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Transformers: Animated

Watching Transformers: Animated's first season DVD, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was missing something. Certainly enough of it gibed with a vague G-Rated retelling of Michael Bay's live-action film. Terms like the Allspark rang a bell, and Megatron had been reduced to a disembodied head, a reasonable invention to keep the story going.

Turns out I was right - though this 2-disc set calls itself "Season One," the show had a two-hour premiere that's sold separately, which set up the new status quo. But because the audience for this show isn't me but my young children, it really doesn't matter too much. This Cartoon Network offering quickly settles in and doesn't require much questioning.

In some ways, this feels like an old-school adventure cartoon with an easy to grasp premise that doesn't need recapping. Though the plot does progress throughout the series, most of the episodes feel like stand-alones. They do their job, portraying the Autobots as good, the occasional Decepticon as evil, and even a would-be super-villain or two pops up.

It's bright and colorful, with the Transformers themselves clearly designed for the younger set. This round may upset purists, but since Marvel intends to turn its infantilized Superhero Squad into an animated series, why shouldn't Transformers beat them to the punch?

The character designs seem to incorporate more than one previous incarnation. Even a non-fan (such as, admittedly, myself) can recognize Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, but they also look somewhat feline. I kept thinking Beast Wars, but also realized that these more cuddly robots in disguise make for better plush toys, too.

In overall look, it seems to borrow from Teen Titans, or maybe that's because the versatile Tara Strong shows up playing an 8-year-old girl named Sari. Precocious and energetic, Sari sounds like a souped-up Raven and acts pretty much like Beast Boy. In short, she's a little obnoxious, but the Autobots seem to be able to gently teach her a lesson in behavior for every piece of Earth culture she teaches them.

It's simplistic good vs. evil, featuring robots that turn into cars and motorcycles, and watching it through my son's eyes reminded me that the concept is pretty much everything a little kid could want. So it may not be the epic that "G1" fans want - this ensures there will be a next generation to discover the more advanced stuff.

For some reason, the disc includes a "2nd season preview," but that's really just character designs in a gallery. Kids might like it, but it gives few hints for what's to come and really, with a show like this, you can just run it again and again anyway.

Worth it for the little ones, Transformers: Animated should be left to them. You older guys have your grim and gritty robots in disguise; the kids need Optimus Prime alive, well and just a whole lot of fun.

Derek McCaw

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