Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 16-B: Transformers Pt. 2

Welcome to part 2 of Transformers.

1986 would prove to be a big year for Transformers, with the summer release of The Transformers Movie. Although a box-office flop, the movie was a turning point for the animated series,jumping the action forward to the year 2005 and introducing a new cast of characters that were the first to be originally created for Transformers,and not derived from other toylines.

Free of the restrictions of television,the movie featured the deaths of many characters including Opitmus Prime. This didn't sit well with fans,but was needed to make room for the next generation of toys.

The future setting of the movie continued on into the third season of the series, which debuted in September 1986 and ran to November of that year, picking up right where the movie's events had left off.

With the addition of Flint Dille as story editor, the series took on a strong sci-fi orientation, with grimmer storylines and stronger inter-episode continuity that revisited concepts more regularly than past seasons.

With a new season,came new new characters,both Cybertronian and Human. Again,they weren't as popular as the older characters.

A slightly different version of the theme song was the new intro for the season, first heard in the Transformers commercials. Fifty percent of the season's episodes were produced by Korean animation studio AKOM. The studio would later work on Batman: The Animated Series, although after producing poor-quality work they were eventually let go.

The grim direction, different animation and new cast of characters ultimately failed to sit well with the viewing audience, who desired to see Optimus Prime return to life after his big-screen demise. Unicron,the planet-sized villain from the movie,also returned.

The production team ultimately gave in to these demands, and Prime was brought back in a two-part episode that aired in February 1987.

Finally, Hasbro's attention from the series drifted, and Transformers was not allocated the funds that would allow it to continue. The series was brought to a close in November 1987 with the airing of the fourth season,which consisted solely of a three-part story entitled "The Rebirth."

The 3-part mini-series was by written by writer David Wise,who had previously scripted several episodes. "The Rebirth" introduced the Headmasters and the Targetmasters and restored a new age of peace and prosperity to Cybertron.

But the Decepticons stole the final scene of the episode, just to let viewers know that their evil was not yet crushed, and that the battles would go on.

The theme song was still the same as the one from season three, but the intro had scenes from season three as well as scenes from past Transformers commercials.

Although this was the end of the American show,in Japan, four additional animated series were produced. These were: Transformers:Headmasters, Transformers: Super-God Masterforce,Transformers: Victory and Transformers: Zone.

In 2007,Transformers Animated debute. This was the first American made Transformers show in years. Beast Wars,made in 1996,was Canadian/American.

The Transformers didn't quite disappear from American airwaves though,as a fifth season aired in 1988, serving as "best of" collection of the series. It re-aired 15 episodes from the original series, along with The Transformers: The Movie edited into a further 4 episodes.

To help promote the then-new Powermaster Optimus Prime figure, the first new Optimus Prime figure since 1984, Sunbow produced new material featuring a stop-motion version of Powermaster Optimus Prime interacting with a boy named Tommy Kennedy.

Each episode would be told as a story to Tommy by Optimus Prime, and together they would essentially introduce and close each episode.

From 1993-1995, the original Transformers series was rebroadcast under the Generation 2 label. The Generation 2 series featured a new computer-generated main title sequence, computer-generated scene transitions, and other small changes.

The original stories were presented as though they were recordings of historical events by the Cybernet Space Cube (sometimes referred to as the Cybercube). The cube had the various scenes on its faces, which it spun between transitions,replacing the classic spinning Autobot/Decepticon logo.

It's also woth noting that a large percentage of the characters featured in the show were not featured in the toyline, and vice versa.

Anyway,The cartoon was produced along side a comic book series produced by Marvel between 1984 and 1991.It's referred to now as "Generation One" (or more simply "G1"). The comics tell a different version of the story. Both versions were equally authorized by Hasbro.

The name "The Ark," referring to the Autobots' ship, was not used in the original cartoon. In the cartoon series the ship's computer was called Teletraan I; in the comics, it was called "Auntie," though this name was not often used.

Five proposed public service announcements (PSAs) were created for the second season of the series, but never actually aired on television (they appear as bonus features on the DVD's though).

These PSAs were based on the ones used by the G.I. Joe animated series. They even reused the catchphrase "...and knowing is half the battle," which was popularized by the G.I. Joe PSAs.

And Now it's time to talk controversies.

The character Optimus Prime was killed off during Transformers: The Movie, sparking outrage from parents who felt the character's death adversely affected their children.

The writers had already planned to bring Optimus partially back to life for one episode, "Dark Awakening", before killing him off again. As a result of the public outcry,however,they brought him back for good in the episode "The Return of Optimus Prime".

It is worth noting that in Japan, despite the same revival occurring, Optimus (known there as "Convoy") was killed yet again in the 1987 Japanese-exclusive Transformers: The Headmasters series. He was ressurected four years later in the magazine-exclusive "Transformers Battlestars: Return of Convoy" story,in which he was reborn as Star Convoy.

In the episode "Thief In The Night," the character Abdul Fakkadi was introduced as the "Supreme Military Dictator, King of Kings, and President for Life of the Socialist Democratic Federated Republic of Carbombya."

This was an obvious play on tensions between the United States and Libya. Fakkadi's name is a play off of Moammar Kadaffi,The Libyan President.

Casey Kasem,who voiced Cliffjumper and the the Autobots' computer Teletraan I objected to the parody,and quit the show when it was not removed from the episode. Kasem himself is of Lebanese descent.

Cliffjumper, despite having survived the movie, was phased out as of that episode, and Teletraan I was destroyed with the Ark in the episode "Five Faces of Darkness (Part 5)."

Well that was an informative ride wasn't it? Transformers was an awesome show,with an even more awesome toyline.

That's gonna do it for now,see ya next time on the Cartoon Historian.

*The Transformers Theme Plays*

1 comment:

KingsSideCastle said...

Nice lesson. ^_^ Transformers was classic. :-)