The Transformers (TV series)
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The Transformers is the first animated television series in the Transformers franchise. The series depicts a war among giant robots that can transform into vehicles and other objects. Written and recorded in America, the series was animated in Japan and South Korea. The entire series was based upon the Diaclone and Microman toy lines originally created by Japanese toy manufacturer Takara, which were developed into the Transformers toy line by American company Hasbro. The series was supplemented by a feature film, The Transformers: The Movie (1986), taking place between the second and third seasons.
In Japan, the series was called Fight! Super Robot Life-Form Transformers (戦え！超ロボット生命体トランスフォーマー Tatakae! Chō Robotto Seimei-Tai Toransufōmā?) for Seasons 1 and 2, and Fight! Super Robot Life-Form Transformers 2010 (戦え！超ロボット生命体トランスフォーマー２０１０ Tatakae! Chō Robotto Seimei-Tai Toransufōmā Nisenjū?) for Season 3. Following the conclusion of the series in 1987 but in 1988 the 5th & last season of the series is the retelling story of the TV series rerun Episodes with power master optimus prime as the host of the 5th season of TV series with a boy named Tommy., the Japanese created Transformers: The Headmasters, a sequel series. Three Children's manga adaptations of the Japanese dub were written by Masami Kaneda and illustrated by Ban Magami as part of their Fight! Super Robot Life Form Transformers: The Comics (戦え！超ロボット生命体トランスフォーマー ザ☆コミックス Tatakae! Chō Robotto Seimeitai Toransufōmā: Za Komikkusu?) series. The first series was serialized in Kodansha's TV Magazine from April 1986 to November 1986, the second from December 1986 to April 1987 and the third from May 1987 to July 1987. The first manga used the same name as the TV series and is eight chapters long, the second manga was titled Super Robot Life-Form Story - The Transformers (超ロボット生命体物語 ザ★トランスフォーマー Chō Robotto Seimei-Tai Monogatari: Za Toransufōmā?) and is five chapters long, and the third was titled Great Transformers War (トランスフォーマー大戦争 Toransufōmā Dai Sensō?) and is three chapters long.
Due to the 1992 franchise-wide relaunch under the name Transformers: Generation 2, the original series and its toy and comic book parallels are referred to as Transformers: Generation 1, aka G1. Initially a fan-coined term, it has since made its way into official use as a retronym. Although not a completely new show, new CGI features such as bumpers, alter the appearance of the old episodes.
- 1 Production background
- 2 Show history
- 3 Supplemental sequences
- 4 VHS and DVD releases
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The Transformers toyline and cartoon/animated series was inspired by the Japanese toyline, Microman (an Eastern descendant of the 12" G.I. Joe action figure series). In 1980, the Microman spin-off, Diaclone, was released, featuring inch-tall humanoid figures able to sit in the drivers' seats of scale model vehicles, which could transform into humanoid robot bodies the drivers piloted. Later still, in 1983, a Microman sub-line, MicroChange was introduced, featuring "actual size" items that transformed into robots, such as microcassettes, guns and toy cars. Diaclone and MicroChange toys were subsequently discovered at the 1983 Tokyo Toy Fair by Hasbro toy company product developer Henry Orenstein, who presented the concept to Hasbro's head of R&D, George Dunsay. Enthusiastic about the product, it was decided to release toys from both Diaclone and MicroChange as one toyline for their markets, although there were eventual changes to the color schemes from the original toys to match the new series.
By 1984, U.S. regulators had removed many of the restrictions regarding the placement of promotional content within children's television programming. The way was cleared for the new product-based television program. Hasbro had previously worked with Marvel Comics to develop G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero for a three-pronged marketing scheme - the toyline, a tie-in comic book by Marvel, and an animated mini-series co-produced by Marvel's media arm, Marvel Productions, and the Griffin-Bacal Advertising Agency's Sunbow Productions animation studio. Given the success of that strategy, the process was repeated in 1984 when Hasbro marketing vice president Bob Prupis approached Marvel to develop their new robot series, which Jay Bacal dubbed "Transformers."
