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When you were a kid, you didn't question where cartoons came from. The Ninja Turtles were just there, having wacky adventures even as you turned off the screen, possibly watching you as you slept. Of course, as you grew up you realized that a lot of these shows were made to do nothing but sell toys.

But even then, you actually weren't being cynical enough. A lot of these shows weren't so much "made" as "shoddily slapped together from some older bullshit (usually from Japan)."

And some of them were shows that you loved.

6
Transformers Was a Bunch of Toys From Different Toy Lines

The Classic Show You Loved:

What makes Transformers so well-loved and iconic is that, even though they're robots, you can immediately tell who's good and who's bad just by looking at them: Megatron looks like the soul of a rapist possessed by a tank, whereas Optimus has an aura of righteousness. If America were a truck, it's name would be Optimus Prime.


"I get 32 gallons to the mile."

But Actually ...

Optimus and Megatron were never supposed to be enemies -- in fact, they didn't even belong to the same toy line. Basically, Hasbro grabbed two different sets of toys from Japan and paid the Marvel Comics staff to come up with new names for all the robots. The result was Transformers. The same characters already had origins and personalities in Japan: For example, "Megatron" was meant to be a good guy.

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Because there's nothing more heroic than morphing into a Nazi handgun, apparently.

Megatron, Soundwave and others came from a toy line called Microman, where the premise was that these little space robots came to Earth and disguised themselves as household items to protect kids. This explains why Megatron (a supposedly giant robot) turned into a regular-sized pistol, but it does not explain why they expected children to have said pistols lying around in their drawers, like in this early commercial:

Meanwhile, Optimus came from a different toy line called Diaclone, which was actually supposed to be battle mechas -- they even included a little metallic figure called "Inch-Man," which represented the pilot. Yes, the horrifying implication here is that Optimus (or "Battle Convoy," as he's still known in Japan) had as much of a personality as, well, a truck. In fact, if you look at him carefully, it's easy to tell that he was always meant to be just another mindless giant robot, like Voltron.

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Just another experiment to figure out who would best obliterate Tokyo.

If you're still not convinced, here's a commercial with "Optimus" combining with other robots, Japan style:

So the entire idea of the Transformers cartoon was to act as 30-minute commercials for the toys that Hasbro was importing from Japan (which on some level you surely already suspected). In fact, remember the original Transformers cartoon movie from the '80s? The main reason why they killed off so many characters there (including Optimus) was to make space for the new models.


And to become the highlight of Orson Welles' career.

They even planned a scene where they "wiped out the entire '84 product line" in one brutal attack, and "whoever wasn't discontinued stumbled to the end." Because, you know, seeing Optimus die onscreen wasn't enough. In the alternate reality where this scene made it to the finished movie, mankind is on the verge of extinction due to the sudden suicide of all children in 1987.

5
Power Rangers Was Three Shows Cobbled Together

The Classic Show You Loved:

Five teenagers with an unhealthy love for martial arts and single-colored wardrobes are chosen by a giant head to become a team of superheroes who ride robot dinosaurs: The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.


The '90s had something against the suffix "ing."

But Actually ...

Power Rangers was actually a combination of three separate Japanese series that were all in the popular "people in colored costumes punching monsters" family of shows.


Honestly? They kinda all look the same.

Some new scenes were shot with American actors, but in the rest, it wasn't them in the costumes -- in reality, you were looking at footage from a series about prehistoric humans who evolved from dinosaurs. So, for example, whenever you saw Trini the Yellow Ranger in her full body costume, it was actually just her voice redubbing the dialogue of some Japanese dinosaur dude.


That is a suspicious crotch bulge for a girl.

The reason they had to combine different shows is that the episodes of the original one ran out pretty fast and they couldn't just end Power Rangers and start another franchise since, well, they were making far too much money. In order to stretch things out, they would use tricky editing to, for instance, show a robot from one series launch an attack ...


... then cut to a monster from a completely different series getting blasted with it ...


... while never showing the two in the same frame.

Remember the unfortunately named White Power Ranger who joined the team later on? He was transplanted from a different series, too, which is why you rarely saw him fighting at the same time as the other guys.

Also, he was a 10-year-old boy ...


Yep, this is what you wanted to be when you were 10 years old.

... and a huge pervert.

Yes, that's the elementary-school-age Ranger using his powers to look at schoolgirls' panties.


Zordon is looking up Megan's Law as we speak.

Actually, the fact that his sword has a little tiger head that talks to him is the least bizarre thing in that video. The rampant sexual harassment was a consistent part of the White Ranger's character, by the way. In the Japanese version, he had a disturbing tendency to "look up [the Pink Ranger's] skirt and touch her breasts." Shockingly, this subplot was completely dropped by the American adaption.


Except for that one time Tommy roofied Kim.

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4
They Just Pasted Spider-Man on Top of Another Character

The Classic Show You Loved:

Even if you never saw the original Spider-Man cartoon from 1967, there's a pretty good chance you can still recite every word in its theme song from memory. That's how big this show was -- Spidey had already existed for five years by then, but this show and the ones that followed it helped catapult the character from comic book hero to pop culture icon.

