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The Transformers/GI JOE Dilemma


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#1 of 115 Greg K

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Posted July 13 2005 - 01:43 PM

Now that years of hoping and begging have paid off in the form of The Fly (1986) Special Edition, it's time to tackle the next hurdle on my list.

It's been established in some other threads what a poor job Rhino Home Entertainment did in releasing the original Transformers and GI JOE cartoon series (and movies) on DVD. To add insult to injury, GI JOE Season 2, Part 2 has not and-- since Rhino no longer has the rights to either property-- will not materialize.

Some have said that these two series were just 30-minute toy commercials. I say thee nay! If they were just toy commercials, then the huge TF/JOE fan followings that we know today simply would not exist. It's simply criminal that both series have not been given a *proper* release. So...when? How? Whom? Will Paramount do something to rectify the situation (other than simply re-releasing the Rhino versions of the DVDs)?


The reason I ask is because Rhino's releases were less than stellar. Rhino used incomplete 35mm film masters instead of the 1" broadcast masters (the versions of both series that actually aired on televsion from 1983-1987) for their DVD sets, which resulted in better picture quality (never have the episodes looked so lush and colorful), but also caused many problems.

However, as a result of using the film masters, the Rhino DVDs feature episodes with incomplete animation that was *fixed* for the broadcast versions. This is the equivalent of releasing the incomplete workprint of a film on DVD and claiming it's the completed version. The improved color and detail clearly had little to do with Rhino's "restoration". They attempted to "fix" some of the errors created by their use of the 35mm film masters, yes, but in shoddy and inconsistent ways.

And despite the beauty of the colors and details (they look just as they likely did on the animation stand), both series always had a more muted look on tv and video. I personally feel that, despite the less pristine colors/details, the broadcast versions are more representative of what we saw in the 1980s. The DVD versions look almost *too* good.

For some examples of some of these errors and excellent reviews of the Rhino DVD sets, go here (True Fan Jeff Jacobson is one of the few who really knows what I mean, and has been perhaps the most vocal about it here at HTF, save myself):

http://kenshiroh.tripod.com/

There are lists and screencaps detailing all the errors out there, particularly in old alt.toys.transformers newsgroup postings.


Also, the white lettered episode titles for many episodes had to be recreated by Rhino, resulting in "The Master Builders" becoming "The Master Builder" and "A Deceptacon Raider in King Arthur's Court" becoming "a Decepticon" (it was spelled incorrectly in the original broadcast version, but was fixed by Rhino). Also, the end titles for The Transformers season one (the actual credits, not the backgrounds) come from season 2, and various episodes of the Five Faces of Darkness 5 parter have the standard season 3 intro instead of the special FFOD intro.

And the GI JOE season 1 Part 1 DVD set (all the episodes after the Pryamid of Darkness mini-series) use the *Season 2* main titles (which feature Season 2 characters like Serpentor).

Even worse is the fact that Rhino added brand-new (and awful) sound effects to the audio tracks, presumably to take advantage of the 5.1 audio track without actually having to remix the episodes into 5.1 by throwing sounds on top of the existing audio. For some episodes, these new sounds are on both 5.1 and 2.0 tracks, for others, just 5.1. Eventually, Rhino began adding "original broadcast audio" tracks to the TF/JOE DVDs (but only 2 out of 5 Transformers sets feature the original audio, while all the GI JOE sets except The Original Mini-Series have the original audio as an option).

Then there are the special features, which aren't even season-specific (or *series*-specific, as with the Neil Kaplan--from the TF: Robots In Disguise series--interview on the Transformers Season 1 DVD set).


Here's what would make for good Transformers/GI JOE DVDs:

1. Historically-accurate episodes (based on 1" broadcast masters--regardless of decreased image quality--, with correct main/end titles, the misspelled "Deceptacon" TF episode title, commercial bumpers, histortical trailers, "Knowing is Half the Battle" PSAs, and recaps/teasers).

The Transformers season 3 historical trailers should be at the end of the season 3 episodes, as they originally were (Rhino also had them as separate extras, but didn't even include *all* of them as extras!), just as the PSAs should be attached to the individual JOE episodes.

