The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
October 29, 2018 2:46 PM - Subscribe

I saw this recently and my expectations were exceeded.
posted by bq at 3:17 PM on October 29, 2018

Ahead of its time.
posted by zeek321 at 3:21 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

Buried the lede in cast shout outs. This was Orson Welles’ last role.
posted by rikschell at 4:03 PM on October 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

Yeah wow, this review made some weird choices.

Leonard Nimoy's biggest claim to fame is definitely Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and Orson Welles' classic turn as the inspiration for Pinky and the Brain is unparalleled.
posted by Paragon at 4:35 PM on October 29, 2018 [2 favorites]

let me tell you, hearing a cartoon character say "shit" in 1986 was, I don't even know how to describe it, it was like this beautiful flower of infinite possibilities opening up
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:40 PM on October 29, 2018 [6 favorites]

You've got the touch,
You've got the power!
posted by Mick at 5:23 PM on October 29, 2018 [7 favorites]

That soundtrack was my jam in my teenage years. Listen to "The Touch" and "Dare" and just see if you don't feel like taking on the world.
posted by MrBadExample at 7:44 PM on October 29, 2018 [3 favorites]

Stan Bush, the singer of The Touch, has fully embraced his place in Transformers fandom, making regular appearances at conventions to play it. He's even gone as far to do renditions of it in the style of Linkin Park, when Linkin Park was the band that Michael Bay kept putting on the soundtracks of his Transformers movies.

Weird Al too is quite aware of his own song's popularity in the context of this movie. In fact, in more recent years, when newer generations of the Transformers cartoons wanted to use Wreck-Gar as a character and Eric Idle wasn't an option, Weird Al himself took on that voice acting role.

As for the movie itself, the profanity that was there to ensure a PG rating was a game changer for many 80s kids, for sure, but it's the on-screen death toll that really caught kids' attentions. While other 80s franchises such as Robotech had already had on-screen deaths on the small screen, the death of Optimus Prime, the defacto father figure of a hero in many latchkey kids' lives, hit hard. And unlike Robotech, which had simply declined to edit out a meaningful plot-related death when the original source material was translated, the deaths of Prime, Megatron and all the others weren't driven by plot, but instead by profit.

My usual observation on this is that "Prime Died For Our Sins. What sins? The sins of not buying enough toys." 84's must-haves had become 85's peg-warmers, and Hasbro wanted to clear the way for a new batch of stock. It's as simple as that. They were in no way prepared for the backlash. The reaction that they got was so overwhelming that they worked out a way to bring back their beloved hero first as a zombie and then on a more permanent basis. Without knowing it they added death and resurrection as a permanently association with the character in nearly every version of every iteration of the franchise to follow. One of the more recent versions made a point to kill Prime off before the first commercial break of the first episode, so they could bring him back after the break, get that checkbox out of the way, and move on with the story they wanted to tell.

(One time I joked that if Marvel comics ever gets the license back for publishing Transformers comics, they need to have a crossover event with the X-Men that at one point has a scene where Jean Grey is driving Prime's alt-mode semi-cab so they can get killed and resurrected in tandem.)

The backlash lead to Hasbro retooling the plot of another project they had in the works, the G.I. Joe movie, bringing the voice actors in to record some tacked on dialogue that nullified the earlier shown on-screen death of Sgt. Duke, that series' main hero/leader character. That movie would later be edited into 5 segments to be shown in the show's regularly syndicated weekday rotation, after the executives found the box office returns of Transformers: The Movie and My Little Pony: The Movie to be lackluster.

Some accounts point out that the G.I. Joe movie had actually begun development first and their writers' decision to kill Duke was what then inspired the Transformers' writing team to do the same with Prime, but even then, the writers were only allowed the freedom to go there because of Hasbro's changes in what toys they wanted to supply to stores. And while G.I. Joe intended to kill off one character, Transformers: The Movie eliminated at least a dozen between the two sides.
posted by radwolf76 at 5:44 AM on October 30, 2018 [8 favorites]

It's hard to believe Eric Idle would ever not be an option if money was involved.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:58 AM on October 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

Calling out "radio personality Casey Kasem" shows a weird level of ignorance. Kasem had been a cartoon voice actor since the 60s, including roles as Robin in various Batman-related cartoons and Shaggy in multiple iterations of Scooby-Doo. And he'd been the voice of multiple characters in the Transformers series from the beginning, including Cliffjumper and Bluestreak. That wasn't celebrity stunt-casting like Nimoy, Judd, and Wells.
posted by hanov3r at 9:02 AM on October 30, 2018 [3 favorites]

It's hard to believe Eric Idle would ever not be an option if money was involved.

