The Other Challenge of the GoBots

We at the Claymation Werewolf Laboratories believe in bringing you a well rounded reporting of history. Sure televisions, cartoons, toys and videogames are important; probably more important than anything else in the world. However, we can not forget the unique, if fairly insignificant, role that politics have played in the forming of our society. We are of course all human and everyone, aside from myself, makes the occasional mistake. Politicians and world leaders are no different. Making decisions that impact so many while under the glare of the media spotlight can be an enormous amount of pressure. With everyone watching and waiting for your every mistake, those mistakes can lead to incredible humiliation. It is one example of that humiliation that I would like to exploit today for my own personal gain. From the Claymation Werewolf Political desk, I’m Rhett Kahn.

The year was 1985, President Jimmy Carter was embarking on his optimistic second term. With a spring in his step and a gleam in his eye he was determined to change America. He had plans, plans for the economy, plans for foreign policy and even plans to revolutionize the novelty bottle opener industry. The centerpiece of his domestic policy however was physical fitness. You see, America was getting out of shape, from the adults down to the children. Carter believed that the children were the future. Teach them well and let them lead the way; show them all the beauty they posses inside. But as we all know, as an adult, the beauty we posses inside is about as useless as you can get. It is of course, what’s outside that counts and that is what Jimmy Carter wanted to improve. Kids had to get in shape! And the lessons they learned about health and exercise as children could be carried into adulthood. If the right approach was taken while citizens are young, it could start a trend that would sweep the nation. We could have a country full of physical dynamos and really give those Ruskies what-for!

It was a brilliant scheme. Find a popular example of physical fitness; an undeniable example of a group at the height of their condition and build a training program around them. Being that this was the United States, the search soon focused on popular culture and with that in mind the choice became a real no-brainer. There was a group so powerful, so versatile that we should all strive to emulate. And that group was none other than the GoBots.

In the 80’s, the whole nation had GoBot fever! Carter himself had long been recognized as a fan, and even a champion of the budding Transforming Robot Genre. And there was a lot to be a fan of! Never before had such a group of heroes been brought together with such grace, with such power, with such total originality! It seemed like nothing was beyond their power! They could change from robots into vehicles and then back to robots…and then vehicles and so on. Because of this huge array of abilities, on October 22nd The Carter administration announced The Challenge of the GoBots. The plan was simple; create a program of exercise, training and ultimately; national tests. Integrate these tests into the physical education programs at elementary and middle schools all over the country. At first the results of the program were great. Kids everywhere were getting some exercise. Reports from all over the country were pouring in and it seemed that America’s students had devoted themselves totally to becoming more and more like their robotic champions! Not only were children getting in shape, interest in automotive and mechanical skills had reached an unprecedented levels.

Unfortunately as time rolled on, revelations started to surface that all was not well in The Challenge of the GoBots. It seems that due to an error in planning and forethought the program was way to GoBot specific. Instead of becoming active, vibrant and healthy citizens; the challenge, as it was laid out, encouraged children to actually become transforming robots. It started simple enough with rope climbing, jumping jacks and push ups, but the advanced levels called for the children to perform unreasonable physical feats. It was required that students fold their arms, legs and head into their bodies and replace them with wheels, wings, propellers and rudders. Then children would also somehow have to become metal and robotic, rather than flesh and blood humans. Ultimately, in order to gain their certificate of completion, the kids would have to pass the final test which involved completely changing from a human into a robot, into a vehicle and then back into a robot. They would then have to defeat at least one member of the evil renegades in mortal combat (or guardians, if they in fact chose to be a renegade themselves.)

These later elements of the program appeared to be unachievable. To begin with, humans had no biological ability to become robots. Additionally, most academic experts frown on any kind of school program that ends in a battle to the death. Not only were the details of the program itself ridiculous, there had began to be an uproar about the Challenge of the GoBots existing at all. Several children were seriously injured or permanently disfigured and there was almost 100% failure of anyone to reach the final test.


Unreasonable Expectations?

