In the past I’ve written about Main Frame Entertainment’s hit show Reboot, but there was another show that the company produced two years after the success of that show.
Sometime after the first season of Reboot, the team started working on a new show that was a spiritual successor of the popular Transformers television show. This show would be called Beast Wars…or Beasties in Canada.
Why the different names? Well in Canada it’s against the regulations for a show to have the word War in the title. Strange huh?
This time around the story followed the Maximals and the Predacons both groups were descendents of the Autobots and Decepitcons respectively.
The story begins with the Maximals, lead by Optimus, chasing the Megatron lead Predacons after they steal an ancient disc that looks a lot like the Voyager Golden Record.
The two groups end up traveling through a transwarp stream and end up crash-landing on an alien planet. Before the Maximals crash they launch their status pods, with unformed robot’s into the atmosphere with the plan of collecting them later when the leave.
The planet is seemly undiscovered with it being covered with lush green landscapes and raw energon, the power source of the Transformers, abound.
However, the energon hurts them if they are exposed to it for to long so both sides have to scan the near by area to find Beast forms to protect themselves.
Most of the Maximals take family friendly animals such as gorillas, rhinos and cheetahs while the Predacons end up taking more scary forms such as spiders, scorpions and even dinosaurs (just cause).
The two sides declare war on each other as the plan to use the energon to fix their ships and leave the planet and thus the Beast Wars begin.
Over the course of the show characters would be introduced as the status pods would be opened and programed, characters would switch sides, evolve into Transmetal robots and even die. Much like Reboot, the show wasn’t afraid to deal with some real world topics such as death and lose.
While the show shared some similarities to the past Transformer shows it wasn’t at first clear where the show stood in the canon of the series. It wasn’t until the characters find the original Arc holding the original G1 Transformers that it becomes clear that the planet is earth and this show is both a sequel and a prequel.
This was just an example of some of the awesome writing and ploting that made Beast Wars such a good show.
The show runners Larry DiTillo and Bob Forward seemed to understand the license of Transformers and how to make it work for a newer audience.
Much like Reboot, the show was funny, interesting and at time deep…for a kids show. Characters motivations were brought into question, as not everyone on both sides would play nice with each other.
In fact, it was the internal conflict that interested me a great deal. While shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation featured characters who didn’t have any real conflict, the Maximals seemed to be at each others throats quite often.
The show also featured some great characters with solid voice actors who made each character feel different.
The Maximals had their strong lead Optimus Primal (Gary Chalk), the wise and calming Rhinox (Richard Newman), the young and energetic Cheetor (Ian James Corlett), the ill tempered Predicon turned Maximal Dinobot (Scott McNeil) and everyone’s favourite “I’m too old for this s*it” Rattrap (McNeil again). While the Predicons had their leader Megatron (David Kaye), the always-destructible Waspinator (McNeil Again), the torturous Tarantulas (Alec Willows) and the Starscream stand it Terrorsaur (Doug Parker) and these aren’t even half of the characters.
Every character had their own motivations and back-stories.
While the show was produced in Canada and aired on YTV the show was broadcast in the United States and was even popular in Japan and Europe. It was so popular in Japan that it spawned several between season spin-offs in Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo. Neither of these shows made it to North America.
The show would get an official sequel series in Beast Machines and…I’ll be nice and just say that it wasn’t as good as Beast Wars by any stretch of the imagination.
The show was also seen as such a technical feet that it was even given a Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation in 1997.
The series was released on DVD in 2003 when Rhino Entertainment first put in out, now Shout! Factory holds the rights and they DVDs are easy enough to find. Collectors can also look and find this show released in all sorts of crazy formats. I own the first season on VHS and in Japan a number of episodes were released on Laserdisc.