Tag Archives: 80s Cartoons

31 Days of Monsters, Day 6: Sir Trance-A-Lot has already got a Holy Grail. It’s Ver-ary Nice!

Playing a little bit of catch up today (didn’t get this guy posted at midnight like I wanted), but better later in the day than missing it completely I guess.  For today’s monster animation cel I have a really cool frame featuring one of Prime Evil’s main henchmen, Sir Trance-A-Lot!

I absolutely love the character design on STaL, what with his imposing skull face (mirrored on his steed Frightmare) and even his Dali-esque moustache and French-ish accent (provided by the much underappreciated Lou Scheimer.)  I love that as a ghost he’s also sort of like the Sandman from the Real Ghostbusters as his main power is to put people to sleep using his Trance Lance (which has a sawed-off tip and spews a sleep-inducing gas.)

This cel also came affixed to a production photocopy of a background, this one featuring a pretty gnarly-looking castle!

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 5: Poso in honor of Puzo!

Hey boils and ghouls, it’s Friday, Day 5 of the 31 Days of Monsters Countdown here at Branded and I’m slipping back into The Real Ghostbusters territory.  As a continuation of last Wednesday’s post, here’s Poso in all his pink Jabba the Hutt-like glory!

I read a bit of trivia on this character that says his name is an homage to Mario Puzo, the author of the Godfather novel (seeing as how Poso is desperately trying to become the spirit world’s own Godfather.)  We also get another glimpse of Peter Venkman covered in the yellow Psychomagnotheric Slime (originally featured in the live action Ghostbusters sequel) in this cel.  Unlike most of the Real Ghostbusters cels I’ve acquired, this one came attached (with double-sided tape) to a vintage production photocopy of a background, which leads me to believe that they may have used this cel in a reshoot or correction of some sort.  Here’s what it looks like with the background intact (if you look close you can see the darker patches with the double-sided tape near the top of the scan…)

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 4: Jake Kong can run rings around this Colossus!

We’re jumping back over to the Filmation Ghostbusters cartoon for today’s 31 Days of Monsters post.  This cel features Jake Kong Jr. facing off against a giant colossus, and it comes from the episode #13 (production # 68008) titled “A Friend in Need” from 1986.  In the episode, Prime Evil’s boss, Big Evil, decides to take over the organizational duties at Hauntquarters and it’s up to Jake, Eddie and Tracy to team up with Prime Evil to take Big Evil down!

 

This cel is from a segment where Big Evil animates two huge statues laying around Hauntquaters, and sends them after the heroes.  This giant metal colossus is pretty neat and reminds me a bit of the character design of Calibos from the original Clash of the Titans (p.s. world, I hate having to type “original” Clash of the Titans.)  Like most of the Filmation Ghostbusters cels I was able to acquire, this one was accompanied by a vintage production photocopy of the background…

…though in this case the background isn’t accurate (though it was taped to the cels to keep them in place on it which is weird.)  Checking in this episode I can see that the BG is a bit different (though both feature the Hauntquarters setting.)

Either way, I’m glad to have it and honestly, it’s pretty darn awesome even all by its lonesome!

I love the quality in the Filmation backgrounds, it was always an area where they never skimped…

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 3: Venkman gets suited up in Psychomagnotheric Slime and is chaperoned by Shifter!

Well, it’s Day 3, and I’m bouncing back to a couple of animation cels from The Real Ghostbusters featuring Peter Venkman, Luis Tully, and more importantly (to this countdown) Shifter, the greasy ex-stooge of gangster Boss Poso (who will be making an appearance shortly) from the episode Partners in Slime (which originally aired in season 5, 1989.)

This episode is fun because it’s one of the few in the series that calls back to events from the live action movies, in particular the Psychomagnotheric “mood” Slime from Ghostbusters II.  In an effort to become the kingpin of the spectral underworld, Poso kidnaps both Janine and Luis and the only way to get them back is for Shifter to smuggle Peter into Ghost Town (in New Jersey of all places.)  In order for the rouse to work, Peter has to be covered head to toe in the mood slime recovered after the battle with Vigo in GBII so that he can look ghostly and have limited spectral powers (like flight.)  For some reason the slime is yellow in the cartoon instead of the soft bubblegum pink of the film.

