Transformers Animated Review Transform and Roll Out (Episodes 1-3), Home Is Where The Spark Is (Episode 4). Transformers Animated is the newest incarnation of the Transformers set to debut on Cartoon Network the day after Christmas 2007 (in the USA). A reboot of the franchise with new styling courtesy of the Cartoon Network in house developers and the Hasbro design team, this version of the series is the first North American produced Transformers show since Beast Machines ended in the early 2000's. The series kicks off with a mini-movie called "Transform and Roll Out!", which is actually episodes 1-3 combined with less commercial interruption. There have been reviews on this already, so I won't focus on it too much. I did however get to see Episode 4, which is the first non-movie based episode. This episode shows Megatron working his way back into things after getting knocked out in the premiere. But more on that later. Transform and Roll Out! What got me right off the bat, and I don't think was focused upon in other reviews as much, is that at the beginning of this episode we see footage from actual Sunbow produced G1 episodes. Most of it is filler battle scenes based on Cybertron, and some shots of Sentinels. We also see G1 Megatron landing in front of the various drone bots. Again, this is from actual episodes of the original G1 cartoon. In there we also see the Triangle Jet forms of the seekers chasing G1 Cybertron mode Bumblebee and Wheeljack, from the first episode of G1. On top of all this footage is a narration which sounds eerily like Victor Caroli, the narrator from G1 (It is the year 2005 guy) most likely on purpose (actually done here by Cory Burton). He starts off with "Many millions of years ago..." and goes on to describe the Great War between Autobots and Decepticons. This then zooms out to show Animated Optimus Prime sitting in the command chair of a space craft, watching this on the big screen in front of him. I'll go thru what I personally thought was the coolest part of the first 3 episodes (only because I'm old school, not because the rest was bad)... Animated Ratchet - "Why do you waste your time with those old history vids?" Prime - "All the great Autobot leaders learn from the past." Ratchet - "Look around Prime, the great war ended centuries ago." Prime - "But you were there Ratchet, you saw some action". So, does this mean Animated is in the same continuity as G1? Is this the old man version of G1 Ratchet? As of 1:XX minute in, looks like it. But don't get your hopes up for a direct connection, based on how other things go down it looks more like a nod to us old heads and that’s about it. Oh yeah, and G1 Ratchet died in the 86 Movie. The Animated story officially picks up here. The Autobots are on a deep space repair mission, fixing Space Bridges. We see some character introductions - Ratchet, Prowl, Bumblebee and Bulkhead. They have a little spat, we see how Prime is second fiddle, never seeing any real fighting action, and go into a scene showing how teamwork is important. Optimus Prime saves all his comrades with some swift moves to show off he does have some skills. At this point, there is an event with the Space Bridge they were there to fix, and a mysterious box shows up. It looks similar to the G1 Matrix of Leadership, except bigger, not meant to fit inside anyone. Has handles, orange, and some Tron looking glowing stripes. As Ratchet sees this, he flips out and wants to leave. He tells that that it is the Allspark. Just then, Teletran-1, the Autobot spaceship's on-board computer system with a FEMALE voice detects a Decepticon ship. The Autobots are stunned because the Decepticons have been defeated for ages and no one has ever seen one, with the exception of Ratchet. They have been banished from Cybertron since they lost and have been floating around the stars ever since. The Autobots get back in their ship and take off, being chased by the Decepticons in their ship, which is about 10 times bigger than theirs. Prime contacts Cybertron for reinforcements, and is connected to Sentinel Prime. Sentinel proceeds to jab at Prime like he is a loser, until Prime shows him the Allspark. He then connects him to Autobot Supreme Commander Ultra Magnus. Magnus also jabs at Prime, telling him not to be a hero, and to hold tight till they get there. We switch to a shot inside the Decepticon ship. We get introductions for Starscream, Blitzwing, Black Arachnia, and Lugnut. They bicker amongst themselves. Of note is Blitzwing's voice, a pseudo German/Arnold styled one. Starscream is dissing Megatron for leading them on a trek for the Allspark for so long. Lugnut seems to be the brainless "Megatron is #1" dopey guy. Black Arachnia then chimes in and asks Lugnut if he memorized his Megatron is great speech, showing her character being similar to BW BA. At that point she and Blitzwing get into it, where Blitzwing mentions her "accursed organic mode", which I thought was a cool since that's never really been addressed in post BW/BM series. Let's try and fast forward a bit here, as this will take me about 9 hours to write out if we keep on this way. Megatron wants the Allspark, he and Starscream show their stressed relationship, Starscream plants a device on Megatron, Megatron gets blown up while battling Autobots. Megatron/Decepticons are significantly bigger than Autobots in general. Autobot ship damaged in battle, Prime flies it into Space Bridge, shows up in Earth's orbit. Starscream announces himself as new leader of Decepticons, only to find the other Decepticons have already