Marvel's Editor-in-Chief at the time, Jim Shooter, produced a rough story concept for the series, creating the idea of the two warring factions of alien robots – the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. To flesh out his concept, Shooter called upon veteran editor Dennis O'Neil to create character names and profiles for the cast, but O'Neill's work – for whatever reason – did not meet with Hasbro's expectations, and they requested heavy revisions. O'Neill declined to make said revisions, and the project was turned down by several writers and editors approached by Shooter until editor Bob Budiansky accepted the task. Hastily performing the revisions over a weekend, Budiansky's new names and profiles were a hit with Hasbro, and production began on a bi-monthly four-issue comic book miniseries, and three-part television pilot.
Japanese designer Shōhei Kohara was responsible for creating the earliest character models for the Transformers cast, greatly humanising the toy designs to create more approachable robot characters for the comic and cartoon. His designs were subsequently simplified by Floro Dery, who went on to become the lead designer for the series, creating many more concepts and designs in the future.
"More Than Meets the Eye" pilot/mini-series
The pilot introduced Optimus Prime's Autobots (Brawn, Bluestreak, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Gears, Hound, Huffer, Ironhide, Jazz, Mirage, Prowl, Ratchet, Sideswipe, Sunstreaker, Trailbreaker, Wheeljack, Windcharger, and Hauler (who was seen only in vehicle mode, had no dialogue and was not seen again in the animated series)) and Megatron's Decepticons (Starscream, Skywarp, Thundercracker, Reflector, Soundwave and his cassette spies (Laserbeak, Ravage, and Rumble) and Shockwave (who stayed behind to guard Cybertron under Megatron's orders)), transplanting them from their metallic homeworld of Cybertron to present-day Earth, where they warred for the resources that would take them back home.
The conclusion of the series has the Decepticons defeated and the Autobots poised to return to Cybertron, but this was blurred somewhat when the series was picked up for continuation, and the Autobots remained on the planet to protect it from renewed Decepticon . The Autobots make friends with their first two human allies, Spike Witwicky and his father Sparkplug Witwicky. A few episodes later, a paraplegic computer whiz named Chip Chase became an additional ally.
Thirteen further episodes were commissioned for the first season of the series, and the pilot was re-aired, now with the title "More Than Meets the Eye". Running from September to December 1984, the series established important new concepts that would persist through the rest of its run, such as the Decepticon Space Bridge, and featured the debuts of several new characters that would be available in the toyline the following year—the Dinobots (leader Grimlock, Slag and Sludge, and later Swoop and Snarl), Jetfire (known as Skyfire on the series), a Decepticon cassette named Frenzy, the Insecticons (leader Shrapnel, Bombshell and Kickback) and the Constructicons (leader Scrapper, Long Haul, Mixmaster, Bonecrusher, Scavenger and Hook), and their combined form, Devastator. 
While most of the characters for this and the following seasons were Diaclone and Microman toys from Takara (or based on them), Hasbro also drew on other resources to bulk up the line, acquiring toys from ToyCo (Shockwave), ToyBox (Omega Supreme, Sky Lynx) and Takatoku Toys (Jetfire, Roadbuster, Whirl and the Deluxe Insecticons). The latter company's absorption by Bandai—the main competitor to Takara, which was releasing Transformers in Japan—caused some legal problems, however, and none of their toys featured in the cartoon (save for Jetfire, who was renamed "Skyfire" and received several aesthetic changes).
With the series having proved a great success, the second season was created with the intent of getting the series into syndication and thus consisted of 49 episodes (and a new version of the theme song), bringing the total number produced up to the 65 episodes needed to meet syndication requirements. Where the first season primarily functioned episodically but had a general continuity from episode to episode, which thus required they be viewed in a specific order, Season 2 and its syndication goals saw this method of storytelling dropped in favor of single-episode tales mostly without lasting repercussions which could hence be generally watched in any order that networks chose to air them. These episodes often served to spotlight single characters and flesh them out more. Most of the new characters introduced in the 1985 toyline were further Diaclone and Microman toys, some of them modified in unique ways.
