If you’re a Transformers fan, you may or may not have heard about the animated series they launched about the time Bayformers movies were coming out.
Many fans dismissed the show early on, based on the designs. Character Designer Derrick J. Wyatt contributed the designs to Transformers: Animated, and previously worked on shows like Ben 10 which also aired on Cartoon Network. I remember lots of comments yelling about how it was too toonish, too simple, and just not the essence of Transformers. Too humanoid-looking, too different, blah, blah…
I, for one, was open to anything that wasn’t explosions in my face and ears every five seconds. All of my friends knew I was super excited about the live-action movies simply because something from my childhood was getting “modernized”, and everyone also knew I loved Bumblebee, who had been established early on as an important character in the films. And I’m still glad they happened! I think it’s something to bond over, and the toys were pretty cool. Also, it gave us the 2019 Bumblebee film with Hailee Steinfeld, which featured the best live-action designs (love that G1 aesthetic!!) and fight scenes. So I can’t complain too much.
When it comes to Animated, I could never get enough of it. I love children’s animated television series – the running gags, the out of this world situation, the corny moral at the end of every episode, and there’s always something about friendship or family that just makes me feel all mushy inside. Animated delivered all of that for me.
To start, the 90-minute pilot episode swept me off my feet right away. David Kaye as Optimus could not have been a better fit.. surprisingly since he’s more often cast as Megatron (I grew up listening to him as the Beast Wars Megs and… whew! What a performance). But he delivered this fresh, young, done-with-this-but-also-ready-for-anything Optimus that ended up snatching everyone’s hearts. But he couldn’t just be any Optimus: the Optimus he played fit so well because he wasn’t the extremely successful, capable Optimus we usually know, he was a dropout. Expelled. He was leading a bunch of misfits!
I could go on forever about everyone’s dynamics and how they were re-written into this story (particularly how Bumblebee was originally Hot Shot and that’s why his personality is so vastly different, but Bumper Robinson did such a great job as him I can’t possibly complain), but the way they had the main cast play the underdogs really did it for me. I watched the show when I was still in school, figuring out who I am and what I wanted to do.. and the show gave me hope that things could still happen for me. This group of space bridge repair bots that were supposedly “washed up” ended up being the strongest heroes, proving themselves over and over again – to the humans of Earth, to the Elite Guard, and of course, to the Decepticons.
(Can I also just bring up really quick how tiny the Autobots are compared to the Decepticons in this show?! Like, what?!? And it makes sense because the Autobots are cars and Decepticons are military aircraft, and Bumblebee is small, but like LOOK AT THAT!!)
The series is its own show in its own universe, with an original plotline (as original as a Transformers story can get), but you still get the classics. Optimus has to “die” at least once (not even a spoiler), you get a handful of references to G1 material, Animated’s Ratchet has a whole storyline about working during the war. They even bring in Waspinator, Blackarachnia, and the Dinobots with their own in-universe developments and stories. And although the show generally has a humorous tone, it handles all the serious aspects really skillfully.
I don’t want to spoil anything major, but this show really delivered on the new content as well. Characters like Bulkhead and Blitzwing get majorly fleshed out and bring countless laughs to the show, and, hey, the little human counterpart isn’t all that annoying and brings a fun spunk to the team! (Not to mention she’s voiced by the ever-charming Tara Strong, so like.. how could you hate her?) Nearly every character gets a chance to shine and also learn something new. And they got Weird Al to be on the show. And he came to BotCon in Pasadena one year to promote. And his character is hilarious.
The human villains are all original (as far as I know), and most of the first season is spent pitting them against our main Autobots. Here, I have to be honest – they aren’t the best, and sometimes I’ll tune out a conversation or two when they’re on screen.. but I still found them to be unique and interesting for the story. A bunch of them even join together to form a sort of super-villain group. Meltdown’s episodes are definitely up there, though.
So, despite all the backlash at the beginning, I still watched Transformers: Animated as it came out in the mornings (the first Saturday morning cartoon I watched since The Powerpuff Girls), sat on the edge of my seat and told all my friends (who didn’t care or understand but listened to me anyway, bless their souls) what happened in this week’s episode, and it’s still stuck with me as an adult and has aged considerably well.
Earlier this week while doing my taxes, I definitely put on the episode where Prowl and Lockdown duked it out in the background. What a good episode.
The opening is also catchy and cool as heck. And the Japanese one is even better.
If you’re interested in catching up to the three seasons of gold, it’s available on DVD, but unfortunately not any streaming services. Be warned, though, Animated met the sad fate of being canceled early, and so the planned fourth season never made it to the air. I still think it’s a great watch and especially fun for the kids. It has that kind of adult humor where I found myself catching new jokes as I got older and re-watched the series, which makes it even more enjoyable for me.
Have you watched it already? What were your thoughts? I’d love to see more opinions in the comments below!