|Beast Wars »|
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Though reviled by many Transfans when it first hit the airwaves in 1996, the wholly-CGI Beast Wars is now considered by many to be among the finest examples of Transformers storytelling.
The series opens at an unspecified time and place, where two warring factions of robots have crashed on a strange planet populated by animals like those on Earth. The planet abounds in mystery, with vast deposits of raw Energon and evidence of alien activity. The Energon forces the newly arrived Transformers to take on protective beast forms to shield themselves from the ambient Energon radiation. And so begin the Beast Wars...
Though at first the show seemed to be in an entirely separate continuity, by the end of the first season's 26 episodes, viewers had been treated to a number of classical Transformers references, such as Unicron and even the reappearance of Starscream, last seen as a ghost in the third season of the original cartoon. These ties to the original story increased as the second season progressed and the planet was revealed as prehistoric Earth. The third season was entirely structured around the Maximals defending their Autobot ancestors aboard the ancient crashed Ark.
The show won over many viewers through fun, intriguing stories and generally high production values. Strong characterization, top-notch scripting and voice acting, and complex, overarching plot threads are among the reasons cited for the show's enduring popularity. Some of the show's mysteries and machinations remain topics for fan debate over a decade after it aired.
The show's CGI, though somewhat primitive by today's standards, was revolutionary by television standards of the time (and puts some later shows to shame). Mainframe's animators took pains to ensure their characters gestured and emoted in great detail, and the "camera" work often took creative advantage of the format's flexibility.
The show was immediately followed by a sequel series, Beast Machines.
Beast Wars has had 52 episodes over 3 seasons.
In Japan it was split into 2 separate 26 episode series, Beast Wars which aired in 1997 and Beast Wars Metals which aired in 1999.
Because developing new CGI character models was, at the time, an expensive and time-consuming process, the number of on-screen characters in Beast Wars was relatively small compared to most other Transformers shows. It is thus practical to list all the Transformers who appeared in the cartoon. They are listed in order of appearance. (The stasis locked Autobots and Decepticons aboard the Ark are not on this list.) Note that many characters besides these are also full-fledged Beast Wars characters, having appeared in other media.
For whatever reason the Japanese version of Beast Wars chose to turn the series into a goofy comedy show with lots of fourth-wall humor and a relentless string of over-the-top and in-your-face jokes, even at the most inappropriate of moments.
Some examples include:
While many long-time Transformers fans in Japan reviled this dub (including Hirofumi Ichikawa) it remained a hit with its target audience: young children. This version of Beast Wars was popular enough to spawn two equally goofy-natured spin-offs and two Japanese-exclusive theatrical releases, anyway.
It should be noted, however, that the Japanese DVD sets of the series come with optional English language dialogue with Japanese subtitles, allowing fans in Japan to view the more serious Canadian version of the show if desired.