The first batch of new characters were introduced with no explanation whatsoever of where they had come from. The new Autobots in this group were Beachcomber, Cosmos, Powerglide, Seaspray, Warpath, Grapple, Hoist, Red Alert, Skids, Smokescreen, Inferno, Tracks, the scientist Perceptor,the defense base Omega Supreme and Soundwave's Autobot counterpart Blaster. An Autobot bounty hunter named Devcon appeared in an episode called The Gambler, but he was never seen or heard from again. Another new human character was introduced: Spike's new girlfriend Carly. The new Decepticons were Dirge, Ramjet, Thrust, and the Triple Changers Blitzwing and Astrotrain. Soundwave's original companion, Buzzsaw, was shown for the first time. A young street punk named Raoul appeared in a couple of episodes involving Tracks.
The tail end of the second season introduced four combining teams of Autobots and Decepticons - the Aerialbots (leader Silverbolt, Air Raid, Skydive, Fireflight and Slingshot who form Superion), the Stunticons (leader Motormaster, Dead End, Breakdown, Wildrider and Drag Strip who form Menasor), the Protectobots (leader Hot Spot, Streetwise, Groove, Blades and First Aid who form Defensor) and the Combaticons (leader Onslaught, Brawl, Swindle, Blast Off, and Vortex who form Bruticus), each team capable of merging their bodies and minds into one giant super-robot. Although debuting in this season, the toys - based on an unmade Diaclone line that was aborted in Japan in favor of importing the Transformers toyline itself - would not be available until 1986.
After Season 2 was produced, Toei Animation worked on Transformers: The Movie, but since the film wouldn't be released in Japan until 1989, they instead had an OVA made, once again by Toei Animation called Transformers: Scramble City. This OVA dealt with the alternative combining abilities of the Aerialbots and Stunticons. The other teams, the Protectobots and Combaticons appeared later on and this would be the first introduction (to the Japanese) to characters like Ratbat, Ultra Magnus, Metroplex and towards the end of the OVA Trypticon. The OVA was unique as it used the original music cues from the American series, though Toei made their own transition effect for this OVA. The OVA however ended on a cliffhanger that was never resolved, where Metroplex and Trypticon looked like they were about to fight one another.
The Transformers: The Movie
1986 would prove to be a big year for Transformers, with the summer release of The Transformers: The Movie. The story line is based in the year 2005 and introduces a new cast of characters that were the first to be originally created for the Transformers line, and not derived from other toylines. The new characters were the Autobots Hot Rod, Kup, Blurr, Arcee, the triplechanger Springer, Ultra Magnus, Wreck-Gar, Wheelie, and Blaster's own group of mini-cassette Autobots Steeljaw, Ramhorn, Eject and Rewind. The only new Decepticon was Ratbat, Soundwave's new minion. Other new characters were the ferocious Sharkticons who were owned by a race of evil five-faced robotic aliens called the Quintessons.
Free of the restrictions of television, the movie featured many character deaths (including Optimus Prime, Brawn, Ironhide, Ratchet, Wheeljack, Windcharger, Prowl, and Starscream), as the old guard were wiped out to make room for the next generation of toys. Megatron, Skywarp, Thundercracker, and the Insecticons were remodeled into Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps by a planet-sized Transformer known as Unicron. Megatron and Thundercracker clearly became Galvatron and Scourge, but there is debate as to who actually became Cyclonus (or his armada): Bombshell or Skywarp.
Near the end of the movie, Hot Rod used the Matrix of Leadership to destroy Unicron, save Cybertron and become Rodimus Prime, the new leader of the Autobots, at least until Optimus made his surprise return at the end of the third season. The movie also introduced an adult Spike and his son Daniel.
