5 Moments from TRANSFORMERS We’d Rather Forget

1. SHOCKWAVE’S SHOCKER

Shockwave is kind of like the Mr. Spock of the Transformer world, but whereas ol’ elf-ears relies on the Vulcan nerve-pinch to dish out the smack, Shockers can simply change into an enormous laser gun and blow his enemies away. Read on to find out why his toy is “packing” more than just heat!

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Eye, Eye! Shockwave costs the Decepticons a fortune in fairy lights.

The original toy of Shockwave was not actually produced by Hasbro. Instead it was made and released independently by a Korean company called ToyCo. This toy – nicknamed “Shackwave” due to being primarily available at Radio Shack in the US (very clever) – hit the market just slightly before the more famous Transformers version. Apart from lacking the Decepticon badges or any other branding, it has another rather obvious… point of difference:

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You’ll have someone’s eye out with that thing.

Yeah. Despite being a completely faceless robot, Shockwave still seems really pleased to see you. Luckily Hasbro got rid of the offending member when this mold was eventually snaffled for the Transformers line in 1985, making this the first time in history a robot was cockblocked by a Rhode Island-based toy company – but not the last.

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Let’s Get Along Again!

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Every now and then we like to go through the site stats and see what exactly is bringing in the punters, be it toy reviews, our occasional random list articles, or our unique brand of “journalism” and bestiality jokes. Far and away the most hits come from people looking for the obscure 80’s cartoon The Get Along Gang. We don’t pretend to know why.

“We wrote this with the blood of our enemies!”

So, because we’re super nice and always give you readers what you want (and because Luke blew this month’s entire toy review budget on a life-size Cadbury Bunny, for reasons best kept to himself) we’re going to revisit the gang with a view to reminding you what they were all about. We’ll cover the toys (obviously), the animated series, and even the disastrous 21st-century relaunch that no doubt ruined someone’s childhood FOREVER. And maybe we’ll even delve into the shameful Get Along Gang pornography scene if time and/or the law allows.

This one made our eyes water.

No on both counts, as it turns out.

THE GANG

A group of furry preadolescents created in 1984 by American Greetings (they of the Care Bears fame), the main six members were:

  • Montgomery Moose – the well rounded, personable one,
  • Dotty Dog – the smart and peppy cheerleader,
  • Bingo Beaver – a compulsive liar and gambling addict,
  • Zipper Cat – the sporty, tough guy with an attitude,
  • Woolma Lamb – a spoiled and vain waste of space,
  • Portia Porcupine – basically a toddler toted around by the gang for some reason.

Their sworn enemies were Catchum Crocodile and his slimy subordinate Leyland Lizard. Most of Catchum’s villainous “schemes” involved cheating in a contest of some sort, or trying to get into the gang’s clubhouse. Phew, make sure the kids are in bed before he comes on.

THE STUFF

The main line of GAG merchandise consisted of six 11-inch plush dolls. Each doll came with removable clothes and accessories (you can even take off their socks and shoes, which we find funny for some reason). All of them were packaged wearing roller skates, because that was apparently law in 1984 when they were released. The skates are actually the hardest thing to find on the secondary market, possibly because most kids took them off one time and promptly lost them. The dolls themselves can be found cheaply and easily second-hand and are remarkably well made; ours are still holding together after thirty years of rough play. Christ, turns out you really can trust Tomy.

Before we go any further, we’ve just got to mention that while the likenesses are generally very good, we feel that poor Woolma really got the short end of the stick here. We’d like to interview the designer and ask him what medication he was taking at the time this abomination was made. Behold:

They tried.

You tried, drug-addled designer man!

The main cast were also rendered as 5-inch hard plastic figures, advertised as Dress-Up Kids. Oddly, the male characters had their trousers painted on, just like Olivia Newton-John in Grease. Unlike Olivia Newton-John, all the characters had slightly creepy, shapeless bodies underneath their clothes, so we can’t imagine many people wanted to disrobe them.

