|Creators||Hasbro and Takara Tomy|
Transformers (トランスフォーマー Toransufōmā ) is an entertainment franchise. It began with the Hasbro Transformers toy line, centered on two factions of warring alien robots which are called the Autobots and the Decepticons. In its 26-year history, the franchise has expanded to encompass comic books, animation, video games and films.
Transformers: Generation 1 includes both the animated television series The Transformers and the Marvel Comics comic book series of the same name, which are further divided into Japanese and British spin-offs, respectively. Sequels followed, such as the Generation 2 comic book and Beast Wars TV series, which became its own mini-universe. Generation 1 characters underwent two reboots with Dreamwave in 2001 and IDW Publishing in 2005, also as a remastered series. There have been other incarnations of the story based on different toy lines during and after the 20th-Century. The first was the Robots in Disguise series, followed by three shows (Armada, Energon, and Cybertron) that constitute a single universe called the "Unicron Trilogy". A live-action film was also released in 2007, with a sequel in 2009, and a second sequel in 2011, again distinct from previous incarnations, while the Transformers Animated series merged concepts from the G1 story-arc, the 2007 live-action film and the "Unicron Trilogy". Transformers: Prime currently airs on The Hub.
- 1 Transformers: Generation 1 (1985–1993)
- 2 Robots in Disguise (2000–2001 / 2002)
- 3 The Unicron Trilogy (2001 / 2002–2006)
- 4 Transformers: Universe (2003–present)
- 5 Film franchise (2007–2011)
- 6 Transformers Animated (2007 - 2009 / 2010)
- 7 Hunt for the Decepticons (2010)
- 8 Cyber Missions Webisodes
- 9 Transformers: Prime/War for Cybertron (2010)
- 10 Official Convention and Collector's Club releases
- 11 References
- 12 External links
Transformers: Generation 1 (1985–1993)
- Main article: Transformers: Generation 1
Generation One (G1) is a retroactive term for the Transformers characters that appeared between 1984 and 1993. The Transformers began with the 1980s Japanese toy lines Microman and Diaclone. The former utilized varying humanoid-type figures while the latter presented robots able to transform into everyday vehicles, electronic items or weapons. Hasbro, fresh from the success of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline, which utilized the Microman technology to great success, bought the Diaclone toys, and partnered with Takara. Jim Shooter and Dennis O'Neil were hired by Hasbro to create the backstory, the latter of whom christened Optimus Prime. Afterwards, Bob Budiansky created most of the Transformers characters, giving names and personalities to many unnamed Diaclone figures. The primary concept of G1 is that the heroic Optimus Prime, the villainous Megatron, and their finest soldiers crash land on pre-historic Earth in the Ark and the Nemesis before awakening in 1985, Cybertron hurtling through the Neutral zone as an effect of the war. The Marvel comic was originally part of the main Marvel Universe, with appearances from Spider-Man and Nick Fury, plus some cameos, as well as a visit to the Savage Land.
The Transformers TV series began around the same time. Produced by Sunbow Productions and Marvel Productions, later Hasbro Productions, from the start it contradicted Budiansky's backstories. The TV series shows the Autobots looking for new energy sources, and crash landing as the Decepticons attack. Marvel interpreted the Autobots as destroying a rogue asteroid approaching Cybertron. Shockwave is loyal to Megatron in the TV series, keeping Cybertron in a stalemate during his absence, but in the comic book he attempts to take command of the Decepticons. The TV series would also differ wildly from the origins Budiansky had created for the Dinobots, the Decepticon turned Autobot Jetfire (known as Skyfire on TV), the Constructicons (who combine to form Devastator), and Omega Supreme. The Marvel comic establishes early on that Prime wields the Creation Matrix, which gives life to machines. In the second season, the two-part episode The Key to Vector Sigma introduced the ancient Vector Sigma computer, which served the same original purpose as the Creation Matrix (giving life to Transformers), and its guardian Alpha Trion.
