Tonight for the first time in probably 2 decades I watched The Transformers The Movie (1986) starring not Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) nor Frank Welker (Megatron), but Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy and Orson Welles.
Turns out, most of it must remain imprinted on some old neurons somewhere, as I remembered much of it word for word. There’s years of my childhood wasted in front of the tv for you… (Nah, never wasted!)
My reason for the trip down memory lane is that fact that my 2 older boys, 9 and nearly 4, have recently “discovered” G1 Transformers, and now having just started watching Season 2, I know (in about 50 more half hours) that leads into the movie, and thus of course into that epic battle where One shall stand, One shall fall…
As one of the many kids floored by this when I saw it, I have come to love the lore behind this movie, Hasbro’s mentality, and the flow-on to other half-hour commercials (aka cartoons) of the period. For those who don’t know… and are still reading this… (yes, all 2 of you) The Movie sees a large number of original characters killed off, not least being every boy’s hero, Optimus Prime. The reason for this of course was simple - after 2 years of selling Transformers, Hasbro needed to introduce new toys to the lineup, thus the movie was created with the motto of “Out with the old, In with the new”. Primarily this occurs in the first few minutes, with several Autobots wiped out in a space shuttle, leading to a large scale battle in “Autobot City”, and Prime’s fatal dual with Megatron.
What happened however when this movie was released into cinemas (or the local video shop in my case), was the heartbreak of their target customers. This in turn lead to mothers writing very angrily worded letters to Hasbro, horrified at what they had seen done to their children, claiming they would never buy another Transformer toy again. Hasbro’s execs, who clearly had never even considered the potential impact of their methods, promptly re-wrote at least 1 other franchise (GI Joe), because they were about to do the same thing there.
(Loved the Goldbergs’ recent take on all of this…)
Indeed, due to this intensely negative feedback, even though Season 3 was already in the can (well, maybe), they hastily wrote a new 2 part storyline to bring Optimus back to life, and added a voice-over to the VHS release of the movie to let the viewers know that Optimus would return…
What I only just read tonight, as an apparent quote from a Hasbro exec, was that whilst the movie sees a large number of characters bite the dust, it was originally going to be even more horrific! Shockwave’s death was apparently “filmed” but cut from the final edit (reinstated for DVD?), but even worse - during the Autobot City battle, a large group of Autobots was to be seen gunned down whilst trying to escape. This would essentially have included every original Autobot that didn’t have a lasting role in the movie.
The reason for my review of the film tonight was my wife’s concern about how my kids will react to the deaths… I’m frankly all for letting them watch and counseling them later if need-be… :} particularly with the news that Optimus does return… But then this afternoon whilst YouTubing something about Megatron, my 9yo snuck up behind me and saw part of the shuttle scene where Ironhide and Ratchet are felled…
“Did they just die?!” he asked, not so much alarmed but incredulous, as if it wasn’t a possibility… So… Maybe I’ll need to tread lighter than I was thinking.