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Modern-day fans are more familiar with the Transformers as the stars of Michael Bay's ongoing live-action film series. But to children of the 1980s, the Transformers were very, very different. Rather than live-action, with the majestic robots rendered through CGI, we '80s children grew up with the Transformers as animated heroes who assembled to a majestic theme-tune!
The TV series was based off of Hasbro's popular toy line, and the series climaxed 30 years ago, when Hasbro released the tremendous Transformers: The Movie! Escalating the Autobot / Decepticon conflict, the film revealed the world-destroying Unicron, a cosmic force that threatened both Cybertron and Earth. The movie was a shocker, even featuring the death of the iconic Autobot leader Optimus Prime, with Rodimus Prime becoming the new leader of the Autobots!
In honor of the 30th anniversary, Transformers: The Movie is coming to DVD and Blu-Ray in a digitally-remastered form. Check out the outstanding trailer below!
The special anniversary Blu-Ray will be packed with a whole host of never-before-seen special features! According to IGN, these are:
- ‘Til All Are One – A brand-new, comprehensive documentary looking back at Transformers: The Movie with members of the cast and crew, including story consultant Flint Dille, cast members Gregg Berger, Neil Ross, Dan Gilvezan, singer/songwriter Stan Bush, composer Vince Dicola and others!
- Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille and star Susan Blu
- Animated Storyboards
- Trailers and TV Spots
This new edition will give fans old and new a chance to experience the thrills and spills of the animated movie. You thought Michael Bay had presented the definitive version of Optimus Prime? You haven't seen anything til you've watched this film!
In honor of the 30th anniversary, and to celebrate the excitement of the new edition, here are five things you may not know about this '80s classic...
1. Unicron was the final performance of Orson Welles.
In 2002, American actor and filmmaker Orson Welles was voted the greatest film director of all time by the British Film Institute. His career took him from the legendary Citizen Kane to a remarkable stage version of Macbeth, but Transformers: The Movie - in which he played the part of the planet-destroying Unicron - was his final role.
Nowadays, there's a tendency to look down on animated movies. Orson Welles didn't have that attitude; he rather admired them, because he thought an animated film had infinite potential. According to his biography, he proudly told his biographer, Barbara Leaming:
Welles's voice was weakening as the filming went on, and by the time the animated movie was over, technicians were having to run it through a synthesizer to salvage it. His last voice session was on October 5th, 1985. Five days later - a year before the animated film was released - Welles died of a heart attack.
30 years on, although we still celebrate Welles's directing, this Hollywood's legend's voice acting has largely been forgotten. It's a delight to realize that his work lives on.
By the way, that Unicron toy? It was never released, due to cost concerns, flimsy arms, and a faulty voice chip!
2. The plot was determined by the toy line!
Just as the Transformers TV series had given animated life to Hasbro's toy line, so the plot of Transformers: The Movie was decided by the toy line! The story was deliberately created to emphasize the most marketable characters, while the plot planned to kill any and all characters whose toys had been discontinued! Story consultant Flint Dille explained in the 20th anniversary edition featurette:
"In the next season (3), we were going to have all these new characters, and people are going to be wondering what happened to the old characters that they liked so much. What we knew, in a business sense, is that they had been discontinued, because they were the 1984/1985 (toy)line – but, we needed to tie them off. So, we had this one scene where the Autobots basically had to run through a gauntlet of Decepticons. Which basically wiped out the entire '84 product line in one massive "charge of the light brigade". So, whoever wasn't discontinued, stumbled to the end. That scene didn't make it into the finished movie. But if you think kids were locking themselves in the bedroom over Optimus Prime, basically in that scene they would've seen their entire toy collection wiped out."
This was ground-breaking animated action. Even nowadays, when DC Animation pushes the boundaries with a haunting R-rated version of The Killing Joke, you don't really see a bloodbath in your typical animated movie! How ironic that it was actually a marketing ploy...
3. Hasbro underestimated the importance of Optimus Prime.
With toys expected to have a maximum shelf life of 2 years, Hasbro completely underestimated the love fans had for Optimus Prime. Screenwriter Ron Friedman warned against killing the character off, but was overruled. Fan reaction to Optimus Prime's death can pretty much be described in one word: heartbreak. It didn't take long for Hasbro to resurrect him!
Amusingly enough, Friedman gave his autobiography the simple title: I Killed Optimus Prime!
4. Hot Rod was a major problem.
To be honest, Hasbro really didn't seem to realize just how powerful the Transformers brand was back in the 1980s. They didn't even bother to trademark more than a handful of character names (such as Optimus Prime and Megatron). Even by the 1990s, when Hasbro created a major character called Cheetor, it was three years before the company got round to trademarking the name!
This caused a real problem for Rodimus Prime, originally named 'Hot Rod'. It turned out that Hasbro didn't have the trademark for the name 'Hot Rod' in the first place, and the character's been frequently renamed to avoid licensing issues!
5. Hasbro actually made a loss on the film!
Transformers: The Movie had a comparatively small budget of $6 million, and didn't quite recoup its cost in the cinema - it only made $5.8 million! It was a real challenge for the creative team, who were continuing to make the next season of the Transformers TV series at the same time as working on this mammoth project!
I'm pretty sure the film has more than made up for its initial budget, though. It's now seen as a cult classic, and Hasbro has been able to release 20th- and now 30th-anniversary editions. Each edition seems better than the one before, so we can only look forward to this latest release with eager anticipation!
So there you have it - Transformers: The Movie is coming to a Blu-Ray near you! This firm fan-favorite is sure to leave you thrilled as you witness an event that broke a generation of children's hearts. But don't worry; Optimus Prime will return...