Rewatching Old Classic Kids Shows (ROCKS) 1A: Transformers Pilot "More Than Meets The Eye" parts 1-3

Discussion in 'Other Cartoons & Collectables' started by LiamABC, Sep 24, 2016.

  1. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend


    A big thanks to everyone that are joining us through all of this. It’s going to be an enjoyable ride!

    We're starting off with the original 1984 series of Transformers, and specifically, we're discussing the opening 3-part story "More Than Meets The Eye".

    On Cybertron, the Autobots and Decepticons are at war over energy supplies. The Autobots, under Optimus Prime, decide to search for energy supplies on another planet, but the Decepticons, led by Megatron, give chase. The two ships engage in combat, but get pulled into the gravity of the Earth and crash. Four million years later, the two factions are revived, and resume their hostilities, and while the Decepticons plot to steal energy from the Earth's resources, the Autobots befriend the human population, in particular Sparkplug Witwicky and his son Spike. Thus begins the epic battle . . .

    Just a friendly reminder to everyone that, whilst fans are obviously welcome to passionately discuss and give their views on these episodes, please remember to keep things on a friendly footing and respect your fellow posters.
    Also, please do not post where or how to find the full episode online. And do not post asking others to PM it to you. You are however allowed to watch the show in whatever manner you want.
    Mark M and ThunDerianRoyalGuard like this.
  2. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    I have seen these episodes numerous times. However the versions I grew up watching was the G2 version (same cartoon just a new intro and outro).

    I think this is a really good pilot compared to lots of other cartoons. It does a really good job of introducing the characters and setting the tone for the series. I like how it highlights Starscream's character and intent to become leader.

    As much of a Transformers fan that I am I still think they had far too many characters introduced, especially on the Autobots side. I suppose though that it is the toy advertising mentality to show the full line up available. Some characters were even shown that did not get their toys released until the second year like Shockwave and technically Grapple although he is called Hauler in the episode...but that's another story.

    Did anyone else notice the similarity to Thundercats at the start? Evil characters board the heroes ship and eventually crash land on earth.

    One flaw I noticed though is when they are getting revived. In the comics it is explained that Teletran-1 made a mistake and thought that the vehicles on earth were the dominant species on the planet. So it altered their transformed modes to resemble them. However that doesn't really explain why some characters became human sized objects like Megatron's gun mode, Blaster and Soundwave becoming tape cassette players, Ravage, Rumble and Laserbeak being cassette tapes, Reflector a camera and Preceptor a microscope. My own theory is that perhaps these items where in a vehicle that Teletran-1 scanned. Come to think of it that might be how it is explained in the US comics. I will have to check later on today and see if that is correct.
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2016
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  3. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    “Transformers” was one of the many 80s cartoons that I unfortunately was never exposed to during my childhood. Recently I did try watching some of those cartoons but got really bored of them very quickly and couldn’t go beyond a few episodes. I was expecting the same thing to happen with “Transformers” but was very happy to have been proven wrong! Here are my views:

    Using an opening narration to sum up the history and core of the cartoon in a few seconds was a great idea. It helps to cut straight to the chase… literally! I also like how the two warring factions quickly end up on earth. This helps the viewers to focus more on the new characters since they are in familiar surroundings, rather than having to absorb an alien environment as well.

    The pacing of the story is impressively fast for an 80s cartoon. Instead of dragging on and on, the story movies swiftly from one incident to the next.

    There was plenty of “action” (I don’t want to use the word violence as it may be viewed in a negative light). Because the characters were inorganic machines, the filmmakers were able to sneak by the censors and put in a lot of injuries, gunshots and fights, something which would not have been possible with human characters.

    The plot twist near the end, while not shocking, was novel enough to keep the proceedings interesting.

    Voice acting:
    The choice of voice actors was very apt. All the robots, despite some being voiced by the same actor, had easily distinguishable voices. The slight modification to some of the voices really gave the “mechanical” quality to them.

    I enjoyed the fact that the villains are depicted (though not explicitly) as being slightly stronger/more powerful than the heroes. This keeps the battle between the two interesting. Otherwise it would end up being a one-sided fight.

    The light-hearted, snappy and witty dialogue is a good way to lighten the overall tone of the show. I’m glad the makers didn’t go for the more common pretentious and grandiose dialogues like other cartoons of the era.

    Tthe heroic characters were shown to have flaws (especially impetuousness) a couple of times. Even Prime let his anger get to him and did something rash. In all events, the outcome was usually bad, resulting in injury to the character himself or his friend. Such “lessons” were seamlessly integrated into the story and not made overly preachy, which was very refreshing to see.

    The characters using their brains more than pure brute strength was also a good character development. Things were planned, thought out and then acted upon (unlike say ThunderCats who would just barge into Castle Plun-Darr or Mumm-Ra’s pyramid and hope that their goodness will ensure their victory).

    I’d like to single out Starscream as a rather captivating character. He made his intentions of becoming the leader of the Decepticons quite clear to Megatron from the start, and he never passed up an opportunity to do just that.

