Beast Wars: Transformers - The Complete Series
Shout Factory // Unrated // $49.99 // June 7, 2011
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted July 12, 2011
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Graphical Version

Beast Wars: Transformers
was created in 1996 as a joint venture by Hasbro and Mainframe Entertainment. The series was largely approached and considered as a reasonable candidate for CG animation wizardry due to the success of the popular and fan-favorite series ReBoot, which was also created by Mainframe. Hasbro must have wanted to see the creation of a show which could help sell toys while also entertaining audiences of a new generation. Luckily for everyone involved, the writers and artists behind the new Beast Wars series ended up trying to make the show appealing to both returning and new fans. This successful ongoing franchise was trying a new approach and it wasn't long before it was finding its own path to success.

Beast Wars isn't necessarily a Transformers series that fits the same expectations audiences might place on each story placed within this universe. The style is also unique in comparison to some of the other attempts to bring these characters to television screens.  One can start by noticing the CG animation. Yet it's the emphasis on character interactions that stands out the most.

Season 1 introduces the audience to the Maximals and Predacons. The Maximals were the good guys of the bunch with a strong and compassionate leader with Optimus Primal and the Predacons were led by the ruthless villain Megatron. Unsurprisingly, the largest focus in the series surrounds a war between these two conflicting sides. There is also (of course) the interesting element of characters switching sides and presenting some layers of gray in the program thematically. The series introduces a surprisingly wide variety of characters from the start. One thing the show also managed to do was also introduce many new characters throughout the subsequent seasons. This was no doubt in part due to Hasbro's toy-lines, but the writers try and often succeed at making these some charming characters that can appeal to long-time Transformers fans and those with childlike affection for animals (that can naturally also morph into robots). The first season featured some decidedly mixed writing/direction and sadly dated animation. It was a nice trip back to the nostalgia-well even if it came up a bit short of expectations. The full season one review can be found here.

Beast Wars sadly features some notably dated animation and battle scenes seemed less invigorated as they once did. Part of it was the approach to how these sequences were animated in the first place. The characters might be charming and appreciable during the show but when it comes down to the fights - one of the main reasons anyone watches it - they just don't seem as intense as they did 15 years ago. There is a very obvious feel to the designs that makes it seem as though the program is focused on showing toys battling each other. This was, in my own words, "Awesome!" as a child but less interesting now. Mileage may vary for those with a stronger nostalgia kick or affection for the Transformers saga in general.

One element that sets this series apart from many children's series is the high number of deaths and the emotional impact that was had on the audience when the episodes originally broadcast. These intensely sad moments will still impact fans today and it makes the show more mature than most viewers were probably expecting when they first began to invest their time in the program. The series also manages to tell a story over the course of its three seasons: not every program is capable of accomplishing that level of writing unity.

Over the course of the series there are many efforts made to transform (pun absolutely intended) what started off as a separate entity entirely in the Transformers canon into something that could make everyone a bit happier and excited with this series creation. Without giving anything away to new viewers the series blends the original saga into this one in a surprising and eventful way that brings a greater scope to the entire saga.

Season 2 was a nice improvement in quality over the first season (particularly because the storyline seemed slightly more focused and moved away from some of the weirder elements found at the end of the first season - at least in this writer's opinion). The characters were also becoming more interesting and enjoyably familiar because the writing was improving. Some of the most loved characters in the series grew and even changed in surprising ways.

Season 3 seemed to continue that trend in the beginning by continuing to seem even more thrilling and immersive as a series. Unfortunately, the final few episodes seemed to speed through to a conclusion that is action-packed but underwhelming with a feeling of being a bit rushed as a resolution. While the end of the series should leave most fans satisfied to some extent there are just a few too many feelings of 'filler episodes' in the final run of the season to make it wholly satisfying from start to finish and the pacing could have been improved by removing moments that detracted from the remainder of the story.

When all is said and done this is a series that should still appeal to long-time Transformers devotees. I remember growing up with the show and with little experience or knowledge of the entire universe that can be found within the original Transformers series. To experience Beast Wars as an adult was somewhat eye-opening. Everything I loved about the series was still there but in a sense I feel as though I grew out of this series somewhat and yet many viewers will likely experience their own nostalgic connection to the series and may enjoy the thrill-ride more. It was also much clearer to me that many efforts were made to please both original audiences and a new generation of viewers like myself (when I first experienced the show on television). This was one of the few series to make CG animation become a more mainstream and impressive field for artists to work in and for enthusiasts to enjoy. For that reason it will always be remembered and not forgotten. Anyone who considers themselves a fan of the Transformers franchise should be sure to give this one a chance. It's full of action and adventure. It just might not be exactly as you remembered it.