Through a combined effort of liberal human rights groups protesting the challenge because it required people to no longer be “human” and conservative groups protesting because the title Leader-1 sounded “commie,” the entire fitness program had become political poison. With teachers dropping out of the program and the news media demanding answers, Jimmy Carter and his advisors scrambled to respond to the public outcry that had started to surround his bold but ultimately ill-advised Challenge of the GoBots. Carter made one of the most impassioned speeches he had ever made. He claimed that this program could work; it would work! We as a nation, could come together and if we worked as one there was nothing, nothing that we couldn’t achieve. If we denied ourselves the possibility that children could become intergalactic transforming robot warriors, why then we denied every bright hope and dream we could ever have. And hope, yes hope was the most important natural resource in the United States of America. Ultimately it was discovered that hope was not the most important natural resource (turns out it was oil) and the Challenge of the GoBots was shut down forever.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Carter was embarking on his bid for a third term. In the end, everything fell apart. Despite his best intentions and his public call for understanding the people were fed up with his optimistic, cartoon based policies and he was unable to withstand the force of the campaign of Ronald Reagan. Reagan ran an aggressive campaign and the slogan “Transform failure into success, not children into vehicles!” proved to be a strong influence on the public.

In the aftermath of the GoBots debacle, our nation finally did come together. They came together to pick up the pieces left by…the GoBots debacle. Even former president Carter did his part. He began a long career in charity by starting The GoBotron foundation, a group dedicated to building custom built housing for all of those affected by the misguided program. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected but have continued their lives and ultimately have become stronger as a result. We all have our own hardships to overcome, my wife will always have motorcycle tire where her left arm should be and that is something that we have learned to deal with. Soon after taking over the office of the President, he replaced the Challenge of the GoBots with The Presidential Award for Physical Fitness. While it has resulted in a lot less injuries and considerably less cyborgs, it has also not been a smashing success. As of this date, no president has ever won the award.

Retroist, Rewound or “The Secret Origins of The Retroist”

Constantly sifting through volumes of nostalgia get you to thinking about your life and lately I’ve been doing just that. To be specific I’ve been contemplating my teenage years. In my teens I lived through the same troubles and rites of passage as any normal person. I remember getting my drivers license my first school dance my first job, the first time I discovered time travel, my…What’s that you say? You don’t believe that I traveled through time? You think that time travel is just something from the movies and that a person could never do it in real life? Well I once knew someone that thought just like you do…but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning of the story.

In 1985 during an in depth pop culture investigation (going to the movies) I witnessed something inspiring . A young man in one of the most thrilling (fictional) adventures I’ve ever witnessed. Blending action! Comedy! Romance! Science! And an amazing puffy orange vest! As I stepped from the dark theatre I thought about what I had just seen. That technology had to be mine! I had to have a time machine!…and a puffy orange vest. But I wasn’t a fool I knew one could not make a time machine out of some random parts thrown onto a DeLorean. No, my random parts would have to be thrown on to an El Camino. How else would I be able to make an awesome entrance, exploding out of nowhere leaving flaming tire tracks with my “La Cucaracha” horn blasting! An evil genius has to think about style!

Shamefully it took me a full 5 years to turn that fictional account of time travel into a reality but nevertheless I had completed my own fully functional time machine. Just in time for the third installment of the “Back to the Future franchise, I was ready to make my maiden voyage. However, to do so I had to figure two things out. I had to decide where/when to go, and I had to choose an expendable lackey…I mean trusted assistant to help me to test my creation. I went to the most in-depth source of information on history that I could locate in these United States. I went to a B Dalton bookstore in a shopping mall in Eastern New Jersey. Every day I poured through the pages of books. I read books on the 30’s the 40’s the 1750’s and sometimes I read books of collected Garfield comic strips.

The problem of finding an assistant seemed to solve itself. One day while conducting my research HE walked in. I had seen him before, his name was Bob and he was actually an

employee in the mall. I knew by reputation that he was a kindred spirit. A steadfast researcher of pop culture and an expert on “emerging technology.” He was a truly wise and noble man. Ignoring the fact that he may or may not have been scoping-out the “adult” magazine section, I approached him for conversation. After some light chit chat; “don’t you work at the video store?” Etc… I eased into what had lately become my normal conversation opener. “So, do you like….Back to The Future?” To my delight he replied in the affirmative, and I began to test just how deep his appreciation ran.

I could tell over the next few days that he began to grow weary of our constant BTTF conversations but they were a necessary evil. I had to know just how interested he was in

time travel and I had to know I could trust him to be a loyal member of my team. After a week and a half of regular bookstore meetings the time had come. The next Monday all would be revealed and we would set out, on what was sure to become one of the greatest journeys in the history of mankind. To my disbelief, on that fateful day, he didn’t show. I waited quite some time and eventually spotted him a few stores down at a Just For Feet..hiding out. The disappointment hit me immediately. This guy was not the one, I would have to step into the world of time travel on my own. While my plans were delayed due to this setback I carried on and by Friday I was somewhere in time.

