"Transformers, more than meets the eye. Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons. Transformers, robots in disguise."
The year was 1985. I had just discovered this cartoon that aired Saturday mornings about these walking, talking robots that can turn into (or transform) into other machines. The show was called Transformers, if you didn't already know. From that moment on, I was obsessed with the show. I religiously watched every subsequent episode, and bought any action figure I could get my hands on.
Transformers tells the tale of the battle between good and evil robots on Planet Earth. The good robots are known as the Autobot; and are led by the heroic Optimus Prime (he can transform into a truck w/ trailer). The Autobots are peaceful robots that have befriended humans Spark Plug, and his son Spike. The evil robots are known as the Decepticons; and are led by the ill-tempered Megatron (he can transform into a handgun). The Decepticons are hell bent on depleting Earth's resources so they can return to their home planet of Cybertron. Got it? Good.
Watching the DVD set of Season 2, Part 1 was like reliving my childhood all over again. Here is the lowdown. There are a total of 24 episodes, plus special features, spread over 4 DVDs. Each episode is broken down into six chapters, and has a runtime of approximately 23 minutes. Here is an episode per disc breakdown, plus brief summaries:
Autobot Spike - The Decepticons badly injure Spike, and his essence is transferred over into a robot body while the doctors operate on his human body.
Changing Gears - Surly Autobot Gears is kidnapped by the Decepticons, and undergoes a personality change that leaves him their willing slave while they try to destroy the sun.
City of Steel - New York City is rebuilt by Megatron into an actual city of steel, while Optimus Prime is captured, and his body is scattered all over the city.
Attack of the Autobots - Megatron's master plan turns all but two of the Autobots evil, as the Decepticons attempt to return to their home of Cybertron.
Traitor - Autobot Mirage is mind-controlled by Decepticon Bombshell, while the Decepticons seek to exploit a new power source.
The Immobilizer - Autobot Wheeljack has created a device called an Immobilizer, which can paralyze any robot in their tracks. Of course, the Decpticons steal it and wreck havoc.
The Autobot Run - The Autobots participate in a stunt show, but are frozen in their transformed vehicle mode state by the Decepticons.
Atlantis Arise - The Decepticons arise Atlantis from the ocean, and the inhabitants target the Autobots and Washington, D.C.
Day of the Machines - Megatron uses a supercomputer to control the military, as well as oil tankers in an attempt to return back home to Cybertron.
Enter the Nightbird - The Decepticons steal an experimental female ninja robot, and have her steal information on the world's energy sources.
A Prime Problem - The Decepticons create an evil Opitmus Prime clone, in an attempt to confuse and destroy the unsuspecting Autobots.
The Core - Megatron builds a drill to reach the core of the earth to tap it's power, despite Decepticon Starscream's concerns that it may destroy the planet.
The Insecticon Syndrome - The Insecticons turn against their Decepticon counterparts and make them their slaves, forcing Megatron to cooperate with Megatron.
Dinobot Island Part 1 - The Autobots discover a prehistoric island that they send the Dinobots to so they can develop better combat strategies, while Megatron discovers the untapped energy on the island.
Dinobot Island Part 2 - The raiding of Dinobot Island's energy sources has caused a disturbance in the time continuum, resulting in time warps and unexpected visitors.
The Master Builders - The Constructicons dupe Autobots Grapple and Hoist into building a solar-energy collecting tower.
Auto Berserk - An explosion in his circuitry causes Autobot Red Alert and Decepticon Starscream form an alliance.
Microbots - Autobots Perceptor, Bumblebee, and Brawn are shrunk down in size so they can retrieve "The Heart of Cybertron" from inside Megatron's body.
Megatron's Master Plan Part 1 - A corrupt politican joins forces with Megatron to tarnish the images of the Autobots, while making the Decepticons look like a million bucks.
Megatron's Master Plan Part 2 - With the Autobots banished back to Cybertron the Decepticons are praised as Earth's true heroes. It's up to Spike to prove their innocence.
