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- DVD: Beast Wars: Season One
- Rating: Unrated
- Starring (Voices): Gary Chalk, David Kaye, Scott McNeil, Richard Newman
- Written By: Bob Forward and Larry DiTillo
- Directed By: Various
- Distributor: Shout Factory
- Original Year of Release: 1996
- Extras: See Below
Beast Wars Season One Review
The Series that Saved The Transformers
By Tim Janson
June 20, 2011
Transformers Beast Wars
© Shout Factory
Fans of Transformers Generation One might consider this sacrilegious but right now we are living in the Golden Age of Transformers. In the past few years we’ve had three major theatrical films, new animated series’, and the Transformers toy line is more popular than ever. There has never been a better time to be a Transformers fan. That is punctuated by Shout Factory getting rights to the various Transformers animated series’ which includes not only a re-release of Beast Wars on DVD but also the upcoming release of the Japanese exclusive animated series’ Headmasters, Supergod Masterforce, and Victory for the very FIRST time in the U.S.
I didn’t grow up with the original Transformers series, as my interest was more as a toy collector. So when Beast Wars came out it was a chance to get in on the ground floor of an all-new Transformers series. Beast Wars was a landmark show for two reasons. First, it was one of the earliest computer animated shows and was produced by Mainframe Entertainment. Second, It’s safe to say that Beast Wars virtually saved the Transformers franchise. In 1996 when the series debuted, the Transformers were virtually dead. The Generation 2 toys were largely dead on arrival and there had not been a TV series since the original ended in 1988.
Thus, Beast Wars story editors/writers Bob Forward and Larry DiTillo were pretty much given free reign to do as they pleased. Knowing little about the G1 series they decided to set Beast Wars in the future with Maximals and Predacons as the descendants of the Autobots and Decepticons. The Predacon leader Megatron (not the same as the G1 Megatron) leads the Predacons who have stolen an artifact called the Golden Disc and have gone in search of Earth which is supposed to be rich in Energon. Optimus Primal leads the Maximals who have gone after Megatron and his crew. They crash land on a mysterious planet that has two moons and huge deposits of Energon. So much Energon in fact that exposure will damage their robot modes so they adopt beast modes based on local life forms. The Maximals consist of Optimus Primal (gorilla), Cheetor (Cheetah), Rattrap (rat), Rhinox (rhino), and Dinobot (velociraptor). The Predacons include Megatron (T-Rex), Waspinator (Wasp), Terrorsaur (Pteranodon), Scorponok (scorpion), and Tarantulas (Spider).
In the opening episode, Dinobot is actually a Predacon but loses a power struggle with Megatron and ends up joining the Maximals. One of the attractions of the series was the introduction of new characters. Before the Maximal ship crashed, they released several stasis pods containing the protoforms of Maximals. These are essentially undeveloped forms waiting to come online. Throughout the show these pods would crash on the planet and the Maximals and Predacons would race to claim it and add the new member to their ranks. The first such new member is Tigatron (white tiger Maximal) followed quickly by Blackarachnia (black widow Predacon). The battle over the stasis pods become one of the central themes of the first season as each group sought to gain an advantage over the other. Perhaps the most entertaining new character was the fire ant Inferno. Because of a programming malfunction Inferno thinks he is truly an ant and seeks to guard “the colony” from invaders.
One of the other major themes was the discovery that the planet had been used for experiments by an alien race known as The Vok. The Vok have several ancient artifacts they’ve left behind and Megatron seeks to gain control of their technology. In the season one finale, its revealed that the second moon is no moon at all but rather a Vok weapon.
Beast Wars became a great example of producers who listen to their fans. Originally there was little connection to G1 but as Bob Forward and Larry DiTillo learned more about the original series and listened to fan’s comments, more and more Beast Wars became entwined with G1, particularly in seasons 2 and 3. However one of the biggest first season nods to G1 was the episode called “Possession” where Waspinator becomes possessed by the indestructible spark of Starscream.
Because of the cost of computer animation the casts of the show were kept much smaller than in the original show. But this also allowed the writers to more fully develop the personalities of each character. Characters in both groups would often clash with each other. Dinobot still sought to become a leader of the Maximals; Tarantulas constantly was seeking a way off the planet; Cheetor was essentially an impulsive teenager and often fought with rattrap; and Waspinator provided comic relief, usually getting the worst of any encounter with the Maximals. The Beast Wars Megatron was more calculating than his war-like G1 namesake while Optimus Primal was a heavily flawed leader. Beast Wars was also a more mature show and during the course of the run several characters would be killed as new ones were introduced. By today’s standards the computer animation looks a bit primitive but it was cutting edge 15 years ago.
It took some time for skeptical G1 fans to come around but by the end of the first season, the complex plots and well-developed characters had won most of them over. While it was able to carve out its own unique path Beast Wars still paid homage to G1 and became a show that Transformers fans new and old enjoyed.
Maximize: Creating a New Breed of Transformer (17:42) – This is a brand new featurette to this DVD release. It has interviews Mainframe Producer Christopher Brough as well as Hasbro VP’s Steve Drucker and Aaron Archer as they discuss the development of not only the Beast Wars show but also the toy line which introduced ball-joint articulation to make the toys more posable than ever.
Original Character Models (6:30) – this featurette shows rotating models of the Beast Wars characters in various stages of development.