The Transformers: The Movie

The Transformers: The Movie
The Transformers: The Movie

Original theatrical poster
Directed by Nelson Shin
Produced by Joe Bacal
Tom Griffith
Written by Ron Friedman
Based on Transformers by
Narrated by Victor Caroli
Starring Eric Idle
Judd Nelson
Leonard Nimoy
Robert Stack
Lionel Stander
Orson Welles
Music by Vince DiCola
Cinematography Masatoshi Fukui
Editing by David Hankins
Studio Hasbro
Marvel Productions
(20th Century Fox)
Sunbow Productions
(Sony Pictures Entertainment)
Toei Animation
Distributed by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (USA)
(Village Roadshow)
Rank Organisation (UK)
(The Rank Group)
Release date(s) August 8, 1986 (1986-08-08)
Running time 84 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6,000,000
Box office $5,849,647 (Domestic)

The Transformers: The Movie is a 1986 animated feature film based on the animated series of the same name. It was released in North America on August 8, 1986 and in the UK on December 5, 1986.[1]

The film was directed by Nelson Shin, who produced the original Transformers television series, and features the voices of Eric Idle, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Casey Kasem, Robert Stack, Lionel Stander, John Moschitta, Jr., Peter Cullen and Frank Welker. It also marked the final roles for both Orson Welles[2] and Scatman Crothers.

The story takes place in 2005, 20 years after the events of the TV series' second season and serves to bridge into the third season.[3] Set to a soundtrack of synth-based incidental music and hard-driving metal music, the movie has a decidedly darker tone than the television series, with detailed visuals in Toei Animation's typical anime film styling, and Decepticon villains that are more menacing, killing without hesitation. The film features several grand battles in which a handful of major characters meet their end. The film's tagline was: "Beyond good. Beyond evil. Beyond your wildest imagination."



Unicron, a roaming artificial planet, devours robot planet Lithone. Though many inhabitants attempt to flee the planet in spaceships, only one escapes.

The evil Decepticons still control of the Transformers' homeworld, Cybertron. The heroic Autobots are using two of Cybertron's moons as staging areas, preparing to strike against the Decepticons. In need of energon cubes, an Autobot supply shuttle is readied for launch to Autobot City on Earth. A transmission is intercepted by the Decepticons, who ambush the shuttle and kill its crew, intending to use the ship to infiltrate Autobot City.

On Earth, Daniel Witwicky and Hot Rod fish in a lake near Autobot City, discussing Daniel's loneliness, as his father Spike is on one of the moon bases. They pick up the shuttle's signature, and race up to Lookout Mountain to see it land. They spot the Decepticons and launch a preemptive strike. After a brief battle, the Decepticons attack Autobot City. The Autobots, including Ultra Magnus, Blurr, Springer, Perceptor and Arcee, transform Autobot City into a fortress. As a siege ensues, Ultra Magnus orders Blaster to radio for assistance from the leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime. The next morning, Optimus and the Dinobots arrive to repel the Decepticons.

After single-handlely taking down several Decepticons, Optimus confronts their leader and his arch-enemy, Megatron. Though Megatron is ultimately defeated, Optimus is critically wounded due to Hot Rod's unintentional interference. Starscream takes command of the Decepticons and retreats with their fallen leader and other wounded aboard Astrotrain.

Later, Perceptor informs the other Autobots that Optimus's wounds are fatal. Before dying, Optimus calls on Ultra Magnus to assume command of the Autobots and tries to give him the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, asserting that the Matrix will one day light the Autobots' darkest hour. The Matrix falls out of Optimus's hand as he dies, but is caught by Hot Rod, who then passes it to Ultra Magnus.

Astrotrain's shortage of fuel prompts the Decepticons to eject several of their injured—including Megatron. The remaining Decepticons argue over who should lead them. The Decepticon castoffs encounter Unicron, who offers to give Megatron and the others new bodies on the condition that they destroy the Autobot Matrix, which Unicron says is the only thing that can defeat him. Megatron agrees and Unicron converts him into a new form: the Decepticon warrior "Galvatron". His underlings are reformatted into Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps. Unicron provides them with a craft in which they travel to Cybertron, where Galvatron obliterates Starscream and takes command of the Decepticons.

On Earth, the Autobots are alerted as Unicron consumes Cybertron's moons, along with Autobots Jazz, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper and Spike. Galvatron leads the Decepticons in another assault on Autobot City. The Autobots board a pair of shuttles and flee toward Cybertron. Hot Rod, Kup and the Dinobots are shot down over the planet Quintessa, while Ultra Magnus and company evade their pursuers and set down on the planet Junk for repairs.