It was Cartoon Network. It's hard to believe money was involved.
posted by radwolf76 at 9:33 AM on October 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

...Cartoon Network didn't exist in 1986!
posted by praemunire at 8:07 PM on October 30, 2018

Everyone talks about the deaths of Optimus, Starscream, et al as something that traumatized children. For me, it was something else. The final shots of the initial planet-eating sequence, as Unicron’s digestive system uses dumb, simple machines to turn other robots into metallurgic chyme, has still stayed with me through the years. That could be me one day, all mangled and leaking and unthinking, I realized as I sat in that theater. My fate could be to end up as tissue, fuel and poop, and it wouldn’t matter whether I’d seen this movie or not.

(Why yes, I have had anxiety issues my entire life.)
posted by infinitewindow at 11:01 PM on October 30, 2018 [2 favorites]

...Cartoon Network didn't exist in 1986!

Weird Al didn't take over the role of Wreck-Gar until 2008.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:37 AM on October 31, 2018

infinitewindow, I completely sympathize, but the chances are highly highly likely that, one day, many years from now, you're going to end up as fuel and poop. PROBABLY not for a huge, planet-eating robot; more likely, for worms and bacteria and the like. But, y'know, still fuel and poop.
posted by hanov3r at 8:57 AM on October 31, 2018

My usual observation on this is that "Prime Died For Our Sins. What sins? The sins of not buying enough toys."

Sure, but Megatron was turned into Galvatron while they left Prime for dead. Replaced by the boring Rodimus Prime (a hot rod with a camper van?). The obvious solution would have been to turn Optimus into Ultra Magnus since it was same truck cab anyway.

Even when they brought Prime back (February 2017) he didn't get the new toy until the Powermaster line in November. So he wasn't just killed by capitalism, he was killed by sloppy capitalism.
posted by Gary at 11:20 AM on October 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I was pretty surprised by the 'shit', especially considering we were watching it with a six-year old. He didn't notice. And I knew that DTBS was in this but I was NOT expecting it to be showcased in its entirety with, basically, a music video. It felt kind of like they wanted a DEVO song but couldn't afford one?
At heart this movie strongly resembles a long string of music videos with interstitial action.
posted by bq at 12:08 PM on October 31, 2018

I meant "February 1987" above. But I feel like my typos are acceptable here, given this bit from the TFWiki:
Megatron, Skywarp, Thundercracker, and the three Insecticons are transformed by Unicron into Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Sweeps. Of course, every one of them except Megatron continues to appear in crowd scenes in the film
posted by Gary at 2:02 PM on October 31, 2018 [2 favorites]

(February 2017)

Your autocorrect seems to be off by about 30 years. I mean, I know you meant '87, which was when "The Return of Optimus Prime" aired, but that's some oddly specific behavior from an autocorrect. (Or an even odder typo?)

However, if my references are right (I sure as hell don't have a memory that specific), it's even worse than you described, because the Powermasters toys were part of the '88 line.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:03 PM on October 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think you are right. I was assuming the Powermasters came with the Headmasters in 1987, but they were probably introduced later. My memory is also not that specific, and I also mix up the tv show and comic books of that time.
posted by Gary at 2:09 PM on October 31, 2018 [1 favorite]

let me tell you, hearing a cartoon character say "shit" in 1986 was, I don't even know how to describe it, it was like this beautiful flower of infinite possibilities opening up

On the early-2000s dvd release that I bought, all the chapters have titles so you can get straight to the one scene you want to watch. The chapter where Unicron doesn't get blown up is, no shit, literally titled "Swear Word". That alone made the disc worth the purchase.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:41 AM on November 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

They played it safe with the shit and damn both being said without seeing the character's face. Someone definitely had last minute censors and/or TV syndication in mind.
posted by Gary at 10:47 AM on November 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

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