Anime / Transformers: Robots in Disguise

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Robots in Disguise was the first dubbed Transformers show ever broadcast for a US audience. (English dubs of Japan-exclusive G1 cartoons like The Headmasters were produced in Asia for markets like Malaysia, but those dubs never aired in the US because they were really, really bad.)

Car Robots, the original Japanese series from which it was adapted, premiered in Japan in 2000. Originally the series was not going to be imported from Japan, but when Hasbro scrapped the planned Transtech line at the eleventh hour the Car Robots line and its attendant cartoon were imported to fill the void until a new replacement could be designed.

Robots in Disguise was produced and dubbed by Saban Entertainment, and aired from September 2001 to March 2002. It was something of a return to roots for Transformers fiction, in the sense that many characters transformed into realistic, modern Earth vehicles instead of animals or abstract/futuristic vehicles, as was standard in the Beast Era. It also marked the return of the Autobot faction and sigil for the good guys. The villains were initially called Predacons as they were in Beast Wars, but the Decepticons were added later as a sub-group. The show makes a contrast between the bumbling antics of the Predacons and the professional, sinister Decepticons.

Most of the voice actors were veterans of other Saban properties (basically, everyone from Digimon) but had never worked on a Transformers series before. Michael McConnohie, one of the series' voice directors and the voice of Hot Shot, had voiced Cosmos and Tracks in the original cartoon.

All 39 episodes were scheduled to run during the afternoon Fox Kids programming block on the Fox television network. The third episode, "Bullet Train to the Rescue", was scheduled to air on September 11, 2001, but was not aired in most areas because of the terrorist attacks in America that day. Later episodes were edited to remove scenes that might be Too Soon for the viewers, such as buildings being blown up.

For its all its action-packed adventures, there was an equal amount of emphasis on gags and humor. For all its emphasis on stand-out characterization, the plot could at times be equally as kiddy (Omega Prime powering his Matrix Blade with the happiness of children). However, attempts to compare Robots in Disguise to Beast Wars or Beast Machines may prove fruitless in the long run as the show was made in Japan for young children. But all in all, Robots in Disguise was ultimately meant to be a transitional/filler series from the end of Beast Machines to the start of Armada and it did its job quite well.

Disney is now believednote  to own the cartoon through their acquisition of Saban. DVDs for this show are only available in the UK, much to the annoyance of US fans.

Not to be confused with the American-produced Transformers: Robots in Disguise cartoon.


This cartoon provides examples of:

