THE MIGHTY ORBOTSOriginal Media: TV animation
Produced by: MGM/UA
First appeared: 1984
Creator: Fred Silverman
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The Mighty Orbots debuted more than a week before Transformers but considering how many months of development an animated series goes through before the public actually sees it on the TV screen, that's about like saying they started at the same time. But Hasbro's (Air Raiders, Jem) success
with the robot toy was already apparent. It was former network kids' programming honcho Fred Silverman who originally pitched this series about marketable robots who could be assembled into one big robot.
The show was set in the 23rd century, when the peace-loving people of Earth have joined with other members of the United Planets to help promote peace with a law-enforcement organization called The Galactic Patrol. The Patrol was opposed by SHADOW, a criminal band whose no-doubt acronymic name probably stood for something, but exactly what wasn't mentioned. It was led by Umbra, a huge computer that also had cyborg properties, and which hoped someday to destroy the Patrol and United Planets and thus rule the entire Galaxy.
Mild-mannered robot scientist Rob Simmons toiled in his laboratory by day, but when danger threatened, switched to his secret identity the commander of The Mighty Orbots, super-powered robots that formed an integral part of The Patrol's never-ending battle against the forces of SHADOW. Only Commander Rombu himself, head of the Patrol knew Rob's secret.
Six robots formed The Mighty Orbots. Tor (both super-strong and super-egotistical, but a bit slow-moving) tended to take charge when Rob wasn't around. Bo and Boo (twin sister robots, and don't ask what it means for a robot to have gender (or a twin)) were outgoing and shy, respectively. Bo had power over the classic elements, like The Elementals rolled into one, and Boo can could turn invisible and project force fields, like The Invisible Woman. Bort (highly capable but lacking self-confidence) was able to reconfigure himself into various handy devices. Crunch could eat anything, making him about as useful as Matter Eater Lad of The Legion of Super Heroes. Oh-No, so-called because that was her favorite expression, looked like a little girl robot. She functioned as second-in-command whether Rob is there or not, usually getting her way with her annoying habit of nagging.
The six could assemble themselves into a gigantic "Gestalt" form, capable of dealing with most menaces by brute force, but possessing the special powers of the individuals. Rob's so-called "Beam Car" could link with the Gestalt and form a "command center" from which he could call the shots.
Dia, Rombu's daughter and an officer in the Patrol in her own right, served the "Lois Lane" function, frequently needing to be rescued to get the stories moving. But she was very capable in battle, leaving viewers to wonder if perhaps she needed assistance more for the needs of the plot than her own. The cast was rounded out by various Patrol or SHADOW members.
Rob's voice was provided by Barry Gordon (Donatello). Rombu was Don Messick (Boo-Boo Bear), and his daughter was Jennifer Darling (various voices in Disney's Pocahontas, Aladdin and Hercules). Tor was Bill Martin (Samhain in a few episodes of Real Ghostbusters). Bo and Boo were Sherri Alberoni (Wendy, no relation, in Super Friends) and Julie Bennet (Aunt May in Spider-Man), respectively. Bort was Jim McGeorge (Beany). Crunch, too, was voiced by Messick, who also did Scooby-Doo. Oh-No was Noelle North (Cubbi Gummi). It was narrated by Gary Owens (Roger Ramjet).
The show was produced for both American and Japanese audiences by Tokyo Movie Shinsha and Intermedia Entertainment in conjunction with MGM/UA Television. It was never aired in Japan, but marketed as home video. In America, it debuted on ABC, on Saturday, September 8, 1984. Thirteen episodes were made for the first season. There wasn't a second, due mainly to legal problems with Tonka, the toy giant, which claimed the property was overly similar to Tonka's GoBots.
Despite continuing fan interest, Mighty Orbots has never been rerun or made available in America as home video.