Megatron:"It appears you and I are destined to battle aboard this ship once more, Autobot." Optimus Prime:"Bring it on, Decepticon."
Debuting in December 2007 with a three-episode-long "pilot movie", Animated, despite being an Alternate Continuity, was created to ride the popularity of the 2007 Transformers film and, as a result, borrows several aspects of the film. Despite severe fan reactions to the character designs and animation style, the show's story and scripting (and a healthy respect to the saga as a whole) have won over many converts in short order.A group of maintenance Autobots (Optimus Prime, Ratchet, Bulkhead, Prowl and Bumblebee) discover the coveted Transformer artifact called "The AllSpark" and, in escaping pursuit from the Decepticons, land on Earth in Detroit. Waking up in The Future, they befriend Sari Sumdac, 7-year-old daughter of Professor Isaac Sumdac, and work to maintain friendly relations with the public. However, the Decepticons aren't far behind.One of the things that separate this show from its predecessors is the animation style, which is fluid, simplistic and very organic-looking. While some are still unhappy with the look, the simple style makes animation easier and gave some really stylistic action scenes; you can become accustomed to it surprisingly quickly.Another distinction is the way the Decepticons are used. They are big and powerful enemies, and the protagonists are maintenance workers (In fact, most of their weapons are re-purposed tools); even one 'Con requires the entire small Autobot team to work together just to contain him. Most of the time, Megatron is planning some sort of gambit to avoid detection while still furthering his plans. He is dangerous, but the Decepticons as a whole are a scattered group; Megatron doesn't want to deal with the entire Autobot Elite Guard before he's ready. Additionally, the Decepticons mostly consider themselves freedom fighters against a corrupt and unfair caste system with the Autobots firmly at the top; the truth is they are more like the IRA.To maintain the Decepticons as serious enemies, humans comprise the bulk of the Autobots' enemies for the first two seasons. Some are joke villains who are only petty thieves, but others are legitimate threats to the Autobots. Other unique features of the show are that the Transformers are very well-known among the community, and there is a noticeable lack of Hero Insurance. The humans are unhappy with the collateral damage, and the Autobots maintain their good graces by repairing the city. (After all, they are construction workers.)The show lasted three seasons and although somewhat cut short on production plans (they were hoping for a fourth season) the last episode was written to serve as a respectable Grand Finale, concluding the overall Myth Arc. Transformers Prime was announced almost immediately following this show, which has unfortunately lead to an Internet Backdraft rumor that "Prime killed Animated." In some sense, this is backed up by Hasbro's decision to compete with Cartoon Network, Animated's broadcaster, by partnering with Discovery Communications to launch The Hub, the home of Prime.However, the series got a brief revival/continuation via the Official Fanclub and its Timelines imprint, with an exclusive toyset designed by the series' art director and a comic penned by the series' main writer, and said writer has expressed a desire to continue Season 4 via comics if any publisher is willing. In addition, the Hub itself has begun airing the series.See also the character page.
This Show Provides Examples of:
Abandoned Mine: the Decepticons set up a hidden base in one. It also features prominently in the episode "Nature Calls".
Action-Hogging Opening: Strangely subverted with the American opening. Played straight with the Japanese opening.
Adaptational Badass: Waspinator. Good lord, Waspinator. In Beast Wars he was pretty much the biggest Butt Monkey in the history of Transformers ("Why universe hate Waspinator?"). In this series, as Wasp he was one of the Autobot Academy's most promising candidates (despite being an overall Jerkass), before spending years in imprisonment drove him paranoid and crazy. When Blackarachnia transformed him into Waspinator, he reached Nightmare Fuel levels of sinister. ("Waspinator has plans...")
Megatron. In the original G1 cartoon, nobody feared Megatron. Rather, they just considered him to be the bad guy. He is also the subject of goofy outward monologues that only make his followers quake in fear. This show depicts Megatron as a discount Dracula/Vlad the Impaler; a one man army, feared by everyone who knows who he is, and rarely any of his enemies walk away.
Starscream, of sorts. In G1, anyone could pick a fight with Starscream, and they very rarely lost. He is a transparent strategist with poor fighting skills, and his silver tongue is his only positive. In this version, Starscream rarely shows signs of cunning, and only uses his brute strength to defeat his enemies. In the first episode, it takes an entire five autobots to survive his constant attacks, and at a later point, he incapacitates the most powerful autobot commander. Starscream is half of what Megatron is regardless, but if it takes half of a race just to arrest him, Starscream has earned his right to be his second-in-command.
Adaptational Villainy: Animated Waspinator is much scarier and more villainous than the Chew Toy Waspinator in Beast Wars, who spent a lot of his time being blasted to bits by other robots.
Adorably Precocious Child - Cosmos is one of the smartest characters spoken about in the Almanac, and yet he is one of the most adorable characters in the entire roster.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Megatron developed Soundwave to evolve with uses of Sari's key into a new body, but Soundwave unexpectedly became sentient unto himself (though still useful to Megatron's plans). And then there's stuff like Professor Sumdac's malfunctioning police robots, and the nanobots in the pilot, and...
One must wonder how Sumdac stays in business if 3/4 of his machines go haywire. On the other hand, owning the patents on the fundamental building blocks of the robot technology that forms the backbone of modern society probably helps.
Subverted somewhat with Wreck-Gar, who is pretty much a very impressionable child with ADD.
Aliens Steal Cable: Quite literally: Sari (half-alien herself) and Bumblebee use the Key to pirate Master Disaster's illegal street races.
Almighty Janitor: Eventually taken to near absurd lengths with the main crew. Despite being a lowly maintenance crew, they have A cadet who was on track for the Elite Guard, a vet from the Great War who is bonded to the Autobot's greatest weapon (which happens to be their ship), the most skilled spacebridge engineer in the Autobot ranks, and one of the most skilled Cyberninjas around). Really, everyone but Bumblebee is considered near top of their field, and this is before they Took a Level in Badass
All There in the Manual: The Starscream clones are only ever referred to by their personalities (or gender), but their toys are named after the G1 Seekers: Coward Starscream = "Skywarp," Sycophant Starscream = "Sunstorm," Egomaniac Starscream = "Thundercracker". This is because if they gave them proper names in the credits, they would have had to pay Tom Kenny for four more characters. And while he didn't get a toy until long after these three, the Liar Starscream's name was given as "Ramjet" in the Allspark Almanac.
In an almost literal example, toyless Female Starscream's official name "Slipstream" was created just for The AllSpark Almanac.
Actually The Allspark Almanac probably counts a lot for this trope, revealing intense amounts of detail (and Shout Outs about the show, the setting and the characters).
The Allspark Almanac II is even better, with lots of hints of what happened after the series, more detail about life on Cybertron (including how protoforms are developed), and more behind-the-scenes information about the show itself.
Aloof Ally: The Dinobots and the main team of Autobots have a relationship that is adversarial at best.
Amoral Attorney: Implied by Meltdown, whose mutant shark monster used to be his lawyer. The bat monster was his accountant, somewhat relatedly.
Both are Mythology Gag's to the original series: Being sentenced to death-by-Sharkticon was the only outcome of a Quintesson trial in Transformers: The Movie, and in the G1 comic books, Ratbat was, essentially, the Decepticons' accountant.
Their designs are throwbacks, too, this time to the G1 Pretender Monsters, originally robots that could don mass-shifting organic shells to pass as (or, in the Monsters' case, terrorize) ordinary people.
And This Is for...: In "Survival of the Fittest", Prowl and Captain Fanzone fight Meltdown's mutated minions while trying to save Sari from his experiments. Fanzone throws one particularly impressive punch with a yell of "And that's for Sari!"
Androcles' Lion: Grimlock, complete with thorn in his foot for those who might miss the connection.
Animal Mecha: The Dinobots, as usual. Soundwave's pets combine this with Instrument of Murder, and then there's Steeljaw and Zaur on Cybertron. Blackarachnia and Waspinator fall into the "actually-part-organic" category.
The Fan Nickname 'Punch of Kill Everything' made it into the canon comics (though sadly not the show itself), and shows up in Transformers: War for Cybertron to boot (as both a Leader-class killstreak reward and a Soldier-class melee upgrade).
Asteroids Monster: Rock Lords (or at least the animalistic space-born ones) can form smaller versions of themselves if shattered.
