Dare To Be Great The Transformers: The Movie Turns 30 - A Tribute Author: Scotty P | Editor: Counterpunch
Additional Written Contributions from: Burn, Bronzewolf
Special Thanks To: Shout! Factory, Seibertron
With today marking 30 years since the release of The Transformers: The Movie, the fine folks at Shout! Factory (from whom you may Preorder the upcoming Blu-Ray release of the movie by clicking here) posed a question: how did this movie capture a special place in the hearts of millions and kids of the 80s? We'll explore the answer to this by carefully looking at the characters, themes, and imagery of the movie with a bit of input from the Seibertron staff along the way.
Transformers has always been about its characters, not merely robotic automations as seen in other media, but rather fully fleshed out individuals with distinct personalities and stories. The Transformers: The Movie continued this tradition and made new room in the hearts of fans for the characters it introduces even as it takes away some beloved favorites.
This movie introduces around a dozen more icons to an already robust mythos. Hot Rod, Galvatron, Cyclonus, Springer, Kup, Scourge, and even characters that didn't get toys at the time like Arcee, Unicron, and the Quintessons all brought something new to the table. A cavalier Autobot? Not a brand new idea, but never had children seen that element within an Autobot destined for leadership. A sleek futuristic car mode tricked out with flames and attitude to spare and you've got a character designed to capture the imagination of a young audience. For those looking for the stately authority figure, another Autobot introduced by the movie, Ultra Magnus, was around to pick up the slack. Forum Administrator Burn offers his personal story about how Ultra Magnus made him a Transformers fan for life:
Burn wrote:The year was 1986, and The Transformers: The Movie was released on Boxing Day here in Australia. I was 10 years old. I remember going during the day to see it as this could very well have been the very first movie I got to see on my own. It was at "The Airdome Theatre", one of those 'old style' movie theatres with canvas seats, thick red drapes, and even a balcony area. Very old school. (This theatre would be demolished a few years later and the town has been left without a full sized theatre since.)
So there I was, 10 years old, on summer break. I went into the theatre as a burgeoning fan of The Transformers, and I came out an even bigger fan. Oh sure there was that traumatizing moment when Optimus died. But then, there was Ultra Magnus. "ULTRA MAGNUS IS AWESOME!" is all I could think right then. I left that theatre on a high and walked around the corner and up the street a bit to a newsagent, going straight to the comics section and that's where I found it: Marvel UK Transformers #74.
That began my collecting of the Marvel UK comics, which also had a tremendous influence on my life. So on the same day so many years ago, not only had I walked out of the theatre after witnessing what I considered to be the greatest movie ever, but I also became a comic book fan.
Just a few weeks ago, my girlfriend, who is a major Studio Ghibli fan sat me down to begin what my introduction to Studio Ghibli movies, "My Neighbour Totoro". It was one of the first Studio Ghibli movies she saw as a child and wanted to share that with me. So we watched it, and I decided that it would only be fair that I show her The Transformers. She'd never seen it before. She sat there watching, listening some of the greatest lines in cinema history ("Why throw away your life so recklessly?", "One shall stand, one shall fall", "Their defenses are broken, let the slaughter begin", "Megatron must be stopped, no matter the cost"), and it was just wonderful to be able to share something special in return.
To say this movie that is 30 years old had an influence on me would be an understatement. It turned me into a fan of comic books, it made me (and most of you may not even know this), a Ultra Magnus Fanboy and a hater of Hot Rod. As an adult I can watch it and see all the flaws. But I don't care, this movie, like collecting Transformers toys, reminds me of a simpler time in my life where I didn't have to worry about bills and other annoying adult things.
While the impact of new characters from the movie would mark a lasting shift in the franchise, it was perhaps the ones who were taken away that left the biggest mark on the fandom. In most cartoons of the time, if older, established characters needed to step aside to give some screen time to new ones, plot devices would be used more often than not to harmlessly have them go off on another adventure, or disappear ambiguously to set the stage for some future return. Not in Transformers: The Movie. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, the body count begins to add up. Most famously, Optimus Prime falls in battle with Megatron, an emotional moment that was a sad, but somewhat protracted goodbye to the hero that kids had idolized since the series' inception.
