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Rhino, The Transformers, and GI JOE: The End of Innocence


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#1 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted February 03 2004 - 10:27 AM

I have been amazed by how fans of the classic Transformers and GI JOE cartoon series have allowed themselves to be raked over the coals by Rhino Home Entertainment. "Oh, it's great to have the series on DVD!" is what I keep hearing. I, however, feel that Rhino's work has been sub-par, at best.

Here's a bit of history:

The Transformers and GI JOE series used 1" broadcast film masters as the basis for the episodes that were aired in the original runs. These masters still exist today, but the image quality/colors/details are a bit worn down, as these were used to make all the tapes sent across the nation for broadcast. Rhino has the rights to these, as well as 35 mm film masters, which feature much more vibrant colors and detail, but often contain incomplete/backwards/missing animation that was originally corrected for the broadcast versions.

Let's examine some of the problems:


The Original Transformers Season 1 box set:

This set uses beautiful 35mm negatives as the basis for the DVD versions of the episodes (as stated, the original airings that most fans know and love came from the finished 1" broadcast master tapes).

Rhino made attempts to splice in footage from the 1" broadcast versions to correct some of these errors (as well as digitally cutting elements from the 1" tapes and pasting them onto the 35mm versions, which looks AWFUL), but MANY remain. As example fo this "cut-and-paste" method can be seen when Autobot Mirage turns visible inside the Decepticon ship at the end of "The Ultimate Doom part 3". He is surrounded by a jagged white "halo", as he has been sloppily cut from the 35mm version and pasted onto the background of the 1" broadcast version. Nearly every episode has some kind of error or change that was NOT in the original version (even many of the faction scene bumpers in MTMTE parts 1-3 have been replaced with bumpers from other episodes, due to their absence in the 35mm versions). Fire in the Sky, Fire on the Mountain, and Heavy Metal War (which is an utter *disaster* compared to the broadcast version of that episode) suffer the most from this.

Also, the end titles actually use the credits from SEASON *2* ("copyright 1985", etc.), NOT season 1. This is due to the fact that Rhino has access only to episodes without the episode titles and end title credits (just the end title background footage, as can be seen in the VHS releases from a few years ago), and had to recreate them for the DVD sets.

The sound is another issue. The DVDs come with the option of 2.0 and 5.1 surround sound tracks. The 5.1 track is HORRID, as the episodes were never MEANT to be mixed in 5.1. They just sound "wrong". Worst of all is the fact that Rhino ADDED A BUNCH OF *CRAPPY*, "STOCK" CARTOON
SOUND EFFECTS (fire, laser blasts, jet flybys) TO THE ORIGINAL AUDIO. These new sounds are distracting, and they drown out dialogue and sound effects in many cases. Thankfully, the original audio is kept intact on the 2.0 track, except for (inexplicably) the episodes on
disc 2, which contain the new 5.1 sound mix (the episodes in question are "Divide and Conquer,"Fire in the Sky", "S.O.S. Dinobots", "Fire on
the Mountain", and "War of the Dinobots").


This new sound mix is a travesty. For those fans who are unfamiliar with the series (as well as new fans who will be introduced to it via the DVD sets), this is a slap in the face. I (and many others) waited for YEARS to get the series on DVD. The DVDs should be the archival
version of the series, the one that is an accurate reflection of the way the series was during its original run. Instead, we have a patchwork of episodes, which are not entirely accurate to the original versions, and create the same kind of problems the Generation 2 versions did in the early 90s. Rhino may have the right to release the
series on DVD, but what right do they have to muck with the work of the original sound editors? These new sounds are not even part of the TF G1 sound library and are wildly incongruous with the *real* sound effects that were a staple of the series.

Still, aside from the inaccurate footage and a few episodes, the picture quality is excellent, the best the episodes have ever seen, but only because the 35mm masters were used, and not because Rhino "restored" them. The original commercial bumpers are also included (including, yes, that's right, crappy new *sound effects* on the 5.1 audio tracks). Thus, the sets are moderately worthwhile. It's a real mixed bag, folks.

Don't call it the "original" Transformers if you're going to pull these kinds of stunts, Rhino.


