"Transformers Animated" Season One is "Teen Titans" for the Giant Robot Set
of Autobots, with Optimus Prime taking the leadership role as the Hero, the silent and deadly ninja-bot Prowl taking the Lancer position, the massive Bulkhead acting as a quintessential Big Guy, and the diminutive Bumblebee being the Smart Guy. This leaves the grizzled veteran Ratchet to fill in as the Chick, but since he is often the group’s voice of reason and its moral center, he fits the role if not its stereotypical gender. Like Teen Titans, the five may start off as straightforward archetypes, but they quickly develop depth as we get to know them better. Joining them on the main cast is Dr. Isaac Sumdac, a brilliant but absent-minded robotics expert, and his 8-year old daughter Sari. Sari gained a mysterious key infused with the energy of the Autobots’ Allspark during the debut episodes Transform and Roll Out, making her a key figure in the Autobots’ lives and a positive magnet for trouble. The season one DVD set picks right up where the Transform and Roll Out DVD left off, as the heroic Autobots adjust to life on Earth while battling an array of antagonists, both robotic and organic. The Decepticons, the Autobots’ mortal foes, turn out to have a larger presence on Earth than initially thought, and an array of bizarre human enemies keeps the threats from being just the “giant robot of the week.” The worst threat of all for the Autobots is Megatron, the brutal and ruthless Decepticon leader. Seemingly destroyed in Transform and Roll Out, Megatron turns out to have survived in pieces in Dr. Sumdac’s super-secret lab, and researching his technology has been the true source of Sumdac’s technological breakthroughs. Along the way, some old fan favorite characters get reintroduced, such as the Dinobots and the female Transformer Arcee. However, newcomers to the franchise won’t be lost at all, but I’m sure that long-time fans will be spotting nods and winks at them throughout.
If there is a disappointment to be found in Transformers Animated Season One, it’s in the DVDs themselves. Transform and Roll Out was a pretty bare-bones DVD, with a decent full-screen transfer and a plain stereo soundtrack, and no extras other than two quick but entertaining shorts. Fans hoping that the Season One set would make up for lost time will be bitterly disappointed; this 2-disc set has no extras other than a photo gallery preview of season 2, which accomplishes little other than revealing a handful of returning villains and what seem to be a few new Autobots. The episodes themselves are still in their original full-screen format with a stereo soundtrack in English and Spanish, and the sensible chapter stops in each episode are greatly appreciated. The meat of the series is in the episodes themselves, but the complete lack of substantive extras is a real shame (or an opportunity for a re-release further down the line).
Transformers Animated doesn’t quite reach the all-ages high water mark set by shows like Batman the Animated Series and the subsequent follow-ups, or the more recent Avatar the Last Airbender or Spectacular Spider-Man. While those shows have plenty to offer viewers of all ages, some of the sillier elements make it clear that Transformers Animated is skewing towards a younger audience. Still, despite this and the somewhat lean DVD release, Transformers Animated Season One has plenty to offer action animation fans, and is a fine entry into the world of the Transformers. It’s a very strong start to a delightful series, and will leave viewers anxious for the debut of the second season.