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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 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.
Popularity-wise, the series is seen as one of those "middle-of-the-road" shows. While it wasn't praised as the most revolutionary show like Beast Wars, it still didn't receive the enormous flack that the Unicron Trilogy had. 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 now owns the cartoon through their acquisition of Saban. DVDs for this show are only available in the UK, much to the annoyance of US fans.
- Ascended Extra: Remember that bike-character, Sideways? No? How about now?
- Anti-Hero: Ultra Magnus
- Anti-Villain: Sky-Byte and 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.
- Badass: Ultra Magnus, Scourge.
- Big Bad: Megatron.
- 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.
- Cain and Abel: Ultra Magnus and Optimus Prime.
- Calling Your Attacks
- Camp Gay: Gas Skunk, in the Japanese version. Played by the same guy that does Emporio Ivankov in One Piece.
- The City: Tokyo in Car Robots; the city is named Metro City Robots In Disguise
- Clip Show
- Continuity Reboot: This series seems to stand alone in continuity, Wild Mass Guessing aside.
- 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 form Rail Racer.
- Dragon-in-Chief: Megatron is this to the Predacon Council.
- Dub Name Change: Almost everybody, but some Transformers were renamed in honour of G1 characters (Build Hurricane became Grimlock, Mach Alert became Prowl, Gigatron became Megatron, etc).
- Evil Counterpart: Scourge, the first of many black repaints of Prime to be popular in America.
- Evil Laugh
- Evil Twin: Scourge.
- Expy: One-Scene Wonder character Dr. Bridget looks like Dr. Ritsuko Akagi from Neon Genesis Evangelion
- Fake Defector: Mirage.
- And Ultra Magnus. Kind of.
- Heel Face Mole: The Decepticon subgroup tries this out in one episode, and almost succeeds.
- Heroes Want Red Sports Cars: Side Burn will always stop what he is doing and chase after a red sports car if he sees one. And it's almost always the same driver.
- Hey, It's That Voice!: Yes, that is indeed Terry Bogard you hear as the voice of Fire Convoy (Optimus Prime).
- Idiosyncratic Wipes: This show marks the return of the classic Transformer style wipes.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Sky-Byte.
- Jerkass: Ultra Magnus (and to a lesser degree Mirage).
- Kansai Regional Accent: Gusher (a.k.a. Slapper).
- Keep Circulating the Tapes: For U.S. viewers anyway. The series is not available on Region 1 DVD, though it is available in Region 2.
- 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.
- Meaningful Name: In Japan, this incarnation of Megatron was named Gigatron. "Giga" means a thousand units of something, which applies to this Megatron having atleast ten alternate modes, quite possibly the most out of any character in any of the series.
- Minion with an F In Evil: Sky-Byte.
- 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.
- 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.
- NOT Back From the Dead: Optimus Prime. Seriously, he doesn't die in RID.
- This is, in fact, one of only two series within the entire Transformers franchise where he doesn't die to come back. And what's worse is that the other series that didn't do this was the dreaded Kiss Players.
- And Kiss Players takes place in G1 continuity, so it's the same incarnation of Prime that's died twice in Japanese continuity. Until Transformers Prime came along - and the series is young - RID Optimus was indeed the only one never to dance with the Reaper.
- 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.
- The Poor Mans 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.
- Robo-Family: The Autobot Brothers: Prowl, X-Brawn and Sideburn.
- 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.
- Make it eleven.
- We get to see all of his modes during the show, though some are one-scene wonders.
- Shoulder Cannon: Scourge.
- Shout-Out: In the dub, the city is named Metro City.
- The Starscream: Scourge.
- Team Mom: T-AI.
- Terrible Trio: Slapper, Darkscream, and Gas Skunk.
- Three 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 certainly looks like a loli.
- 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.
- 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".