Season 2 part 1 is probably the best Rhino G1 DVD release to date. As before, the 35mm negatives were used as the basis for the episodes in the set,
but this time, they are almost entirely devoid of the errors that plagued the season 1 DVD set. Aside from a bit of tampering with historical accuracy (correcting the spelling of the title of "A Deceptacon Raider in King Arthur's Court", and mistakenly removing the
the camera shakes at the end of "The Core"), the episodes are pretty much the way they've always been, save for the new, pristine picture quality. As stated above, the versions Rhino has access to do not have actual episode titles or end credits, so they had to recreate the white-lettered titles from fan-donated screencaps.

As for the sound, the 5.1 mix is, once again horrible (crappy new sounds and all), but the 2.0 mix contains the original audio (except for "Changing Gears", "City of Steel", "Attack of the Autobots", and "Traitor", which have the crappy 5.1 sound mix in 2.0, too, for some unknown reason).

So, aside from four episodes having a sound problem, this set is excellent.


Before the season 2 part 2 DVD set was released, reliable sources indicated that Rhino promised to correct the "5.1 mix on 2.0 track" problem for future releases. Well, when season 2 part 2 was released, I was horrified to discover that EVERY SINGLE EPISODE in the set has the crappy 5.1 mix in 2.0. That's right, not a *SINGLE* episode in
season 2 part 2 has the original audio. Even the commercial bumpers have sound effects (although they consist of a sampled "transforming" sound effect that actually comes from the *series*, not a stock sound library).

I was upset, to say the VERY least (if you define "upset" as "flying into a rage and wanting to smash everything in sight...").

Aside from that little problem, the picture quality and historical accuracy of the set is great (overlooking a few errors, such as the normal forest converting into a metal one at the end of "The Key to Vector Sigma part 2", due to backwards animation that wasn't a problem in the 1" broadcast version). But, that one little sound problem has ruined the set for me, and I can barely bring myself to watch those episodes now. I hate it that much.

For season 3 part 1, Rhino finally took the hint and added an "original audio option". Further, there seem to be few errors relating to the 35mm versions being incomplete. However, the wrong title sequence (the standard season 3 intro) is used for several episodes of the "Five Faces of Darkness" mini-series, and the episodes are not quite in the right airdate *or* chronological order. Further, Rhino didn't think to put the alternate audio on a separate track for "Dark Awakening", so now we're stuck with the narrator telling us to watch "The Return of Optimus Prime" instead the option to hear either that or the original "So long... Prime" dialogue. Still, the set is a step up from the prior releases.


As for GI JOE (which I haven't seen since the 80s), there don't appear to be many animation problems with the Original Mini-Series set. I'd call the set perfect, except...the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks have the crappy Rhino-sounds added to them (this set came out before the "original broadcast audio option" was created for Transformers)!!!!

GI JOE season 1 part 1 is pretty spiffy. The episodes are in the correct order, and there are very few "Rhino-fixes" made to account for differences between the 1" and 35mm versions (although I'm not that knowledgable about the series, I did notice a few "fixes". Anyone out there notice anything else amiss?). The original audio is intact. The only real problem is that all episodes after the "Pyramid of Darkness" mini-series have the *SEASON 2* opening credits (featuring Serpentor and other season 2 characters), which is totally wrong. Worse, the chapter menus show the season 1 credits! Why don't the actual episodes??? *Sigh*. Also, it seems the Public Service Announcements are all clumped together as extras instead of being attached to the episodes proper. *Sigh*.


Bloopers that weren't there originally, horrid new sound effects, bad packaging design with spelling errors in the liner notes, incorrect title sequences, and much, much more than meets the eye. Hardly a sterling record for Rhino. I would have much preferred it if Rhino had used the lower-quality 1" broadcast masters with the white-lettered opening/end titles added on ( the broadcast versions are what we've known for 20 years, something that gives viewers common ground, not DVD-exclusive variations), and left the sound alone (the original audio should be the *default*, not an "option" Rhino was so "merciful" to provide us). If Rhino had some knowledgeable fans working for them or at least *consulting*, these sets would be much, much better. These DVDs are hardly "definitive". Unfortunately, a new generation will now think this is the way the series have always been. People may dismiss these series as "30 minute commercials", but they deserve better treatment. I can't beleive so many fans don't care about this sloppy treatment. I, for one, won't just take whatever Rhino spoon-feeds me. I care about quality.

