"Transformers", the popular entertainment franchise that many generations have grown up with, may it be playing with the toys or watching the animated series back in 1984, playing the video games or reading the comic books.
Needless to say, since the early '80s, millions have experienced "Transformers", especially in recent years with the release of film trilogy or the animated series which continues to air on television and of course, the many toys that continue to be popular with collectors and also children.
But within the last three years, fans have watched the animated series known as "Transformers Animated" becoming the latest "Transformers" animated series to be showcased on television beginning in 2007 and would last for three seasons through 2009.
Fans knew that there will be a newer version of the series coming out, but the question is what kind of series?
In 2010, the video game "Transformers: War of Cybertron" was released and was a well-received by gamers but also video game critics and it was revealed that the upcoming animated series would be set in the same universe as the video game.
And then by November 2010, Hasbro unveiled "Transformers: Prime", a CG animated television series which would air on The Hub and would first begin with a five-episode mini-series. And with one season having now been completed in 2011, a second season is set to air in 2012.
And it's this latest series that has been creating a lot of buzz among fans and viewers. With the CG animation and slightly darker storyline, the series would go on to win a Daytime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation" for background design and color design.
As many fans have waited for a video release of "Transformers: Prime" and because the series is CG-animated, many have hoped for a Blu-ray release. And it appears that Shout! Factory has listened to the fans and are releasing "Transformers: Prime - Season One" on Blu-ray in March 2012. The Blu-ray features all 26 episodes including the 5-episode "Darkness Rising" mini-series.
"Transformers: Prime - Darkness Rising" is presented in 1080p High Definition (1:78:1 Anamorphic). The CG animation for this film is absolutely wonderful as we can see details on the metal of various robots. You can see scratches on the metal, the reflection of light and also glass windows and the reflection. But one thing I want to add is that watching this Blu-ray release, there are details that I never saw on the DVD. You can actually see particles, dust, smoke much clearly. You can see scuff marks and even dirt on the robots much more clearer.
The keyword for this Blu-ray release is detail. Having reviewed the original DVD version, having watched the series on television and now watching it in HD, the colors are vibrant, they pop! The CG for mountainous terrain, buildings, sunlight, overall surroundings are just incredible for a television animated series. For one, Polygon in Japan really did a fantastic job with the CG animation but most importantly, as the series progresses, not only does the series get better but there is also an improvement with the overall CG.
From Optimus Prime's glass windows on his chest showcasing reflections to Megatron's steel body and also the damage on the overall body of Cliffjumper (and even Optimus Prime during the virus episode), I was quite pleased with how this series looks! But also the amount of detail that was put into this series.
Many TV Series tend to keep things within their budget, especially with the amount of time they have for production. But I was quite thrilled to see how the quality but also hearing the enthusiasm of the staff (as heard on the audio commentary) in the production of "Transformers: Prime" and how they listen to their fans.
With that being said, I will say that the series does have its fair share of banding, so videophiles who are expecting pristine quality may be disappointed. Fortunately, not enough to deter people, as majority of fans and children will probably not care. Also, these scenes with banding are short and not long. Typically seen during orange/red backgrounds primarily.
But overall, picture quality is very good. Plenty of detail can be seen on Blu-ray and the clarity is outstanding but most importantly, black levels are nice and deep and colors are absolutely vibrant!
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
"Transformers Prime: Season One" is presented in DTS-HD MA 5.1. For a series with this much action, I admit that I, personally was hoping to hear a more immersive soundtrack. But while there are some ambience that can be heard through the surround channels, and some booms that can be heard at times, it's not as powerful or as immersive as I was hoping for it to be. The lossless soundtrack does provide crystal clear dialogue and the musical score sounds incredible but the soundtrack does sound very good, moreso during the action sequences.
The voice acting is terrific and the fact that voice talent Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) of the original "Transformers" animated series are back for this series...Fantastic!