I guess in a way, since the slime is almost sentient, today features two ghosts.  I wanted to include this second cel from my collection so illustrate what Peter looks like fully covered in the episode.  Also, you’ll notice a sneak peak at Friday’s Ghost, as we can see a rather large pink tail that belongs to a certain mobster spook…

Also, a quick note about the original pencil drawing that accompanied this second cel.  As someone who loves cartoons, both the final episodes and all the behind the scenes work that goes into creating them, I can’t help but get a little bummed at how these elements were treated after the shows were finished being produced.  Unfortunately, at the time (in the 80s) there wasn’t a huge demand for these cels and pieces of production artwork so it was common to just stack hundreds of them in boxes (cels interspersed with their corresponding production drawing or photocopy of the background artwork) and have them shipped off to an un-climate-controlled storage unit, left to rot for years.  Luckily a lot of the cels and drawings survived, but many became fused together as the paint on the cels melted and re-dried to the drawings underneath.  The below damage isn’t all that severe, but I do have some where the production drawing had to be destroyed in order to get a good scan of the cel.  It always kills me when this happens.  Anyway, off the soapbox I hop…

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 2: Ghost Buggy is Raring to Go!

Alright, it’s day 2 of the 31 Days of Monsters Halloween Countdown, and since I started out with a cel from the Real Ghostbusters yesterday it’s time to switch things up and visit one from Filmation’s Ghostbusters!  I like to start these cel countdowns with stuff that’s either not-so-scary, or with characters that might otherwise be considered one of the good guys.  So, sort of like the Slimer cel, I was thinking of a character that would be sort of similar in the Filmation universe and the one that immediately sprung to mind was Ghost Buggy!

Certainly a “must” for any Ghostbusters outfit worth its salt is a sweet, yet temperamental ride, and Ghost Buggy fits that bit to a T (a haunted Model T that is.)  This southern jalopy is not only sentient, but he can also transform into all sorts of vehicles from a car to a plane, a train, and can even travel through time!  DeLorean, eat your heart out.

One of the aspects that I love about Ghost Buggy is that his face doubles at the logo for the team.  Whereas the Real Ghostbusters cartoon writers and series developers did their best to work in the “No Ghosts” logo specter into the opening credits and interstitials, Ghost Buggy is actually a part of the team in the Filmation series.  In a way GB is almost the ultimate 80s cartoon logo/faction symbol in this manner (think the Autobot, Decepticon, Cobra, and Thundercats logos.)

Anyway, I was lucky enough to score a copy of this cel with one of the vintage Filmation background photocopies, so for once we can put this cel in context of a scene.  Though I’ve yet to get my hands on some of the original Filmation background paintings, these photocopies really go a long way to making me feel like I have a small piece of this cartoon in my collection.

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

31 Days of Monsters, Day 1: Slimer’s coming to get you!

Welcome back to another Branded in the 80s Countdown to Halloween!  This year marks my 7th year celebrating the season here on the site and I’m really excited to be able to resurrect the 31 Days of 80s Monster animation cels.  Back in 2009, and again in 2010 I had the opportunity to share a total of 62 Real Ghostbusters monster, ghost and creature animation cels from my personal collection.  This year I was able to dig up 31 new pieces, though I’ve decided to shake things up a bit and alternate between both the Real Ghostbusters and Filmation Ghostbusters cartoons.  Though TRG is arguably the more popular franchise, oddly enough Filmation GB animation cels are much harder to come by.  It’s taken me years to be able to find some, though only enough cels so that I could share them during half of my Halloween-y countdown.  So I thought it would be fun to bounce back and forth.

To get this started though, lets go back to the 31 Days of Monsters roots with this awesome cel featuring everyone’s favorite focused, non-terminal repeating phantasm, or a Class 5 full roaming vapor (who can eat a vending cart full of hotdogs like no one else), Slimer!