If you feel strongly about this matter, please make your voice heard and e-mail Rhino at:

drrhino@rhino.com

#2 of 32 OFFLINE   Joshua Lane

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Posted February 03 2004 - 01:33 PM

I'm just not that anal about audio/video when it comes to a cartoon series from 20 years ago. Sure, it could have been a better release and I'm all for people being upset and whatnot, but in the grand scheme of things (aka life), I'm not going to stress about it. I'll watch the episodes, enjoy them, and be on my way.

EDIT: I just want to clarify that my stance above really applies to almost any DVD release of an older TV Series, Movie, etc... not just cartoons.

#3 of 32 OFFLINE   Dane Marvin

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Posted February 03 2004 - 03:04 PM

I am in the same camp as Joshua, but I realize there are diehards who really care about the inconsistencies and such. I'm one of the people who would pick this up and only be able to watch a couple episodes a week or so because, when it comes down to it, these shows were meant for kids and they're much harder for me to sit still through now than they were were I was a kid!

Yes, I am glad they are released. This is something I never imagined being able to own, so I'm glad I have the option to pick these cartoons up. And yes, it's also sad that they've bumbled some aspects of these Rhinomation releases. But In the grand scheme of things, we still come out on top.

Thank you, though, Greg, for compiling a list of screw-ups here so we know what's up. Posted Image

#4 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted February 04 2004 - 08:14 AM

I am in complete agreement with Greg K. I wrote reviews of these sets and posted them on my website:
http://kenshiroh.tripod.com/

Also, someone posted a list of all the visual errors on the season 1 DVD set. It is quite a long list! Note that these are only the errors that were introduced by Rhino, not ones that were there when the show was originally broadcast.

All of these errors could have been avoided easily. Many of their Transformer sets contain (really boring) documentaries about transformer conventions. While they are at these conventions, they should get some fans who have seen every episode hundreds of times and have them watch the DVDs (before they are released to the public) and write down all of the errors they find. These fans already make these lists of mistakes anyway after the DVDs are released. Better to have them point out the mistakes before the DVD is released and then fix them!

#5 of 32 OFFLINE   Daniel Kikin

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Posted February 04 2004 - 09:00 AM

Although the errors due to carelessness on Rhino's part upset me, I ultimately agree with Dane and Joshua. I never thought I'd be able to own officially licensed box sets of these shows that I loved as a kid and while Rhino could have done a better job, I still can really enjoy them the way they are right now.

#6 of 32 OFFLINE   Gord Lacey

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Posted February 04 2004 - 10:23 AM

I forwarded this thread to someone I know at Rhino and he asked me to post the following as a response:
Just delivering the message, Gord
Want to see your favorite show on DVD?

#7 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted February 04 2004 - 04:01 PM

If it is actually the fault of the "lab in New York", then they should make the lab in New York redo all the stuff they messed up on. In the future they should hire someone else to do the post-production.

#8 of 32 OFFLINE   Daniel Kikin

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Posted February 04 2004 - 04:37 PM

Sounds like they're passing the buck on the A/V, but that still doesn't explain the spelling mistakes in the booklet. I know I said this stuff didn't bother me as much for TF and G.I.Joe, but in general, if you're going to put your name on a product that was delivered to you by someone else, I would think you'd want to avoid issues like these that would reflect badly on your company.

#9 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted February 05 2004 - 05:39 AM

I am in complete agreement with Greg K. I wrote reviews of these sets and posted them on my website:
http://kenshiroh.tripod.com/

Also, someone posted a list of all the visual errors on the season 1 DVD set. It is quite a long list! Note that these are only the errors that were introduced by Rhino, not ones that were there when the show was originally broadcast.

All of these errors could have been avoided easily. Many of their Transformer sets contain (really boring) documentaries about transformer conventions. While they are at these conventions, they should get some fans who have seen every episode hundreds of times and have them watch the DVDs (before they are released to the public) and write down all of the errors they find. These fans already make these lists of mistakes anyway after the DVDs are released. Better to have them point out the mistakes before the DVD is released and then fix them!

**************

Great site and reviews, Jeff! The screencaps really illustrate the problem.

#10 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted February 05 2004 - 05:53 AM

Thanks!

#11 of 32 OFFLINE   KyleC

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Posted February 05 2004 - 07:41 AM

When did the TF movie come out, in between which season set? Also GI Joe same question. I hated what they changed in the movies so I'm stopping my box set right before the movies.