Attack Pattern Alpha: 'Omega Formation' is used against Blitzwing in 'Sari, No-One's Home'. It doesn't end well.
Awesome, but Impractical: The maintenance Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, chose regular everyday vehicles as a means to disguise themselves in the city. What does Sentinel Prime choose as alternate modes to avoid getting noticed? A massive combat-grade missile truck for Ultra Magnus, and a snow plow (in summer) for himself!
Bumblebee: No one's gonna notice that!
Back-to-Back Badasses: With bonus Strange Bedfellows: Megatron and Optimus Prime. "Well, you're the last bot I'd expect to come to my rescue." When Optimus says he isn't, Megatron then grabs Optimus and uses him as a shield.
Badass Normal: Captain Fanzone. Survival of the Fittest should be simple enough.
Bag of Holding: Swindle's "personal storage dimension" and Wreck-Gar's backpack, which contains (quite literally) everything and the kitchen sink. The former has a justification, the latter runs on Rule of Funny.
Big Bad: Megatron. He doesn't get his short-lived Evil Plans thwarted every week anymore, nooo...
Big Bad Ensemble: While Megatron was the overall Big Bad of the series, the writers wanted to minimize his appearance to further emphasize the threat he posed. In addition to Megatron and the Decepticons loyal to him, we had rogue Decepticons like Starscream, Lockdown, Blackarachnia and Swindle, or semi-affiliated ones like Soundwave, running around causing problems, and various human enemies. Among the humans, Meltdown and Porter C. Powell were chief among the Autobots human antagonists.
Bizarrchitecture: Sumdac Tower is shaped like a giant spark plug, and thus is narrower at the bottom than it is near the top.
Black and Gray Morality: This series is less black-and-white than some of the others - while the Decepticons are unquestionably the bad guys, the Autobots aren't exactly noble, flawless heroes. The best example is the Autobot leadership, which is flawed and includes at least one power-grabbing xenophobe. The Decepticons are "freedom fighters" in some twisted sense, which might have made them "gray" rather than "black" if it weren't clear that they have no respect for anyone's plight but their own.
Blofeld Ploy: Played with in the first season finale. Megatron mentions how appropriate it is to have Starscream with him as he takes his revenge on the one responsible for his 50 years as a head. He then aims at Optimus, only to turn around and slag Starscream, who actually was responsible for it but didn't think Megatron knew.
Blow You Away: Jetstorm and vehicle-mode Safeguard. Optimus whips up a tornado with the Magnus Hammer.
Butt Monkey: If you get annoyed at Jerk Ass Sentinel Prime, just wait five minutes and something nasty will happen to him. Usually it's related to Earth's weather/inhabitants/road structure, but he's also had his body stolen by a human, been humiliated in front of his comrades, screamed like a little girl when encountering organics, failed at driving in the rain, and been wrong in pretty much every arrogant assertion he's made.
From season 2 onward, Starscream also becomes a Butt Monkey in this series. It starts with the infamous "Starscream Death Montage" with Megatron killing him over and over again (with the allspark fragment on his head being the only thing keeping him alive). All of his plans always fail and in the finale in which may be his Crowning Moment of Butt Monkery, his clones (with one heavily implied to represent his self-loathing) betray him for Megatron. He spends the majority of season three as a disembodied head trapped with Megatron aboard Omega Supreme, and just when he fnally gets a new body, Megatron blasts him (He recovers). And in the finale, The allspark fragment that was keeping him alive is pulled out, thus killing him. And if you count the comic adaptation, he gets humiliated and blackmailed by Professor Princess. One can't help but feel a bit sorry for him.
Canon Immigrant: Oil Slick was never intended to be in the show (in fact, he was originally just a sketch someone made in their free time), and was kept to the toyline and the comics. He's since been introduced in the cartoon in a brief but memorable scene. Roughly the same deal with Soundwave's guitar creatures.
Inverted with Prowl's samurai armor sidecar; it was created for the show but Hasbro liked the design so much they made a toy version, and Prowl eventually got the armor permanently.
Caped Mecha: Lockdown's space poncho and Alpha Trion's traditional cape. Red Alert's design makes her look like she's wearing a labcoat, but at least that's clearly a part of her altmode.
Cardboard Prison: Played straight and averted. The first time Meltdown escapes, he apparently does so without the Detroit Police even hearing about it. The second time, however, he's stuck in a specially-designed cell not even he can melt through and it takes the Dinobots (following Blackarachnia's orders) to get him out. The lower-grade supervillains like the Angry Archer seem to have an easier time of it: Fanzone even points this out in the Almanac.
The Decepticons seem to escape with frightening frequency on the ELITE GUARD ship
Cassandra Truth: Bulkhead tries to warn Sari about Soundwave, but she's just not listening.
Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Wreck-Gar and Random Blitzwing. To quote the latter after being sent flying:
Mayday! Mayday! Let's all dance around the maypole!
Co-Dragons: Lugnut and Shockwave. When they finally meet, it takes them about ten minutes to start fighting over which of them is the most loyal to Megatron.
Thanks partly to Starscream manipulating the (rather dense) Lugnut...and because Megatron wanted Lugnut to be at his most loyal.
Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The Autobots are bright, primary colors (sans Bulkhead and Prowl) while the Decepticons are muted or secondary colors like gray, purple and green. Dead Cybertronians become a distinct darkish grey, in homage to G1 Optimus Prime's death in The Movie.
Combat Stilettos: Stiletto, a comic-only human supervillain, uses experimental Sumdac weapons in her heels (she's also a kickboxer). Blackarachnia, for some reason, only gained high-heels after becoming part-organic. Sari sort-of lampshades this in Bee in the City by asking who designs a robot with high heels: Flareup doesn't know either, but when she finds him...
Curb-Stomp Battle: The main Autobots are a maintenance crew, only a handful of whom have proper combat training and only one of whom has actual experience. The Decepticons are massive, powerful war machines. Do the math.
Then you have the three Dinobots against Meltdown's mutants. Do that math.
Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: Perceptor may already be a robot, but according to Word of God, he deleted his own personality and capacity for emotion in order to store more information in his processor.
Dark Action Girl: Slipstream, the Female Starscream, as treacherous as her progenitor and her fellow trope examples. Blackarachnia sometimes fills this role as well, though she's more often a Femme Fatale.
Deadline News: A reporter is covering the Robot War that Soundwave started when his camera starts attacking him. Then we see a News-Bot covering the news a few days later...
He survived, and is shown covering the garbage disputes in Season 2.
Death Montage: a now immortal Starscream gets one showing him attempting, and failing, to overthrow Megatron.
Decomposite Character: Played straight maybe; we're not quite sure what happened with Skywarp and Cyclonus. In Transformers Generation 1, Cyclonus may or may not be an upgraded Skywarp (blame error-prone animation for a confusing Transformation Sequence.) The Animated version, however? Skywarp is one of several clones of Starscream, each with one trait of the original taken Up to Eleven. Skywarp represents his cowardice. As for Cyclonus, he's a brief cameo, but All There in the Manual tells us that his "internal chronometer" is way off, he is seeking someone named Galvatron (that's Megatron's upgraded form in G1 and several other series), and he has some circuitry in common with Starscream, particularly his (now disabled) self-preservation instinct. This hints without saying that Cyclonus is from the future and used to be Skywarp.
Deflector Shields: Sumdac Tower has an emergency force-field that can cover the entire building - pretty impressive, considering it's one of the few inventions that probably didn't have its roots in Megatron. The Elite Guard ship also has one, and Swindle has a personal version that he purchased from the Vok.
Deserted Island: North Sister Island, a volcanic island that somehow exists in the middle of Lake Erie. Then it becomes "Dinobot Island" and gets more and more crowded.
Dinosaurs Are Dragons: The Dinobots, as ever, although Professor Sumdac didn't actually have this in mind while designing them. Megatron added the flame breath because he planned on using one of them as a new body and the others as attack drones.
Dirty Coward: Coward Starscream, even more so than Starscream himself, though the clone lacks even the courage to betray people to ensure his own safety.
Disco Dan: Meltdown. Not only does he cling to outmoded ideals about human superiority over all machines, he also once speechified about how Prof. Sumdac isn't worthy to "lick the mud off my platform shoes, booga-looga-looga-looz!"
Distinctive Appearances: Nearly every robot in the series can be identified by their shadow. Especially Blackarachnia.