    The animation was quite good, considering how difficult it must have been to draw these mechanical beings and their frequent transformations into vehicles. The Transformers’ alternate modes on Cybertron were shown to be alien space vehicles, and these were only changed to earth vehicles once they landed on the planet. This small attention to detail shows that the makers did really put a decent amount of thought into the story. It would have been odd seeing Bumblebee change into a VolksWagen Beetle on Cybertron!

    The theme song, while not as impressive as say something like “Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors”, was catchy. But it was the background music/cues that I liked more.

    The only minor thing that bugged me was Megatron and Soundwave transforming into objects much much smaller than their robot forms.

    All in all, a great and riveting 3 part pilot that is sure to pique the interest of first time viewers to watch more episodes.
    Mark M and LiamABC like this.
  4. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    Starscream has some truly great episodes and moments in the series. ;)

    The Autobots are not warriors by choice. They fight because they have to not because they want to. A lot of episodes have the Autobots using their brains and planning attacks more than just rushing head long into battle. Grimlock and the Dinobots though are not like the rest of the good guys, they are the exact opposite. They are big and strong and just rush headlong into battle wanting to crush Decepticons LOL.

    The intro music and animation for the second season is A LOT better!

    I too really liked the attention to detail of them having Cybertronian alt modes in the pilot. They obviously learned from the mistakes of the rival Gobots cartoon which had a planet of robots that changed into spots cars, motorbikes, police cars and f-15's etc.

    I looked through my comics and no there is no explanation of the gun and other small devices being chose as alt modes. I suppose they just skimmed over this as, at the time when Hasbro acquired the Transformers (Diaclone, Kronoform and Microman) toys from Japan, they had already selected the toy who would be the leader of the bad guys.
  5. Daremonger

    Daremonger Thunderian Legend

    I've watched the classic Transformers cartoon so many times on DVD that it literally was absorbed into my brain. ^-^
  6. Booshman

    Booshman Thunderian Legend

    I've always preferred the intro music from the first season.

    This is a good start to the show. I have seen these intro episodes a few times, but never managed to get through the entire series. Maybe there's just too many characters, but I find it hard to keep track of all of the Transformers past the main players.
  7. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    First up: start voting for your seasons 1-2 highlights! You can vote for up to five individual episodes each, and the top six will be picked for viewing here for the next couple of weeks. You can either vote on this thread or message me privately with your picks.

    Secondly, a disclaimer: I never actually saw this show as a kid I saw the movie a couple of times in 2002-4, and also what I later discovered were the last five episodes ever. I didn't see the pilot for the first time until about a year ago. And because of this, I didn't recognise most of the characters. Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron and Starscream were the only ones I definitely knew. So that sort of put me against it initially for no good reason. Watching the opening 3-parter this time though, I had a slightly better grasp of both characters and storyline. And this time round, I can truly say I'm impressed!

    I have to say, the concept of transforming robots were a fantastic toy idea, and guaranteed success. I never had any myself, but I know a lot of people in my school did. The cartoon was bound to be a winner. Although the theme tune does nothing for me. I understand they changed the arrangement each season. This first version has a very retro feel to it, like something from an old movie, gasp at the plight of the Autobots against the evil Decepticons! Then again, I've heard multiple versions of the theme, and I don't much rate any form of it. And considering that it's by Kinder & Bryant, that doesn't surprise me. They did the themes for Visionaries and Inhumanoids as well, and neither of those themes got me going (despite Visionaries being one of my favourite shows, the theme was my fist exposure to it and nearly put me off!).

    As for the actual pilot. Yes, I'm impressed. Having the narrative at the start helps to lay the foundations much more quickly than would otherwise have been possible. We then quickly establish that planet Cybertron is running low on resources, and both sides launch their missions that take them to Earth. They land there halfway through episode 1. That's pretty good for pace - and indeed the pace never lets up during the whole 3-part story. The sequence at the dam in part 2 is particularly action-packed, and indeed could easily have been padded out to a whole extra episode.

    Also, the concept of the heroes trying to play a trick on the villains in part 3 with the rocket base hologram is nicely done. Usually it's the villains who trick the heroes, with more success! The other eyebrow-raising difference is Starscream's attitude towards Megatron, very publicly critical of the leader and very publicly vocal, even to Megatron himself, about his desire to overthrow him. I'm not quite sure that's such a good idea strategically on Starscream's part. Do you really want Megatron to know you're planning to stick a knife in his back? (Metaphorically of course, I can't see a regular blade having much effect on him somehow!)

    Concerning the non-story elements, the animation is pretty well-handled. Showing robots transforming into vehicles and suchlike is a tricky thing to pull off. Of course, the "suchlike" is a bit iffy by today's standards. Tape decks and cassettes? Really? All right, it was the 80s, and tapes were still big, so it was very recognisable image, but still . . . as for Megatron turning into a gun, that's a bit dodgy too. Considering the array of weaponry that they all have anyway, why would you need a character to change into another single weapon? Voice actors - thumbs up. A lot of recognisable names there, all doing a fine job. I'm getting more of an appreciation for the talents of Frank Welker - even if his "normal voice" characters all sound a bit the same. As the arch villain, he is clearly going to town in the role. Chris Latta as Starscream, in his most familiar voice, which he used time and again in other shows, was clearly enjoying himself. The guy voicing Jazz, having the name Scatman I guess he was a jazz musician as well. He certainly sounds like it with that voice!

