Transformers: It's More Than Meets the Ad

Transformers: It's More Than Meets the Ad

The 80s Transformers cartoon manages to succeed in spite of itself.

Read Full Article

I guess I feel the same way about the 90's Marvel cartoons. I know in my mind that they aren't great works of arts, (especially Spider-man: TAS, which is still one of my favorites but very flawed), but they still held a close place in my heart and there were good moments here and there.

I guess it's all about accepting that crap was part of your childhood but it's not necessarily a bad thing.

Typo round-up (at this point, I think I should get some theme music)!

Iis Iron Man 3 "promoting" the Iron Man comics, or is it the other way around? And if it's both, does it at that point become neither?).

I imagine that was meant to be "(Is Iron Man 3 "promoting" the Iron Man comics, or is it the other way around? And if it's both, does it at that point become neither?)".

There's a hard to define "it" that makes something like this endearing in spite of itself, and while for the longest time I was willing to chalk it up to mere nostalgia one thing I've realized in revisiting Transformers over the last few years is how little of it I had actually seen -- a handful of episodes (and not great ones, for the most part) and the movie -- to the point of being able to form memories.

The run-on sentence doesn't bother me as much as the fact that Bob start to use a comma to separate a clause, fails to put in the second, and then adds dashes. "There's a hard to define "it" that makes something like this endearing in spite of itself and, while for the longest time I was willing to chalk it up to mere nostalgia, one thing I've realized..." flows much better.

OT: I can see what Bob means about silly pulp, but I don't know if Michael Bay can strike that. His movies are always hyperbolic and earnest, true, but it's just not quite the same. I'll be happy if there's a decent action scene where both sides are immediately recognizable, engaged in a well-choreographed fight, and the camera can hold still for more than 5 seconds.

When the whole world knows about the Transformers, why on earth would they need to transforms themselves into a vehicle?

The premise of this transformation is that they could hide in plain sight and wage a war without being discovered. Multiple plot lines could be generated in which they remained in the shadows (for good or bad) manipulating world and even cosmic events.

The movies did out with this key aspect and made the robots public, this resulted in movies whose only selling point was a rock-em sock-em string of battles on the big screen. Just heavy metal pounding on heavy metal with no regard to story, plot, continuity or even respect to the fans and source material.

Now, there is people who like that kind of thing and it is alright... but I guess most of us just mock that approach and it is reflected in our collective views of the movies. Therefore, we expect that they do not "fuck it up" again.

"To be sure, the Transformers movies aren't regarded as being particularly good. Longtime fans of the characters railed against their "butchering" in the original film at a still-legendary pitch, and the disastrously bad (largely a casualty of a Hollywood writer's strike) sequel spurred mainstream critics (who'd mainly dismissed the original with a "well, what'd you expect?" shrug) to join in on the bashfest -- which by then had grown to encompass a more general backlash against the action aesthetic of Michael Bay. And while most agreed that the third installment was some sort of improvement, a strong vein of dismissal and disdain continued to permeate."

If the 'mainstream' audience didn't like them then there financial performance would go down rather than up.

So while 'critics' don't like them saying there's a general backlash against Michael Bay's films is wrong.

Transformers - $709,709,780

Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen - $836,303,693

Transformers:Dark of the Moon - $1,123,794,079

Now proof that people do stop going to see films if they didn't like the last one

The Matrix - $463,517,383 (it's popular)

The Matrix Reloaded - $742,128,461 (it's not popular but made money because people like the first)

The Matrix Revolutions - $427,343,298 (people didn't like the last one)

Pirates of the Caribbean:The Curse of the Black Pearl - $654,264,015

Pirates of the Caribbean:Dead Man's Chest - $1,066,179,725

Pirates of the Caribbean:At World's End - $963,420,425 (again no growth but a decrease as the 2nd did disappoint though not as much as the 2nd Matrix did)

Pirates of the Caribbean:On Stranger Tides - $1,045,713,802 (increase to the last as advertised with a cast and direction change but still not beating the 2nd even with 5 years of inflation plus and 3D.