Nearly any. Many Cybertronians share a mold with either Bumblebee or Ratchet, the former moreso.
Distracted by the Sexy: Blackarachnia pulls this on Bulkhead and Bumblebee during her first appearance on Earth (They'd never seen a female Transformer before) and does it quite often to Optimus Prime (who kinda used to be her ex) afterwards.
Also, as Blackarachnia she keeps having to be saved from her own attempts at evil schemes. Even the one exception to this rule was retroactively made one (after Megatron Rising, it was the Dinobots who pulled her to the island.) That's three female 'bots (for the price of two) who were quite Bad Ass in previous incarnations whose roles have been reduced to "helpless victim who is either saved, or not saved as part of a male 'bot's backstory." You really expect the 2008 series to be more progressive than the 80s/90s ones... but in the writers' favor, there is Sari.
Drives Like Crazy: Sentinel, although it's more to do with his contempt for human traffic laws (he also can't figure out how to drive in the rain). All of the "Automen" in Human Error, where they have to actually work their vehicle modes from the inside instead of just thinking about it.
Dub Name Change: In the Japanese version, Bulkhead's name was changed to Ironhide so the main group of Autobots will all correspond to the main group of Transformers Film Series Autobots (except for Prowl - oops). Consequentially, Ironhide's name was changed to "Armorhide".
Dumb Muscle: The Dinobots, especially the toddler-like Grimlock. Of course, Swoop and Snarl can't seem to muster up the processor power to speak, either. Lugnut, Scrapper, Mixmaster, and Blackout are also standouts, while Bulkhead is a Genius Ditz, though his lack of general intelligence is played up considerably in the Japanese dub. Omega Supreme was specifically programmed to be Dumb Muscle, so that he wouldn't question his lot in life as a Robot Of Mass Destruction. Blitzwing's Hothead personality leans toward this, as well.
Eats Babies: Megatron is such a nightmarish, legendary figure to the Autobots that he's said to eat their protoforms for breakfast. He doesn't, although he doesn't mind using them to build WMDs.
According to some fans, Omega Supreme feeds on protoforms. He was built by Wheeljack...
Eat the Bomb: Snarl swallows a missile in the Dinobots' debut episode, and isn't even fazed.
Easy Amnesia: Averted, for the most part, with Arcee. After she loses her memory it stays lost for a very, very long time, and it takes quite a while to retrieve them properly in the finale. There was also a scrapped Season 4 idea with this as its main plot point, this time with Cosmos being amnesiac instead of Arcee. According to the Allspark Almanac 2, "Hilarity Ensues".
Enemy Mine: Although they're technically both Autobots, Optimus and Grimlock's fateful team-up played out like this.
Engrish: The closed captioning for one episode dubbed Shockwave as "Chugway"
Several of Sentinel Prime's design elements (he's energetic, mostly blue, with a very prominent chin) are based on The Tick, with whom he shares a voice actor. This was done on purpose after said actor was cast for the role.
Omega S.P.R.E.E.M. was a homage to Omega Spreem, an obscure toy from the Generation 1 Action Masters line.
Family-Unfriendly Death: Blurr gets trapped in a tunnel and crushed by its closing walls. After which his killer (in disguise) casually hands his cube-sized remains over to the nearest Autobot who has no idea what he just tossed down the disposal chute. Considering the show had no "real" deaths up until this point, this made the emotional impact even worse.
Meltdown and his henchman don't like machines. Captain Fanzone likes to say he hates machines, but this is really in the context of being old-fashioned and irritable (and a Walking Techbane). He's on good terms with the Autobots, even if they keep messing up his city.
Sentinel Prime really doesn't like organics. This is actually endemic to the entire Cybertronian population (Optimus' crew, for whatever reason, are far more tolerant even at the start), but Sentinel goes above and beyond. He actually tells Blackarachnia, his old friend Elita-1 turned techno-organic, that she was better off dead before trying to kill her. How bad is this? Even Blackarachnia herself has less hatred for her organic half than Sentinel does, and she spends the entire series trying to purge it. Second-in-command of the Autobot Elite Guard, everybody!
Fanzone actually uses this against the Cybertronians when he ends up on Cyberton in one episode. Being a human and all, he's basically a walking bioterrorism weapon.
Fascists' Bed Time: One of Sentinel's first acts as Magnus is to institute a curfew. What this means for robots who don't exactly 'sleep' is unclear, although they do take 'stasis naps'.
Fastball Special: Optimus does this with Sentinel Prime to get the latter into melee range of Lugnut. They were in space at the time.
Bulkhead tosses Prowl and Bumblebee on more than one occasion. See also the Not Quite Flight example below.
Foreshadowing: At the end of the first season, Sari tries interacting with the Allspark and all it shows is a holographic DNA helix surrounding a spark. No explanation is given until the end of the second season but the fans quickly latched onto that as confirmation of some Wild Mass Guessing.
When Nanosec acquires the speedsuit, he runs around town and robs a few banks to test it out. The next time he runs into Bumblebee, he tells Nanosec the suit makes him look ten years older.
In "Return Of The Headmaster" Bumblebee and Bulkhead both casually and correctly guess the show's big plot twist ( that Sari is actually a robot) but at the time it just seemed like they were making crap up.
Godzilla Threshold: After Sari goes through a fit of Explosive Overclocking, Ratchet manages to bypass the out-of-control circuits...until Megatron returns to Earth having commandeered Omega Supreme. Cue an Oh Crap from the whole team:
Ratchet: ...there's nothing more I can do for her now!
Optimus Prime: I know, but I may need you to UN-do something.
Prowl: You're not actually suggesting we unleash an uncontrollable Sari on Omega Supreme are you?
Optimus Prime: I'm hoping we won't have to!
A much more comedic example comes during Bee in the City. With Optimus and Sari captured by Transtech Sari, Bumblebee is left to ally with a purple Tyrannosaurus, yesssssss and Flare-Up to save them. When trying to come up with ideas, he decides they need BIG help, suggesting they call in Grimlock, or scam Lugnut into helping them out.
"Joe": Oh please, what do I look like, Scott Mc Neil?!? note David Kaye voices Animated Optimus, Grimlock and Lugnut, as well as "Joe". Scott Mc Neil previously voiced Rattrap, Dinobot, Silverbolt, and Waspinator on Beast Wars.
Good Guy Bar: Maccadam's Old Oil House (which first appeared in the comics) is mentioned in season three. It used to be a Truce Zone back before the Decepticons were exiled, and was reportedly the one place not even Megatron himself would bomb during the war. Sentinel has it closed down for being a "subversive gathering place".
Good Is Not Nice: Well, let's see; we've got Wasp being thrown in the Stockades with one piece of questionable evidence, Swindle left paralyzed and our heroes do nothing about it, Sentinel wanting to kill Blackarachnia once he discovers who she really is, and then there's Omega Supreme's entire backstory... The Autobots can almost be as ruthless as the 'Cons at times.
Though others might argue that Autobots in this series are more grey than their usual white.
Gotta Catch Them All: In the beginning of the second season the All-Spark shatters into umpty-nine pieces each which affects Future-Detroit's technology as well as the giant robots in different ways. The cast has to find them. The similarity to Inuyasha didn't go unnoticed by the fans.
Grievous Harm with a Body: Spittor (the Decepticon frog-bot) in "TransWarped" grabs Red Alert with his tongue-tentacle things and spits her at the other Autobots.
Optimus beats up Headmaster-Sentinel with his own arm, a year before the movie! Optimus did the same thing to Starscream. He later forces Laserbeak into his altmode and clobbers Soundwave with him in Human Error part 2.
Hammerspace: Wreck-Gar's trash bin can both produce random objects and make things put in it seemingly disappear. Similarly, Swindle has an in-universe justification: a private transwarp frequency to his personal storage dimension...located in his torso.
Post-upgrade Sari uses this for an actual hammer
Has Two Mommies: In season two Sari effectively gains 5 robot daddies. Well, 3 daddies and 2 older brothers... Well, Bumblebee comes to think of himself and Bulkhead as the cool parent, while the others are collectively the strict one. Except for Ratchet, who's more the Cranky Robot Grandpa.