But Actually ...

If you did watch this show, however, you may have noticed that they tended to repeat a lot of footage. Sometimes it felt like they were taking old episodes and merging them together. This is mainly because that's exactly what they were doing -- on the second and third seasons, the budget was reduced so drastically that producer Ralph Bakshi was forced to cut costs by recycling scenes from the first season ... and, at least a couple of times, from other cartoons.


Either that, or Marvel intended for Ant-Man's redesign to be totally nightmarish.

For example, the episode "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension" was actually repurposed from another show called Rocket Robin Hood, a futuristic series set in space. They literally took the original episode and replaced Robin Hood with Spider-Man in the animation cells, adding some existing shots of Spidey swinging around New York for good measure. However, the rest of the episode still took place in outer space, resulting in the trippiest Spider-Man cartoon ever.

After an introduction, the action starts when a little alien lands on Spider-Man's hand while he's standing on a rooftop. The alien gives Spider-Man a sphere containing all the knowledge from his destroyed galaxy.


"Let's hope nobody notices this is basically the plot to Heavy Metal."

Naturally, Spider-Man wants to give this information to the government, but then he finds himself inexplicably propelled across dimensions ...


On the plus side, he's not dancing.

... reaching a place called Dimentia Five, where this happens:


Man, this made a whole lot more sense when it was Robin Hood in it.

Eventually Spider-Man meets the one responsible for all this madness, a bug-like creature whom he confronts on a giant hand that happens to be there. We never find out who it belongs to.


"I've just come out of the shower, Spider-Man. This is really inappropriate."

Finally, Spidey realizes he can exit this place by closing his eyes and pretending it isn't there.


The same approach taken by all the horrified 10-year-olds watching this episode back then.

Here's the original Rocket Robin Hood episode -- it's the exact same thing. Note, however, that at least Bakshi had the decency to remove that haunting and wholly inexplicable photo of a cat that appeared at 1:43.


Which is weird because nobody remembered putting it there.

3
Voltron Was Two Shows Edited Together

The Classic Show You Loved:

The premise of Voltron couldn't be simpler: Five lion-shaped space robots combine into a bigger robot and kick ass all over the galaxy. In the second season they introduced a different Voltron made out of cars, but soon enough the far more popular lion version was brought back.


Because a robot made of cars would make no sense.

But Actually ...

You've probably guessed by now that Voltron was a combination of two different shows (the one with the lions and the one with the cars). What you might not know is that in the process of editing these two Japanese cartoons together, they cut out enough gore, death and atrocities to make up seven more Saw movies. Seriously, this shit is heavy -- like this censored scene from the very first episode that starts out innocently enough, and then this happens:


Goodbye innocence.

Or this one where some alien slaves are brutally whipped, or this other one where they're whipped again, even harder. Or, hey, how about some mass destruction and screaming babies? Or this dude shooting himself in the head. Some of these are choreographed like Tarantino movies.


"Don't worry, kids! There's always a way out of your crippling depression!"

It just goes on and on. There was at least one violent character death in every episode, and the people adapting this thing for American television had to flip over backward to cut all that stuff out and still end up with a show that made some degree of sense. For example, in the U.S. version, the good guys always made sure to mention that the enemies had been evacuated from their ships before they were blown up, or that they were all actually robots. Their Japanese counterparts simply did not give a fuck. Here's one of the good guys brutally impaling a dude:

Not even the main characters were safe: When the character Sven was dramatically killed off in Japan, the U.S. version "saved" him by adding a completely disconnected line of dialogue about taking him to a doctor -- to which he replies "Take me there fast!" in a ridiculous voice, when he's already dead (at 0:44 in this clip).

In the end this worked out for the best, though, because this character was so popular in Japan that they eventually introduced his twin brother -- in the U.S. version, the brother was simply a recuperated Sven coming back to the team like nothing happened. Another time, they made up for the fact that the main character was obviously crying (over yet another censored death) by having him comment that the heat in his spaceship was getting really intense.


"I just ... I just REALLY LIKE THESE EYE DROPS, GUYS."

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2
Battle of the Planets Was Recycled Into Three Different Shows

The Classic Show You Loved:

Battle of the Planets is about a group of five teens in bird costumes who travel across the universe fighting an evil galactic empire, with the help of their robot sidekick.


At no point do planets literally battle, sadly.

Or, if you're a little younger, you might remember those guys as an Earth-based superhero team called G-Force, and if you're even younger than that, you might swear that they're called Eagle Riders. Well, there's an explanation for all that ...

But Actually ...

This is like the opposite of all the other examples in this list, because in this case, a single show from Japan (Science Ninja Team Gatchaman) was recycled into three different cartoons in America. The first and possibly most famous was Battle of the Planets, which debuted in 1978 and hilariously tried to pass off Gatchaman as a Stars Wars rip-off, even though it wasn't even set in space.


Notice there's no robot. And that they're all tripping balls.

If it seemed like every strange alien planet the team visited looked exactly like Earth, that's because it always was -- the translators simply added a line or two saying "Hey, so, we're totally on another planet right now, you guys," when in fact they never even left Earth. The bad guys weren't aliens at all, they were just bad guys.


