"G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero" is literally the classic animated series that became an iconic series for thousands of fans who loyally collected the many awesome merchandise from Hasbro and continues to be a popular toy line today.
Although, the series was released in 1984, the series has spawned several of animated series and CG films. In 2008, the 3 3/4 action figures and vehicle line celebrated its 25th Anniversary and in 2009, earlier in the year, fans were treated with a more darker and more violent animated series with "G.I. Joe Resolute" and by the Summer of 2009, would be treated with the live action film and a release of a G.I. Joe video game.
So, what better time than now but to enjoy the classic 1985 animated series through SHOUT FACTORY's "G.I. JOE - A REAL AMERICAN HERO - SEASON 1.1" on DVD.
The DVD release is the second release of the popular animated series (the first was released through RHINO, note: RHINO only released season 1 and the first half of season 2) and both releases has its key differences which I will discuss further in my review. It's important to also note that some of the episodes for the first season were featured on DVD's that were included with various Hasbro toy box sets released in early 2009.
For starters, the series is not based on the original GI Joe toys that were released in the 1960's but is based on the Hasbro toyline which started in 1982 and the comic book series from Marvel Comics. The series was created by Ron Friedman and the first season on this DVD set comprised of three mini-series that aired in 2004-2005. The mini-series which consisted of "The M.A.S.S. Device", "The Revenge of Cobra", "The Pyramid of Darkness" and five separate episodes.
Here is a brief synopsis (no spoilers) for each episode:
DISC 1: THE M.A.S.S. DEVICE
* EPISODE 1 - The Cobra Strikes - Cobra has developed the ultimate weapon known as the M.A.S.S. Device. and attempt to steal a military satellite. Duke is captured.
* EPISODE 2 - Slaves of the Cobra Master - G.I. Joe tries to counter Cobra's M.A.S.S. Device with their own.
* EPISODE 3 - The Worms of Death - GI Joe takes the battle against Cobra undersea. Meanwhile, Snake Eyes goes to the arctic to find a radioactive crystal element.
* EPISODE 4 - Duel In The Devil's Cauldron - Cobra and G.I. Joe try to get the final element to activate their own M.A.S.S. Device.
* EPISODE 5 - A Stake In the Serpent's Heart - Destro takes Scarlett as a prisoner and the action-packed finale of the first G.I. Joe mini-series.
DISC 2: THE REVENGE OF COBRA
* EPISODE 6 - In the Cobra's Pit - Cobra attacks a G.I. Joe convoy and steals a high-powered experimental laser.
* EPISODE 7 - The Vines of Evil - Flint, Mutt, Junkyard and Roadblock are caught by vines in the Cobra's Pit of Chaos.
* EPISODE 8 - The Palace of Doom - G.I. Joe sends various teams to different regions around the globe to find the three fragments of the Weather Dominator before Destro and Cobra get to it.
* EPISODE 9 - Battle On the Roof of the World - Cutter, Wild Bill and Spirit battle the Baroness and Cobra on the Island of No Return.
* EPISODE 10 - Amusement Park of Terror - Storm Shadow infiltrates Joe headquarters. Meanwhile the battle in the Arctic continues.
DISC 3: THE PYRAMID OF DARKNESS
* EPISODE 11 - The Further Adventures of G.I. Joe - Tomax and Xamot seize control of G.I. Joe's Moon Star space shuttle.
* EPISODE 12 - Rendezvous in the City of the Dead - Shipwreck and Snake Eyes try to evade capture from Cobra.
* EPISODE 13 - Three Cubes to Darkness - G.I. Joe captures Tomax and Xamot plans to rescue him.
* EPISODE 14 - Chaos in the Sea of Lost Souls - Alpine and bazooka are joined by Quick Kick. Meanwhile, Cobra Commander activates the Pyramid of Darkness.
* Episode 15 - Knotting Cobra's Coils - G.I. launches a full-scale assault on the Cobra Temple.
* EPISODE 16 - Countdown for Zartan - Zartan infiltrates the Worldwide Defense Center and tries to destroy it.
* EPISODE 17 - Red Rocket's Glare - Cobra uses Tomax and Xamot's company Extensive Enterprises to purchase the Red Rocket food chain and use its location for secret missile launching bases.