There should also probably be a seamless branching option so one can watch the episodes without bumpers/PSAs/trailers.



2. The episodes should be in proper chronological order (not necessarily production *or* broadcast order; for example, in the case of The Transformers, "The Gambler" should come right after "Child's Play"). On the Rhino sets, even though they had knowledgeable fans consulting, they *still* had episodes in the wrong order!



3. Original braodcast audio in both mono (as originally broadcast) and stereo...with NO ADDED SOUND EFFECTS!!!!



4. Complete seasons per set (none of that "Season 1, part 1", "Season 2, part 2" stuff).



5. Extras and menus that are season-specific (the never-aired Transformers season 2 PSAs should *not* be in a season 3 set). The original toy commericals would be nice, with the correct commercials in the corrects sets (1984 commericals in Transformers season 1 set, 1985 commericals in season 2 set, etc.).

6. Extras that celebrate the *original* series (not RID, not Armada, not the CGI GI JOE movies, and not the Botcon or OFTCC conventions). The Japanese G1 laserdsics/DVDs feature booklets with the original character model sheets for each season, and that would be *great* here, for both TF and GI JOE.

Fan audio commentary (TF fans like Zobovor or Steve-O Stonebreaker would be naturals), interviews with voice cast/crew, storytboards, etc. would also be great.

7. *Good* packaging (that doesn't feature what looks like a 5-year old's recreations of screencaps from the series), and insert booklets that don't have spelling errors and such.

8. An efficient use of disc space (we *don't* need two versions of "The Rebirth" of one disc, one with main/end titles and recaps and one without).

9. In the case of alternate material, such as the different audio endings for the Transformers episode "Dark Awakening", each version could be placed on a separate audio track (Rhino could have done this, but instead stuck us with the "tune in tomorrow for The Return of Optimus Prime" version...even though they had Dark Awakening in its *original aridate* spot, about 22 episodes *before* "Return"!!!!).

The alternate main titles (such as the Transformers season 2 opener with season 3 music, used for reruns of season 2 and airings on the Sci-Fi Channel) could be included as extras.

10. A new release of The Transformers: The Movie (possible in a matted widescreen format, as seen in theaters), with *good* extras. Same treatment for GI JOE the movie (Minus the widescreen, and perhaps with the Sgt. Slaughter wraparounds, used when it was broken into 5 parts for tv broadcast. In fact, the Powermaster Optimus Prime/Tommy Kennedy and Sgt. Slaughter segments for reruns of episodes should *all* be inlcluded, for the sake of completeness.).


Many fans have accepted Rhino's mediocre DVDs as is, but I think there should be higher standards (people tend to accept--and even defend--mediocrity these days). The original Transformers and GI JOE series deserve better. People have said "it's just a cartoon, let it go", and I think that's a bad excuse for a poor-quality release. They're cult-classics that have depth and style. They deserve better!

The Transformers and GI JOE franchises have a huge fanbase, and the current Rhino DVDs don't honor either of the original series very well. These wrongs need to be righted!

I would hope this thread becomes a rallying point for fans and supporters to discuss this topic, and maybe even get the ball rolling for future releases. We can do it!

Any thoughts?

#2 of 115 Will_C

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Posted July 13 2005 - 03:45 PM

I have all the sets for both series that were released and though I've only been able to watch a few of the first episodes in the first sets, some of the mistakes are appalling. Specifically putting the intro for S2 into the S1 set. There is definitely room for improvement here, but I have to admit, I am happy to have something at least. I'm hoping the upcoming Masters of the Universe sets will be as close to perfect as possible and will set a high standard that other '80's cartoon dvd releases will meet. Greg, I'd also like to request that you add Jem to your list since Rhino was unable to complete the series before they lost the rights. Maybe if we reach the right person's attention, future releases might be done correctly.
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#3 of 115 Joe:C

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Posted July 13 2005 - 07:19 PM

I'm hoping the upcoming Masters of the Universe sets will be as close to perfect as possible and will set a high standard that other '80's cartoon dvd releases will meet


The He-Man sets will be using PAL masters so they'll be slightly sped-up (you can thank Hallmark for that one).

