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Transformers 101...  


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 whole.


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).

Title: Transformers

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 more).

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 Galvatron. 

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 Patrol).

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, Zone.

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 1993-94.

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 studio, Mainframe 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 they return.

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 aired.

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.

The Unicron 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 robots).

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).

Transformers Prime (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 series.

Season One - 26 episodes, 2012).
Season Two - 26 episodes, ???).