Here’s a fan reconstruction of the Universal Conan show that got Gary Goddard the job directing Masters Of The Universe!
As a kid in the 80s, I loved the Transformers. Like many of my compatriots, I could not get enough of giant robots or things that morphed making it both the perfect cartoon and toy line for me. I wasn’t a diehard fan (I only know the names of a few of the Autobots and Decepticons) but it was a big part of my youth. I even have a Transformers sleeping bag that my son now uses!
So, I was pretty excited to watch the Transformers film in 2007. And you know what? I dug it! This was before coming to understand how problematic and awful certain aspects of that production and its director were, so I found myself enthralled with this tale of giant robots fighting each other with surprisingly durable humans running around. It certainly helped that they used the few Transformers I can name from memory AND some of the sound effects from the cartoon! With the second film in the series, I found myself no longer having fun and stayed away, that is until watching Bumblebee with my wife!
Watching cartoons with your kids can be a real double, or possibly triple edged sword. On one hand, you get to see what they like, how they react and file away situations and moments that might come in handy when relating something to them down the line. On the other side, you have to sit through some real garbage. And on the other, other side — possibly the sharpest of the bunch — you see how commercially obsessed they are by requesting one of everything shown in the commercials.
But, hey, sometimes you see something cool like Havex Machines commercials. Sure it might have some souped up CGI wizardry, but this spot feels very much in line with the kinds of ads they showed us in the 80s. There’s the implication of a long-standing battle between sides, not to mention the talk-shouting approach and cool-as-hell looking sets they get to play on.
Better yet, Havex Machines seem to basically be Transformers that can only switch modes when you drive a Micro Machine into them with maybe a little Centurions thrown in (Earth! Sea! Sky!) That’s a combo I can definitely get behind.
When I took to YouTube in search of “1988 toy commercial” I assumed I’d find a good deal of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and G.I. Joe spots to choose from, but it was this Transformers one that caught my attention. Seacons, Sparkabots and Firecons are exactly the kind of names that sucked so many of us into the adventures of the Autobots and Decepticons way back when.
Unlike most of the other posts associated with this year, this is one that I actually remember interacting with at the time, though I had to head over to the incredibly detailed Transformers Wiki to get the finer details. The Seacons consisted of Snaptrap (a turtle), Overbite (shark), Nautilator (lobster), Seawing (manta ray), Scalor (coelacanth) and Tentakil (squid). They joined forces to create Piranacon, a Combiner (which I love). You can read more about them here. Meanwhile, the Sparkabots and Firecons were toys that featured “cold” sparks produced by rolling the wheels back and forth on a hard surface. The good guys included Fizzle, Guzzle and Sizzle while the bad ones were dubbed Cindersaur, Flamefeather and Sparkstalker.
While I never had any of the Seacons (and don’t actually remember them to be honest) it does turn out that I have the Sizzle Sparkabot which has been hanging out in my garage for about a year. I dug him out for the purposes of this post and here he is:
Ol’ Sizzle is much tinier than I remember, but he’s still got that spark!
We can’t speak to the quality of the Will and Jaden Smith father and son sci-fi flick After Earth, but we can say it’s out now on Blu-ray, DVD and the like.
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition gives Batman fans what they really wanted from this adaptation of the seminal Frank Miller Batman series: everything on one three disc set.
It’s funny when you think back to the days when, first, Lucasfilm didn’t want to put the Star Wars out as a set on DVD and then it took a while to get them on Blu-ray. Now in the past few years we’ve had a number of different sets. There’s two more now, Star Wars Trilogy Episodes IV-VI and Star Wars Trilogy Episodes I-III that include both DVD and Blu-ray versions of the films.
Hasbro’s latest home video offering Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters – Predacons Rising looks great on Blu-ray and features a pretty fun story even if you’re not steeped in the lore. Don’t believe us? Check it out!
In other TV-related news, A&E Home Video has a collection of The Avengers episodes featuring none other than that iconic super spy herself: Emma Peel. Dubbed The Avengers: The Complete Emma Peel Megaset the set contains all 51 of Diana Rigg’s episodes as the character on the three discs.
Finally, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life is now available on Blu-ray, so that’s a thing.
Aaron Eckhart looks pretty badass in this teaser for the first I, Frankenstein trailer which hits tomorrow. [via Collider]
Michael Bay showed off this picture of Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor from the set of Transformers: Age Of Extinction. [via Michael Bay]
Discovery Channel’s working on an Evel Kineval documentary called True Evel. [via Deadline]
Gina Carano’s In The Blood will be distributed by Anchor Bay and Fox home video. In the film, the MMA star goes on a mission to get her kidnapped husband back in the Caribbean. [via THR]
Maggie, the film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a dad trying to help his daughter played by Abigail Breslin after she gets bit by a zombie, has rounded out the family unit with Joely Richardson joining on as the mom. [via TheWrap]
Norse mythology and star Dominic Purcell take center stage in this spot from Epic Pictures Releasing’s Vikingdom which hits theaters and VOD on October 4th.
The word is still out on whether the Weinsteins want to cut 20 minutes from Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell or not. But you can still check out this mostly-in-English French trailer for the all-of-humanity-on-a-train revolution film which hits August 1st in the States.
