Having been around for over three decades and having multiple toy lines, shows, comics, and films, the Transformers are pop culture staples that have captured the imaginations of multiple generations of geeks. Starting as a toy line before branching off into comics, animated shows, animated films, and, finally, live-action movies, the Transformers have a varied and rich history, full of stories on both sides of the Autobot/Decepticon divide. With all that history, there’s a lot of things that people still may not know about some of their favorite giant, fighting robots and their various incarnations over the years.
12. You’ve heard Optimus Prime in other places
Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime is a prolific voice actor and has lent his smooth voice to plenty of other characters in plenty of different television shows and movies. Some of his various voice credits include Eeyore in the numerous Winnie the Pooh shows and movies, the narrator from the Voltron TV series, and was the voice of the the Predator in the original movie, though he went uncredited in that one.
Cullen has played Optimus in most of the character’s appearances since the the character’s debut in the 1980s, with his voice appearing in television shows, movies, video games, and more. In addition, Cullen also was the original voice of Prime’s comrade, Ironhide.
11. The original cast was much more international
Despite what the Michael Bay Transformers movies would have you believe, the Transformers were originally a more international bunch. Before he was a Chevrolet Camaro, Bumblebee was a Volkswagen Beetle, and Jazz was a Martini Porsche 935 long before he was a Pontiac Solstice.
The Americanization of the Transformers in the movies was a result of the Bay approaching American auto makers and reaching a partnership as a way to save money. In later movies, you’d see the cast expand to more international auto makers, as Audi, Ferrari, and Mercedes would jump on the Transformers bandwagon to get their cars in the films.
10. The Gobots are actually Transformers now
Similar to the Hydrox and Oreo cookie situation, the GoBots actually preceded the Transformers by a few years, but the latter’s eventual popularity would lead to the former being perceived as a knock off. After Hasbro bought Tonka in the 90s, they acquired the rights to the GoBots names and characters. Hasbro would slowly start to incorporate the GoBots into their transformers lines, mixing the two former rivaling toy lines.
9. Fans got to write some Optimus’ dialogue in the 2007 movie
During the production of the first movie of the current Transformers franchise, Michael Bay used the official website to allow fans to suggest lines of dialogue to be used in the film. Bay promised that at least one line would somehow be worked into the film’s script and appear onscreen. Among all the submitted lines, the chosen one ended up being: “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.”
8. Like most other giant robots, Transformers come from Japan
Before they were the Transformers that we know and love, they were actually two different toy lines: Diaclone and Microman. Hasbro would buy American distribution rights to the two lines from Japanese toy company Takara, using their molds to produce the figurines. Hasbro would also rebrand the two different lines as opposing sides of a warring alien robot race, giving us the Autobots and Decepticons.
After securing the rights, Hasbro had Marvel writer Bob Budiansky create most of the backstory and history for the resulting Transformers, giving us many of the characters that we know today. After the Transformers proved popular, Hasbro would eventually buy all the rights to the Transformers line, making them sole owner of it.
7. The 2007 movie featured a lot of real soldiers
All those soldiers you see running around in various shots from the film? A lot of those were real soldiers. Those jets involved in many scenes? Real military jets flown by real military pilots. Bay reached an agreement with various branches of the US military to feature real soldiers and real aircraft in the film, making for one of the closest partnerships with the military and a modern film production.
Strip away the giant robots, and you’re largely left with an awkward teenager, his love interest, and a bunch of soldiers running around, making it a decent commercial for the United States Armed Forces.
6. Optimus Prime dies a whole lot
Despite being the hero and leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime has a tendency to die a whole lot. Across all the different versions of film, comics, and television, Optimus Prime has died approximately 25 times. He’s been blown up, shot, torn to pieces, and a whole lot more. In an early Marvel comics appearance, Optimus Prime gets a human observer to destroy him after he best Megatron in a virtual reality video game, but fails to save some innocent bystanders in that video game.
Optimus dying has become such a routine thing that there’s a whole page devoted to his many, many deaths on the Transformers wiki.
5. Megatron’s secondary form was changed for the newer films
Though he would have multiple forms over the years, Megatron’s original, and most well-known, secondary form was that of a Walther P38 handgun. This was changed into a Cybertronian jet for the 2007 movie, with co-writer Alex Kurtzman saying about the change, “That would be the equivalent of Darth Vader turning into his own lightsaber and someone else swinging him around.”
It isn’t only the makers of the 2007 movie that have a problem with Megatron transforming into a gun, as it’s prohibited to import the action figure into Australia due to the violent implications of the toy gun.
4. The toys have inspired an in-universe Transformers disease
Among the Transformers toys of various generations, there’s a defect that certain figures exhibit where the metallic painted pieces, and the gold ones in particular, have a bad tendency to break and crumble. Among avid collectors of the toys, the defect has become well-known and is often more commonly known as “Gold Plastic Syndrome”.
Interestingly, Gold Plastic Syndrome would jump from toy defect to Transformers canon, as it would later be incorporated into the show and comics, with the Transformer doctor character Red Alert developing a cure for it and other, villainous Transformers developing a weaponized version of Gold Plastic Syndrome.
3. Beast Wars saved Transformers
Despite continuing to sell relatively well in other parts of the world, in the early 90s, sales of the Transformers toy lines were waning to such a degree in the United States that it couldn’t support a comic or TV show anymore and was in danger of cancelation altogether. Hasbro kicked the line to their subsidiary Kenner Toys, who came up with “Beast Wars.”
The fun, new toy line, coupled with a well-received animated TV show, helped to save the brand and keep it from being relegated to the bins of nostalgia that many other toy lines and series of the era would eventually face.
2. The 1986 Movie Was Orson Welles’ Last Role
The Transformers first saw the big screen in 1986, when it was adapted into a feature film aptly titled Transformers: The Movie. Among the multiple battles between the Autobots and Decepticons, they find the planet-destroying sentient cyber-planet Unicron, who would serve as another villain in the movie.
Legendary actor and filmmaker Orson Welles would provide the voice for Unicron, which would be his last role before he passed away in 1985, having already finished his parts before his death. The 2007 film would feature a nod to Welles as his infamous “War of the Worlds” broadcast would be one many broadcasts sampled by Bumblebee as he communicates with Sam Witwicky.
1. The live-action films have made a LOT of money
As we all know, the success of the first live-action Transformers movie has spawned multiple sequels since its 2007 release. Those four movies have, combined, accounted for over $3.7 billion (unadjusted) in worldwide sales. The 2011 Transformers: Dark of the Moon holds the high spot among the movies with just over $1.1 billion in worldwide sales. Transformers: Age of Extinction comes in a close second, with Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Transformers third and fourth, respectively.
Though not included in the above figure, Transformers: The Movie accounted for $5.8 million. Not bad for a 1986 animated movie about giant robots.
Can you think of any other Transformers factoids that should be known? Let us know in the comments!