On August 8th 1986, a movie debuted that would forever change the course of my childhood. Click below to read about why Transformers: The Movie is a classic that has gone onto inspire a generation of storytellers.
- It Scared Me.-Forget the Evil Queen from Snow White, the most frightening thing to haunt children’s minds in the eighties, was Unicron. Why? He’s a planet that eats other planets! You are helpless against this guy. If Unicron showed up there is no escape. Unicron took the childhood fear of being eaten to the extreme. It wasn’t just me being eaten. It was my mother, father, sister, brother, grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, cousin,friends, and dog all gobbled up in one fell swoop. If that’s not scary to a 3-5 year old I don’t know what is.
- Villainy– When it came to villainy, Transformers: The Movie delivered in spades. The Decepticons killed off the whole cast! Within ten minutes Ironhide, Ratchet, Brawn, and Prowl are gunned down mercilessly by Megatron and the Decepticons. The heroes I watched on TV that I grew to know and love, were killed within the first ten minutes. That’s intense.
- Soundtrack– Unlike other animated movies that had an orchestral, Broadway-esqe soundtrack, Transformers:The Movie had a heavy metal and synth-rock soundtrack. Composed by Vince DiCola and with artists like NRG, Spectre General (Kick Axe in Canada), the sound of trudging guitars and blazing solos surely influenced me and others like myself to discover bands like Guns N Roses, Metallica, and Nirvana. Oh, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Weird Al Yankovic and his classic “Dare to be Stupid.” This movie was my first exposure to Weird Al. And how can you not love Weird Al?
- The Cast-In addition to the cast from the show, Transformers: The Movie boasted the likes of Robert Stack, Judd Nelson, Eric Idle the Micromachine’s guy (John Moschitta), Leonard Nimoy, and Orson Welles. Need I say more? I will. If my description of Unicron wasn’t frightening enough, imagine hearing him voiced by Orson Welles.
- Animation-Transformers: The Movie had beautiful animation. The robots looked polished, the transformations were smooth, and the exotic designs of Junkion and Quintessa immersed you in strange new worlds. The colors, backgrounds, and music transported you to another time and place.
- Quotes– Transformers: The Movie had some great lines. Megatron saying “Such heroic nonsense” to Ironhide right before blowing his head off. Optimus Prime telling Megatron “One shall stand, one shall fall.” Slag telling a Quintesson prosecutor “Excuse me” after a door is crashes on top of him. Anything out of Grimlock’s mouth, anything out of the Junkion’s mouthes (speaking TV sitcom and gameshow lingo) and this scene:
Who disrupts my coronation?
Coronation Starscream? This is bad comedy.
Megatron? Is that…
Here’s a hint!
And Galvatron shoots Starscream and turns him to dust. Speaking of which, Starscream had a ton of great lines.
7. Changes– Whether you loved it or you hated it, Transformers: The Movie changed how you saw Transformers. We were transported into the year 2005, our heroes (and villains) were replaced, new worlds like Junkion, and the revelation that the Quintessons created the Transformers, created a much richer, vast, fictional universe that the writers barely scratched the surface of. For kids like me it was the first time we experienced change. Losing Optimus Prime, Ironhide, and all the others was like losing friends because we could count on seeing them everyday at 4:00 on Channel 11.
8. The Death of Optimus Prime-The biggest impact of Transformers: The Movie was the Death of Optimus Prime. For children of the eighties, the Death of Optimus Prime was bigger then the Death of Bambi’s Mother. Here’s why. For at least 65 half-hour episodes, Optimus Prime was my hero. In the words of writer Ron Friedman he was “big daddy.” Optimus Prime was a robot Superman, Abraham Lincoln, and father figure rolled up into a tanker truck. He was the first to risk his life against a Decepticon scheme, he singlehandedly defeated Decepticon hordes, and imparted fatherly wisdom and compassion to not only the Autobots, but the children watching the show. This was devastating. Luckily, the producers learned their lesson and brought him back to life.
It’s not Fieval, it’s not The Land Before Time, it’s not a Disney movie. Despite it’s flaws, Transformers: The Movie is a classic. Where my parents saw a silly movie about robots fighting, I saw a masterpiece because of my investment in the characters from the show. It was my first taste of change. Though Optimus Prime would return to the show both as a zombie and a savior, the emotional roller coaster of this movie stayed with me through adolescence and adulthood and inspires me as a writer to this day.
This is why Transformers: The Movie is a classic will always have a place in my (and all children of the eighties’) heart.