Of the twelve characters actually designed by American Greetings, the toyline focused heavily on the main six featured in the cartoon. The others were available only as small figurines. These were scaled perfectly, though, for the Clubhouse Caboose playset. It was basically a red plastic wagon with a fold-down wall, and it featured a small platform for the toys to hang around on and a kind of turntable thing so they could spin around. It’s quite poor by today’s standards but don’t worry: it was quite poor by yesterday’s standards as well.

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The live-action  Attack on Titan strayed from the source material slightly.

THE SHOW

Thirteen episodes were produced by Dic (cough) between 1984 and 1985. The same company was also responsible for the Super Mario and Sonic cartoons, but is probably most famous for creating the Robocop/Don Adams hybrid Insepctor Gadget. The show followed the adventures of the gang in and around their home of Green Meadow, a strangely anachronistic American small town. Actually, the whole show has a slightly outdated feel now that we think about it. The title sequence shows the gang riding around on soapbox carts they made themselves (not exactly the vehicle of choice in 1984 – when the skateboard, Big Wheel or even Pogo Ball were all popular) and instead of staying home and playing Atari these kids preferred to hang around in the malt shop or play with simple toys like marbles and the like. Very odd.

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The ’84 cartoon, in a rare moment of frantic action

Anyways, the stories themselves are standard-issue children’s TV fodder; we have treasure hunts, encounters with pirates and other bad guys, and typical power-of-friendship escapades. In fact, these very quaint “adventures” could have been written for any show at all, so generic are the settings and characters – but the stories chug along very nicely anyways. It probably won’t hold the attention of an adult audience but if you were expecting a furry version of Twin Peaks, then a) you’re asking too much of a kids cartoon, and b) someone get on that shit ’cause it sounds amazing.

THE REMAKE

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What the hell are the moose and beaver playing?

Round about 2004, American Greetings started sending out press packs detailing the relaunch of the Get Along Gang. This would be an all-new show, with a fresh and funky 21st-century look. Plans were to show off the new gang at a licensing exhibition that year (the kind of thing where smaller companies acquire the rights to produce merchandise like lunchboxes, stationary and the like) but as far as we can tell the powers that be put the kibosh on the whole thing before any licensed tat could be made.

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Left to right: Mogo, Hatch, Mayfield, Reagan, Domino, and Portia!

Some digging tells us that the characters were designed by artist/animator Saxton Moore, whose recent work includes The Twisted Whiskers Show and an original children’s book called Yin the Master of Yo. Instead of just freshening up the old gang, Moore created a whole new bunch of characters designed to be their successors.

Although the characters and (planned) merchandise had a  hand-drawn look, the accompanying cartoon was to be a computer-generated affair – presumably for cost reasons. Behind-the-scenes info and drawings have since leaked online, and the first, or perhaps only, episode has somehow made its way to Youtube. We’ve given it a look, and we quite like it. We can say it’s got a bit more of an “edge” than the original show (not hard, we know) with snappy humour and lots of fourth-wall breaking gags. They’ve also modernised the gang’s clubhouse a tad. It now has a hologram artificial intelligence built in – think Power Rangers’ Zordon, and you’re there. If “there” is a random designer’s crazy cheese-dream.

Curiously, in the course of the episode the new gang are actually shown stock art of their 80’s progenitors- we don’t quite know how to process this because it makes no sense – and are explicitly told that they are distant relatives of the originals. There’s no counterpart for Portia Porcupine (here given the actual surname of Bristlemore) because she’s revealed to be the old woman in the line up above. Erm, we hate to point this out, but only twenty years had passed between the original show and this one, so either it’s set far into the future or cuddly forest animals really don’t age well.

Watch the show below, and try not to snicker when it invites viewers to “get loose in the caboose”.

Theme song by Prince Paul. No, really.

