DVD Review: Transformers - The Complete Series (or, My Childhood in a Box, Part 1)
I reviewed the Season 1 collection of the original Transformers cartoon a few months ago (read it here), but I recently got an early Christmas gift when a big box arrived here at the office: a box from the fine folks at Universal Music Canada (which distributes Shout! Factory products up here) containing the full-season collections of Transformers as well as G.I. Joe. It was, without a doubt, one of the greatest days in the history of this blog.
Intended to commemorate the 25th anniversary The Transformers, this new box set contains all 98 episodes of the original cartoon and a wealth of bonus features. And as much as it’s tempting to dismiss The Transformers as nothing more than an extended advertisement for children’s toys, the fact that the property is as popular today as it was when I originally enjoyed these shows does say something. Make no mistake, this was a show designed to sell toys (the producers and Hasbro execs are pretty upfront about that in the extras), but the way it’s captured the imaginations of millions of people means it’s evolved into something more than a cynical marketing campaign for 25-year-old toys. Watching Transformers again confirmed that the people who created this show clearly devoted a lot of time and energy into crafting a cool and compelling story, and as one of the kids it was meant to entertain back in the day, I can confirm they were successful. Screw the toys; when I was 7, The Transformers was the coolest thing on TV.
The show, by today’s standards (and more crucially, by an adult’s standards), is, predictably, pretty hokey and silly, but in a charming way. There’s an episode where Hollywood makes a movie about the Transformers and cast the robots to play themselves, and it’s hard to take the Autobots vs. Decepticons confict terribly seriously after seeing Autobots sitting in oversized directors chairs while they wait to be called to the set. That being said, this was a show clearly intended for kids, and the episodes – even the sillier ones – have a fun, breezy vibe to them, and everything bops along at an enjoyably brisk pace, and it’s rare that more than a couple of minutes goes by without some robot-on-robot violence.
I was happy to see when I was poring over the episodes that the post-Transformers: The Movie shows were included. (The movie itself isn’t included in the box set, but I already have it on DVD, as I am a huge nerd.) The 1986 animated movie jumped the action ahead a few decades into the future (2005!), and because I always preferred sci-fi, I always dug the “futuristic” episodes a bit more. Even as a kid, the futuristic setting seemed to make more sense to me; transforming alien robots that turn into futuristic cars and planes is a bit more logical than transforming alien robots that turn into handguns and cassette decks.
Overall, by today’s standards, The Transformers is not really that mind-blowing, at least in terms of animation and action. But then again, this is clearly a set designed with the nostalgia audience in mind, and on that level, it’s one of the coolest DVD sets I’ve reviewed yet.
This and the G.I. Joe set (which I’ll be reviewing tomorrow) are easily the slickest collections I’ve yet looked at for this blog. The packaging looks great, and it’s awesomely thematic – it replicates the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, first glimpsed in Transformers: The Movie, and slides open the same way the Matrix is pulled apart – and the 16 discs themselves are housed in classy little sets of four each. Also included is a kickass booklet containing recaps of all 98 episodes and character bios.
Packaging and other stuff aside, the Transformers set also has some of the most fun and entertaining DVD extras I’ve seen in a long time. This is probably mostly due to my interest in the property, but rarely have I seen a collection of featurettes this genuinely fun to watch, whether it’s a reunion of several of the show’s voice actors (all of whom are charming and funny and a treat to listen to), a wonderfully fun retrospective documentary on the genesis of the Transformers and the show itself, as well as featurettes on the toys, the comics and Transformers fandom. And of course, the original toy ads, which are an even more powerful blast of nostalgia than the show itself. I remember all of this stuff, and revisiting it was a treat.
If you’re not already a fan of the original Transformers cartoon, this set, as great as it is, probably won’t sell you on it. But if you’re like me and grew up with this show, this collection is simply awesome.
Labels: animation, nostalgia, TV on DVD