From then on I had a blast, meeting my great great great grandchildren, inventing rock -n- roll, generally taking a tour of everywhere and every when. And then one day one year…a year not too far from our own I spotted him. I spotted Bob, and my heart sank. The young lad of the 80’s who was so full of promise had become a disheveled, wild eyed hobo standing in a park shrieking information about classic video games to no one in particular and violently hurling Rubics Cubes at anyone that made the mistake of wandering to closely. This could not be. I had to do something. After all what good was it to have power over time itself if I couldn’t use that power to set right what was made wrong. So, after an unknown number of years spent joyriding around the history and future I made the ultimate sacrifice…I went back to New Jersey.

I decided to go back in time to one day after I was abandoned for a Foot Locker employee. I arrived seamlessly at the mall bookstore as if nothing had happened. Moments later Bob showed up and I was thrilled to see him, as he was, before it all went wrong. We commenced our tradition of talking about the Back to the Future movies, but this time as the days went on I slowly began to move the conversation to the subject of Bob’s other hobbies and interests. It turns out that he had begun to write about things. Lots of things. From video games to movies to television and toys and he desperately wanted the world to see it. He had hit on an idea as of late that he thought couldn’t miss. A fan newsletter discussing fun facts and useful information about the latest in pop culture and entertainment. He had decided to call his newsletter The Currentist.

The problem was, that the public had so far not taken much of an interest and very few copies of his newsletter had been given out. It seemed that people in the 80’s weren’t to keen on a newsletter that obsessed over the 80’s I suggested to him that although his concept was very strong the people of his day weren’t the audience he should be aiming for. The people that would read his work would be the people of the future! He began to look longingly over to footlocker and cautiously asked if I was going to start talking about Back to the Future again. I dismissed his worries explaining that I wasn’t referring to time travel, I was merely talking about biding his time. I told him that he should continue to document every piece of information, every advertisement and everything he could learn about fads games and popular entertainment. What he shouldn’t do, I said, was publish. Not yet. One day there would be a thing called the internet. A thing people all over the world would use solely for wholesome enlightening purposes and not at all for porn! On this internet. nostalgia would be king, and the information he gathered today would be enjoyed by millions tomorrow. Furthermore, if he documented these things now, as they were happening, in the future it would make it look like he had an almost photographic memory of nostalgia and old pop culture! I even told him to keep track of his own life experiences especially those that involve the pop culture items he catalogued. The public, after all, eats those human interest stories up! Bob asked what he should do if he didn’t actually have experience with a certain thing but still wanted to write about it. What should he do then? I told him one of the most important things I’ve ever told anyone. Bob, I said, if you don’t know what to write about…Just make it up.

In the end my plan was a success and Bob became the Retroist that you all know and love today. A master of nostalgia, sitting atop Retroist Industries and leading a high powered and highly paid team of the most skilled bloggers ever assembled. He even managed to recruit VicSage, a shadowy but influential voice on the subject of days gone by. And lest I forget, the incredibly prolific Meta Girl. This especially interested me as meta was one of those words I had always heard but never knew the meaning of. I had the opportunity to ask MG what meta meant and as it turns out it means “something that creates layers of abstraction or that is largely self referential” one example would be a blog post about the actual blog site that the post is featured on. Which, if you ask me, is a pretty interesting concept.

Transformers? More than meets the Lies…

Recently the subject of one of my cruel experiments and I got to talking. And (as it tends to) the topic soon turned to the Transformers. I was waxing philosophically about the nature of the transforming creatures and of their origin when the test subject had the nerve to try to correct me! As if I didn’t know the 80’s culture like the back of my iron fist! I destroyed him of course, but it got me to thinking. How many other people are walking around with crazy misguided ideas as to how their retro icons got their start. In the words of Marvin Clarence (MC) Hammer; “Sound the bell, school’s in sucka!”

As anyone who is ANYONE already knows the transformers began as vehicles. To be more specific, they began as a semi truck. In the opening scene of the pilot episode, A truck driver hauling a heavy load for TFG1 industries decides to take a shortcut onto a road that is much rougher than he anticipated. Being that he is in the middle of the desert with no sign of civilization for miles and no spare on hand; he, of course, blows a tire. As he begins to walk hopelessly through the wasteland with hopes of a gas station or at least another traveler, he trips over something buried in the dirt, partially uncovering it. When he looks down to see the source of his tumble he realizes to his shock that the object appears to be a truck tire. He frantically digs out the remainder of the tire and is amazed to find that the tire is whole and in incredible condition, rim and all! As he inspects what he believed to be a brand new tire he realizes that although it is in perfect condition the tire appears to be old. Very old. Along the edge of the rim are strange ruins that seem to hum with an otherworldly aura. Despite all this the driver still decides to install the mystery wheel onto his truck. As he places the tire on the truck an amazing transformation takes place. What was once a large normal looking red and blue semi truck became a large normal looking red and blue semi truck with a mind! And a name, apparently; Optimus. This truck had became self aware and decided that he is a leader! That he is a hero! Leaving his driver stranded in the dessert, Optimus embarks on a journey to find his place in the world.

