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Transformers - Hasbro Sheds New Light on the Sunbow Deal, Answering Questions Fans Have Posed

Transformers, G.I. Joe and others to be joined by Jem, InHumanoids and more!

Posted by David Lambert
Last week Hasbro announced that they had "reacquired the worldwide distribution rights to the Sunbow Library of Hasbro Classics...[obtaining] ownership of nearly 1,000 episodes of classic programming." The transaction was with European-based brand management company TV-Loonland, whose own press release stated the deal was worth US$7 Million. Properties named in the press releases included Transformers, G.I. Joe and My Little Pony. However, several questions were left up in the air, and our readers have asked us to get the straight dope! We spoke with Hasbro, and they have been kind enough to provide answers where ever they could.

Some readers were concerned that the press releases failed to name other Sunbow-produced animated shows, notably Jem and the Holograms, InHumanoids and Visionaries (a.k.a. Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light). Hasbro has assured us that "all of the classics produced by Sunbow are included in this acquisition."

Fans also wanted to be careful (as did we), and make sure that everyone correctly understands the language of the press releases. Hasbro's press release said they had "reacquired the worldwide distribution rights" to this library of titles, but did this specifically mean that Hasbro now had the ability (and intent) to release these shows on DVD in North America?

We also passed along questions from our readers about how TV-Loonland, a European-based company, could possibly come to hold any rights related to distribution on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. And how did all of these rights figure into DVD release rights previously held by Rhino in the 2004-2006 timeframe, and later held by SonyWonder (a.k.a. Sony Music, a.k.a. Sony BMG)?

Hasbro gave us answers which does a great job of untangling this web of licenses and sublicenses:
    Hasbro has reacquired the worldwide distribution rights to everything, including the rights to release the shows on DVD in the U.S. and Canada. The reacquisition is a result of two transactions. The first transaction is with TV-Loonland, and the second is with Sony BMG Music Entertainment, who had held a distribution license from TV-Loonland for the North American home video/DVD rights. TV-Loonland held the rights as a result of contracts that were executed a long time ago. Rhino was a sublicense of Sony BMG.
That certainly makes sense on our end! Of course, though, the main thing that's on the minds of fans everywhere has to do with "which programs are coming out for home video," and all the details surrounding those releases: What form will they take (season sets, or something else)? Will they be on DVD only, or could we also see high-definition Blu-ray Disc versions? How soon would they start becoming available for fans to own?

No surprise, though, that Hasbro's response is basically a nice way of saying that they don't know yet. Having JUST completed the deal, they are still evaluating their plans for the Sunbow library, and so they don't have these kinds of details to release at this time. Fans almost certainly don't want to rush them, as they are looking for the best possible releases in terms of quality, configuration and extras. It's likely (but by no means certain, we suppose) that these releases could be channeled through their normal home video distributor, Paramount Home Entertainment. The two companies are next collaborating on a July release of Transformers: Cybertron - The Ultimate Collection. So we'll keep an eye on Paramount, as well as Hasbro, for possible updates, announcements and additional info in general.

The good news is that things are moving again - at last! - for this library of hugely popular classic animated shows. And while we don't have the details just yet, there *IS* light at the end of the tunnel.

We hope it's not AstroTrain, of course! But it probably makes sense that we should, at the very least, expect Transformers and G.I. Joe classic releases to come out on DVD in time to tie in with upcoming new theatrical films of those properties, which hit the box office in 2009. We've gotten advanced, inside word (you heard it here first!) that the 2007 Transformers live-action film with Shia LaBeouf will be coming to Blu-ray Disc on September 2nd, in a 2-Disc Special Edition (similar to last year's HD DVD version)...but its doubtful that Hasbro would be ready with their first "G1" Transformers cartoon release on DVD by that time, to tie in with that release. You never know, though! Stay tuned for new reports, as developments occur.

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