The Hobbit:An Unexpected Journey - $1,017,003,568

The Hobbit:The Desolation of Smaug - $958,366,855 (small decrease as some disappointed with the first)

youji itami:
[A bunch of numbers here]

Where did you get these figures from? While I do agree with your comments on the loss of revenue for the films, one factor missing is 'what else was playing at the time?' Having to compete with the likes of a Marvel movie, or a Pixar movie could hurt numbers as well for those movies that share audiences.

Demagogue:

youji itami:
[A bunch of numbers here]

Where did you get these figures from? While I do agree with your comments on the loss of revenue for the films, one factor missing is 'what else was playing at the time?' Having to compete with the likes of a Marvel movie, or a Pixar movie could hurt numbers as well for those movies that share audiences.

All numbers were from Boxofficemojo and while that is true if the 'mainstream' audience really dislike the direction a film franchise goes the Matrix trilogy is the perfect example of what happens it's not the 'bad' film that does badly it's the one that comes next but only if the film is really universally disliked you won't get a Matrix size drop otherwise.

is anyone else reading the current ongoing comics by idw?

I didn't like them as a kid, I don't like them now, but I appreciate that they mean something to someone.

Eh, I personally prefer the later Transformers series (especially Beast Wars, Transformers Animated and Transformers Prime), and while I don't hate the original series... it's just a bit too cheesy for my tastes. And I still say the 1980's Transformers movie is a bit overrated (It's not that I think the Michael May Movies are better, mind you, I just happen to think the much older stuff is just over-hyped by fanboys.)

Coruptin:
is anyone else reading the current ongoing comics by idw?

I am not, but I have heard that the current run is absolutely fantastic, and everytime I see scans of individual pages people post online, I kick myself really hard for not immediately rushing out to buy all of them.

My own experience with the original Transformers cartoon is... strange. I remember loving it as a child, desperate to watch it whenever I could, and yet the timing on when it aired was atrocious for me. Usually an episode would start just as I had to leave for school, or parent mandated sporting activities, so I'd miss out on it. Not only that, but born in 87, I only was able to watch it as years-old reruns as the cartoon was petering out already when I was still a newborn, let alone old enough to actually watch tv and comprehend it. Yet, somehow I've still developped an incredible fondness for the original series and its characters.

But... If you wanna talk about what really got me into the franchise, one need look no further than the 90s reboot Beast Wars. Whereas I have a hard time imagining myself watching the original G1 cartoon and still enjoying it, I'm currently rewatching Beast Wars right now in my spare time, and it amazes me how well that show still holds up. A few spotty episodes, especially early on, but I'm very happy to see my view of that show is not the nostalgia goggles talking.

And it's not just Beast Wars. The Animated and Prime cartoons are both ones which people have regularly raved about, and I feel that maybe there is something to what Bob's saying about the old cartoons. It may be intended as simply toy advertising, but if you put enough effort into it, even advertisments can be genuinely good works in and of themselves, and Transformers seems to really have a lock on the quality of their fiction.

Just... try to avoid the ones that come out of Japan.

It's a shame bob, and by extension the vast majority of the human populace outside of the tf fanbase I am very much a part of hasn't taken the time to read some of the more recent TF comics. Especially Last Stand of the Wreckers - the best self contained TF mini story ever written. The good guys (a mix of idiots and nut jobs) are sent to find and take down a blood thirsty maniac who has taken an entire prison hostage and almost everyone dies in comically horrific ways. One of those well we beat the bad guy but man did everything go as bad as it could regardless stories.

And so successful was this comic the creators got to take over the main line with their More than Meets the Eye series and its now current sequel season Dawn of the Autobots where spoiler, Megatron is now an Autobot and Optimus is pretty much retired from being leader.