In 1986, the cartoon became the film The Transformers: The Movie, which is set in the year 2005. It introduced the Matrix as the "Autobot Matrix of Leadership", as a fatally wounded Prime gives it to Ultra Magnus; however, as Prime dies he drops the matrix, which is then caught by Hot Rod who subsequently becomes Rodimus Prime later on in the film. Unicron, a transformer who devours planets, fears its power and recreates a heavily damaged Megatron as Galvatron, as well as Skywarp becoming Cyclonus, Thundercracker becoming Scourge and the three Insecticons becoming Scourge's huntsmen, The Sweeps. Eventually, Rodimus Prime takes out the Matrix and destroys Unicron. In the United Kingdom, the weekly comic book interspliced original material to keep up with U.S. reprints, and The Movie provided much new material. Writer Simon Furman proceeded to expand the continuity with movie spin-offs involving the time travelling Galvatron. The Movie also featured guest voices from Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Scatman Crothers as Jazz, Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper, Orson Welles as Unicron and Eric Idle as the leader of the Junkions (Wreck-Gar, though unnamed in the movie). The Transformers theme tune for the film was performed by Lion with "Weird Al" Yankovic adding a song to the soundtrack.
The third season followed up The Movie film, with the revelation of the Quintessons having used Cybertron as a factory. Their robots rebel, and in time the workers become the Autobots and the soldiers become the Decepticons. It is the Autobots who develop transformation. Due to popular demand, Optimus Prime is resurrected at the conclusion of the third season, and the series ended with a three-episode story arc. However, the Japanese broadcast of the series was supplemented with a newly-produced OVA, Scramble City, before creating entirely new series to continue the storyline, ignoring the 1987 end of the American series. The extended Japanese run consisted of The Headmasters, Super-God Masterforce, Victory and Zone, then in illustrated magazine form as Battlestars: Return of Convoy and Operation: Combination. Just as the TV series was wrapping up, Marvel continued to expand its continuity. It followed The Movie's example by killing Prime and Megatron, albeit in the present day. Dinobot leader Grimlock takes over as Autobot leader. There was a G.I. Joe crossover and the limited series The Transformers: Headmasters, which further expanded the scope to the planet Nebulon. It led on to the main title resurrecting Prime as a Powermaster.
In the United Kingdom, the mythology continued to grow. Primus was introduced as the creator of the Transformers, to serve his material body that is planet Cybertron and fight his nemesis Unicron. Female Autobot Arcee also appeared, despite the comic book stating the Transformers had no concept of gender, with her backstory of being built by the Autobots to quell human accusations of sexism. Soundwave, Megatron's second-in-command, also broke the fourth wall in the letters page, criticising the cartoon continuity as an inaccurate representation of history. The UK also had a crossover in Action Force, the UK counterpart to G.I. Joe. The comic book featured a resurrected Megatron, whom Furman retconned to be a clone when he took over the U.S. comic book, which depicted Megatron as still dead. The U.S. comic would last for 80 issues until 1991, and the UK comic lasted 332 issues and several annuals, Until it will be replaced into as Dreamwave Productions type, later in after the 20th-Century.
In 2009, Shout! Factory released the entire G1 series in a 16-DVD box set called the Matrix of Leadership Edition. They also released the same content as individual seasons.
Transformers: Generation 2 (1993–1995)
- Main article: Transformers: Generation 2
It was five issues of the G.I. Joe comic in 1993 that would springboard a return for Marvel's Transformers, with the new twelve-issue series Transformers: Generation 2, to market a new toy line. The UK comic came back for five issues and an annual. This story revealed that the Transformers originally breed asexually, though it is stopped by Primus as it produced the evil Swarm. A new empire, neither Autobot nor Decepticon, is bringing it back, however. Though the year-long arc wrapped itself up with an alliance between Optimus Prime and Megatron, the final panel introduced the Liege Maximo, ancestor of the Decepticons. This minor cliffhanger was not resolved until 2001 and 2002's Transforce convention when writer Simon Furman concluded his story in the exclusive novella Alignment.