I'm curious to see what Sony Music will do with the Sunbow cartoons. Will they re-release what's already out there or do something new? I have some of the Transformer sets and the extra sound effects don't really bother me. Rhino should have paid more attention to detail though. They seem to have ticked off a lot of fans.

#4 of 115 Joe:C

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Posted July 13 2005 - 07:19 PM

double post

#5 of 115 Joe:C

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Posted July 13 2005 - 07:30 PM

Sorry about the triple post. My computer went a little crazy for a minute.

#6 of 115 Sebastien S

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Posted July 13 2005 - 09:01 PM

I stayed away from the "Transformers & GI JOE" sets for all those reasons.

BCI have done a much better job with He-Man! I say let BCI do it.
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#7 of 115 Tony J Case

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Posted July 14 2005 - 05:14 AM

* Original braodcast audio in both mono (as originally broadcast) and stereo...with NO ADDED SOUND EFFECTS!!!!

I dont see why two audio tracks - one with the original mono and one with the spiced up versions - cant be included.

* Complete seasons per set (none of that "Season 1, part 1", "Season 2, part 2" stuff).

That'll never happen - that's like 60+ episodes! It would take a 10 disc boxed set for the 2nd and 3rd season and cost a ton of money. Really, whats the problem with breaking the seasons up?

* The original toy commericals would be nice, with the correct commercials in the corrects sets (1984 commericals in Transformers season 1 set, 1985 commericals in season 2 set, etc.).

That'll never happen either - the problems with securing the rights to these has been well documented.

* Fan audio commentary (TF fans like Zobovor or Steve-O Stonebreaker would be naturals), interviews with voice cast/crew, storytboards, etc. would also be great.

--shudder--

I can' think of a worse possible idea to include as an extra.

* A new release of The Transformers: The Movie (possible in a matted widescreen format, as seen in theaters), with *good* extras.

Does the widescreen print even EXIST anymore?

#8 of 115 Greg K

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Posted July 14 2005 - 08:21 AM

* Original braodcast audio in both mono (as originally broadcast) and stereo...with NO ADDED SOUND EFFECTS!!!!

I dont see why two audio tracks - one with the original mono and one with the spiced up versions - cant be included.



Have you HEARD the sound effects thrown on top of the audio? It would be better just to remix the existing audio into stereo or 5.1 surround than just having directional sound effects thrown on top.



* Complete seasons per set (none of that "Season 1, part 1", "Season 2, part 2" stuff).

That'll never happen - that's like 60+ episodes! It would take a 10 disc boxed set for the 2nd and 3rd season and cost a ton of money. Really, whats the problem with breaking the seasons up?


Well, we've seen how well the Part 1/Part 2 deal has worked. There has been (and almost certainly won't be) a GI JOE Season 2 Part 2 set from Rhino.

It would be better to have 8 or so episodes on 6-7 discs per set (which would, in theory, cost around $60 or so, based on the prices of similar tv show sets).

Or, there could be mega box sets for both shows which would contain every season (and the Movies from each series) on about 15 discs (for maybe around $130 each).



* The original toy commericals would be nice, with the correct commercials in the corrects sets (1984 commericals in Transformers season 1 set, 1985 commericals in season 2 set, etc.).

That'll never happen either - the problems with securing the rights to these has been well documented.


We can hope, can't we?

* Fan audio commentary (TF fans like Zobovor or Steve-O Stonebreaker would be naturals), interviews with voice cast/crew, storytboards, etc. would also be great.

--shudder--

I can' think of a worse possible idea to include as an extra.


Yes, you can. I'm talking about fans who will provide ion-depth info on each episode (trivia, things to look for, behind-the-scenes info, etc.). Not the kind of fans who say, "Oh, that's neat!", or "I love this scene.".

* A new release of The Transformers: The Movie (possible in a matted widescreen format, as seen in theaters), with *good* extras.

Does the widescreen print even EXIST anymore?


That is still a topic for debate. I personally think the movie was your standard "matted" widescreen (1.85:1) scenario, so it would be simple to recreate that for the DVD (perhaps it could be a flip-disc: one side matted widescreen, the other full-frame.

