First posted on December 14th, 2011 on The Retroist Retro Blog and Podcast - CW post link
Citizens of Toontown, fellow Retrotarians. I come to you today during this Christmas season with a personal plea. Recently one of my many connections in the Retro Pop Culture world re-introduced me to some wonderful characters. Characters that stood in the spotlight for one brief moment. Who shared the stage with some of the most influential actors in the history of cartoon entertainment.
The Manchines co-starred in the He-man and She-Ra Christmas special and were received with incredible fan-fair. Flush with the excitement of success, the offers started to roll in, and it seemed like the future opened wide. Unfortunately, dreams don’t always come true and their careers took a sharp downward turn. They landed a few endorsement deals, a few knock-off direct to dvd foreign produced cartoons but even that slowly began to fade. All the while they continued to hope for that starring role in an animated series of their own. They always held on to that dream and friends, that is where I hope that one of you can help.
As many children of the 80’s will agree, The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas special is largely, plodding and predicable holiday fair. Really, just another way for Adam and Adora to cash a paycheck …That is, until about halfway through the special when something happens. It’s just one of those little moments of movie magic that changed the history of cinema. It was, the introduction of the Manchines. The Manchines were unlike anything that existed in 80’s animation! They were cute! They were colorful! They were a group of individuals each of who had a distinct personality and special skill to contribute! They uh…they were part man…part machine… The Manchines weren’t just a totally original idea in the world of animation, they had real heart! And they even came with their own enemies; the giant and evil and stiffly-moving Monstroids! These metal giants could transform from uh…transform from robot to vehicle. Anyway, the Monstroids were bad, I mean these guys threatened and attacked Hordak. Hordak! And he was already a bad guy so the Monstroids were like super secret mega zord ultra hyper bad guys! They were like BAD guys!
So the Manchines are everywhere in this movie! Out in front saving the day, working behind the scenes moving and shaking, wheeling and dealing, kicking it…uh…kicking it old school… There are so many amazing characters, where can I begin! There is Cutter (not in the emo/goth way) who has lobster claws for hands that can turn into buzz saws and cut probably anything. There is Zipper “Dr Huxtable” Davis who is the adorable (and not at all hideous and unfortunate monster) robot body fused to a scooter go-kart type vehicle. I have a tendency to OCCASIONALLY make up the odd fact in this blog and I’m not entirely sure what the names of the rest of the crew are so I might take a few liberties with reality for a while.
So Thermostatie, Golf Teela, and Hubbie Capp charge in to battle to defend their friends and kick some ‘way bigger and more powerful than them’ butt! What follows is a confusing collage of robot violence! PisTom uses his head and his powerful thrusting action to smash a Monstroid to pieces! Then Blendergrip and Wenchie-Poo cause one of the most terrible Monstroid (Cobra BigBoots) to fall to his doom! I want to take a second to talk about this scene. More specifically I want to talk about the sad sad case of Wenchie-Poo. Now, Old Wenchie plays a huge role in killing this specific Monstroid but he does it by having Blendergrip unwind the cable in his chest and they use it to trip the Goliath. Now, this is all well and good but it is very difficult to picture another situation in which Wenchie-Poo could be very useful in battle. Wenchie has a spool of metal cable in his chest, some kind of weird handle thing coming out of the back of his head and a wide sturdy base. That’s it. No feet, no weapons, no apparent method of locomotion, just a cable coming out of his chest. These little guys really need your help people!
As the Manchines are basically slapping the Monstroids around, the Wonder twins (She-Ra and He-Man) even get into the act! They begin systematically tearing the Monstroids apart. Including once sweet move where He-Man tangled up one of the Monstroid’s arms, let’s call him TentaArms and the robot monster starts emitting sparks and then blows up.
At the end of the fight, the mighty Monstroids are reduced to a mangled pile of scrap metal. In this scene, The Masters of the Universe, gains the distinction of being the only animated Christmas special in which the heroes slaughter an entire race of beings.
With a resume like that, you might wonder how these courageous warriors could possibly be out of work but it's true. It was obvious at the time that STUDIONAME had every intention of giving these characters their own show, to fully capitalize on the entertainment and merchandising powerhouses they would surely become. Unfortunately, due to a contract dispute between the studio brass and the Masters of the Universe actors, He-Man, Man At Arms and all the rest went on strike. Not wanting to make waves in the industry that opened its arms to them, the Manchines walked out in sympathy. The studio came down hard eventually hiring the scab actors that would help in the production of The New Adventures of He-Man, and bringing about the end of the Classic MOTU characters’ careers. Sadly one of the casualties of this labor strife was the contract of the Manchines. Their dreams of stardom gone before they ever began.
But those dreams don’t have to be over, kind Retro Readers! Through some of my associates in the ranks of the Decepticons, I was able to secure 8 Manchines a job on the set of Transformers Prime. Today they happily serve as emergency pit crew to help repair the damaged Decepticons (and to a lesser extent, the Autobots) in between scenes to help the show transform and roll out with minimum delays. But why stop there? There are virtually hundreds of hard working, bright and nicely polished Manchines out there ready to do their best for Show-Biz! They could do great in the video game industry as retro console systems…they could be spare parts for KITT (HubbyCapp, and PisTom would be especially good for this kind of work…Michael) I could even send a crate of them to The Haunted Projectionist! I’m sure a couple of them are lights or maybe an old movie projector, I’m positive there was at least one popcorn machine in there somewhere.
So please help to spread the word and let’s get these robot creatures some work. Their time to shine is long overdue and these character deserve a TV show! Once they are working in every corner of the entertainment industry people will have to take notice. They will see the hidden gem that has been waiting all this time! They will finally give credit where credit is due, and for once in this cold and bitter world nice guys will finally finish first!…or the Manchines will kill us. They’ll kill us all.