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Case Number 23262: Small Claims Court

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Eighties Cartoon Bundle

Pole Position
1984 // 250 Minutes // Not Rated
Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors
1985 // 220 Minutes // Not Rated
1988 // 300 Minutes // Not Rated
Released by Mill Creek Entertainment
Reviewed by Judge Paul Pritchard (Retired) // February 5th, 2012

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All Rise...

Judge Paul Pritchard was big in the '80s, thanks to his platform shoes.

Editor's Note

Our reviews of C.O.P.S. (published February 8th, 2006), C.O.P.S. Volume 1 (published March 6th, 2011), and Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors: Volume One (published April 9th, 2008) are also available.

The Charge

"So it's settled: you're a bad guy, and somebody ought to tell your mother!"

The Case

Bringing together three of the less popular animated action series of the 1980s, Mill Creek's Eighties Cartoon Bundle delivers ten episodes from each series.

C.O.P.S. follows the adventures of the Central Organization of Police Specialists, in their fight to defeat the criminal group, CROOKS. Based on the C.O.P.S. 'N' Crooks line of action figures, the series is a fast-paced dose of adventure that holds up surprisingly well. With a cast of characters such as Baldwin "Bulletproof" Vess and P.J. "LongArm" O'Malley, the show is highly reminiscent of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero series, with each cop having a unique ability, such as LongArm's extending wrist or Bulletproof's metal torso.

Each episode opens with Bulletproof delivering a gritty (comparatively speaking) voiceover explaining the details of the latest case. From there on in, we'll no doubt get a little light comedy, thanks to Brandon "Big Boss" Babel and his cronies as they set about implementing their latest dastardly scheme. The rest of the episode will invariably see various members of the C.O.P.S. team crack the case with the discovery of the most unlikely clues, before partaking in a little light ass-kicking. It's all very repetitive and predictable, yet not without merit. Episodes are fast-paced, and the cast of characters is large and varied.

Viewed in extended sessions, the failings of the show (stilted dialogue, ridiculous plots, the grating tones of Big Boss) are magnified tenfold. Taken in small doses, there's plenty to like about C.O.P.S., which never takes itself too seriously.

As with each of the three shows in the set, C.O.P.S. comes on its own DVD. Picture quality is average at best. Colors are generally strong, though the image isn't as sharp as one would hope for. Despite its age, there is little evidence of damage to the print. The audio is clear, though it's hard to dispute the 2.0 mix is distinctly flat. The only extra on the disc is an episode of Hey Vern!.

Pole Position delivers high-tech espionage and that the younglings should enjoy plenty. Older fans of the show are more likely to be a little aggrieved with Mill Creek's release, however. Originally aired in 1984, Pole Position, which saw DIC attempting to cash in on the popularity of the legendary Namco/Atari videogame, ran for just thirteen episodes. That's hardly a lot of episodes> Surely, Mill Creek could have included them all? But no; for reasons I cannot fathom, only ten episodes are included.

Getting past the obvious disappointment surrounding the three missing episodes, Pole Position is an odd little show, mixing sub-Mission: Impossible adventure, family conflict, and the wisecracking vehicles, Roadie and Wheels. Each episode follows the Darret clan (Tess, Dan, and Daisy), who fight crime in their souped-up, AI toting cars. Aided by their uncle, Dr. Zachary Darrett—a man who clearly has no qualms sending his young and impressionable relatives into dangerous situations every week—the Darrett kids flout the Highway Code as they bring down smugglers, spies, and sinister magicians.

There's a very good reason Pole Position isn't held in high regard by all but a small minority, and that's because there's really very little unique about the show. There's a paint-by-numbers feel to the series, and the distinct whiff of a cash-in, if I'm not mistaken. Still, young kids should find enough enjoyment in these simple adventures. Unlike many animated adventures of the time, Pole Position caters to young girls with a ball-busting female lead, not to mention Kuma, the bizarre raccoon/monkey hybrid.

The full-frame transfer is, like me, showing signs of age. Colors rarely sparkle and often appear washed out. Though the picture lacks sharpness, it is serviceable. With all due respect to the show and its creators, it's understandable why nobody would spend the money sprucing up the print. The 2.0 soundtrack is flat. Although the dialogue is certainly audible, it can be a little muffled at times. The sole special feature is a bonus episode of Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, which—considering the very same episode ("Escape From The Garden") appears on the Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors disc included in this set—smacks of laziness at worst, and carelessness at best.

My love for Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors has already been documented in my review of Shout! Factory's excellent single volume release from 2008. To reiterate, the show's epic feel (at least in comparison to other shows of the day) helps it stand out as one of the better animated series of the eighties.

With J. Michael Stracynski (Babylon 5) on writing duties, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors succeeds by virtue of its ongoing storyline, which means the show is less repetitive than many of its peers. Whilst searching for his missing father, the scientist Audric, Jayce must battle the Monster Minds, a species of mutated plants who can transform into lethal vehicles. Led by the dastardly, though somewhat lazy Saw Boss—he rarely gets up from his chair, preferring instead to have his lackeys do the dirty work—the Monster Minds are the result of a science experiment gone wrong; they now desire nothing less than universe-wide domination.

The obvious influence of Star Wars is all over Jayce, as the central trio of Jayce, Audric, and Herc Stormsailer clearly mirrors Luke, Obi-wan, and Han Solo. Even the supporting cast, which includes the camp robot knight, Oon, is clearly influenced by George Lucas's sci-fi opus.

Featuring an anime-lite approach to the visuals, Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors admittedly appears dated, yet still impresses with some well-conceived action sequences. Each episode features at least two battle scenes, which helps keep things ticking along at a good pace. Besides the Monster Minds, individual episodes throw up new villains for Jayce to defeat ensuring a little diversity to proceedings.

The full-frame transfer is uneven, frequently appearing a little on the dark side, with muted colors and softness plaguing the image. That said: much like the other shows included in this set, it is serviceable. The 2.0 soundtrack features clear dialogue, and really comes to life when the opening theme tune kicks in. The only extra on the disc is an episode of C.O.P.S., "The Case of the Big Little Green Men."

There's a shabbiness to this release that is undeniable, with even the DVD packaging being cheap. Still, the sheer amount of content (thirty-two episodes, if you include the bonus material) is impressive considering the price. Big fans of the individual shows may be better served getting dedicated DVD releases, while those just looking for some good old eighties fun should find this set offers good value for money.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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• Action
• Adventure
• All Ages
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• Television

Scales of Justice, Pole Position

Judgment: 70

Perp Profile, Pole Position

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 250 Minutes
Release Year: 1984
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Pole Position

• Bonus Episode

Scales of Justice, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 220 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, Jayce And The Wheeled Warriors

• Bonus Episode

Scales of Justice, C.O.P.S.

Judgment: 78

Perp Profile, C.O.P.S.

Studio: Mill Creek Entertainment
Video Formats:
• Full Frame
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
• None
Running Time: 300 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks, C.O.P.S.

• Bonus Episode

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