  • Ascended Extra: Remember that bike-character, Sideways? No? How about now?
  • Anti-Hero: Ultra Magnus is technically a good guy, but in his earlier appearances he is rather self-centered and is angry at his brother Optimus Prime for getting the Matrix instead of him.
  • Anti-Villain: Sky-Byte becomes somewhat of a reluctant ally to the Autobots as the series goes on and is somewhat less malicious than the other villains. He's so sly and slippery that he's the only one of the Decepticons and Predacons that managed to escape being imprisoned forever, gloating about it in the ending of the English dub.
  • Big Bad: The main antagonist is Megatron (known as Gigatron in the original Japanese version).
  • Bowdlerise: Not as notable in most cases of anime being dubbed for English-speaking audiences, but there are some examples.
    • Because the Japanese have different standards on what is acceptable for children's media, a lot of the characters swear in the Japanese version. The language is obviously cleaned up in the English dub.
    • In the 11th episode, Wrecker Hook (known as Two-Line in the English dub) boasts about how the drivers of the vehicles he tows will be punished for their sins by God. The English dub changes it to Two-Line being obsessed with enforcing traffic laws because many consider it taboo to discuss religious concepts in children's shows.
    • The 30th episode has a scene where Build Typhoon coerces Build Boy into getting back to work by sitting in front of him and threatening to commit harakiri. Because references to suicide obviously won't fly in a children's show, the English dub instead has the dialogue altered so that Heavy Load was blocking Wedge's path and refusing to budge until he stopped slacking.
  • Breakout Character: Sky-Byte and Scourge. The latter popularized the concept of evil Optimus clones, and since then, there's been at least one in nearly every series (to the point that there was a fan movement to change the more common 'Nemesis Prime' to his name). The former received an incarnation in Transformers Animated, was considered for a Universe toy before until Botcon came out with an awesome Sharkticon remold, and even managed the rare feat of retroactively being added to G1 in two separate continuities.
  • Butt Monkey:
    • Kelly, whose day is eternally ruined by either the Autobots or the Predacons.
    • Also applies to Sky-Byte and his Predacons whenever they try to foil the Decepticons' plans.
  • By-the-Book Cop: Prowl has very little patience for lawbreakers and often tries to arrest the Predacons.
  • Calling Your Attacks: Most anime involve a degree of this, but RID is high even in comparison, especially in translation.
  • Canon Immigrant/ Retcon: Kiss Players retcons Car Robots into the G1 continuity family, both series take place in between the movie (set in 2005) and Season 3 (which is set in 2010 in Japan as opposed to one year after the movie). Brave Maximus time travels, arriving on the Planet Master, becoming the inspiration for the construction of Fortress Maximus from Transformers Headmasters anime.
  • The City: Tokyo in Car Robots; the city is named Metro City Robots In Disguise
  • Clip Show: Three of them, despite the series only being 39 episodes long.
    • Saban even redid the clip shows; the third one, which in Car Robots was about Sky-Byte's reflections on recent events, was completely scrapped in favor of Megatron reviewing the arrival of Ultra Magnus, even though Megatron had become Galvatron a few episodes previously, putting the episode out of order.
  • Continuity Reboot: This series was the first to not be a continuation of Transformers Generation 1 in any way, shape, or form.
  • Cool Train: About the only series to prominently feature a team of train-based Transformers- which due to the series also paying more attention to scale than usual, meant they were much bigger than the other Transformers. In one episode, Midnight Express has become quite attached to a non-sentient steam engine. (Although that's a case of Woolseyism — J4 of Car Robots treats said steam engine as one would treat a revered elder.)
  • Combining Mecha: The Build Team forms Landfill, the Decepticons form Ruination, and Team Bullet Train forms Rail Racer.
  • Demonic Possession: A mild version, with Skid-Z being possessed by the "psychotropic energy" of a race driver, and being compelled to join any race.
  • The Dragon: Sky-Bite is Megatron's most trusted minion and often orders Dark Scream, Slapper, and Gas Skunk around.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Megatron is this to the Predacon Council, who are only mentioned in the English dub.
  • Dub Name Change:
    • Almost everybody, but some Transformers were renamed in honor of G1 characters (Build Hurricane became Grimlock, Mach Alert became Prowl, Gigatron became Megatron, etc).
    • In addition to individual characters, this also went for the names of the specific groups. While the English dub has the heroes go by Autobots as per tradition with the bad guys called Predacons, the Japanese version had the good guys addressed as Cybertrons and the villains referred to as Destrongers. In addition, some of the sub-factions are known in the English dub as Team Bullet Train, Build Team, and Decepticons, while their respective Japanese names are Team Shinkansen, Buildmaster, and the Combatrons.
  • Evil Counterpart: Scourge, the first of many black repaints of Prime to be popular in America.
  • Evil Laugh: The Predacons often laugh evilly.
  • Evil Twin: Scourge is an evil copy of Optimus Prime. Funnily enough, Scourge looks more like G1 Optimus (aside from color) than Optimus does.
  • Fake Defector:
    • Mirage pretends to betray the Autobots in "Mirage's Betrayal" so he can dupe the Predacons after learning that they put a device on him that allowed them to hear his conversations with the other Autobots.
    • Ultra Magnus also tried to play the Decepticons for chumps, but his plan was ruined by the intervention of the Autobot Brothers.
