Wednesday 10 November 2010

Inhumanoids: The Evil That Lies Within

This may come as a shock to all of the parents who read "Parenting” magazines and think that little Johnny and Sue need to be protected from monsters and scary things...but – and this is the truth now – kids love monsters and scary things. Monsters and dark deeds are the foundation of almost all myths and legends, and kids love them. In this sanitised, health and safety loving, wholesome and hearty world (which has, let’s not forget, given us the ASBO generation) there is one Saturday Morning Cartoon that would never have stood a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting produced, let alone aired. That cartoon is Inhumanoids.

Like all the greatest Saturday Morning Cartoons and Secret Wars, Inhumanoids was produced solely to flog action figures. Hey, I know that sort of thing hurts one’s artistic integrity a little, but it’s hard to argue with the facts. Inhumanoids was the product of Hasbro, a company that started by selling textiles in 1923, and now owns most of the toys and board games in the world. Hasbro were no strangers to Saturday Morning Cartoons by the time they unleashed Inhumanoids in 1986, having already produced (amongst others) G.I. Joe and Transformers. You may have heard of them.

Inhumanoids was set apart, however, by its tone. There were monsters, sure, and a team of mecha-enhanced human good guys – but Inhumanoids was grim. For a start, it’s the only Saturday Morning Cartoon ever to take its title from the bad guys of the show.

Although it only ran for one season, Inhumanoids is, in my opinion, the most underrated Saturday Morning Cartoon of all time. Sure, Masters of the Universe is still my ultimate favourite, but Inhumanoids was actually trying to push the boundaries of what was acceptable for the format. I don’t mean this in purely a crass blood and gore type way (although it certainly did its fair share of that, as well), but Inhumanoids was the first of the cartoons of its time to link episodes in sequence with continuing storylines and a constant threading of subplots - now the norm for most Saturday Morning Cartoons. What’s more, the show was distinctive for its use of split-screens, which really makes it stand out in the crowd.

And of course, there was, in the words of Wikipedia: The Bastion of All Reliable Knowledge , “monstrous amputations [and] writhing deaths by corrosive acid, which would be hard-pressed to sneak their way into contemporary "children's hour" programming.”.

The first five episodes were clipped together to make up the VHS movie Inhumanoids: The Evil That Lies Within, which I first saw when my Dad and I rented it from the local video shop. This is because there are many, many things my Dad and I agree on, and one of the core ones is that cartoons, monstrous amputations and writhing deaths by corrosive acid are awesome.

The movie starts with the discovery of a half-decomposed dinosaur-like creature encased in an amber monolith buried in some national park, which is recovered by the government-funded Earth Corps, a geological sciences research team. This bizarre discover motivates the evil, bwah-hah-hah-type corrupt industrialist Blackthorne Shore (you can’t trust a man with that name) to uncover a second monster buried elsewhere — a giant vine-like creature called Tendril. At the official public unveiling of the amber block, Tendril attacks and releases the zombie-dinosaur, D'Compose (voiced by Chris “I’m Cobra Commander and fucking Starscream” Latta). The released Inhumanoids rampage through city streets before fleeing into the darkness of the bay.

Liquidator (one of Earth Corps, named for his chemical spraying mecha suit-thing) returns to the park searching for clues to the origin of the monsters when he discovers Ent knock-offs, the Redwoods, The Redwoods are a part of a subterranean population known as Mutores, and that their kind sealed the evil Inhumanoids Tendril and D'Compose beneath the Earth ages ago. The Inhumanoid leader, Metlar, remains imprisoned below the surface, paralyzed by the magnetic field of a Mutore duo named Magnokor.

Meanwhile, an attack by Tendril has demolished the Earth Corps base, forcing them to escape into the depths of the Earth, but even with the help of another Mutore species, the Granites, Earth Corps are forced to retreat back to the surface.

Then, further disaster strikes.... Earth Corps’ budget is cut by a crooked politician in Blackthorne Shore's pocket! After obtaining private funding from Sandra Shore (Blackthorne’s Sister), the team constructs new vehicles and heads back to find D'Compose and Tendril. Meanwhile, a battle with the Granites has freed Metlar!

If this sounds a lot more in depth than you’d tend to get with a bog-standard Saturday Morning Cartoon, then that’s because it is. It dealt with adult themes, had awesome huge scale toys, and featured better art direction and animation than was seen anywhere else in the field. So why was it cancelled after only one series?

Because legions of angry parents complained to TV networks and Hasbro about monstrous amputations and writhing deaths by corrosive acid? Because the animation cost too much to produce? Because the rival TV channels were scared of its appeal, and blackmailed stations into not running it anymore?

No. The answer is that simply, it did not go over with kids Saturday Morning Cartoons were on a low at the time. Masters of the Universe had just finished airing its original run, and the only competition Inhumanoids had was Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors and a small title called...uh...Thundercats.


Words: Brad Harmer

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