He Knows Too Much: Blurr was able to piece together that Wasp could not have been the traitor in the Autobot camp, as his voice did not match that of Shockwave, who was hiding under an Autobot alias. He reported this to his boss, Longarm (head of Autobot Intelligence) and told him that a simple voice scan through the data archives could determine the identity of the traitor. Unfortunately for him, he also knew too little, as Longarm was the only 'Bot he had spoken to about this... and Longarm was Shockwave's alias. Shockwave then killed him to silence him.
Hello, Nurse!: Pretty much Bulkhead's (silent) reaction when he first meets Blackarachnia.
Heroes Gone Fishing: Bumblebee and Sari can often be found playing videogames, holographic Twister or flying toy planes. "Nature Calls" starts out as a camping trip.
Heroic Sacrifice: Optimus Prime died in the third episode - less than sixty minutes into the series. He was brought back from the dead less than two minutes later - a new personal record. Then Omega Supreme died in the second season finale... but he's Not Quite Dead.
Prowl as well, in the third (and most likely final) finale.
Tutor Bot looks quite a bit like Lord Canti of FLCL.
The police drones used by the city look like the ED-209 from Robocop (which is also set in a futuristic Detroit), and Sumdac even makes a reference to it having similar problems with identification.
Blurr's vehicle mode looks like the Mach 5. The toy version even has a hidden sawblade that springs out front. On a different note, he also has wheels inspired by Cheetor from the canceled Transtech line. Appropriately, his toy will soon be retooled into an actual Trans Tech Cheetor toy.
Spittor's vehicle mode was designed as an homage to Don Figueroa's version of the original Spittor's altmode before the Beast Wars.
The Starscream clones are all based on other jets in previous Transformers series and a sly joke towards the repaint/resell methods of Transformer toys; The original Sycophant's color scheme almost exactly matches that of Starscream in The Unicron Trilogy.
Headmaster is not a Gurren Lagann reference, no matter what some people tell you. Dirt Boss, however...
Dirt Boss also has mind-controlling devices he fires into other Transformers' heads, just like the G1 Insecticon Bombshell.
During "Decepticon Air", Sari's hands splits apart into many smaller robotic fingers to operate a keyboard quickly, very much like is done by various computer operating cyborgs in Ghost in the Shell. Also, her "palm blast" hands in Transwarped bear a remarkable resemblance to the design of Iron Man's repulsors that was used in the movie.
In the same episode, Sunstorm and Ramjet get headpieces that cause them to resemble their G1 counterparts much more closely. According to the Allspark Almanac 2, Dirge and Thrust get coneheads of their own to complete the homage. Of course, Thundercracker, Skywarp, and Starscream don't get boxheads, but whatever.
Sari's first upgrade in TransWarped is another homage to Gurren Lagann, namely the way her arms and legs suddenly expand is almost identical to the way the Gurren's do when it combines with Lagann.
Optimus, Bulkhead, and Prowl are dead ringers for Hammerstein, Mongrol, and Joe Pineapples (respectively) from ABC Warriors. Blitzwing rather resembles Blackblood.
Ultra Magnus' toy received a redeco to become Roadbuster Ultra Magnus, an homage to G1's Roadbuster, who had a nearly identical vehicle mode to Animated Magnus.
Mainframe is such an homage to the original G1 character that, like the original (an altmodeless Action Master), he never transforms. The writers say is that he does have an altmode, but it's an immobile supercomputer.
Honest John: Swindle doesn't even bother with a fake name, he's just that honest.
Horrible Judge of Character: Issac Sumdac thought that Megatron was an Autobot. To be fair, that part wasn't entirely unreasonable since he had no real knowledge of the Decepticons beyond witnessing Starscream battle the Autobots. However, when Megatron starts putting flamethrowers into the Dinobots (who are running amok when this info is made aware) and begs Sumdac not to tell his "Autobot friends", it's baffling that he wouldn't find that even a little suspicious.
Inhumanable Alien Rights: Powell uses this to get Masterson off the hook for attacking Optimus and Sentinel. Fanzone and the Autobots turn this back on him a few episodes later.
Initiation Ceremony: Mixmaster and Scrapper get the 'painful' version when they officially join the Decepticons: Megatron literally brands both of them.
Insignia Rip-Off Ritual: After Shockwave frames Wasp, Sentinel removes his Autobot insignia as Cliffjumper is taking him away.
Instrument of Murder: Soundwave has an electric guitar that turned into his attack bird Laserbeak. He also has Ratbat, who turns into a keytar.
Intro Dump: The first scene featuring the main Decepticons.
I Shall Taunt You: Bumblebee uses this against Blitzwing in "Megatron Rising", angering him enough to switch from Icy to Hothead in midair - meaning he transforms from plane to tank and falls out of the sky. "Oh slag! NOT AGAI-"
Island Base: There's one hidden on Dinobot Island: Meltdown moves into it after his first jailbreak, and Blackarachnia finds it during season 2. According to the Almanac, it's an abandoned government facility.
I Surrender, Suckers: When Ramjet tells you he's completely disarmed and helpless, he isn't. Sentinel, who'd never met him, didn't pick up on it, but Prowl did.
It Has Been an Honor: In the first season finale, Optimus tells the team he can't think of anyone he'd rather have by his side as they're about to go into battle. Bumblebee, however, notes he wouldn't mind having the Elite Guard there too.
Knight of Cerebus: The show has quite a few, actually, the first was Lockdown, who has his roots with Ratchet, and showed an emotional depth and seriousness that made most people grow to the series, Megatron, who basically threw out all the stops by murdering Starscreamthe moment he's right next to him, and Shockwave, who outright murdered Blurr, not to mention his generally no nonsense attitude.
We forgot Wasp, whose insanity, unlike in Beast Wars, isn't played for laughs.
Sentinel Prime transforms into a flexing musclepose.
Slightly more subtle, but head!Megatron's magnificent one-liners ("I blame myself", "I suspect it was an inside job", etc.) surely qualify.
Last Villain Stand: After the destruction of the Omega Supreme knockoffs, the capture of Lugnut and Shockwave, the death of Starscream and Prowl's Heroic Sacrifice, Megatron charges in at Optimus for one last battle. After a swift scuffle, Optimus defeats Megatron, who tells him to end him. Instead, Optimus arrests Megatron and takes him back to Cybertron.
Bumblebee, for all his charm and humor. While he is okay at fighting human supervillains he is utterly useless when fighting Decepticons on his own, as his one weapon (nodes that shoot out beams of electricity) are too weak to even make any of them flinch. Well, until he gets the limiters on them taken off and they become the most powerful weapon on the entire team.
Averted with Sari who is somewhat of a liaison between humans and the Autobots as well as having a key empowered by the Allspark.
Long Runners: In-universe, the Ninja Gladiator series of video games is over 100 years old. The first game apparently came out in the NES era and evidently its popularity has been extremely long-lived.
Losing Your Head - As inflicted by the Headmaster on Bulkhead, Sentinel Prime and Starscream. Not to mention Season 1 Megatron, and Waspinator, left in multiple pieces.
Lots of Luggage: An episode had Prowl taking Sari and Bumblebee camping. Bumblebee ends up packing a lot of electronic devices. An incredulous Prowl asks how he managed to store them all.
Macross Missile Massacre: Blitzwing can pull these off in a pinch. Lugnut can pull off a similar move with a payload of bombs.
Mad Scientist: Meltdown, the Headmaster, Oil Slick, and now Blackarachnia.
Ratchet seems to view Perceptor, Wheeljack, Mainframe, and Highbrow as this, with a "My God, what have you done?!" type reaction to every little thing they do. Although given how they created Omega Supreme to live the life he did, Ratchet might have a point.
And if /co/'s Wild Mass Guessing is right, Omega Supreme runs on protoforms (Wheeljack did make him after all).
Magic Skirt: Sari's dress. And thank god, because she's eight.
Which starts glitching along with everything else when she starts overloading.
Make Me Wanna Shout: Starscream eventually develops an eerily appropriate sonic scream ability from the Allspark fragment in his head. It's never really explained how he does this, and it's never even brought up again after "TransWarped".
Meaningful Echo: "You can trust this face, can't you?" in the pilot. Ratchet and Omega Supreme get their own in the season three premiere - "We do what we must, even if, sometimes, it doesn't make sense."
The Medic: Ratchet and Red Alert. The instant healing properties of Sari's key often displaced Ratchet's skills and put her in this role.
