Robots in Disguise 2015: First Impressions Discussion

It’s here! Hasbro’s hotly anticipated new Transformers show, the somewhat unoriginally titled Robots in Disguise, is now on air in the UK. Here at AddAltMode we’ve watched the first three episodes so far: the somewhat unoriginally titled  “Pilot (parts 1 and 2)” and “Trust Exercises.” In this – our first jointly written post on this blog – we share our initial thoughts and reactions. rid logo CONTAINS SPOILERS!

Style

R: So there’s a mix here of cel-shaded and hand-drawn 2D animation. It takes a bit of getting used to but visually I like it. It’s cool that Hasbro have changed art styles again after the anime-superheroes type style of Animated and the sleek CGI of Prime. Everyone’s that little bit blockier here but they still move in quite a smooth way and the transformation scenes are fun.

Continuity

R: So this takes place in the same continuity as Prime, sometime after the events of Predacons Rising, right?

B: Yeah, and in early scenes we see that there are vast (several storeys tall, on a world where the dominant species can exceed 12 metres in height) statues erected in honour of the Prime Autobots, and that the space bridge from Prime is stored in a Cybertronian museum. That turbo-revvin’ young punk Sideswipe begs “take me to jail, this place is sooo much worse” – but I’d probably lose hours there.

One of these statues is clearly Bulkhead, one Optimus, and one Ratchet. The rest could be any.

One of these statues is clearly Bulkhead, one Optimus, and one Ratchet. The rest could be anyone. Amusingly, Bulkhead is in the exact same pose as the Kinder Surprise Bulkhead toy!

R: Did I see Knock Out among the statues, or do I just have him on the brain?

B: I didn’t spot him, I think you’re just mechy for him. And now I’m annoyed that I had to search Urban Dictionary to check that spelling. Can’t unsee.

Moving swiftly on, Cybertron seems to have recovered nicely since Prime. It’s all shining silver-blue cities and gleaming lights rather than ash, rust and Transformer corpses as far as the eye can see. Hopefully we’ll see more Prime characters in later episodes.

R: I think if RID is successful and runs to a second series then there’s a good chance we may see more familiar faces crop up along the way. I’d love to see more Knock Out know if Ratchet is still on earth and reluctant as ever to leave whatever base he’s currently in.

Characters

R: It’s good to see Bumblebee elevated to a more authoritative role, he’s earned it after all  after all those years of being the kid lovin’ kid appeal character. I think he’ll make a good leader, although he’s no Optimus Prime. That’s going to be his schtick isn’t it? Reminding everyone he’s not Optimus Prime.

B: Sideswipe fills the role in RID that Bumblebee did in Prime. He’s “a good kid, he just needs some guidance”. He’s bright red, fairly spiky for an Autobot, and has issues with rules and authority. I’m guessing he’s not the same Sideswipe who entered the Prime continuity in War For Cybertron – that guy should be at least Bumblebee’s age, probably older.

They both fancy themselves, for whatever that counts for.

WFC Sideswipe and RID Sideswipe. I’m pretty sure they’re not the same character, but that’s just my opinion.

R: Predictably, the bot I’m most excited about is Strongarm. First up, it’s great to see a femmebot who isn’t stick thin. I love her design: she’s clearly feminine while also being a chunky truck. Women come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and that’s a message that it’s good to see getting reinforced even in a transforming robot cartoon. Every Autobot team needs a character to be “the noob” and in this show it’s Strongarm, the over-eager cadet, partnered with Bumblebee while she learns the ropes of being a Cybertron cop – learns the practical ropes anyway, she’s already memorised the rulebook word for word. Yes Strongarm joins the illustrious company of Prime‘s Ultra Magnus and Chase from Rescue Bots in being a character who likes to do things by the book.

Chase (Rescue Bots), Ultra Magnus (Prime), Strongarm (RID 2015) Admit it, you'd watch a cop buddy pic starring these 3.

Chase (Rescue Bots), Ultra Magnus (Prime), Strongarm (RID 2015)
Admit it, you’d watch a cop buddy pic starring these 3.

Her character growth is guaranteed to involve her learning to loosen up and break the rules which is all very predictable but the show may just get away with it for just the same reason that Strongarm herself has so far managed to be so procedure-obsessed without making me hate her. Why? Because Constance Zimmer does great and surprisingly nuanced work with her voice. I like how she makes it sound like there’s a bubbly, girly kind of femmebot underneath who is mostly locked within that strict rule-book quoting exterior but every now and then breaks free. I hope they do some interesting things with that duality and don’t just make her the foil to the show’s “cooler” loose cannon types.

