In the late eighties companies still wanted their own version of the Transformers to sell to kids and market some hit animated show that sells them plastic toys. By the late eighties just about every company thought of some way to create creatures or heroes that would transform out of some disguise. There were heroes that transformed from boulders, there were even heroes that looked like normal everyday food and kitchen utensils! Yes kids, why buy a hamburger when you can buy action figures that look like a hamburger, or a slice of pizza.
Back in 1990, computers were a literally unexplored and little known realm where owning a desktop was reserved for only the most wealthy folks, and the internet had yet to burst on to our phones and television. I didn’t get my first computer until 1995, and we didn’t the internet until 1999, so back then every company had their own ideas about what computers and the internet could do. Films like “The Net,” “Hackers,” and shows like “Reboot” were based around the mysteries of the computers and internets, completely oblivious that most of America would spend less time trying to uncover government documents, and more time taking pictures of their dinner for the amusement of people they talked to in another country.
You can imagine how fantastic Mattel thought it would be to build heroes that stemmed from our mystifying computers to come out and fight crime and the evil viruses of every kind. Even with rosey colored nostalgia glasses on, “Computer Warriors” comes off like a fifth rate knock off series of toys you’d buy at a local pharmacy on the way to a kids’ birthday party. imagine the sheer disappointment of a young boy opening his presents one Christmas.
“I got you those Transformer toys you love.”
“Thank you! i hope i got Optimus Prime…”
“…Oh these are “Com-puter… Warr-iors.” These aren’t Transformers.”
“They’re robots and they transform!”
“They’re not Transformers though.”
“It’s the same thing!”
“It’s not the same thing!”
I mean Hasbro already turns robots in to hot rods, trucks, jeeps, fighter jets, and helicopters. They even covered boom boxes and dinosaurs, so I guess kids would love it if robot commandos were transformed from a soccer ball trophy, pencil sharpeners and… Pepsi cans. No better way to hide in plain sight than as a discarded Pepsi can! In 1990, “Computer Warriors” came in to stores and pretty much disappeared in a bolt of lightning, most likely due to the quite goofy gimmick of turning superheroes in to every day office items. Part of the appeal of Transformers is they looked amazing as either robots or in their disguises, I don’t know any kid from that decade who’d have loved to flash around a fake book that turns in to a robotic commando.
In 1990 as part of a way to seep in to kids’ homes and sell them on the gimmick of “Computer Warriors,” while filling in the holes of their toy line with a narrative like Transformers successfully did, “Computer Warriors – The Adventure Begins” premiered with only one episode and was quickly diverted over to home Video VHS for more consumption. I imagine if the toys were a massive success we probably would have had a TV series, but as it stands “The Adventure Begins” is a fun nostalgic anomaly much like “Pryde of the X-Men” and “Legends of the Hawaiian Slammers.”
For all intents and purposes, while the cartoon is as blatant an advertisement as the Mattel and Mars Bar Quick Energy Chocobot Hour, the cartoon (which features a cameo from a He-Man action figure) is at least ambitious enough to tackle some interesting ideas that future animated series would. It’s all set in a computer like the superioer “Reboot” and based around a team that fights viruses and assorted computer menaces. Too bad we never got to see them fight the dreaded porn spyware.
There’s also hand drawn animation designed to look like wire framed computer animation with a technological background much in the vein of the “Johnny Quest” reboot’s Quest World Digital action sequences. When leader Romm and his crew fail to stop the evil Megahert, they find out they can warp out of the “portal” which happens to be the computer’s disc drive. They also discover they can warp in and out of the computer and have to adapt to their surroundings by hiding in normal objects. So while the first episode involves the heroes and villains flying around a house taking control of a washing machine, and even getting foiled by a dastardly stray sock, the battle inevitably is narrowed down in the room of a young boy (who oddly enough is never named).
He is oblivious that the heroes and villains are hiding in objects he owns and have converted them in to weapons like a sharpener, desk digital clock, flashlight, Soccer Trophy and even a Pepsi can. It’s explained in the finale that the characters can literally convert any object in to a weapons base and or hide out, so in the unresolved cliffhanger, the battle is taken to another war zone. When the young owner of the computer decides to go to his friends house accidentally bringing with him the discs that have the dreaded viruses, the computer crew travel through something called Electronic Mail to get to the next house where obviously more fights will ensue. This will have also likely opened the door for more objects to become vehicles and space ships for the characters to do battle in.
One can only imagine the potential for a stapler tank, or a paper weight cannon. We may even have had a desk lamp turned in to a machine gun since it’s made clear one of the heroes is frightened of the dark, hence his convenient use of a flashlight that also turns in to a pretty cool ship. All things considered “The Adventure Begins” is well animated and bland enough to sell the toys Mattel is touting, but I oddly enough didn’t care where this concept was going next. I just don’t picure myself, even at the age of seven getting excited over the prospect of computer heroes turning a computer mouse in to a space ship. It just feels like Mattel ran out of ideas and took one last swan dive for kids’ wallets.
Thankfully kids aren’t stupid enough to find this kind of idea appealing. Sure, I would have murdered someone in 1990 for a pack of Marvel Fleer cards, or a pack of pogs, but I think I would have been fine passing by the Computer Warriors toy line at Toys R’ Us with nary a regret.