Transformers Animated is an interesting area of the Transformers multiverse. I don’t hate it, I did enjoy it when it originally aired, but I have trouble connecting to it as well as I do other continuities because the vibe was changed from a war story to something more akin to superheroes and supervillains. That would be fine but we also get human supervillains, with the only superhero being a non-canon character in the tie-in comics. There were episodes that were kind of off for me. However the majority were quite enjoyable. It definitely has a unique art style, since some of the creators also worked on Teen Titans, and executive producer Sam Register was also the big honcho at Cartoon Network, which could be a bit of bias on his part frankly. Like the first Robots In Disguise it serves as a sort of break between longer continuities. For RID it was between the G1/Beast era and the Unicron Trilogy. For Animated it’s between the Unicron Trilogy and the Aligned Continuity.
I also wonder what impact my 2008 medical problems have in dimming my excitement? It’s one of the reasons I can’t get into Spectacular Spider-Man and a lot of people think it’s one of the best Spider-Man cartoons.
However, it also had a huge influence on the franchise going forward. Bulkhead would get a counterpart in the Aligned continuity that we’ll start exploring next time. It secured Ratchet as a old curmudgeon, something closer to Kup than his old G1 self. While the movies created the idea of the All-Spark future incarnations seem to bear closer to the Animated version. (That seems to be the case with the current Cyberverse cartoon.) The show also brought back more traditional G1 versions of Arcee and Blurr while developing the new incarnation of Shockwave. The first episode even uses footage from the G1 cartoon as old war footage, since in this version the war was ended. Optimus Prime in this version is an academy washout who stumbles upon the aforementioned All-Spark while working with a space bridge repair team. Transformers Animated is both unique and complementary of the franchise and influenced it.
I won’t say it’s the most important series in the franchise but it is quite important. The question is whether the intros live up to it. Japan created two intros of their own with their own animation studio rather than use the US intro. Let’s look at the US intro first.
I do like the new cover and I wish I knew who to credit. The Transformers Wiki doesn’t do a lot of crediting for the US intros, but then neither did the shows. I mean we have the singer and composer for the Japanese intros, but we’ll get to them in a moment. The sirens are a nice touch here, as they were in the Car Robots intro given the Autobots scanned police and rescue vehicles and worked with the police to handle Decepticons and supervillains. (I wish the comics would do that more often.) It definitely fits the looks and action style of the show, and being the first American-produced Transformers cartoon since Beast Machines it’s a very American intro. Also in a promo video we see that the person going through this tunnel is Sari, who uses her key to turn her motorized tricycle into a jetpack. Because she’s Sari, and for her it’s reason enough. And yet she makes that work better than Miko did. Kicker was never sorry, just annoying.
Japan of course went back to making their own intros, but rather than use clips of the US show they created a brand new intro. That’s not surprising since they did that for shows like X-Men as well. They also played games with the episode order to put the ones that promoted new toys front and center and the longer intros came at the cost of scenes being removed. Then there’s the “Otoboto” family, a family of Japanese Transformers fanboys, dad echoing back to the original show. I had a feeling that even the light and often humorous Animated wasn’t going to be spared Yoshikazu Iwanami. They were added to help push the toys and games for the line in Japan and they are so unnecessary. I’ll just link to a collection of their segments and let you decide. I just want to talk about the intros. The first one includes the song “Transformers EVO”, performed by JAM Project. (Which for any Transformers fan in on the in-joke I’m sure was a coincidence. And no I won’t explain it. It’s too long and unnecessary to the topic at hand.)
I’m honestly not sure if these lyrics are about Transformers or not. They’re vague as heck! The song itself is nice and while the action is maybe a bit too frantic the animation by Barnum Studio and diomedea resembles the style used by Mook and their back-up at The Answer Studio and Studio 4°C. They also spoiled a lot, including Omega Supreme’s reveal and the debut of Ultra Magnus and Sentinel Prime (a name from the Furman comics but never seen in animation until then, beating his appearance in the Cybertron games and third Bay film), which happened in season two of the US run. This also features the first time Optimus Prime wasn’t some new “Convoy” name but got to actually be Optimus Prime. For some reason they didn’t change it with the Michael Bay movie either and they wanted to build off that movie. Bulkhead was renamed Ironhide for example, so when an actual Ironhide shows up later in the show they had to rename him Armorhide. There were plans to actually try to shoehorn this into the movie continuity–Primus knows how–but that was thankfully dropped later on. We do however get a second intro, with the same theme song.
Allegedly. There are so few changes it doesn’t seem to be worth bothering I had use the Transformers wiki just to make them out. Of course this time I wasn’t focused on the lyrics but still…
Beginning with “Headmaster, Once Again!”, the Japanese opening sequence was modified, replacing the scene of Cybertronian mode Megatron and the Starscream clones with new footage and using the second half of the song. This new clip shows Megatron in his helicopter alternate mode, as one after the other, Soundwave, Electrostatic Soundwave, and Swindle jump into and out of the shot. Soundwave appears from the left in car mode, transforms, and fires some sonic pulses from his shoulder speakers; Electrostatic Soundwave appears from the right, transforms to robot mode, and clutches guitar mode Laserbeak; and Swindle appears in the center from below the shot, transforms to robot mode, and deploys all his weapons and gadgets. Swindle’s head fills the screen as he leaps into the camera, and when he has passed out of view, Megatron has transformed to robot mode, with two rather diminutive Cybertron mode Blackouts flanking him. The Blackouts transform as the camera swoops in on Megatron’s face, and red lightning bursts from his eyes, linking the new sequence up to the remainder of the original.
I’m not sure what the point was. Seems like a waste of money to me.
In our next installment we finally reach the Aligned continuity so I get to discuss how that all worked when we look at the intros for Transformers Prime.