Medium Awareness: Slightly played with in the Japanese dub. For a crossover version, Bumblebee jokingly thinks about calling for Rescue Fire when the Autobots are responding to a building fire, and Bulkhead responds that that's a different show in part 3 of "Transform and Roll Out" (considering that Rescue Fire aired in the same timeslot before Animated's debut). Later in that same part, when Optimus was contemplating on getting the AllSpark to safety, Starscream attacks the Bots while yelling that the show's not over yet (truthfully, he could be referring that they weren't victorious yet).
Merchandise-Driven: Eventually; somewhat averted when the series first debuted, as the toyline was actually delayed several months due to Hasbro wanting to continue pushing merch from the live-action movie. The toy line would catch up, though, and one store-exclusive redeco even got featured late in the third season.
Missing Mom: Averted. While Sari initially appears to have one of these, it's eventually revealed that she's actually a robot-human hybrid who was created when Isacc Sumdac's DNA was combined with a protoform, thus no female was involved in her "birth".
Mistaken Identity: In the second-last episode, Slipstream spots Starscream flying over Detroit, and heads over to shoot him down; when she sees it's Optimus wearing a jet pack built from one of Starscream's old bodies, she flies away while expressing her surprise about flying Autobots.
Moral Dissonance: Fanzone laughing off sending Swindle to his death in "S.U.V." though he does get better; Bulkhead's unprovoked attack on who he believes to be Wasp in "Where Is Thy Sting?"
More Teeth than the Osmond Family: Sky-Byte only appears as a headshot in the AII, and doesn't even get a bio, but slag does he have teeth. It's an even bigger shift than Waspinator.
Motor Mouth: Blurr, to the nth degree. Notably, this is played differently from his G1 counterpart, who rambled irrelevancies and reiterated himself in a redundant manner; Here, he talks a blue streak at 600 mph.
Mundane Made Awesome: At the end of "Human Error," Optimus and Soundwave have a guitar duel, done completely serious.
My Nayme Is: Played with at episode 1's "next episode" segment in the Japanese dub. Bumblebee complains that "Optimus Prime" is long and hard to remember, and so opts for other names that are all rejected by Optimus: Convoy (traditionally used in Japanese TF series for almost any "Prime"), Opti (sounds more fitting for a cute dog), Opra (plain weird), and Pupu (from "Oputimasu Puraimu", and it's hard not to laugh at it). Bumblebee actually gets Optimus into responding to "Pupu", much to Prime's dismay. It soon degenerates into a "Pupu!" "Optimus Prime!" argument past the sponsor cards.
Some of them go double meta. Starscream's clones have color schemes similar to the Seekers of G1, but are also a sly dig at the repaints of Starscream that constituted the Seekers. The triceratops Dinobot in G1 was named Slag (which became an Unusual Euphemism in Beast Wars and later in this show) and this one is called Snarl. In the show Scrapper claims to have tried naming him Slag first.
And Slag was a name considered for Snarl, too.
Some of the returning voice actors are fairly obvious (Corey Burton reprising Shockwave, Susan Blu reprising Arcee, Judd Nelson reprising Rodimus Prime), but there's a more subtle one with David Kaye voicing Grimlock. David Kaye voicing a Transformer with a T-Rex as its alt-mode seems rather familiar... yeeeeeeesss...
In the Allspark Almanac II, Huffer and Pipes' character bios (as written by one another) both hint at their G1 counterparts' quirks - Pipes says Huffer loves Cybertron and he hopes he never has to find out how he would feel about being anywhere else, while Huffer says Pipes needs a hobby and has to get out in the galaxy; G1 Huffer was a constant bellyacher who hated life on Earth and just wanted to go home, and G1 Pipes was fascinated by Earth culture and technology, having an extensive Kitsch Collection of Earth knicknacks.
Also in the second AA, we have Volks' tendency to phrase every sentence he can as a question - a callback to the Generation 1 comics' infamous Death's Head.
Tigatron Stadium - a nod to the Beast Wars character, and to the late, great Tiger Stadium.
Blackarachnia, Wasp(inator) and Rattletrap. At the end of Predacons Rising, Blackarachnia is dumped in front of a gorilla, a cheetah, a rhino and a rat. The way she says "You've got to be kidding," almost makes it sound like she's breaking the fourth wall.
The first we see the Autobots is they're job was repairing space bridges, which is sort of a Shout-Out to Transformers Cybertron to which Optimus Prime's plan was to build new space bridges.
Sari eventually becomes flesh-on-the-outside, robot-on-the-inside, just like the Pretender toys from the late 80's line.
Before that, Meltdown's two failed "organic transformer" experiments are expies of actual Decepticon Pretenders from the toyline, comics and Transformers Super God Masterforce; the lawyer-turned-shark-thing is based off of Submarauder, while the accountant-turned-bat-thing is based off of Bomb-Burst
Roadhandler is one of Yoketron's old pupils, and was trained in the art of wrestling - this is a reference to the G1 Roadhandler's stint as a professional wrestler in the G1 comics.
In "Transform and Roll Out, Part 2", the Autobots thought the robots and vehicles are the dominant species, just like in the first issue of Marvel Comics' Transformers.
Nanomachines: Experimental 'microbots' going haywire indirectly wake up the Autobots during the pilot. Powell has them repurposed to consume garbage in season 2, but the first sample is exposed to Allspark radiation and starts consuming everything: luckily, they can't swim.
Neck Lift: Blackarachnia to Optimus (after borrowing Bulkhead's strength), Starscream to Bumblebee and Megatron to both Constructicons.
Neutral No Longer: Happens not just once, but twice because of the Autobots. To be fair, Ratchet apologizes to Wreck-Gar about the first time and convinces him to switch back to being a hero.
Never Trust An Opening: The opening to the Japanese dub of Animated suggests that IronArmorhide and Arcee have bigger roles than they actually do in the series. And the humans seen throughout the series? Nowhere in the Opening... not even the Sumdacs.
It also has the Autobots and Decepticons battling each other in various locations across the world, which they did do in G1, but not in Animated. It also shows Arcee and Blackarachnia fighting each other, when they never even meet in the show. And then there's that weird, shadowy, robot... guy... thing, wearing a cape at the beginning of the intro. Who the hell is that?!
Not to mention that Lockdown is featured as part of the main group of Decepticons (Even in the ending) despite being technically unaffiliated while Lugnut, on the other hand, only appears briefly.
Never Say "Die" - 'Slag' or 'take offline' are generally used instead, with the occasional exception - Bumblebee quotes Rattrap in the premiere ("We're all gonna die, aren't we?"), Starscream threatens that all of Detroit "will perish" in his mission to find the Allspark, and when Optimus tells Ratchet he has to use his EMP on an overloading Sari, he flat-out says "It could kill her!" Sari herself later mentions that Soundwave "tried to kill me".
New Powers as the Plot Demands: Sari's key does exactly... whatever is needed this episode. From repairing offline bots, to unspecified upgrades, to controlling any machine, to tracing pay-per-view signals, to removing All Spark fragments from speeding trains.
Let's not forget that Prowl decided to become the complete opposite of a ninja by getting a Samurai-armor upgrade in "A Fistful of Energon"...which later returns in "Five Servos of Doom" and seems to be a permanent upgrade.
Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: It's later revealed that Lockdown was once a ninja pupil himself and an Autobot; the writers say that no Decepticon ever trained under Yoketron. And Oil Slick is a ninja chemist.
No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Optimus and Bumblebee would've made it to the Elite Guard if they didn't bother to help their fellow Autobots (Bumblebee for accepting the blame on Bulkhead's behalf for knocking a tower onto Sentinel, and Optimus for taking the heat for Sentinel's idea to go to the restricted planet). Isaac Sumdac spends season two as a prisoner due to helping that poor disembodied robot head in his lab.
No Gravity for You: In the pilot, Optimus temporarily disables the ship's artificial gravity while fighting Megatron, giving him and the team slightly better odds.
Nonindicative Name: Due to the "no Autobots fly but Jetfire and Jetstorm" rule, several background Autobots like Sky Garry and Powerglide, both of which get Hand Waved; Sky Garry directs air traffic and Powerglide flew spaceships in the Great War.
Noodle Incident: The 'unfortunate incident' involving a police drone and Captain Fanzone's wife (given the way it's mentioned, it probably wasn't anything too awful).