"Transformers: Prime - Season One" comes with the following special features:
- Darkness Rising, Part 1': Executive Producer Jeff Kline, Hasbro Studios Developer Mike Vogel, Animation Producer Therese Trujillo and Art Director David Hartman
- "Darkness Rising, Part 2': Jeff Kline, Mike Vogel, Therese Trujillo and David Hartman
- "Darkness Rising: Part 3': Hasbro Studios Executive Director Brian Lenard, Actors Tania Gunadi and Ernie Hudson and Art Director José Lopez;
- "Darkness Rising, Part 4': Brian Lenard, Tania Gunadi, Ernie Hudson and José Lopez
- "Darkness Rising, Part 5': Composer Brian Tyler; "Masters and Students": Production Manager Mathias Dougherty, Animatic Artist Meghan Burleson and Production Assistants Nathan Johnson and Jacob Rivera;
- "Scrapheap": Production Manager Sonya Park, Production Coordinator Meredith Rogers, Production Assistant Kathy Cavanaugh and Post Supervisor Austin Block.
- "Convoy": Actor Peter Cullen, President of Hasbro Studios Steve Davis, and Producer Rafi Ruthchild
- "Predatory": Director Todd Waterman and Actors Sumalee Montano and Josh Keaton.
- "Shadowzone": Supervising Director David Hartman, Actor Andy Pessoa, Editor Mike Miles, and Bumblebee.
- "Stronger, Faster": Actor Jeffrey Combs, Writer Mairghread Scott, and Director Shaunt Nigoghossian
-"One Shall Fall": Writers Joseph Kuhr and Nicole Dubuc, Director Vinton Heuck, and Character Designer/Prop Designer/Colorist Augusto Barranco
- "One Shall Rise, Part 1': Nicole Dubuc, Jospeh Kuhr, Vinton Heuck, and Augusto Barranco
- "One Shall Rise, Part 2': Supervising Producer/Head Writer Duane Capizzi, Staff Writer Marsha Griffin, Supervising Color Designer Christophe Vacher, and Background Design Supervisor Vince Toyama
- "One Shall Rise, Part 3': Duane Capizi, Staff Writer Steven Melching, Christophe Vacher, and Vince Toyama.
Making-Of "Transformers: Prime" - (11:02) A history on the making of "Transformers" and creating a series for a new generation.
Toy Featurette - (16:31) A featurette on toy design and the crew talk about what characters they would like to see in the show and creating new ones.
Season 2 Teaser - (:20) Second season teaser for "Transformers: Prime".
"Transformers: Prime - Season One- Limited Edition" comes with a slipcase which holds the Blu-ray case and a "Transformers Prime" graphic novel.
Is "Transformers: Prime" possibly the best "Transformers" animated series yet? I know it's subjective for every fan that has grown up with "Transformers". I grew up with G1 and I know friends who grew up with "Transformers: Beast Wars" and felt that was their best series ever.
But I know I'm among a small group of fans who have grown up with the series back in the '80s and still have admiration towards the various incarnations of the "Transformers" series, still buy the toys occasionally and are passionate about the storyline and how various studios treat the characters and to not stray too far of what fans have come to love about the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons
While the storylines of "Transformers" tends to change from series to series, the storyline of a battle between Autobots and the Decepticons still remains. Especially between Optimus Prime vs. Megatron. And as a father who has a child who is just as passionate as I was growing up with the series, I have to say that for me, "Transformers: Prime" is wonderful series.
By saying that, of course, G1 will always be true to my heart because I loved the amount of characters (especially the amount of toys produced) and several years ago, I gushed about how much I loved "Transformers: Cybertron" because of how many characters were integrated.
With "Transformers: Prime", I admit that I was weary at first because of the few characters featured. Similar to "Transformers: The Animated Series", we had a core group of Autobots and Decepticons but I'm so used to more characters, the merrier.
Fortunately, as the series progressed, the series not only provided newer characters (even if they appeared in a standalone episode), but what I loved is the modern progression of the series. There was a lot of thought that went into the series rather than just creating a series around the toyline. For example, for the episode "Predatory", this was unlike any "Transformers" episode I have seen. It was darker, but it fit the character of Airachnid.
For anyone who remembers her character, she has always been deadly and menacing, but this time around, we get to see how dark this Decepticon was in actually torturing the Autobots. And how she collected the heads of those she killed, in a very "Predator" (for those old enough to remember the movies) way, as a form of trophy. I admit that I was surprised that the writers were able to pull it off, considering that "Transformers" is watched by many youngsters.
But there are other stories that were crafted as if they were targeted towards the older crowd, but safe enough that children can watch it.