Captured by Quintessa guardsmen, Hot Rod and Kup witness the sentencing and execution of Arbulus, a native of Lithone. While imprisoned they meet Kranix, now Lithone's last survivor, who tells them about Unicron before he is fed to the Sharkticons. Hot Rod and Kup are subjected to a mock trial by Quintesson executioners, who sentence them to execution. Battling the Sharkticons, they are rescued by the arrival of the Dinobots. Grimlock persuades the Sharkticons to rebel against the Quintessons while the Autobots escape. With help from the Dinobots' new ally, Wheelie, the group locates a ship and departs to join the other Autobots.

Galvatron hunts down the Autobots on Junk. Ultra Magnus fails to awaken the Matrix's powers, and is dismembered by the Sweeps. Galvatron, no longer willing to serve Unicron, steals the Matrix, stating that he will make Unicron his slave. The remaining Autobots are harassed by hostile Junkion natives, led by Wreck-Gar, until Hot Rod's party arrives and befriends them. The Junkions repair Ultra Magnus and provide a vessel to help the Autobots fight against Unicron.

Galvatron attempts to subjugate Unicron using the Matrix but is unable to unleash its power. Unicron transforms into a planet-sized robot and attacks Cybertron. Galvatron opens fire on Unicron, but Unicron swallows him. Decepticons attempt to counter Unicron's attack, to no avail. When the Autobots arrive Hot Rod crashes their ship through one of Unicron's eyes and they find themselves separated within his body. Wreck-Gar and the Junkions fight back against Unicron, but Unicron crushes their ship. The Dinobots also attack Unicron with little success.

Inside Unicron, Hot Rod confronts Galvatron while Daniel and the other Autobots rescue Spike and the survivors of Unicron's assault on Cybertron's moons. The Autobots and Decepticons work together to fight Unicron. Galvatron tries to assist Hot Rod, knowing that Unicron is a greater threat, only for Unicron to take control of Galvatron. Hot Rod recovers the Matrix and unleashes its power, transforming him into Rodimus Prime. Rodimus throws Galvatron deep into space freeing the Decepticon from control. Rodimus then unleashes the Matrix's true power, obliterating Unicron. Rodimus leads the Autobots out of Unicron's body before it explodes. The Autobots reclaim Cybertron. Unicron's head orbits Cybertron as a new satellite.

Character deaths

Among the Autobots shown dead on screen are Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Prowl, Ratchet, Brawn, Windcharger, and Wheeljack.

A substantial number of Autobots from the first two seasons of the show do not appear after the film, leaving their fates uncertain.

Aside from Starscream, Unicron, and several Sweeps, there are virtually no permanent Decepticon deaths in the movie, and what few that died were not killed by Autobots. Most of the Decepticons who were dead or dying are reformatted by Unicron, and while Galvatron makes a few references implying he has Megatron's memories, it is less clear with Cyclonus and Scourge, as Skywarp and Thundercracker (who became Scourge), are depicted as having grave markers in a subterranean Decepticon crypt on Cybertron in the episode "Starscream's Ghost". Shockwave's death was scripted but cut from the finished film;[4] it was reinstated for IDW Publishing's adaptation of the feature, printed in 2006. However, a rather different-colored Shockwave makes a couple of appearances in the season premiere sequel Five Faces of Darkness. One of the intentions of the movie was to rid the Transformers cartoon universe of the majority of characters from Seasons 1 and 2. Story consultant Flint Dille elaborated:

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.[5]

The movie was produced by Sunbow/Marvel simultaneous to G.I. Joe: The Movie. The writers of the G.I. Joe film asked for permission from Hasbro to kill the Duke character. Hasbro not only approved the request but insisted that the writers of Transformers: The Movie adopt the same fate for Optimus Prime.[6] However, Optimus's death sparked much controversy and incurred so much backlash that it caused the writers of the G.I Joe film to make changes so that Duke simply ended up in a coma (from which he eventually awoke).[7]