The future setting of the movie continued on into the third season of the series, which debuted in September 1986 and ran to November of that year, picking up right where the movie's events had left off. With the addition of Flint Dille as story editor, the series took on a strong sci-fi orientation, with grimmer story lines and stronger inter-episode continuity that revisited concepts more regularly than past seasons. More new characters were added to the show. On the side of the Autobots, they are the Triplechangers Sandstorm and Broadside, the space shuttle Sky Lynx, the Technobots Afterburner, Nosecone, Strafe, Lightspeed and their leader Scattershot who combine to form Computron, the Autobot city Metroplex and the Throttlebots (Chase, Freeway, Rollbar, Searchlight, Wideload and Bumblebee who was rebuilt into Goldbug). On the side of the Decepticons, the original Predacons (Rampage, Headstrong, Divebomb, Tantrum and their leader Razorclaw who can merge into Predaking), BattleChargers Runamuck and Runabout, the Triplechanger Octane, the Terrorcons (Rippersnapper, Sinnertwin, Cutthroat, Blot and their leader Hun-Gurrr who can merge into Abominus), the Decepticon city Trypticon and finally, Soundwave's new minions Slugfest and Overkill.
A slightly different version of the theme song was the new intro for the season, first heard in the Transformers commercials. More than fifty percent of the season's episodes were produced by Korean animation studio AKOM, whose work was widely derided by fans.
The grim direction, different animation and new cast of characters ultimately failed to sit well with the viewing audience, who desired to see Optimus Prime return to life after his big-screen demise. The production team ultimately gave in to these demands, and Optimus was brought back in a two-part season finale titled "The Return of Optimus Prime," which aired in March 1987. Starscream would also return as a ghost. Unicron makes a few appearances as well as his head continues to orbit Cybertron. Carly, who is now Spike's wife and Daniel's mother, also appears in the series (Sparkplug is gone from the series with no explanation), along with two new recurring human characters: Commander Marissa Fairborne of Earth Defense Command and the dictator Abdul Fakkadi of the desert nation of Carbombya. The sadistic Quintessons also appear in the series and are revealed to be the creators of Cybertron and the Transformers themselves. The Autobots' volcano base, along with the Ark and Teletraan-1, were all destroyed by Trypticon. And finally, as bit players, Chip Chase and Raoul never appeared in the series again.
The conclusion of this series marks the end of the shared cartoon continuity for western and Japanese audiences. While the U.S. production proceeds to the "Season 4" mini-series, this was ignored in Japan and replaced with several full-length cartoon series, starting with The Headmasters.
Finally, Hasbro's attention from the series drifted, and Transformers was not allocated the funds that would allow it to continue. The series was brought to a close in November 1987 with the airing of the fourth season, which consisted solely of a three-part story entitled "The Rebirth." Penned by regular series writer David Wise, who had previously scripted several mythology-building episodes, "The Rebirth" introduced the Headmasters (Autobots Cerebros, Brainstorm, Chromedome, Highbrow, and Hardhead and Decepticons Mindwipe, Skullcruncher and Weirdwolf, plus the triplechanger Horrorcons Apeface and Snapdragon) and the Targetmasters (Autobots Pointblank, Sureshot and Crosshairs and Decepticons Triggerhappy, Misfire and Slugslinger) including the Headmaster cities Fortress Maximus and Scorponok (plus the Autobot and Decepticon clones Fastlane, Cloudraker, Pounce and Wingspan, the Autobot double spy Punch-Counterpunch, and the Decepticon six-changer Sixshot), and restored a new age of peace and prosperity to Cybertron.
But the Decepticons stole the final scene of the episode, just to let viewers know that their evil was not yet crushed, and that the battles would go on. As Arcee becomes a Headmaster with Daniel and Spike pairs up with Cerebros who becomes the head of Fortress Maximus, then Kup, Hot Rod, Blurr, Cyclonus and Scourge all become Targetmasters. After both factions landed on the planet Nebulos, the Autobots sided with Gort and his freedom fighters Arcana, Stylor, Duros, Haywire, Pinpointer, Firebolt, Peacemaker, Spoilsport and Recoil. The Decepticons team up with an evil organization called the Hive, made up of their leader Lord Zarak (who becomes the head of Scorponok) Vorath, Monzo, Spasma, Krunk, Grax, Nightstick, Aimless, Fracas, Caliburst, and Blowpipe.
The theme song was still the same as the one from season three, but the intro had scenes from season three as well as scenes from past Transformers commercials.
Although this was the end of the series in the West, in Japan, three additional animated series were produced to replace Rebirth for Japanese audiences—Transformers: The Headmasters, Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, Transformers: Victory and the single OVA direct to video release; Transformers: Zone.
