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The Transformers: The Movie

This article is about the animated film. For the 2007 live action film, see Transformers (film).

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 Hasbro
Narrated by Victor Caroli
Music by Vince DiCola
Cinematography Masatoshi Fukui
Edited by David Hankins
Distributed by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Release dates
  • August 8, 1986 (1986-08-08)
Running time
85 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million[2]
Box office $5.8 million (US)[3]

The Transformers: The Movie is a 1986 American animated feature film based on the animated TV series by the same name. It was released in North America on August 8, 1986 and in the UK on December 5, 1986.[4]

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, who died the year before its release,[5] and Scatman Crothers, who died months after its release.

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.[6] Set to a soundtrack of synth-based incidental music and hard-driving metal music, composed by Vince DiCola, the film has a decidedly darker tone than the television series, with detailed visuals in Toei Animation's typical anime film styling, and like G.I. Joe: The Movie, 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."


In 2005, Unicron, a roaming artificial planet, devours robot planet Lithone. Elsewhere, the evil Decepticons control 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 shuttle is readied for launch to Autobot City on Earth. The Decepticons ambush the shuttle, killing Brawn, Prowl, Ratchet and Ironhide, 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. During the battle Windcharger and Wheeljack are killed and many more casualties are taken by both sides. The next morning, Optimus and the Dinobots arrive and successfully repel the Decepticons' attack.

Optimus confronts the Decepticon leader, Megatron, and the two engage in a fight. Though Megatron is defeated, Optimus is mortally wounded. Starscream takes command of the Decepticons and retreats with their fallen leader and other wounded aboard Astrotrain.

Perceptor informs the other Autobots that Optimus is in critical condition. Before his death, 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, but is caught by Hot Rod, who passes it to Ultra Magnus. Optimus's monitor then flatlines and he turns gray and dies, much to the others' grief.

Astrotrain's shortage of fuel prompts the Decepticons to eject some Insecticons, Thundercracker, Skywarp, and 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 reluctantly agrees and Unicron converts him into a new form: the Decepticon warrior "Galvatron". His underlings are reformatted into Cyclonus, and his huntsmen, Scourge, and the Sweeps. Unicron provides them with a craft in which they travel to Cybertron, where Galvatron obliterates Starscream and re-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 eaten by the Sharkticons. Hot Rod and Kup are subjected to a mock trial by Quintesson executioners, who sentence them to death. 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, intending to 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.

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 force Galvatron to attack. Hot Rod recovers the Matrix and unleashes its power, transforming him into Rodimus Prime. Rodimus throws Galvatron into space, 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, there are virtually no permanent Decepticon deaths in the film, and the few that died were not killed by Autobots. Most of the Decepticons who were dead or dying are rebuilt by Unicron, and while Galvatron makes a few references implying he has Megatron's memories, it is less clear with Cyclonus and Scourge, as Bombshell or 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;[7] 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". Mirage was originally supposed to be killed by Megatron in the original script but was later cut. Dirge, Thrust, and Ramjet were supposed to have been killed by Unicron but appeared in later episodes. One of the Sweeps did die by the hands of Grimlock's fire breath attack over Autobot City but it is unclear which character died. One of the intentions of the film was to rid the Transformers cartoon universe of the majority of characters from Seasons 1 and 2. Story consultant Flint Dille elaborated:

The film was produced by Sunbow/Marvel simultaneously with G.I. Joe: The Movie. The writers of G.I. Joe: The Movie film asked for permission from Hasbro to kill the Duke character. Hasbro not only approved the request but insisted that the writers of The Transformers: The Movie adopt the same fate for Optimus Prime.[9] However, Optimus' death sparked much controversy and incurred so much backlash that it caused the writers of G.I. Joe to make changes so that Duke simply ended up in a coma from which he eventually awoke.[10]

Voice cast

Role English voice actor Spanish voice actor Japanese voice actor
Optimus Prime Peter Cullen Edgar Wald Tesshō Genda
Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime Judd Nelson Jorge Garcia Hiroya Ishimaru
Ultra Magnus Robert Stack Hannibal Brown Shō Hayami
Springer Neil Ross Roberto Alexander Kenyu Horiuchi
Arcee Susan Blu Gloria González Masako Katsuki
Kup Lionel Stander Enrique Garduza Osamu Saka
Wheelie Frank Welker Alejandro Abdalah Kazue Komiya
Blurr John Moschitta, Jr. Roberto Alexander Ken Yamaguchi
Blaster Buster Jones Leonardo Araújo Keiichi Nanba
Perceptor Paul Eiding Carlos Agostí Ken Shiroyama
Grimlock Gregg Berger Jorge Garcia Takurō Kitagawa
Slag Neil Ross Roberto Alexander Ken Yamaguchi
Swoop Michael Bell Roberto Alexander
Alejandro Abdalah
Yoku Shioya
Jazz Scatman Crothers Carlos Nieto Minoru Inaba
Cliffjumper Casey Kasem Juan Cuadra Takurō Kitagawa
Bumblebee Dan Gilvezan Roberto Alexander Yoku Shioya
Ironhide Peter Cullen Juan Cuadra Shō Hayami
Brawn Corey Burton Carlos Nieto Minoru Inaba
Frank Welker/
Leonard Nimoy
Alejandro Abdalah Seizō Katō
Cyclonus Roger C. Carmel Carlos Agosti Minoru Inaba
Scourge Stanley Jones Jorge García Yuu Shimaka
Starscream Chris Latta Carlos Nieto Hirotaka Suzuoki
Soundwave Frank Welker Alejandro Abdalah Issei Masamune
Frenzy Frank Welker Hannibal Brown Ken Shiroyama
Rumble Frank Welker Roberto Alexander Ken Yamaguchi
Devastator Arthur Burghardt Guillermo Romano Yuu Shimaka
Bonecrusher Neil Ross Edgar Wald Toshirō Ishii
Hook Neil Ross Jorge García Masashi Ebara
Scavenger Don Messick Guillermo Romano Keiichi Nanba
Scrapper Michael Bell Mario Arvizu Keiichi Nanba
Shockwave Corey Burton Jorge Garcia Yutaka Shimaka
Astrotrain Jack Angel David Zepeda Takurō Kitagawa
Blitzwing Ed Gilbert Humberto Vélez Masashi Ebara
Kickback Clive Revill Edgar Wald Yoku Shioya
Shrapnel Hal Rayle René Strickler Toshirō Ishii
Unicron Orson Welles Sergio Goyri Mizuho Suzuki
Quintesson Leader Roger C. Carmel Sergio Sendel Masashi Ebara
Wreck-Gar Eric Idle Carlos Villagran Toshirō Ishii
Spike Witwicky Corey Burton Mario Castañeda Masashi Ebara
Daniel Witwicky David Mendenhall Liliana Barbara Mayumi Tanaka
Kranix Norman Alden Edgar Vivar Toshirō Ishii
Narrator Victor Caroli Ruben Aguirre Issei Masamune


