Shout! Factory
Release date: June 7, 2011
MSRP: $49.99

By the mid-1990s, the popularity of the original Transformers toy line had run its course. To revitalize the franchise, Hasbro planned a line of animal-based Transformers, turning to the computer animators at Mainframe Entertainment and writers Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio to breathe life and character into the toys.

Because computer animation was in its infancy, fewer characters could be shown onscreen simultaneously, and the backdrops were rather simple. Fortunately, these limitations inspired the writers to be bolder in their storytelling.

Like the original Autobots and Decepticons, the Maximals and Predacons had chased each other from Cybertron and crash-landed on an unfamiliar planet. Due to the planet’s unstable Energon deposits, both factions had to adopt beast forms to survive. The small band of characters on each side had strong personalities and often fought among themselves. In the pilot episode, in fact, the Predacon Dinobot challenges Megatron’s leadership and defects to the Maximals.

The unfamiliar planet was not originally intended to be Earth. The animal life featured apes, cheetahs, and rhinos coexisting with dinosaurs and venomous insects. By the third and final season, the characters’ beast forms had evolved into animal-machine hybrids (e.g. a rat with racing wheels, a cheetah with jet engines). The overall story was tied in to the original saga and given closure of its own.

As usual, Shout! Factory has done a fanboy’s dream job rounding up the complete series (52 episodes on eight discs) and a good complement of extras including interview featurettes and original animation models. Highly recommended.

–Gerald So
For more of Gerald’s thoughts and observations, check out his blog: If you want to know about my Life…