Happy 20th Anniversary Robots In Disguise!
This year, and today in particular, marks the 20-year anniversary of Transformers Robots in Disguise airing in the United States. This was the official English language dub of the Japanese show Transformers Car Robots, which aired in Japan the year before. This show and it’s accompanying toy line were a big shift in the Transformers brand and affected how things moved forward in the new millennium. It was also a big influence on me and this website in it’s early years, so both the brand and TFW2005 may not be what it is today without it.
We hope you will read on after the break to check out our celebration of Robots in Disguise on it’s 20th!
The following is not a comprehensive article on the show proper, but rather a trip down memory lane from my personal perspective. It was a period of change in my life, in the fandom, in the brand, and in the world – all happening at once. Robots in Disguise was smack dab in the middle of it all and I think that’s why it still resonates with me all these years later. For a deeper dive into the world of Robots In Disguise you can check RIDForever.info, a site I maintain just about RID and Car Robots. The 2021 updates are here, and the 2017 round of updates are here. I’d also suggest checking the TFWe issue all about RID over on the 2005 Boards. Now, onto today’s festivities…
RID, and yes I say RID as if it is the only RID. If you must reference that other RID show and it’s off-shoots, refer to it as RID 201x, thanks. 😊 RID aired during the Fox Kids programming block on a Saturday morning, with additional episodes set to air each weekday during the afternoon hours. Instead of stretching the show out over the course of 30+ weeks with only a new ep each weekend, they were going to blaze through it non-stop. By the end of the first week, we would have been 7 eps in. That however hit a big roadblock due to 9/11 just three days later. While some local markets did air the episodes, many larger city networks, and especially east coast markets, stuck with news coverage. Many of us did not catch the early episodes on TV the first go around. In addition, several of the episodes got pulled from TV due to depictions of buildings being destroyed and other similar visuals which understandably could upset children that just experienced 9/11. So right off the bat, the new millennium and new era of Transformers were dealing with a new reality.
The show, for those that don’t know – was a weird one-off in Transformers history. We had G1 and then the G2 remixes for a bit. Beast Wars came on the scene and ran all the way through 2000 with it’s successor – Beast Machines. During the Beast Wars era – Japan did a couple of their own Beast Wars shows, non-CGI extensions of what we saw in the US. Their market wasn’t quite ready for full CGI so they stuck with traditional anime. When Hasbro decided to continue Beast Wars into Beast Machines, Takara went a completely different way – a traditional animated show which brought back Autobots and “Decepticons”, mixing them in with the beasts. They focused the toys on a couple new and complex molds, then filled the rest of the line with repaints of previous toys. Old 2nd tier Beast Wars toys, G2 Laser Prime, and even some Generation 1 molds in the form of the Combaticons got new life as new characters in this show, capped with the biggest TF of them all at the time – a repainted G1 Fortress Maximus, now Brave Maximus. It was the prototype for what the Transformers brand did for years to come – repainting old toys into new characters. Universe, Classics, Botcon, and even some Generations runs used this method to give us some great toys in the 00s.
While there is a very complicated and long explanation for how every single Japanese show is one continuity, to someone casually starting with Car Robots it was a refresh, a new story, a new arrival on Earth. The Autobots vs the Predacons, and eventually the Combatrons/Decepticons. It was a hard cut from the last 5 years or so of CGI Beasts. Hand drawn traditional animation featuring vehicle Transformers. It wasn’t G1, but many of the folks who grew up with G1 were just getting out of college around this time. They were rediscovering their childhood love of Transformers through Beast Wars, flea market finds, raids on their parents’ attics and basements, and for the internet savvy – imports of Japanese reissues from Takara. It was a perfect storm of nostalgia; a return to Autobots and Decepticons was welcomed by kids and adults alike.
RID and TFW2005
In the years leading up to Car Robots, I was just getting into the internet, coding, design, some digital music, and all the possibility that came with it. Beast Wars, especially when it hit Season 2/3 and the inclusion of G1 lore, really got me focusing on Transformers again as a hobby. I eventually combined the two newfound hobbies into one and Transformer World 2005 was born. At no point did I ever think it would last 20+ years and take over my life in the way it did. I started the full version of TFW2005 around April 2000, with some starts and stops before that. That was right around when Car Robots started airing in Japan. Through the magic of 56k internet, I was able to connect with folks in Japan and get them to send me VHS tapes of Car Robots. Really nice, high-quality tapes too, I still have them hehe. To the younglings reading – try to picture this: no youtube, no video sharing. The concept of streaming anything did not exist yet. Napster and the eventual peer to peer stuff hadn’t fully kicked off. Plus, we were all viewing the internet on giant computers in our rooms at the speed of 1x on your phone. Less than 1 bar 3G mobile speeds today.
Yes, someone recorded episodes from TV to video tape over there, did that a couple weeks at a time, then physically mailed them across the world to me, who then got them on the internet. Can you imagine waiting weeks to watch an episode of TV the size of a twitter profile avatar? Crazy. Uploading a full episode to the internet was a big pain in the ass, not easily done. I decided to get a converter that allowed me to plug my VCR into the computer and encode the tape into digital format. From there, it was reduced using Microsoft’s WMV technology so that the episodes were about 5 MB each. 30 minute episodes at 5MB each. Dimensions – 176 x 144 pixels. 4k video today – 3840 x 2160 pixels. You can imagine that video looked like crap. But we didn’t care – we were blown away. Old school animation, vehicles, some cool Japanese anime vibes, it was what we as G1 fans kinda had in the back of our heads on what Transformers should be in a new era, and we were seeing it. Most of us had no clue what they were saying or what was going on. Also didn’t care. I still to this day think CR/RID is better like that.
So one of the first things TFW2005 did on the internet was provide these super small windows into Car Robots and what was going on in Japan. It helped get US fans hyped up for what Transformers could be. It got us wanting the toys, and importers bringing the Takara toy line over were moving serious product. It helped swing Hasbro, who was planning to return to Autobots and Decepticons again down the road, to move that schedule up. Instead of running Beast Machines until 2002 and then starting what we now know as the Unicron Trilogy, it was cut short. Robots in Disguise as a toy line and show came over in 2001, ran fast and hard for a year with non stop releases, got extended because it did so well, and then faded into the Universe line of repaints. The new millennium of Transformers was here and Robot In Disguise kicked it off with a bang.
As we all continue with collecting Transformers now, regardless if you tagged into the fandom during G1, Beasties, the Unicron Trilogy, the Movies, or just yesterday – let’s take the time to give Car Robots and RID some props! It set the tone for what the new millennium of the brand would be. It gave us some toys ahead of their time. It solidified the repaint as an accepted thing in the hobby. And it gave us one crazy 39 episode run of TV that’s still a fun ride 20 years later.
For those that would like to learn more about RID and Car Robots – I still maintain a Robots in Disguise website that archives everything I have or came across. There is a lot there if you want to go on a tour of all the awesome Car Robots and Robots In Disguise era stuff. Check it out at RIDFOREVER.INFO! FIYAH!
If someone over there at Hasbro is reading – can someone please figure out who owns the rights to the show in the US market and then get it out on DVD in full, finally? Work all that funky licensing stuff out (if there is any) and get it done. The US has never had access to it via an official release. Maybe get it up on YouTube like G1? Something. Announcing plans for that before the end of 2021 would be a nice 20th anniversary tribute.