Saturday, November 5, 2011

Do You Remember: Beast Wars?

Hope you’re a fan of silver back gorillas fighting raptors? For my money, the most underappreciated science fiction series. Beast Wars, for a 5 year span dominated my little child mind. For those unfamiliar, Beast Wars was the spiritual successor to Transformers. Even that’s not entirely true, as the Transformers’ canon wasn’t thrown into the show until about half way through the first season. Even on the Beast Wars DVD’s the series’ creators spoke about how they tried to create an interesting story first, then interject the Transformers mythos afterwards.

What took shape was a Sci-Fi adventure series – a war between the Maximals and Decepticons, or the accentors of the original Transformers. Optimus Primal (as he was called) was the descendent of Optimus Prime. How the entire show strung together actual Transformers history was pretty impressive. Obviously the name implies a distinct difference…

No cars here, just robots turning into spiders and tigers: yes, instead of vehicles, animal forms were the preferred disguises. Optimus was a gorilla, Megatron a T-Rex, and at one point there was a half rat half hot-rod hybrid.

Give Beast Wars credit it was a deep story. Not only did it deal with very social relevant themes but also each episode had a dramatic effect on me as a kid. Things like loss, love, betrayal, friendship, righteousness, sacrifice: all were common messages throughout the 3 season run of Beast Wars.

This was war; no humans getting in the way, just machines shooting rockets at each other. The way a man likes it. Even now I think the show looks damn good. Sure Cheetor looks like a cheetah with Down syndrome, and Rattrap frequently changes sizes from scene to scene. It was still a technologically advanced show. Beast Wars was an entirely Computer Generated animated series. One of only two at the time (Reboot being the other), it was like a video game TV show.

What they were able to do back then was amazing. Toy Story was only a year old when Beast Wars starting airing – there’s no doubt it was expensive to produce, but the overwhelmingly positive reception the show received led to it staying on the air for 3 years.    

Largely forgotten by even the hardcore Transformers crowd. Beast Wars deserves a second run, perhaps a remake, I’d be all for it. Don’t right it off just because the subtitle says Transformers; Beast Wars stood on it’s own as a well-realized adventure. With a stellar first two seasons (the third seems desperate to sell toys by introducing new characters each episode), an early but unique animated style, and great action scenes, what was there not to love? Beast Wars was pure 90’s gold.

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