The Last Days On Mars is probably more of a space-adventure-horror film, but this trailer from Magnet featuring Liev Shrieber, Olivia Williams and Elias Koteas is pretty intense. The film opens on December 6th.
If you’re a fan of The Hub’s Transformers: Prime or just morphing robots in general, you might want to check out the original home video presentation of Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising on October 8th.
Finally, this trailer for The Tiger Mask is like one big “getting ready for something awesome” scene without the actual “something awesome.” Still, the movie as described by Asian Movie Pulse sounds pretty rad.
Fortress Maximus wasn’t really on my radar as a kid, but if I knew about him, I’m sure I would have lusted after it. I mean, a toy that’s a playset AND an action figure that also changes into something else? That’s like chocolate and peanut butter and jelly for me, you guys. My favorite part of this commercial is when the announcer says something like, “He turns into a robot so enormous another robot forms his head.” Yeah, of course the gigantic, super expensive toy needs ANOTHER toy to complete it. Well played, Hasbro.
Anytime I go back and watch a cartoon from my childhood, I’m wary. You never know if the show was actually good or you didn’t know any better and just thought all the bright colors and explosions were cool. Unlike some of the classics I watched as a little kid like Masters Of The Universe, Transformers or M.A.S.K., I was a bit more discerning when Beast Wars came on in 1996. I was 13 of course and I really dug this show.
And thankfully, I enjoyed it again after watching Shout Factory’s collection of the whole series. When I wrote about M.A.S.K. I noted that I was surprised that it was still pretty funny, but overall really goofy, for the most part though Beast Wars is just plain good. The set-up is like this, thousands of years in the future (same continuity as the 80s toon), Decepticons have evolved into Predacons while Autobots are now Maximals. Megatron (not the same one) takes off in a spaceship with Optimus Primal and his crew giving chase. They hit a space/time warp that crashes them on a planet inhabited by animals. There’s a ton of Energon around which is bad for Transformers apparently, so they wrap themselves in animal or insect bodies. From there it’s what you might expect, the Predacons are bad and the Maximals are doing what’s right and keeping them from spreading their terror across the galaxy.
But, it’s not all that simple, thankfully. Sure, you’ve got some pretty basic cartoon plots like “all the good guys go blind!” or “the good guy in the bad guy’s headquarters!” but the creators also did a lot of new and unexpected things. As soon as the Predacons land and get their alternate forms, Dinobot starts giving Megatron a bunch of shit for being incompetent. You think this is pretty general Starscream territory and are kind of waiting for it to be over and then Dinobot just bounces and becomes a Maximal. Better yet, he stays one (at least through the first season, I can’t remember what happens in 2, 3 and Beast Machines). That’s not the kind of thing you’d see in a cartoon from the 80s, something like that would last an episode and wind up coming off as super corny.
There’s also a pretty clever plot device where, before crashing, a bunch of protoforms were released. Theses are basically blank Transformer bodies waiting to be booted up. I believe they’re Maximals, but we see pretty quickly that Predacons can reprogram them, which raises a lot of philosophical questions that I’m going to tackle in another post. This not only gives them something to do other than fight over Energon and also gives the potential for new characters for either side. As much as I dug the main characters (from Cheetor who reminds me of my cat and I like how he pronounces his name “Cheater” most of the time to Terrorsaur who screams “Terrorize” like he’s in a black medal band), it’s always fun to see what new TFormers will be coming up and which side they’ll be on. Really fun stuff.
The most practical praise I can give this set of DVDs is that I watched all four discs of the first season in relatively quick time. After getting through the first disc of the M.A.S.K. set, I enjoyed the experience, but figured I could take a break before moving on since there’s no real through line to the episodes. With Beast Wars, though, I was always interested in what was going to happen next. What’s happening with the Energon? Are they going to get off planet? What’s with that strange floating island? Who’s going to get the next protoform? There’s a lot going on and I’m excited to move on to the next season. Not only that, but it got me interested in watching the Transformers animated movie again, which I haven’t seen since I was a kid, as well as the G1 animated series. I’ve got Transformers fever, gang!
I worked as an associate editor for ToyFare for about a year. I had written articles for them before that and have continued to do so as a freelancer. I love writing about toys and finding out what’s coming up from companies, but I also really like delving into the history of toys. My absolute favorite thing was coming up with an idea, pitching it to my boss, having it approved, writing the whole thing, editing it and seeing the finished product.
Enter what we dubbed the action feature feature, the idea being to compile a list of the coolest things that toys can do aside from standing there and having joints. Eventually named “We Want Action” the feature is my favorite non-interview piece I’ve done for TF. The list was a ton of fun to write, but then we had to find images of the toys included, which wasn’t always easy. Sure, we had the big ones in the ol’ toy library, but we also asked a few freelancers to send in pictures, talked to some websites with pics and–coolest of all–I had my dad send out some of my toys which actually made it into the mag. You can see a “Thank You” included there in the last picture for him. If you’re curious the Swamp Thing, Computer Warriors, Karate Kid and Beetlejuice figures are all mine. So much fun! Click the thumbnails for much larger versions you should be able to read!