The Noseless: Technically speaking, it seems like none of the robots have actual noses, but rather have a nose-like structure that is formed by their helmets. When Bumblebee's is taken by Wasp, at the end of Where Is Thy Sting?, his full face is shown, with no other facial features outside of his mouth and optics.
Not Quite Flight: The Autobots are mostly confined to the ground, but Prowl has his Jetpack and Optimus is surprisingly effective with his grappling hooks when fighting airborne opponents. The most creative example, though, is the multi-stage rocket in "Nanosec" where Bulkhead fires his wrecking ball to launch the duo of Prowl and Bumblebee, Prowl giving Bumblebee a boost with his jump-jets, and Bumblebee using his turbo boosters to get even higher than that, into the upper atmosphere. Who needs jet engines anyway?
Oh Crap: The look of pure abject horror on Optimus Prime's face when the restored Megatron (whom he'd thought dead since the first episode) bursts out of Sumdac Tower is priceless. This is a 'bot who understands exactly how completely and utterly screwed he is.
The Elite Guard get big one when, after insisting for the entire episode that there are no Decepticons on Earth, they face off with Starscream, who is more than willing to show the lot of them a taste of what Optimus has been up against.
Ultra Magnus has a pretty good one. After telling the Autobots to stand back, he presumably intended to deal with the situation. As soon as he turns around, Starscream has recovered and is pointing his weapons right in Magnus's face. * blast!*
The Decepticons get their own when the Autobot ship transforms into a revived Omega Supreme.
And again in "Transwarped" (the season 3 premiere):
Organ Theft: Lockdown indulges in the robot equivalent.
Out of Focus: Captain Fanzone went from a major character in Season 1 to a rarely appearing recurring character by Season 3. Humans in general were pretty much written out of season 3, in an attempt to make the show less about them and more about the titular giant robots.
Percussive Maintenance: Blackout repairs the space bridge he broke after stomping on the ground near it by... stomping on the ground near it again, implied to be an ability of his (that is, causing electronics to fail and being able to reactivate them, hence the name).
People Puppets: Anyone controlled by a Headmaster unit or Dirt Boss's Headmaster-derived drill bit.
Power Trio: The Elite Guard. Ultra Magnus: Superego, Jazz: Ego, Sentinel Prime: Id. Blitzwing arguably forms his own trio, with the calm face being Superego, the angry face being Id, and the crazy face being Ego [by combining the others' traits at random].
The Dinobots could count, never being seen separately outside of Human Error, Part II.
Prowl [to Lockdown, much more quietly] "Give. Me. Yoketron's. Helmet."
Put on a Bus: The plan for Season 4 was for Sari and Bulkhead to take up permanent residence on Cybertron, becoming at best recurring guest characters. Bulkhead would have been replaced on Earth by Ironhide.
Also the SUV, although they were only a group for one episode.
Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Unlike other incarnations where he leads a group of trained warriors, this time Optimus leads a group of of bots that were a simple repair crew that just had to be in right place when the Allspark appeared.
Raised by Robots: Sari spends most of the second season living and being brought up by the Autobots in their warehouse.
Random Teleportation: Going through a space-bridge with no target co-ordinates can send you just about anywhere, and holding onto a plasmadynamic thruster while someone else is transwarping can send you hurtling around space like a pinball. The Autobots exploit this by attaching one to Omega while he's under Megatron's control, sending him transwarping randomly through space for most of the season.
Red Eyes, Take Warning: All the Decepticons. In fact, when the Constructicons became Decepticons, their eyes turned red. Blackarachnia's, too.
...and Sari's eyes changed from red to blue with her transformation, so there you go.
Red Herring Mole: Wasp is the Ur Example in this show, and suffered for it the most. But every one that wasn't Bumblebee, Bulkhead and Sentinel in the flashback was a suspect. An error in an online game on Cartoon Network's website made Ironhide a Deception. Cliffjumper (the red Autobot) was supposed to be the traitor but Hasbro nixed the idea. Turns out the mole was Longarm Prime.
Sapient Ship: Though most of the cast qualifies as Sapient (Inorganic) Vehicles, it turns out Omega Supreme, war hero and savior apparent, was their ship. For whatever reason, his offline body was used for Space Bridge repair (almost certainly because of his friend Ratchet; Sentinel Prime was under the impression that Omega had been dismantled after the war), and they later brought him back on-line.
According to the second Almanac, the Elite Guard's ship "Steelhaven" is actually Sigma Supreme, the only other intact Omega Sentinel, given the same treatment.
Science Marches On: Black Arachnia speaks these exact words to justify her Predacon research.
Also, in a more real-world context; there's the updated forms of the Dinobots. The G1 Dinobots were already somewhat inaccurate even during the 80s, with different body proportions to the animals they were based on. By today's standards they are hideously inaccurate, with their stances and movements being made to reflect the idea that Dinosaurs used to be thought as slow and dumb. The Animated Dinobots are much, much closer in general accuracy to their respective animals in virtually every way. Body proportions, stances, range of movement, everything.
SENTINEL PRIME. Supposedly, they even got a woman to voice the scream.
Grandus, one of the biggest transformers in the entire series. Although admittedly he appears to be in full on wimp mode all the time.
Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Jazz, having enough of Sentinel's attitude, follows Ratchet to Earth to join Optimus' crew in "This Is Why I Hate Machines."
Screw Yourself: Okay, he never gets that far, this being a kid's show, but there was definitely something suggestive about the way Starscream asked Slipstream what part of him she represented. She wasn't interested.
Sealed Evil in a Can: Megatron spends season 1 as disembodied head trapped in Professor Sumdac's lab until he is freed by his lackeys during the season finale.
Send in the Clones: Starscream is able to create clones of himself, each of which embodies part of his personality. One is a coward, one is an egomaniac, one is a pathological liar, one's a suck-up...and one is a girl.
Starscream: So, which part of me do you come from?
Shell-Shocked Senior: Ratchet, notably in his flashback episode "The Thrill of the Hunt". Further elaborated on in his Sequel Flashback in TransWarped.
She's a Man in Japan: Flareup and Strika were gender-flipped in the Latin American dub of the third season. Slipstream is more ambiguous, but she has the same VA as Starscream in Italian, and a very grave voice in Latin American.
Shockwave Clap: Bulkhead can cause this just by clapping, as seen in the "Mime Time" short.
Shoo Out the Clowns: Masterson is the only human supervillain to appear in season 3. Not even Meltdown, who was still alive and actually a threat, is heard from again.
Wreck-Gar, played by Weird Al Yankovic, yells at one point, "I dare to be stupid!" Which is the title of the song by Weird Al Yankovic that the original Wreck-Gar and the Autobots rocked out to for an indefinite period of of time in the original movie. The "Universal Greeting" associated with the song also gets a mention.
Wreck-Gar also bears a marked resemblance to his voice actor, even down to the facial hair. The whole thing gets topped off when, as he confronts Soundwave and tries to counter his music, he pulls out an Accordion.
The appearances of the human villains Angry Archer and Slo-Mo are based on Hasbro executives Aaron Archer and Samantha Lomow respectively. The former was unaware of the character until late in production, but his only request was that the Archer be left-handed so he was apparently not too upset about it.
Also Master Yoketron may have been named after Takara's lead designer on Transformers Hideaki Yoke.
Perceptor's voice bears a distinct resemblance to the synthesized voice of famous physics genius Stephen Hawking.
Highbrow is a clear shout out to actor Terry Thomas, from his accent to his "mustache" to the gap in his "teeth".
Rodimus' design takes the characteristics the original shared with Marvel Comics' Hawkeye and runs with them, even giving him a bow.
Not to mention Rodimus is voiced by Judd Nelson, his G1 version/counterpart's original voice actor in the 1986 movie.
Dirt Boss' design is extremely similar to another pint sized mind controlling villain, Marvel Comics' MODOK, and he's also a caricature of various real life mob bosses, particularly Al Capone, in temperament, speech, and methods, and later pulls a huge reference to White Heat; "Top of the world, cogs!" He's also the first legitimate homage to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, his diminutive size being (especially the stubby legs) inspired by Lagann itself along with using drills to control other machines. And he looks sort of like Wario, to go with the Mario and Luigi-like pair of Scrapper and Mixmaster.
Huffer and Pipes take the Mario and Luigi thing to new heights, however.
