What Is the Story of Transformers?
In 1983, executives from the Hasbro toy company traveled to Japan on a mission to find the next great toy. They wanted something that sparked the imagination and had the potential to become a big success in the United States and around the world. What they found at the Tokyo Toy Show were two distinct kinds of toys made by a company named Takara. The first was Diaclone, a series of human-operated vehicles that converted into robots. The second was Microman, a series of real-world objects that changed into small robots. By simply shifting their moving parts, the Diaclone and Microman robots became two toys in one! The robots had curious names, like Battle Convoy and Cassette Machine Battlebike. They were impressive, with a sleek design that kids were sure to fall in love with.
These robots were so new and different that Hasbro couldn’t help but think of all the exciting possibilities they could create around them. But something seemed to be missing. Who were these dynamic, changeable robots? Did they come from outer space or were they created by human beings? What was their mission? And, most importantly: Did they have a story to tell?
The Hasbro company had a lot of work to do if they wanted to turn their new discovery into a success. Little did anyone know that one day in the near future, these changing robots would take the world by storm through toys, animation, comic books, and movies. But first they needed the right story. Chapter 1: Robots in Disguise
Hasbro had found what they were looking forand couldn’t wait to bring their discovery back to the United States. Takara-Tomy’s changing robots were perfect for the American toy market. Each robot had been expertly crafted by a passionate team of designers overseen by a man named Hideaki Yoke. The Takara-Tomy team was thrilled to have their work appreciated by such a well-respected company and looked forward to seeing what Hasbro would do with their creations. It was time to get to work.
Everyone at Hasbro knew that without an exciting story for the changing robots, their new discovery might never become the hit they hoped it would be. Executives turned to Marvel Comics and together worked hard to envision a sensational origin story that would draw kids into the world of what were now called Transformers robots. Marvel Comics editor in chief Jim Shooter had a big job ahead of him and, knowing he couldn’t do it alone, hired creators Denny O’Neil and Bob Budiansky to help develop this brand-new universe of characters. What they came up with was a legend of epic proportions!
It all began with two warring groups of robots, the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons, who were locked in battle on the faraway world of Cybertron. With the planet’s resources drained, their fuel—glowing cubes known as Energon—was in very short supply. The Cybertronians needed to find new sources of Energon in order to survive.
The Autobots boarded their Ark spaceship and launched into the cosmos looking for help. Tragically, they never found it. They crash-landed on Earth over four million years ago. With their systems off-line and their ship stuck at the bottom of a volcano, this seemed like the end of the Autobots and Decepticons. But their story was far from over. The Cybertronians woke from their long sleep in the present and found themselves on a strange new world. With no way home, the Autobots formed an alliance with the humans, gathered Energon, and prepared to return to Cybertron, all while fighting off Decepticon attacks.
With the basic story complete, Bob Budiansky was given a very important mission. He and the team at Marvel had to create names and personality profiles for each of the twenty-six Cybertronians—and fast! Hasbro wanted to launch Transformers as soon as possible. Budiansky got to work, and the characters soon took shape in his imagination.
The Autobots would be led by a dutiful soldier named Optimus Prime, who changed into a semitruck. Optimus Prime was a courageous hero who surrounded himself with trusted friends like special operations expert Jazz, who changed into a race car, and a young scout named Bumblebee, who changed into a Volkswagen Beetle.
The Decepticons would bow before a fearsome warrior named Megatron, who changed into a laser blaster. Megatron brought terror to all those who opposed him and often relied on his communications expert, Soundwave, to advise him of secret Autobot plans. Soundwave changed into a boom box that played cassette tapes. Other Decepticons schemed to challenge Megatron’s power, like his power-hungry second-in-command, Starscream, who changed into a fighter jet. In a matter of days, Budiansky and his team of creators had given the Autobots and Decepticons individual personalities.
Now that the Transformers’ characters were fully developed, an animated commercial was made by a company called Griffin-Bacal. This action-packed advertisement sparked people’s interest. It even had a unique jingle that let people know these were no ordinary vehicles; they were something much more mysterious: “Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye! Robots in Disguise!” The catchy tagline awakened kids’ curiosity and, when Transformers toys finally arrived in stores across North America in the spring of 1984, they were an instant success.
Each robot came with a unique biography—their individual life story—that was printed on its packaging. All the elements had come together and the story of the Cybertronians, one of survival, determination, and partnership, had just begun to unfold. Chapter 2: More Than Meets the Eye
On May 8, 1984, Marvel Comics launched The Transformers
, a comic book that told the story of war between Autobots and Decepticons both on Earth and on their home planet of Cybertron. It was written by Bill Mantlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup, with art by Frank Springer. The Transformers
comic built upon the Cybertronians’ world by developing the characters and their relationships with one another. Leader Optimus Prime is a respected figure who makes tough decisions in the face of danger. He is a courageous robot who inspires his fellow Autobots to greatness. Megatron, on the other hand, is a fearsome commander who divides the Decepticons in his quest for ultimate power. He’s also insecure. With treacherous deputies like Starscream and Soundwave, who can blame him? Megatron’s prideful ways always put him in danger of being overthrown. The Transformers
often told stories that showed the reader what it was really like to live in a world filled with gigantic robots fighting for survival. The series also introduced the Creation Matrix, a clever means by which Autobots and Decepticons reproduced. Housed within the heart of the Autobot leader, this device contains the power to bring new Cybertronians to life. It’s a mysterious and unexplained force that evolved over time. Renamed as the Matrix of Leadership, it became a glowing crystal orb encased in a metal shell with handles on either side. The Matrix grew to become a very important part of Cybertronian history. The Transformers
comic book was notable for one of its special guest stars: Marvel Comics’ very own Spider-Man. It wouldn’t be the last crossover for the heroes of Cybertron. Later, Marvel published G.I. Joe and the Transformers
, a story in which the Autobots teamed up with G.I. Joe, another popular Hasbro toy. Together, they stopped the evil alliance of Cobra and the Decepticons from destroying the world with an energy drill.
On September 17, 1984, four months after their comic book debut, The Transformers
animated series began airing on TV screens across the United States. The voice cast included Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime, Frank Welker as Megatron, and musician Scatman Crothers as Jazz, among others.
The three-part episode “More Than Meets the Eye” introduces the Autobots and Decepticons as they wake up after crash-landing on Earth millions of years ago. Adapting to their new surroundings, the Cybertronians take the form of familiar Earth vehicles, such as trucks, cars, and fighter jets. While the Autobots devote themselves to protecting humanity, the Decepticons want to drain the planet of its energy and resources. The two groups are locked in conflict, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance!
Determined to get home to Cybertron, the Autobots realize they need a helping hand if they want to achieve their goal. So they befriend a human mechanic named Sparkplug Witwicky, who helps them on missions. Sparkplug’s son, a teenager named Spike, becomes best pals with Bumblebee. Building a partnership with humans is difficult for the Autobots at times, especially with the Decepticons looming around every corner.
The cast of characters grew bigger as new toys were introduced. Eye-catching robot species such as the Dinobots, Insecticons, and Constructicons became regular cast members. And on September 23, 1985, a second season of The Transformers
began airing every weekday afternoon. Kids raced home to catch new episodes after school. They couldn’t get enough of Soundwave’s unique voice or the famous converting sound effect. The Transformers
animated series was a success! But one of the Cybertronians’ most famous onscreen moments was still to come.
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