They've given incredible fictional depth to the franchise over the last few years, making old and new characters have vastly more dimension and personality (theirs even a gay couple and MANY non-sexualized female characters now) and it makes me SO annoyed that none of it will ever be turned in to watchable media for a long while if ever because absolutely everything about it is better than any past version of transformers and its a real shame all most people know still is the hilariously dated g1 stuff or michael bays festering garbage movies.

LazyAza:
MANY non-sexualized female characters now)

Weeeeeeell... See, about that... Those characters literally JUST came into existence, like, a month or two ago when Windblade came out. And I wouldn't exactly say there's many. Just a tiny handful really. And prior to them, there weren't sexualized female characters because there were no female characters at all, except for Arcee who they handled in what is quite possibly one of the worst ways imaginable.

I can't see Bay taking a silly premise and trying to play it straight.

He has spent the last decade pandering to the drunken frat-boy demographic. Any silly scene he tried to play straight would need a (insert as appropriate) sexually/racially inappropriate punchline.

Beyond them just not being very good movies, I just can't get into the movies at all because, frankly, the characters don't look like they're supposed to. I also grew up on G1 and find that the visual dissonance is more than I'm able to overlook. Maybe if the movies had been good that have been at least a little different but it would have never felt right. The new look of the Transformers in 4 just turns me off even more.

I agree with the article. There is just something iconic about the characters and the stories that were told, even if they were clunky and overly simplified.

This article more-or-less sums-up my exact thoughts on the matter as well. I remember the first time "revealed" to me that the Transformers cartoon was little more than half-hour commercials for the toys. I was told in a "Now you need to stop loving it" tone of voice, but my reaction was just "Huh..." in a sort of "Yeah, I guess I never thought of it like that" tone; and then I stopped caring because I liked the show anyway. Maybe it was stubborn nostalgia at the time, but the more I learned about shows in the 80's and just media in general, it quickly occurred to me that nearly everything is an advertisement for something else. The difference is that Transformers is still enjoyable to watch (the occasional groaner episode not withstanding) while most other shows that were just prolonged commercials were barely tolerable to watch even during their prime (if they can be said to have had one), and then didn't age nearly as well.

These days, when someone responds to my love of Transformers by revealing the "shocking" hidden agenda, I just respond with a shrug and say "Yeah? What's your point?" They rarely have much of an answer.

Say what you will about the cartoons, at least their transformation sequences weren't exploding balls of tinsel.

I agree that even though G.I. Joe isn't as popular as Transformers, it is way better than that of Masters of the Universe.

I think the reason might be that G.I. Joe and Transformers have a consistent theme. The former being elite military group versus super terrorists, and the latter being an massive extraterrestrial war that has spread to our planet.

Masters of the Universe is a hodgepodge of fantasy and sci-fi. A mess that we willingly accepted as children, but only in the later years we would question how or why motorized vehicles and magical barbarian swords exist side by side.

Maybe it's because I was born in '89, and I can never claim to have had that decade of cartoons be a part of my childhood growth, but I fucking hate 80's cartoons. During my time as an animation student and wanna-be animation historian, my research into the 80's gives me little happiness. (Ducktales was okay, and Real Ghostbusters was a mostly clean sphincter ruined by the poop-filled toilet paper clinging that was Slimer)

I hate the rush of toy-based animated series filled with high-concept/low-substance animation churned out at five new episodes each week. I hate how that made-for-syndication schedule led to underdeveloped scripts, one-dimension comic relief characters, frequently glitchy animation, and unfinished sound quality. I hate how that schedule pretty much forced the use of outsourced animation studios in order to keep on time. (I don't mean that in a 'THEY TOOK OUR JEERRRRBS!!!' manner, I have great respect for the people who put hours of their life trying to animate this shit. Many outsourced studios have made great animation over the years.)

I hate how, technically, deregulation allowed for more possibilities in animated tv storytelling than the 60's and 70's would allow, but studios immediately jumped on the idea of cheaply made, long-form toy commercials, since the partnerships with the toy companies were all too profitable. I hate how quickly introduced and then thrown away side characters and weapons/vehicles were, to put a new plaything on store shelves (Ninja Turtles had a toy based on in-universe duck character from a tv show that only appeared for a few seconds).

