The Silver Disc: The Japanese "Beast Wars" CD-ROM
The Silver Disc: The "Beast Wars Transformers" CD-ROM
In 2016 we live in a world where movies, music and all manner of media can be easily streamed to your home or business at lightning speed over high speed internet. Once upon a time however this was not the case. Back in the "Beast Wars" era of the mid to late 90's, people were still using modems (where 56K was considered fast) to access the web. Still, an awareness of multimedia's influence on selling a product was taking shape and a method of providing this content was including CD-ROMs with a product.
When "Beast Wars Transformers" was launched in Japan, a special release of the Optimus Primal versus Megatron two pack was created. Optimus Primal was cast mostly in red and white while Megatron was mostly purple - iconic colors for Cybertron (Autobots) and Destrons (Decepticons) respectively. Remember, back then "Beast Wars" was a paradigm shattering concept for Transformers which eschewed traditional designs and concepts in favor of something dramatically different, so including a multimedia CD-ROM was a nice way of appealing to fans and educating them about this strange new series.
Back in the 90's the big platform many folks used to create presentations such as this was Macromedia Director. This program allowed you to merge images, video and effects to create interactive presentations. Nowadays you'll see this mostly on web sites, but back then they were largely stand alone applications that ran automatically once you inserted the CD.
When the CD loads, you get a flash of the Japanese artwork featuring Convoy (aka Optimus Primal) and Megatron. It then opens up a two part menu. The left takes you to a screen where you can select profiles of the first wave of "Beast Wars" characters. On the right you can go to a section that lets you "color" line drawings of several "Beast Wars" characters. Keep in mind that screen resolutions were very different back in the day. This presentation was designed for a monitor running at 640x480
The profiles of each character use a standard format. For the most part they utilize the Japanese artwork for the toys which had a much different, more "anime" style than the packaging outside Japan. In a couple of cases such as Rhinox I believe the artwork wasn't ready, so a photo of the toy is used instead. You'll note in my screen captures that there is a small window on the upper right that's blank. This is where a clip of the character from the show would play. Unfortunately on a Windows 10 system that section doesn't seem to work anymore. If you poke around the CD you can play the video (AVI) files individually but the quality is terribly by modern day standards, but back in the day it was very cool. Interestingly if you look at the menu the English names of the characters are in the graphics with the Japanese names superimposed on top - something that was very uncommon back in the day.
The other section of this CD has an electronic "coloring book". Using arrows you can scroll through black and white line drawings of "Beast Wars" characters. These are extremely simplified pictures so you can play around with the coloring. Don't look for high quality artwork here. These are more akin to coloring books you'd buy for a little kid to color in with crayons. I actually find this section very charming. It's a cute activity for kids and for adults it's an interesting look into the marketing strategy for "Beast Wars" in Japan.
By today's standards this CD-ROM is pretty quaint, but for its time it was a sign of things to come. Nowadays every new Transformers toy line is accompanied by at least one web site and often those sites have content including videos and imagery just like this CD. For me, it was a nice little trip down memory lane both for technology and the marketing tools of the past.