While today's younger audiences weren't all too familiar with Transformers before Michael Bay brought it to the big screen, the franchise has seen success for years on the small screen. Beginning with Hasbro's 1984 Saturday morning cartoon (read: 22 minute toy commercials), there have been 19 different animated Transformers series produced between Japan and the United States.
The quality has definitely varied between these iterations, but the never-ending battle between the Autobots and Decepticons remains ever present (though sometimes under different faction names, e.g. Maximals and Predacons). Led by Optimus Prime and Megatron (or again, variations thereof), the Transformers battle for control of their home planet Cybertron and the means to collect more energon.
That struggle continued in Hasbro's most recent cartoon, Transformers Prime, which finished its run this past fall on the Hub Network. Prime was a very well-received series, especially among longtime Transformers fans who preferred its universe and characterizations over that of the feature films. However, with that series concluding, the Hub Network has a giant robot-sized hole in their schedule in dire need of filling.
And that's where Hasbro's newest Transformers series - Transformers: Robots in Disguise - comes in. Premiering in the spring of 2015 on the Hub Network, this new series takes place within the same continuity as Prime and will pick up events years later.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise was first announced in March, but with the Licensing Expo kicking off in Las Vegas in only a matter of weeks, Hasbro is now revealing more details about its new series. For one, as the image below implies, the new animated series will feature Bumblebee (voiced by Will Friedle) as the leader of a young team of Autobots sent to Earth to do battle with - you guessed it - a new faction of Decepticons.
Joining Bumblebee are Sideswipe (left) and Fixit (right), as well as "an elite guard cadet" and a "bombastic Dinobot." That is assuming "rebel bad boy bot" refers to Sideswipe, and judging by his hot-rod red color and spiky headpiece, how could it not? As for Fixit, he's described as a "hyperactive Mini-Con." Each are capable bots, but inexperienced working as team, requiring Bumblebee to work extra hard as "both squad leader and coach," said Hasbro.
The above image also gives an impression of the animation design for Robots in Disguise, which will again have 3D characters rendered on hand-painted environments, similar to Prime. It also appears that Bumblebee has undergone a redesign yet again.
A few more of the series' voice actors have also been announced. Glee's Darren Criss will voice Sideswipe and Fixit will be voiced by Mitchell Whitfield (TMNT). Constance Zimmer (House of Cards) and Ted McGinley (Married with Children) are also involved, but their roles haven't been specified. The creatives behind Robots in Disguise are Jeff Kline (Transformers: Prime) as executive producer and Adam Beechen (The Adventures of Chuck and Friends) as producer. Steven Melching (Star Wars: The Clone Wars) will serve as story editor.
A cartoon featuring a team led by Bumblebee is a change of pace for the franchise, as usually the little yellow bot is relegated to support. In Michael Bay's films, however, Bumblebee's been given a larger role, so it's not surprising to see the new cartoon reflect that.
How will he fare as leader? Hopefully, better than Hot Rod, the last Autobot to assume leadership from Optimus Prime, only to be later replaced when Prime was resurrected. ("Nah, Hot Rod, it's not that you were terrible, it's just that... well, yeah, you are kind of terrible and the kids want Optimus back.")
What do you think of how Transformers: Robots in Disguise is shaping up? Were you a fan of Transformers: Prime and does Robots in Disguise seem like a fitting follow-up? Let us hear from you in the comments below!
Transformers: Robots in Disguise premieres on the Hub Network in Spring 2015.