Transformers: The Complete First Season (25th Anniversary Edition) DVD Review

     June 29, 2009

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They had me at hello. Okay, maybe that isn’t quite right.  They didn’t have me at hello, as this is a DVD release and not a Cameron Crowe film.  But the sentiment is right on.  I love the Transformers.  And not the G2, or beast machines, or the silly animee style series.  I’m talking G1 baby. Transformers the Complete First Season 25th Anniversary edition is it!  I’m talking voiced by Peter Freaking Cullen, Frank Damn Welker and Chris bloody Latta!  This was my favorite cartoon as a kid.  And seeing a beautiful collection like this kind of makes me salivate.  More after the jump:

Okay, though I doubt there are newbs to the Transformers in Cyber Space, let’s just set the table.  Two factions of powerful sentient robot aliens have come to our planet to wage war and we humans are caught in the middle.  Bam.  Did I mention that these robots become cars and planes and stuff?  Yup, that was the pitch in 1984 when the Transformers first burst onto the American Pop Culture radar, and it still sounds awesome doesn’t it?

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Alright, now I need to take you all back a few years to the 80’s.  Not the feathered hair or power ballads.  Not Iran/Contra.  No, I need to take you back to a time when children’s television, barring Sesame Street, was a glorified 30 minute commercial.  That’s right.  They used cartoons to sell us stuff.  This is why upon recent viewing of several “classic’ series from this time period I’ve found myself continuously disappointed.  It’s also why I was absolutely convinced I NEEDED a Marshall Bravestar action figure… but I digress.  The fact is, most of the shows from the 80’s were substandard calls to purchase at best, and boring, sprawling “buy this” declarations at worst.  I don’t mean to rant, but I waded through several 50 plus episode seasons of a lot of crap in the last few years.  God love DVD.

But, here is where Transformers was, and is different.  It was a 30 minute commercial to be sure, but what the marketing people, or the creative team behind the series, or whoever, realized at the time, the better the commercial, they more longevity a product would have.  In other words, they realized that a well written, well drawn, well acted cartoon commercial would get us kids to go apeshit for the toys.  And it totally worked. Sure we loved the whole robots turning into stuff angle, but there were Go-Bots too and they didn’t take hold because the cartoon sucked.

Watching these first 16 episodes of Transformers, it is clear to see why the characters resonated so with our generation.  You have the noble Autobots, fighting to protect the week.  And even if their leader is perfect in most ways, they are a fickle, infighting, almost human bunch.  They’re easy to relate to.  On the other end of the spectrum, you have the Decepticons.  And while he may have voiced Cobra Commander originally, ­­­­­Chris Latta will always be Star Scream to me first and foremost.  If the Autobots have their flaws, the Decepticons are a study in in-fighting, bickering, and down right mutinous power plays.  Through it all Megatron as voiced by the amazingly talented Frank Welker, leads on being bested at every turn by “Prime!”.  My personal favorite of the collection is Fire in the Sky which introduces Jetfire and talks about the dangers of climate change long before an inconvenient truth (Sure in this episode it’s a fiendish Decepticon plot and not human error that could lead to climate shift, but still…).  The only bad thing about the 16 episodes is that they end all too quickly.  Leaving me wanting, nay NEEDING more.

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The transfer is incredible.  While I know I didn’t watch the episodes in HD originally, heck, I watched a lot of them on a 13″ color TV originally, watching them now on my 46 glorious inches of Samsung goodness it is clear that the utmost care was taken in the transfer from the original source.  The result is stellar.  The soundtrack likewise plays well in its new stereo incarnation (created from the original masters) and lets me fully enjoy the great voice acting and the appropriate, if dated, scoring.

Video/Audio/Extras

Shut your mouth, I’m just talking about extras! Okay, since I took you back earlier, I want to take you back to the 80’s once again.  I want you to think about a time, where crews didn’t shoot featurettes, hell even entire sequences just for the DVD release.  I want you to think about a time when there was no thought of video release.  When the idea of a film recouping on home entertainment sales was laughable.  This is time when Transformers was made.  And while there are no deleted scenes, bloopers, or making of shorts, there is a remarkable amount of extras gleamed by the caring staff that put this release together.

Triple Changer: From Toy to Comic to Screen lays out how the Transformers went from a Japanese toy line- to a cartoon, comic, and worldwide phenomenon.  It’s more than a little interesting.  If you are a die-hard fan, some of the facts will be known to you, but even so, it is presented in an entertaining and informative fashion.

There is also a printable script, so you can do you best awful Peter Cullen impression.  That aside, it is actually pretty cool to see how the printed words on the page compare to the final product on screen.

The real gems though, are the PSA and the toy commercials.  Yup.  There is a PSA, just like Hasbro did with GI Joe.  Only this one is better because it’s Bumble Bee saying not to run away from home and not Duke.  And the toy commercials are, well, they’re awesome. They don’t make toy commercials like this any more and they are a real treat to see.  They take me back.  Sure one is a G2 commercial, but it’s still cool.  And the other two are pure old school.  In fact, where the hell is my Kickback action figure, mom, I got all A’s!  You promised!

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The set also includes an Autobot magnet. Yeah.  Right?

Summary

If you aren’t already a fan of Transformers, I don’t really know what to say to you.  Not liking Transformers is like not liking … America.  Or puppies.  Or … awesome … stuff.    Period the end.  But if you need more convincing, or if you are already a fan and just want to know if you should own this set, let me be clear.  You want to own this set.  You really do. If the original episodes presented herein aren’t enough to convince you, then let’s talk about the wealth of extras.  And let me throw the pitch out to you one more time.  Alien Robots.  Fighting a war on our planet.  Great stories.  Great art.  Great voice acting.  And oh yeah … the robots turn into stuff.  And this is the OG, original Generation one version, the good one.  You remember Star Wars before the Phantom Menace?  This is like that.  Near freaking perfect.  A+ for DVD and A+ for special features.


Television