I absolutely fell in love with this cel when I stumbled across it.  Not only is Slimer wearing a great Hawaiian shirt, but that demonic expression is great.  I actually ended up donating this exact cel to the recent Strange Kids Club Issue 3 kickstarter to help raise the funds needs to get that comix anthology printed.  So this guy hopefully has found a new loving home where it will be displayed proudly in a “Strange” collection.  Be sure to keep tabs on the Strange Kids Club to get the details on when Issue three will be available for public purchase, as it’s going to be an issue full of fun comics and articles that you won’t want to miss.

As a bonus, here’s a scan of the accompanying pencil sketch that the base animation cel was produced from…

So come back each day this month for a new monster animation cel, and also, for more Halloween-y fun all month long, be sure to check out the Countdown to Halloween website for the complete list of sites participating in this year’s spooky fun.  John Rozum has been working hard compiling the list, and it looks like there is a lot of awesome sites already signed up.

Cartoon Commentary, taking a closer look at King Gorneesh from the Ewoks…

I’ve been on a kick lately going through my collection of ephemera and animation cels looking for my favorite stuff to pull out and frame.  I recently converted our office into the true Branded HQ and archive, and for the first time in 6 years there’s actually stuff on the walls besides action figures.  While sifting through my collection of cartoon cels, I came across this one of Gorneesh, King of the Duloks from the Ewoks cartoon, circa 1985…

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I’m a pretty big fan of the design of these bumbling villains in the series.  There’s something about how they visually spar with the shorter, stubbier design of the Ewoks that really works for me. They’re taller, lanky, and much more slimy in appearance, yet they feel like they inhabit the same world I guess, specifically in the cartoon series (I have a hard time imagining them in the live action Star Wars world without them coming off like the Gungans from the prequels.)  Actually, now that I think about it, the Duloks were a sign of things to come in the overall Star Wars universe, design-wise, but I guess I can forgive a lot of their cartooniness when they’re in an actual cartoon.  Hell, there’s an episode of the series where the Duloks big scheme is to steal the fabled Ewok soap so they can take a bath and get rid of their ever present fly infestation!  Maybe it’s hypocritical of me, and I can accept that, though I think there’s a possibility of them being pulled off less like Jar Jar, and more like the characters in say Jabba’s Palace from Jedi if handled by the right creative team.  Hell, the Ewoks don’t come off nearly as cartoon-y in ROTJ as the Gungans so in TPM.

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In particular, with King Gorneesh, I love the animal bone armor he was given, and think that the vertebrae headpiece doubling as a Mohawk was a brilliant flourish.  I also love that one of his ears has been scarred, along with his eye; makes the character design seem really imposing, even though he was sort of goofy in the cartoon.

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I also loved the dark, dank, swamp the Duloks called home.  Again, it’s in drastic contrast to the Ewok’s village in the trees, and reminds me of the Legion of Doom’s hideout in the Super Friends cartoon

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All in all, whenever I think about the Ewoks series, the first thing that comes to mind is King Gorneesh, as the Duloks were the most striking addition to the mythology that the cartoon introduced.  I remember seeing these Kenner figures on the pegs before I got a chance to see the cartoon and was in awe of a Star Wars villain I’d never been introduced to before.  It’s made the acquisition of the animation cel above one of my favorites too.

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Now, if only the animated series would get a proper release on DVD instead of the horrible edit that already exists, I’d be a truly happy Ewoks fan…

Taking a look at the first season of the ThunderCats!

So I recently caught the first couple episodes of the newly relaunched ThunderCats cartoon and it got me in the mood to break out the first season of the original show on DVD and watch a bunch of episodes.  Sort of like the Transformers posts last month, I figured I’d run through a bunch of scenes and aspects that I found interesting.  Before I get to that though, I wanted to say that I’m enjoying this new series even though I think it’s making some very weird choices story-wise.  For the most part I really like the changes the writers have made to the back-story, picking a relate-able age for Lion-O, ignoring the Superman origin of escaping the destruction of Thundera, and introducing some familial ties to the characters; heck, even tying in Mumm-Ra to the legend of the Eye of Thundera feels like a move in the right direction of making sense of the enormous amount of ideas presented in the original series. T here are some odd aspects to the story though, that I feel just don’t work.