There are dozens of accounts and articles about Optimus Prime, but less about other significant characters such as Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet, Brawn, Wheeljack, and more. Why would the deaths of these characters also lead to emotional moments that made this movie stick in the consciousness of countless fans for years? It was hard to know as a child, but reflecting back, as this was a story about war, even these important characters were killed off in darkly appropriate, anti-climactic, quick, and not really even mentioned again ways. The desperation in Peter Cullen's Ironhide, crying "No!" when he hears of the plan to destroy Autobot City, is then cut off by one of Frank Welker's most ruthlessly delivered lines as Megatron - "Such heroic nonsense." Ironhide then takes a point blank shot to the head from a fusion cannon and is never heard from again. It's quick, it's brutal, then it's over. It's war.
While Transformers had always been a story about a war, it was more or less toy soldiers off to battle, and whatever the result, they would come back next week for you to pull out of your toy box while their adventures continued again on screen. With Transformers: The Movie, some of kids' favorite heroes became disposable, and their endings signified just that. This battle between Autobot and Decepticon was now more real than it had ever been, and the quick establishment of this new paradigm gripped those that weren't crushed, as now, truly, anything could happen.
There was another foreboding presence casting a shadow over the film’s events in the form of a giant planet that devours other worlds: Unicron. This now legendary villain is introduced in a beautifully animated opening sequence, with a slow panning shot revealing the colossal scale of what Vince DiCola's score immediately tells you is a villain to fear. A quick look at the surface on an unknown alien planet, later found out to be Lithone, shows beings very similar in appearance to Transformers on what looks like a peaceful world. Just as your new robot friends go to do some science, they are (mostly) eaten. Yes, eaten alive by the new terror that's been put in front of the audience and there is no room for doubt that the danger to our transforming friends is very real.
Many children could watch the Battle of Autobot City and think in the back of their minds "what happens if that big planet shows up again?” The futility of the conflict finally comes to the forefront when a depleted Autobot crew trying to rebuild receives a transmission from Jazz and Cliffjumper that their moonbase is about to be eaten, but then receive a similar message from Daniel's dad, who was the kid avatar Spike in the earlier TV episodes. Now, suddenly, even the characters intended to represent the captive audience in front of the television was in mortal peril. Before they can act, a rebuilt Megatron, now Galvatron, shows up and chases them away. All of that establishing material, which took away many childhood heroes, was now, ultimately, for naught. The recently defeated Megatron not only immediately returned, he did so rebuilt and strengthened by a galaxy-spanning threat the like of which the Transformers had never seen.
The lessons about the nature of conflict and its brutal consequences are ones that have resonated with the generation that grew up on the movie through the theatres or the various VHS releases. Those consequences are real for the Transformers just as they are in a real war, without the sugar coatings that accompany some of the other TV cartoon movie adaptations of the same era.
Yet among the heavier messages, there's still a childlike wonder to the film that's kept us captivated enough to go back and be able to find those all these years later. The imagery alone, such as a shuttle taking off from a massive Moonbase, Daniel seeing those first glimpses of Autobot City over the horizon, an entire city transforming, Optimus Prime catapulting through the air to stop the Decepticons in his final battle, an underwater minefield of aquatic robot threats on a planet that looks like a corkscrew, and even a planet made of nothing but actual trash painted a picture of a much larger world. The tagline of the cartoon had always been that the Transformers were "More Than Meets The Eye". It certainly delivered on this promise, but The Transformers: The Movie took it to another level.
This wonder also facilitated a necessary escape into a friendly place for many fans, even those born much later than the Transformers franchise itself. Site News Staff member Brozewolf shares a story about why this movie means so much on a personal level:
Bronzewolf wrote:"I'm not an 80's kid, far from it actually, so I didn't grow up with the original cartoon or the original toys, but Transformers is still a big part of my life. I first watched Transformers: The Movie with my brother. We were "Vacationing" to Kansas City at the time due to some issues in our family. It was stressful for all of us, especially my brother and I. We had heard of Transformers before. We had seen a bit of G1, a bit of Prime, we had a few toys, but when that movie came on TV, we both knew we were hooked. It gave us the ability to forget about what was troubling us for a moment and get sucked into a world of action, adventure, cool cars, and awesome robots. It was a world we knew we'd never leave, and years later, we still haven't."