Beast Wars/Machines (1996–2000)
- Main article: Beast Wars
The story focused on a small group of Maximals (the new Autobots), led by Optimus Primal, and Predacons, led by Megatron, 300 years after the "Great War". After a dangerous pursuit through transwarp space, both the Maximal and Predacon factions end up crash landing on a primitive, uncivilized planet similar to Earth, but with two moons and a dangerous level of Energon, which forces them to take organic beast forms in order to function without going into stasis lock. After writing this first episode, Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio learned of the G1 Transformers, and began to use elements of it as a historical backstory to their scripts, establishing Beast Wars as a part of the Generation 1 universe through numerous callbacks to both the cartoon and Marvel comic. By the end of the first season, the second moon and the Energon are revealed to have been constructed by a mysterious alien race known as the Vok.
The destruction of the second moon releases mysterious energies that make some of the characters "transmetal" and the planet is revealed to be prehistoric Earth, leading to the discovery of the Ark. Megatron attempts to kill the original Optimus Prime, but at the beginning of the third season, Primal manages to preserve his spark. In the two-season follow-up series, Beast Machines, Cybertron is revealed to have organic origins, which Megatron attempts to stamp out.
After the first season of Beast Wars (comprising 26 episodes) aired in Japan, the Japanese were faced with a problem. The second Canadian season was only 13 episodes long, not enough to warrant airing on Japanese TV. While they waited for the third Canadian season to be completed (thereby making 26 episodes in total when added to season 2), they produced two exclusive cel-animated series of their own, Beast Wars II (also called Beast Wars Second) and Beast Wars Neo, to fill in the gap. Dreamwave retroactively revealed Beast Wars to be the future of their G1 universe, and the 2006 IDW comic book Beast Wars: The Gathering eventually confirmed the Japanese series to be canon. within a story set during Season 3.
Beast Wars contained elements from both the G1 cartoon series and comics. Attributes taken from the cartoon include Cybertron having an organic core, Transformers that were female, and the appearance of Starscream (who mentions being killed off by Galvatron in, The Transformers: The Movie). The naming of the Transformer ship, the "Ark" and the character, Ravage being shown as intelligent were elements taken from the comics.
Dreamwave Productions (2001–2005)
In 2001, Dreamwave Productions began a new universe of annual comics adapted from Marvel, but also included elements of the animated. The Dreamwave stories followed the concept of the Autobots defeating the Decepticons on Earth, but their 1997 return journey to Cybertron on the Ark II is destroyed by Shockwave, now ruler of the planet. The story follows on from there, and was told in two six-issue limited series, then a ten-issue ongoing series. The series also added extra complexities such as not all Transformers believing in the existence of Primus, corruption in the Cybertronian government that first lead Megatron to begin his war and Earth having an unknown relevance to Cybertron.
Three Transformers: The War Within limited series were also published. These are set at the beginning of the Great War, and identify Prime as once being a clerk named Optronix. Beast Wars was also retroactively stated as the future of this continuity, with the profile series More than Meets the Eye showing the Predacon Megatron looking at historical files detailing Dreamwave's characters and taking his name from the original Megatron. In 2004, this real life universe also inspired three novels and a Dorling Kindersley guide, which focused on Dreamwave as the "true" continuity when discussing in-universe elements of the characters. In a new twist, Primus and Unicron are siblings, formerly a being known as The One. Transformers: Micromasters, set after the Ark's disappearance, was also published. The real life universe was disrupted when Dreamwave went bankrupt in 2005. This left the Generation One story hanging and the third volume of The War Within half finished. Plans for a comic book set between Beast Wars and Beast Machines were also left unrealized.
G.I. Joe crossovers (2003 onwards)
Throughout the years, the G1 characters have also starred in crossovers with fellow Hasbro property G.I. Joe, but whereas those crossovers published by Marvel were in continuity with their larger storyline, those released by Dreamwave and G.I. Joe publisher Devil's Due Publishing occupy their own separate real life universes. In Devil's Due, the terrorist organization Cobra is responsible for finding and reactivating the Transformers. Dreamwave's version reimagines the familiar G1 and G.I. Joe characters in a World War II setting, and a second limited series was released set in the present day, though Dreamwave's bankruptcy meant it was cancelled after a single issue. Devil's Due had Cobra re-engineer the Transformers to turn into familiar Cobra vehicles, and released further mini-series that sent the characters travelling through time, battling Serpentor and being faced with the combined menace of Cobra-La and Unicron. During this time, Cobra teams up with the Decepticons. IDW Publishing has expressed interest in their own crossover.