#12 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted February 05 2004 - 08:12 AM

When did the TF movie come out, in between which season set? Also GI Joe same question. I hated what they changed in the movies so I'm stopping my box set right before the movies. ******************** Here's the correct order: The Transformers: 1. Season 1, 1984 (Rhino season 1 DVD set) 2. Season 2, 1985 (Rhino season 2 parts 1-2) 3. The Transformers: The Movie, 1986 4. Season 3, 1986 (Rhino season 3 parts 1-2) 5. "Season" 4, 1987 ("The Rebirth" 3-parter, will be in Rhino season 3 part 2 set) GI JOE: 1. The MASS Device mini-series, 1983 (Rhino original mini-series set) 2. The Revenge of Cobra mini-series, 1984 (Rhino original mini-series set) 3. Season 1, 1985 (Rhino season 1 parts 1-2) 4. Season 2, 1986 (Rhino season 2 parts 1-2) 5. GI JOE: The Movie, 1987

#13 of 32 OFFLINE   Jay Pennington

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Posted February 05 2004 - 12:58 PM

Nice job of illustrating the problems, Jeff! I'm not a fan of the series but as an animation fan in general, and a video editor, it is plain to me how these errors happened. When a US show is animated and shot overseas, the negatives are shipped back to the States for review. A "checker" views the reels and makes notes of any problems (and boy, were there problems in this case! The animation cameraman should've been fired!). If there's sufficient time and money available, retakes are ordered and the foreign studio (grudgingly) makes the necessary changes, shoots them again and sends over the new footage. This takes months. So here in the States they go ahead and edit the show together anyhow, with the intention of replacing the problematic footage when it arrives. From here, we have two possibilities: back then, there were still a few holdbacks who still edited film-based TV shows on film first, the transfer to video taking place late in the process for the addition of video-generated titles and such (if applicable here, I don't know if Transformers titles were video or photographic). The video master would then be shelved until the retakes arrived, at which time the corrected footage would be transferred separately and insert-edited onto the master. In this scenereo, there would be 21-minute (or so) 35mm reels of almost-complete episodes sitting on a shelf somewhere, representing the state of the episode when it was first transferred to video--without opening and closing credits, the episode title card, bumps or PSAs. If this was the case with Transformers, then it's easy to see how these reels could be mistaken for finished episodes 20 years later by someone digging through archives. In the second scenereo, the unedited film (errors and all) is transferred to video and THEN the episode is edited, again being altered later when the retakes came in. This would mean there would NOT be semi-complete episodes existing on film, but rather just the negatives (and positives) of the raw footage from the animation camera. These would still be shelved and labeled with the appropriate episode name. In both scenereos, any retakes that arrived later would've been shelved and labeled slightly differently. It's even possible that retakes from several episodes would be delivered all at once, resulting in vague archive labeling like "Sunbow retakes, 04/83" or somesuch, or, worse, handwriting in Korean. Again, that's something easly overlooked 20 years later, if it was still there at all, as it's the kind of thing that might be just tossed in a corner and eventually lost. Anyhow, judging from the quoted response from Rhino, it sounds like the fiddling was done by that "lab" in NY, Rhino simply doing the DVD authoring and encoding. If that lab was unware of or unable to find/obtain the 35mm retakes, then they were faced with a no-win situation: do they make the DVD masters from the old 1" broadcast masters, which look terrible, or go with a pristine film source? Film, obviously--just look at the difference in image quality of those framegrabs on Jeff's site. Okay, so what about the differences? As described by Jeff and the author of the "error list", the lab was obviously aware of a few of the discrepencies, based on their attempts to fix them. If they just used the 1" video master for all of the retake footage, you'd get a noticeable drop in picture quality every time one of those shots appeared. However, in my opinion that would've been prefereable to creating composite images as they did. I can see why they thought they needed to, but it wasn't the best choice. So anyhow, I hope this helps folks understand why stuff like this happens. It wasn't handled well, that's for sure, and if they'd enlisted the help of some fans to view check tapes and point out problems, much could've been avoided (like wrong opening credits). But in the best of circumstances there still would've been issues regarding the retake footage, I'm afraid. Sorry for the ramble!
-Jay

#14 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted February 05 2004 - 01:20 PM

