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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Transformers Animated: Season One
Transformers Animated: Season One
Other // Unrated // August 19, 2008
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ian Jane | posted August 25, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

One of a few recent television series spawned by the success of the feature film (which was, in turn, spun off of the insanely popular toy line, original animated series, and comic books), Transformers: Animated was originally aired on the Cartoon Network in December of 2007. Through the magic of DVD, however, the complete first season of the show, a Japanese-American co-production just like Transformers: Cybertron, is now available on home video.

So what sets this series apart from the other Transformers cartoons that have hit the airwaves over the last few years? Not much, really. The series, while aimed at a slightly younger audience than some of the shows that came before it, still follows the ongoing war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, both former residents of the planet Cybertron. The five core Autobots - Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Prowl, Bulkhead and Ratchet - find the Allspark only to wind up stranded on Earth where Decepticons, lead by Megatron and Starscream, run amok and cause problems. That's really all there is to it, each episode finds the Decepticons (or another villain) up to no good only to get thwarted by Prime and his crew.

Disc One contains the following episodes:

Home Is Where The Spark Is / Total Meltdown / Blast From The Past / Thrill Of The Hunt / Nanosec / Along Came A Spider / Sound And Fury

Disc Two contains the following episodes:

Lost And Found / Survival Of The Fittest / Headmaster / Nature Calls / Megatron Rising Part One / Megatron Rising Part Two

There have been some changes to the established continuity of the older cartoons and that might irk longtime fans or purists, but the basic principles that have made these characters so much fun for a couple of decades now have more or less survived intact. Story wise, everyone on Earth knows who the Autobots are once they bravely save a scientist and his daughter from a bug monster thing. They're no longer running around in secret like they once were, instead they're hanging out in Detroit (which seems like an appropriate location given the cities automotive history) and doing their thing.

You'll probably notice almost immediately that the animation style here differs from the other more recent efforts to revive the franchise. The anime style that was employed in Transformers: Cybertron and its two predecessors has been eschewed in favor of a more traditional 2-D style that is definitely closer to that original eighties series. Where most fans will probably take issue is how the characters have all been redesigned and tweaked, or if you prefer, 'updated' a fair bit and not all of that works. Optimus Prime, the mighty leader of the Autobots, has spindly legs and looks less like he was transformed from a big-rig than simply designed to be a robot - not a Transformer, but a robot. The Autobots look a lot more like superheroes in this series than they ever have in the past and this comes at a price - some of the 'cool' factor that came from being able to believe that these robots were able to transform into vehicles (or portable type players, or guns, or dinosaurs!) and back again is gone with the new designs.

Along with the design changes, the characters differ quiet a bit as well. Optimus doesn't carry the same weight that he has in the past. Before this series he was wise and tough, here he's played as more of a young turk looking to make his way up the ranks, almost a little too green behind the ears. His fellow Autobots all follow suit in this regard and one gets the impression that this generation of Transformers are in fact a bunch of wily teenagers out looking for a scrap rather than a hyper-intelligent race of space traveling robots in disguise hoping to put an end to what seems like an eternal struggle. Ratchet is a bit more sage than the rest of the crew but he's really the only one who seems to have any sort of real experience in this battle.

That said, maybe it's for the best that the franchise get reinvented every once in a while. As nostalgic as some of us get for the original eighties incarnation of the series, today's younger viewers, who are absolutely the target demographic for this series whether we like it or not, just might not see the charm in the original style that those of us know in out thirties do. Technology is different, cars are different, and pop culture in general is very different than it was twenty or twenty-five years ago and the Transformers franchise, unlike many of its competitors, has managed to survive the test of time. The periodic reinventing of the characters while at the same time staying true to the series' basic roots and premise has found the characters a whole new audience of eager kids ready to enjoy each new adventure. Here's hoping that once those kids grow older, get day jobs and grow beer guts that Transformers: Animated provides them with the same nostalgia rush and sincere enjoyment that the original eighties incarnation affords those of us three decades into this life. In the interim, those of us who do remember the genesis of the series can continue to gripe about the changes being made, because you can be damn sure this isn't the last time that it will happen.

The Video:

Well, aside from the fact that the fullframe transfers contained in this collection are interlaced and as such may be subject to some ugly combing artifacts depending on your home theater set up, the picture quality is pretty good. The colors are appropriately bright and bold without looking too overcooked while the black levels stay strong throughout the duration of the series. Detail levels look about as good as can be expected - the animation style employed on this series is a little more minimalist than, say, Transformers Cybertron - but generally, everything looks quite nice here and the episodes look just as good if not better than they did when originally broadcast on television.

The Audio:

Audio options are supplied in English and Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo tracks for each of the episodes in this collection. While a 5.1 mix would have made the action scenes a little more fun, the stereo tracks get the job done nicely even if they obviously don't have as much depth. Dialogue stays clean and clear and there aren't any problems at all with hiss or distortion. Sound effects and the musical score are mixed in with the dialogue nicely and never overpower anything they shouldn't. This isn't reference quality material, but again, the show sounds just as good or slightly better here on DVD than it did on television.

The Extras:

Disc One contains a Season Two Photo Gallery Sneak Peek which is a collection of twenty-four character design sketches, the second disc contains no extra features at all. Both Disc One and Disc Two contain static menus and episode selection sub-menus. Episodes are available to watch individually or through a 'play' all button provided on both discs.

Overall:

Despite the lack of any real supplemental material, Paramount's release of Transformers Animated Season One is worth a look for fans of the show. The episodes look and sound quite good and the series itself, while geared towards a younger audience, is enjoyable enough on its own to warrant a recommendation.

Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.

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