    All in all, yes, a good start. Very promising. I look forward to watching some more episodes of this.
    Wilycub and Mark M like this.
  8. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    I suppose there is the fact I grew up with the second and third/fourth season intros. But I definitely prefer the second season intro. I never seen the first season intro until 2003.
    One problem I will always say about Transformers and G.I. Joe was that had far too many characters.

    I am glad you enjoyed it Liam and are looking forward to more episodes.

    Here is my five picks. Only one is one of my favourite episodes, the others are very good and I think the rest of you might enjoy. :D

    1. Heavy Metal War
    2. Desertion of the Dinobots Pt 1
    3. Desertion of the Dinobots Pt 2
    4. Starscream's Brigade
    5. Cosmic Rust
  9. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    I noticed that too! :)
    * Good and Evil characters have been at war even before the cartoon begins
    * The good guys leave in a spaceship and the bad guys follow
    * The bad guys use tractor beams to "grab" the good guys' ship and board it
    * Both groups end up on Earth, many years after their departure (TCats spend the time in the journey while the Transformers spend the time in stasis on Earth)
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  10. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    I never saw Transformers on TV here in Ireland. I only ever saw them when my Mum and Dad would buy or rent me Transformers video tapes and I loved them. I really enjoyed the UK Marvel Transformers comics.

    An interesting point about the pilot is that I believe this is the last time the regular Autobots are shown to be able to fly like the Decepticons.
  11. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    That's interesting. Didn't know that. But it's good as it gives the villains a slight edge over the heroes, which is necessary for a good conflict between the two. That was the problem with ThunderCats, the Mutants were too weak compared to the Cats. That's why the Cats rarely took the Mutants seriously.

    Getting back to the Transformers, if the Autobots could fly everywhere then there really was no point in them turning into land vehicles and drive to their intended destinations. It would negate what Trailbreaker said, "It (driving) beats walking!" :)
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  12. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    It's one of those things I'm clearly going to need to see again to properly familiarise myself with all the characters.

    Thinking about the parallels with Exodus, you're absolutely right. Also, the concept of going to another planet (ours) for resources was also what drove Ming to invade in Defenders Of The Earth (Flash says this in about the second scene of the first episode).
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  13. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    As an avid walker who drives I don't agree with that statement. ;)

    Throughout the series the Decepticons were always treated as a really serious potential threat and never became comedic buffoon villains like The Mutants or Skeletor's henchmen.
  14. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    I think he meant it in terms of getting from A to B in the shortest possible time!
  15. Wilycub

    Wilycub Staff Writer and Artist Staff

    That's a huge flaw, not just in TCats and MOTU but in TMNT as well as many other 80s cartoons. We know obviously that the good guys have to win at the end of the episode (hey it was the 80s after all! ;)) But at least don't make it a walk in the park for them. Give them a decent challenge. In so many episodes the TCats dispatch the Mutants without even breaking a sweat!

    I really liked how the Autobots could not go toe-to-toe with the Decpticons and surely win. In most such encounters in the 3 part pilot, it ws the Decpticons who ended up with the upper hand.
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  16. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    Agreed. It's ironic that most of the famous cartoons from that era, the villains were comic relief rather than a serious threat. Defenders Of The Earth, Visionaries and Spiral Zone were notable exceptions to this. Hell, in Spiral Zone there are some individual episodes where the bad guys technically won!
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  17. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    Yes, but Thundercats and TMNT were never on the level of He-Man. He was basically a one man army with the other heroes mostly just...there in the background.
    I have really enjoyed re-watching these episodes and going through some episodes I haven't seen in a long time. It has really re-kindled my love of Transformers. :D
    LiamABC likes this.
  18. LiamABC

    LiamABC Thunderian Legend

    I think I've already said this, but I'm really looking forward to watching some more episodes.
  19. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    I was just thinking back and comparing the animated 3 part pilot to the first 4 issues of the comic. Unlike some comics (Thundercats and TMNT etc) the first issues were not just a plain re-telling of the cartoon. There is quite a substantial amount of differences. One of the most notable is Spider-Man's appearance (in his black costume 1984) in issue 3 and befriending of the Autobots.
  20. Mark M

    Mark M Thunderian Legend

    Liam said since no one else suggested any episodes I should pick a sixth episode. I decided to get rid of the two parter since we are doing 3 episodes each week. I think these are a pretty good bunch of episodes you guys not to familiar with the series should enjoy.

    1. Heavy Metal War
    2. The Master Builder
    3. Make Tracks
    4. The Golden Lagoon
    5. Cosmic Rust
    6. Starscream's Brigade
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2016

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