#9 of 115 Jay Pennington

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Posted July 14 2005 - 10:57 AM

Quote:
1. Historically-accurate episodes (based on 1" broadcast masters--regardless of decreased image quality


There's no reason we couldn't have the best of both worlds. 35mm quality for most of it, and using the 1" masters to replace all shots that differ. All it would take is some comparison and editing, and maybe a die-hard fan consultant to catch whatever falls through the cracks. Sounds like a pain, but the folks at ADV have proven (with their Macross release, for one) that it is possible to pay that kind of attention to the preparation of a DVD release of 20+ -year old animation. Whoever does the new releases should do no less. I'd rather have an occasional shift in image quality than have it look like poop throughout. But I'm with ya on retaining stuff unique to the broadcast masters.

As for the Movie, it was apparently hard matted in theaters, but the animation was produced using inconsistent aspect ratios, meaning in some shots the matting covered image information and in other shots that was all there was to see. See this thread.
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#10 of 115 Jeff Jacobson

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Posted July 14 2005 - 12:56 PM

There's no reason we couldn't have the best of both worlds. 35mm quality for most of it, and using the 1" masters to replace all shots that differ.

That's a good idea.

the problems with securing the rights to [the toy commercials] has been well documented.

Could you provide some links or more info. I had never read anything about rights problems relating to the commercials before.

I just figured that the Rhino guys were too lazy or incompetent to find them, especially after reading this:
The funny thing about [the lack of voice actor interviews] is that if they wanted to contact a number of the TRANSFORMERS voice actors -- like [Frank] Welker, Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Michael Bell, etc. -- all Rhino would have to do is go downstairs. The Rhino offices are in the same building as those guys' agents.


#11 of 115 Greg K

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Posted July 16 2005 - 05:13 AM

quote:
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
1. Historically-accurate episodes (based on 1" broadcast masters--regardless of decreased image quality
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



There's no reason we couldn't have the best of both worlds. 35mm quality for most of it, and using the 1" masters to replace all shots that differ. All it would take is some comparison and editing, and maybe a die-hard fan consultant to catch whatever falls through the cracks. Sounds like a pain, but the folks at ADV have proven (with their Macross release, for one) that it is possible to pay that kind of attention to the preparation of a DVD release of 20+ -year old animation. Whoever does the new releases should do no less. I'd rather have an occasional shift in image quality than have it look like poop throughout. But I'm with ya on retaining stuff unique to the broadcast masters.

As for the Movie, it was apparently hard matted in theaters, but the animation was produced using inconsistent aspect ratios, meaning in some shots the matting covered image information and in other shots that was all there was to see. See this thread.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

-Jay
*************************

Well, Rhino tried to splice in certain shots from the 1" masters to fix some of the errors, but many, many such shots slipped through the cracks.

In some cases, they actually took elements from the 1" masters and superimposed them onto the 35mm shots (Examples: Shockwave's flashing "eye" in The Ultimate Doom", and Mirage turning visible inside the Decepticon ship in "The Ultimate Doom Part 3", with a hideous, jagged white "cutout" line around him!). Even the faction scene bumpers in "More than Meets the Eye" were missing in the 35mm versions and were replaced with faster moving (and incorrect) versions from later episodes. Of course, season 1 has the bulk of these kinds of errors. The instances of errors in the other seasons are far fewer.

I'm sure it could be done well, if careful work was done to spot *ALL* the differences between masters. But I'm worried about the quality shift. Some people might be upset that every now and then the image quality drastically descreases. It might just be better to use the 1" versions by themselves.

#12 of 115 Jay Pennington

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Posted July 16 2005 - 06:33 PM

Yeah, I remember reading about those cut-and-paste jobs. An incredibly ham-handed approach. It's hard for me to imagine professionals actually signing off on that as releasable product.
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#13 of 115 Jeff Jacobson

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Posted July 17 2005 - 03:38 AM

But I'm worried about the quality shift. Some people might be upset that every now and then the image quality drastically descreases. It might just be better to use the 1" versions by themselves.

A lot of people didn't seem to be bothered by all of the problems in the Rhino set. I don't see why they would be bothered by a quality shift.

