Western Animation / Mighty Orbots


"Orbots, UNITE!"
Rob Simmons

Mighty Orbots is an American/Japanese animated series co-produced by ABC, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and TMS Entertainment that aired in 1984 on Saturday mornings in the United States.

The 23rd Century is a time of robots and aliens. The people of Earth have banded together along with several other alien races to promote peace throughout the galaxy, forming the United Planets. As part of the United Planets, the Galactic Patrol - a body of law-enforcers - works to maintain order, under the leadership of Commander Rondu.

However, a powerful criminal organization called SHADOW is out to destroy both the Galactic Patrol and the U.P. Led by Umbra, a massive cyborg-computer, SHADOW employs sinister agents and incredible schemes to attack and someday rule over all corners of the known galaxy.

There is one thing that helps to fight against SHADOW; ingenious inventor Rob Simmons - secretly a member of the Galactic Patrol - creates six special robots (Boo, Bo, Bort, Crunch, Tor, and Ohno) who can use their unique powers to battle against the forces of Umbra. Together, these robots can unite to form a Humongous Mecha called Mighty Orbots, to fight for truth, justice and peace for all.

The series was notable for its anime stylings and high production values both rare for Saturday morning television in the mid-1980s. However, Executive Meddling - that is, a lawsuit from Tonka over similarities to their Gobots toylinenote  - put this series on ice after one season.

This cartoon shows examples of the following:

