Rescue Bots was not intended to be part of the “Aligned continuity“. The third or maybe fourth attempt–I forget when the movie tie-in happened–at creating a line of Transformers for pre and elementary school kids (and the second one to get a show, as we’ll see in the finale of this article series) it wasn’t supposed to be part of the main series. However, Jeff Klein was working on this show as well and it debuted on The Hub at the same time as Transformers Prime so it makes sense to do this even though this show was targeted to a younger demographic. This did lead to changes from the Playskool concept but at this point I’d be surprised if a show actually followed the toy completely. The original series took all kinds of liberties with characters and designs versus the tech spec and toys, the Beast Machines toys had to make new versions of characters just to match the show, I’ve talked to death how the Mini-Cons play gimmick was underutilized, so by now this is just business as usual.
Instead of the human characters Playskool created for the Rescue Bots toyline the show instead introduced the Burns family, changing Chief Burns from a firefighter to a police chief because “Burns” is a great name for a police chief rather than a firefighter. The whole family is now named Burns, including the firefighter so I guess that works. Poor Axel Fraiser never got to own a transforming garage with Bumblebee. Yep, this was the only Transformers toyline that had a playset you could actually use the whole series with that wasn’t made of cardboard. (At best Metroplex and friends worked only with the minicars and the Micromaster playsets only worked with Micromasters.) The concept revolves around rescue vehicles, a non-combat version of the Protectobots or Rescue Roy. (Points if you get that last reference without using this link.) It’s also the only cartoon to get four complete seasons, plus a spinoff that is now the only remaining link to the Aligned continuity. Although it’s link is at times in doubt due to Optimus at one point being dead in Prime while alive in Rescue Bots there were other times when they did match up…as much as possible when the Rescue Bots were living on an island high-tech testing ground mostly cut off from the outside world. We’ll discuss the series as we go along, and with no Japanese counterpart I’ll thrown in the spin-off show Rescue Bots Academy. So let’s roll to the rescue already!
While the other shows in this continuity were done in CG, the Rescue Bots shows are done by Atomic Cartoons in Toon Boom Harmony, a program that operates similar to Flash and has been confused for it but is widely used in shows for younger audiences because why should five-year-old kids see what effort looks like? Granted the look otherwise works for the franchise and it isn’t bad once you get used to it. It does get better over time. The intro does a good job of setting up the series. In this incarnation (unlike the storybooks that featured the toyline’s human characters and transforming firehouse and repair garage plus the robots coming in from Cybertron) you have four non-combat robots which we later see has the ability to take on multiple alternate modes. In a grander continuity (perhaps the one intended for the Aligned continuity despite not being intended as such by Hasbro) I could see this technology being the precursor to the multichangers from Blitzwing and Sixshot to even the extra alternate mode needed to form a Combiner limb or body. The Rescue Bots aren’t designed for battle but for rescue operations, and being in stasis for years they missed out on the decline and disappearance of the Rescue Bot design.
The first season focuses on them trying to keep their secret (which they are mostly but not completely successful as), pretending to be prototype rescue vehicles with computer AI that the Burns family is testing rather than alien robots. This lasts until season two, where they get exposed trying to protect Griffin Rock from aliens, but during the series they deal with all kinds of high-tech problems caused by people on Griffin Rock itself, a mad scientist who wants control of all that technology, a greedy developer, and two ordinary crooks. The people agree to keep the Bots’ secret when they learn it and it’s handled rather well as they have to decide what to do. The writing is quite good for a show for little kids, but with a few nods to older Transformers fans who want to watch. I’ve often said, and I stick by it, that kids don’t look for the same thing grown-ups do as we learn more about the world and start seeing the same stories over and over, which we don’t do at age 5 like we’ve done by age 15, but it does have good characters and situations.
This is the point where I’d show you the changed intro for season two and three, reflecting the change in situation between the first two seasons, but I can’t really find it. The changes are minor compared to season four, so I’ll have to settle from this bit of trivia from the Transformers wiki:
Most of the animation is the same, the only changes being the reanimated deployment scene, the screen displays for Heatwave, Chase and Blades, and Cody showing the bots around in the forest during the day. Plus, Boulder now blocks falling rocks with his scoop while Blades carries a jail cell with Evan and Miles (the crooks I mentioned earlier–SWT), the last change being the delay of the stock footage.
Season four took a time skip, possibly connected to the same skip between Transformers Prime and Robots In Disguise. In fact both Bumblebee, who along with Optimus Prime had made appearances since both had toys in the line, and Sideswipe show up in this show, while later Rescue Bot Blurr made a brief cameo on Robots In Disguise despite the show moving to Cartoon Network while this show remained on the re-branded Discovery Family.
The changes are still minor. Cody and his friend Frankie are now older, Frankie’s dad re-married and had a baby, and new Rescue Bots High Tide, Blurr, and Salvage make an appearance. (Sorry, Quickshadow.) We even see Servo, High Tide’s robo-dog that ends up at the firehouse. Boulder also shows off the dinosaur mode, one of the ways the toys built on the line along with other gimmicks. We also see Heatwave in his boat mode because again the Rescue Bots could scan in multiple modes.
Starr Parodi and Jeff Eden Fair wrote the music and Nicole Dubuc, who is also one of the voice actors, wrote the lyrics. Josh Ramsay is the singer and all do a good job. The intro concisely tells the important information to let you decide if you want to see it or not. Yes, the intro uses episode clips outside of the shots of Cody standing around with the Bots (my one complaint by the way…doesn’t “guide them” and “show them the way” mean the same thing?) but they’re at least used well. This may be one of the best intros of the franchise, and it’s the show for little kids.
