As anyone who was old enough to recall can easily attest to, there was a huge war between automatons with the ability to alter their appearances in the early/mid-’80s. On one side of the merchandising/animated series conflict, we had the GoBots. Standing in their way to total domination over toy stores and Saturday Morning Cartoons were the Transformers. Obviously, the latter group of modifying machines were the ones to emerge victorious from the battle, owing to the fact that they had better toys more than anything.
Following their triumph, the Transformers continued to pop up in various forms of media; from films and comics to toys and television. Earlier this month, I had a chance to revisit one nearly-forgotten element from my childhood with Challenge Of The GoBots. Following that, I witnessed another component from my earlier years: that of the Transformers. Well, sort of. This particular entry from the genre of warring shape-shifting robots is a horse of an entirely different color: a mid-‘90s CGI-made spin-off entitled Beast Wars: Transformers.
The premise here takes both sides of the Transformers (the Autobots and Decepticons) and transports them back to a primitive — and wholly erroneous — version of Earth: one where dinosaurs, gorillas and humans coexist. Since these are giant talking, shape-shifting robots we’re talking about, they have no problem taking on new forms by disguising themselves into various animals, with the Autobots becoming the Maximals and the Decepticons morphing into the Predicons. They even change their individual names, not only to reflect their new identities (i.e. Optimus Prime rechristens himself as “Optimus Primal”), but to sell a completely new line of toys, too.
From the cynical viewpoint, Beast Wars: Transformers is one of those shows that was probably much more entertaining when it was new. The early CGI used here is as about as primitive-looking by today’s standards as the planet Earth depicted in the show is — making it a bit hard to fathom that it won a Daytime Emmy in 1998 when you compare it with the computer animation of today. Somehow, turning your characters into animals also escalates the exaggeratedness of the voice actors employed by the series to a level that is practically over-the-top.