Challenge of the GoBots (cartoon)

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GoBots

Challenge of the GoBots is an animated television series that ran from 1984 to 1985, produced by Hanna-Barbera, in support of the Tonka GoBots toyline. The series consisted of 65 episodes, and aired in syndication as part of the Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera programming block. Initially distributed by Hanna-Barbera's sister company Worldvision Enterprises (both owned by Taft Broadcasting; Worldvision was sold on and eventually was absorbed into Paramount Television), the series (as part of the entire HB library) was later acquired by Warner Brothers (along with all other Turner Entertainment assets) in 1996.

Overview[edit]

CotG title card.jpg

Challenge of the GoBots launched with a five-episode mini-series written by animation veterans Alan Burnett, Jeff Segal, and Tom Ruegger, which aired daily in the fall of 1984.[1] The mini-series—which would later use the title of the pilot episode, "Battle for GoBotron," as an overarching name when released on VHS—introduced audiences to the core six GoBot characters around whom the series would revolve, as Guardian commander Leader-1 led Scooter and Turbo to Earth in pursuit of Renegade leader Cy-Kill and his minions Crasher and Cop-Tur. Allying with human astronauts Matt Hunter, Nick Burns, and A.J. Foster, the Guardians thwarted the plans of Cy-Kill and evil human scientist Doctor Braxis to enslave the minds of every human on Earth and conquer the GoBots' homeworld of GoBotron with an army of mass-produced duplicates of the monster Zod. The mini-series featured, in various capacities, the majority of GoBot characters from the initial wave of the toyline from 1983, and also introduced recurring human allies Anya Turgenova and General Newcastle.

CotG renegade trio.jpg

A full series of sixty episodes was soon commissioned to follow up the mini-series, giving the series 65 episodes total—the "magic number" that would get the series into weekday syndication. Segal remained as creative supervisor and story editor for the series, joined by rookie associate story editor Kelly Ward, who took the job to pay the bills while his acting career was in a lull; together, the two men co-conceived the stories of roughly two-thirds of the show's episodes, which were produced at such a pace that they often accepted first-draft scripts from the individual screenwriters which they then re-wrote themselves. Animation for the series was provided by Taiwanese-American studio Wang Film Productions, overseen by supervising director Ray Patterson, while voice direction was carried out by industry-defining master Gordon Hunt and his protege Andrea Romano.

CotG guardian trio.jpg

The new episodes debuted in September 1985 and ran until December of that same year. GoBotron and Earth were now allied, with the humans from the pilot mini-series serving as representatives of the global organization UNECOM, the United Earth Command. While the Guardian and Renegade trios from the mini-series remained the focal characters, the series managed to include the majority of characters from the second 1984-1985 wave of the toyline. While some characters appeared very sparsely, others attained positions as prominent recurring members of the show's supporting cast, appearing in around a third of the episodes, like the junior "fourth" member of Leader-1's team Small Foot, Guardian Council head Zeemon, high-ranking Guardian Path Finder, and Cy-Kill's loyal lieutenant Fitor. The series was almost wholly unconcerned with continuity (see "Episodes" below for more details), with characters dropping in and out seemingly at random, until the last handful of episodes, which introduced a clutch of characters from the upcoming 1986 range of figures.

A second season of the series was not produced, but it was followed on in 1986 by the theatrical movie GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, which featured the established core cartoon cast in an adventure that served to set up Tonka's spin-off toyline, Rock Lords.

Episodes[edit]

