Actually, there was so much to discuss it took him three threads over three days. First drafts are rarely the final draft. Initial ideas are tweaked, evolved, or sometimes outright tossed out. It’s the nature of the game. Even some of the comics I make go through alterations before I ever pick up my stylus. Thus was the case with The Transformers: The Movie. Finally released in 1986 the advertising boasted that it was “two years in the making”. How much of that was the actual production and how much just meant the two seasons of cartoon that had aired on TV (the toyline itself would have lasted somewhat longer than that by that point) I can’t say, but Chris McFeely and Jim Sorenson might.
You may remember McFeely from his YouTube series Transformers: The Basics, a retrospective of various characters, toylines, and stories that casual fans may not know about in a form that’s easy to follow. I’ve used a few videos for daily quickposts and then there was that deep dive into the early concept for a Transformers cartoon and “Mysterians”, a line of toys that were almost Transformers. The man does his homework, and Jim Sorenson has been also doing Transformer trivia in book form, co-writing numerous books on Transformers history. Despite how Twitter handles threads I want to use McFeely’s tweets highlighting their TF Nation panel rather than wait for the video so I can sort of review the changes that were made, and what from the original I would have liked to have seen survive. I won’t post them all but I’ll link to the three threads so you can read the whole thing and check out the fanart attached to it.
Let’s start with the first thread before the Twitter thread limit cap was hit.
Magnus of course is the prototype for Ultra Magnus, the figure made out of Optimus Prime’s powered up form in the Diaclone toyline. I’m not sure how he catches weapons fire in a bucket…especially given how many of them use lasers instead of projectiles. The design is interesting, but Tanker, the Autobot who surely evolved into Kup, really looks cool. I’m not sure how much of this came from actual designs Flory Dery designs (fan artists Andrew Turnbull and Ed Pirrie are credited for the various models and art pieces we see not coming from existing model sheets like Arcee’s) for the character since they were heavily altered from the first draft.
Also, Hot Rod is there. He doesn’t have as prominent a position as he would end up with in the movie, which is too bad. I’m not a fan of the Rodimus Prime stuff for various reasons but I want to see more Hot Rod, not less. Sadly, they never really did anything with the Hot Rod/Arcee pairing which the Transformers Universe entries for the movie character in the last issue show some serious lost promise. Instead it looks like Arcee would be paired up (though probably not romantically) with Wheeljack. I wouldn’t mind seeing how prominent this supposed misogyny would be but I’m not sure I’m a fan of the concept at this stage. It’s then kind of interesting that in the final movie Arcee pulls the dead Wheeljack out of the battle. McFeely has promised releasing the draft some time in the future so we might revisit it. I do like the idea of Arcee being a field medic, and given that her character model has been used for paramedics in the franchise afterward I may not be the only one. That would up the Autobots’ medical staff to three, with Ratchet and First Aid.
Rusty is described as an “wise-cracking “Indiana Jones”-type hero” while Blaze is closer to Patton (the actual General or George C. Scott’s portrayal?). The plan is to distract Megatron by coming via train. The train is himself an Autobot, Rails. That would have made him the first train Transformer, depending on when that electric train set from Tyco came out. Japan would introduce a team of trains in Transformers: The Headmasters and the idea has also shown up now and then since. Trains are more popular in Japan than they are currently in the US, though there are enough enthusiasts I’m surprised we don’t see them more often.
So Rails transforms from a train to a different kind of train to a snake? Does he have an actual robot mode? Apparently not. Eh, Sky Lynx made that work but I’m not sure I’d be into that.
Hey, at least you survive this version, Gears. Still making out better than Brawn.
That’s interesting to me because it means they reused a design. Again, I don’t know what was actually made for this draft but details like this are why I watch The Basics. And before you think Astrotrain can breathe a sigh of relief that the fight for the crown isn’t going on in his stomach (I can relate, man…bot) Megatron’s essence holder is broken and he goes flying off into space. Considering Starscream is usually the ghost and Mega/Galvatron is the one who made him a ghost that’s also interesting. I sometimes wonder what inspires what from early to final version.
The story moves to the Autobots’ usual headquarters, the Ark. This is where we meet another character we already know, Springer, and an alternate version of Daniel. This time he has a mom, a programmer named Ellen. We wouldn’t see Spike married Carly until later in the series. Frankly I feel sorry for the Daniel he got. Dad’s off fighting a war, mom’s off playing ambassador, and his only friends keep getting blown up and put back together while being taller than his parents. No wonder Danny made friends with Wheelie.
Who’s calling “Ellen and Rusty are so getting together by the end of the movie?”, because I’m with you. I also like the outfit designs for Daniel and Ellen. They look like actual clothes rather than the weird idea of 2005 fashion sense the movie and season 3/Headmasters gave us. I mean, I would have worn that jacket as a kid but still…odd by their absence are Spike and Sparkplug Witwicky. Then and to a lesser extent Buster are very much part of Transformers lore. We don’t know what happened to Sparkplug in this continuity but Spike was still around. Even if Daniel isn’t his son with Carly you’d think Spike would at least get mentioned.
So 1st draft Hot Rod would have time to contemplate his mistake, something final draft Hot Rod didn’t get the chance to. Cool. I also wonder about all the G1 characters we don’t see. I know Hasbro wanted to move on to the new toys, and since we still get a version of the Autobot City battle there was probably still a body count of “everyone who wants their toys has it already” characters they may have died there. With Bumblebee absent I wonder if the mascot of the franchise (Optimus is the face before you yell at me) would have originally been among the chasses?
Assuming Hasbro would want to sell Galvatron’s toy I’m guessing that they asked for Galvatron to just get the regular Decepticon symbol and take over as new leader. The toy itself promoted Galvatron as “City Commander”, a counter to (Ultra) Magnus in a similar role. Considering Trypticon and Metroplex’s robot mode don’t show up until the series but the toys did come out the same time, it was how they didn’t spoil that Megatron would become Galvatron. Hopefully I didn’t spoil the movie for you.
A “small glowing Optimus”? Yeah, I’m glad they changed that. It sounds kind of silly, even given how many leaders whether officially an Optimus Prime or not would resemble him down the line. Kind of curious if Hasbro would have made new toys for Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp and whether that would involve remaking a mold that had already seen six different characters? Also, would Magnus and Ultra Magnus have separate toys like Hot Rod and Rodimus Prime, or would
This time instead of Cybertron’s moons being a snack for Unicron, “The Entity” ends up absorbing all of Cybertron in light. I’m guess a lot of “we don’t have toys for them on the shelf” died on both sides. Galvatron silently swears revenge, and it does make this Entity look more threatening to take out the whole planet. I guess that’s why Unicron debuts eating Lithone in the final film. It really shows off his threat and the mystery of just what this is. I like the way it played out in the final film better, but I’m going by third hand info on a draft that was never animated.
It seems even cutting out a few tweets this is going long for me as well. I’m blaming the size of the pictures and Twitter putting two posts in for responses, unless something changes in their software by the time you read this. Guess we’re finishing out the week with this. Come back tomorrow for part two of three (actually I fit it into two–future SWT) and meet more new characters, new takes on old characters (the Sweeps and Blurr are interesting ideas), and more commentary. Go check out the full story (here’s part two) on Twitter and check out more of my analysis tomorrow.