For some examples of some of these errors and excellent reviews of the Rhino DVD sets, go here (True Fan Jeff Jacobson is one of the few who really knows what I mean, and has been perhaps the most vocal about it here at HTF, save myself):

http://kenshiroh.tripod.com/

And keep in mind that I only posted screenshots for a small sampling of errors contained in a single episode.

#14 of 115 Greg K

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Posted July 19 2005 - 08:57 AM

That's right. The sheer amount of errors (primarily in the Transformers season 1 set) is staggering.

As a dedicated fan, I'm able to spot most of these errors and such, but I can't enjoy the episodes that way. And I'm really paranoid about all the errors I haven't noticed. I don't feel like I "really" have either series on DVD. It's worse than Transformers: Generation 2's CGI "additions"!

There's no common ground for fans. If a kid named Billy has the Transformers Season 1 DVD, he'll wonder what Tommy (who has some old VHS tapes from 1984) is talking about when he says that Skywarp was colored correctly when he left Starscream behind to help Megatron in "Fire on the Mountain". Billy will insist that Skywarp is incorrectly colored like Thundercracker cuz that's how it is on the DVD! Confusion and anger ensues!

In terms of the quality shift...hmm. With certain episodes, I think it could be pulled off well. Interestingly, the only Transformers episode in any of the sets that is 100% correct is "Countdown to Extinction", for which Rhino used the 1" broadcast master for the entirety of the episode (although the end titles don't count, since all the end titles in season 1 are incorrect--Rhino only had the visuals for the end credits, not the actual titles, so they swiped the end titles from season *2*--"Copyright 1985", etc.).


The list of errors is staggering. Here's a very small sample:

Transformers Season 1:

Added sound effects on 5.1 tracks for all episodes (and on 2.0 tracks as well for "Divide and Conquer, "Fire in the Sky", "S.O.S. Dinobots", "Fire on the Mountain", and "War of the Dinobots").

Incorrect end titles (from 1985) over 1984 end title animation.

Incorrect scene bumpers from later episodes spliced into More Than Meets the Eye" (and other episodes).

Dozens of animation errors that were caught and sent in for retakes originally (before broadcast), but were left in the Rhino sets. And the "Rhino fixes" (the "Cut 'N Paste" stuff) are even worse.


Transformers Season 2 Part 1:

Sound effects added to the 5.1 tracks (and the 2.0 tracks in the case of "Changing Gears", "City of Steel", "Attack of the Autobots", and "Traitor").

Occasional animation errors similar to those in season 1 set. The camera shaking (from the eartquake) at the end of "The Core" was fixed by Rhino cuz they thought it was a mistake!

"The Master Builders" has now become "The Master Builder".

"A Deceptacon Raider in King Arthur's Court" has now become "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court" (Rhino fixed the original error, but it's still historically inaccurate).

(These last two points were the result of Rhino having to recreate the white-lettered episode titles and writer credits for the DVDs).


Transformers Season 2 Part 2:

Added sound effects for EVERY SINGLE episode, in 5.1 and 2.0.

Occasional animation errors.

Episodes out of order (they're not in production OR chronological OR broadcast order).


Transformers Season 3 Part 1:

Added sound effects on the 5.1 and 2.0 tracks...but an "Original Broadcast Audio Option" has appeared! AMEN!

Incorrect episode main titles for "Five Faces of Darkness" parts 1, 2, and 4, which use the "standard" season 3 intro credits. The special FFOD main titles are used for parts 3 and 5.

Occasional animation errors (unconfirmed).

Episodes out of order.

The audio for "Dark Awakening" is the "tune in tomorrow for "The Return of Optimus Prime" version.

The unused PSAs from season 2 are in the season 3 set!


Transformers Season 3 Part 2 and Season 4:

Occasional animation errors (unconfirmed).

Added sound effects on 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (but there's the original audio option).

Episodes out of order.


Rhino got better later on with The Transformers (season 1 is the worst set), but the whole series still needs a DVD makeover.


GI JOE: The Original Mini-Series:

Added sound effects on 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (with no original audio).

Occasional animation errors (unconfirmed).

No PSAs (Did the minis have PSAs?).