IDW publishing (2005 onwards)
- Main article: The Transformers (IDW Publishing)
The following year, IDW Publishing rebooted the G1 series from scratch within various limited series and one shots. This allowed long-time writer of Marvel and Dreamwave comics, Simon Furman to create his own universe without continuity hindrance, similar to Ultimate Marvel. Furman's story depicts a Cybertron that the rogue Pretender Thunderwing destroys, so the Autobots and Decepticons have to infiltrate various planets for their resources. Earth comes under particular scrutiny due to a particularly potent form of energon, which Shockwave had seeded thousands of years ago, with the Decepticons escalating political tensions by replacing people with clones. The Ark origin is absent in this series. The continuity was also the first to acknowledge the existence of mass displacement in transformations, such as when Megatron downsizes himself into a gun.
In January 2006, the Hasbro Transformers Collectors' Club comic wrote a story based on the Transformers Classics toy line, set in the Marvel Comics universe, but excluding the Generation 2 comic. Fifteen years after Megatron crash lands in the Ark with Ratchet, the war continues with the characters in their Classics bodies.
IDW Publishing introduced The Transformers: Evolutions in 2006, a collection of mini-series that re-imagine and reinterpret the G1 characters in various ways. To date, only one miniseries has been published, Hearts of Steel, placing the characters in an Industrial Revolution-era setting. The series was delayed as Hasbro did not want to confuse newcomers with too many fictional universes before the release of the live-action film.
However, IDW and the original publisher Marvel Comics announced a crossover storyline with the Avengers to coincide with the film New Avengers/Transformers. The story is set on the borders of Symkaria and Latveria, and its fictional universe is set between the first two New Avengers storylines, as well in between the Infiltration and Escalation phase of IDW's The Transformers. IDW editor-in-chief, Chris Ryall hinted at elements of it being carried over into the main continuities, and that a sequel is possible.
Robots in Disguise (2000–2001 / 2002)
- Main article: Transformers: Robots in Disguise
First broadcast in Japan in 2000, Robots in Disguise was a single animated series consisting of thirty-nine episodes. It was exported to other countries in subsequent years. In this continuity, Megatron recreates the Decepticons as a subfaction of the Predacons on Earth, a potential reference to the return to the vehicle-based characters following the previous dominance of the animal-based characters of the Beast eras. It is a stand-alone universe with no ties to any other Transformers fiction, though some of the characters from Robots in Disguise did eventually make appearances in Transformers: Universe, including Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Side Burn and Prowl.
The Unicron Trilogy (2001 / 2002–2006)
- Main article: Transformers: Armada
These three lines, with 1990s style, launched in 2002, preceded from 2001, and dubbed the "Unicron Trilogy" by Transformers designer Aaron Archer, are co-productions between Hasbro and Takara, simultaneously released in both countries, each lasting 52 episodes. Armada followed the Autobots and Decepticons discovering the powerful Mini-Cons on Earth, which are revealed by the end to be weapons of Unicron. Energon, set ten years later, followed the Autobots stopping the Decepticons from resurrecting Unicron with energon.
In Japan, the series Transformers: Cybertron showed no ties to the previous two series, telling its own story. This caused continuity problems when Hasbro sold Cybertron as a follow-up to Armada/Energon. The writers attempted to change certain plot elements from the Japanese version to remedy this, although this largely added up to nothing more than references to Unicron, Primus, Primes and Minicons.
Just as Marvel produced a companion comic to Generation One, Dreamwave Productions published the comic Transformers Armada set in a different continuity to the cartoon. At #19, it became Transformers Energon. Dreamwave went bankrupt and ceased all publications before the storyline could be completed at #30. However, the Transformers Fan Club published a few stories set in the Cybertron era.
