Transformers was a 1984 animated action series for children that had the typical chivalrous and highbrow ethical system of the most popular children’s cartoons from the late 80’s to the early 90’s. It dealt with the subject matter of the fight of good against evil seriously and this struggle was the center of the storyline. This contrasts with the genre after the mid 90’s, which begins to deviate toward sarcastic humor, endless action sequences, social relations between the characters, and pop culture references. Granted, the original Transformers had its flaws, such as cheap animation and an over-simplification of modern society and technology, but it is nostalgically revered by the males who grew up watching it.
Yet Transformers isn’t relegated to wistful musings by 30-something geeks. It was able to navigate the new terrain of the post-millennial world to come back into public consciousness in an even bigger way than before. The live-action remake of the series released in 2007 is the most salient and polarizing member of the age of remakes which began to shamelessly recycle 80’s and 90’s media franchises at the end of the noughties. On the one hand, it was a commercial success, an early victory of the record-breaking string of international blockbusters drafted from the ranks of old comics and cartoons. On the other hand, it was a cheap pandering affair, weak on story and grotesquely hypertrophied with layers of CGI and pop culture in-jokes – the opiates of the mainstream audience.
The latest iteration of the old TV series is a Cartoon Network animated program called Transformers: Robots in Disguise. It is very different from the previous incarnations of the franchise. The old ethics of the original cartoon and the mindless action of the reboot are replaced by complex science fiction plots. The more prominent difference is that of the animation style. Instead of going back to the anime of the original series or doing something which looks more clearly like CGI, the series uses a peculiar mix of 2D and 2.5D graphics.
The world is now far more complex, as if the attempt was to take a page out of the Pokémon playbook. There is so much jargon that it is difficult for the uninitiated to understand. The diverse races of -cons (mini-cons, decepti-cons, preda-cons, this-a-cons, that-a-cons, etc.) all figure prominently in dialogue. Now there is more geography and more legendary items which all figure into the lore. Watch a few scenes and it will become clear to you that the cartoon is made to target a specific demographic of geeks who enjoy immersive science fiction novels or video games rather than casual fans of the two previous forms of the show. This is probably a good chunk of the Cartoon Network’s viewer base.
With this new plot, expanded world, and narrowed focus, #TransformersRobotsDisguise has been fairly well-received. Perhaps because it treks its own course rather than following too much in the footsteps of the original cartoon (an often bitterly vituperated tactic by original fans watching a reboot), it has received approval by the internet community. It holds a 6.5 out of 10 on IMDb. The consensus on the internet seems to be that fans expect a bad show but come to enjoy it upon giving it a sincere view.
For a cartoon, the ratings are very good. Since its first season, the program regularly clocks in at a little less than one million viewers. Opening with over one million at the series premiere, it has not shed many fans along the way. This is doubtless a far cry from primetime shows like Family Guy, which competes with the scripted dramas and sports programs of the top echelons of television. However, for a niche program as this is, the ratings are strong.
Strong enough, in fact, to warrant the creation of a mini-series after the second season, sometimes referred to as “season 2.5” very shortly after the conclusion of the second season. The plot is boiling up in the mini-series, which sees a faction of mini-cons defecting to the side of the Autobots.
Given the number of viewers, the sudden investment in an addendum to the second season, and the fact that the plot is progressing aggressively, it seems likely that we’ll see more seasons of this show. The show has already been renewed for another season to come on the Cartoon Network sometime in 2017. Unfortunately, it looks like we won’t be able to escape the confusing changes in naming patterns the show undergoes. Season 4 (or 3 if you consider the mini-series to be a season 2.5) is set to be called Combiner Force.
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What do you think of the future of this show? Do you like the fact that Bumblebee is the new leader or would you have preferred to see Optimus Prime as the head like in the old days? Do you like the new animation style used here? What do you think of Starscream’s transformation into arch-nemesis of the Autobots? Give us your comments and opinions down below.