Role English voice actor Japanese seiyū
Optimus Prime Peter Cullen Tesshō Genda
Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime Judd Nelson Hiroya Ishimaru
Ultra Magnus Robert Stack Shō Hayami
Springer Neil Ross Kenyū Horiuchi
Arcee Susan Blu Masako Katsuki
Kup Lionel Stander Osamu Saka
Wheelie Frank Welker Kazue Komiya
Blurr John Moschitta, Jr. Ken Yamaguchi
Blaster Buster Jones Keiichi Nanba
Perceptor Paul Eiding Ken Shiroyama
Grimlock Gregg Berger Takurō Kitagawa
Slag Neil Ross Ken Yamaguchi
Swoop Michael Bell Yoku Shioya
Jazz Scatman Crothers Minoru Inaba
Cliffjumper Casey Kasem Takurō Kitagawa
Bumblebee Dan Gilvezan Yoku Shioya
Ironhide Peter Cullen Shō Hayami
Brawn Corey Burton Minoru Inaba
Megatron Frank Welker Seizō Katō
Galvatron Leonard Nimoy Seizō Katō
Cyclonus Roger C. Carmel Minoru Inaba
Scourge Stan Jones Yū Shimaka
Starscream Chris Latta Hirotaka Suzuoki
Soundwave Frank Welker Issei Masamune
Frenzy Frank Welker Ken Shiroyama
Rumble Frank Welker Ken Yamaguchi
Devastator Arthur Burghardt Yū Shimaka
Bonecrusher Neil Ross Toshirō Ishii
Hook Neil Ross Masashi Ebara
Scavenger Don Messick Keiichi Nanba
Scrapper Michael Bell Keiichi Nanba
Astrotrain Jack Angel Takurō Kitagawa
Blitzwing Ed Gilbert Masashi Ebara
Shockwave Corey Burton Yū Shimaka
Kickback Clive Revill Yoku Shioya
Shrapnel Hal Rayle Toshirō Ishii
Unicron Orson Welles Mizuho Suzuki
Quintesson Leader Roger C. Carmel Masashi Ebara
Wreck-Gar Eric Idle Toshirō Ishii
Spike Witwicky Corey Burton Masashi Ebara
Daniel Witwicky David Mendenhall Mayumi Tanaka
Kranix Norman Alden Toshirō Ishii
Narrator Victor Caroli Issei Masamune

In addition to the above-listed characters, many additional Transformers appear throughout the film in non-speaking roles.

The Transformers: The Movie was the final film to which Orson Welles contributed.[8] Welles was in declining health during production. Shortly before he died, he told his biographer, Barbara Leaming, "You know what I did this morning? I played the voice of a toy." He elaborated, "I play a planet. I menace somebody called Something-or-other. Then I'm destroyed. My plan to destroy Whoever-it-is is thwarted and I tear myself apart on the screen."[9] According to director Nelson Shin, Welles had been pleased to accept the role after reading the script and had expressed an admiration for animated films[10]. Welles' voice was apparently so weak by the time he made his recording that technicians needed to run it through a synthesizer to salvage it. The voicework for Transformers: The Movie was the last movie project he worked on; his last voice session was on October 5, 1985, and five days later Welles died of a heart attack.[11]


The film was budgeted at $6 million, six times greater than the budget used to create 90 minutes of the regular cartoon series[12]. Nelson Shin's team of almost one hundred personnel normally took three months to make one episode of the series, so, despite the extra budget, faced considerable time constraints in making the film whilst also continuing production on the TV series at the same time[13]. According to Shin, the decisions on which characters to include or kill off were made by Hasbro. "They created the story using characters that could best be merchandised for the movie. Only with that consideration could I have freedom to change the storyline." Shin also came up with the concept of the Transformers changing color when they died: "When Optimus Prime died, I changed his color from red and blue into grey to show the spirit was gone from his body."[14]


The film was released on 990 screens in the USA and grossed a respectable $1,778,559 on its opening weekend, between a quarter and a third of the opening weekend gross of Top Gun a few months earlier. However, the box office quickly levelled off and the takings fell slightly short of the budget[15].

Although the trailer hails the film as "spectacular widescreen action", the movie was animated in 4:3 "fullscreen" format. The feature was vertically cropped to widescreen dimensions for theatrical showings and released in fullscreen on home video and DVD. The 20th anniversary DVD released by Sony in 2006 features remastered video, and includes both the fullscreen and widescreen versions of the film.[16] The UK version of the film features scrolling text and narration at the beginning of the film replacing the cast credits, and an additional closing narration assuring viewers that "Optimus Prime will return."[17][18]


The Transformers: The Movie received mixed reviews and currently has 47% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with 8 of 16 counted reviews giving it a "rotten" rating. The film has an average rating of 5.0 out of 10.[19] The New York Times described the movie as "While all this action may captivate young children, the animation is not spectacular enough to dazzle adults, and the Transformers have few truly human elements to lure parents along, even when their voices are supplied by well-known actors."[20]


Stan Bush's song "The Touch", which prominently featured in the film, was originally written for the Sylvester Stallone movie Cobra. [21]

Commercial releases

The film was originally released in 1987 on VHS[22] in North America by Family Home Entertainment.

The film was first released on DVD in 2000[3] by Sunbow Productions and distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures.[23] This version restored Spike's "Oh, shit!" line.