  1. Battle for GoBotron
  2. Target Earth
  3. Conquest of Earth
  4. Earthbound
  5. The Final Conflict
  6. Time Wars
  7. It's the Thought that Counts
  8. Trident's Triple Threat
  9. Renegade Alliance
  10. Cy-Kill's Cataclysmic Trap
  11. Speed Is of the Essence
  12. Genius and Son
  13. Dawn World
  14. Nova Beam
  15. Forced Alliance
  16. Invasion from the 21st Level, Part I
  17. Invasion from the 21st Level, Part II
  18. Lost on GoBotron
  19. Cy-Kill's Shrinking Ray
  20. Doppelganger
  21. Quest for Roguestar
  22. Renegade Rampage, Part I
  23. The Renegades' Rampage, Part II
  24. Ultra Zod
  25. Sentinel
  26. Cold Spell
  27. Crime Wave
  28. Auto Madic
  29. Scooter Enhanced
  30. Tarnished Image
  31. In Search of Ancient GoBonauts
  32. Gameworld
  33. Wolf in the Fold
  34. Depth Charge
  35. Transfer Point
  36. Steamer's Defection
  37. The GoBot Who Cried Renegade
  38. The Seer
  39. Whiz Kid
  40. Ring of Fire
  41. Cy-Kill's Escape
  42. Quest for the Creator
  43. The Fall of GoBotron
  44. Flight to Earth
  45. Return to GoBotron
  46. Pacific Overtures
  47. Destroy All Guardians
  48. Escape from Elba
  49. Fitor to the Finish
  50. Clutch of Doom
  51. The Third Column
  52. A New Suit for Leader-1
  53. Renegade Carnival
  54. The Gift
  55. Terror in Atlantis
  56. The Last Magic Man
  57. Braxis Gone Bonkers
  58. Inside Job
  59. Element of Danger
  60. Mission: GoBotron
  61. "Et Tu, Cy-Kill"
  62. The GoBots That Time Forgot
  63. The Secret of Halley's Comet
  64. Guardian Academy
  65. Quest for New Earth


Throttle, Tri-Trak, and Twister—three members of the Secret Riders whose introduction in the final episodes of the series was fraught with continuity problems.

This list is ordered by episode airdate, which is how the series was released on DVD, but which is not the show's correct chronological story order. Though the series was not given to continuity, as broadcast, certain story beats occur out of order; this is primarily noticeable in the case of episodes #41-45, a five-part story (later titled "The GoBotron Saga" when released on VHS) which was clearly written to serve as a stage-setting premiere for the series proper. In addition to exploring the origins of the GoBots (which went unremarked on in the original mini-series), the story has the Renegades escaping capture following their arrest at the close of "The Final Conflict," and provides origin stories for the Monster GoBots and the Guardian Power Warrior Courageous, who would all appear often in the series from its earliest broadcast episodes.

The first dozen or so episodes which follow the pilot are peppered with several similar moments, such as Doctor Braxis appearing in "Genius and Son" when he will not be shown escaping jail until "Nova Beam." The last half-dozen episodes of the series, meanwhile, introduce and prominently focus on a selection of new characters from the 1986 toy range, but none of them aired in order, with characters appearing before their introductory episodes. Among these is "Mission: GoBotron," which despite airing as episode #60 seems intended to serve as a season finale.

There have been multiple attempts to organize the series into a watchable chronological order; long-time GoBots fansite Counter-X offers one suggested viewing order, while Transformers Facebook column "Ask Vector Prime" proposes another. GoBots Wiki has devised its own list, largely for our use in creating character articles, rather than to be used as a viewing guide.

Cast[edit]

Guardians Renegades Humans


As was the standard for cartoons of the time, GoBots featured one large, unchanging list of voice actors that was included in the credits for every episode, many of them regulars in the Hanna-Barbera stable of talent who did not go on to greater recognition among the bigger, more popular toys-to-toons series of the 80s. A significant number of the credited performers were one-shot guest actors, brought in to voice a single incidental human or alien, rather than a recurring GoBot, but exactly which characters many of them played is presently unclear—a situation GoBots Wiki will endeavor to improve as we grow. Those credited actors are:

Barring any potential oversights by the production team, this list includes all the actors who appeared in the series up to the episode that had last been recorded when the credits had to be assembled for the series premiere. As the last 15-20 episodes of the series were recorded after that point, however, any new actors who joined the series for those episodes (such as Dick Gautier, Jack Angel, and Dan Gilvezan) went uncredited, which makes identifying the performers behind any new characters from the final act of the series a more challenging prospect.

International versions[edit]

Challenge of the GoBots was a huge success in France, to the point that the new French-language theme tune recorded for the show ("Go Gobots") was released as a record single.

In Australia, Bandai were already selling the Machine Robo toys that Tonka had reimagined as the GoBots under the banner of Machine Men. Thus, when the cartoon was exported to Australia, it was renamed Challenge of the Machine Men and given a new theme tune derived from the GoBots toy commercial jingle.