For weeks after being given life by the ancient truck tire of lore, Optimus was driven by a sense of purpose, he knew that he must do good, and stop evil by whatever means possible. Being that he was only a semi truck, that mostly meant that he ran a lot of people over. He ran over murderers, pick pockets, jay walkers, and when he encountered drivers of other semis who were speeding, he would run them off the road sending them to a fiery explosion. Sure he stopped a lot of evil but he felt empty inside. After one week Optimus met a small car, a white Volkswagen Moth, ironically named Bumblebee. Bumblebee had always wanted to be a hero car but had until then been to cowardly. Optimus and Bumblebee soon became the best of friends. One day Optimus and Bumblebee were driving down the road looking for adventure when they pulled into what seemed like a normal looking gas station, but the gas station attendant was anything but normal. For this was the Sorcerer Mike who informed Optimus that he was no ordinary magic living truck. He was in reality Optimus Prime! Hero truck of Legend, and guardian of Autobot castle! He then produced an enchanted sword from beneath a pile of oily rags and place it onto Optimus’s fender. Optimus recited the words that in his heart he had known all along. “By the power of Autobot…I am Prime!” Suddenly Optimus seemed to unfold from himself and became an upright sword wielding robot. The most powerful semi in the universe! He then pointed his sword at Bumblebee (his fearless friend) sending a fabulous beam of energy and turning him into the mighty Battle-Bee! The rest as they say is history. Optimus Prime and Battle-Bee amassed an army of robot vehicle creatures through an aggressive online publicity campaign. Together they defended the secrets of Castle Autobot from Decepticons, a terrorist organization bent on world domination led by Megatron Commander. All the while the Transformers try desperately to blend into human society. Optimus Prime can, at will, change from robot to truck by simply touching his high tech earring and saying the words “Start your engines Synergy!”

The driving plotline of the series was the concept that the good and bad robot cars would fight over a natural material that was incredibly plentiful on Earth. This material was called Energon and acted as fuel, food, and lifeblood to the Transformers. In every episode Optimus Prime and his brave army of robots would think of new suspenseful and entertaining ways to defend Earth and keep the Energon safe. To give you a little background on how Energon works I thought I would take a moment to describe the technical aspects for you. The fuel is harvested and then “digested” through an intense industrial process wherein each piece of Energon is drawn into the intake valve and rendered through the gears of the engine. It is then pulled apart by miniature arms inside the vehicle housing. The individual shreds of Energon are then seared by flame and liquefied in the Transformer’s acid tank. Energon (or translated into English “humans”) are a very important natural recourse for the Robots.

As if that amazing television premise wasn’t enough, a toy line was introduced in hopes to extend the Transformers popularity into the retail world. One could buy the characters in either robot form or vehicle form. Sales proved to be very disappointing until one day, toy designer Kevin Solo took his children to McDonalds for dinner and noticed the deep interest the kids took over the toys in their happy meals. The toys were the latest in the wildly popular Transfood series. They featured robot characters that could be changed (like a puzzle) into popular McDonald’s menu items; Egg McMuffin, Chicken Nuggets, Soft Drink Cup, Big Mac etc. Suddenly inspiration struck! What if the Transformer toys could actually transform! Kids would no longer have to make their “truck” Optimus Prime drive behind a box and come out a “robot” on the other side! From then on, the popularity of the toys spread like wildfire. Every kind of vehicle you could think of was given a robot counterpart and made into a toy. And each individual vehicle could then be connected together (each with their own “pilot“) to create one gigantic sword wielding robot to defend the transforming universe. An idea was offered up by one executive, that you could use robot animals instead of vehicles. But the idea of Beast Transformers was so ridiculous that he was immediately fired and banned from working in the cartoon or toy industries ever again.

Transformers remained popular throughout most of the 80’s and 90’s. The property has had several incarnations over the years including a late 80’s sitcom where select Transformers played yuppie office workers at an automobile factory, and a mid-90’s animated series that took the transformers into the world of surfing, skateboarding and BMX! Although they constantly tried to re-invent themselves it was decided that in order to preserve the integrity and tradition of Transformers, there would never be a live action movie based on the Transformers franchise.