Metrodome Distribution released an Ultimate Edition of The Transformers: The Movie DVD in June 2007 in the UK (Region 2). The extras include many of the extras that were contained on the "Remastered" edition of the film on the first disc, with fan commentary serving as the only addition besides a fan-made Transformers movie trailer. The second disc contains interviews with Peter Cullen and Flint Dille. Despite promises of the only episode of Transformers: Zone, only "Scramble City" is included.[3][24]

Comic book adaptations


Inter-series references

In the first live action Transformers film, Optimus Prime says to Megatron, " shall stand, one shall fall," in a homage to their confrontation in the animated film.

The Transformers video game released for the PS2 in 2004 referenced numerous lines from the film. The following lines were spoken in the game:

  1. Optimus Prime: "'til all are one." (Said by many Autobots in the film, including Optimus Prime, Rodimus Prime, and Ultra Magnus)
  2. Megatron: "I would have waited an eternity for this." (Said by Megatron in the film)
  3. Starscream: "I'll rip out your optics!" (Said by Megatron in the film)
  4. Unicron: "You cannot destroy my destiny." (Said by Unicron in the film)

The 2008 series Transformers Animated has numerous homages to this film as well as most of the previous shows and the first live-action movie. Ultra Magnus' voice, done by Jeff Bennett, emulates that of the late Robert Stack, Magnus' original's voice. Wreck-Gar (voiced by Eric Idle) referenced Yankovic's song "Dare to Be Stupid", a song from this film's soundtrack. Judd Nelson reprised his role as Rodimus in one episode of the series. In the end of the series, the Allspark is contained in a casing that resembles that of the Matrix of Leadership. Susan Blu, John Moschitta and Corey Burton reprised their roles as Arcee, Blurr, Shockwave and Spike.


A Unicron figure was designed, but was never produced due to cost concerns.[25] In 2003, the first Unicron figure was released as part of the Transformers: Armada toyline. First Arcee figure that transformed into a car was released in 2010 as part of Transformers: Animated toyline.[26]

Cultural references

  • "The Touch" by Stan Bush was covered by Mark Wahlberg in the 1997 film Boogie Nights. Bush's original version also appeared in the 2008 Chuck episode "Chuck vs. Tom Sawyer".
  • "The Touch" by Stan Bush was used for a training montage in an episode, "Cops and Roger", of American Dad in 2010.


  1. ^ "SCREEN: 'TRANSFORMERS,' ANIMATION FOR CHILDREN". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  2. ^ Rose, Steve (2007-05-04). "Transformers The Movie | Film". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  3. ^ a b c "Transformers The Movie". IGN. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  4. ^ "SHOCKWAVE'S POV - OUT HIS WINDOW: Unicron's hand reaches towards the window, squeezes, and the walls crash in. SPACE - UNICRON AND CYBERTRON: Unicron tears off the tower and crushes it as..."
  5. ^ Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition) feature "Death of Optimus Prime".
  6. ^ "G.I. Joe Interview - Buzz Dixon". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  8. ^ MSNBC
  9. ^ Leaming, Barbara. "Orson Wells: A Biography" page 522
  10. ^ Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
  11. ^ It was rumored that Welles died before he could finish his role and Leonard Nimoy had to take over his role. This was denied by Hasbro representatives in 2007."When Orson Welles Was a Transformer",, 2007-07-02, Retrieved on 2007-07-06.
  12. ^ Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
  13. ^ Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
  14. ^ Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
  15. ^ Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
  16. ^ Transformers: The Movie 20th Anniversary DVD Review by IGN
  17. ^ "Transformers: The Movie - Reconstructed (Region 2)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  18. ^ "Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  19. ^ "The Transformers: The Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  20. ^ "SCREEN: 'TRANSFORMERS,' ANIMATION FOR CHILDREN". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  21. ^ "The Touch Songfacts". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  22. ^ "The Transformers - The Movie (International Version): Norman Alden, Jack Angel, Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Susan Blu, Arthur Burghardt, Corey Burton, Roger C. Carmel, Victor Caroli, Regis Cordic, Scatman Crothers, Peter Cullen, BJ Davis, Paul Eiding, Walker Edmiston, Ed Gilbert, Dan Gilvezan, Eric Idle, Buster Jones, Stan Jones (II), Nelson Shin: Video". Retrieved 2009-05-03. 
  23. ^ The Transformers: The Movie printed text on DVD and accompanying packaging reads: "Distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures."
  24. ^ "Double Dip Digest: Transformers: The Movie". IGN. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  25. ^ "UnicronPage". Retrieved 2009-06-24. 
  26. ^ [1]

External links

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