Hasbro purchased a 50% stake in the Discovery Kids network in 2009. That lead to big changes for the channel when it became The Hub in 2010, ushering in some great new visions of classic cartoon and toy favorites. Among the franchises that saw rebirths on the new network were My Little Pony, GI Joe, and the venerable robot series Transformers. The new Transformers Prime series debuted at a time when Michael Bay’s shaky cam LaBeoufest was the entirety of what Transformers meant to many viewers. Now in its second season, the modern animated incarnation of the robots in disguise has arrived on Blu-ray with Transformers Prime: Season One, released last week.
Being that Transformers Prime arrived in the midst of Michael Bay’s vision of the franchise, it stands to reason that some of the character designs in the new cartoon would borrow from the Transformers movies’ designs. Anyone turned off by the film trilogy need not worry about the nonsensical bits from the movies making the leap to TV, though. Transformers Prime blends some of the good from the films with some of the feel of the classic cartoon to produce something new and completely accessible for kids and adults alike. The new series is produced in 3D, and while the robots look good the humans tend to look a bit rushed and less detailed. It’s folly to expect big-screen effects quality in a 26 episode season of a kids’ TV show, though, so the occasional lag in animation quality is entirely forgivable. This goes doubly in light of the awesome action and great story development that unfold throughout this first season.
The one constant in the Transformers mythos is that two warring factions of robotic aliens hail from the distant planet of Cybertron. The heroic Autobots and villainous Decepticons bring their battle to Earth, where humans are caught in the middle of the fray. In this incarnation of the story, a small band of the surviving Autobots emerge from their hiding on Earth when the Decepticons arrive in search of Energon, the Transformers’ power source. Until the Decepticons’ landfall, one man named William Fowler (Ghostbusters’ Ernie Hudson) has been the Autobots’ sole contact with humans. It doesn’t take long for three other young humans to find out about the aliens’ existence. Raf, Miko, and Jack stumble into the secrets of the Transformers and soon are taken in as friends and companions to the friendly Autobots.
The only living Autobots in this telling of the story are Bulkhead (Kevin Michael Richardson), Arcee (Sumalee Montano), Ratchet (Jeffrey Combs), and the silent Bumblebee, lead by the always heroic Optimus Prime (voiced by his perennial actor Peter Cullen). On the opposite side of the conflict are the evil Decepticons, ruled by Megatron. Veteran voice actor Frank Welker reprises his role as Megatron and is joined by Steve Blum as the voice of Starscream. The voices really are top notch, with fandom favorite actors like John Noble, Gina Torres, Adam Baldwin, Tony Todd, and The Rock making appearances as well.
With 26 episodes in the first season, there’s a lot of room for character growth and story development, and Transformers Prime delivers in both of those areas. While a lot of the middle episodes are largely episodic and standalone adventures, there is continuity throughout the season. The first few and final few episodes comprise two arcs that bookend the rest of the season nicely. There’s plenty of clashing metal and exciting combat as well, and it’s produced more satisfyingly here than are the confusing and too-close blur battles of the big budget Transformers movies.
In addition to collecting the full season, this Blu-ray set also packs in a Transformers Prime graphic novel from IDW, along with a bunch of on-disc extras:
- Audio Commentaries from the voice cast and crew
- Behind the scenes “Making Of” featurette
- Toy Featurette
- Season Two Preview
For longtime fans of Transformers who weren’t exactly into the Michael Bay movies, Transformers Prime offers an awesome opportunity to jump back into the fandom. Even fans of the movies will find something to love here, as some of the stylistic choices to lean on visuals established in the films. Whatever your age or fannish leaning, if you’ve ever been interested in Transformers, this is a show worth checking out. Transformers Prime: Season One released on Blu-ray on March 6, 2012.