The Transformers did not quite disappear from American airwaves either, however, as a fifth season aired in 1988, serving as "best of" collection of the series. It re-aired 15 episodes from the original series, along with The Transformers: The Movie edited into a further five episodes. To help promote the then-new Powermaster Optimus Prime figure, the first new toy figure of Optimus since 1984, Sunbow produced new material featuring a stop-motion (and machine prop) version of Powermaster Optimus interacting with a boy named Tommy Kennedy. Each episode would be told as a story to Tommy by Optimus, and together they would essentially introduce and close each episode. This time, the intro had clips from both the series and the movie.
Generation 2 series
From 1993-1995, the original Transformers series was rebroadcast under the Generation 2 label. The Generation 2 series featured a new computer-generated main title sequence, computer-generated scene transitions, and other small changes.
The original stories were presented as though they were recordings of historical events by the Cybernet Space Cube (sometimes referred to as the Cybercube). The cube had the various scenes on its faces, which it spun between for transitions, replacing the classic spinning Autobot/Decepticon logo.
A large percentage of the characters featured in the show did not feature in the toyline, and vice versa. The G1 toys re-released for G2 which did feature in the show sometimes had their color-schemes radically altered and no longer matched their animated counterparts. One of the most notable discontinuities was the G2 Megatron; more stringent toy laws concerning gun replicas forced the re-imagining of Megatron as an M1 Abrams tank with a green camouflage color scheme, completely at odds with his form on the series as a Walther P38 handgun.
Other Transformers continuities
The cartoon was produced in tandem with a comic book series, produced by Marvel between 1984 and 1991, and also referred to now as "Generation One" (or more simply "G1"). The comics tell a substantially different version of the story. Both versions were equally authorized by Hasbro.
The name "The Ark," referring to the Autobots' ship, was not used in the original cartoon. In the cartoon series the ship's computer was called Teletraan I; in the comics, it was called "Auntie," though this name was not often used.
The opening sequences for each of the first three seasons were entirely unique, with no episode footage being reused, and each of the three had their own version of the famous Transformers theme tune. Additionally, the third season story Five Faces of Darkness had its own specialized opening sequence for all five parts, depicting events that occurred in the miniseries. The fourth season of the show, however, did not feature any new animation in its opening sequence, instead combining together footage from the third season opening and various clips of animation from 1987 toy commercials, alongside the third season opening theme.
Like the opening sequences, the ending credits sequences changed every season. However, these sequences were clip reels of scenes from episodes of that season. Instrumental versions of the theme music were used, although the third and fourth seasons utilized a male chorus.
A brief sequence was used frequently to transition between scenes. The symbol for either the Autobots or Decepticons would be seen being replaced with the other symbol (or in some cases, the same symbol again). Which symbol was shown initially depended on which Transformers faction was being chiefly depicted just before the transition, and likewise, the latter symbol was for the faction that was to be depicted immediately after the transition. For scenes primarily featuring the Quintessons, the Decepticon symbol would also be displayed.
Brief, eyecatch-styled original animations were used as bumpers to segue in and out of commercial breaks. These would depict individual characters transforming from one mode to another, often against a blank colored background, and would end with the Transformers logo. The bumpers were accompanied by a variation of the Transformers theme, and a voice-over by Victor Caroli.
Several mini-documentaries, narrated by Caroli, aired at the end of certain Season 3 episodes. Excepting one brief newly animated shot of Slammer and Scamper in the Transformers cities segment, all of these simply used clips of the series. Mini-documentaries were made on each of the following subjects:
- A detailed history of the Autobots
- A detailed history of the Decepticons
- A detailed profile of Ultra Magnus
- The story of a Decepticon subclan, the Predacons
- The history of the Quintessons
- The history of cassette Transformers
- The stories of the Transformer cities: Metroplex and Trypticon.
