Almost 15 years after the release of Michael Bay's Transformers brought the characters from the original 1980s franchise to live action for the first time, Paramount today teased that the next film in the franchise will explose the mythology of the Beast Wars animated series, which launched in 1996. It seems that after its most '80s installment yet (2018's period piece Bumblebee), the franchise will opt out of the '80s nostalgia market and move into '90s nostalgia, which conveniently also gives them a whole new premise to work with and a timeline that will avoid conflicts with the Bay series as much as possible.
It seems, from comments made by producer Lorenzo de Bonaventura, as though Paramount still intends for the multibillion-dollar franchise to keep its continuity intact, with the new movie building on the Bay films rather than replacing them. But what is Beast Wars, how is it different from the Generation One Transformers, and what does it mean for the future of the film franchise?
Beast Wars: Transformers, the flagship animated series for the Beast Wars brand, debuted in 1996 and ended in 1999, running for three seasons and 52 episodes. Beast Machines, Beast Wars II, and Beast Wars Neo also took place in a continuity where, rather than transforming into cars, trucks, planes, and other heavy machinery, the familiar Transformers characters turned into animals.
Beast Wars was a little darker in tone than the main Transformers shows, and also marked the brand's first foray into computer-animated TV. It took place kind of simultaneously in the future and in the past. The tale began 300 years after the events of the original Transformers series and pitted scientific-minded Maximals and action-oriented Predacons against one another. During battle, they find themselves thrown back in time to an Energon-rich planet that is later revealed to be prehistoric Earth.
As the Bay series moved forward, it became more and more clear that the producers were planning on leaning into some of the stranger and more "historical" elements of the franchise, with evidence in The Last Knight that the Autobots and Decepticons had been active on Earth centuries ago, and reported plans for even more in-depth exploration of that mythology planned for future installments. Those movies are now scrapped, and Transformers: Rise of the Beasts will take place in 1994, not prehistoric Earth, but it seems likely that we will get some version of the Beast Wars mythos incorporated into the movie, which will steer clear of contradicing the events of either Bumblebee or the Bay-directed Transformers movies.
Don't expect a one-to-one adaptation, though; in addition to taking place in the '90s, Paramount revealed today that the central protagonist in Rise of the Beasts will be Optimus Prime, not his Beast Wars counterpart Optimus Primal.