First, the concept of treating “technology” like magic, as if it were some mystical unknown fairytale, is just weird and goes against the logic of what technology is.  With magic, which is heavily prevalent in the world of the ThunderCats in both series, there is no real basis for why it works or exists because it’s completely fictional and a product of fantasy.  There’s no science or reason to it, it just is.  Technology on the other hand has its roots in reality, in the simplest of tools (levers, wheels and inclined planes), and even though a graphing calculator might be light years ahead of an abacus, it’s a natural progression of the concept.  Granted the tech introduced in the show is of a more advanced and alien design than what we currently have in the world, but it’s not to say it’s stuff that out of the realm of possibility.  It’s the science fiction aspect of the series.  So to treat technology as if it were a fairy tale, a part of fantasy, though interesting, just seems like a plot device full that’s at odds with itself by the very nature of the difference between science fiction and fantasy.

The other weird plot point is that at the end of the first episode we’re left with a group of ThunderCats that are more less seeking vengeance for the destruction of their kingdom and the murder of their people and king.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good vengeance/revenge story, but I think it’s the wrong way to frame a story about heroes.  The Punisher, the Bride from Kill Bill, Lone Wolf and Cub; these characters aren’t heroes and are beyond redemption.  It’s a weird choice to frame the ThunderCats story with this sort of anger and intensity.  Not only does it possibly lead to unjustifiable actions by the “good” characters, it’s also hard to keep that intensity going over the course of an extended series.  Either every story has to tie into Mumm-Ra and the revolt of the Mutants, or there’s going to have to be a pretty darn good reason to stray from the path to have a stand alone story without it feeling like a waste of time.  The beauty of a lot of 80s era cartoons was that they were set up in such a way that you could go anywhere with the characters.

Well, anyway, that’s how the new show’s introduction came off to me.  Getting back to the original series and the point of this article though, first thing’s first, let’s get the naked cat out of the bag so to speak.  By that I mean…

Why were the ThunderCats freaking naked in the pilot episode!?!

I have absolutely no idea why Leonard Starr (the pilot’s writer) or the guys in charge of production on this series decided it would be a good idea to introduce the ThunderCats as a race of seriously naked cat people.  Not only are the characters naked, but they don’t even have any distinguishing genitalia.  They all have creepy Barbie Doll crotches and it’s just weird and disturbing.  I mean I know there is a history of anthropomorphized cartoon animals that aren’t wearing clothes (Porky Pig’s missing pants anyone), and I understand that there are plenty of mammals in nature that just have the fur on their backs, but this goes beyond that.  Way beyond that…

I mean there’s even a point where Jaga takes all the characters aside and gives them each magical clothing (and weapons) stating that “…on our planet you needed no protective clothing or special weaponry…”.  My question then is why is Jaga wearing clothes from the very beginning then?  I almost get the vibe that Jaga’s been traveling off-world or something, which he may very well have, but from a design standpoint it’s just really wonky.  Maybe it was the writer’s intent to showcase the characters getting fancy new uniforms, but then why not introduce them in some common bland tunics or something that they eventually change out of?

  

Honestly, it probably wouldn’t seem so weird if the character design on all the ThunderCats didn’t allude to the idea that their faces, chests and neither regions aren’t covered in fur. Or the fact that though naked, they’re all wearing boots.  It also doesn’t help seeing scenes with Kit and Kat, or a naked Cheetara waking up a very young, naked Lino-O.  Maybe it’s just me, but seeing naked women and adolescent young boys and girls in cartoons for kids is just wrong…

Speaking of weird decisions in the pilot episode, why did Lion-O grow to full adulthood while in the suspension capsule?