abandoned ship. He turns around to see a giant explosion coming from the space bridge which implies he and the Decepticon ship get blown up. A damaged Megatron is still functioning and is inside the Autobot ship, PWNs the Autobots, gets knocked off balance, hits a switch, they fall into Earth's orbit. Prime pushes Megatron out of the ship in the entry. Autobots go into stasis pods, crash into Lake Erie. Megatron lands in a field, where a young Dr. Sumdac finds him. 50 years later... Detroit is a bustling city acting as the center of the world's robotics industry. Dr Sumdac leads a company which develops its technology. He is leading a tour of children through one of the labs, where we also meet his daughter, Sari. While there, an experiment with nano-technology goes awry, and a giant Technorganic bug starts growing exponentally to the point where it busts out of the building. Police and emergency units are called to the scene. You can see where this is going. Eventually, a piece of the giant bug falls off, and floats down to the Autobot ship, triggering the Autobots to wake up for an intruder alert. The Autobots send out a very G1 looking "Sky Spy" to see what’s going on. They see the commotion with the giant bug, and decide to replicate local forms to better assimilate while investigating. They scan the various vehicles on the scene. A fire truck, yellow police car, swat team vehicle, ambulance, and motorcycle. These become the alt modes for Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, Ratchet, and Prowl, respectively. A cool note here, the "Sky Spy" scans the various vehicles in a similar fashion to the way G1 did it; an orange laser grid comes out and creates a box around the vehicle as it hovers above it. The Autobots show up on land, and start talking to the other cars and trucks. They don't recognize organics as being alive. They get frustrated when no one will respond to them. Off to the side, we see Sari arguing with her pet robo-dog, Sparkplug (nice one). She gets picked up by the giant robo-bug, and the Autobots decide that whatever she is, she's in trouble and need to be saved. So they transform for the first time, stunning everyone, and try to save Sari. We then go through a pretty long battle between the Autobots and the big bug, where they highlight various personality quirks, Prime struggling to lead, and the importance of Teamwork. They win of course, but in the process, Prowl is damaged, and they need to return to base. Sari convinces Bumblebee to let her tag along. After getting back to base, Sari is giving Bumblebee a hard time while he is trying to hide her. Eventually he needs to transform, so he shoots her out and she falls down a shaft, landing directly in front of the Allspark. The Allspark starts glowing, and shoots a beam at her, creating what looks like a Key to Vector Sigma on her necklace. Prime then finds her, and asks Bumblebee what’s going on. Prowl goes into the equivalent of cardiac arrest, and they rush upstairs. Sari's necklace starts to glow, and woah, she heals Prowl. They Autobots then return Sari above ground, in robot form, exposing themselves to the humans looking for her. After some tension, they are greeted as heroes for saving Sari, and accepted by the masses. We then see Starscream sitting by himself in a very damaged Decepticon ship, rambling about how he's been searching for 50 solar cycles and will find the Allspark no matter what. He then hears a beeping, and the ship has found a possible energy signature for the Allspark on Earth. Fast forward a bit again. Filler shots, showing Autobots trying to fit in and learn about Earth culture, human life. They are acting as super heroes in the city, saving people, responding to emergencies. Humans love them and have "wow, look, an Autobot" type reactions when they show themselves. Starscream sees all this in orbit by monitoring television signals. The Autobots are at a ceremony unveiling a new super train, and Starscream decides to reveal himself. As he is heading towards the event, a squadron of jets intercepts him saying to stand down or he will be considered hostile. A cool line by SS - "You haven't seen hostile yet". He scans them, takes his Earth jet mode, and proceeds to destroy the entire squadron. He eventually makes his way to the Autobots, where he also kicks their butts. Various one on ones, Autobots getting owned, lots of speeches. Starscream states he is the one who destroyed Megatron, not them (key point for later). Starscream takes Dr. Sumdac, Police Captain Fanzone, a damaged Bumblebee hostage in the train and says he wants the Allspark or he will destroy them and then Earth looking for it. Prime has a "what to do, what to do" moment, showing his rookie-ness as a leader. Sari comes up with a Plan, they reluctantly let her help, and enact it. Teamwork saves the day again. They get the hostages free, Sari heals Bumblebee with her Key, and they get everyone safe. Prime and Starscream then go one on one over the Allspark, eventually both holding a handle in a struggle. The Allspark opens, beams shoot out, and Starscream is destroyed (or so it seems, he'll be back later). Prime is then left holding the Allspark as he hangs onto a building, but falls. Falls far and hard. We then go into a mini "Death of Optimus Prime" like scenario. Everyone standing around sad, he saved the day. Turns black, dies. Sari won't accept it, takes out her magic key necklace thing. Prime's chest opens up G1 Prime style, with a Matrix chamber looking fold out. In an emotional moment, Sari inserts the key