Today is the 32nd Anniversary of Transformers The Movie Debuting In Theaters!
Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the classic Generation One film, Transformers The Movie. Before you rush off and see it in theaters again next month, (See Here For More Details And Locations) why not sit back and remember the film that greatly shaped our childhoods. Spoilers Below:
Let me start off with a little analysis of the film. It introduced numerous new characters, killed off the majority of the characters that kids had been watching on the TV series for the past two years, and came out late in the summer of 1986 bombing at the box office despite being one of the biggest toy franchises of the 1980s. Yet we remember this film so fondly for its music, its artwork, and its story.
Lets start with the last part and work our way backwards. This film is an 80’s cult classic. It’s story of peril with our heroes fighting not only the Decepticons but a giant evil force bent on destroying their home world of Cybertron. Despite the Hasbro mandated killing off of our beloved characters from the first two seasons, the film has a great 1980s hero’s rise story to it. Hotrod is an entertaining character from his introduction all the way until he become Rodimus Prime. The Battle of Autobot City is epic and brutal, with Devastator showing what one combiner can do in battle. Unicron steals the show in every scene he is in, and his transformation scene is amazing in terms of story and artwork.
Speaking of which, the artwork is leagues above its G1 TV show despite the film being a rushed production while the TV series was still being simultaneously developed. The artwork really can stand up with other 1980s adult animated films like Heavy Metal. There was a quote in the recent Shout Factory Blu-ray release that describes the artwork the best, “this movie would have been an surreal art film if it wasn’t about transforming robots.” This is especially clear on places like Quintessa and inside of Unicron.
Another thing that grabs us even today is its soundtrack. Vince DiCola created an amazing score and the soundtrack had some amazing songs from other artists like Stan Bush, Weird Al, and N.R.G. The songs Dare, Dare To Be Stupid, and The Touch are still classics today amongst Transformers fans.
The film came out on August 8th, 1986 at the end of the summer making only $5,849,647 at the box office which was below its production budget of $6 million. If it was the film of the biggest toy franchise of its day, why did the film fail at the box office? One factor may have been Movie Fatigue. Kids had already been going to theaters all summer long to see movies aimed at them like Short Circuit, Top Gun, Space Camp, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Karate Kid Part II, My Little Pony: The Movie, The Great Mouse Detective, Robotech: The Movie, Flight of the Navigator, and Howard the Duck. Not to mention that this was the 9th animated film of the year at this point to hit theaters, as animated films like GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, Care Bears Movie II: A New Generation, Heathcliff: The Movie, and several other animated films had all been released much earlier on in the year. Movie fatigue usually sets in around August, as most movie goers tend to see films earlier on in the summer and later releases always seem to flounder at the box office. Transformers The Movie also faced a lot of competition that came out later on that year with classic films like Stand By Me, The Fly, Crocodile Dundee, The Color of Money, An American Tail, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, Little Shop of Horrors, and Platoon. While I believe that these factors weren’t the primary cause for the film’s poor box office performance, they didn’t help matters.
Let’s be honest, the main thing that most people remember about this film is that they killed off Optimus Prime. It is the traumatic moment shared amongst all of the children of the 1980s. Optimus and a massive amount of early Autobots get killed off fairly early on. Prowl, Ironhide, Ratchet, Brawn are killed off in a brutal yet quick battle on the shuttle, Wheeljack and Windcharger are killed off screen and seen dead in Autobot City, and Optimus Prime dies after stopping the Decepticons’ assault on Autobot City and defeating Megatron. Most of the 1984 cast and some of the 1985 cast is killed off either on screen or off screen, including all of the 1984 Decepticons except Soundwave and his tapes. There were even more Autobot deaths that were in the storyboards that never made it to animation like Sideswipe and Mirage. However, everyone always remembers Optimus Prime’s death the most, as it comes after an amazing battle where he is victorious over Megatron, and only mortally injured due to not wanting to accidentally kill a fellow Autobot. The hospital scene afterwards was especially shocking with the battle survivors gathered around Optimus with his eyes pulsing as he lay dying, and then turning gray with all color fading out of him emphasizing the fact that our hero was dead. This was a whole new world for children that grew up with Optimus Prime being the larger than life hero that always saved the day, because our hero was gone. Now, we know that this was done to make way for new characters so that Hasbro could sell new toys, but at the time, it was quite shocking especially to young children. The one positive side effect of this was that it made Hasbro go back and change the ending of the GI JOE animated film to not repeat this mistake with that franchise. Parents were outraged over the deaths of these characters and the mature language used in the film and repeat viewings would not occur in theaters.
