Japan Equivalent: Beast Wars (Japan) and Beast Wars Metals
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 with varying prices, toys were divided into discrete price categories called size classes. Basic figures usually featured spring-loaded transformation gimmicks, while Deluxe figures made up the majority of the line and represented most of the main characters. Larger figures comprised the Mega and Ultra classes, while Super class was reserved for a single complex electronic figure.
Most of the 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. Beast Wars was also the first series to abandon any sort of user-applied sticker decorations, using only tampograph and paint operations to convey a sense of detail.
After a couple of themed sets (partly mechanical beasts, mutated beasts etc.) to bring further excitement to the animalian robots (and refresh store shelves in corporate purchasers’ eyes), Beast Wars wound to a close in 2000, overlapping its successor series, Beast Machines. The brand was left facing a whole new direction, and had booming sales to show for it.