Ultimately, fans keep coming back to watch this movie again and again and buy it repeatedly on different formats because it's not only amazingly animated, composed, and acted, it's also a story about growing up. People change, like Spike, now a father to his son Daniel. We make well intentioned mistakes, like Hot Rod accidentally helping Megatron to deliver the fatal shots to Optimus Prime. Our moments of triumph are sometimes short lived, like Starscream's incredibly short leadership of the Decepticons. But if we take the lyrics of Stan Bush and stay sure to be at our "best when the going gets rough", we can rise above the darkest hours of our lives and become people that can make a difference, at least for a moment.
Arise again, The Transformers: The Movie. Thanks for traveling with us on this journey through life, and hopefully we'll be here to celebrate many more birthdays to come.
The official TF5 Instagram is at it again! After a solid week of character reveals, they've shared another digital mock-up: Crosshairs! The Age of Extinction Self-loving Braggart Autobot returns in The Last Knight, and it appears that he is relatively unchanged compared to his previous appearance. Time will tell if his ego has changed as much as his robot mode has, but for now, check out Crosshairs below with his glorious car-kibble cape flapping in the breeze!
And, as always, keep it right here, on Seibertron.com, for all the latest and greatest Transformers news!
Seibertronians, after revealing one for Hot Rod, then another for Drift, the Transformers: The Last Knight official Instagram has shared another Digital Character Reveal, this time of the new mini-bot, and apparent friend to all humans, Sqweeks!
Squeeks is a whole new character whom we've heard has been around the set recently. The little dude turns into a cute little Vespa scooter, and that is very apparent as his robot mode consists of the front wheel as his right leg and the kickstand as his left, the headlights as eyes, the handlebars as hands, and the body forming a little dome over his little Wall-E styled face.
Check it out below, and then find some more Transformers: The Last Knight news here, in the Seibertron.com Movie news section!
And, as always, Keep your optics and audio sensors tuned to Seibertron.com for all of the latest and greatest Transformers news on the net!
Thanks to fellow Seibertronian and podcaster xRotorstormx, who resides in Michigan and owns her very own Bumblebee Camaro to blend in with the locals, we have some more images from the set and the pit-stops along 96. Including the already seen characters and vehicles, from Optimus Prime to Hound to Crosshairs and the generic military vehicles - plus the addition of a new brown MG car being towed around. My speculation engine suggests a Hopkins presence for an old British make of vehicles, but it's your turn to gives us some thoughts on this new possible Cybertronian. Take a look!
Hey Seibertronians! A bit of Rescue Bots news for you tonight. We saw it at Comic Con, we saw it online, but for some reason no one had seen the Rescue Bots Griffin Rock Fire House Playset at a brick and mortar store!. But wait no longer! It's been spotted by Yours truly at the Council Tree Target in Fort Collins, Colorado. Check it out below!
What are your thoughts on this playset? Does that cool spacebridge sway your opinion one way or another? Have you already seems this at retail? Let us know below!
Hello Seibertronians! Thanks to several users on a local Michigan news Facebook post, we have a ton of great photos of the Transformers: The Last Knight filming in Michigan. The photos below feature Drift, Bumblebee, Hound, Crosshairs, and an Optimus Prime or two. Check them all out mirrored below!
And, as always, stay tuned to Seibertron.com, your best source on the net for Transformers news!
Seibertronians, we've got some pretty big, (but quite random) news out of the Transformers Instagram. It seems like a fan-favorite G1 character will be making his Bayverse debut in TF5. It's Hot Rod! Check out his robot mode embedded below, and tell us what you think in the comments!
Seibertronians, it's that time of the week again! It's the time where we stop and take a look at all the Transformers 5 The Last Knight stories we haven't reported on yet. So sit back, relax, and enjoy some new Behind the Scenes pictures, new videos from the set plus anything else that's happened in the bayverse this week.
Our first story comes to Seibertron from the TF5 instagram, where they've shared a cropped version of the official poster for the movie, which we reported on earlier this week, but with a cryptic new caption. Check it out below!
A photo posted by Transformers (@transformersmovie) on
Now, going to the opposite side of the social media spectrum, we've got a brand new 360 degree video from the Official Transformers movie facebook. This time it features a new, behind the scenes look at a Bumblebee Chase scene. With this video, #transformerstuesday seems to be becoming an actual thing, making Transformers fans anticipate next tuesday to see what they'll reveal next! Enjoy over on their page!