Anyhow, judging from the quoted response from Rhino, it sounds like the fiddling was done by that "lab" in NY, Rhino simply doing the DVD authoring and encoding. If that lab was unware of or unable to find/obtain the 35mm retakes, then they were faced with a no-win situation: do they make the DVD masters from the old 1" broadcast masters, which look terrible, or go with a pristine film source? Film, obviously--just look at the difference in image quality of those framegrabs on Jeff's site. Okay, so what about the differences? As described by Jeff and the author of the "error list", the lab was obviously aware of a few of the discrepencies, based on their attempts to fix them. If they just used the 1" video master for all of the retake footage, you'd get a noticeable drop in picture quality every time one of those shots appeared. However, in my opinion that would've been prefereable to creating composite images as they did. I can see why they thought they needed to, but it wasn't the best choice. ************************************* Ah, but you see, Rhino (or whomever) *did* splice in the 1" footage for certain missing/unfinished shots. They just didn't take the process far enough. There are comparisons between the 1" and 35mm versions on view as extras in the Transformers season 1 set, and yet the actual episodes seen on the DVDs proper still contain the error-ridden footage (even though they *obviously* knew it was the unfinsihed footage)! I would have been happy (and willing to accept the decline in quality, which is marginal in most cases) if someone (preferably fans consulted for the project) had sat down, compared the two versions, and a made a list of what shots needed to be replaced with the 1" broadcast footage. That would have solved everything. Instead, we got only a minimal effort.

#15 of 32 OFFLINE   Jeff Jacobson

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Posted February 05 2004 - 02:56 PM

I agree.

#16 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted February 06 2004 - 07:26 AM

There is an extra feature on the Season 1 set called "Outtakes an False Starts" which sounds like what you are describing. Here is how I described this feature in my review: "I'm not sure exactly what this is supposed to be, because there is no explanation given. There are some bumpers (with Rhino-added sound effects), seemingly random clips (possibly retakes of messed-up scenes?), some season 2 bumpers, season 3 bumpers, and some clips from season 3 that were shown during the ending credits." ***************************** I believe these are just takes of shots and such takes that weren't used, for one reason or another, and have nothing to do with the 1" or 35mm versions. Rhino was doing a good job with the VHS releases from a few years ago. Aside from the missing white-lettered titles/credits, the episodes were the completed broadcast versions. If only they had stayed on that path...

#17 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted March 11 2004 - 08:59 AM

Just got the season 3-4 box set. Haven't gotten through it all, but I haven't noticed anything amiss in terms of alternate/incomplete animation. And the original audio is there, so that's great. However, one episode (Nightmare Planet, I believe) has *two* historical traliers at the end (the Quintesson and Decepticon trailers). Is this right? Did the episode originally have two trailers added to the end? That aside, it's nice to see the trailers attached to the end of each episode as they should be. The PSAs in the GI JOE season 1 box set do *not* appear at the end of the episodes, but are instead clumped together as extras. The interview with David Wise is excellent, as he actually *remembers* the series in detail, and has many intersting, never-before-heard tidbits of info to reveal. Cool. Another extra is The Rebirth, edited together into one giant episode, without recaps/intros, etc. They call this an *extra*???? All in all, I'd say this is the best of the Rhino sets. Now, all they need to do is go back and fix/re-release the previous sets.

#18 of 32 OFFLINE   JeremySt

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Posted November 07 2005 - 03:36 AM

Does this old VHS release of the opening episodes most likely contain the correct presentation?

amazon.com link

#19 of 32 OFFLINE   Jim Ware

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Posted November 07 2005 - 06:03 AM

Greg K, Nightmare Planet has always had two historical trailers. The finished episode is a little short, so I guess that the extra trailer was to pad it out. JeremySt, as far as I know, the VHS releases are mastered using the 1" broadcast masters.

#20 of 32 OFFLINE   Greg K

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Posted November 07 2005 - 09:08 AM

For the most part, the various Rhino VHS tapes were accurate (the only problems were that some season 2 TF episodes wwre missing the white-lettered titles/credits, some episodes had the wrong main/end credits, etc.). But the actual episode content was based on the 1" masters. It wasn't until the DVD sets started coming out that the trouble really started (The "Heroes" and "Villains" DVDs that came out prior to the season sets were fine, though.).




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