While we did lose a lot of beloved characters, we were introduced to many new characters in this film, such Hotrod, the young Autobot sports car that becomes Rodimus Prime in the emotional final battle against Unicron. Speaking of Unicron, he is a giant planet-sized transformer that eats other worlds and was voiced by Orson Wells in his last role! We got the Cantankerous old Autobot name Kup, who was a battle harden soldier trying to keep Hotrod in line. We got introduced to Ultra Magnus, the city commander voiced by the legendary Robert Stack, who temporarily commanded the Autobots after Optimus’ death.
TFTM also saw the first appearance of Arcee. Arcee wasn’t the first female transformer, as several female transformers showed up early on in the season two episode entitled, “The Search for Alpha Trion”, however, she was the first reoccurring female transformer and had prominent roles in both season three and four of the G1 animated series. She also had a bit of contrast against the earlier female transformers as they were designed to be the love interests of the early G1 male Autobots, while Arcee never really had a dedicated love interest. Arcee would also be a character in several other TF shows and movies over the years including Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers Animated, Transformers Prime, and numerous comics and toy series in the last 15 years. Another new character introduced in TFTM is Springer. Springer was a new Autobot triple changer that changes from car to helicopter to robot that has better things to do than die in battle. We also get Blurr, the fast talking speedster that was voiced by the Micro machines man himself John Moschitta Jr. Finally the last Autobot we got introduced to was the rhyming Autobot stranded on Quintessa name Wheelie.
On the Decepticon side, we got some Unicron reformatted characters from previous Decepticons. Megatron became Galvatron, and was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. While it is non-definitive on which other Decepticons became who, Skywarp is believed to have become Cyclonus the warrior, and an Insecticon into an armada duplicate of him, while Thundercracker became Scourge the tracker with other Insecticons becoming his duplicates called the sweeps.
On the neutral side of the war, we get introduced to the Quintessons, the five faced creatures that rule Quintessa. Quintessa is savage metal world with lots of robotic animal life forms. One example is the Allicons, alligator like creatures that serve the Quintessons as guards. However the most famous of the creatures of Quintessa is the Sharkticons. Used for executing prisoners whether they are guilty or innocent, these Sharkticons are a vicious swarm of teeth, spikes, and claws! They were only stopped when the Dinobots intervened to save Hotrod and Kup. All of these new characters would be featured in Season three and four of the TV series.
The film’s introduction of this new cast along with the Autobots taking back their home world of Cybertron would change the focus of the TV series to be not just isolated on Earth, but a true sci-fi show based all over the cosmos with the occasional episode on Earth. Transformers The Movie also gave us some of the best Transformers battles of all time, including Megatron and Optimus’ final fight along with some great quotes that get used in Transformers Fiction to this day. So even though it didn’t make any money at the box office, it did exactly what it was supposed to do by bringing in a new cast in an awesome film that continues to draw audiences at every new release of the film. Personally, I have bought this film on VHS, DVD twice, Blu-ray twice, and I am greatly looking forward to seeing it in theaters and perhaps one day on 4K UHD Blu-ray.
If you want to try to organize a meet-up with fellow fans for TFTM’s return to theaters jump over to our Forum thread, or go to our Discord Server, @AllsparkNews on Twitter, or our Facebook group! If you want to buy this awesome film on Blu-ray, check out Shout Factory’s amazing version Here for the best that this film has ever looked!