The title "Decepticon Air" is a reference to the Nicholas Cage movie "Con Air", which also features prisoners being transported gone wrong. It help that the Decepticons are often called 'Cons for short.
Forsooth! It must not go unmentioned that, by Od's Beard, Ultra Magnus' hammer is strikingly similar to Mjolnir, possessed by the Odinson himself, Norse Mythology's Thor!
Lockdown wears a Western-style poncho in "A Fistful of Energon" for no apparent reason but to shout out to Fistful Of Dollars.
Flareup's accent is an obvious shoutout to how she was voiced in the Botcon script reading, "Bee in the City".
Plenty of incidentals are homages to characters from previous generations, such as Hot Shot, Red Alert (albeit gender-swapped), Strika, Blackout, Spittor... heck, characters like Powerglide, Beachcomber and Cosmos even show up in crowd shots on Cybertron!
Taken to extremes by the AllSpark Almanac, which manages shout outs to TF fandom memes, obscure characters (as in 'only appeared in a spin-off racing track set in 1984' obscure), and a metric ton of other stuff. That's not even getting into the non-Transformers stuff that gets namechecked. There's a map of the galaxy in the second Allspark Almanac featuring planets like Eternia, Krankor, and Marklar, among dozens of other refs on those two pages alone.
Even GoBots! Tonka was merged into Hasbro some time back, so they are now legally in the same universe after all. As such, Blackout's seismic stomp ability is said to have been based on technology from Gobots' Crasher, and Porter C. Powell's limo Stretch is patterned after the Renegade Tux. In fact, he's implied to be the very same character!
One of the mysterious Prisoners in Trypticon prison is Man bear Pig
In the Addendum at the back of the Collectors club issues has even more. Blot's chemical shells look like Metroids. And the Evil Sari of an Alternate universe has a sketchbook where she doodles a pony named RainbowDark.
In "Decepticon Air" Sari fixes the space bridge by extending her robotic fingers for quick typing. It looks exactly like similar scenes from Ghost in the Shell.
Sentinel Prime, voiced by Townsend Coleman, more famous for being the voice of The Tick. Sentinel Prime himself greatly resembles the character, being mainly blue, with a humongous chin and a head shaped like The Tick's mask. He even has a similar personality.
The Cool Shades worn by Prowl and Soundwave are a reference to the ones worn by the ABC Warriors of 2000 AD fame. (Although they also resemble those worn by Kamina, that's just a happy coincidence.)
Starscream's elaborate transformation in the season one finale harkens back to the stock footage transformations used in Transformers Armada and its sequels — although the Twinkle Smile smirk at the end just takes it on to parody. It does, however, bear exceptional resemblance to Gasket/Ransack's transformation from Galaxy Force/Cybertron. And Ransack's partner in crime, Crumplezone, probably wonders why Animated Bulkhead has his jaw. Furthermore, during Starscream's stock-footage transformation, he very obviously enters a state where most of him is still in jet mode, but his robot mode legs are folded below the jet. This "jet-with-legs" mode is a reference to the "GERWALK modes" that can sometimes be formed from Transformers with jet alt-modes. The term originally comes from Macross by way of the G1 Jetfire toy, (rather infamously) a recolored Macross Valkyrie, and has since been used in the fandom to describe similar "walking jet" unofficial modes.
Not even recolored - it's a simple repackaging of the Super Valkyrie set, and early versions came with the Macross logo painted on the wings.
In one of the shorts on the Season 1 DVD, one of Prime's fans asks him where his trailer goes when he transforms — a common question asked among fans of the original Optimus Prime. Optimus is confused, probably because he doesn't actually have a trailer. One of the kids kept trying to get him to turn into a fire truck. An actual episode would go on to have Blitzwing (while in crazy mode) say "Ooh, ooh, I wanna see him turn into a fire truck!"
Lately, Beast Wars references are all the rage: at the end of the episode that sees Wasp become Waspinator, he and Blackarachnia are teleported to a jungle, where a gorilla, a cheetah, a rhino, and a rat are standing over them, references to Optimus Primal, Cheetor, Rhinox, and Rattrap, the original four Maximals. Blackarachnia sees them, and says "You've got to be kidding." Also, a few episodes back, there was Tigatron Stadium. And earlier, during Sari's birthday party, the kids are hitting a piñata in the shape of a very familiar purple Tyrannosaurus. (You may also add the very existence of Waspy, Blackarachnia, and the more recently-introed Jetstorm, but that just comes with the TF franchise's oft-rebootedness.) Waspy is often showing parallels to the original, but being a darker and more tragic character than Beast Wars' resident Chew Toy, it's always got a sinister twist to it. "Waspinator has plans," indeed...
A sign that's a homage to the Sinclair Oil logo has a dinosaur that looks a lot like the Generation One Dinobot Sludge (who doesn't have a TFA incarnation).
There's also some self-reference lately: Bulkhead points out his susceptibility to The Worf Effect once. "I'll keep him distracted! He always shoots at me first." [Charges in, gets blasted all the way down the street by Blitzwing, flips over, and a pebble bounces off his head] "Called it."
Each member of Starscream's clone army has the color scheme of one of the Starscream-repaint Seekers from Generation 1.
They also get the names of those characters later on. The sole exception is Slipstream, since she was an entirely new color scheme for the mold as well as a girl.
Show Accuracy/Toy Accuracy: For all its worth, Animated has some of the most accuracy between the show and the toys of any continuity, in that the toys are highly accurate in Alt Mode, Robot Mode, and have extremely accurate transformations, all while maintaining the series' unique art style.
Smug Snake: Porter C. Powell, he talks a big game but he is also willing to throw an 8 year old out onto the streets. The only thing keeping the Autobots from squishing him is their own morality, and he is consciously aware of that. Grimlock's morality, on the other hand...
On a smaller scale, Starscream's female clone (named Slipstream, according to Word of God) is the only female in a flock of five.
The Allspark Almanacs have added a few more girls, but they also include the Omega Sentinel roster - out of twelve "Greek-letter-Supremes", only one confirmed female, and she was assigned to a rearguard action for most of her lifespan.
Social Services Does Not Exist: Despite her father being a famous businessman, no-one notices that Sari doesn't legally exist until Powell does some digging. Afterwards, no-one seems to mind her living with the Autobots - of course, it'd be one brave social worker who tried to stand up to five protective transforming mechas.
Something Else Also Rises: Blackarachnia caressing Swoop's face causes him to lift his flail and swing it around energetically.
Doing the same to Grimlock causes flames to erupt from his neck/collar.
Southern-Fried Private: Bulkhead went to boot camp straight from the energon farm, and Hot Shot and Ironhide both have distinct Southern accents.
Space Cadet Academy: The series has an Autobot Academy where young bots get trained for duty. Bulkhead, Bumblebee and Wasp were all in the same class. Bulkhead and Bee graduated, while Wasp was caught for a crime and expelled, leaving him very embittered.
Technically, he has two powers and two alt-forms; one of his personalities alternates between both interchangeably.
Spoiler Opening: The Japanese opening, while very pretty, spoils most of the major subplots of Season 2.
Steven Ulysses Perhero: Nanosec (Nino Sexton) and Headmaster (Henry Masterson). Also Angry Archer (A. A. Archer) and Professor Princess (Penny Princess, Ph.D.).
And comics-only villains Stiletto (Stella Healy) and Crossroads (Roland Cross).
While this isn't technically canon, Slo-Mo's design was based on TFA team member Samantha Lomow.
The Starscream: Starscream is dealt with as a traitor deserves—the next time Megatron sees him after Starscream blows him up in the pilot, Megs blows him up. When that fails, he blows him up again. The only reason Starscream lived to see Season Two is because he got an AllSpark fragment that made him unkillable.
Stoners Are Funny: Beachcomber is revealed in the second Almanac to indulge in many Cybertronian drugs. He is also portrayed by many fans to be very nice and occasionally forgets what he's talking about, resulting in many an odd conversation.
Straw Man Has A Point: The villain Meltdown's anti-robot crusade was due to robots taking manufacturing and service jobs from humans, in a city with the highest unemployment rates in the country.
Stuffed into a Locker: Wasp and Ironhide do this to Bumblebee in 'Autoboot Camp'...after removing his legs and putting them where he couldn't get to them even if he was outside.
Ted Baxter: Egomaniac Starscream/Thundercracker, whose name is appropriate since the original Thundercracker had a bit of an air superiority complex himself.