  

While preparing for the long journey to Third Earth the ThunderCats are ordered by Jaga to make the trip in a series of suspension capsules that will slow their aging and enable them to survive the trip.  He mentions offhand that some aging does occur, but when their ship crash lands on Third Earth Lion-O has grown to full adulthood and it’s treated like an anomaly.  What’s weird is that none of the other characters seem to have aged at all, including Wiley Kit and Kat who were roughly the same age as Lion-O.  Again, I have a feeling the writers and/or producers wanted the character to be like a child in a man’s body who has to learn to lead the ThunderCats, but their choice to age him up with no real reason was just weird.  How hard would it have been to write a quick segment that showed his capsule being damaged somehow?  I mentioned above that one of the cool aspects to 80s era cartoons was that they were usually set up in such a way that nothing was off the table.  The guys and gals who put this show together really took that to heart though, and these sorts of decisions, to age Lion-O, etc., really point to that freedom to try anything (even if it doesn’t make sense.)

I completely forgot that Wiley Kit and Kat were just as likely to shred some waves as the Autobots and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!

One of the first things that Panthro creates for Wiley Kit & Kat are surf/hover boards to give them a little bit more mobility and something to do.  Growing up in Florida it was really hard to not be inundated with the surf and skate culture of the 80s, but I’m not sure how other areas of the country reacted to it.  After moving up to New Hampshire at the end of 1989 I was shocked by the lack of T&C, Billabong, and Maui surf and skate T-shirts at school, and I even ran into some kids that didn’t know what surfing was.  Watching these cartoons though, it’s really weird to see the surfing trend popping up so often.  It makes me wonder how many of the other series feature it?

Sometimes, life REQUIRES arm wrestling!

  

In Episode 15, The Time Capsule, Lion-O is getting a bit depressed and home sick for Thundera.  At the same time he doesn’t remember all that much about it and Jaga appears to him and mentions that part of their ship’s cargo was a Time Capsule that contained the collective knowledge of Thundera.  The ThunderCats go on a quest to seek out the capsule and Lion-O eventually finds it in a cave, though it’s now apparently been claimed by a caveman that isn’t going to give it up without a fight.  Actually, he won’t give it up unless Lion-O beats him in the most macho of all manly contests, the arm wrestling match!  It’s like watch an animated version of Over the Top, just with no estranged children in military academy, eating cigars and drinking motor oil, or big rig trucks.

The last thing I wanted to bring up today is an aspect of the series that’s very close to my heart, the amazing amount of branding in the cartoon!

Not that long ago I met a guy though my day job that used to play with the Misfits back when the band was still coming together for the first time.  I have a Misfits messenger bag, and he noticed the Crimson Ghost Skull logo and we got to talking about how amazing it is that over thirty years later there are still kids picking up stuff stamped with that image.  Heck, though Jerry Only has been trying his damnedest to keep the band going, most people really only dig the original stuff when Danzig was a part of the band, and that’s been over for about 25 years.  Yet still, that iconic skull has power.  If there’s one thing that came out of the commercial design of the 70s and 80s, this type of powerfully iconic branding was it.  The Autobot and Decpticon symbols, the Ghostbusters logo, Pac-Man, the Atari Logo, the Nike Swoosh, and the ThunderCats logo are just a few of the hundreds of popular logos that are still around to this day.  This show really took this banding to heart and you can see it in almost every aspect of the design from the vehicles…

   

…to the castles…

   

…and even the villains. Mumm-Ra’s logo, though almost as iconic as the cat’s head logo, is actually the one aspect of this sort of branding in the show that was really underused.  I’m surprised, seeing as how Mumm-Ra is basically the leader of the Mutants, that they weren’t all sporting the entwined snakes on their outfits, vehicles and gear.  This is actually something addressed in the new series that I really loved.

In particular I love how the ThunderCats logo is worked into the stories of the various episodes because of the Sword of Omens.  Whenever Lion-O is in trouble he can call upon the other ThunderCats by reciting a chant (“Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, ThunderCats HOOOOOOO!”) and then holding the sword aloft.  It then projects the ThunderCats logo into the sky so that any member of the team within sight of the symbol will feel the call and come running…

So not only is the logo plastered on every building, vehicle, article of clothing, etc, it’s even an integral part of the narrative.  In my opinion this is hands down the most brilliant use of branding in a cartoon during the 80s.