B: Decepticons!!! Let’s talk about them. In the first three episodes, we’ve seen a “Chompazoid” called Underbite, a “Sharkticon” called Hammerstrike, and some sort of wolf-furry called Steeljaw. Steeljaw is the only one remaining uncaptured by the end of the third episode. The Sharkticon pirate is my favourite so far, although why is he cockney?

It's less tiresome than the traditionally "pirate" accent they could have used.

“Cor, strike a light guv’nor!”
Hammerstrike and Bumblebee fight.

R: Lots of Planets have a London’s East End!   I’ll admit I pretty much hated the designs for all the beast-cons when I first saw the art (I prefer my alt-modes vehicular, although in fact these guys do have vehicle modes, it’s their bot modes that are beasts rather than humanoid robots) but actually when they come to life onscreen they’re a lot more enjoyable. I’ve liked Underbite best so far – he ate a whole city don’t ya know!

Back to the “good guys” then, who am I describing? A robot who is small, wheeled, tasked with a lot of opening and closing things, whose behaviour is slightly glitchy and broken, and who – above all – is absolutely desperate to be liked? That’s right, it’s Cl4p-tp from Borderlands! Have you seen Claptrap and Fixit together? I reckon Fixit could prove the more annoying of the two, what do you reckon?

Borderland's Cl4p-tp and RID's Fixit: separated at birth?

Borderlands‘ Cl4p-tp and RID’s Fixit: separated at birth?

B: I hope Fixit’s wiring affliction is soon cured, because it’s grating more often than it is funny.

R: Agreed. Are we going to mention the humans at all?

B: Nope.

R: We probably should: public service blogging and all that. I’ll make it short. Humans are usually the weakest link in TF toons. I didn’t mind Jack in Prime and I eventually came to like TFA‘s Sari but only when it was revealed that she… oh. Here we have Russell and his scrapyard-running, junk-hoarding dad, Denny. It’s nice to see the bots interacting with an adult here as well as a kid, although it seems like it’s going to be one of those “the kid is actually more mature than oddball father” type dynamics. So far the humans are fairly tolerable.  Russell is mostly bland but I can live with that, at least he’s not crying all the time or being Miko.

B: Oh, very well. The “kid is actually more mature than oddball father” reminds me of Outlaw Star. Other than that… meh. I guess we’ll need to see more of Russell & Denny to tell if they’re annoying or interesting.

Plot

B: Bumblee has been sent to Earth by the ghost (?) of Optimus Prime. Fixit’s ship has crashed, and all the Decepticon prisoners aboard have escaped and are making trouble on Earth. Shame there weren’t more guards.  Also, I wonder where the ship was going. Perhaps, we’ll see, in time. It’s too early to tell.

R: It’s an OK premise but the “gotta recapture them all thing” clearly lends itself to the monster of the week format which has been fun so far but will get old pretty quickly. I like my villains to have some depth: this is why I loved Prime so much, it was the ultimate ‘Con show by the finale! I know Hasbro want this show to be less dark and grim than Prime was but that doesn’t meant we can’t still have interesting villains. Steeljaw seems promising though (also, his voice is lush). I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

I can’t see myself getting obsessed with this like I did Prime (no Starscream for a start) and it’ll have to go some to rival the off the wall genius that was TFA but early signs are quite promising. It’s stylish and there are some potentially interesting characters and enough in-jokes and throwback references to earlier incarnations and continuities to keep adult fans amused. It’s good to have it for sure. I don’t like any of the toys from it, but that’s a subject for another post (as well as being a relief for my wallet!)

B: Yeah, what she said! Except the last bit: RID Warrior-Class Drift is a pretty nice figure.

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8 thoughts on “Robots in Disguise 2015: First Impressions Discussion

    • Thanks for commenting! Yes, it’s such a positive design for Strongarm. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Prime Arcee but since she came out there’s been a bit of a tendency to make all femmebots recolours/retools of her, i,e skinny “bike babes” (the now defunct Transformers Universe was awful for that!) It’s great to see a lady bot here who is one of the larger members of the team. Not as large as Grimlock, obviously, but then he’s a goddamn robot T-Rex!

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    • Thanks for stopping by! Funnily enough I’m just working on a new post about robots people often find annoying where I pretty much defend Claptrap because I really love him too! I still need to see more episodes of RID2015 to have a full opinion on Fixit but he was so great in the episode with Chop-Shop!

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  1. Like the generic, Hans Zimmer xerox-style score by Steve Jablonsky, and the lightweight, edgeless and comically earnest indie-pop soundtrack songs by Imagine Dragons, ‘Age Of Extinction’ is oddly anonymous and impersonal.

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