Article: "Transformers: The Movie" 30 Years Later

in 1986, Article, Generation One

"Transformers: The Movie" 30 Years Later

August 8, 2016 marks the 30th Anniversary of "Transformers: The Movie", the first theatrical adventure featuring the robots in disguise. I was about ten years old when this movie came out so at the time, going to the movie theater for anything was a special treat, no less a move based on my favorite toys and cartoon! However, my first experience with "Transformers: The Movie" was not in August of 1986, it was many months earlier at a Creation Entertainment Star Trek Convention.

Back in the 80's, Creation Entertainment ran conventions in the new York City area dedicated to science fiction and horror. At the time, most of these centered around the Star Trek franchise. I attended these regularly and as with most conventions of this type, one of the features was a dealer's room where shops sold their scifi related wares. I don't remember exactly what month it was, but it was several months before the movie was released when I walked into the dealer's room and the first table that greeted me had black and white Xerox copies of a the movie poster for "Transformers: The Movie" in an 11x17" size! There was one lone guy at the table and a small portable television next to him. And playing on loop was this video below (sans Japanese subtitles):

A million thoughts ran through my head at once. "Why is that planet thing eating Cybertron?!" (it was Lithone, um...whew!), "Who is that guy?!" (it was Ultra Magnus), "It's Slammer!" (the guy would not confirm the tank thing was indeed Slammer), "That planet transforms?!" and so on. These short clips of test animation were enough to blow the doors wide open on all my preconceptions about "Transformers" as a series. You see, up until this point all they were to me were robots that fought mostly on Earth and Cybertron. Sure there was the occasional jaunt to an alien world, but it was a fairly self contained series. However now there were all sort of new possibilities and my young mind was racing for days after that convention (as I colored in the black and white Xerox poster to hang on my wall).

My second encounter with "Transformers: The Movie" was indeed on opening weekend, but I didn't see it. As much as I begged my family, they insisted on seeing "Aliens". I remember enjoying "Aliens", but as we were leaving the movie theater, a showing of "Transformers: The Movie" had just finished and I remember peeking into the theater longingly as the theme song played over the credits. It would be another week before I would see the movie.


When the time finally came, a few of my friends and I met up to go to the Marboro Theater in Brooklyn, NY (now long gone). Just as it had months before, my mind raced with questions and wonder. The entire framework of the "Transformers" universe had just been opened up before my eyes and suddenly I lived in a world where Optimus Prime and Megatron were gone, replaced by new leaders. Autobots lived in a giant city, not just in a ship buried in a volcano. There were weird aliens that transformed, but weren't Transformers. Most of all there was a planet-sized Transformer who wanted to eat all the things! To say the experience changed my young brain forever would be an understatement.

"Transformers: The Movie" would not just be a singular experience. Its effects would change the "Transformers" comic books, TV shows, story book sand toys forever. Suddenly the TV show took place in the (then) future! More and more sub-groups were introduced and every year Transformers with new abilities appeared. All while this happened I wore out my VHS copy of the movie and my cassette of the soundtrack. Each day I watched the movie at least once and listened to the soundtrack to and from school. In my mind it was a magical time.

About ten years ago Sony released a 20th Anniversary of the film on DVD with several extras. I was fortunate enough (along with several other fans) to have participated in helping to work on the extras for that release. If you get your hands on a copy of the set, a couple of fun factoids: I came up with the idea of making Unicron's maw the hole in the DVD as a joke, and they actually went and did it! Also, the "Matrix of Knowledge" was based on the "Pop Up Video" show. I was provided with a copy of the film with time coding on it, and I created a spreadsheet that helped the folks at Sony insert factoids as the movie went along. It was a really fun experience and I consider myself lucky to have been a part of it.

Now on the 30th Anniversary of "Transformers: The Movie", I look back with awe at how far "Transformers" has come. No longer just a medium sized, resurrected toy line from the 80's, the current crop of cartoons, comic books and live action films have helped propel "Transformers" into worldwide popularity. People who walked away from "Transformers" years ago are now back and look back at the 80's with nostalgic charm.

Rodimus Prime

"Transformers: The Movie" is receiving plenty of attention this year. Hasbro is planning several "Platinum Edition" exclusive sets focused on events in the movie. Shout! Factory is releasing a remastered version of the film on Blu-Ray for the first time ever in the United States. You can check out their trailer for it below. If you have fond nostalgia for this film or if you've never seen it, this is a perfect time to experience this amazing film!