And I hate how this decade of animation came after the death of the theatrical short and two decades of mostly underwhelming childrens' comedies and a few lazy Silver Age style superhero cartoons, leaving baby boomers and their children to think that animation cannot be successful unless its targeting children, further marginalizing Western opinions of animation as an art form.

I hate that even today, cartoons are still canceled because of lack of toy sales. Sym-Bionic Titan was one such casualty. And I hate how even now, toy company representatives have final say on character designs in blockbuster action movies.
http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2080765-1,00.html

They could have used that opportunity to make something worthwhile and make thing that could have brought respect to the medium, but the chose the exact opposite.

I'm sorry Bob, as much as I hate to say it, the only response I have to your praise, no matter how basic and humble, is 'no'. No, it was not more than meets the ad. Whatever interesting concept for an episode there have been, whatever fun music may have been composed, any fun element of The Transformers was let down by the other factions of the production. This cartoon is a perfect example of everything I hate about the animation industry.

What many gamers hate about cynical pre-order content, on-disc DLC, and free-to-play/pay-to-win systems, is exactly how I feel about 80's cartoons. Fuck the Transformers cartoon. And I don't say 'Fuck __' often at all.

youji itami:
"To be sure, the Transformers movies aren't regarded as being particularly good. Longtime fans of the characters railed against their "butchering" in the original film at a still-legendary pitch, and the disastrously bad (largely a casualty of a Hollywood writer's strike) sequel spurred mainstream critics (who'd mainly dismissed the original with a "well, what'd you expect?" shrug) to join in on the bashfest -- which by then had grown to encompass a more general backlash against the action aesthetic of Michael Bay. And while most agreed that the third installment was some sort of improvement, a strong vein of dismissal and disdain continued to permeate."

If the 'mainstream' audience didn't like them then there financial performance would go down rather than up.

So while 'critics' don't like them saying there's a general backlash against Michael Bay's films is wrong.

-snip-

commercial success doesn't mean its any good fyi, like how its ridiculous to argue that mcdonalds serves good food based on the notion that its lucrative.

the Bay films are largely reviled by fans of the earlier transformers series which were "more then meets the eye" in various degrees.
the recent prime series was fantastic... until it was cancelled so they can make another one that is more like the Bay movies...

sometimes I fear what I would do were I to ever get superpowers...

Joseph Alexander:

youji itami:
"To be sure, the Transformers movies aren't regarded as being particularly good. Longtime fans of the characters railed against their "butchering" in the original film at a still-legendary pitch, and the disastrously bad (largely a casualty of a Hollywood writer's strike) sequel spurred mainstream critics (who'd mainly dismissed the original with a "well, what'd you expect?" shrug) to join in on the bashfest -- which by then had grown to encompass a more general backlash against the action aesthetic of Michael Bay. And while most agreed that the third installment was some sort of improvement, a strong vein of dismissal and disdain continued to permeate."

If the 'mainstream' audience didn't like them then there financial performance would go down rather than up.

So while 'critics' don't like them saying there's a general backlash against Michael Bay's films is wrong.

-snip-

commercial success doesn't mean its any good fyi, like how its ridiculous to argue that mcdonalds serves good food based on the notion that its lucrative.

the Bay films are largely reviled by fans of the earlier transformers series which were "more then meets the eye" in various degrees.

the recent prime series was fantastic... until it was cancelled so they can make another one that is more like the Bay movies...

sometimes I fear what I would do were I to ever get superpowers...

Actually continued financial success does mean it's good at least in the majority of people's opinions as the series continues to see it's profit increase.

When the majority of people do dislike a film the next film does see a drop in how much money it makes.

The first Matrix was really popular so the second made more money but was not itself popular so the third made a lot less than the first.

The X-men is another great example

The 1st is popular.
The 2nd makes more and is also popular.
The 3rd makes even more but is not popular.
The 4th makes less money than the 3rd and is also not popular.
The 5th makes even less money but is popular.
The 6th makes a lot of money as is also popular.
The 7th makes a lot of money and is also popular.