Making the jump back over to Instagram, Michael Bay has given us fans a little look into life in the Director's chair. There's a lot of hidden detail to be found in this clip, so see if you.can spot anything, and share it below in the comments!
Our last two photos come from Josh Duhamel's Instagram Where he shared himself and his younger co-stars maintaining healthy habits while on set and...uhm...testing the pyrotechnics. Check both out below!
And that does it for today's round up! Is there a piece of news we missed? Write to us or leave a comment below! Do you want more Bayverse news? You can find all of the other TF5 round-ups here, here, and here, and for everything else TF5 related, go to our specific Movie news section!
Keep it right here on Seibertron.com for the latest and greatest tranformers news on the net!
Hey, Seibertronians! The first episode for Machinima's Combiner Wars Animated series is now online, have you seen it? I know I have! I've made a quick review of it for you, followed by the link to watch the series, so check it out below!
Machinima's Combiner Wars series, centered around characters from the toyline of the same name, held some promise for me when we saw the trailers and screencaps from various conventions. It's premise looked good, original, and tied in nicely with the rest of the current fiction. I was hopeful. However, after watching the first episode, that hope is fading. Don't get me wrong, it's not bad, perse, but there's a formula when it comes to a good series opener based off of the gigantic robots we know and love: It has to have Good Characters with good development, a good setting and premise, a nice production quality, and it should set you up well for what the rest of the series is going to bring. This is what made cartoons like Beast Wars, Prime, and, in some of those cases, the original G1 Cartoon so close and unforgettable to a lot of us. Combiner Wars fails on most of these grounds.
Let's break down the first episode.
The series starts off with a fight through a space bridge between Menasor and Computron. Menasor literally tears Computron to shreds, and the autobot combiner ends up "dying". We hit our first road block here. We're immediately thrown into a intense action sequence without any backstory at all. This would be completely fine by me if the rest of the episode tried to explain what's happening, but it doesn't. However, the episode is only five minutes long, so I will let this slide in hopes that future episodes will go into more detail.
Maxima and Windblade take on Menasor
Windblade and new fembot Maxima show up to try to defeat the remaining combiner. We get a small bit of exposition here, but it's only a few lines, and it only explains that Windblade used to be a "City Speaker", meaning she could talk to "Titans" (Metroplex, Fort Max, Etc.) We already knew she could do this, but it's nice to see Machinima try to keep this new series grounded in existing fiction. However, Menasor delivers this dialogue in the new "I will start yelling at random intervals for no reason" voice Machinima gave him, so it's not very easy to listen to. Roadblock #2 comes in the form of the animation. It's pretty good on the whole, but sometimes it's really smooth and fluid, and then sometimes it's broken up and choppy like a motioncomic. So, during the fight between Windblade, Maxima, and Menasor, due to this mix of the two, it's hard to keep track of what exactly is happening.
The series tries to pump some tension into the episode by having Windblade get caught by Menasor, and Maxima feels the only way to save her is to make the Ultimate Sacrifice. She becomes the embodiment of the "Friend/mentor/parent/sibling dies" trope to give Windblade a bit of a backstory and a reason to hate combiners. This doesn't work mainly because she already hates combiners. It's not like she had this drastic change of heart only when her (Friend? Sister? Pupil? We don't know. We never find out) dies. The tension comes across as forced and doesn't get any emotion out of the viewer, especially since the character dying is completely new and we know nothing about her.
Maxima, a new Female Autobot, does two minutes in.
Windblade, now freed, takes on Menasor alone. This isn't a problem, however, because somehow she takes him down in literally two swipes of her sword; about 5 seconds. This would also be excusable if she watched her friend die and went into a Anakin Skywalker-style fit of rage and just started beating up Menasor, but no. She just randomly gets this power with no real change in emotion. This image is finally revealed to be Windblade, cutting Menasor in half, winning a fight that was much easier than it should have been
She kills Menasor after he worries her for a moment, talking about how he and her are alike, both killers. It's just that she uses a good cause to justify it. This story ark holds promise, and it will be interesting to see where it goes. After Windblade leaves, Computron starts waking up. The episode ends with a still shot of Optimus Prime, in the desert we saw him in in his spotlight video.
Windblade leaves after smashing Computron's Autobot badge
All and all, the series does have its flaws, but it's the first episode. I'm willing to give it a chance, and I recommend you do, too. It's only five minutes of your time, and it gives us the Transformers action we all know and enjoy.
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