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BMG Special Products presents
Skeleton Warriors (1995)

"Why do they insist on fighting us at all?"
- Baron Dark (Himself)

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: May 25, 2000

Stars: Baron Dark, Talyn
Other Stars: Lightstar, Grimskull
Director: Sue Peters

Manufacturer: AIX Media Group
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild violence, scary moments)
Run Time: 01h:08m:21s
Release Date: April 30, 2000
UPC: 755174571596
Genre: animation

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
D+ D+B-D+ D-

DVD Review

In 1995, Landmark Entertainment Group and Playmates Toys introduced a line of "Skeleton Warriors" action figures, pitting the heroic Legion of Light characters against the evil, more-intricately-designed Skeleton Warriors. BMG's new Skeleton Warriors DVD collects three 23-minute episodes of the de rigeur animated TV series designed to accompany and promote the toys.

The show is typical 1990's "kidvid"—the good guys (three males, one female) fight the bad guys to the sound of generic heavy-metal music, never losing but never quite winning either. There's plenty of violence as laser bolts and weapons fly at the slightest provocation, but no injuries ever occur (though the Skeleton Warriors are casually dismembered and reassembled several times per episode.) Relationships among the good guys are explored to some degree, but the character development yields no twists or surprises. The bad guys cackle with glee at just about everything (including the apparently rib-tickling experience of losing their own flesh) and the good guys saddle up, save the day, and bicker endlessly about nothing at all.

Designed in the US and produced in Asia, Skeleton Warriors' animation is strictly TV-quality—it lacks the freshness of the best Western productions and the artistic finesse of Japanese anime. The character designs inspired by the highly detailed toys don't animate very well, and the production is technically sloppy. Cel painting is sometimes inconsistent and an unusual amount of dust and dirt shows up on cels and overlays. A floating skull that introduces and closes each episode is CG-rendered with an attractive metallic sheen, but the lipsync is approximate and the acting suffers from limited facial expression.

The three episodes included on this DVD were previously released on separate VHS videocassettes: Flesh and Bone (origin story), Trust and Betrayal and Heart and Soul. They appear to be contiguous episodes and some continuity is evident, but it's a standard TV series—the status quo is forever threatened but inevitably restored.

Rating for Style: D+
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: BMG's Skeleton Warriors DVD suffers from some odd image artifacts—thin diagonal lines and small bright spots held steady onscreen occasionally seem to "pulse" rhythmically. The interlaced 30-frame/60-field-per-second full-frame image is otherwise clean, with bright, well-saturated colors. This is probably the best these shows have ever looked (I doubt the dust on the cels was this visible when originally broadcast)—the "pulsing" only occurs in a handful of shots, but it's distracting when it does turn up.

Image Transfer Grade: B-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: BMG includes the series' original Stereo soundtrack and a Dolby Digital 5.1 remix. Neither track is impressive—the 2-channel non-surround track sounds thin and "recorded," and the 5.1 track isn't much better. BMG's remaster spreads the original stereo track across the front speakers, with voices emerging from all three; rear speakers carry atmospheric rumbles (often irritatingly overdone), music, a few sound effects, and faint echoes of the dialogue in cavernous settings. The 5.1 track provides impressive LFE bass for explosions, and dialogue is considerably clearer than in the 2.0 version, but sound effects only pan across the front of the soundstage, ignoring numerous opportunities for front-to-back movement. The 5.1 soundtrack is more full-bodied than the weak stereo track, but it has a "processed" quality and is primarily louder, not richer.

Audio Transfer Grade: D+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extras Review: The Skeleton Warriors DVD contains no real extras. The menus are nicely designed with full-motion video, and there's a convenient "Play All Videos" mode in addition to the 3 episode and 15 chapter selections. I'm sure there wasn't a lot of supplementary material available, but some historical coverage of the toys (with commercials, maybe?) or a complete episode guide would have been nice to see. As it is, there's nothing here to provide context or enlightenment.

Extras Grade: D-


Final Comments

I'm not sure who the audience for Skeleton Warriors is supposed to be. It's not a beloved cult series, it doesn't work as "quality family entertainment," nor is it an undiscovered animated classic whose availability on DVD might attract legions of new fans. Without ad and toy support, I doubt most children will show much interest. The disc might appeal to "Skeleton Warriors" action figure collectors who want a digitally-mastered, durable sampling of the series, but there's no collector-oriented information on the disc and the material is too recent to seem nostalgic. I'm glad BMG is preserving obscure animated series on DVD, but I can't recommend purchase of this particular disc. Licensed toy-based animation doesn't get any less inspired than this.


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