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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.
- Canadian name: Beasties
- French name: Animutants
- Polish name: Kosmiczne Wojny ("Cosmic Wars" [sic!])
- Spanish name (Latin America): Guerra de Bestias("War of the Beasts")
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.
Season 1: 1996–1997
- Beast Wars, Part 1
- Beast Wars, Part 2
- The Web
- Equal Measures
- Chain of Command
- Power Surge
- Fallen Comrades
- Double Jeopardy
- A Better Mousetrap
- Gorilla Warfare
- The Probe
- Dark Designs
- Double Dinobot
- The Spark
- The Trigger, Part 1
- The Trigger, Part 2
- Spider's Game
- Call of the Wild
- Dark Voyage
- The Low Road
- Law of the Jungle
- Before the Storm
- Other Voices, Part 1
- Other Voices, Part 2
Season 2: 1997–1998
Season 3: 1998–1999
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.
- Tripredacus Council (very briefly)
- Ravage (an ex-Decepticon)
- Dinobot II
- Assorted Vok
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:
- The beginning of every episode would start with one of the characters asking a ridiculous question and receiving equally ridiculous answers (Optimus Primal asking "Where is my banana", for instance) before segueing into the opening rap theme by Banana Ice.
- Rattrap would constantly break the fourth wall by "smelling" what the audience was eating and make gluttonous comments.
- Many characters received completely new personalities that were polar opposites to their Western interpretation (Depth Charge enjoyed singing folk songs while Megatron became a flamboyant madman that shrieked like a little girl at the sight of danger). Other characters had their genders altered (poor, poor Airazor).
- Clipshows would feature the characters interacting in silly situations such as gameshows and contests (in one instance, Megatron acted as judge in a celebrity impersonation contest).
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.
- The first season of Beast Wars cost $18 million dollars, according to a 1997 interview with Bob Forward.
- Although the Beast Wars franchise was widely criticized and detested by many of the more hardcore fans of the original series, it did do something that would set a precedent for all subsequent cartoon series, as well as the live-actions movies. Because the purpose of the original series had been largely to advertise the toy line, the producers of the show flooded the cartoon with as many characters as possible, even introducing new ones without explanation in season 2. This had the unfortunate side effect of making any character development severely limited. Beast Wars on the other hand, limited the number or characters to five on each side, and introduced new characters slowly, allowing for a great deal more character development.
- According to B-Club magazine, Beast Wars is the first fully CGI TV-show in the world. Too bad they don't know ReBoot is much earlier.
- In Canada, Beast Wars was called "Beasties", as the Canadian broadcaster |YTV considered the original title to be too violent. They did a similar move when Mainframe released War Planets, renaming the series Shadow Raiders.
- In France and (French) Belgium, the show was called "Animutants" and had a good quality dubbing, rather close to the original voices. But while the first two seasons of the show were aired, the third one never was; the show always ended with "The Agenda (Part III)", leaving the fans of the area with the worst case of cliffhanger ever.
- In Spain, the show suffered the same destiny it had in France, finishing at the end of the second season.
- In Vietnam, the show was called "Chiến tranh quái vật vũ trụ" (aka Galaxy Monster Wars instead of Beast Wars). The showed was released in VHS tapes with very good Vietnamese dub then it was copy to VCD. Unfortunately, the show aired only the first two seasons like it was in French. It's ended with "The Agenda (Part III)", and left the fans with a cliffhanger.
- The Production Designer for the show, Clyde Klotz, won an Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation in 1997. How cool is that?
- By the end of the series, a minimum of 10 confirmed stasis pods land on the planet.