Public Service Announcements
Five proposed public service announcements (PSAs) were created for the second season of the series but never actually aired on television (they appear as bonus features in Rhino's Transformers Season 3 DVD set, Metrodome's Season 1 DVD set, the Transformers: The Movie 20th Anniversary DVD and the Transformers video game from Atari) and Shout Factory's DVD sets. These PSAs were based on the PSAs produced by the G.I. Joe television series (which was also produced by Sunbow Productions and Marvel Productions and also based on toys made by Hasbro). They even reused the catchphrase "...and knowing is half the battle," which was popularized by the G.I. Joe PSAs. These PSAs included:
- Bumblebee advising children not to run away from home.
- Tracks catching children in the act of stealing cars.
- Red Alert reminding children to wear reflective gear when riding bicycles at night.
- Seaspray showing children why it's important to wear life jackets when boating (voiced here by Wally Burr, rather than by his regular actor, Alan Oppenheimer).
- Powerglide teaching children not to judge others without getting to know them first.
VHS and DVD releases
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (April 2010)|
In 2005, Rhino lost the rights to distribute Transformers on DVD. The license was subsequently acquired by Sony Wonder (a division of Sony BMG). Sony Wonder announced in October 2006 that they would re-release the first season of the series in 2007, with the other seasons presumably following. In June 2007, Sony BMG dissolved Sony Wonder and moved the label to Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, without releasing any DVD sets.
In March 2009, Shout! Factory announced that they had acquired license from Hasbro to release Transformers on DVD in Region 1. They subsequently released the complete first season on June 16, 2009. Season 2, Volume 1 was released on September 15, 2009. Season 2, Volume 2 was released on January 12, 2010. Seasons 3 & 4 was released together in one set on April 20, 2010.
On October 20, 2009, Shout! Factory released the complete series in a box set for the first time in Region 1. This set, dubbed "Transformers- The Complete Series: The Matrix of Leadership Collector's Set" features all 98 remastered episodes along with all new bonus features.
|DVD Name||Ep #||Release Date|
|The Complete First Season: 25th Anniversary Edition||16||June 16, 2009|
|Season Two, Volume One: 25th Anniversary Edition||28||September 15, 2009|
|Transformers- The Complete Series: "Matrix Of Leadership" Edition||98||October 20, 2009|
|Season Two, Volume Two: 25th Anniversary Edition||21||January 12, 2010|
|Seasons Three and Four: 25th Anniversary Edition||33||April 20, 2010|
Metrodome Distribution released Seasons 1-4 in the UK between November 17, 2003 and October 11, 2004. The seasons were released in four box sets: Season 1, Season 2 Part 1, Season 2 Part 2 and Seasons 3-4. Sony Wonder/Maverick had released Season 1 previously in the UK in 2001, before Metrodome acquired the rights. Three individual volumes were released (though the episodes are in the wrong order), a box set of the three disks, which included a fourth disk containing bonus features, and one volume of Transformers: Generation 2 with five episodes that had the Cybernetic Space Cube graphics added. They also released a volume of Transformers: Takara which included the first six episodes of the Asian English dub of Transformers: The Headmasters.
Madman Entertainment released the four seasons in six box sets in Australia and New Zealand (Region 4): Season 1, Season 2.1, Season 2.2, Season 3.1, Season 3.2 and Season 4.
They later released the remastered Shout! Factory version of Transformers in the same volume arrangement as the American release. However, Madman Entertainment has yet to release a complete collection box set.
A collector's tin box set was released in Asia by Guangdong Qianhe Audio & Video Communication Co., Ltd. under license by Pexlan International (Picture) Limited. The set includes the entire series, The Transformers: The Movie, a set of full color postcards, a rubber keychain and a full color book (graphic novel style) which serves as an episode guide. While the book is almost entirely in Mandarin, the chapter menus contain English translations for each episode. The set is coded as Region 1.
On October 10, 2010 the Hub (formally Discovery Kids) started airing the original episodes of the Transformers G1 Series on the network.
Currently iTunes has the complete first season of the Transformers for digital download for $19.99. It has not been stated whether the movie or the rest of the series will be added to the Apple iTunes Store.
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- The Transformers at the Internet Movie Database
- The Transformers (TV series) (anime) at Anime News Network's encyclopedia
- Transformers at the Big Cartoon DataBase
- The Transformers at TV.com