Well, come back next week for part 2 of this article where I’ll be talking a look at some of the ThunderCats characters, the crazy designs, and more.

Getting Along with the Littles on DVD!

As I’ve mentioned numerous times over the past year, there are really only three or four outlets left for find 80s animation released on DVD.  Of those companies, Millcreek has really been making strides to pick up titles that have fallen out of print or to produce low cost releases for some cartoons that have never seen the light of day on DVD.  In addition to picking up a number of titles from the now defunct BCI Eclipse (Bravestarr, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, Defenders of the Universe, and Dungeons and Dragons), they’ve also struck up a distribution deal with Shout! Factory to release some of their catalog that was previously released or only available from their MOD program (namely C.O.P.S., and Best Of releases of Transformers and G.I. Joe.)  They also have a partnership with Cookie Jar which gives them access to a very large library of titles.

Well, a couple weeks ago they started shipping a trio of releases that I’m pretty excited about.  First up, they’ve released an updated version of the Littles, the Complete series in a three disc set which for the first time features all 29 episodes, the feature film (Here Come the Littles), and their one television special (Liberty & the Littles.)  Though the series have been released on DVD in the past (by Cookie Jar themselves), you could never get all the 80s era content in one package…

The best part?  This set is only $13, and can be found online as cheap as $9!  Like most Millcreek television releases, the discs come sheathed in individual paper sleeves which are housed in a snap-in section of the DVD clamshell cases, but at only three dics this is hardly an issue.  The video/audio quality of the discs is also the Millcreek norm, which is decent, but not quite as good as past releases.

Millcreek also released a 10-episode Best Of disc for those of us they don’t need the full series and just want to get a taste of nostalgia on the cheap.  Basically a repackaged version of Disc 1 from the Complete series release, this set includes the episodes: Beware the Hunter, Lost City of the Littles, The Big Scare, Lights-Cameras-Littles, Spirits of the Night, The Little Winner, A Big Cure For a Little Illness, The Rats are Coming-The Rats are Coming, A Little Fairy Tale, and Prescription For Disaster.

Though it’s cool that Millcreek is keeping the Littles in print on DVD, the release that I am really excited about is the Best Of the Get Along Gang!

I made a pledge to myself 10 years ago that I’d try and track down at least one episode of every cartoon I watched as a kid (and considering I grew up in the 80s, that’s a tall order), so I always get floored when a series is released on DVD for the first time ever.  The Get Along Gang is truly one of the staples of Saturday Morning Cartoons from the 1980s, and it bridged the gap between action fare (like Dungeons & Dragons or Mr. T) and the more “good for you” content of PBS (like Mr. Rodgers or Sesame Street.)  Originally created for a series of greeting cards (much like another anthropomorphic set of critters, the Shirt Tales) and stationary, these characters made their first jump to the small screen on Nickelodeon back in 1984 in a single pilot episode created by the Nelvana company (which you can catch on youtube, part 1, part 2, and part 3.)  When the show was picked up for a series it was brought over to DiC Animation and then aired on CBS for three seasons consisting of a total of 13 episodes (each with two 11 minute segments.)

The series centers around 6 main characters, Monty (the moose), Dotty (the dog), Woolma (a sheep), Zipper (a cat), Bingo (a beaver), and Portia (a porcupine) who hang out in a train caboose clubhouse and have adventures around their town.  Each episode typically features a moral of good behavior, as well as a run-in with the town bully Catchum (an aligator) and his toady Leland (a lizard.)  Going back and watching some of the episodes for the first time in almost 30 years I was surprised at how well they hold up.  Sure, they’re a bit hokey and stress the “goof for you” aspects of children’s programming, but there was much more adventure than I was expecting/remembered.