And I hope that in writing this I have helped in my own modest way to preserve the memory of a fine pop culture institution. And I hope all of you have learned a little more about this thing we call “M.A.S.K”….or whatever I was talking about. Nevertheless I hope this clears things up, now if you don’t mind I simply must get back to my experiments. Please do close the door on your way out and…don’t mind the screams.

Serving on the Front Lines of Gen-Y Cartoons – The Fearsome Five Revealed!

I often receive letters from loyal readers asking

“CMW, how do you obtain such insight? So many behind the scenes observations on the characters we remember and love?

The rest of the letters we get can be pretty insulting so I’m going to focus on these. In short, I have spent a large portion of my professional life serving on the front lines of Gen-Y toons, actually living among these characters in the own worlds!

To give my readers a better idea of what I mean I have decided to share the details of one assignment that has recently become de-classified. The two years I spent in Saint Canard embedded with The Fearsome Five were some of the most exiting I ever experienced.

In 1992, hoping to cash in on the recent wave of individual villains joining forces to create super villain teams, Nega Duck embarked on a highly aggressive recruiting campaign to bring together the most feared criminals in and around St. Canard. I had long awaited an opportunity to perform research within the Darkwing Duck universe, and as there was an open call for despicable characters, there was never a better chance. Under the guise of the cleverly named “Clone Wolf” I gained the trust of the super villain team using my Claymation powered abilities to makes copies of myself I proved my criminal value to the team.

As with all other cartoons of the era, any evidence of my presence was removed before being presented to the public. I sacrificed the wealth, and prestige I would have inevitably gained so that I could continue to bring you the un-filtered non biased frontline reports you have come to expect from every issue of the Claymation Werewolf Digital Digest. While I may have removed myself from the full report, one thing that does shine through is the incredible depth of character in the Fearsome Five. While the five, as a whole may have seemed like a Bloodthirsty group riddled with in-fighting. Individually they were so much more.

The Liquidator or as he is know to the rest of the group “Showbiz”, is actually the cruelest of the team. Camouflaging his casual disregard for life with his hilarious puns and “infomercial pitch man” personality. In addition there is no one better at whipping up a great hot cocoa at three in the morning when you just want to have a quite talk, or even a good cry.

Bushroot, a botanical genius was an understated and often misunderstood member of the team. Only those who really knew him, ever appreciated his ability to turn a simple hobby like murder into an art form.

My favorite member of this team was always Mr. Elmo Sputterspark. Megavolt was not just a desperate mouse filled with hatred, self doubt, and thousands of volts of electricity… He was a desperate mouse who would stop at nothing to provide top notch slapstick comedy much to the amusement of his friends.

Some may have seen Nega-Duck’s constant willingness to stab his team members in the back as a lack of leadership skills, but it was just tough love. Trying to kill them may have been a little excessively tough but what can you do? Plus the guy has his own evil mirror universe…and you have to enter it through a giant “stripper cake”! Honestly. How could you possibly judge a guy who has his own magic stripper cake portal.

And What can I say about Quacker-Jack. Seriously. LEGALLY what am I allowed to say about Quacker-Jack. Unfortunately the wacky jokester member of this team genuinely is a raving lunatic. Prone to random act of intense violence, he is seldom aware of his surroundings, his evil toys barely even obey him. The acts that this madman committed are the only parts of my research that I was never permitted to repeat. Suffice it to say Mr. Banana Man was Disney’s last minute replacement for the severed head that he was actually carrying around.

The members of the Fearsome five are amazing villains with powers that have long been the envy of evil doers, not only within the realm of Disney but cartoons in general, reaching heights as far as the Justice League of America. More important than being great villains however, the fearsome five were great people…err, great ducks, dog and um.. a mouse, or possibly rat. Regardless the fearsome five are the type of guys you can really trust. Who you can always turn to when things are bad. The times we used to spend burning down orphanages, and torturing helpless people are times that I will never forget. I not only documented their story, I came to know each of them better than I had ever imagined.

While some may see the events portrayed in “Just us Justice Ducks” as an amazing tale of adventure, and a heroes triumph against staggering odds. Being an insider of the story I can see it for what it truly was, the tragic tale of a team, full of potential and brought to destruction at the very height of it’s glory. Handed a physically and emotionally crushing defeat, with total success just within their reach.

Many questions come to mind when you consider the members of the FF. Does Bushroot consider himself a member of the plant world, or just it’s protector? How is Megavolt able to be electrocuted, when he already harnesses the power of electricity? And why is QuackerJack chewing on my leg? We may never know the answers to these questions. Perhaps……we were never meant too.