While they were waiting for Beast Machines to be completed so they could bring it over, Takara decided to produce their own Transformers line, called Car Robot. (The name is an homage to one of the Diaclone sublines.) It featured new and old molds (many really old) for the Cybertrons and Destrons and was kind of Beast Machines in reverse. Instead of heroic Maximals versus evil Vehicons it brought back the Autobots and Predacons to do battle, just under their Japanese names. Later the Predacons would get vehicle allies, which led to the return of Decepticons. It’s a transition between the waning “Beast Era” and the return of vehicles, although outside of the movie line all you got were vehicles and the occasional robotic animal. Outside of Beast Wars homages the organic animal alt mode are pretty much dead.
Meanwhile, after Beast Machines Hasbro had planned their own vehicular line but continuing the continuity unlike Car Robot, which was the start of a brand new continuity. I find that odd given their comics usually continued the G1/Beast continuity. There have been other continuities since but Japan hasn’t really let that go. Hasbro’s idea however was to be called Transtech, and while it also would bring back vehicles the idea was to make technorganic vehicles, much like the Maximals of Beast Machines. For whatever reason the idea was scrapped. (My guess is they couldn’t figure out how to take the story in this direction.)
To make up for the time needed to create a replacement line and wanting a new main series Hasbro opted to just import Car Robot as a sort of filler line called Robots In Disguise, an homage to the line from the classic theme song. (The toy package slogan was “more than meets the eye”.) While they would thrown in a few reused molds of their own (I’ll get to those someday over at The Clutter Reports) they were the same reissued and new molds of Car Robots. Of course, Hasbro would bring the name back for yet another line in the 2010s but we aren’t there yet, as well as IDW using the name for one of their Transformers comic series just to add to the confusion. Each show only had one intro, which is easier on me. This should be a short one.
Before going into the translation I have to say that this is my favorite of the Japanese intros thus far. The logo is fantastic, the singing is darn good, and the CG bits actually work. They show off Fire Convoy and Gigatron’s transformations based on their toys. It just looks really good. Now about those lyrics. Thus far the lyrics have barely tied to the show. Is Kōji Wada’s “Blazing Overdrive ~Car Robot Cybertron” the rule breaker?
Burning! Burning! Burning! Burning Heart
Dash! Dash! Dash! Break through the darkness
Ringing into the far away sky is the Exhaust Note
Can you hear the pulse of life?
- Go Boy! Convoy!
- Overdrive of Flame
- Fire! Convoy!
- That red glint is Fire Flash!
- Everyone’s shining life becomes one
- Car Robots, Car Robots
- Car Robots, Cyberton
It’s closer. The theme does invoke the speed and combat style of the show and the chorus does celebrate Fire Convoy and the Autobots (under their Japanese name of course). We still can’t get a song about the Transformers themselves. The best we get are tangential ties in these intro credits.
Transformers: Robots In Disguise is the US version, produced by Saban and lost in the Disney vaults after Disney bought out their library. (Saban started a new company and bought back the Power Rangers franchise before selling it to Hasbro a few years later, making this oddly close to on-topic.) It didn’t help that the show featured a lot of buildings, including the Twin Towers, being knocked down…and beginning on Fox Kids just before September 11, 2001. Not surprisingly there were changes and dropped episodes because of this. To this day you can only get bootlegs off of Fox Kids recordings or the UK DVDs, which got the full series, while we in the States probably never will.
I grant you it’s not as exciting as the Japanese intro visually. The Cybernet Space Cube graphics probably don’t help much, and neither is the fact that it’s all clips from the series, not even the Car Robots intro. The song itself isn’t terrible but it is lacking compared to “Burning Overdrive”, but at least it’s about the Transformers. Of course why I like it is the logo. It’s the best Transformers logo in the US ever, and would continue through the Unicron Trilogy, being changed for Transformers Animated, which means for the next few weeks we’ll be seeing more of it.
The toyline itself had a number of new molds, some of which suffered for being either overly complex or just loaded with bad kibble (the parts of the alt mode) that just looked like parts of the car were hanging off of them. Odd given that Takara was marketing these to younger kids while the adult fans were having trouble–and it was further kidified for Fox Kids with added jokes with the occasional reference to G1 for the older fans. The Generation 2 line was the usual go-to for reused molds. The “Go-Bots” (not to be confused with the GoBots as the spelling often is, Hasbro’s attempt to keep their former rivals from coming back after they bought Tonka) returned with the much better name Spychangers and are really cool. Like their namesake they fit in well with other toy cars but they’re all plastic instead of the plastic/die-cast mix of their former namesakes. The Decepticon Nemesis Prime, later Scourge in the US version, was a recolor of Laser Rod Optimus Prime, while his team was made from the Combaticons, the G1 line that was really out of place with the other, more articulated molds and reuses of the other figures, save the almost Micromaster-sized Spychangers. Hasbro tapped into G2 themselves to add a few new characters to the mix that didn’t appear in the show to fill out the line. They’re good toys and you’ll find reviews over at The Clutter Reports. Fire Convoy is one of my favorite Optimus Prime namesakes.
Next time we begin our trek through the Unicron Trilogy and continue the theme started here by looking at Transformers Armada and their Japanese counterparts. Which means I get to talk about Mini-Cons again!