Transformers: The Complete First Season (1984) - 25th Anniversary Edition

Genre(s): Action / Animation
Shout Factory || NR - 360 minutes - $29.99 || June 16, 2009
Reviewer: Kushmeer Farakhan || Posted On: 2009-07-06


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: NA
Writer(s): NA
Cast: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Featurette
  • Printable Script
  • Commercials
  • PSA


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 3
  • Full Frame (1.33)
  • English (Dolby Stereo)
  • Subtitles: NA

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.::THE FILM::.

Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons...

The theme song doesn't lie. The 1984 original animated series The Transformers is simply about that...and not much else and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Transformers began its life around 1982-1983 as a bunch of random transforming robot toys made by Japanese toy company, Takara. American toy company Hasbro decided to import (and redesign in a few cases) the toys as one line called the Transformers. But how to promote and market it was the big question all involved had. Well, during the 80's, toy companies partnered with animated studios and comic book publishers for the express reason of promoting their products. In this case Hasbro teamed up with Marvel comics to create a comic book that they would advertise to get young boys into the toys. Sunbow animation created a commercial (complete with the now classic theme song) to promote the comic book and... the kids took the bait. Hasbro (without even putting their names on the commercials) began receiving tons of phone calls from parents and their children wondering "when is the cartoon coming on? And where are the toys?" Having already had success making an animated G.I. Joe cartoon, Marvel and Hasbro decided to commission an 16 episode season of the Transformers. The rest is history.

The cartoon follows the heroic peace loving Autobots led by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) as they chase the evil Decepticons led by Megatron (voice of Frank Welker) to earth from their home planet of Cybertron. The Decepticons go there in search of energy and raw materials and eventually seek to conquer earth and (in the long run) the galaxy. While there, the Autobots befriend a young guy and his dad by the name of Spike and Sparkplug Witwicky. The Autobots basically wage battle on the Decepticons every episode after the Decepticons hatch some scheme to get more fuel (or something). Occasionally new Transformers(on both sides) would pop up on the show, some explained and given their own storylines(the Dinobots or the Insecticons) and others would just show up despite never having appeared in earlier episodes(Hoist, Dirge, Blaster, etc).

Is it any good? Eh...not so much. The episodes (especially in season 1) are quite formulaic and can be broken down into one sentence: The Decepticons break into a bunch of human run energy factories and then the Autobots stop them.

That's it. Also, there are numerous animation color mistakes and the occasional character either being off model or having the wrong voice come out of the wrong characters mouth.

So why give it such a high rating then, Kush? Unlike the recent live action films, this show is primarily built on the strength of its characterization. Many of the characters have distinct personalities and excellent voice work as well. Other than Optimus and Megatron (who Cullen and Welker do amazing jobs on by the way), you also have the traitorous Starscream (the late Chris Latta), Jazz (the late Scatman Caruthers), dinobot Grimlock (Greg Burger) and Soundwave (Welker again, this time with a voice modulator). All of these characters are fairly fleshed out and have excellent voice actors. THAT is what makes this series work. It runs almost exclusively on the strength of its characters and they are great.

As formulaic as most of the stories can be, they weren't ALL the same. My favorite episodes on the set include "Fire in the Sky"(in which an Decepticon named Skyfire or Jetfire in the live action film and comics, awakens and decides to join the Autobots over his former Decepticon comrades), "S.O.S. Dinobots" (in which we're introduced to the Dinobots), the 3 part pilot "more than meets the eye"(which not only introduces the characters, how they came to earth, started looking like earth vehicles etc but also has some of the best and most classic dialogue exchanged between Megatron and Optimus during battle scenes) and my favorite episode of the season, the season finale, "Heavy Metal War".

While the show is not amazing, season 1 is easily the best of the show's 3 season run by far.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

For many, this is probably the deal breaker on this set and I'm happy to report that(for the most part) it delivers.

We start off with Triple Changers: From Toys to Comics to Screen, a 20 minute long documentary that interviews execs at Hasbro, comic writer Bob Budiansky and others about how they turned the toy line into a TV series. For me, it was riveting. I have the Transformers animated movie 20th anniversary DVD and they had tons of features on it that ultimately don't say much at all but this little 20 minute doc spoke volumes. It was amazingly detailed and I loved every second of it. The creators even speak about their favorite characters.

Next we have a rare PSA in which Bumblebee teaches some kids stuff and tells them "knowing is half the battle". Yes, yes, I know it's more of a G.I. Joe thing and it's something Transformers did maybe 3x during its entire run but it's still kind of funny to watch.

Next we have a printable script of one of the episodes. It's pretty fun. If you're nerdy enough or maybe want to practice some voice acting (both of which describe me), it's especially cool.

Finally we have 3 Toy Commercials. One is an advertisement for the initial 1984 toy line (never seen that one before, very cool), the next is one advertising the Insecticons and finally you have one from the late, late 80's advertising "Power master Optimus Prime".



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

This is hype by Shout Factory as one of the biggest improvements over the earlier 2002 release from Rhino entertainment on DVD of the series. Is it improved? Yes. In particular, the audio. I remember having to turn up my older DVDs much louder to hear it better but this I don't have to turn it up much at all to hear it booming through my speakers. The video is not quite as stunning but you can still tell it's been cleaned up a bit.



.::OVERALL::.

“Transformers: The Complete First Season” isn't amazing animation by any means but it is entertaining. I can recommend it to hardcore fans for sure and to casual 80's toon fans. If you're a fan who already owns the Rhino DVDs released earlier in the decade (like me), I can honestly urge you to take the double dip. It's a better visual presentation and more importantly, the extras had a lot more effort put into them. Go get it.