After the massive success of the Transformers Movie line, Hasbro had to switch gears to a regular cartoon-based series in 2008, until the Hollywood sequels could be delivered. The resulting partnership with Cartoon Network created a different breed of series - toys designed after the cartoon, instead of the other way around: Transformers Animated.
Animated did more than showcase function following form: the artistic form changed dramatically. The TV series featured a very contemporary cartoon style: heavy, swooping lines and cel-shaded areas. This visual style attracted much ire from fans, who were used to a more traditional anime style, or perhaps CG animation. Animated traded blockiness and realism for some of the most highly-stylized designs seen in Transformers. TakaraTomy’s engineering department followed close suit, and developed sleek, smooth toy designs that were very coherent in both modes. Some figures (typically Voyagers) also had automorph gimmicks like Movie before them. Unfortunately, like Movie, some of these gimmicks proved to be weak points of the toy.
Animated broke ranks from many previous series, and did not have any over-arching gimmicks or play features. Each character was equipped with accessories and action features as appropriate to that figure, such as interchangeable tools, triple-changing, or combining. The toys fit into the usual size classes (Deluxe, Voyager, and Leader), but like Movie, included some special classes targeted at younger audiences. Bumper Battlers featured vehicles that flipped up a robot from inside when the bumper was pressed, along with numerous electronic voice recordings. Activators supplanted Scout Class figures, and each featured simple push-button spring loaded transformations. The line also featured a number of Target exclusive giftsets, usually containing a redeco of a main-line figure packed with either an Activator or two Legends Class toys.
Animated spent its short life plagued by accusations of particularly poor quality control. Mis-assembled parts, voids (pockets of air left in the plastic mold leaving holes in a part), and too-loose or too-tight fitment were all common complaints registered by fans online. Infamously, a spate of the much-awaited Blitzwing figure were spotted in stores without heads. By 2009, the line had run its course, with a legacy of a few Animated toys included in later toylines due to the unique (and incompatible) visual style. More importantly, Revenge of the Fallen was ready to dominate the toy shelves.