Beast Wars: Transformers was Kenner’s incredible reinvention of the Transformers brand, beginning in 1996. Its focus was realistically styled animal alternate modes – a far cry from the vehicles and robotic beasts rendered previously. Placing “Transformers” after the name was quite symbolic of how far this series wandered from the paths beaten by the robots in disguise.
Beast Wars revolutionized everything about Transformers toys. They were divided into two new factions, with new characters and a new story. Instead of being divided into subgroups around a theme or gimmick, toys were divided into price categories called “classes”. Many toys began to use ball-and-socket joints, allowing an unprecedented degree of articulation and poseability. Further, the joints had the benefit of detaching with excessive force instead of breaking or cracking. Detached limbs could be snapped back on with no permanent damage to the figure.
Beast Wars introduced another new concept that would become a standard for Transformers: all weapons could either be stored or used in all modes of the figures. Gone were the racks of extraneous missiles, or guns and rifles piled up behind a row of cars. Many figures had spring-loaded action features or firing weapons that added excitement to fit into the new “play pattern” of kids.
After a couple of themed sets (partly mechanical beasts, mutated beasts etc.), Beast Wars wound to a close in 2000, overlapping its successor series, Beast Machines. The brand was left with a whole new direction, and booming sales to show for it.