This is how all street thugs dress in Japan.

As for the annoying robot sidekick, 7-Zark-7 ... yeah, they just pasted that shit on top of the original cartoon. In retrospect, this was really obvious, because the two animation styles were radically different and you rarely saw members of the team interact with Zark (and if they did, it was through a screen), but as a kid you tended to overlook that sort of thing.


Because you were stupid.

7-Zark-7 was also used to make up for all the violent or depressing scenes they had to cut out, because Japan can't just make a damned cartoon without trying to bring everyone down. So, for example, a scene like this with 7-Zark-7 flapping around and literally doing nothing for two minutes ...

... was typically created to replace another scene like this one where the two main guys (Mark and Jason in the U.S. version) beat the crap out of each other while sounding all angsty and dramatic.


They tried a funny dub, but it was undermined by Mark repeatedly punching Jason in the face.

Other times, they used Zark to explain that someone who died in the episode was actually OK, even if we literally just watched them explode into a million pieces, like in this U.S./Japan comparison:

So you see the couple (whose bodies have been rigged to explode) embrace their fate:


And right at the moment where the Japanese version shows them being blown to chunks:


The American version has the robot:


"And then they lived happily ever after in a completely non-jarring tonal shift!"

Incidentally, in the Japan version the bad guy, Zoltar, was actually a hermaphrodite -- in the U.S., they simply pretended that his female form was his "sister," leading to all sorts of crazy sitcom-like misunderstandings.


One episode had him meeting his boss while having dinner with his family in the same restaurant.

Two more Gatchaman adaptations were created later on: G-Force in the '80s and Eagle Riders in the '90s (in the middle of the Power Rangers boom). G-Force used the exact same episodes as Battle of the Planets, but with the reduced censorship and lack of Star Wars copyright infringement, it was practically a different show. We're looking forward to the next iteration, Bird Naruto SquarePants 3D.

1
Robotech Was Three Unrelated Shows Pasted Together (And It Worked)

The Classic Show You Loved:

Robotech is credited with starting the interest in Japanese animation in the U.S. when it debuted in the '80s -- others came first, but this is the one that proved that animated shows didn't necessarily have to be dumbed down, hacked up pieces of shit with no consistency or character development to make it in America.


Not when we can just do it ourselves by taking things out of context!

Robotech is an epic multi-generational saga showing Earth's decades-long war against ruthless alien invaders, beginning in the futuristic year 1999. The most fascinating thing about it was the way the world's landscape changed as its protagonists were replaced by their descendants and successors -- not many animated shows would dare dumping their lead character halfway through the series and replacing him with someone else, and Robotech did that twice.


And everyone got a lot girlier with each change.

But Actually ...

Of course, this was all accidental. The only reason Robotech changed protagonists is that it was actually three unrelated shows put together, one after the other, and it all happened because of broadcasting rules. You see, in 1984, an American distribution company wanted to license a Japanese series called Super Dimension Fortress Macross in the U.S., but there was one little problem: They needed 65 episodes to get the series into syndication, and Macross only had 36. So, they ended up buying two more shows (by the same animation studio, but featuring different characters and settings) and combined all three into one longer series.


Similarly, Finland tried this with Dallas, ALF and CHiPs, but it didn't quite take.

The first show was about an alien invasion (in a contemporary setting), the second about a futuristic war between humans and aliens and the third about post-apocalyptic Earth -- they simply pretended these were different stages of the same alien invasion, merging the three alien races into one, and that was it. Character names were changed to make it seem like they were related: For example, the main character of the second "generation" was said to be the daughter of two important characters in the first. While the plots were left largely unchanged, much of the dialogue was modified to create a consistent mythology. They even created an entirely new episode merging footage from the different shows to establish a direct connection.


Same person, but not really.

The shocking thing here is that the stunt actually worked -- watching Robotech, you wouldn't suspect it was three different shows unless someone told you. The thing is, they went out of their way to make sure the cobbled-together story made sense, when they could have just pulled a Voltron and left it at that. Robotech was a ratings success, and at one point they even had sequel series and an animated movie in development. The creators imagined "a huge, incredibly ambitious saga, that would eventually take the plot into a giant loop, ending where it began."

However, Robotech toys weren't selling as well as expected. Part of the problem was that several Macross models had already been licensed to other U.S. toy companies -- the single most recognizable robot in all of Robotech was off limits due to Hasbro licensing it as "Jetfire" of the Transformers series. Some of the stuff they tried to sell instead was kind of baffling:

PetiteOzma
That's a Robotech doll house, and we're not kidding.

Since the entire purpose of merging these three shows together was selling Japanese toys, the sequel plans were cancelled, and that was practically the end of Robotech -- almost every other attempt to revive the franchise has been aborted or never left the planning stages. But hey, at least they never compromised their dignity.

ebay
Well, almost never.

Maxwell Yezpitelok lives in Chile and likes to waste his time writing back to scammers or making stupid comics.

For more on toys that probably didn't sell well, check out The 15 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Bootleg Toys and The 25 Most Baffling Toys From Around the World.

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