Mighty Orbots is an often overlooked classic from the 80â€™s which still manages to impress me after 20 years. While back in the 80â€™s, most animation was a joint production between America and Japan in the sense that Americans wrote and storyboarded the show while the Japanese animated, Mighty Orbots was a joint production in that the US and Japanese production studios worked very closely with one-another. The result is a hybrid of Saturday Morning animation which truly mixes the best of both worlds.
The series scripts were supervised and story editted by Michael Reaves, with scripts also being written by the likes of Buzz Dixon and Douglas Booth. Reaves worked closely with TMS (Tokyo Movie Shinsha), one of Japanâ€™s leading animation studios; everything from story concepts, to story boards to character designs were consulted heavily between both countries. The result is a show which has the story-telling and charm of an American cartoon but with the visual style and comedic nuances of Japanese animation. I have seen many joint productions between Japan and America, but nothing quite as impressive as Mighty Orbots.
Michael Reaves, a superstar of Saturday Morning scripting, known for his works including the Real Ghostbusters, Disneyâ€™s Gargoyles and Batman the Animated Series, wrote several adventures, the content of which reflect the writerâ€™s unlimited imagination. Osamu Dezaki, best known for his work on Golgo 13, Black Jack, Space Adventure Cobra and the Sword for Truth, managed to fuse Japanese animation effects with traditional American cartoon wild takes, resulting in a stylish and polished appearance that could appeal to both countries. TMS, known for shows like Batman the Animated Series, Animaniacs, Ulysse 31, Sonic X and Akira, animated the series with their usual high quality, detailed skill. And finally, background music was provided by Yuji Ohno, best known for the legendary theme and score of Lupin III.
The plot was a science fiction space epic taking place in the distant future. A living computer, Umbra, is seeking to conquer the Universe and the United Planets forces are the only thing standing in his way. Rob, a gifted but nerdy scientist, builds 5 androids called â€œOrbotsâ€ who can combine to form the powerful super robot, Mighty Orbots. The Orbots include Ohno, the feisty childlike Orbot who serves as the ignition for the giant robot and typically bosses everyone around. Tor, the strongman who forms the Torso of Mighty Orbots. Bort, the self esteem-challenged shape-shifter who can form anything his mind can dream of, as well as the right leg of Mighty Orbots. Crunch, the intellectually â€“stunted Orbot who can eat *anything* and forms the left leg of Mighty Orbots. Bo, the boy-crazy bad girl of the Orbots who can control the elements and forms the right arm of Mighty Orbots. And finally, Boo, the shy female Orbot who can project forcefields and form the left arm of Mighty Orbots. They are lead by the Orbots Commander, who is really Rob in disguise.
The voice acting always seemed a little strange to me. It was *good* but in a different sort of way. Youâ€™ll notice several classic cartoon voice actors more recognizable from their work with Hanna Barbara. Due to this, some of their vices might leave you distracted from the characters theyâ€™re portraying, because no matter how you cut it, Rob sounds *exactly* like Brainy Smurf (Barry Gordon). The narrator is the talented Gary Owens, better known for voicing Blue Falcon from Blue Falcon & Dyno-Mutt. He has a great voice, but itâ€™s very, and I donâ€™t mean this in a bad way, â€œheroically cheesyâ€. It just sounds like the episodes are being narrated by Powdered Toast Man. Don Messick, known as Scooby Doo or Dr. Benton Quest from Jonny Quest, comes off best of the lot, as he was so incredibly versatile his voice didnâ€™t distract from the characters all that much.
Mighty Orbots is a show that could really use a DVD set treatment. It was extremely short-lived, lasting only a single 13-episode season in 1984. Save for some cheesy voice acting, it has aged phenomenally well. A show well worth tracking down.
You can find a ton of Mighty Orbots info here, at Arioch’s Mighty Orbots page.