It would seem that many people choose to forget the DiC era of G.I. Joe animation, or simply are not aware the 2 seasons after G.I. Joe the Movie ever existed. I find myself hard-pressed to blame these people for their selective memory or willful ignorance, because quite honestly, the majority of the DiC-produced episodes were terrible.
Probably the most immediate thing people notice with the DiC series is that virtually all of the voice actors from the more popular Sunbow series have been replaced. Indeed, the only actors to survive the switch from Sunbow to DiC would be Chris Latta (Cobra Commander), Morgan Lofting (the Baroness) and Sgt. Slaughter (himself). This was mostly done due to the â€œgreat outsourcingâ€ which occurred in television animation in the late 80â€™s and early 90â€™s. Basically, studios discovered that it was cheaper to hire Canadian voice actors over American ones. As a result, this is one of the earlier works of Canadaâ€™s Ocean Group to show up prominently in America. And, as much as I like the Ocean Group, their work in G.I. Joe is really pretty bad. They improved by the time Sgt. Savage & his Screaming Eagles and G.I. Joe Extreme (which were produced by Sunbow and not DiC, confusingly enough) came around, but as far as the DiC seasons are concerned, theyâ€™re god awful.
There are a few exceptions. Maurice LaMarche, one of the best voice actors in the industry, does near flawless impressions of half the Sunbow cast. LaMarche takes up the roles of Destro, Serpentor, Copperhead, Low Light and Spirit, among many others, and actually does a bang-up job on all of them. Chris Latta also left after season 3, leaving Scott McNeil to voice the character in the final season of the series as well as in the Sgt. Savage & his Screaming Eagles OVA. While McNeilâ€™s work as other characters in the DiC seasons are ofâ€¦â€questionableâ€ quality (his Storm Shadow voice makes me want to puke), his impression of Latta is borderline-flawless.
Operation: Dragonfire, the miniseries in question, takes place between G.I. Joe the Movie and G.I. Joe season 3. Itâ€™s honestly the only good G.I. Joe story DiC ever produced (well, there were a few gems within seasons 3 and 4) and does a decent job of repairing the damage G.I. Joe the Movie did to continuity.
After the events of the Movie, Serpentor has rebuilt the Cobra terrorist organization to something approaching its former glory. Cobra Commander, after being doused in Golobulusâ€™ spores during his imprisonment in Cobra-La, has been reduced to a mindless mutant snake. Serpentor keeps the Commander in a cage, treating him like a pet and feeding him insects. Cobra discovers an ancient Earth energy called â€œDragonfireâ€ which can only be accessed at certain points on the globe. Dragonfire energy can form impenetrable forcefields and power-up weaponry with devastating effects. Serpentor leads Cobra on an assault at the Dragonfire points across the globe and G.I. Joe scrambles a counter-attack. Unbeknownst to G.I. Joe, their newest recruit, Scoop, is actually a Cobra double agent leaking top secret information to the enemy. Scoop was tricked by Cobra into believing that G.I. Joe destroyed his familyâ€™s home and has sworn to see them destroyed. Meanwhile, the Baroness and the Dreadnok, Gnawgahyde, rescue the mutated Cobra Commander from his cage and use the power of Dragonfire to return him to his â€œhumanâ€ form. Cobra Commander then plots to retake leadership of Cobra from Serpentor.
A lot happens in this miniseries and I honestly find it more entertaining than previous Sunbow 5-parters like â€œthe MASS Deviceâ€, â€œthe Revenge of Cobraâ€ and â€œPyramid of Darknessâ€ (wasnâ€™t as good as â€œArise, Serpentor, Ariseâ€, though). It was great seeing Cobra Commander make a comeback in the second episode. He even hisses â€œWasss oncccce a maaaaanâ€ as heâ€™s mutated back to his â€œhumanâ€ body. It was especially nice when he regained command of Cobra from Serpentor, who was a cool character at first, but quickly wore thin over the course of season 2. And seeing Serpentor mutated into an iguana seemed ever so fitting.
While the Sunbow series was animated by Japanâ€™s Toei Studios, the animation for the DiC series was provided by Japanâ€™s Kunitoshi Okajima productions. Their animation was about on par with Toeiâ€™s work, though a bit too â€œbrightâ€. This mostly had to do with Hasbroâ€™s terrible uniform designs for G.I. Joe toys in the 90â€™s. They look even worse in animated form. So, despite some fluid, detailed animation, the characters just lookâ€¦stupid. And we havenâ€™t even gotten to the Eco-Warriors, yet. They were the Planeteers of G.I. Joe. Ugh.
Scoop isnâ€™t the best G.I. Joe character ever conceived. As a matter of fact, heâ€™s one of the worst, and will really grate on your nerves as the miniseries progresses. His friendship with the Alley Viper is a nice touch, though, and makes his choice between the Joes and the Cobras a little more difficult, but still nothing riveting. Also, outside of Scoop, the Alley Viper, Gnawgahyde, the Python Patrol and a few old characters with new outfits, there really arenâ€™t too many new toys shoe-horned into this miniseries. Operation: Dragonfire acts as a good transitioning point between the Sunbow and the DiC series, as it features both new and old characters, while the DiC seasons kept introducing lame new ones on a daily basis (Cesspool? The Headman? Grid-Iron?).
I honestly recommend Operation: Dragonfire to any fan of G.I. Joe animation. Feel free to avoid the rest of the DiC-produced slop, but try and track this one down. Itâ€™s a nice follow-up to the Movie and has a pretty good story.