Premiering in 1984 with a three episode miniseries, The Transformers went on to become one of the cartoons of the 1980s, lasting three original seasons, a three episode miniseries finale (it ended as it started), and two rerun seasons. At least in the US, but I’ll get more into Japan next time. Between the two countries there have been many Transformers cartoons, and for the next I don’t know how many Fridays I’ll be looking into the intros for all of them. There are a lot of them, more than Superman, Spider-Man, Iron Man, and Batman–possibly combined but I haven’t done the math. Those “Many Intro” articles took one or two parts, but this is going have a lot of them.
And my apologies for those of you on slower connections for most of these installments, including tonight’s. Even with the smaller groupings this is going to take a while to load. I considered doing separate pages but how many times do you want to reload my host’s advertisements? Granted they could use the money even if I don’t get any of it (still hoping for advice on the Patreon rewards…I need a moment to redo that) but I think this is the easier option. Load it once and get on with it. Just for the US run we have six intros…seven if you count the addition of Transformers: Generation Two, which was just reruns anyway and where else am I going to put it? So let’s get on with this.
The original and the most nostalgia-inducing for me. It’s a really good intro. Not in my top intros outside of said nostalgia, but the theme is good and states what the show is about in simple terms, letting the visuals show off the transforming and the fighting, and simply stating who the heroes and villains are. The opening effect with the Autobot and Decepticon symbols across the grid is also a nice touch. This is when Toei was doing the animation for Marvel Productions and Sunbow. When the series went to weekdays instead of just weekends and had new toys to promote a second intro was produced for season two.
The grid is now the battlefield at the end, which looks visually interesting. The start now has the faction symbols flying around the universe, past Cybertron, and onward to Earth. With Omega Supreme the battle is a bit more intense than just random fighting and transforming. (I could imagine the season 1 intro fight by Michael Bay, where you wouldn’t be able to tell one bot from the other.) There are interesting touches like the Constructicon taking a foot-stomped…I’m guessing ally off of the battlefield, Grimlock attacking the logo as it shoots out of a volcano, and the Insecticons taking a lava river ride. The theme song is okay but a bit echoy for me. It’s done on purpose and it isn’t bad but it just doesn’t work for me as well as the season one theme did. They would change the theme again for season three and that one will go on to the two final seasons of the original run.
I find that disappointing since this is my least favorite of the three themes. It’s that backbeat noise that kills it for me. I can’t put the sound effect into proper onomatopoeia but I think you can tell which one I mean. You know, I just noticed how often that grid comes up in the original seasons. Season one had the Autobots riding a grid, season two had the battle ending on a grid, and here one introduces the floating head of Unicron from the movie. (I’m doing whole intros, not just theme songs, and the movie intro is just a bunch of credits. It is the best G1 rendition of the theme song. Too bad Lion’s cover wasn’t the one use for season three and the rerun seasons.) Unfortunately you can see how the animation quality went down. I think this is when most of the Akon outsourcing was most evident, but credit where it’s due, I love how it transitions between scenes, even if it does make it look like Blaster is the new leader of the Autobots given how Galvatron’s Decepticon symbol turns into his Autobot symbol. I’m guessing he was chosen because he has the biggest symbol. Oddly, no sign of the Quintessons, the third faction in this season. There was however an intro just before this.
That one also is lacking in Quintessons despite their introduction. Transformers loves beginning on multi-parters. The five episode story “Five Faces Of Darkness” had it’s own intro and was the introduction to that darn theme cover. I’m not sure which one I like better. The animation and artwork are slightly better than the full season three intro (and better than the episode itself really) but I liked the transitions for the season three intro. This intro was custom-made for “Five Faces Of Darkness”. Every scene here matches something that happens in the episode. Galvatron blowing up a planet to test his gun, the Decepticons fighting over a single Energon cube, the ship with the giant grabby hands, Kup and Ultra Magnus going swimming with Sharkticons, the debuts of Trypticon and Metroplex, and the garbage ship sucking up Rodimus all happen in the story. It doesn’t happen in the same way, but it still represents what actually happened in the miniseries. I’m just not sure why they did it.
Season four is a misnomer because it never really happened. For whatever reason Hasbro opted to drop the cartoon, leaving us with the three episode miniseries “The Rebirth” to end the whole series. It was a fairly decent end, with an opening left for more stories if they got the chance. Sadly they didn’t but there was a new intro. With an asterisk attached to “new”.
The shorter times of the animation used in the toy commercials (before switching to the kids playing with the toys and one kid having his eyes glow or turning into the Ultra Magnus walkie-talkie) allowed for the budget to bring improved animation and art quality. You can see that here since any of the footage not simply taken from the season three intro were taken from the ads for the Headmasters and Targetmasters. I’m pretty sure that includes the shots of Kup, Hot Rod, and Blurr, who became Headmasters in the toyline. This makes for more jarring transitions and really shows off how much better season three’s transitions were but how much better the ad animation is.
While no new episodes were being made in America that wasn’t the end of it airing. For reasons I can’t even begin to explain a fifth season came about (if you count three episodes as season four). The only new footage was a strange live-action segment when a human boy gets told of these adventures by Powermaster Optimus Prime, represented by a giant puppet head or stop-motion animation. Sometimes the kid even gets to ride Optimus as he flies off into space…which raises far too many questions for this series of articles. It also had it’s own intro, but sadly kept the season 3 intro theme as well.
And I’m guessing the Optimus puppet and actor was where the budget went. As I recall the season did start with a TV airing of Transformers: The Movie, which would explain the movie footage, but otherwise it’s jammed in with random bits from the ads. The Headmasters and Targetmasters didn’t show up in this season and the Pretenders don’t show up in US shows at all, making their inclusion strange. Visually this intro is just terrible and not very interesting. Sadly the last time the show aired until proper nostalgic reruns would air continued that trend.
When Hasbro launched Transformers: Generation Two, it started with recolored versions of the G1 characters, with some odd color choices. This isn’t a toy review but what matters here is that they did something similar with the cartoon, re-airing the original show with a new visual flair.
Well that sucked. There is video of the closing credits to hear the theme, but I think I’d take the season three intro over it. The footage was created for the announcement advertisement for the toyline and is the level of computer animation used in those commercials. I guess they didn’t want to go to Japan for the animation for this line but CG just wasn’t ready for a full series yet. So what they did was the “Cybernet Space Cube”, using computer animated versions of the scene change transition (you know, where the symbol would turn around and be the other symbol) and other transitions slapped onto the original footage.
It sounds lame because it is, but for the rework of “More Than Meets The Eye”, it actually kind of worked. Animation mistakes were re-edited or used the Cybernet graphics to cover up errors, the transitions flowed properly, and some of the added effects were actually enhancements. Not all of them, but some of them worked. It worked well enough to get a full season of reworked reruns, and that’s when it all fell apart. Transitions and graphics were slapped anywhere and were less enhancements and more distractions. I don’t know what went wrong but I actually recommend checking out the G2 version of the pilot miniseries if you come across it and ignore the rest of it.
So finally we get to the end of the original cartoon, somehow scraping six seasons of TV out of three seasons of production. At least that’s how it went in the US. Next time we take a trip to the Land Of The Rising Sun to see how they introed these shows…and the beginning of the ones they made themselves. I’m assuming I’ll have to split that into at least two articles. You’ll see why coming up.