Please Note: Select portions of my Season 1 DVD set review were utilized for this Complete Series set review.

The DVD:


Beast Wars: Transformers arrives on DVD in a generally pleasing 1.33.1 full frame aspect ratio which preserves the original broadcasts more than adequately. While the animation might seem dated compared to newer CG productions, the extensive work still shines through on this DVD set. The colors seem slightly muted, yet also saturated enough that it makes the presentation pleasing given the selection of characters that morph in a variety of visually appealing ways. The image isn't as sharp as it could be and there are some slight compression issues when viewed on large televisions, but fans should remain happy in knowing that the show at least looks as good as it did when it first aired many years ago.


The 2.0 English Language audio isn't particularly impressive to behold. The presentation is adequate for the series but lacks the kind of extra "oomph" an action-oriented series such as this would have benefited from. Dialogue is easy to understand and the many sound effects used from beginning to end are interesting and inventive as well. The biggest drawback is the lack of surround sound and truly immersive sound. There aren't any additional audio options on this release (and no subtitles are provided for viewers either).



Season 1 extras:

The main draw for Season One in the bonus material department is an approximately 18 minute long featurette entitled Maximize! Creating a New Breed of Transformer, which is an engaging collection of clips featuring interviews with producers from Mainframe Entertainment and even the Vice President of Hasbro. The interviewees briefly discuss Transformers history in action figure and television form and give views on the creative process behind deciding on the new series Beast Wars, and also how it impacted the team behind the show (and continues to today). The brevity of the piece is a bit disappointing but the speakers are intelligent, insightful, and easy to listen to (making it easy to recommend to serious fans of the series).  An art gallery and original character models video is also included with season one.

Season 2/3 extras:

Included on disc four of the season two/season three box-set release are some enjoyable extras that succeed at surpassing the quality and amount of content provided with the previous set. These extras are also complimentary to the featurette found on that set. Perhaps the best extra for the entirety of the complete series release is found here as Remembering the Spark is an engaging featurette with many interviews with creative staff members who were heavily involved behind-the-scenes. Most interesting is the revealing details about how the series was often written without careful planning or understanding of the original Transformers series and characters when it first began. The story editor became much more heavily invested in trying to tie things together when fans started discussing the show and theorized its plotline. Other Mainframe-affiliated individuals are given time to discuss the show and its impact on television and the Transformers saga. It's a must see feature for fans. An Original Making Of Beast Wars featurette is also included and it gives some brief interviews with some of the voice actors on the show as well as animators and other technical artists as they actually worked on the show (and thus the feature actually shows how some of the design work was actually done). It's an older production so viewers actually get to go on the (relatively brief) guided tour around Mainframe's production house. An art gallery and brief video of some of the original character models help to round out the extras included on this S2/S3 set.

Inside of the Complete Series box (housing both the individual S1 and S2/S3 DVD releases) are some well-appreciated bonuses as well. The booklet contained within gives brief episode details in the form of short descriptions, episode titles, and writer/director credits. The presentation makes it easy to see the order of the episodes but the only thing missing seems to be actual production numbers listed besides the episodes. The booklet also contains a few nice images from the series throughout.  Lastly, a Transformers Timelines comic is included which serves as a Beast Wars prequel. It's a nice little bonus at 22 pages in length. (Please Note: While these inclusions were placed next to the separate box sets included within this complete series box, I found it easier and safer to store them using the booklet hubs included in one of the individual sets. I would recommend that other fans do the same thing to store them).

Final Thoughts:

Transformers fans will find this a series worth exploring even if it won't appeal to every fan of the classic series in quite the same way. This complete series release contains every moment from every episode in a gorgeously designed box which holds the two individual box-set's (S1, S2/S3). The extras aren't particularly bountiful but they are informative and entertaining. While it may be best for viewers to rent the series first (as it won't hold up for everyone) this is an impressive release that is sure to please most fans. Recommended.

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