Animation is cool!
The Transformers have had a long
history on television, dating all the way back to 1984 and the
beginning of the original cartoon series. It is fair to say the
cartoon was a major contributor to the success of the concept as a
The original Transformers cartoon began in 1984 and ran for three
complete seasons, as well as a three-part "fourth" season. (There
has been a rumour that more episodes of season four were planned or
even made but lost in a fire. However, no official source has ever
confirmed this information and it likely just fan speculation).
Season One - 13 episodes (1984). Introduced the main cast of
Autobots and Decepticons as they crashed to Earth and continued
their adventures there.
Season Two - 49 episodes (1985). As the toyline continued to
flourish, many more characters were introduced and spotlighted
(including Beachcomber, Powerglide, Blaster, Omega Supreme and many
Transformers: The Movie
(1986) - Set twenty years after the events of the first two seasons,
the movie had superior animation (due to a larger budget) and helped
to set up the events of the third and fourth seasons (which also
took place in the future).
Season Three - 30 episodes (1986). Airing a mere month after
the movie's release, the third season continued almost immediately
after the events of the movie, spotlight Rodimus Prime and his
Autobots battle against the scattered Decepticons lead by
Season Four - 3-part story called Headmasters:
The Rebith (1987). This series spotlight the then-current Headmasters and Targetmasters concepts as well
being used to advertise the current toys.
In Japan, they saw all the same cartoons that U.S. viewers
did with one exception:
Scramble City (1986). -
Japan had a one-shot episode that introduced the combiner teams
(Aerialbots, Stunticons, Protectrobots, etc.) This story played up
the scramble-city concept where one combiner team could interchange
its limbs with another (something the U.S. toylines has but never
really played up). The episode also featured Metroplex and Trypticon
and had some recycled footage mixed in with the new. Scramble City's
story is not part of the U.S. continuity.
2010 - 30 episodes (1987).
This was essentially season three of the U.S. cartoon. However,
unlike the U.S. release which took place in 2006, this season took
place in the year 2010 instead.
Headmasters - 35 episodes
(1987-88). The Japanese Headmasters
cartoon follows the first three seasons of the U.S. cartoon but
disregards The Rebirth
3-part story and instead establishes its own concept for the
Headmaster characters (the binary partners are minature robots
instead of Nebulans basically).
Masterforce - 42 episodes
(1988-89). Also called "Super-Godmasterforce", this series took
place after Headmasters and followed the exploits of that year's
toys, like the Powermasters (Godmasters), Pretenders and so on. In
this concept, the Godmasters were lifeless "Transtectors" that were
piloted by these humans who wore armor.
Victory - 32 episodes
(1989). The final complete G1 series to be made and the first
exclusively Japanese one. This series involved almost all
exclusively Japanese characters which did not appear outside of
Japan (with a few minor exceptions--like the Micromaster Rescue
Zone - 1 episode (1990). This was a direct to video release that was
intended as a pilot for another series involving the Micromasters,
Japanese exclusive characters and the return of many combiner team
characters, such as Devastator, Menasor, Abominus, Predaking, etc.
The series beyond the pilot never materialized for whatever reason,
leaving Zone with only one episode.
Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory have been released in North America (by Shout Factory) with each series being subtitled (Zone and Scramble City have not however).
Transfomers: The Movie did
not get released in Japan until 1989.
Japan at a Glance...
Transformers (first two
seasons), Scramble City, Transformers 2010 (season 3),
Headmasters, Masterforce, Victory,
There was not a new Generation 2
cartoon--merely re-edited G1 episodes with a new cgi opening and
some computer animation between scene changes. These aired between
Beast Wars - In 1996,
Transformers were reinvented with Beast modes by Kenner and
christened "Beast Wars Transformers". To go along with promoting
this new toyline, an all-cgi TV series was commissioned by Canadian
Entertainment (creator of the groundbreaking Reboot cartoon). The show was
overseen by Larry Ditillio and Bob Forward (who had previously
worked on the original Masters of the Universe as well as many
other shows too).
Season One - 26 episodes (1996). Introduced the characters as they
crash landed on Earth and had several stand-alone episodes as well
as a few that formed an overall story arc.
Season Two - 13 episodes (1997). Introduced the new Transmetals
concept as well as the Fuzors and even more story arc episodes. Many
fans regard this season as the absolute best of Beast Wars.
Season Three - 13 episodes (1998). The final season, involving the
Transmetal 2 characters and attempted to wrap up the concept.
Beast Machines - A sequel
series to Beast Wars. This
was also animated by Mainframe
Entertainment but took place back on Cybertron. The series
was overseen by Bob Skir and Marty Isenberg (Marty would later go on
to produce on Transformers
Animated as well). Many fans disliked this series compared
to BW due to the abrupt changes in the characters depictions.
