Saturday, February 05, 2011

We now return to Challenge of the GoBots...

Rarely in life does an event of such epic proportions occur that it shakes the very foundation of one's own worldview and understanding of the nature of existence while reaffirming a man's faith in the cosmic balance of justice in the universe. Yes, I'm talking about Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch being released on DVD back on January 25th. And just when the world's religions were recovering from that absolute proof that god drives a talking Volkswagen, another shock to the belief systems of all humanity came to pass when Shawn "Branded in the 80s" Robare broke the news to me this week that Challenge of the GoBots was coming to DVD. I was floored. Absolutely blown away. Because this means that obviously not only does god's Volkswagen talk, but he also has a thing for transforming red robot scooters. Either that or god's just a really big fan of vehicles voiced by Frank Welker. AREN'T WE ALL, GOD. AREN'T WE ALL.

Los Angeles 04 April 1985
TV Guide Chicago (date unknown)


Every time I found an old ad for the GoBots cartoon in some old newspaper I got a little sad because I could never find a way to blog about them without it reading like an obituary for a robot show long gone. But the news that the Warner Archives is going to put out Challenge of the GoBots on DVD is just the Baron Von Joyous occasion I was looking for to break out this stuff in celebration of this most significant of American cartoon robot shows. The two ads above use the same graphic but the text is slightly different, with one of them implying boldly that every other cartoon robot show was a ripoff of GoBots! Voltron definitely had the jump on CotG and depending on where you lived the Transformers may have aired first, too. I love how this ad tries to make up for that by using the popularity of the other shows as a gauge by which new viewers can estimate their love of GoBots (even though all GoBots really had in common with other robot shows was the element of transformation). I don't have a date for the one on the right because I got it from an eBay seller who goes through old TV Guides and clips out the ads, then puts them up in lots arranged by theme. Consequently all I got was the ad with no date information on it. It is interesting to note that in Chicago the five parter was shown over five Sundays, while in Los Angeles they ran it all in the space of one week.

Houston, TX 11/07/85

Now I don't know who was directly responsible for putting GoBots ads in TV Guides and local newspaper entertainment sections but they did a good job. It may have been the show's distributor or Tonka's advertising agency Jordan, Case & McGrath that handled this sort of advertising-I don't know. In any case, the show got a lot more advertising in Sunday papers than I've been able to find for the Transformers or Voltron. And what fun ads they were! I've never seen anything quite like the one to the right from a paper in Houston, Texas where Crasher and Cy-Kill are having an argument over his addiction to the GoBots cartoon. Shawn's blog Branded in the 80s also has another TV Guide Challenge of the GoBots ad from September 16, 1985 where Cy-Kill is daring the viewer to watch the show. Such fourth wall breaking is unusual in toy robots ads but it's not entirely unheard of. There was one September 11, 1985 Voltron ad in entertainment industry publication Variety where the non-lion Voltron characters talked about the upcoming Voltron season. Then again, Voltron the robot never talked or watched television like Cy-Kill. These GoBots ads are still unique for being the only place I've seen robot characters talking to viewers and each other about the show.

Variety 27 March 1985


Speaking of Variety, from 1985 through 1987 the worldwide distributor for the Challenge of the GoBots cartoon ran a couple of ads that stand out as some of the coolest GoBots related stuff I've ever seen. Initially the ads featured an often used GoBot promotional image of Leader-1, Scooter and Turbo flying over the CotG logo. In subsequent years as the GoBots became part of the Hanna Barbera family of cartoon characters, Leader-1 was occasionally seen alongside classic characters like Yogi Bear, the Jetsons, the Flinstones and even Space Ghost. The first time I saw these "cartoon character parade" ads with Leader-1 hanging out with the other Hanna Barbera greats I was surprised because I'd never seen any GoBots depicted as part of that lineage. I didn't think Hanna Barbera considered their licensed cartoon characters part of the family so much as they were disposable entities to be erased from all memory once their popularity on the toy shelves faded. But here we had Leader-1 towering above all others just like he was one of the gang, proudly carrying the flag representing great American toy robot cartoon storytelling. I cannot express how awesome it feels to know that once again Leader-1 and the GoBot gang are receiving a bit of recognition and acceptance amongst the other gone-but-not-forgotten Hanna Barbera classics with the upcoming DVD on demand release of Challenge of the GoBots. Somewhere in heaven Cy-Kill is firing up his DVD player.

Variety 30 April 1986
Variety 15 April 1987

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