G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Season 1.1
by Jef Burnham
Now available in a 4-DVD box set from Shout Factory.
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G.I. Joe has been a part of so many people’s childhoods. From the original 1960s toy line from Hasbro to the revamped kitschy line and cartoon series of the 80s and 90s, has inspired generations of children to “fight for freedom, wherever there’s trouble” with their fully-poseable Joe action figures at hand. Even though the 1985-86 run of G.I. Joe being cancelled after only 95 episodes, there is still a market for the series among children and adults high on nostalgia alike. Admittedly, I am among said nostalgia-high adults, despite my full comprehension that the series is little more than a 95-episode toy commercial.
It was in 2004 that fans of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (1985-86) were last treated to a DVD release of the series, with Rhino Entertainment’s box set: Season 2, Part 1. The final quarter of the series would not see a release from Rhino, as they lost the distribution rights. And now, Shout Factory is taking the reins.
Season 1.1 from Shout features the initial 3 G.I. Joe mini-series, “The M.A.S.S. Device,” “The Revenge of Cobra,” and “The Pyramid of Darkness,” as well as the following 7 episodes of season 1 for a total 22 episodes. Among the episodes are my personal favorite, “Cobra’s Creatures,” which pits the Joes against a wide array of animals under the control of Cobra, providing a lot of laughs; and “Jungle Trap,” the sole episode penned by Batman: The Animated Series writer (and creator of Harley Quinn) turned Batman comic writer, Paul Dini.
Now to the special features! First, is a three-part interview with prolific G.I. Joe writer Ron Friedman. (The Rhino release featured an interview with writer Christy Marx and voice director Wally Burr, which was okay, but frankly, neither release’s interviews impressed me nearly as much as the David Wise interview on the final Transformers set from Rhino.) Friedman discusses, among other things, his experience with marketing studies for children, a bit of obvious fluff about voice acting, and his creation of the characters through the first three mini-series. The most interesting bit of the interview is when Friedman details how he structured the Joes and Cobras as family units and divided them into smaller duos and trios, including my favorite, the pairing of Shipwreck and Snake Eyes. My favorite Shipwreck/Snake Eyes moments are in “The Pyramid of Darkness,” in which they are forced to cancan, Snake Eyes break dances, and then Snake Eyes wears a dress and a Boy George-style wig over his ninja uniform as a disguise.
There are the obligatory PSAs (of which there are 7) and some bizarre toy commercials in which the theme song is sung slightly differently and the children’s faces are inexplicably blurred out (I suppose so they don’t have to pay those kids royalties on every DVD sold, but it definitely takes away from the experience, not being able to see their faces). Also featured is the fascinating 1963 Toy Fair presentation for the original line of G.I. Joe figures. In this presentation, all four original G.I. Joes and their extensive lines of gear are detailed at length, as well as Hasbro’s unique advertising strategies.
Finally, there is a printable script for Paul Dini’s “Jungle Trap” in PDF format, which is 48-pages and includes hand-written notes and various action and dialogue changes, some of the changes being marked as “per Hasbro.”
Jef Burnham is a writer and educator living in Chicago, Illinois. While waging war on mankind from a glass booth in the parking lot of a grocery store, Jef managed to earn a degree in Film & Video from Columbia College Chicago, and is now the Editor-in-Chief of FilmMonthly.com.
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