Thanks to our ol’ pals over at Shout! Factory, I was recently able to view a series starring the Transformers that I had little experience with; Transformers Animated. To be honest, I had more than a few trepidations going into this review as I am a fairly large G1 fan, and not the biggest proponent of the Michael Bay universe established in the mega successful film franchise, and I had heard that this series, while not a direct sequel to those films, shares thematic elements.
Well gang, I’m happy to report that those fears were quickly squashed like the head of an Insecticon under the mighty metal heels of ol’ Optimus himself! This series was fun, energetic and while it did indeed share a few elements of the “Bayverse” they were minimal at best.
The series centers around a small group of Autobots (comprised of Optimus Prime, Bulkhead, Bumblebee, Prowl, and Ratchet), a space bridge repair team that come in possession of the movie franchises’ “cosmic cube” the All-Spark (really the only tie to the films besides a few small design choices for the main characters). The team become stranded in Detroit, and immediately begins running afoul of human villains. As things progress, the Decepticons are introduced, but are kept as more of a background threat so that when they do appear it’s a big deal leading to some truly epic confrontations.
As the storyline progresses, we are introduced to series favorites such as Arcee (voiced by original voice actress Susan Blu), Rodimus Prime (voiced once again by Judd Nelson), Wreck-gar (in an inspired twist voiced by Weird “Al” Yankovic who provided the characters theme song, “Dare to Be Stupid” in the 1986 animated Transformer feature film!), the Dinobots , Ultra-Magnus, Jazz, and many, many more, which really went a long way in endearing this series to me. The only odd stand out for me was the replacement of series mainstay Peter Cullen with David Kaye as the voice of Optimus (though it should be noted he does a fine job).
Another element I found appealing was the design work displayed for the robots in the series. Was it in any way similar to the classic designs of the G1 episodes? No way! But, I think that is to the series credit. Aesthetically it just makes sense to have these fluid, uncomplicated designs in a series that is filled with dynamic action.
But, even though the series features a youthful veneer, do not be fooled into thinking it is afraid to take a mature, darker turn when the story dictates it (especially in Season 3 where things take a turn for the worse for our characters leading to some shockingly impactful moments). At its core, this is why this series is so successful. It offers the robot action that kids really enjoy, but adds that touch of gravitas that can keep older viewers engaged as well.
All in all, I highly recommend this series, especially to G1 fans that may have given it a pass during its initial run on Cartoon Network. I truly believe you will be surprised at how great this series is!
To grab a copy of Transformers Animated for yourself, head here!