Transformers: Universe (2003–present)
- Main article: Transformers: Universe
The storyline of Transformers: Universe, mainly set following Beast Machines, sees characters from many assorted alternate continuities, including existing and new ones, encountering each other. The story was told in an unfinished comic book exclusive to the Official Transformers Collectors' Convention.
Film franchise (2007–2011)
In 2007, a live action film of Transformers was directed by Michael Bay and produced by Steven Spielberg. The main focus of the film revolved around the creator of the Transformers, which in the film is described as the Allspark, as well as their home planet Cybertron. The film portrayed the Allspark as a large cube of energy that can create life from mechanical objects. During the Cybertronian Civil War, the Allspark was sent off the planet and eventually landed on Earth, where it was discovered by the U.S. government and the Hoover Dam was built over it as a top-secret research facility and government base. Megatron searched for the Allspark and eventually found Earth, but he crash-landed in the Arctic and was frozen. Many years later he was found and also brought to the same facility as the Allspark. With their homeworld ravaged by war, the Autobots were dispersed throughout space. But a group of Autobots led by Optimus Prime traveled to Earth in search of the Allspark, in an attempt to revitalize their planet. However, the Decepticons also race towards Earth to find the Allspark, as well as their leader, Megatron. The film depicts the battle over the Allspark on Earth. The Transformers are depicted as mechanical beings that can reconstruct their outside appearance through scanning or touching a mechanical object of relative size to each Transformer's body. Steven Spielberg, who is credited as executive producer, said that Transformers is a dream come true because, he explains, since it started marketing the Toys conceived the idea of giving them life in a summer movie.
"And here's the movie", he says. "I must confess that I am a fan of Transformers since they left, rather than to buy them for my children, then bought the comics and toys." Spielberg, other producers had the same idea of bringing the Transformers movie, as the former studio executive Lorenzo DiBonaventura, as well as Hasbro's chief operating officer, Brian Goldner, among others. Spielberg and his team decided to find a director with sufficient skill and experience to take on the challenge of combining a fantastic story, special effects and lots of action. "I thought Michael (Bay) because I consider it perfect for Transformers. You need to touch and a clear vision of how it could be this film, "says Spielberg.
To market the film, IDW Publishing published Transformers: Movie Prequel. The comic expanded upon Optimus Prime's referral to Megatron as "brother", revealing they co-ruled Cybertron before Megatron's corruption. Furthermore, Optimus sent the Allspark into space in a last-ditch attempt to defeat Megatron. Megatron is responsible for Bumblebee's muteness in the film, as a direct result of distracting him from the Allspark's launch. Alan Dean Foster also wrote the prequel novel Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday. The novel shows that Starscream hated Megatron and wanted him to never be found, so he could remain as leader, explaining Megatron's line in the film: "You failed me, yet again, Starscream." Blackout is also depicted as deeply loyal to Megatron, explaining his line "All hail Megatron!" However, the novel contradicts the film with Megatron's body moved into the Hoover Dam in 1969, instead of the 1930s. IDW plans to continue the film's fictional universe with additional prequels and sequels.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the sequel to the 2007 film, made its debut in theaters on June 24, 2009.
As a preemptive measure, Paramount and DreamWorks announced a July 1, 2011 release date for a third Transformers film before completion of Revenge of the Fallen. Bay responded, "I said I was taking off a year from Transformers. Paramount made a mistake in dating Transformers 3—they asked me on the phone—I said yes to July 1—but for 2012—whoops! Not 2011! That would mean I would have to start prep in September. No way. My brain needs a break from fighting robots." As in Revenge of the Fallen, Orci refused to guarantee whether he and Kurtzman would return to a sequel, because "we risk getting stale". Orci has mentioned he would like to introduce Unicron "for scale's sake". The co-writer also said focusing on more Triple Changers would be interesting.
