Monday, May 3, 2010

The Cartoon Historian Lesson 16-A: Transformers Pt. 1

Welcome to the Cartoon Historian. In this 2-part lesson,we are going to take a look at the 1st Transformers animated series. I originally planned this lesson for a later date,but I got so many requests for this I just had to get this done early.

So anyway,here we go.

The Transformers is an animated television series depicting a war among giant robots from a World called Cybertron,who could transform into vehicles, other objects and animals.

Though Written and recorded in America,the show itself was animated in Japan. This was a very very common practice at the time. Where American Cartoon would be animated in Japan.

Anyway,The entire series was based on a toyline of transforming figures originally created by Japanese toy manufacturer Takara, which were developed into the Transformers line by American company Hasbro.

In Japan, the series was called Fight! Super Robot Life Form Transformer for Seasons 1 and 2, and Fight! Transformers 2010 for Seasons 3 and 4. Following the conclusion of the series in 1987,4 Japanese sequel series were created.

In response to the 1993 relaunch of the toyline and its accompanying comic being called Transformers: Generation 2,The Original series is frequently called Transformers: Generation 1,aka G1. Initially a fan-coined term, it has since made its way into official use.

The Transformers toyline and cartoon/anime series all owed their existence to the Japanese toyline,Microman (an asian descendant of the 12" G.I. Joe action figure series). In 1980, the Microman spin-off,Diaclone,was released, featuring inch-tall humanoid figures able to sit in the drivers' seats of scale model vehicles, which could transform into humanoid robot bodies the drivers piloted.

In 1983,a Microman sub-line, MicroChange was introduced, featuring "actual size" items that transformed into robots,such as microcassettes, guns and toy cars. Diaclone and MicroChange toys were subsequently discovered on show at the 1983 Tokyo Toy Fair by Hasbro toy company product developer Henry Orenstein, who presented the concept to Hasbro's head of R&D,George Dunsay. Enthusiastic about the product, Hasbro decided to release toys from both Diaclone and MicroChange as one toyline for their markets.

Once the FCC did away with regulations that prohibited toy companies from broadcasting cartoons based on their products in 1984, the way was cleared for the new product to get a television show.

Hasbro had previously worked with Marvel Comics to develop the G.I. Joe toyline,the tie-in comic book,and an animated mini-series co-produced by Marvel's media arm, Marvel Productions,as well as Sunbow Productions animation studios.

In 1984,Hasbro marketing vice president Bob Prupis approached Marvel to develop their new robot series, which Jay Bacal dubbed "Transformers."

Marvel’s Editor-in-Chief at the time, Jim Shooter, produced a rough story concept for the series, creating the idea of the two warring factions of alien robots – the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons.

To flesh out his concept, Shooter called upon veteran editor Dennis O'Neil to create character names and profiles for the cast, but O’Neill’s work,for whatever reason,did not meet with Hasbro’s expectations, and they requested heavy revisions.

O’Neill declined to make said revisions, and the project was turned down by several writers and editors approached by Shooter until editor Bob Budiansky accepted the task.

Hastily performing the revisions over a weekend, Budiansky’s new names and profiles were a hit with Hasbro,and production began on a bi-monthly four-issue comic book miniseries, and three-part television pilot.

Japanese designer Shohei Kohara was responsible for creating the earliest character models for the Transformers cast, greatly humanising the toy designs to create more approachable robot characters for the comic and cartoon.

His designs were simplified a bit by Floro Dery, who went on to become the lead designer for the series,creating many more concepts and designs in the future.

The three-part mini-series was animated by Japan's famous Toei Animation studio and it first aired in the United States in September 1984,then in the United Kingdom in early 1985.

The pilot introduced Optimus Prime's Autobots and Megatron's Decepticons,Soundwave and his cassette spies,and Shockwave,transporting them from their metallic homeworld of Cybertron to present-day Earth, where they warred for the resources that would take them back home.

The conclusion of the series had the Decepticons defeated and the Autobots poised to return to Cybertron,but this was blurred somewhat when the series itself was gonna continue. So the Autobots remained on the planet to protect it from renewed Decepticon threats.

The Autobots obviously found out that the Decepticons survived and made their underwater base. The Autobots make friends with their first two human allies, Spike Witwicky and his father Sparkplug. A few episodes later, a computer whiz named Chip Chase became an additional ally.

Thirteen further episodes were commissioned to make the first season of the series, and the pilot was re-aired. Running from September to December 1984, the series established important new concepts that would persist through the rest of its run, such as the Decepticon Space Bridge, and featured the debuts of several new characters that would be available in the toyline the following year,the Dinobots,the Insecticons and the Constructicons

While most of the characters for this and the following seasons were Diaclone and Microman toys from Takara,Hasbro also drew on other resources to bulk up the line, acquiring toys from ToyCo,ToyBox and Takatoku Toys.

The latter company's absorption by Bandai,Takara's main competitor at the time,was releasing Transformers in Japan. Unfortunatly,this caused some legal problems and none of their toys were featured in the cartoon.

With the series having proved a great success, the second season was created with the intent of getting the series into syndication and thus consisted of 49 episodes,bringing the total number of episodes up to the 65.

Where the first season primarily functioned episodically but had a general continuity from episode to episode,Season 2 had different syndication goals.Season 1's method of storytelling was dropped in favor of single-episode tales which could be generally watched in any order that networks chose to air them in.

These episodes often served to spotlight single characters and flesh them out more. Most of the new characters introduced in the 1985 toyline were further Diaclone and Microman toys, some of them modified in unique ways.

The first batch of new characters were introduced with no explanation whatsoever or where they had come from.The new Decepiticons and Autobots,weren't as popular as the older ones and the new human characters weren't that great.

The tail end of the second season introduced four combining teams of Autobots and Decepticons: the Aerialbots,the Stunticons,the Protectobots,and the Combaticons. Each team was capable of merging their bodies and minds into one giant super-robot.

Although debuting in this season,the toys based on an unmade Diaclone line were aborted in Japan in favor of importing the Transformers toyline itself. The Diaclone line itself wouldn't be available until 1986.

After Season 2 was produced,Toei Animation began working on Transformers: The Movie. A Movie that sparked a small controversy.

1 comment:

Stefan said...

Transformers is a legendary series. Though this lesson lacked something(I can't put my finger on it),It was both entertaining and informative.