The Hub to roll out “Transformers: Rescue Bots” on Saturday mornings

"Transformers: Rescue Bots" teams Autobot rescue vehicles with human partners, including Dani Burns (right), voiced by Lacey Chabert.

Face it, the Transformers’ ability to convert into machines hasn’t always been featured that prominently. Optimus Prime turning into a semi-truck, or Megatron becoming a gun is more of an afterthought to the show-stopping scenes of the giant robots smashing each other into shrapnel.

But Transformers: Rescue Bots takes a different approach, both in focus and in tone. Aimed squarely at the younger siblings of the kids devoted to the blockbuster Transformers films and the cartoon series Transformers Prime, Rescue Bots makes the machine form an integral part of the story. The narrower roster focuses on Heatwave (a fire truck), Boulder (a steam shovel), Blades (a helicopter) and Chase (a police car), rescue vehicles who develop special bonds with their human partners and work together to protect their technologically advanced island’s population from harm.

The series also differs from your average Transformers series in that it has a female cast member in a prominent role. Lacey Chabert (Party of Five, Mean Girls) plays Dani, a daredevil chopper pilot who isn’t afraid to throw herself and Blades into the most dangerous of situations.

“She’s tough and spunky and yet she’s very nurturing and she tries to take care of her brothers,” Chabert says of her character. “But she’s always trying to prove herself to her brothers. She’s a very competitive girl, because she is one of the only girls there, she feels an extra drive to show what she can do. She’s always pushing herself.”

Dani is part of the Burns family, who have been recruited by Optimus Prime himself to help the Rescue Bots in their special mission to learn more about humanity. Police Chief Charlie Burns leads his children, handyman Graham Burns, Dani, and precocious Cody, who serves as a special liaison between the Bots and humans.

Rescue Bots comes from the same writers/producers as Transformers Prime, and to bridge the gap, Optimus Prime — voiced as always by the inimitable Peter Cullen — makes a cameo to set up the series. Chabert says she and the rest of the voice actors got to meet Cullen when he came in, thanks to the show’s method of having all its actors record together — a rarity in animation.

“It’s such a treat,” she says. “Not only does it makes the work easier, because you’re getting to play out scenes with other actors and your reactions are authentic and more in the moment, but it’s also fun because we’ve all become great friends. It’s kind of like a big party. We start giggling and playing games and tweeting, and then it’s like, ‘OK, OK, back to work.'”

Transformers: Rescue Bots premieres at 11:30am Saturday on The Hub.

Photos: Courtesy of The Hub