* EPISODE 18 - Satellite Down - Cobra knocks a secret military satellite out of orbit and G.I. Joe races to its location before Cobra gets to it.
* EPISODE 19 - Cobra Stops the World - Cobra plans to take control of the world's fuel supplies.
* EPISODE 20 - Jungle Trap - Cobra kidnaps Dr. Shakur and plans to attack cities using the flow of lava.
* EPISODE 21 - Cobra's Creatures - Cobra plans to use the animals of the world against humanity.
* EPISODE 22 - The Funhouse - Flint, Bazooka and others hve to fight their way through the deadly Cobra Temple.
"G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero" will be released on July 14th but the 17-disc, 95 episode complete series will be shipping on June 22nd and will be bundled with many special features including a USB "Dog Tag" 1GB flash drive, collectible booklet and more..
VIDEO & AUDIO:
"G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero" is in full color and presented in Dolby Digital. I have been asked by many G.I. Joe fans how SHOUT FACTORY's DVD's compare to the original RHINO DVD's.
In terms of video quality, there is a slight (very slight) difference between SHOUT FACTORY's picture quality and RHINO's picture quality. SHOUT FACTORY features a little less compression it would seem. I was comparing the scenes and it's very slight. In fact, SHOUT FACTORY's version seems a wee bit brighter.
But I wanted to compare a scene in the first episode where Cobra Commander and Destro were overlooking a computer after they were looking at crystals for the M.A.S.S. device. The reason I chose that scene is because it exhibits a lot of dust and scratches, compression and wanted to see if it was cleaned up. One thing I notice that both still had similar issues but a main key difference was that the size of the dust in the RHINO version were clumpier. Granted, its there if you pause and look at a frame but for most people, they are not going to see this. But there was no digitally remastering for those who were interested in knowing. The dust and scratches still exist and are part of the master.
I was also asked if the errors from the original series such as two Timbers in a scene or Scarlett sporting a mind control device (when she wasn't supposed to wear one, among a few errors from the original animation were fixed in this new release. These errors were part of the original master and is on the final cut. So, I doubt there will be any measures to correct those errors and that it's more than likely these will permanent errors that are part of the original animation.
I was also asked if the opening themes were the ones featured on the original broadcast. And the opening theme for all episodes on Season 1.1 is the version with Flint pointing as starting off with his scream of "Yo Joe!" and ending with a large Cobra spaceship crashing into the ground.
As for audio quality, this is where the RHINO and SHOUT FACTORY versions are quite different. The RHINO version features a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio which utilizes the surround channels and the LFE of your subwoofer and shows up on my receiver as Dolby Digital 5.1. Vocal tracks were featured on the center channel, music on the surrounds (and were louder than the dialogue track) and utilizing front channel and the subwoofer for the booms.
For the SHOUT FACTORY version, the audio is featured in Dolby Digital but does not take advantage of surround channels or LFE. In fact, the setting I ended up choosing on my receiver was "All Channels on Stereo".
"G.I. JOE - A Real American Hero - Season 1.1' comes with a good number of special features. Included are:
* Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman, Part One - (7:03) Ron Friedman talks about why he had a voice over on opening theme of what G.I. Joe and Cobra is. Also, discussion of how he learned to write for children and how to get them to buy the merchandise and how he was involved with test groups for the toys.
* Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman, Part Two - (7:03) Ron Friedman talks about how he was hired from Hasbro and how important it was for him to create the characters and get kids to enjoy the characters and buy the merchandise. And how he would make episodes focusing on a primary group of characters and swing characters and how he came up with the style of voices for the characters.
* Looking Back with Writer Ron Friedman, Part Three - (4:44) Ron Friedman talks about how he teaches a class in screenwriting at USC and Chapman University and how he asked by his students about his work on G.I. Joe and is asked to sign autographs and how he loves the G.I. Joe fandom.
The fourth disc contains quite a number of special features. Bare in mind that these commercials are old and are not in the greatest of quality but nevertheless, was great to see included in this Season 1.1 set.