  • Heel–Face Mole: The Decepticon subgroup tries this out in one episode, and almost succeed.
  • Heroes Want Red Sports Cars: Side Burn has a thing for red sports cars. And it's almost always the same driver.
  • Idiosyncratic Wipes: The English dub marks the return of the classic Transformer style wipes. The original Japanese version also does this, but a bit less frequently and in a different style.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Sky-Byte is smarter than the rest of Megatron's underlings, but still tends to have things go bad for him.
  • Jerkass: Before softening up, Ultra Magnus starts out as being very rude to the other Autobots and only caring about taking the Energon Matrix from Optimus Prime.
  • Kansai Regional Accent: Gusher (a.k.a. Slapper).
  • Kid-Appeal Character:
    • Wedge. He's small, enormously eager to prove himself, young, and towards the end of the series, its HIS courage that inspires Omega Prime to act and pull off a big feat. To top it all off, he's yellow orange.
    • Most fans less familiar with the series generally associate Side Burn with the role, though... because out of the first bunch of protagonists, he's the sports car.
  • Lima Syndrome: Sky-Byte, who provides the page quote.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Side Burn's obsession with red sports cars. Disturbing implications arise when his Super Mode is a red sports car.
  • Merchandise-Driven: To be expected, as the Transformers cartoons have always had accompanying toylines.
  • Meaningful Name: In Japan, this incarnation of Megatron was named Gigatron. "Giga" means a thousand units of something, which applies to this Megatron having at least ten alternate modes, quite possibly the most out of any character in any of the series.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Sky-Byte is somewhat nicer than the other villains and even unintentionally helps people on occasion.
  • Mythology Gag: Many episodes of Robots in Disguise featured references to characters and events from earlier Transformers series. These were typically not written by the dub team but, rather, were added by Hasbro employee Andrew Frankel after the scripts were submitted to the company for broadcast approval.
    • One of the strangest is that T-AI, the RiD Autobots' computer/holographic AI, is the daughter of Teletraan-1, the Generation One Ark's main computer.
      • Possibly justified in that spin-off processes are sometimes called "daughter processes".
  • No Name Given: Kelly was never mentioned by name in the series but rather it was her name according to the script.
    • Her name is actually mentioned once, but only in the Italian dub.
  • Orcus on His Throne: Megatron in many early episodes - although he is stronger than all of the Predacons combined, he often sent them into the field alone instead of accompanying them.
  • Parental Bonus: Sky-Byte reads A Tale of Two Cities in one episode and doesn't think much of it.
  • Poor Man's Substitute: Neil Kaplan does a pretty awesome Peter Cullen impersonation as Optimus Prime.
  • Power Trio: The Autobot Bros., Side Burn, X-Brawn, and Prowl. Railspike, Rapid Run, and Midnight Express — who comprise Team Bullet Train — also qualify.
  • Product Promotion Parade: One infamous scene consisted of Scourge describing the abilities of the other Decepticons, for no reason whatsoever.
  • Recurring Extra: Kelly, a human woman who appears in every episode just to suffer a great misfortune.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Scourge and Mega-Octane.
  • Robo Family: The Autobot Brothers: Prowl, X-Brawn and Sideburn.
  • Running Gag: The mistreatment of Kelly, Side Burn and red sports cars, Transformers in general not seeming to realize that vehicles on this planet aren't sapient.
  • Serial Escalation: Megatron had six different forms (or, at least, his figure did); Bat, Jet, Claw, Car, and two-headed dragon, as well as his normal robot mode. After becoming Galvatron, he gets an extra four modes.
    • We get to see all of his modes during the show, though some are one-scene wonders.
  • Shoulder Cannon:
    • Scourge's Barrage Attack, as well as Optimus' Strafe Attack.
    • Slapper and Gas Skunk have weapons built into their shoulders (Right Laser and Left Laser, respectively).
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sibling Rivalry: Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime are brothers in this continuity and initially don't get along well.
  • Slap Stick Knows No Gender: Kelly is a female character and just can't catch a break.
  • The Starscream: Scourge at one point attempts to use Fotress Maximus to destroy Galvatron and usurp his position as leader of the bad guys.
  • Team Mom: T-AI assigns missions for the Autobots and takes on the form of a young girl.
  • Terrible Trio: Slapper, Darkscream, and Gas Skunk are Megatron's three most active minions.
  • ˇThree Amigos!: Koji is often seen in the company of his friends Karl and Jenny.
  • Token Mini-Moe: T-AI (pronounced 'tie'). She is a computer generated hologram, but she took an appearance a young woman, resulting in her being much smaller than the Autobots.
  • Verbal Tic: Guildor (the Japanese Dark Scream) ends sentences with "de gozaru".
  • Wacky Racing: The episode "Skid Z's Choice," in which most of the cast (including Megatron, Sky-Byte and Team Bullet Train) participating in a free-for-all to lure out a haunted Transformer...
  • Warrior Poet: Sky-Byte at one point tries to impress Optimus Prime with his poetry, only for the Autobot leader to insult his work.
  • What Does This Button Do?: Subverted: See Funny moments.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: X-Brawn. Despite most people's belief that the X was added to the name because of legal trouble, it was really just added because it makes the name sound cooler. YMMV.
    • Skid-Z, whose name is just pronounced "Skids".

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