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.
Of course, there’s no telling where the road will take you sometimes. Consider Beast Wars: Transformers for example. Initially, the show was aimed primarily at the kiddies. But, as the years went by, it not only became a hit with Transformers fanatics young and old, but turned into something of a cult fave as well. And now, fifteen years after it first aired, the folks at Shout! Factory have saw fit to honor the show’s legion of devotees by releasing Beast Wars: Transformers – The Complete Series.
The set spreads all three seasons and fifty-two episodes of the series (which were previously released by Rhino Home Video) onto eight discs, with Beast Wars: Transformers – Season 1 also being available as a stand-alone entry. The presentation with these releases is quite good, and I did not observe any problems with either the video or audio aspects of the episodes. Once again, the boys and girls at Shout! have gone the extra mile, including a couple of bonus materials with this set, such as several featurettes (which are all-new, with the exception of one from the ‘90s), art galleries, character models, and a collectible booklet.
The bottom line: if you’re a fan of the Transformers universe or animation period, you’ll probably want to add Beast Wars: Transformers – The Complete Series to your collection.