* Knowing is Half the Battle PSA's - (3:42) A total of seven PSA's that can be played separately or to play all. PSA's featured:
--- Alpine - What to Do When You're Lost
--- Barbeque - What to Do If Your House is On Fire
--- Deep Six - Don't Swim When It's Storming
--- Mutt - Don't Pet Strange Dogs
--- Quick Kick - Take Your Time When Building Your Tree House
--- Spirit - What To Do If You Catch On Fire
--- Torpedo - How To Tread Water
* G.I. Joe's Original 1963 Toy Fair Presentation - (9:06) Hasbro's promotional for the original GI Joe toy and its capabilities.
* Printable "Jungle Trap" Script- - If you have a DVD drive on your PC, you can access the PDF of the "Jungle Trap" script which can be printed.
* Archival Hasbro Toy Commercials - (1:31) "Collection" (introduction of toys for Grunt, Zap, Short Fuse, Flash, Stalker, Breaker, Rock n' Roll, Scarlett and Snake Eyes), "Breaker & The Rapid Fire Motorcycle" (focusing on Breaker with RAM taking on a Cobra soldier who captured the FLAK) and "Polar Battle Bear" (Snow Job, Gung Ho, Airborne and Doc on the Polar Battle Bear taking on Cobra).
There are also a few GI Joe extras included inside the slipcase box. Included are:
* Season episode summary booklet
* Flier for the GI Joe action figures (Scarlet, Snake Eyes, Baroness and Storm Shadow), Comic Books, Books, GI Joe Video game
* Tattoos -2×2 inch Cobra and Arashikage tattoo and a 3.5×1 inch G.I. Joe tattoo.
* A piece for the GI Joe Collector's Club
It's very important to note that in the soon-to-be-released "G.I. Joe - The Complete Series" contains a total of eight retrospective featurettes, a voice cast reunion, 25 archival Hasbro toy commercials, more GI Joe PSA's and the live action fan film "Battle of the Serpent Stone", plus a 1 GB "Dog-Tag" flash drive, a collectible book, two G.I. Joe Silent comics and more.
Needless to say that I am quite biased when it comes to "G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero". As a child who collected the comics and toys, as an adult, I still own many of the figures, vehicles and and box sets released from 1982 through the present. So, personally, the animated series will always be close to my heart as it was very much an important part of my childhood.
Like many people who grew up during the early 80's, "G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero" was an animated series that grabbed our attention because of its many characters and the personality of those characters.
Each character looked different, had different skills, various weaponry and attitude and Hasbro was quite innovative with the release of the toys. The animation encouraged us to enjoy them even further by establishing storylines that we could try to recreate. The series was the classic good vs. evil storyline and it's one thing to have these various members of G.I. Joe but the whole look of Cobra was just too cool to ignore.
Needless to say, part of the success and why parents loved about "G.I. Joe" was the fact that the action figures were significantly cheaper than other toy lines (with the exception of a few vehicles or play sets such as the USS Flag which were quite expensive) and they were easily accessible at your local mom and pop drug store or grocery store.
Children would know that if you bought a character, chances are that you would see this character in action on an episode of "G.I. Joe - A Real American Hero" unlike other toylines at the time which unfortunately, you would see only once in an animated series and never see again.
As for the animation and its re-release, with the release of the RHINO DVD's over five years ago, it was a bit unfortunate that the company didn't finish the series when it was released. This left a lot of G.I. Joe fans frustrated and upset.
To add to the frustration, the box sets became out of print so quickly that fans only chance of obtaining the series was through eBay and paying nearly double or triple of what the original mini-series and the individual season box sets cost. Needless to say, the RHINO releases were just too difficult for fans to get a hold of and priced too high for any casual fan or newbie fans to want to pay and buy for it.
But in 2009, SHOUT FACTORY has done a great service for G.I. Joe fans. Fans can get the first 22 episodes with "G.I. JOE - A REAL AMERICAN HERO - SEASON 1.1' and the complete series for a magnificent price.
For those who are wondering if the series is worth the double dip, my answer is that if you want the complete series, you're going to have to anyway (since RHINO never released the second half of Season Two). I do miss the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio from the original from the RHINO release but overall, there is nothing I can complain about with SHOUT FACTORY's Season 1.1 release. There are enough bells and whistles included on a thin pack and really, for the price these will be sold for, compared to the experience that fans had to go through years ago, this is a steal!
G.I. Joe or Cobra the enemy fans, this is one release that you won't want to miss. "G.I. JOE - A REAL AMERICAN HERO - SEASON 1.1" is highly recommended!