The one thing that really bugs me about this release though is that Cookie Jar/Millcreek decided to only put out 10 of the 13 total episodes.  I’m having a hard time getting my head around the logic behind holding back three episodes.  Generally the price of production would pop up as a reason why, but when you compare this release with that of the two Littles DVDs, money really doesn’t seem to be a factor.  Even if they would have included a second disc I doubt it would have inflated the price point much, I mean the difference between the Complete and Best of Littles sets are only $3 (and that represents 19 additional episodes and 2 feature films.)  Though they might release a second disc in the future, I have a feeling we’re never going to see it.  I’m not sure if there was an issue with the master tapes on these cartoons, or if there is some other reason why they chose not to release these three episodes.  Personally I really think they dropped the ball on this release.

On a positive note, I have copies of the Littles DVDs to give away this week.  To enter for a chance to win a copy of either the Complete Littles DVD set (1st place winner) or the Best Of disc (2nd place winner), head on over to the Branded in the 80s Facebook page (like it, if you haven’t) and leave a comment/response on the discussion board under the Littles DVD Contest thread with the name of your favorite Littles character. I’ll be picking a winner at random on Monday, August 8th at 2:00pm est.  Remember, these are region 1 DVDs, so if you’re an international reader take note. Good luck!

Move over TMNTs, The Transformers are going to Hang Ten!

So, picking up from where I left off last week when discussing some of the things that jumped out at me while re-watching the 1st season of the original Transformers cartoon, there were a lot of things that I didn’t remember from watching the show as a kid.  I really curious to see how the second season holds up to the first considering the franchise really caught on and became hugely popular between the two.  At some point I also need to go back and see how these first 16 episodes stack up against the Marvel comics.

Did you know that the Autobots can SURF!

Whereas a motif in the series is to introduce new characters with specific alt-modes that work in a specific environment (ala Jetfire to help give the Autobots flight capabilities or the Constructicons to enable the Decepticons to burrow under the Autobots base), sometimes this is thrown out the window because there are no toys to back up these needs.  In episode 13, “Revival”, part 3 of “The Ultimate Doom” mini series, the Autobots need to infiltrate the Decepticons new energy station from the sea.  Instead of building a boat or introducing a new character (Sea Spray was a year or so away from release), the Autobots instead decide to catch a tidal wave and secretly surf into the complex.  Hey, maybe skateboarding mutated giant turtles weren’t such a groundbreaking idea after all!?!

Did you know that Soundwave can read your mind?

   

In episode 5, “Roll For It”, we’re introduced to a new human, Chip Case, who is working in a laboratory with a scientist on an antimatter formula.  Of course Megatron wants to steal it as a means of producing energon cubes, and though he tried to out-smart those big evil bozos by memorizing the formula and destroying the only electronic copy, Chip Chase soon learns the folly of underestimating the Decepticons!  Again, another motif of the Transformers was for the writers to introduce new powers for each of the robots, but largely these were dictated by the plots and from a continuity standpoint didn’t make a whole lot of sense.  For instance, sometimes Optimus Prime’s antennae on his head can work as a long range communications device, yet other times when he’s stranded and needs help these aren’t utilized.  Hell, just consider his trailer which rounds out his vehicle form nicely, but then typically it disappears when he transforms (except the episode where he’s badly injured and Huffer helps out by hauling it back to their base.)

So when Megatron is confronted with Chip holding the antimatter formula hostage in his brain, he simply orders Soundwave to read the puny human’s un-evolved mind.  At first I thought Soundwave was going to utilize some sort of device, but then I was surprised to see him bend down and place his index fingers to Chip’s head, downloading all the pertinent aspects to the formula.  How utterly weird!

So Soundwave was a streetlight on Cybertron?!?

