The Friday reviews of the many MANY intros of Transformers cartoons in both US and Japan from 1984 to present day is about to reach the period known as the Aligned continuity. This was Hasbro’s attempt to create one unified continuity between cartoons, video games, and comics. (Michael Bay still held the theatrical movies prisoner.) It was around this time that Hasbro decided to unify in-house with Hasbro Studios, and the short-lived team-up with Discovery Kids to form The Hub, a network jointly run by Hasbro and Discovery Networks. The union broke after a few years and the network is back under the parent brand as Discovery Family. Meanwhile you had the games from High Moon Studios and while IDW had their own continuity already going there were comics made in the Aligned continuity.
However, the attempt would hit a few snags during it’s time. I’ll go over more details with each show itself during the intro reviews, since I’ve also used this series as a chance to do a brief overview of the shows themselves while focusing on the intros. This article is just a brief overview, using what I’ve learned from the Transformers Wiki artictle about the grouping (one of the few fan wikis I trust since I know some of the people involved at least tangentially if not personally) about a great idea that almost immediately hit the wall. And given at least one of the people involved and what he’s been screwing up these days it’s not surprising. Dan DiDio’s messing up of Beast Machines wasn’t the only warning our Cybertronian heroes tried to give us. First we should talk about just what the Aligned continuity is.
From TF Wiki:
The Aligned continuity family was launched in 2010 with the intention of being the foundation of most Transformers projects for the decade to come. Its core is the “Binder of Revelation“, a 354-page brand bible co-written by Aaron Archer, Rik Alvarez and other Transformer experts from Hasbro and the fandom, charting billions of years worth of history for the Transformers. The family currently comprises the War for Cybertron, Fall of Cybertron, Prime, Rescue Bots, 2015 Robots in Disguise, and Rescue Bots Academy franchises, and it has some influence on Hall of Fame character portrayal.
The term “Aligned continuity” is one created by the fans, based off a comment by Hasbro, not the official name. It’s not the first time. It’s also how the Decepticon ship became known as the Nemesis, how G1 Starscream’s team became known as Seekers, and there’s probably a few other examples out there. The complete list of the continuity is as follows:
- Video Games: Activision and High Moon Studios released two video games that form the early years of this continuity. War For Cybertron I hope to finish. (I got stuck on the Autobot campaign because I can’t protect Ratchet and hunt Decepticons at the same time. Apparently I was the only one who cared if Ratchet lived long enough to repair Omega Supreme.) It told of the early days of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. Fall Of Cybertron is when they abandoned the planet seeking other ways to survive with the war still going on because Megatron has a conquest urge no matter where he is. Two other games were released by different studios but set in this time period, the WII rail shooter Cybertron Adventures and a rather strange union of the Aligned and Bay continuities called Rise Of The Dark Spark. There were also two short-lived online games, Transformers Online and Transformers Universe (dear Primus how many times has that name been used in Transformers?), that would have further expanded the lore but never got the chance.
- Animation: This will of course be the focus of the next set of Friday articles, It includes Transformers Prime, which features a secret war between Autobots and Decepticons that a small group of humans are aware of and take part in, and is one of two that were on The Hub. After that failed the younger-targeted Rescue Bots (based on the preschool line but seems to target slightly older kids–I’d say elementary school) continued on Discovery Family and spun off Rescue Bots Academy. After the Prime subtitled “Beast Hunters” concluded the non-preschool portion with the more lighter toned Robots In Disguise, with no connection to the show dubbed from Car Robots. (This franchise gets confusing sometimes.) Japan made their own series, Transformers Go!, that never reached the US outside of fansubs. I’ll discuss these shows in greater detail when we get to their intros.
- Comics & novels: IDW and Titan comics both separately released a few comics set in this continuity, mostly based on the Prime cartoon but did a prequel comic for War Of Cybertron and later for Fall Of Cybertron. Later novels connecting the game and cartoon period were Exiles and Retribution, while a “Covenant Of Primus” was created to build the lore out.
Additionally there were toys tied to each of the shows and games, not to be confuses with the current “War For Cybertron” trilogy that took the place of the Prime Wars trilogy and will soon be getting a Netflix adaptation. (I told you this franchise is confusing, even when you accept the multiverse concept.) And all of this was to be based on the “Binder Of Revelation” (another informal name). In theory it would have been the first unified continuity in Transformers history, a franchise that was split to begin with as the toy bios, comics, and cartoons clashed with each other without even considering the various kids books of the day. It all sounds really good.
So what happened?
From what I read from the wiki you can put most of the blame on the Transformers Prime creators. High Moon Studios was all in favor of it and both IDW and Titan seemed willing to create a side continuity for it apart from their main series, though I don’t know how well either of them stuck to the plan. IDW’s Beast Hunters was actually about the Dinobots and other Transformers left behind on Cybertron, building off the tie-in to the Fall Of Cybertron game It was, according to Rik Alvarez, the Prime team of Jeff Kline, Duane Capizzi, Roberto Orci, and Alex “if you think this is bad wait until you see what I do to Star Trek” Kurtzman who tossed out the plan. I’ll get more into those problems, including clashing with the toy people (you know, technically the source material they should be basing anything on) and major budget issues. The show is good, but it ignored what was planned in the Binder.
Robots In Disguise ignored it entirely, just building off of Prime, which was still airing on Discovery Family while RID was for some reason moved to, and all but ignored by, Cartoon Network. Aaron Archer moved upstairs and his replacement decided he had his own ideas on the toy side. Poor Rescue Bots had to keep up with all these changes despite being for an audience too young for the rest of the continuity (we now have three different iterations of Grimlock thanks to Fall Of Cybertron, Robots In Disguise, and Rescue Bots Academy–the last one being a strange hybrid of RID and the current Cyberverse incarnations and Cyberverse isn’t even in this continuity). And as we saw in my Chapter By Chapter review of Transformers Exodus there were a lot of adaptation errors between the game story and the alleged novelization.
The end result is that the Aligned continuity was never truly aligned from the start because directors didn’t care about their bosses or what they were supposed to be doing. Throw in major upheavals that we’ll be discussing with each cartoon incarnation (Japan didn’t even get the final season of Prime or Robots In Disguise, with Transformers Go! following in the footsteps of Headmasters and taking it’s own turn…I don’t even know at this time if they had the two Rescue Bots shows or the games, including the ones directly connected to Prime) and what you have is a mess of a continuity. Learning this while prepping for the Aligned period of Transformer show intros and discussing the continuity with Jerzy Drozd in his pre-podcast for Four Million Years Later, his upcoming podcast with Hoover examining the G1 Transformers cartoon just made me sad. The idea of a unified universe between the various media, forming a definite history in at least one universe, and having a thought out plan for a shared universe sounds really great to me. It’s too bad so many egos ruined it. It could have been awesome. Now we have good shows and games that don’t fit together. The Binder Of Revelation was a plan to change that, but all we got was the same old multiverse of confusion, and that’s the biggest disappointment of all this.