WATCH IT NOW

At some point a company called Mill Creek Entertainment released a DVD containing 10 two-part episodes. We do wonder were they sourced the episodes from, though. The picture and sound quality is abominable – it’s the worst we’ve ever seen on a store-bought DVD. It looks for all the world like it was straight-up ripped from YouTube… after being recorded off the telly in 1985. And it’s Region 1, so UK readers will have to nab a multi-region DVD player to even watch the damn thing. It also says the gang “travel the countryside” bringing help to “wherever they’re needed” which pretty much confirms the manufacturer never actually watched the product they’re selling.

Maybe we’ll revisit the gang in the future. There are rumblings of yet another remake in the works, so with any luck a whole new generation of kids will get to enjoy their own version of the gang, but as it stands it’s a nice throwback to a simpler time. The Get Along Gang were a nice bunch, and their exploits and adventures were many and quaint. It seems that the show was an effort to instill some positive values in the young audience, to prepare them for the tumultuous decades ahead.

You’re never too old to learn – so maybe we should all sit down, watch some Gang, and all learn how to get along.

I Clean My Gun and Dream of Galvatron

Next year marks the 30th anniversary of the animated Transformers movie, and the masterminds at Takara have promised to celebrate the event the only way they know how: by making more awesome toys. So far revealed for 2016 are new figures of movie posterboy Hot Rod – which makes sense – and menacing Decepticon Shockwave, which makes far less sense when you consider he has exactly two lines in the movie and is quietly squashed out of existence in the final act.

Both are part of the reinvigorated Masterpiece line, which aims to correct the mistakes of the past and produce new figures of existing characters improved with today’s toy technology. So why the hell have we not got a Galvatron yet?

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“Who’s a guy got to disintegrate to get a new toy around here?”

In the movie, Galvatron was created by Unicron from the remains of Decepticon boss Megatron. His job was to cover Unicron’s considerable ass by hunting down any pesky Autobots who would seek to destroy him. Unbelievably, Unicron was voiced by Orson Welles – whether or not the animators modeled the foul-tempered planet-eater on Welles himself is not certain at this time. Galvatron sets out to capture the Autobot Matrix for his master, but not before getting his own house in order by challenging Starscream for leadership of the Decepticons. And by “challenging” we mean straight-up terminating his ass in one of the movie’s most brutal scenes.

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Our faces looked just like this when Starscream carked it.

The character of Galvatron came about, in real-life terms, because of a number of factors. Changing gun laws in the United States meant that the continued production of Megatron – who turned into a perfect replica of a P-38 Walther handgun – just wasn’t viable. The toys had been on the shelves for two years by this point, so it was decided to shake up the ranks of the Autobots and Decepticons with two new leader characters. The new, improved version of Megatron would now turn into a futuristic-looking laser gun, and if need be further transform into a static laser cannon.

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The battles of the future will be fought with… these things.

Galvatron’s original animation model was designed by artist Floro Dery with little consideration for how it would work as an actual toy – leaving the people at Hasbro to do their best to make a transforming action figure from his sketches in short time. The resulting finished toy has a good amount of weight to it, and even fits nicely in an adult’s hand in laser gun mode. It’s also one of the first – if not the first – Transformer to have electronic lights and sounds. Alas, this figure of Galvatron is probably best described as the phrase “you tried” manifested in physical form.  If you squint a bit it kind of looks like him. Or at the very least it looks like a random Transformer in a home-made Galvatron Halloween costume.

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“If you do just 50 crunches a day, you can have abs like these!”

It would take Hasbro 22 years to muster up the willpower to crank out another toy, and you can guess how that went. This time Galvatron was a tank – a mandate by Hasbro deems that all new TF lines must contain at least five tanks because “kids love that war shit” – but the figure has vestiges of some kind of third mode, a symptom of being drastically scaled-back in both size and complexity at some point in production. The result is a figure that not even a God of Chaos could love.

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Tanks, but no tanks.

And that’s how Galvatron’s story ends. These days, the name has variously been applied to new characters in the live-action movies and comics, and by all accounts Hasbro is more than happy to leave Megatron’s alter ego well enough alone for another 20 years. In the words of gravelly-voiced old timer Kup, it’s not the end we’d wish for, lad. Someone at Takara needs to put this right!