Desertion of the Dinobots Part 1 - The Dinobots have a falling out with the Autobots and leave for Cybertron. Meanwhile, the Transformers start to feel the negative effects of being on Earth.
Desertion of the Dinobots Part 2 - The Autobots are in need of an element called Cybertonium, which only the disenchanted Dinobots can help them acquire.
Blaster Blues - Blaster feels unappreciated by his Autobot pals, as Megatron disrupts all of Earth's radio signals from the moon.
A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court - A battle with the Autobots has Starscream and a few of his Decepticon cronies retreating into a cave, which transports them to medieval times.
Transformers are presented in full frame 1.33:1. The print is full of the same flaws that were visible when they aired on television over 15 years ago. Dirt, white grainy specs, and other garbage are present throughout each episode. These flaws are very noticeable, but don't detract from my enjoyment at all. I checked my personally VHS recorded tapes of these episodes, and they are present there as well. It could either be an issue of laziness on Rhino's part, or they were just simply unable to clean up the print.
The audio is presented in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. I honestly didn't expect to get 5.1 tracks from a cartoon that aired in the mid-80s, so I was pleasantly surprised. Before you go out and buy this set expecting it to test the limits of your system, you should know that the 5.1 seems to come from all speakers at the same time. The swooping noise of the Decepticon jets sounds excellent, while the laser blasts from their weapons sounds a little hollow. There are no audio dropouts present on this set, unlike what I've read about earlier Rhino DVD releases. Overall, I am pleased with the audio presentation.
Every DVD, except for the fourth disc, has the same exact menu. A CGI Optimus Prime opens up the main menu, while the Transformers theme loops in the background. The options are as follows: "Play All Episodes", "Scene Index", and "Audio Setup" (and "Special Features" on disc 4). The menu is easily navigatable, and everything is very straightforward. I would have liked to seen a different CGI Transformer on each disc instead of just Optimus Prime on each one, but that's really a reach on my part because I love Starscream so much.
There are four special features on Disc 4, but I really don't count DVD Credits as a special feature. The first is entitled "A Taste of Botcon 2002." Botcon 2002 is a specialty toy-collecting show that took place in Fort Wayne, Indiana over this past summer. In this 45-minute feature, we are introduced to some of the people who worked on Transformers back in the 80s, the people who are working on the new wave of Transformers shows, as well as the rabid Transformer toy collectors. There are a lot of neat tidbits here, but I was left a little bored with some of the content.
The next feature is a "Mistake Reel" hosted by Tim Finn, a Rhino Home Video advisor. He discusses certain animation mistakes while we watch them. This is a really neat feature, as I noticed continuity and coloring mistakes throughout the episodes; and feel better knowing that I wasn't the only one to notice them. This feature runs less than 4 minutes.
The last feature is three interviews with Voice Actor Neil Kaplan, Voice Actor Michael McConnohie, and Scriptwriter Earl Kress. Neil Kaplan discusses how he got the voice-acting job for the latest Transformers series that aired on Fox. He does a few impressions, and talks about how different voice acting is now, as opposed to when they recorded voices for the 80s television show. His segment runs a little under 20 minutes. Michael McConnohie has a richer voice-acting resume, having done voices on the original 80s show, as well as the recent Transformers incarnations, and discusses the differences between both. He also talks about how Transformers are just more than your typical cartoon fare, and often had social commentaries within the episodes. His interview runs under 23 minutes. Last but certainly not least is Earl Kress. He discusses his contributions to Transformers, how to maximize the talents of voice actors without maximizing the budget, introducing a female human to a world dominated by male robots, among many other items. His interview runs under 14 minutes.
It's Transformers man! If you're a diehard fan, then there is no reason why you shouldn't go out right now and purchase this box set. Aside from the print issues, everything here is as good as you'd expect from a cartoon that's quickly reaching its 20th anniversary. I'm pretty happy with this set, but it would have been neat to have some additional features (maybe a commentary or two, as well as an option for subtitles). I'm really teetering on the edge of giving it a "Highly Recommended", but I'll play it safe and just "Recommend" it.