DVD Review: Transformers: Beast Wars (Season 1)

The Transformers became a massive hit in toy stores and TV sets in the ‘80s. Children couldn’t get enough of the robots that transformed into cars. After being a hit for over a decade, Hasboro transformed the toy line and the series. Their new approach was the robots would now turn into realistic looking animals. The new line (and series) would be called Transformers: Beast Wars. The TV series looked completely different from the traditional animation of the original show since they went CGI. The team that produced ReBoot was brought in to give a visual reboot. The first season of Transformers: Beast Wars exposes all the big changes.

Beast Wars takes the action into the future. The Maximals are the next generation of Autobots (the good guys). The Predacons have evolved out of the Decepticons. Both sides refer to the change as “The Great Upgrade.” What hasn’t changed is their undying hatred of each other. They get plenty of chances to show their antagonism. A small group of Maximals chase after an equally small pack of Predacons. They end up crashing on a planet that’s rich in Energon. In order to survive on the planet, the robots assume various animal shapes. This allows them to move around the wilderness as rhinos, gorillas, rats and dinosaurs. But they’ll swap over to their robot form to get the real business done.

Unlike the earlier series, there’s no cute kids or outsiders to interfere with the stories. Most of the episodes deal with Maximals and Predacons scheming to control the Energon. The lack of throwing dozens of new characters at us each week helps the show’s action. There are new Transformer characters introduced thanks to stasis pods that orbit the planet. This series is a CGI catalog for the toys so they have to keep pumping in new Transformers. The nature of low budget CGI in 1996 limits the character designs and backgrounds so things aren’t too visually complicated. There’s a simplicity to the action. Transformers: Beast Wars – Season 1 keeps the focus on the prime characters so it doesn’t get too complicated for the casual viewer.

The Episodes
“Beast Wars” (two-parter), “The Web,” “Equal Measures,” “Chain of Command,” “Power Surge,” “Fallen Comrades,” “Double Jeopardy,” “A Better Mousetrap,” “Gorilla Warfare,” “The Probe,” “Victory,” “Dark Designs,” “Double Dinobot,” “The Spark,” “ The Trigger” (two-parter), “Spider’s Game,” “Call of the Wild,” “Dark Voyage,” “Possession,” “The Low Road,” “Law of the Jungle.” “Before the Storm” and “Other Voices” (two-parter).

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers give all the detail to the rather ancient CGI effects. The audio is 2.0 stereo. The mix is fine enough for the simple action. There’s nothing too over the top as far as sound design goes.

Season 1 doesn’t have many extras, but the featurette Maximize! Creating A New Breed of Transformer (17:39) gives all the details on how the ReBoot team were brought in to revitalize the toy-based series. Also included is an Art Gallery with hand drawn sketches of the various robots, and six minutes worth of 
Original Character Models (3-D tests for the robots).

Transformers: Beast Wars – Season 1 breathes new life into the toy line by not merely introducing new characters, but creating a completely new world. While the CGI is rather beastly in its primitive confines, it works for the story. The lack of human kids interacting with the machines keeps the technology from looking sub-standard. It’s just a world of robots on these DVDs. If you’re a hardcore fan of the series, you should order Transformers – Beast Wars: Complete Series.

Shout! Factory presents Transformers: Beast Wars – Season 1.Voice Cast: Gary Chalk, Scott McNeil, Richard Newman, Ian James Corlett. Boxset Contents: 26 episodes on 4 DVDs. Released on DVD: June 7, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.

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