Season One - 13 episodes (1999). Megatron escapes the shuttle on the
way back to Cybertron and causes havoc for our Maximal heroes when
Season Two - 13 episodes (2000). The second season concluded the
series and resulted in a forever-changed Cybertron.
Beast Wars aired mostly as
it did in North America (although Airrazor was male in the
Japanese version). However, in order to fill-out the longer
requirements of Japanese televsion, several series were commissioned
in standard cel-animation to make Beast Wars longer.
After the first twenty six episodes of Beast
Wars, Beast Wars Second
Beast Wars Second - 43
episodes (1998). A cel animated series that followed Lioconvoy and a
new Galvatron on the planet Gaea. Many of the Cybertron (Autobot)
characters in BW 2 were BW toys that had previously not appeared in
the Beast Wars series proper (the cgi budget was too expensive to
include many characters) while many of the Destrons (Decepticons)
were traditional G2 and Machine Wars molds. Lioconvoy and Galvatron
were all-new beast toys however.
Beast Wars Neo - 39
episodes (1998-99). The follow-up cartoon to BW Second had a new
cast, lead by Big Convoy and his Cybertrons (Maximals) versus
Magmatron and his Destrongers (Predacons).
Beast Wars Metals - 26
episodes (1999). The Japanese airing of seasons two and three of
Beast Wars (so named because of the appearance of the Trans-Metal
characters). This was apparently shown immediately after BW Neo
aired, creating an endcap to the BW era in Japan.
Beast Wars Returns - 26 episodes (2004). The Japanese import
of Beast Machines (it did
not air there until 2004 for some reason).
Car Robots/Robots in Disguise
- 39 episodes (aired in 2000 in Japan as Car Robots. Aired in 2001 as Robots in Disguise for North
America). This series featured a return to conventional
machine/vehicular Transformers fighting one another. Notable for
many cool new character designs like Fire Convoy (Optimus Prime),
God Magnus (Ultra Magnus) and Gigatron (Megatron). The series itself
was aimed more at children then the Beast era had been. After it
aired in Japan in 2000 and proved popular with TF fans, Hasbro
imported the TV series and toys the following year.
Trilogy (2002 - 2005). Unlike any previous series,
the next three years of Transformers cartoons would be produced
together by Hasbro and Takara. After all was said and done, however,
many fans were not happy with the long meandering storylines
presented in these series.
Armada/Micron Legend - (53
episodes. 2002-03) - Called Armada
in North America and Micron
Legend in Japan, this series is popular for introducing the
concept of Minicons (little robots that powered up the larger
Energon/Superlink - (52
episodes. 2004) - Called Energon
in North America and Superlink
in Japan, this series introduced the idea of Powerlinking--that is,
combining two robot forms to make a more powerful one. It also
focused on the Decepticons attempts to find Energon to help power-up
Unicron (who appeared at the end of Armada and was destroyed).
Cybertron/Galaxy Force -
(52 episodes. 2005) - This series was supposed to be the end of the
overall trilogy involving Unicron however Japan decided to make it a
stand-alone concept instead while Hasbro made it a continuation of
their previous storyline (called the Unicron Trilogy). Hasbro had to
edit the series somewhat in order to make it loosely fit with Armada and Energon before it. Cybertron involved the concept
of Cyber Planet keys and the eventual appearance of Primus.
Transformers Animated (2007
- 09). An all-new continuity, airing on Cartoon Network in the U.S.
(YTV in Canada) and employing their unique house style after there
were some complaints that the previous cartoons (Armada/Energon/Cybertron) were
hard for North American audiences to follow. Marty Isenberg (of Beast Machines) was story
editor/head writer on this series. Many fans regard Animated with very high esteem
after the return to American style writing and due to the excellent
stand-alone and story arc episodes made for it.
Season One - (13 episodes, 2007).
Season Two - (13 episodes, 2008).
Season Three - (13 episodes, 2009).
(2010/2011). The first TF series to air on Hasbro's HUB TV network, Prime is a cgi series set in an
all-new continuity. The series follows a small group of Autobots
lead by Optimus Prime as they fight a secret war against Megatron,
Starscream, Soundwave and a legion of Decepticon drones. Megatron
appears to be obsessed with controlling Dark Energon as a power
source that will lead him to ultimate power. Peter Cullen (G1
Optimus Prime, movie-verse Prime) reprises his voice here as does
Frank Welker (G1 Megatron) although Welker uses a bit different
voice then the original one. Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman (writers
of the live action TF movies) are creators/producers on this series.
Season One - (26 episodes, 2010/2011)
Season Two - (26 episodes, 2012)
Season Three (sub-titled "Beast Hunters") - (13 episodes, 2013)
Transformers Rescue Bots
(2012). The second TF series to air on Hasbro's HUB TV network, Rescue Bots will run
concurrently with Prime's second season. This series is aimed a
younger audience and features simpler stories about family and
friendship. There is an accompanying toyline to go with the TV
Season One - 26 episodes, 2012).
Season Two - 26 episodes, ???).