Transformers: A Decade of live action
In 2007, Transformers exploded onto the big-screen and has since given us over a decade of heavy metal mayhem. Based on the iconic 1980s animated series, Transformers follows the Autobots, led by the heroic Optimus Prime, as they battle Megatron and his evil Decepticons over the fate of our planet.
The most recent instalment, Bumblebee, takes us back to the 1980s and shows us how the eponymous fan-favourite Autobot found his way to Earth. Following a defeat at the hands of the Decepticons, Bee flees his home planet of Cybertron. Crashing down in California and taking the form of a yellow Volkswagen, an amnesiac Bumblebee meets Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a teenager trying to find her place in the world. Together, Bee and Charlie will help one another figure out who they are, while defending the planet from invading Decepticons.
These films are more than meets the eye, so we’ve dug deep and uncovered some facts and trivia that even you hardcore Transformer fans might not know.
You might not know Peter Cullen’s face, but you definitely know his voice. He was the voice of Optimus Prime in the original cartoon series and in all of the live-action films. It’s hard to think of Prime without hearing Cullen’s booming voice!
Frank Welker, who was the original voice-actor for Megatron (among others) was absent from the first Transformers film, but voiced various Decepticons in the sequels, like Soundwave, Shockwave and Devastator. (Hugo Weaving played Megatron in the first three films.) Welker would eventually get to reprise his iconic role as the Decepticon leader, voicing Galvatron in Age of Extinction (2014) and Megatron in The Last Knight (2017).
Director Michael Bay isn’t known for his subtlety when it comes action scenes. The man loves explosions and mayhem. The bigger and louder, the better. For example, in Dark of the Moon (2011), over 530 cars were destroyed! Transformers hit peak Bayhem in Revenge of the Fallen (2009), which featured the largest explosion in movie history! The explosion used 600 gallons (2,300 L) of gas, which created fireballs that reached over 300 feet (92m) in the air!
Robots Come to Life
Industrial Light & Magic’s skills were really put to the test when it came to bringing the Transformers to life. It took production designer Jeff Mann and his team six months to develop the character concepts for the first film! Mann wanted to show off how complex the Transformers were. Optimus Prime’s model was built from 10,108 parts, and something as simple as turning a wrist would involve moving 17 mechanisms. According to Bay, it would take 38 hours for ILM to render a single frame of movement.
Might Need a Bigger Hard-Drive.
The first film featured 14 Transformers, whose special effects comprised 15 terabytes of data. In the spirit of sequels going bigger, Revenge of the Fallen included 45 robots and used a whopping 140 terabytes! It also had the epic Constructicon Devastator, whose model is five-times bigger than Prime’s. He also lived up to his namesake by being responsible for hardware actually exploding during the film’s post-production.
Dark of the Moon writer Ehren Kruger is such a huge Star Trek fanboy, that he snuck a bunch of references to the iconic sci-fi series into his script. When Sam Whitcky (Shia Lebouf) visits his girlfriend Carly (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley) at her work, he describes the building as being like the Starship Enterprise. At one point, an episode of the original series is playing on Sam’s television. None other than Spock himself, Leonard Nimoy, voices Sentinel Prime. He even manages to reference one of Spock’s classic lines: “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” This isn’t Nimoy’s first Transformers film either; he provided the voice for Galvatron in the 1986 animated film.
Coming of the Dinobots
Ask any Transformer fan who their favourite characters are and there’s a good chance they’ll answer with the name of one of the Dinobots. They’re giant robots that turn into giant dinosaurs. What’s not to like? The fan-favourite Autobots would eventually make their debut in Age of Extinction; but their inclusion in the series was discussed as early as Revenge of the Fallen. Better late than never!
A Marvelous Connection
These days, it’s hard to look anywhere without hearing or seeing something related to Marvel, but did you know that they are responsible for naming the Transformers? While adapting Takara Tomy’s Diaclone and Microman series into what would become Transformers, Hasbro contacted Marvel Comics to help name the characters. Marvel would also go on to publish a long-running series of Transformers comics.
The Bug is Back!
In the original Transformers, Bumblebee’s vehicle-mode was changed from his iconic Volkswagen Bug to a Chevrolet Camaro. This was done because Bay was worried people would compare Bee to Herbie the Lovebug (although if you look closely, you can see a yellow VW Bug in the auto-yard). In Bumblebee, the eponymous Autobot is back in his classic vehicle-form in all of its buggy glory!
Eighties Easter Eggs
Bumblebee is set in 1987, so it makes sense that there’s a heap of references to the decade, such as Bee becoming obsessed with John Hughes’ classic teen-comedy film, The Breakfast Club. Hidden in these references are a couple of Transformers easter eggs. Judd Nelson, who plays Bender in The Breakfast Club, was also the voice for Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime in the 1986 animated Transformer film. That’s not the only classic Transformers connection either. During the scene where Charlie is dared to jump off the cliff, Bumblebee plays Stan Bush’s song ‘The Touch’, which was used as the main theme song for the 1986 movie!
One of the best parts of Bumblebee is the opening scene set on Cybertron, where we get to see a ton of classic Autobots and Decepticons duking it out over the fate of the planet (with their Generation One series designs too). According to the film’s director, Travis Knight, Megatron was going to make an appearance: “I had this whole thing boarded where we see [Decepticon leader] Megatron and he comes in like Sauron, just blowing shit up and laying waste to everything.” This cameo was cut to keep with the film series’ continuity, as Megatron is frozen on Earth at the time Bumblebee is set. How cool would that have been though!
The Future of Transformers
So what’s next for the robots in disguise? The good news is that a sequel to Bumblebee is in the works. A follow-up to The Last Knight is currently in the works too, but it doesn’t sound like Bay will be sitting in the director’s chair again (although he did say Dark of the Moon was going to be his last Transformers film and that didn’t exactly stick). There was also a discussion of a prequel film called Transformers One. It’d be set on Cybertron, presumably before it falls into the clutches of the Decepticons. If the opening scene of Bumblebee is anything to go by, that sounds like a great idea!