“Transformers: Robots in Disguise” premiered this past weekend on Cartoon Network. The pilot episode, split into two parts, sets up the general theme for this new cartoon, and in so doing, it proves that RID is both more and less than meets the eye.
That may seem contradictory, but it’s true. On its surface, what does “Robots in Disguise” seem to hold in store? Robots. Check. In disguise. Check. Heck, Bumblebee even says it when they scan Earth modes. So,in so naming the show, RID is less than meets the eye — it wears its oil pump on its sleeve, to use a horrible metaphor.
Ah, but that’s not all the show is about. To be a bit spoiler-ish without getting into minute detail of the pilot, the general gist is that the Mini-Con Fixit’s ship of Decepticon prisoners crash landed on Earth, letting loose all the cons on board. It’s up to Bumbmlebee, Strongarm, Sideswipe, Grimlock and Fix-It to find and capture the escapees. And it’s here where things are more than they seem. This is a rather unique premise for a Transformers show. Yes, we’ve had variations of the “Find the X of the week!” format — the O-Parts in the original “Robots in Disguise” show, the Cyber Planet Keys in “Transformers: Cybertron”. Even the original appearance of the Mini-Cons in “Transformers: Armada” fell into that trap at times.
This feels different, though. Each episode looks like it will be a find-and-capture a new Decepticon theme, but it doesn’t feel derivitive in some way. Perhaps it’s because the first escapee, Underbite, is such an awesome character that you forget the conceit. He’s loud, he’s big, he’s destructive — and you love him for it.
Grimlock, too, seems to take cues from other Transformers dinosaurs, and not just in name. Dinobot, from “Beast Wars”, was a Predacon turned Maximal. While we don’t see Grimlock take on the Autobot symbol this episode, he does help Bumblebee and crew find Underbite. And even then, Bumblebee puts him on probation, rather than giving him his freedom outright.
Plus, it’s Bumlbebee in charge! We haven’t had a Transformers series without an Optimus or Megatron as leader since…. since… well, since never. “Beast Wars” may not have been about Truck Optimus vs. Vehicle/Tank/Gun Megatron, but it was still Optimus and Megatron. Hasbro feels secure enough to let Bumblebee take point after the events of “Transformers Prime”, and that is fantastic. It allows new life to be present in the Transformers mythos, and it’s a welcome change of pace.
The animation style is different than what we’ve had in the most recent shows. It’s computerized but not 3D modeled like “Transformers Prime.” It looks hand-animated, but it’s not, and it doesn’t have a cartoony look like “Transformers: Animated”. It’s stylized, it’s colorful, and it sets itself apart from “Prime” and pretty much most of the past 20 years of cartoons.
I wholeheartedly welcome “Transformers: Robots in Disguise”. If only it weren’t going to be shown at an ungodly early Saturday morning timeslot. Oh, well. That’s why we have DVRs.