30 Years of Transformers: The Animated Movie

It’s incredible to think that it’s been 30 years. Thirty-two years of Transformers Generation One and thirty years since the first Transformers movie came out. The Transformers: The Movie came out quietly in theaters on August 8, 1986, and became a revolutionary move for the franchise and a traumatic experience for kids. While you see big guns and devastating weapons in the animated TV series, often mortally wounding one another, no one got killed. But in this film, many characters get killed in one shot including the big kahuna himself, Optimus Prime. This movie also introduced many elements and characters that would influence the franchise in the years to come including Michael Bay’s films. While this film failed at the box office, it became an enduring cult classic among Transformers fans who up ‘til now, consider it the definitive Transformers movie.

To celebrate the movie’s 30 years of existence, Hasbro, Shout Factory and Manga Entertainment collaborated in re-releasing The Transformers: The Movie in 4K Blu-Ray format.

“Additionally, there’s just so much more detail in the element that we had, because we started with a very high-quality piece of film, we were able to do a very high-quality scan. There’s much more subtle detail in the transfer that we were able to do than had been seen before. One of the big surprises is the kind of detail you see in the introduction of Unicron and the birth of Galvatron.  You can see more of what the artists actually drew inside this content than you were able to see before, those fine lines and details that simply didn’t make it through the VHS or the DVD transfer.”

 — Manga UK

Fans are expected to gobble up this release to view it in 4K glory and add to their VHS and 20th anniversary DVD editions. I for one have seen this film countless times and it still holds up. The final battle between Optimus Prime and Megatron remain the stuff of legend. The death of Ironhide and Optimus Prime remain a traumatic experience and Unicron’s attack on Cybertron remain a sight to behold. I remember the first time I saw it on rental. Few knew the film was even out which may have contributed to its poor box office returns.

The animation was way different than the TV series. It was more crisp and detailed and had some great digital effects. What’s unforgettable was the 80s pop and rock soundtrack. During the run of the G1 animated series, audiences were given a definite set of music tracks depending on the situation. Some of the scores were also used for GI Joe episodes. But in this film, the soundtrack was amazing. This author’s personal favorites are The Touch, by Stan Bush which was originally written for Stallone’s Cobra; Dare also by Stan Bush; and Dare to be Stupid by Weird Al Yankovic. Dare remains on this author’s playlists along with Do You Remember Love from the Macross animated movie. Transformers: The Movie also featured the final performance of legendary Orson Welles as Unicron, Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper, Robert Stack as Ultra Magnus and fast-talking Micro Machines voice-over John Moschitta Jr. as Blurr.

For those who had the honor of seeing the film theatrically, it was a bad time to be a kid, seeing their favorite characters like Ironhide, Ratchet, Wheeljack and Optimus Prime violently kick the bucket. As a kid, you’d remember playing with the only few characters you had and consider them as heroes, so imagine them getting killed off because Hasbro, the toy company wanted to introduce a new line of characters for Season 3 of the animated series. Many kids were reported to have cried in theaters so imagine them going home wondering if they should touch their dead toys knowing their pretend play would never be canon in their minds.

three decades of transformers

“…In the next season, we were going to have all these new characters, and people are going to be wondering what happened to the old characters that they liked so much. What we knew, in a business sense, is that they had been discontinued, because they were the 1984/1985 (toy)line – but, we needed to tie them off. So, we had this one scene where the Autobots basically had to run through a gauntlet of Decepticons. Which basically wiped out the entire ’84 product line in one massive “charge of the light brigade”. So, whoever wasn’t discontinued, stumbled to the end. That scene didn’t make it into the finished movie. But if you think kids were locking themselves in the bedroom over Optimus Prime, basically in that scene they would’ve seen their entire toy collection wiped out,”

 — Flint Dille, Transformers story consultant

That and getting treated to a dismal third season of the animated series was a rite of passage in itself. The third season was rife with animation and scaling errors and bad sound which was a step backwards from the awesome second season. At least they brought back Optimus Prime. The character death backlash was so massive that the death of Duke in the subsequent GI Joe film was downplayed. Instead of dying, the character was placed in a coma. GI Joe: The Movie became a direct-to-video film because of the Transformers poor box office results.

Elements introduced the film such as the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, Megatron’s evolution into Galvatron, the planet-eating Unicron, StarScream’s Ghost, and even StarScream’s crown made it to other comics and series of the franchise. The Matrix of Leadership was featured in Michael Bay’s much-reviled Transformers: The Revenge of the Fallen and briefly in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Unicron was central to the animated revival of the franchise called the Unicron trilogy composed of Transformers: Armada, Transformers: Energon and Transformers: Cybertron. He was also featured in Transformers: Prime and was rumored to later be incorporated into one of Michael Bay’s films. The character Hot Rod has been reported to be one of the new Autobots in Transformers: The Last Knight. For many fans, despite Michael Bay’s best efforts, Transformers: The Movie will always be the best. Reboot Michael Bay, reboot.