Marvel Comics seemed to always be falling behind on TV against rival DC Comics, not to mention any theatrical films that worked, for those that even got made.  In 1972, DC gave us the classic Superfriends, which single-handedly relaunched interest in the superhero genre, which was recovering from a silly series of censorship.  By the early 1980s, the show was still on the air in it is final seasons, but Marvel teamed up with Sunbow Entertainment with their own take.  Godzilla had a big screen run into the 1970s and by 1978, an animated version (the one with Godzuki) was a hit.  In either case, along with the likes of Ultraman and Inframan, most of the giants battling were monsters and the occasional human or “bionic’ type human.  Transformers was entirely animated, but made all the giants robots, like the Shogun Warriors franchise.  However, the twist was their ability to mechanically reconfigure into totally other, unexpected machines.  Faster than you could say “Wonder Twin Powers, Activate!”; the show was a hit.


With its loose Jack Kirby-styled art look, the show ran for four successful seasons.  Also picking up from the successful introduction in the U.S. by then now-defunct Mego Toys of The Micronauts, all the machine/characters had similar comic book names.  The toys also became as successful and recently, the oldest and best kept of them have become worth quite a bit of money, not unlike the G.I. Joe animated series and 3 & 3/4th-inch toy series of the same name (see my review of the pilots on DVD from Rhino elsewhere on this site).


The show is repetitious and silly, but it had a gimmick that became a toy classic that happened to have an animated series to go with it.  Trying to explain the extremely slender differences between the “characters” is futile, so here are the episodes of each of the five boxed sets with their extras:


The 16 episodes in Box One, Season One include More than Meets the Eye Parts 1, 2 & 3, Transport to Oblivion, Roll for It, Divide and Conquer, Fire In the Sky, SOS Dinobots, Fire On the Mountain, War of the Dinobots, The Ultimate Doom Parts 1, 2 & 3, Countdown to Extinction, A Plague of Insecticons and Heavy Metal War. This box set collection includes a special bonus 4th disc, which contains special features like Outtakes and Anomalies, the Japanese "Transformers" Show Opening, “Bumpers,” Japanese Bumpers, Episode #4 teleplay - "Transport to Oblivion", "A Taste of Botcon" - highlights from the 2001 Transformers Convention.  The second box has Autobot Spike, Changing Gears, City of Steel, Attack of the Autobots, Traitor, The immobilizer and The Autobot Run.  Two limited edition cels of Transformer characters, "A Taste of Botcon 2002" documentary highlighting the Transformers Convention, Interviews with Voice Actors Neil Kaplan, Michael McConnohie, and Scriptwriter Earl Kress are included as extras.  The third box offers The Golden Lagoon, The God Gambit, Make Tracks, Child's Play, Quest For Survival, The Secret of Omega Supreme, The Gambler, Kremzeek!, Sea Change, Triple Takeover, Prime Target, Auto-Bop, The Search For Alpha Trion, The Girl Who Loved Powerglide, Hoist Goes Hollywood, The Key To Vector Sigma Parts 1 & 2, Aerial Assault, War Dawn, Trans-Europe Express, Cosmic Rust, Starscream's Brigade, The Revenge of Bruticus, Masquerade. and B.O.T.  The only extra in this set is an interview section with Writers Flint Dille and Buzz Dixon.  Box Four has Five Faces Of Darkness, Parts 1 – 5, The Killing Jar, Chaos, Dark Awakening, Surprise Party, Madman's Paradise, Webworld, Carnage In C-Minor, Forever Is A Long Time Coming, Fight Or Flee, Thief In The Night and Starscream's Ghost.  Extras include Bot Con 2003 Footage, PSA's, 2 limited-edition animation cells and Transformer historical trailers.  The final, fifth boxed set includes Ghost In The Machine, Dweller In The depths, Nightmare Planet, The Ultimate Weapon, The Big Broadcast of 2006, The Quintesson Journal, Only Human, Call Of The Primatives, Grimlock’s New Brain, Money is Everything, The Face of Nijika, The Burden Hardest to Bear, The Return of Optimus Prime Parts 1 & 2, and Rebirth, the three parts which conclude the entire original series ion two versions.  It also comes with another David Wise interview.  Two more cells are also included and all five come with booklets summarizing the shows.


After all that, you can see that it would take a very, very long essay explanation to explain that mess, but fans will know it like second nature.  The show was really marking the decline of how great Saturday Morning TV was for kids, with the Big Three networks beginning to abandon the once ultra-profitable institution.  The episodes all include the brief pieces that mark commercial breaks.  Sadly, in one of the most obnoxious practices in TV history, they would tell kids the show would be right back when it was over just to make them watch commercials, then return not with an epilog, but the end credits.  That was the final killing of children’s TV on the networks and still continues soullessly to this day.  What they do not realize is that it has cost the networks (and al the cable channels also still doing this) hundreds of millions of dollars, as in the old days, the kids would check out the commercials and then move on to the next cool show.  Then again, the commercials also went into decline, so they ruined everything.


As has been a great practice of Rhino DVD, the episodes come from original 35mm materials, which show their grain, are not always colorful, and show cell dust particle all over.  Outside of spending money to do touches of restoration for Digital High Definition, these are as good as they are going to get.  The sound is available in three Dolby Digital configurations, from 2.0 Mono, to 2.0 Stereo with surround, and a 5.1 mix that has good bass sound and is preferred, though it cannot hide, mask or avoid the age of the recordings or their monophonic origins.  Fans who like the show will enjoy all the options, though purists will want the mono, no matter how weak.


Sop the show ended and the toys eventually went out of print, but now, both the show on DVD and the toys are picking up their secondary market following.  I was never a big fan of the show, but realize its simple appeal.  Now that Rhino has the original series issued completely on DVD, they are working on the later series which are already being covered on this site.  Whether the franchise will ever have the popularity it originally had before will ever happen again is slim, especially with the limited success of the 1990s shows and the disaster the current Armada is.  However, maybe Hasbro will get crazy enough to do an insanely expensive live-action feature film, possibly with now red-hot Marvel and some kind of revival will surface.  Until then, it will take the climbing cost of the original toys and these DVDs to keep it going.  Fans can take heart in that.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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