At the risk of having to surrender my geek badge, I admit the following: I really, really like Michael Bay's Transformers movie. Yeah, it's crass and commercial and goofy and full of ridiculous characters and eye roll-inducing dialogue—which is why it's the perfect adaptation of its crass, commercial, goofy, ridiculous, and eye roll-inducing source material.
Bay's Transformers sequel comes out next week; ever-so-conveniently, this week sees a re-mastered DVD release of the first season of the 1984 cartoon that inspired the film and shamelessly served as an extended commercial for Hasbro's action figures. For any child of the '80s, this three-disc set is a pretty fantastic nostalgia trip, with 16 cheesily enjoyable, 20-minute-long episodes that detail the battles of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream, and 900 billion crappier, less memorable robots. These are super fun for what they are, but be warned: If you remember the Transformers cartoon as a pinnacle of brilliant storytelling, you might wanna let your memories stay intact—lest you discover that Bay's vision of your kindergarten heroes isn't as sacrilegious as you thought.
In addition to the original episodes' lo-fi, retro charm, the DVD set also features old toy commercials, a public service announcement in which a distressingly glib Bumblebee halfheartedly warns some kids about the dangers of running away from home, and, most notably, a featurette in which a slew of Hasbro execs gleefully explain how they turned some weird Japanese toys into an insanely profitable blitzkrieg that encompassed TV, comic books, and toys. The best part is when Marvel Comics' writer Bob Budiansky, who was tasked with inventing the Transformers' backstory, recalls his contributions. "This is like the Dead Sea Scrolls, here," he declares as he proudly displays his old notes, and we get a glimpse of his description of Optimus Prime, which I hereby request be engraved on my tombstone: "If he had been born on Earth, he would be a doctor, a mechanic, a scientist, and a warrior.... He has the personality of Abraham Lincoln."