When The Transformers: The Movie was released in theaters the summer of 1986, the intention of the full-length animated feature based on the popular toys from Hasbro was to introduce the next generation product line and outmode the previously available figures, reinvigorating interest in the all-new products. No one could have imagined at the time of its theatrical launch, the feature with its ultra-80s soundtrack and stunt casting would become a cult favorite that would eventually give rise to live-action movie two decades later.
Hasbro dominated the market in action figures for boys, that also appealed to young men who collected both the Transformers and its companion toy line, G.I.Joe which had been reimagined as a 3 3/4” series of military figures and vehicles. Both were accompanied by serialized animated television series co-produced by Sunbow and Marvel Productions, that returned every season with all-new cast members helping stimulate sales of the toys. The Transformers robots in disguise would emerge as the more popular and fantastic of the two.
Targeting their demographic was easy, and The Transformers: The Movie although it may be a longer toy commercial, it galvanized its audience. For the 30th Anniversary release of the film the filmmakers took advantage of new technologies to tackle a 4K transfer to Blu-ray of the animated adventure that has enhanced the film’s presentation and restored it to its proper glory, including a new 5.1 Surround Sound soundtrack. An all-new bonus feature follows the painstaking process used to bring The Transformers: The Movie into the 21st century.
Of course the most memorable arc of the film (which is set in 2005, the then “future-tense” following the proper chronology of the animated television series) features the cinematic “death” of Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen, who also voices the character in the contemporary big-screen live-action movies). Crippled in a fatal confrontation with his arch-enemy Megatron (Frank Weller) Optimus is wounded beyond repair, and passes the “matrix of leadership” to the next generation.
Directed by Nelson Shin and written by Ron Friedman, although the two were tasked with primarily introducing the new toy line, the filmmakers took advantage of the longer feature length narrative to tell a story with a darker tone, and attracted premiere actors to voice some of the new characters including the film’s big bad Unicron (voiced by the great Orson Wells) a dangerous force of nature that is devouring planets along its path. It is soon revealed that the planet-sized Unicron is among one of the largest Transformer ever.
Imbued with the power of Unicron, a badly damaged Megatron is reincarnated as the more merciless Galvatron (voiced by Star Trek legend Leonard Nimoy) and a new leader of the Autobots takes the form of Hot Rod (voiced by The Breakfast Club star Judd Nelson) who evolves into Rodimus Prime by the film’s final act. Unique to the universe, The Transformers: The Movie is also the first time that a female Transformer is introduced. Arcee (Susan Blu) became an instant sensation and was even featured in the live-action series.
The animated film had an indelible influence on the Transformers franchise into the new millennium. Exciting the development of an entire new line of comic books by IDW that elaborated on the Transformers mythology, and heavily influenced Michael Bay’s live-action films.
It hardly boggles the imagination that 30 years later The Transformers: The Movie is still revered and celebrated. It easily has stood the test of time and remains a favorite among fans, and in this new 4K restoration if will undoubtedly enjoy a renaissance. The film presented the filmmakers with an incredibly unique opportunity that elevated the Transformers brand which continues to endure today. The next film in the live-action franchise is currently in production for an exhibition date in 2017. In the meantime we have The Transformers: The Movie to continue to fire our imaginations.
The Transformers: The Movie (30th Anniversary Edition) • starring the voice talents of Leonard Nimoy, Peter Cullen, Judd Nelson and Eric Idle, directed by Nelson Shin is available now on Blu-ray and Digital HD, 1986 (Original Release); 2016 (4K Remaster) Hasbro Studios $24.99/$14.99