If the majority of people dislike a film the next film in the same series will make less money.

The Transformers series does keep making more money so for the majority it is popular.

Joseph Alexander:

sometimes I fear what I would do were I to ever get superpowers...

regardless of what you do we'd complain that they dont work exactly like they do in the comics.

youji itami:

Joseph Alexander:

youji itami:
"To be sure, the Transformers movies aren't regarded as being particularly good. Longtime fans of the characters railed against their "butchering" in the original film at a still-legendary pitch, and the disastrously bad (largely a casualty of a Hollywood writer's strike) sequel spurred mainstream critics (who'd mainly dismissed the original with a "well, what'd you expect?" shrug) to join in on the bashfest -- which by then had grown to encompass a more general backlash against the action aesthetic of Michael Bay. And while most agreed that the third installment was some sort of improvement, a strong vein of dismissal and disdain continued to permeate."

If the 'mainstream' audience didn't like them then there financial performance would go down rather than up.

So while 'critics' don't like them saying there's a general backlash against Michael Bay's films is wrong.

-snip-

commercial success doesn't mean its any good fyi, like how its ridiculous to argue that mcdonalds serves good food based on the notion that its lucrative.

the Bay films are largely reviled by fans of the earlier transformers series which were "more then meets the eye" in various degrees.

the recent prime series was fantastic... until it was cancelled so they can make another one that is more like the Bay movies...

sometimes I fear what I would do were I to ever get superpowers...

Actually continued financial success does mean it's good at least in the majority of people's opinions as the series continues to see it's profit increase.

When the majority of people do dislike a film the next film does see a drop in how much money it makes.

The first Matrix was really popular so the second made more money but was not itself popular so the third made a lot less than the first.

The X-men is another great example

The 1st is popular.
The 2nd makes more and is also popular.
The 3rd makes even more but is not popular.
The 4th makes less money than the 3rd and is also not popular.
The 5th makes even less money but is popular.
The 6th makes a lot of money as is also popular.
The 7th makes a lot of money and is also popular.

If the majority of people dislike a film the next film in the same series will make less money.

The Transformers series does keep making more money so for the majority it is popular.

ok, one you are wrong if you think popularity correlates directly to quality.
it can but not just if something is good it becomes popular, something can also be so bad that it loops around and becomes popular based on being a hour and a half long Mr. Bean joke.
or inversely both ends can just not become popular, or only become popular long after their release.
as sad as it is, quality has little effect on popularity.

something can be popular entirely based on marketing, its name, and its audience.
which is the case when it comes to the Bay films, BF, and CoD.
they have an audience that will go out and turn their brains off(if they ever were actually on) to be entertained by tits, ass, violence, "realism", explosions, and fellating the U.S military.

so no, they are not and have never been good movies, if the series hardly sees a drop in quality when there writers leave then there wasn't much of it to begin with.
they will exist only as long as they are making money and coming out, after that they with vaporize from the public
conscious.

good movies people will go back and watch.
they will bother to remember, and you can't do that with your brain off.

Joseph Alexander:
[quote="youji itami" post="6.853462.21120307"][quote="Joseph Alexander" post="6.853462.21120277"][quote="youji itami" post="6.853462.21118189"]

ok, one you are wrong if you think popularity correlates directly to quality.
it can but not just if something is good it becomes popular, something can also be so bad that it loops around and becomes popular based on being a hour and a half long Mr. Bean joke.
or inversely both ends can just not become popular, or only become popular long after their release.
as sad as it is, quality has little effect on popularity.

something can be popular entirely based on marketing, its name, and its audience.
which is the case when it comes to the Bay films, BF, and CoD.
they have an audience that will go out and turn their brains off(if they ever were actually on) to be entertained by tits, ass, violence, "realism", explosions, and fellating the U.S military.

so no, they are not and have never been good movies, if the series hardly sees a drop in quality when there writers leave then there wasn't much of it to begin with.
they will exist only as long as they are making money and coming out, after that they with vaporize from the public
conscious.

good movies people will go back and watch.
they will bother to remember, and you can't do that with your brain off.

