- Created by Barry Glasser
- Character Designs by Akio Sugino
- Directed by Osamu Dezaki
- September 8, 1984, to December 15, 1984
- ABC (Saturdays)
- Narrator-Gary Owens
- Lord Umbra-Robert Ridgely
- Rob Simmons-Barry “Voice of Donatello and Bebop” Gordon
- Commander Yondu, Crunch-Don Messick
- Dia-Jennifer Darling
- Oh No-Noelle North
- Bo-Sherry Alberoni
- Boo-Julie Bennett
- Tor-Bill Martin
- Bort-Jim MacGeorge
“Earth, the 23rd Century. A time of robots and aliens, and of destruction and terror. Can the Galactic Patrol, defender of the United Planets stop the evil computer, Umbra? You bet they can, meet Rob Simmons the secret inventor of feisty Ohno, mighty Tor, versatile Bort, elusive Boo, Bo, the master of the elements, and Crunch, the metal muncher, super robots forging together at Rob’s command to form Mighty Orbots, champion of the Universe.”
In the future a young human leads a group of super robots in defense of Earth and the entire galaxy.
The Mighty Orbots is a short lived mid 80s television series. Before I start, I do need to say that I got this series mixed up with another show called The Bots Master. At least elements of it. I would’ve sworn that I had not seen this before until I popped the first DVD in and started watching. Here and there during certain episodes things jumped out in my memory that I could’ve sworn came from The Bots Master and not The Mighty Orbots. Either the former stole from the latter or I did see this and just forgot. Anyway, on to the show…
Clearly from my perspective if you haven’t heard of The Mighty Orbots it’s easy for you to be forgiven. The show is only 13 episodes long and easily got lost in other first run animation of the time such a Transformers or Go-Bots or the aforementioned The Bots Master or any number of dozens upon dozens of cartoons.
And that is a little bit of a shame. At least in certain respects. This sports some of the best animation of just about any 80s cartoon I have seen. For me as a kid G.I. Joe and Transformers at least during their first seasons were the high point of appearance. They tended to be smoother and less clunky and just overall looked better. This just about blows them as well as anything else that I am familiar with from the time out of the water.
There is a smoothness and style that many shows of the era lacked. I often say animation is art and this is most certainly art. The character designs are amazing. They are some of the coolest and best retro sci-fi style stuff that I have ever seen. And in the show once the storyline leaves Earth things from a style perspective really perk up. Rather than focus on realism they focused on cool. Depending on what you’re trying to do that can be a bad judgment, but this was a kid’s show and they were trying to have fun with it so cool visuals work.
Some 80 animated shows were more mature than others. I’m not saying they were cartoons that were for adults only, but they didn’t talk down to the audience. The Mighty Orbots however talks down to the audience which is a real shame give how good it looks. I feel a juvenile approach is wasted on something that looks good. Pushing more in tone towards Transformers would have been my call. Why waste such quality?
The plots and the resolutions tend to be rather simplistic. It is slightly more complex than Barney but less than Dragon Tales yet a tone slightly more intense than Ewoks. It was as edgy as they could be without running afoul of prudish adults. The characters are a bit on the two-dimensional side. They have their defining characteristics and really that’s it. They have no depth and we never get any real clue to the backstory of anyone. There is no history beyond the episode.
In this fictional world there seemed to be some level of public knowledge of the reality of the Orbots but it also appears that who and what each Orbot was remained unknown to the public. It is a logic inconsistency within the series.
Things were changing and in animation they didn’t always change faster than in live action and truth be told the female characters are pretty stereotypical. The further you go back the less well-done female characters are in Japanese animation. These here are a step forward but not by too much. While they are on the verge of going “Teehee. Let’s go do girl stuff!” they are also at times part of the story rather than window dressing to give the male characters an excuse to talk.
While the Superman/Clark Kent costume has had instances in real life where it’s been shown to work he at least changed his clothes or put on or took off glasses but all Orbots Commander/creator Rob Simmons does is get a slightly altered version of his every day clothes to go into action in yet senior officer Dia, the daughter of Rondu, thinks Rob Simmons and the Orbots commander are two different people. They don’t even give him a fake name!
If they had taken a page from some other shows out there of the time and hired script writers of adult shows to do the children’s work I think this could’ve stood out a little better. There is definitely plenty of potential here. An evil supercomputer. Superhero antics. And a space opera vibe throughout. The show had all the makings of something special and perhaps if it would have lasted a few more episodes maybe it might’ve been.
As it is The Mighty Orbots is a cool looking bit of a guilty pleasure short lived animated TV show from the 80s. For the general audience I’ll say skip it but if you’re a child of the time then give it a look. Either you haven’t seen it in decades, or it will be like something brand new from the time that you missed.