and brings him back to life. We now fast forward a bit and see Dr. Sumdac sitting in his lab watching TV. He states how he is appreciative for the Autobots, but worries how they might react if they knew the truth about his company. As he leaves the lab, we pan over to see Megatron's head hooked up to all types of machines, inferring that the source of Dr. Sumdac's robotic empire was actually from studying Megatron all these years! The End. Episode 4 - Home Is Where The Spark Is This episode starts out with my favorite character so far, Angry Archer. I'm assuming this is a nice homage to Hasbro boys toys head designer Aaron Archer, which I think is super funny. He has a super bow and arrow setup, with bomb arrows, grappling arrows, and other ridiculous scenarios. He speaks in pseudo Shakespeare like language, always praising himself as being so good. He is robbing an armored truck full of cash on a late Detroit night. As the cops show up and pursue the truck, the uses his grappling arrow to attach to a passing fire truck. Again praising himself, he is shocked to find the truck talking to him. Optimus Prime transforms and captures Angry Archer for the cops, we see the humans praising Prime for his help. This episode generally focuses on the Autobots adapting to their Earth life. They get a new base, an abandoned car assembly plant. Prowl is trying to find peace, observe Earth creatures, but keeps getting interrupted by adoring humans and loud Autobot teammates. Eventually we see Sari trying to get into her father's private lab to give him some tea. It's locked, so she uses her Allspark powered key to open it up. She takes her father away, and after she does, the Allspark energy travels from the door to what is left of Megatron's head in the lab. This wakes him up, where is his angered and surprised to be in the state he is in. He accesses the network, and sees Starscream's speech about how he destroyed Megatron, and learns of the Allspark being possessed by the Autobots. He is furious and vows to destroy them all. Sari then plans a "sleep over" with the Autobots. Before she leaves, Megatron instructs a newly fixed and working (due to him) "pocket-bot" Dr. Sumdac had been working on to hide in her bag. This leads Megatron to the Autobot base. As the Autobots and Sari go through various "I’m human and you don't understand" scenarios, the pocket-bot looks around for the Allspark. It can't be found, so he uses the minibot to hack into the computer system of the old assembly line/factory. He then uses the factory as a weapon against the Autobots. They all get knocked around pretty good until Prowl and his ninja ways realize that it's all based on motion sensors, and you need to be "Still". Being still, patient, and mind over might was a theme for this episode. Prowl eventually gets knocked out because Megatron manually shot something at him through his connection to the factory system. So he instructs the loud, energetic and brash Bumblebee to use the "Still" method to get to the control panel and shut it down. He does. And knowing is half the battle. Thanks for the moral in this story. Megatron is now super ticked, and states that maybe he will have to let Dr. Sumdac stumble upon more of his technology in order to speed up getting out of his current isolated state. End episode 4. Final Thoughts As with every new series, the fan base is split. Some love it, some hate it, before it has even aired or a toy released. I've accepted the fact that nothing will ever be what I want, so I try to go into things with an open mind. Yes, the animation is very "Cartoon Network", with its Teen Titans/Ben 10 styled artwork. Very kiddy themed. Well, that is the point. Even seeing the clips on Cartoon Network's site and YouTube over the last week or so doesn't do it justice. There are some awesome shots of Starscream in action in the air, lots of throw backs to G1. And the writing, voice acting, and audio production was spot on. The audio production overall from Armada through Cybertron was so bad, part due to having to match English words with Japanese animation, and the other half probably having a crap budget, that seeing a well produced show from every angle was nice. There were so many G1 references in here, and the characters were very G1 like, that it just felt good, similar to how RID did before you actually watched it in English. All in all, I dug it. I'll be getting a Season Pass on the Tivo for sure. Even if you don't dig the kiddy stuff, you think that there should be a super Anime adult story line with robo blood and death and all that to the T, if you can accept it for what it is, the story should be enough to keep you watching casually. They set so much up in the first 4 episodes with the characters, plus we've seen episode synopsis’s and character listings down the road, that it has a lot of potential to be one of the best story arcs in recent Transformers history. One quick thought. As of right now, with a little creative writing, this in theory could fit into G1 continuity. Post G1, pre Beast Wars era. Ratchet was brought back to life, or is another Ratchet, and Black Arachnia is either from future/other universe, or a pre-BW different character with same name. Who knows what they have planned, would be cool if they could work that all out. So, good job Hasbro and Cartoon Network, keep it up! Make sure to watch the Transformers Animated movie premiere on Wednesday December 26th at 7PM on Cartoon Network. Regular episodes start Saturday Mornings on January 5th. Check your local listings for times.