Quality is subjective, you don't like the transformers films fine but enough people do that every film makes more money than the last so far.

Stop being a #@^* with the whole 'I don't like it so it's shit and anyone who disagrees is a retard'

As I have pointed out in other posts films that were disliked or more precisely disappointed people saw there sequels make less and I've already pointed 5 film franchises were this is true.

There are plenty of films and games were tits, ass, violence, "realism", explosions, and fellating the U.S military are all there is to them and they still fail.

I really don't understand what was so good about the Original Transformers series. I was born in the 90's and grew up watching Beast Wars, Transformers Armada, Animated, and more recently Prime when they aired on television. I already had my fill of complex story arcs, well rounded characters, engaging story, and world building. (Except for Armada, it got worse each season). When I saw the original Transformers movie, I didn't see any of that. I saw a movie designed to sell children of the time merchandise. Think about it: Why did the writers kill off Optimus Prime early in the movie and made Rodimus the Prime at the end of it? To sell merchandise! Why did Unicorn turn the damaged Megatron into Galvatron? To sell merchandise!

I also don't think that most cartoons of the 80's or the 90's were that good. If the cartoons didn't try to push a product, then they'll most likely push a moral into the story. I remember things getting really awkward when shows like Captain Planet tried to tell children that drugs are bad, and polluting the environment is wrong.

Adding to Bob's observations, I really liked the characters in Transformers. Bumblebee was the audience surrogate even more than the human cast members were, and he wasn't some dorky mascot with an annoying voice who caused trouble because he was a klutz. He was just as brave and heroic as Optimus Prime, his inexperience and small size (obvious implications of youth) were his only flaws. Ironhide was a tough-talking brawler itching for a fight (think TMNT's Raphael before the 90's got to him). Grimlock was Grimlock. If he doesn't say "me Grimlock" in the upcoming film a good percentage of the fanbase are prepared to slap Michael Bay upside his flag-waving head with a deli slab of beryllim baloney. Optimus Prime was the perfect leader, an amalgam of heroic traits. The wise mentor, the weary veteran, the idealist ready to fight for his dream, the brave soldier prepared to sacrifice himself to save others. That he actually spent more time leading from the front and Getting Shit Done made him even more awesome.

Guys like Yahtzee have whined about how people can feel so strongly about a bunch of robots smashing each other in a cartoon designed to sell toys. Well, yes they were designed to sell toys. They sold GOOD toys. But we, WE, made Transformers what it is today. Popular culture embraced The Transformers as the ultimate expression of our generation. It's a toy, it's a TV show, it's cheesy but played strait, it's about a simple concept played out like fucking Shakespeare because a lot of what Shakespeare wrote--however well-written--was about the same concepts Transformers tackles: tragedy. It's about a devastating war fought over resources that results in an entire world being destroyed, yet they still keep fighting over the ashes. And then they just move to another world and start all over again, repeating a pattern of destruction and loss where no one wins. That IS Shakespeare, man. Prime dying in the animated film was like the Third Act of Hamlet. Everyone dies. They don't see victory, they don't win, some of them don't even die bravely. Prime's death is literally a phyrric victory: he came to save the day but there's only a handful of Autobots left and the city is in ruins. And it's one of the best fights in any movie, too. They throw down. They smash each other up, and its ends with a fantastic dramatic sting.

Plus did anyone find it hilarious how easily a weary, battle-damaged Megatron just tossed Hot Rod aside like a punk? Next leader of the Autobots my shiny metal ass.

Bob, I hope you do a Big Picture about the Transformers comic book, as those really show how COMICS! ARE! WEIRD! The original Marvel series and the current IDW one are incredible and are full of mythology and big ideas in a series ostensibly about alien robots shooting the crap out of each other.

 

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here