The film was budgeted at $6 million, six times greater than the budget used to create 90 minutes of the regular cartoon series.[2] 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.[2] 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 film. 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."[2]

The Transformers: The Movie was the final film to which Orson Welles contributed.[11] 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."[12] 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.[2] 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 The Transformers: The Movie was the last film project he worked on; his last voice session was on October 5, 1985, and five days later, Welles died of a heart attack.[13]


Stan Bush's song "The Touch", which prominently featured in the film, was originally written for the Sylvester Stallone film Cobra.[14] The song later appeared again for the Transformers franchise, along with a remixed version for the 2012 game Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. The film also feature other well known songs including "Instruments of Destruction" by NRG, Stan Bush's song "Dare", two songs by Spectre General, "Nothin's Gonna Stand In Our Way", "Hunger" as well as "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Dare to Be Stupid". The Transformers theme song for the film was performed by the band Lion.


Box office

The film was released on 990 screens in the United States and grossed $1,778,559 on its opening weekend. It opened in 14th place behind About Last Night (1986 film) which had been in theaters for six weeks at the time. The film's final box office gross was $5,849,647 which made it the 99th highest-grossing movie of 1986.[3] Hasbro lost US$10 million on the combined poor performance of this, and their previous collaboration with De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG), My Little Pony: The Movie.[15] It also forced the producers of these films to make G.I. Joe: The Movie a direct-to-video release instead of theatrical, as well as scrap a Jem film then in development. However, Transformers has become a cult classic.[16]

Home media

Although the trailer describes the film as "spectacular widescreen action", the film 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.[17]

The UK version, as well as the 1999 Rhino Films VHS release feature 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."[18][19]

The film was originally released in 1987 on VHS[20] in North America by Family Home Entertainment.

The film was first released on DVD in 2000[6] by Rhino Entertainment and distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures.[21] This version restored Spike's "Ah, shit!" line.

Metrodome Distribution released an Ultimate Edition of The Transformers: The Movie DVD in June 2007 (a month prior to the release of the live-action Transformers film) 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 trailer. The second disc contains interviews with Peter Cullen and Flint Dille. Also "Scramble City" is included.[6][22]


The Transformers: The Movie received mixed reviews and currently has 50% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes with 9 of 18 counted reviews giving it a "rotten" rating. The film has an average rating of 4.8 out of 10.[23] Caryn James of the New York Times described the film by stating, "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."[4]

Comic book adaptations


A Unicron figure was designed, but was never produced due to cost concerns, flimsy arms, and a faulty voice chip.[24] In 2003, the first Unicron figure was released as part of the Transformers: Armada toyline. The first Arcee figure that transformed into a car was released in 2010 as part of Transformers: Animated toyline.[citation needed]


  1. "TRANSFORMERS (U)". British Board of Film Classification. August 21, 1986. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Luke Dormehl, Transformers: The Movie retrospective, SFX Magazine issue 211, August 2011
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Transformers: The Movie (1986)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 2, 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 James, Caryn (1986-08-09). "SCREEN: 'TRANSFORMERS,' ANIMATION FOR CHILDREN". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-09-06. 
  5. Rose, Steve (2007-05-04). "Transformers The Movie | Film". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2009-07-04. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Transformers The Movie". IGN. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  7. "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..."
  8. Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition) feature "Death of Optimus Prime".
  9. "G.I. Joe Interview - Buzz Dixon". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  11. MSNBC
  12. Leaming, Barbara. "Orson Welles: A Biography" page 522
  13. 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.
  14. "The Touch Songfacts". Retrieved 2010-04-27. 
  15. Kline, Stephen (1993). "Building Character". Out of the Garden. Verso (New Left Books). p. 200. ISBN 0-86091-397-X. 
  16. Rabin, Nathan (2002-03-29). "Transformers: The Movie". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2015-05-02. 
  17. Transformers: The Movie 20th Anniversary DVD Review by IGN
  18. "Transformers: The Movie - Reconstructed (Region 2)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  19. "Transformers: The Movie (20th Anniversary Special Edition)". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  20. "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. 
  21. The Transformers: The Movie printed text on DVD and accompanying packaging reads: "Distributed exclusively in Canada by Seville Pictures."
  22. "Double Dip Digest: Transformers: The Movie". IGN. Retrieved 2010-10-12. 
  23. "The Transformers: The Movie". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  24. "UnicronPage". Retrieved 2009-06-24. 

External links