With the live-action Transformers movies of the last decade, it can be easy for some fans to forget the franchise was originally a cartoon series back in the 1980s, a series based upon a line of toys produced by Hasbro. Also, some fans might be too young to know about the old cartoons, and they might have missed the spectacle that was Transformers: The Movie from 1986.
When the movie hit theaters, the TV cartoon already had been running strong for a couple of years along with a comic book series from Marvel. Autobot characters like Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Jazz had become fan favorites while everyone loved to hate the evil Decepticons, such as Megatron, Thundercracker and Soundwave.
Most of the fans were young at the time, and soon many of them came to trust the world of and the storytelling about the Transformers.
Which was why more than a few fans were surprised by the events that took place in the 1986 movie.
Transformers died. No, they were killed, out-and-out murdered. This film was a no-holds-barred match between the Autobots and the Decipticons, and both sides paid a heavy price. The nice little television cartoon about robots wanting to protect the world and save the universe had become something of a bloodbath on the big screen.
There was some little outcry, but this was a decade or so before the Internet and it wasn’t as easy to voice one’s opinion publicly, let alone stir up any serious outrage. So, viewers made their opinion known the old-fashioned way. They voted with their wallets.
The Transformers movie pretty much tanked in the theaters. According to author Stephen Kline’s 1993 book Out of the Garden, about marketing to young people, Hasbro lost more than $10 million between The Transformers film and a My Little Pony movie.
Things didn’t look good for Hasbro, or the Transformers.
Apparently Hasbro had wanted many of the Transformers killed off in the movie so the company could bring out a new toy line of the robot warriors. Even the famous Optimus Prime was killed off, though Hasbro eventually brought him back in the animated TV show.
Still, several decades later, Transformers: The Movie has something of a fan following. Though one might argue the artistic worth or entertainment value of The Transformers in general, or individual Transformers projects, there can be little doubt that these robot protectors continue to hold popularity. Every few years there’s a new live-action film or animated special. Despite Hasbro’s best attempts in the 1986 movie, The Transformers just won’t die.
Nowadays Autobots and Decepticons alike are killed off time and time again, only to rise once more at a later date, but all the butchery started with a movie back in the ’80s.
But the next time you watch some Transformer action on the tube, the big screen, or the computer monitor, remember to Stay Nerdy!