One of the cool aspects to the first episode, and something I’m really glad that the writers and story editors decided to include in the Transformers series was to highlight the Autobot and Decepticon’s alien natures by giving them different alt-modes before they come to Earth.  It isn’t until crashing on the planet and being awoken millions of years later that the Transformers get their iconic alternate modes (Teletran-1 is awakened and send out a satellite that scans various vehicles and items and then sends that data back to be reprogrammed into the Transformers.)  For instance, before becoming fighter jets, the Decepticon seekers Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp have an interesting pyramidal alt-mode, referred to by the fans as Tetrajets…

These al-modes back on Cybertron were typically similar in nature to their eventual vehicles counterparts, with a couple weird exceptions.  Apparently on Cybertron Soundwave was a streetlight!  Granted, as far as spying on the enemy faction goes, this would be an awesome alt-mode, but with the playability factor in mind for the toys this would have been a nightmare.  Some of the characters were also somewhere in the middle of oddly alien and their new Earth counterpart.  Take Laserbeak for instance.  He seems like a weird flying disk, but also has the head of an avian…

   

Even though this concept was decently thought out by the writers, there was one major stumbling block that couldn’t be overcome (at least not without confusing the young target audience.)  Having an alien alt-mode is one thing, but what about the iconic appearance of the robot characters?  How would the kids know who is who if for instance Bumblebee is introduced in a robot mode that retains some of the parts of his Cybertronian alt-mode, and then changes after he’s programmed to convert into a VW Beetle on Earth?  Sure, he might still be yellow, but then so is Sunstreaker.  Nope, to circumvent any confusion and to keep the iconic designs of the robots intact Sunbow decided to keep aspects of the eventual Earth alt-modes on the characters.  So Bumblebee’s feet are still the front end of the VW Beetle, Optimus Prime still has the big rig front end on his chest, and Soundwave still has the playback buttons of a tape recorder on his chest…

So there was already a 2nd set of seekers, before the introduction of Dirge, Thrust, Ramjet?

In episode 6, “Divide and Conquer”, a group of Autobots travel over the spacebridge back to Cybertron in an attempt to find a crucial component to save Optimus Prime’s life.  While there Megatron orders three Decepticon seeker jets to attack them by causing an acid rain storm.  These seekers have mostly different color schemes than Starscream (red, white and blue), Thundercracker (mainly blue with red accents), and Skywarp (purple, grey and black), and are neon green, bright yellow and completely blue…

Though not named in the episode, these characters are dubbed the Rainmakers by fans (since they create the acid rain storm), and eventually some of them would get monikers.  The green one is named Acid Storm, and was released by Hasbro recently in their Transformers Classic line of toys.  The yellow one is technically unnamed by Hasbro, though there is a seeker jet named Sunstorm with similar coloring that some fans assume is this character.  I don’t believe the blue one was ever given a name or a back story.

So Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon swiped the overall plot MacGuffin from the original cartoon?

Yup, from the three part series “The Ultimate Doom”, episodes 11-13, Megatron conceives of a plan to conquer Earth by building the ultimate spacebride, large enough to reach through space and transport Cybertron into the planet’s orbit.  The idea is to capture the energy released by this cataclysmic cosmic disturbance and funnel it into Cybertron.  Part of this plan even involves setting up Pylons around the globe, all of which is part of the new big screen movie.  Personally I’m not a fan of these films, but it was interesting to see this plot point ripped out of the cartoon…

   

As a last bit of interesting trivia for the Transformers 1st season, I thought it would important to point out the level of action and violence.  Generally, when I think about the action cartoons of the 80s I tend to remember them having a whole lot of lasers with none of them actually finding any of their targets.  I mean there are running jokes about Cobra Troopers being horrible marksmen and then there’s the idea that the Decepticons must of have a lot of accuracy training between the end of the second season and the beginning of the ’86 film.  The fact of the matter is that there was a ton of violence in the 1st season of the Transformers and actually there are scenes that rival the movie for its gritty reality.  In episode 6 Optimus is hurt so badly in a fight that he’s on the verge of death.  This scene could have been ripped right out of the ’86 film, complete with him lying on an operating table with exposed inards and such…

The main difference between the movie and the 1st season is the finality of the violence.  No one dies in the series, not like in the film, but there are plenty of scenes that surprised me because of how gritty and action packed they were.  Just goes to show that the zeitgeist, though ever-present and affecting everyone, isn’t always accurate.