There is strong sense of quality with the writing for this series and by listening to the audio commentary for each episode, I was amazed. For one, a lot of the people involved in the making of this series, grew up with "Transformers" and they appreciate and respect the series. They also mention how fans have had some impact as well, so that is great that they do listen to their fans. But when it comes to the enthusiasm, you tend to expect guys being more excited about a character but when you listen to the audio commentary, not only are the female voice talent excited, but also the female staff. They were just as passionate and excited about what they saw onscreen and just mesmerized by various actions and so forth.
I loved hearing that enthusiasm and excitement shared by the staff and it extends to their work for this series. And speaking of audio commentary, rarely do I watch an episode, listen to the commentary, watch an episode and listen to the audio commentary back-to-back, but with "Transformers: Prime", I was watching, listening and doing it for every episode with a commentary. The audio commentary was fantastic and it's one thing to hear the crew and cast, but for "Transformers fans, to listen and have Peter Cullen involved in an audio commentary track for an animated series is fantastic!
As for parents who are wondering, "how old should my child be to watch this series?". Personally, I would say that as long as they older children, 7 or older at least.
For example, the first 5-10 minutes of the first episode of "Transformers: Prime" makes things clear that this is not the same type of series that many of us have grown up with. This time around, robots...do get killed and destroyed in battle. And while the humans will never be put in any major life threatening danger for a children's animated series, still, "Transformers: Prime" definitely has some darker elements.
In "Predatory", Airachnid sees a camper and looks at the person as her first prey. In "Speed Metal", people are drag racing and their are some moments where you felt, wow...is someone going to die? But of course, no humans are going to die in this series, but as for the robots, you will see death coming to a few. So, parental guidance is suggested if you have a young child with you, otherwise, the series is quite safe. And granted, parents may remind their kids to not follow the actions of the three human characters (ie. getting aboard freight trains, breaking into museums, etc.).
As for the Blu-ray release, as mentioned for the special featuers, the audio commentary is fantastic. A lot of information that a viewer can learn about the actual process of making the series. While there are some banding issues during some scenes with a lot of red and orange, these scenes are very short and if anything, most people would probably not notice, but for those of us who review Blu-rays or videophiles who really look for it, then you will see it. I do wish the audio was much more immersive in terms of LFE (subwoofer usage) and more use of audio (ie panning audio or surround sound usage) during the action sequences, but once again, that is me being picky. Otherwise, the lossless soundtrack is still very good for a TV animated series.
And as mentioned earlier, the CG animation for this series is great! Typically, there are a lot of shortcuts taken on TV series but the creators of the series definitely made sure there was a lot of detail on both the Autobots and Decepticons but also various objects and environments. So, animation for "Transformers: Prime" was much more than I expected for an animated series but I admit, it is the most ambitious "Transformers" animated series yet but the crew managed to pull it off with great efficacy.
And as for the voice acting, the voice acting is wonderful! I was surprised was how many big names they brought in to do voices for the characters. Legendary Optimus Prime voice actor Peter Cullen and legendary Megatron voice actor Frank Welker ("G.I. Joe", "Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends") are back. They are joined by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson (of WWE fame and "Fast Five") as Cliffjumper, Steve Blum (Logan/Wolverine for "X-Men") as Starscream and Ernie Hudson ("Oz", "Ghostbusters") as Agent Fowler. But for any longtime "Transformers" fan, the fact that Cullen and Welker are back to do the voices for Optimus and Megatron is fantastic!
For those who purchased "Transformers: Prime - Darkness Rising" on DVD, it's important to note that the five mini-series episodes featured on this Blu-ray are five episodes and not the combined episodes that would make an uninterrupted movie which was featured in the DVD release. Also, the special features that were on that DVD, are not included on this Blu-ray release. So, for those who own "Transformers: Prime - Darkness Rising", you definitely want to hang on to it!
Overall, as a longtime "Transformers" fan, and as a fan who has appreciated every series, "Transformers Prime: Season One" is an enjoyable, beautiful and well-acted series. While I know there are fans who have their preference of which season is their best "Transformers" series, as a fan and a father, I felt that the creators of this series did a fantastic job in creating a series that will appeal to the new generation of "Transformers" fans but also many of us who older but are still young at heart.
As for the Blu-ray release, I found "Transformers: Prime - Season One - Limited Edition" to be a fantastic release especially with the amount of content included. If you are a fan of "Transformers" or a father who wants to experience the series with their children, I highly recommend "Transformers: Prime Season One" on Blu!