On October 1, 2009, Michael Bay revealed that Transformers 3 had already gone into pre-production, and its planned release was back to its original date of July 1, 2011 instead of 2012. Also Ehren Kruger was said to be again involved in the writing, and Shia LaBeouf to reprise his roles as Sam. Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, having written the first two films, will not return for the third installment in the series.
In a hidden extra for the Blu-ray version of Revenge of the Fallen, Bay expressed his intention to make Transformers 3 not necessarily larger than Revenge of the Fallen, but instead go deeper into the mythos, give it more character development, and make it darker and more emotional. The video also shows images of Unicron.
Transformers Animated (2007 - 2009 / 2010)
- Main article: Transformers Animated
The Cartoon Network-produced Transformers Animated is a cartoon that aired in early 2008. Originally scheduled for late after 2007 under the title of Transformers: Heroes, Transformers Animated is set in 2050 Detroit (after crash landing years earlier), when robots and humans live side-by-side. The Autobots come to Earth and assume superhero roles, battling evil humans with the Decepticons having a smaller role until Megatron resurfaces. Main characters include Autobots: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, Prowl, and Ratchet. Decepticons: Megatron, Starscream, Blitzwing, Lugnut, and Blackarachnia. As well as human characters Professor Sumdac and Sari Sumdac. Several characters that were in the original Transformers cartoon and 1986 animated movie, as well as characters only seen in comics and such, make special appearances and cameos throughout the show. To mention a few: Soundwave, Wreck-Gar, Ironhide, Brawn, Rodimus, Oil Slick, Perceptor, Blackout, Strika, Spittor, Cyclonus, Metroplex, Red Alert, Hot Shot, Cliffjumper, Mainframe, Wheeljack, Alpha Trion, Warpath, and many more, as inside jokes and to please the fans.
Hunt for the Decepticons (2010)
In 2010, Hasbro released a toy line expansion to the film universe. This line is simply branded as Transformers and contains a promotion called "Hunt for the Decepticons". The promotion consists of a code number which collectors use to access online games on Transformers.com. The toy line consists of redecos and remolds of existing movie characters, as well as new versions of characters from Generation 1 and Generation 2.
Highlights in this toy line include Leader Class Starscream, Battle Ops Bumblebee and all-new redesigns of Voyager Class Optimus Prime and Deluxe Class Bumblebee.
Cyber Missions Webisodes
- Main article: Transformers: Cyber Missions
Transformers: Prime/War for Cybertron (2010)
- Main article: Transformers: Exodus
The video game War for Cybertron was released in 2010 and is said to be set in the same universe as the upcoming Transformers: Prime cartoon. War for Cybertron toys are set to be released, the existence of Prime toys is confirmed. The game has also inspired a book called Transformers: Exodus which consists of events leading up to the beginning of the game. Hasbro and the California-based online game Roblox have also arranged an event promoting the cartoon.
Official Convention and Collector's Club releases
An officially-recognized fan convention (usually called BotCon) has been held nearly every year since 1994. The first few conventions were organized by individual fans, but a fan-made company named 3H Enterprises (later Productions) secured the license to BotCon from 1997-2002. The license was secured by a new organization named Fun Publications in 2005, who have held it ever since.
Because the conventions are officially sanctioned by Hasbro, presenters have been able to produce official, limited-run toys, fiction, and other merchandise for sale at BotCon. The BotCon toys have grown dramatically over the years. In 1994, a single figure was provided for attendees. In 2010, fifteen different figures were available through a collection of box sets, souvenir packages, and customization classes.
Fictional contributions have also increased over the years. Prior to 2005, most conventions released a single comic, often accompanying the toys released that year. Since Fun Publications assumed the license, however, the annual BotCon comic has been supplemented by on-line text stories available exclusively at the official club website, and a bi-monthly magazine sent out to members with a six page comic in each issue. Grouped under the umbrella term "Transformers: Timelines", Fun Publications fiction deals with a variety of existing Transformers franchises, including Generation 1, Beast Wars and Cybertron, as well as new universes created specifically by Fun Publications such as TransTech and Shattered Glass.
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