It’s been a time-consuming month here at BW Media Spotlight and I need something to post, so let’s go with something I think most of you will enjoy.
After the original Transformers and Generation Two toylines Hasbro was looking for a way to revitalize the franchise. Their solution: animals. While robotic animals have been part of the series from the beginning thanks to Ravage, Laserbeak, and Buzzsaw and later the Dinobots and beyond, this would feature more real-looking animals, or as best as you could do while still being able to get them to transform into robot warriors. Kenner, at the time a recent acquisition of Hasbro, was tasked with redesigning these figures using the articulation engineering they did with their regular action figures. The result was Transformers: Beast Wars, with new factions Maximals and Predacons battling for control of Earth.
Instead of Sunbow, who had made the original cartoon and were still active at the time, Hasbro went with Canadian computer animation company Mainframe Entertainment, still riding high from their successful series Reboot to bring the Robots In Disguise to a new generation. Due to the limits of CG at the time they opted for a smaller cast, to move away from modern (or futuristic given the series history by that point) Earth for something a bit more sparse, and to take advantage of that smaller cast not only to have less to render but to explore their characters and a few other mysteries of the planet they found themselves on.
The two-part opener, simply titled “Beast Wars”, finds Optimus Primal, commander of the exploration vessel Axalon, engaging with criminal and would be war monger Megatron for control of a planet’s source of raw Energon. Beast Wars: Transformers would go on to introduce many part of multiversal continuity, like the Transformer life force called “sparks”, the idea that Energon could exist naturally in multiple forms–we would later see Energon ore in Transformers Energon for example–and gave us something besides machines for the shape-changing Cybertronians to turn into. Unfortunately what’s on the official YouTube channel for Transformers that allows me to show these episodes here at the Spotlight is the Fox Kids edit. The credits are off to the side so Fox could stick in an extra advertisement and there are edits for time on the Fox Kids broadcast versus the original syndication broadcast as part of “The Power Block”, which shared the truncated intro, and later airing on G4 as part of the “Action Blast” block that included matches from Kaiju Big Battel. Still, there’s enough here to enjoy.
Rattrap started off as a jerk but grew into a position of second in command as he gained more respect for Optimus Primal. He would become my favorite Maximal after the episode “Sentinel”, where Rattrap got to be awesome.
Three seasons of the show would air, seasons two and three ending up on their own syndication run as the series was the only survivor of the “Power Block”, which included MASK wanna-be Vor-Tech, reruns of Reboot including stories not seen in the US, though the conclusion to the series would come on Cartoon Network’s Toonami block, and the second/final season of G.I. Joe Extreme. The show would be succeeded by Beast Machines, aka an early hint of what Dan DiDio would do to DC Comics by what he did to the Beast Wars characters. I’ve discussed that already.
Though the fandom was divided by the realistic animals and namesakes for Optimus and Megatron (a well-know mockery was the phrase “trukk not munky”) I thought it was rather good and I wish the real animals wouldn’t just return for homages to Beast Wars. Why should Transformers be limited to machines if “robots in disguise” is their whole deal? Beast Machines would split the fandom again as some people liked that show while others thought of it the same way G1 only fans thought of Beast Wars. So let’s stop pretending fans not agreeing on things and sometimes not getting along as a result is some new form of toxicity, okay?