While Hasbro had taken the “they’re going to age out in three years” approach in the past, Rescue Bots seems to remember that they get replaced with new kids who came in during year two or three and thus have one or two years left, and may get replaced with new kids after that. So the Rescue Bots line continues on with Rescue Bots Academy, featuring recruits at the academy introduced in season four to train Blurr and Salvage learning to someday become a replacement for the lost Rescue Bots. Media DHX, who took over the show, only kept DuBuc on as editor, while the voice cast were all changed, using the same studio as the other current series, Cyberverse. (The replacement actors try and they are good in their roles but nobody can imitate Steve Blum as Heatwave because he’s Steve Blum dang it! I do give Paul Guyet props for being otherwise good in the role though.) We have four new recruits and a new song by Doug Califano with Zach Allen our singer.
This show goes more preschool than the previous show, meaning it actually aged down rather than up, but the writing is still good with solid characters. (Whirl is my favorite and that’s not something I can say about the original bot with that name, especially in IDW’s G1-style continuity.) While the previous show had the mad scientist and his Decepticon replacement Morphobots (Decepticons and acknowledgement of a war were brought up in passing), this show mentioned a Decepticon maybe once. The episodes are only 11 minutes but because Discovery Family airs two of them together it feels more like a full episode than how Cartoon Network airs Cyberverse, but we’ll get into that next week. At this point Hasbro has at least tried for an “evergreen” feel to their designs, taking cues from the most beloved incarnation (except Bumblebee is based on the Bay muscle car instead of the VW Beetle or some kind of compact car unfortunately) and it shows in Optimus’s design here and Bumblebee’s during his guest appearance in the show. Even Grimlock, who I think is the Aligned version from RID, has a design closer to the G1/Fall Of Cybertron and Cyberverse incarnation, though he never goes into robot mode. (Grimlock became a teacher late in season one and was added to the bots watching the recruits take off as seen in the above video, the only change thus far. We’ll see what happens in season two.)
Meanwhile the intro again explains the new plot, although it does leave more out. Cody doesn’t make an appearance despite being the lone human teacher. The other Rescue Bots continue to have rescue missions apart from the recruits (whether or not Blades is still off at the other lab isn’t clear but he does show up to give Hot Shot and Whirl flying lessons). Hot Shot is given a “multi-cog” that attaches to his chest and somehow allows him to adopt two new modes in addition to his regular ATV car mode, a jet and a hovercraft, but he can only choose one form to keep for 24 hours. Given how cogs work in the Aligned continuity that doesn’t make sense to me, but I can let it slide. These are not represented.
However, you can learn about the recruits’ personalities rather easily. Optimus recruited Hot Shot, a Cube player (a game created for Cyberverse, which came out before this show), to join the Rescue Bots Academy. We don’t really see why he came up with the idea the hot-headed glory hound would be a good recruit, but he does have the most character development and learns how to be a team player. Wedge is next but despite him being a huge Bumblebee fan (who is treated as another Rescue Bot and not a warrior like in Prime and Robots In Disguise, matches up well with Heatwave, a stickler for the rules and Wedge does take his training a bit too seriously. Not as serious as Chase, since Chase’s sense of humor and ability to adapt to Earth culture was always a bit strained, making him the right pairing for Medix despite Whirl sharing his obsessive love for codes and rules. It’s why she’s paired with the also excitable and upbeat Blades (though Whirl loves to fly and Blades doesn’t) while Hoist is paired with fellow tech head Boulder. Interesting that Hot Shot gets the Autobot leader while everyone else gets paired to a teacher they actually have a similar personality to. Wedge is more leader material than Hot Shot but his personality is closer to Heatwave, and that’s what the intro goes for. It’s actually a good idea. I also like how each scene transitions into the other.
As for the song itself, again the lyrics explain the show. (Japanese intro lyric writers, take notes even though you didn’t get this show!) It explains that they’re recruits, introduces the cast, and sets up the idea that “they’ll be Rescue Bots too if they pass the test”. One thing that does get my attention each time is the line “No rescue too big, no hero too small.” That may seem like nothing to the rest of you but remember I occasionally watch Paw Patrol, another show centered around questionable science to highlight teamwork and problem solving through the art of rescue operations. When Ryder calls the pups together he always says “no job is too big, no pup is too small” (occasionally altering it for the situation), which makes me wonder if this is a more important line than I thought, like a recruitment poster somewhere or something. At any rate it’s a good intro.
However, this brings us to the end of the Aligned continuity unless I ever get to do that let’s play of War For Cybertron or I have to revisit the intro for a future season. Already Rescue Bots has lasted longer on TV than any other series. The original only had three seasons and a miniseries of non-repeats, Hasbro followed the trilogy formula for the majority of shows and toylines after that (and still does with their adult G1-inspired lines Prime Wars Trilogy and War For Cybertron not based on the games because Hasbro is confusing us again) but the original Rescue Bots lasted four years and we don’t know how long this spin-off will last but it features most of the same cast (just with different voices as they’re using the same voice studio as their other show). And this was the show not intended to be part of the continuity they are now the only continuation of.
Next time, in the penultimate edition of this series barring revisits in future Transformers show intros, we’ll return to Cyberverse just to be complete before getting into the shows that don’t fit into proper categories in our final installment. Of course that won’t be the last you hear about Cybertron’s residents around here. Transformers never leaves my interest.