Beast Wars: Volume 1

Beast Wars: Volume 1 (1996)

While many trends and fads come and go, it’s always interesting to note the ones that never die. Since the early 1980s, Transformers have gone in and out of vogue in their incarnations as both toys and entertainment. Today, Transformers are hot once again (have you seen that shark Transformer?) and Rhino Home Video brings us a collection of the second manifestation of the show, which premiered in 1996. While the original Transformers program from the 80s had been traditional animation, this new show, entitled ’Beast Wars: Transformers’ was computer generated, giving the program a visual edge over its competition.

This DVD contains the first six episodes of ’Beast Wars’, including the two-part pilot episode. The show deals with two warring factions of robots, the benevolent Maxamals and the malevolent Predacons. While fighting in space, the two groups crash on an alien planet. This planet is rich in Energon, the fuel with powers the robots. So rich in fact, that exposure to the environment could cause an overload. Therefore, the robots must take on the guise of the planet’s native animals in order to survive. This non-sensical premise aside, ’Beast Wars’ offers some good, old-fashioned robot fighting as the Predacons, led by Megatron, a T-Rex, constantly attack the Maxamals, whose leader, Optimus Prime, is a gorilla. The animation is from Mainframe Entertainment, the same company that created the popular ’ReBoot’ series. And while the images certainly pale in comparison to offerings such ’Toy Story’ or ’Monsters, Inc.’, for a syndicated television program, the animation is quite good. The edges are typically smooth and the backgounds look very good. While old-school purists may miss the original Transformers (who can resists a talking 18-wheeler?), ’Beast Wars’ is still an exciting and entertaining program, although one must wonder exactly what the benefits are of transforming into a rat.

Rhino Home Video’s animation specialist have given ’Beast Wars: Transformers’ nice treatment on this DVD. The image is full-frame and looks quite good. It is unknown if this transfer was taken directly from digital files, but the image is very sharp and clear, being free from any noise or defects. The colors here are very impressive, as the image mixes a wide array of hues. (It’s interesting to note that the ’evil’ Predacons are still composed of bright colors.) The digital 5.1 channel audio track is equally impressive, as it offers clear dialogue and some stunning surround sound effects. The audio from the rear speakers is nearly constant throughout the episodes and is a nice mixture of musical cues and sound effects. This track is well-balanced and the volume never fluctuates. There are no extra features on this DVD.