  • Action Girl: Dia, Bo, and Boo.
  • Action-Hogging Opening
  • All Your Powers Combined: Mighty Orbots has all the robots' abilities. Tor supplies the form's main chassis and muscle, Bort's powers manifest in the ability to change the combination's hands into different weapons, Bo's elemental ability is the form's firepower, Boo's energy manipulation abilities are its defensive functions while Crunch acts as an emergency battery using his trademark ability to eat anything and convert it to energy.
  • Animation Bump: Not a lot, but it did happen from time to time. One of the common manifestations is the shifting appearance of Umbra from ep to ep (sometimes his lips are friggin' huge).
  • Bad Boss: When a Shadow agent finds himself stranded on an uninhabited planet after completing his mission, Umbra just leaves him there.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: The last episode has the heroes physically entering the body of their archenemy, the titanic supercomputer Umbra. This results in them finding themselves in his mindscape and having to fight off manifestations of his evil thoughts.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Ohno in "Wish World"
  • Become A Real Girl: This is the result of Ohno's wish. Unfortunately, it turns out the Orbots cannot combine without her.
  • Big Bad: Umbra
  • Big Eater: Crunch, naturally.
  • The Big Guy: Tor.
  • Circus of Fear: The Cosmic Circus in the episode of the same name. Agents of Shadow assigned to make duplicates of top GP officers, including Dia, that are to shut down Earth's planetary shield. The scene where Dia meets her replica is kinda creepy.
  • Clark Kenting: Rob Simmons.
    • Not to mention the Orbots themselves, who had more rounded "civilian" modes and blockier, more angular "Orbots modes".
  • Clear My Name: "Devil's Asteroid".
  • Combining Mecha: Mighty Orbots, natch. Also stands out among similar shows for regularly showing that as powerful as it is, one really big robot can only be in one place at a time and in some situations a bunch of smaller units is more effective. As a result it wasn't unusual at all for the Orbots to combine and split apart several times in a single episode.
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Rondu, literally A Father to His Men since Dia is his daughter.
  • Dagwood Sandwich: Rob constructs one of these in the pilot episode, and muses that it's missing something. A moment later, he's pouring mustard down the side of the sandwich and ready to take a bite.
    Ohno: Oh no! You already had today's lunch!
    Rob: I know, this is tomorrow's lunch.
  • Deflector Shields: Boo can project energy to form one of these.
  • Dyson Sphere: Umbra's home base, the Shadow Star.
  • The '80s
  • Elemental Powers: Bo can manipulate the elements in various offensive and defensive ways.
  • Expy: The titular mecha to God Mars, to some extreme. However, outside of that, the two shows have virtually nothing in common, God Mars being considerably darker than Orbots was for starters.
  • Extreme Omnivore: Crunch.
  • Family-Friendly Firearms: Laser weapons were banned from the show by ABC censors. It ended up making the show look more futuristic as a result.
  • The Hero: Rob Simmons.
  • Holographic Disguise: One of Boo's standard abilities. She often uses this as a form of invisibility.
  • Merchandise-Driven: Averted; while Mighty Orbots could have been produced as a toy (it would have been a recolored/retooled version of the robot from God Mars), a lawsuit prevented it from reaching store shelves.
  • Nebulous Evil Organisation: Shadow.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The teaser for "Raid on the Stellar Queen" has Rob talking about battling "the evil computer Umbra," even though that's the one episode out of the series where the villain isn't a member of SHADOW.
  • No Pronunciation Guide: The episode "Leviathan" was hurt by the production team not defining pronunciation for the planet they're on that episode. We get different characters calling the same planet "REE-los" and "RYE-los".
  • Our Graphics Will Suck in the Future: In "The Wish World" Rob's playing a video game that fills up the whole room with its display but still looks like a bog-standard mid-80's spaceship shooting game.
  • Powered By A Forsaken Robot: Ohno serves as the ignition key for the Combining Mecha to function, allowing Rob to pilot it with Ohno assisting. Of course when she is turned into a human girl (in episode 2), the others can't combine.
  • Product Promotion Parade: Simultaneously played straight and averted. Played straight in that the premiere episode has a scene where each Orbot is introduced, with the narrator describing their personalities and powers. Averted in that Mighty Orbots toys were never actually produced, even if there were plans for them.
  • Psychic Powers: Rondu and Drennin
  • The Quisling: Drennin
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: The Dremloks, which look rather like the result of Ewok/Mogwai crossbreeding.
  • Robot Girl: Bo, Boo, and Ohno.
  • Robot Names: Most of the individual Orbots' names use letters from the word "robot" - Tor, Bort, Bo, and Boo. "Orbots" itself is an anagram of "robots" (as was the original pre-production title, "Broots")
  • Rule of Cool: Pretty much the only explanation for what the show gets away with, such as Rob's Clark Kenting disguise or wanton disregard for the rules of physics.
  • Shapeshifter Baggage: Bort violates this with impunity.
    • Mighty Orbots does this as well, growing to nearly ten times in size when the team combines. Most obvious with Tor, who forms the torso: see that foot-wide gap in his big red chest in the top image? During the combining sequence, Rob drives his Flying Car through that.
      • It has been suggested that this is done via a "subspace shunt".
  • Shapeshifter Identity Crisis: Bort goes through this every so often. As Tor puts it in one episode, "You've got a built-in identity crisis."
  • Shrinking Violet: Boo.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Tor.
  • The Smart Guy: Rob Simmons.
  • Smurfette Principle: Avoided by the fact that there are more female recurring characters than male in the series.
  • Space Does Not Work That Way: Lampshaded in Jewel of Targon where Bort asks how a winged monster can fly through the vacuum of space.
  • Space Elves: Rondu and (to a lesser extent) Dia.
  • Space Pirates: Captain Shrike and his crew are of the Recycled In SPACE variety of these. Arrrr. They were the only non-SHADOW villains in the entire show. Strangely, that episode had a teaser with narration from Rob mentioning an upcoming battle with "the evil computer Umbra."
  • Stock Footage: Used in the Orbots' Transformation Sequence. There were at least two different versions of this during the show's run.
    • They also use the footage from the show's first episode whenever Rob does his own Transformation Sequence into the Orbots Commander.
  • Swiss Army Weapon: This is Bort's contribution to Orbots.
  • Team Mom: Ohno may be small, but she's quite bossy.
  • Teleporters and Transporters: One of Boo's powers. Of course, Mighty Orbots gets this ability when the team combines.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Bo and Boo.
  • Verbal Tic: "Oh, no!" for Ohno — it's actually where the name comes from. Rob complains about it in the first episode. She points out he's the one who programmed her, so it's his own fault.
  • Voluntary Shapeshifting: Bort, as well as the villain Plasmus.
  • Younger Than They Look: Despite all of them (except Ohno) being the size of adults, the Orbots were built less than a year ago, and consequently have the innocence and naïveté of children. The series ends on their first birthday.