In Search of the Mighty Orbots

Some time around 15-ish years ago, I started noticing there were a large number of websites dedicated to various toy lines, television shows, cartoons, and other aspects of the past decades (especially the 80s and 90s). Sometimes it would be an entire website dedicated to one specific thing, other times it would be larger areas like “early 80s kids cartoons” or whatever. These websites had been around for a while, I just had not noticed too many of them before.

So I looked through these sites, reminisced about the past, and remembered many, many things I had forgotten about my childhood. I also started remembering obscure things that weren’t on some of these websites… and that I couldn’t remember what they were myself. A few quick web searches helped me pinpoint names of some. But others still eluded me. I soon developed a short list in my head of stuff I was trying to remember, but couldn’t quite discover online.

For a few years, I really couldn’t find anything on any of the items on this list. Well, considering I would only do a search once or twice a year, that is not saying much. But I was just missing too many details to really pinpoint many of them.

Finally I had a random connection on one item that seem to start a string of obscure memory discoveries from my childhood.

I had a somewhat vague memory of a cartoon that was about 5 or so smaller robots that joined together to form a larger robot, but it wasn’t Transformers or Voltron or any of the other more popular cartoon/toy lines that most people associate with the concept (“Combining Mecha” is the technical term). In fact, I didn’t remember there being any toys associated with the show at all (a really rare occurrence). All I could vaguely remember was that we would watch the show and then go outside and play like we were the robots from the show, usually singing the show’s theme song.

Then finally I saw a word in a list of obscure “Combining Mecha” shows: Orbots. Sure enough, once I knew the title, I found all kinds of tribute websites and even the catchy theme song on YouTube:

And sure enough, it was a one season show with apparently few toys connected to it… which ironically got cancelled because of some dispute or lawsuit from the makers of Go-Bots (they thought the idea was too close to theirs).

This kind of shows how different things were before the Internet. We know that television shows, music groups, movie franchises, etc will go on hiatus after a season or tour or movie release or whatever. Today we tend to still hear a slow to drowning stream of updates, tweets, and news bits from all types of artists and entertainers even during these cyclical down times. We know when they are and aren’t working on new songs or seasons or material or whatever. We all know the minute that our shows are cancelled or renewed. Its all pretty standard now.

But back in the 80s? Stuff would go on hiatus after a season finale and never be heard from again. Sometimes you would hear in the news that a prime-time show was cancelled. But a cartoon like the Orbots could stop go off the air over Christmas holidays or summer vacation or whenever, and just never come back. You might not even notice it because there was a whole slew of new cartoons capturing your attention.

This is pretty much what happened with the Orbots. We watched the last episode of Season 1, probably went out to play as our favorite Orbots, and then filed it all in the back of minds for the next season. But that new season never came, and we got distracted so much by new cartoons that we never pulled the old memory out, and then decades later i am trying to wrack my brain to figure out what that one show that one time was called….

Of course, there were shows that people knew were cancelled and they tried to write in and change minds of the studio executives and all of that, but you have to wonder. Did our current disposable culture of always focusing on the new bands and new movies and new entertainment get trained in us as children? Possibly so. Does the fact that so many of these cartoon shows are just vague memories without a specific title in our minds just reveal that we were trained to focus on the new shiny object as they came out? Maybe, maybe not. But still, its kind of weird that we just forget about something like that – possibly for the rest of our life – without a trace of a flag in our mind that something we used to enjoy immensely is now gone.

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