Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Transformers Complete 1st Season DVD Review

Not going to bore fellow fanboys with a review of the animated series itself on this first in a series of new DVD releases from Shout! Factory and Hasbro. If you are interested in this '80s cartoon series you already think it's great or it takes you back or you bought it for your kid because, yes you are now that old. Let's talk about the bonus features or lack thereof.

Disk Three has one nineteen minute feature and a few short extras. Three commercials and one of the old animated PSAs (Public Service Announcements). Oh, yeah, and one printable script of an episode.

The main feature is titled Triple Changer: From Toy to Comic to Screen. A talking head retrospective of how the TF toy line came to be and how the comic and animated show were created to help sell the line in the U.S. The story is interesting but the interviews are lop-sided. Two original producers of the animated series and the original writer of the comic are here but all the Hasbro interviews are with current employees. All too young to have been there 25 years ago.

The most interesting interview in the piece is with former Marvel Comics writer/editor Bob Budiansky. This guy almost single handedly created each of the names and back stories for each of the characters. He should be one of the richest creators around as the guy who gave name and personality to the show, the books and every G1 TF toy. Here Bob shows off his original, hand written list of TF names he jotted down and then referenced every time Hasbro needed to name yet another new toy robot. What's a name like Megatron worth you think?

And here is a look at the original treatment for the main plotline of the series...

The feature is interesting about how the toy line was started but overall a wasted opportunity by Shout! Factory. Since this is a DVD set for an animated show...where the hell is any artwork or behind the scenes look at the show itself? Designs, storyboards, paintings, discussions with series directors or other artists or writers. None of those talents or any art from the series would be hard to track down. So why the miss?

The other "bonus" content on the disk, are very odd inclusions. The PSA actually should not be a bonus at all. These 15 second PSAs were tacked onto the end of most originals episodes. Just like for the GI JOE animated series, there were several of these vinyets created. So why not include all the PSAs and add them to the end of the episodes themselves?

Lastly there are three laughable commercials. In the first two, the quality is very poor and looks like they were pulled off some bootleg VHS tape. Ontop of this, all the faces of the child actors in the spots are completely blurred out! Looks like Hasbro didn't feel like paying these kids, now adults, again per the Screen Actors Guild agreement. You can always find the original, non-blurred content on YouTube. And more of a selection of spots.

And the last of the three spots is for the Generation 2 line! A version of the TF toy line that was introduced around the early 1990s...long after the animated series on this set ended. A really sloppy, and just plain stupid inclusion.

C'mon, I knew this and I'm not even a collector.

Animated series on DVD: A+
Bonus Disk Content: C-

If Shout! Factory wants to be a bigger player in the DVD production, they will need to at least put some thought and effort into what they are doing. There is a giant Transformers multi-season box set being released in July. Maybe that's what they are saving the real behind the scenes work for.

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