GI JOE Season 1 Part 1:

Correct main titles for "Pyramid of Darkness" mini-series, the rest of the episodes have the SEASON 2 main titles!

Animation errors/"Rhino fixes".

Added sounds on 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (original audio available).

No PSAs at end of episodes.


GI JOE Season 1 Part 2:

Animation errors/"Rhino fixes".

Added sounds on 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (original audio available).

No PSAs at end of episodes.


GI JOE Season 2 Part 1:

Animation errors/"Rhino fixes".

Added sounds on 5.1 and 2.0 tracks (original audio available).

No PSAs at end of episodes.


GI JOE Season 2 Part 2---

---doesn't even EXIST!

#15 of 115 Rob T

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Posted July 19 2005 - 09:06 AM

Quote:
I'm curious to see what Sony Music will do with the Sunbow cartoons. Will they re-release what's already out there or do something new?
Hopefully, Conan the Adventurer will get released. Posted Image

#16 of 115 Kris_AB

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Posted July 19 2005 - 06:36 PM

There may be super-special-edition sets put out for the original Transformers in the future, but I can't see them doing it any time soon. Though maybe to coincide with the live-action/CGI film?

It'd be nice for those who want better releases, like yourself Greg K. But I can't see re-buying everything. It was already kinda expensive buying the series in five releases, some of which were way overpriced from most places that sold them ($90 on average for Season 1 ? Sure I found it for less, and I understand they felt they needed to charge a little more because it's a cult series and they weren't sure if it would sell amazingly well, but come on). I could sell all my Rhino sets on eBay, but I doubt I'd get back nearly what I paid for them. Even for much more worthy releases, I'm not sure it'd be worth the trouble.

What I am waiting for is a better release of the TF: The Movie. Haven't bought that yet.

#17 of 115 Andrew 'Ange Hamm' Hamm

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Posted July 20 2005 - 12:45 AM

Quote:
Well, we've seen how well the Part 1/Part 2 deal has worked. There has been (and almost certainly won't be) a GI JOE Season 2 Part 2 set from Rhino.

It would be better to have 8 or so episodes on 6-7 discs per set (which would, in theory, cost around $60 or so, based on the prices of similar tv show sets).

Yeah, well, the cost is a big part of why I never bought any of these, and the many errors kept me away. If they can fit a whole season of The West Wing on four double-sided discs for $40, I don't see why we should expect Transformers and G.I. Joe to be 7 discs for $60+.
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#18 of 115 Greg K

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Posted July 20 2005 - 07:01 AM

There is always a better way. I, for one, will not settle for an inferior product. No way. All of the requests/corrections that I and others have suggested are perfectly doable----if someone will actually take the time and effort to create a superior product.

The I acquired the Rhino sets mainly for historical reasons (to see how they did things), and to have a placeholder for any future--and superior--DVDs (and for easy episode reference--instead of skimming through old VHS tapes for relevant bits).

I was very excited before the Transformers Season 1 set came out. You should have been there that night when I popped in the first disc and heard all the goofy sounds in the main titles. You should have been there when I started seeing all the animation problems--particularly in "Heavy Metal War" (one of my favorite episodes--and by far the most unwatchable episode of all the Rhino sets).

Who would dare to settle for an inferior product? Not I.

#19 of 115 Greg K

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Posted July 21 2005 - 06:01 AM

A few other issues:

An isolated soundtrack for the episodes would be nice. However, that would reflect the choppy music editing of the episodes themselves.

Robert J. Walsh, who composed the Transformers/GI JOE season 2 (and 3, in the case of Transformers) music (and also claims to have done Transformers season 1) has said from time to time that CD releases of the complete music scores have been in the works. But there's been no word on that front in quite some time.

For the DVDs, I'd rather a Red Dwarf approach be taken (with a menu on the extras disc that allows one to select and hear all the music cues from each season).

#20 of 115 Mark Talmadge

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Posted July 21 2005 - 09:08 AM

Well, from what I have learned elsewhere that Sony Music obtained the rights to G.I. Joe and Transformers which resulted in the property going to Sony. Who knows when they'll release new masters of these series.

But, I did enjoy the season one setrs that Rhino did release.





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