Just as The Transformers cartoon had been imported to Japan and the franchise had supplanted the original toylines that had inspired it, the possibility of bringing GoBots to Japan was also considered. A single episode of the series was reportedly dubbed and shown at an industry trade show, but did not find success. Consequently, a home-grown anime was produced to promote the Machine Robo toyline, Revenge of Cronos, in 1986.

Sequels[edit]

RevengeoftheGobots titlecard.jpg

Though Hanna-Babera did not produce a second season of the series, other efforts have been made to continue its story. The first came from France in 1987, where the success of the original series was built upon by importing the Revenge of Cronos and re-dubbing it as Revenge of the GoBots, an ostensible sequel to the original show that re-imagined several of the Machine Robo characters as members of the Challenge cast.

From 2007 to 2016, Transformers license holder Fun Publications continued the adventures of the GoBots in intermittent installments of their Transformers Timelines series. These stories followed the Guardians and Renegades as they scattered across the Transformers multiverse when a mysterious cataclysm threatened their universe with destruction.

From 2015 to 2016, Fun Publications also offered a more direct continuation of the cartoon through the "Renegade Rhetoric" column on Facebook. Taking place in a separate continuity to the Timelines stories which also spun off from the cartoon, "Renegade Rhetoric" showed audiences a world where a complete "second season" of the cartoon existed, as Cy-Kill related sixty-five new prose adventures consistent in plot and tone with 1980s children's television. These stories included many obligatory of-the-time plots like characters growing to gigantic heights, travelling to bizarre futures, being turned into humans, saving Christmas, protecting the environment, and teaming up with the Harlem Globetrotters, and even featured a more dramatic five-part premiere mini-series and two-part season finale. All the remaining figures from the GoBots toyline—including both those who had not appeared in the original cartoon, and those which had not been released at all—were included in the stories, as were new characters based on Machine Robo toys that were never imported by Tonka.

Home video[edit]

CotG original fulllength story.jpg
CotG gobotron saga.jpg
CotG series vol1 dvd.jpg

Karl-Lorimar/Kideo Video (VHS)[edit]

  • GoBots: The Original Full-Length Story! (1985)
Includes "Battle for GoBotron" to "The Final Conflict," edited together into a movie

Vestron Video/Children's Video Library (VHS)[edit]

Single-episode tapes
  • Volume I (1985)
Includes "Time Wars"
  • Volume II (1985)
Includes "Cy-Kill's Shrinking Ray"
  • Volume III (1985)
Includes "Trident's Triple Threat"
Multi-episode tapes
  • Volume I (1985 )
Includes "Time Wars" and "Cy-Kill's Shrinking Ray"
  • Volume II (1985)
Includes "Trident's Triple Threat" and "Doppelganger"
  • Volume III (1985)
Includes "Invasion from the 21st Level" Parts I and II
  • Volume IV (1986)
Includes "Renegade Rampage" Parts I and II
  • Volume V (1986)
Includes "Forced Alliance" and "Nova Beam"
  • Volume VI (1986)
Includes "Speed Is of the Essence," "Renegade Alliance," and "Cold Spell"
  • Volume VII (1986)
Includes "The Secret of Halley's Comet," "The Gift," and "Crime Wave"
  • Volume VIII" (1986)
Includes "Quest for New Earth," "Clutch of Doom," and "Dawn World"
  • The GoBotron Saga (1986)
Includes "Cy-Kill's Escape" to "Return to GoBotron," edited together into a movie

Warner Archive Collection (DVD)[edit]

The entire series received its first DVD release as part of Warner Brothers' "Archive Collection" program, which manufactures discs on demand. For this release, the series was remasted from original film elements.

  • The Original Miniseries (2011)
Includes "Battle for GoBotron" to "The Final Conflict"
  • The Series, Volume One (2014)
Three-disc set, includes "Time Wars" to "Transfer Point"
  • The Series, Volume Two (2015)
Three disc set, includes "Steamer's Defection" to "Quest for New Earth
Bonus Feature: Robo Force: The Revenge of Nazgar


Footnotes[edit]

  1. Sources differ on when in the fall, exactly; the Warner Brothers website claims it premiered on September 8, a date popularized in online databases like Wikipedia, but this is actually impossible, because September 8, 1984 was a Saturday, and as a mini-series, "Battle for GoBotron" would have aired Monday-to-Friday. Other sources, backed up by the research of writer Jim Sorenson, propose an October 29 debut; these are the dates GoBots Wiki goes by.