Team Pet: Sari, for the first two seasons. She gets an upgrade (and we do mean upgrade) to Sixth Ranger in season 3.
Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Starscream and Megatron wind up stuck in the aftermath of season 2. They are forced to work together throughout the season 3 opener and neither Decepticon does much to hide their contempt from the other.
Terrible Trio: Megatron has Lugnut and Blitzwing for this until he picked up the Constructicons later down the line.
There Should Be a Law: Played for laughs: Ratchet finds the idea of us selling spare parts on the open market disturbing. Of course, from his perspective, it must be like seeing internal organs on display in a shop window (and his experience with Lockdown doesn't help).
Ratchet: "It's primitive...it's barbaric...there ought to be a law against it!"
Optimus Prime: "...It's just an auto parts supply store, Ratchet."
They Would Cut You Up: Blackarachnia joined the Decepticons for fear of ending up on a lab table on Cybertron if she returned to the Autobots.
That Liar Lies: Endgame, part 1: While Megatron facepalms at Lugnut and Shockwave's squabbling, you can just hear Shockwave yelling 'Liar, lying liar!' Seriously.
Tonight Someone Dies: Sort of. The DVD Commentary for a second season episode has one person asking if anyone really dies, and another one responds that no one does until season three... And in the last episode of the series, Starscream and Prowl are both killed off. Can't say they aren't honest.
Took a Level in Badass: Prowl has gone through a specific character arc for him to complete his "cyber-ninja" training. Optimus Prime has had to dig in his heels in order to properly face off against Megatron. Bumblebee received a literal upgrade to his previously worthless stingers (which nicely explained how they were so powerful in flashback).
Tuckerization: The Angry Archer (named after and resembling Hasbro designer Aaron Archer), Slo-Mo (named after and resembling Hasbro executive Samantha Lomow), Yoketron (named after Hideaki Yoke, a designer for the Diaclone and Microman toylines the original Transformers series was based off of)
At the beginning of the episode "Nature Calls", a familiar-looking construction worker is attacked by the Monster of the Week, and is implied to have died. He still shows up again. However, this could be writer miscommunication: Sparkplug 1.0 has a different voice actor and completely different speech pattern from Sparkplug 2.0.
They pull this again the third season: A flashback has an appearance by a character named Warpath]]. However, he actually had already appeared in a smaller role in another flashback a couple episode earlier, namely a dismembered body in the middle of a battlefield◊. Despite this, he's still in a crowd shot set in modern-day Cybertron.
Universal Universe Time: Par for the course with Transformers, Cybertronions always refer to lengths of time as cycles. Solar Cycle for a day, Mega Cycle for a month (year?), etc.
Unresolved Sexual Tension: Their introductory scene together and later interactions greatly implied there was some between Optimus and Elita-1/Blackarachnia, despite the latter dating Sentinel at the time. That probably explains why Blackarachnia had far more emotional baggage with Optimus and held him more accountable for what happened, even though it was hers and Sentinel's idea to go to Archa Seven in the first place.
Unknown Rival: Unlike most Transformers continuities, Megatron barely knows who Optimus is. Prime finally angers Megatron enough to say his name in "Endgame, Part II." Conveniently, that would turn out to be the last episode in the series, meaning we wouldn't get to see them become the destined Arch-Enemies they were meant to be.
Verbal Tic: Wreck-Gar starts nearly every sentence with "I am Wreck-Gar!" after he obtains his name.
Getting there in the Japanese dub. Bumblebee with "Ikimasu~!" ("Here I go!", "Let's go!", or almost any variations), Bulkhead Ironhide's "Dosukoi!" (spoken by sumo wrestlers), "De aru!" for Prowl (literally, "to be" in formal speech) and Hey! and Man! for the angry face of an American accented Blitzwing.
Villain Exit Stage Left: The main Decepticons do this less often than in previous shows, but Lockdown and Soundwave still manage it, with the result being that they're both still on the loose by the end.
Villainous Breakdown: Megatron starts to lose it just a little bit in the season 3 finale. "Then destroy the Autobots. Destroy the city. DESTROY ANYTHING THAT'S NOT ME!"
Villainous Glutton: Though not fat, Starscream's toy-only clone Dirge is the living representation of the former's greed, and as such is an accomplished glutton who always wants more of everything, energon goodies included. Spittor can also digest his victims if he chooses - and Oil Slick claims that once you get past the slobbering freak and his weird tentacles, you discover a much more disgusting creature on the inside.
Villain with Good Publicity: Porter C. Powell, again. Soundwave's attempted conquest of the world is forgotten quickly enough for Powell to sell toys of him, although he spent most of it controlling machines from underground.
The Virus: Space barnacles, once they've been...altered(either by Megatron's body or Allspark energy).
Voodoo Shark: Defied by the creators, who don't plan on giving the Allspark a concrete origin for fear it would be one of these. Wyatt is happy to share his thoughts on Cybertron's origins on Formspring, but he's keeping it vague.
The Walls Are Closing In: In the first episode of the third season, Blurr falls victim to this. Sadly, he is transformed into a cube.
Weak, but Skilled: Contrary to tradition, the Autobots in this series are almost all smaller and weaker than their Decepticon counterparts. Most of the main cast of this series are armed with tools intended for non-combat purposes instead of weapons. As such defeating even one Decepticon requires a great deal of teamwork and tactical thinking.
We Hardly Knew Ye: Blurr. Poor Blurr. He cameoed in "Velocity", was formally introduced in the Season 2 finale "A Bridge Too Close" and was compacted into a cube in the Season 3 opener "Transwarped".
What about Rodimus? He only had 4 lines, and only appeared for 4 minutes before being infected with cosmic rust.
Wham Line: Naturally, with all the plot twists, there are a handful. One of the most notable, in the last few seconds of the last standalone episode:
Arceenote who is supposed to be a braindead amnesiac: Ratchet...
What Happened to the Mouse?: The fate of quite a few secondary characters, most of them villains. Slipstream, for instance, isn't seen or mentioned for most of season three, then appears briefly in the penultimate episode when Optimus tests out his jetpack...and then flies off again.
Although to their credit, the writers are using the Allspark Almanacs to explain what happened to characters after their last appearance or in between appearances.
Whole Plot Reference: Season 2 finale "A Bridge Too Close", very nearly at least, to The Bridge on the River Kwai (!). The Decepticons capture Bulkhead, when they discover that despite appearances, he's the preeminent space bridge expert in the galaxy, and press-gang him into building them a space bridge back to Cybertron. He does so out of spite for those who doubted his expertise on the subject, many of whom were his own allies. The ending differs in that nobody dies, permanently at least; the Decepticons are prevented from using the space bridge to take Cybertron.
Decepticon Air is one big love letter to, well, Con Air
Who Would Be Stupid Enough: This happens to Bumblebee at least twice in season one, and again in season three - not to mention Sentinel in 'This is Why I Hate Machines'.
Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Elita-1's "death" left Optimus with a phobia of spiders and Sentinel of anything organic. Cybertronians in general are wary of organics in this continuity (due to a bad past experience, according to Word of God), but Sentinel is that much worse about it.
Whilst he isn't exactly afraid of them (he just doesn't like them), Fanzone makes a pretty direct homage to the Trope Namer when the Elite Guard arrive on Earth:
Would Hurt a Child: Blackarachnia and Soundwave. The former drops Sari off a building to distract Optimus and later threatens to kill her if she doesn't give up the Allspark's location. The latter blasts her with Laserbeak and brainwashes her own family into attacking her. Megatron, of all Bots, simply brushes her out of his way when she stands in front of all the Allspark. He most likely thought she was just beneath him.
You Look Like You've Seen a Ghost: Starscream to Megatron in season 2, after his resurrection but before he figured out it was an Allspark chunk keeping him online. "Well maybe you HAVE!"
You Monster!: Scrapper to Sari after she uses the factory equipment to pummel him and Mixmaster.
You're Not My Father: Sari to Isaac after her Robotic Reveal. He actually is her biological father (sort of), but by the time she learns this she's already accepted him again.
You Shall Not Pass: In the first season finale, with Megatron rising with a new body and the Decepticons closing in on the Allspark, Optimus tells his crew that this is where they stand and fight. This results in Bulkhead tackling the bruiser Lugnut in the air.