For those of you who missed yesterday’s feature post, I’m doing a commentary on a series of tweets by Transformers backstage expert Chris McFeely, based on a panel he did with fellow expert Jim Sorenson on the first draft of Transformers: The Movie for the TF Nation fan convention. It’s easier to do it this way than post the whole video and then respond. You get to see my running commentary this way.
In part one there were already a lot of changes. Magnus only becomes Ultra Magnus after gaining the Matrix, which is now in the shape of a little glowy Optimus. (Still glad they changed that.) While Optimus and Megatron’s final battle ends the same way it’s Megatron’s life essence (a precursor to the spark idea created by Beast Wars?) that gets drawn to the Entity of planet Unicron and reborn as Galvatron. Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker become the new heralds instead of dead or turned into new characters. And the humans were replaced by new characters.
We also got to meet new Transformers, but outside of Springer and Arcee (who is now a field medic) as well as Hot Rod not much remains. Kup had replaced (since this is the first draft) a tank robot named Tanker, we got the train/snake/other train/no robot mode Rails, and a trio of unnamed Decepticons who turned into a cannon. Daniel is now the son of some programmer working at the Ark, we have a general and his best soldier replacing Sparkplug and Spike, and we’ve only just started. So let’s go back to McFeely’s tweets (here’s the second thread to see if I missed anything or the embed method changed) and see what happens in this timeline that never happened.
Well that was a waste of time. I don’t mean for the Autobots, although obviously that’s true as well. To put that much time into describing the building of all these shields and ships only to have them scrapped like that feels like a waste of time if they were so detailed McFeely brought it up. The idea might be to show how much stronger the Unicronian Decepticons are but it feels like time (going by the description) that could have been spent on character development for the new bots and humans.
Someone in the replies compared these proto-Sweeps to the Vehicons of Transformers: Prime, which is probably a coincidence. Still, we wouldn’t have had to put up with the constant “which one is Skywarp and which one is Bombshell” debates. There’s no Cyclonus in this version, just Galvatron, a powered-up Starscream and mold mates, and whatever these things are.
So we’ve have two epic battles, not counting the finale? In the final movie there’s the Battle Of Autobot City and the final battle with Unicron, while the battles with the Sharkticons and Junkions are low-key in comparison and Galvatron stealing the Matrix from Ultra Magnus (which is not really the goal in this one as the Matrix seems to be less important to the point of “why is this here?”) is not so much a goal as a bonus.
You can tell thinking about alt modes wasn’t in the design stage these pieces are based on. Beside being unclear what Ultra Magnus would be trashing Decepticons with (Optimus just used his regular grill and bumper) what the heck does Chemico even turn into? That’s always been my problem with the Floro Dery designs as well as original comic designs, and they all have a huge influence not only on character models but the toys themselves nowadays. I don’t mind a bit of kibble as long as it is either out of the way or you find a way to utilize it. Clean lines are nice but I want to know that my Transformer transforms. Dery and the comic artists seemed to just want to draw robots. I mean…good luck making some of these designs work, toy designers.
Because when you have a supergenius the place you want him is working the molten metal tubes? Unless they were hiding there from the Decepticons. So we would have seen Springer actually living up to his name, and yet Blurr is described as “slow-talking Jimmy Stewart sort”. Yeah, I think getting John Moschitta to speed talk was the better decision. Also, Springer doesn’t keep his described “Arnold” anything outside of his design. That could have been interesting and not quite the same wisecracking tough guy. Still, hearing an Arnold version of “I’ve got better things to do tonight than die” I could get behind.
See, even this design is better than we ended up with. In part one we saw Danny and Ellen’s civilian looks and they felt more like something people would wear. The “we’re so future” fashion choice they went with was just clothing. These look more like spacesuits, and while it’s possible the artist’s design here wouldn’t exactly match up with what Sunbow’s artists would have done in 1984-1986 I still like this much better.
The Autobots escape the energy cage the Decepticons are putting around Earth, though sadly we lose Arcee as a character, though she does have a chance to continue in season 3 and really she didn’t do a lot in the movie after the Autobot City battle anyway. And did I miss a post? Who’s Blaze?
Okay, who has the tracking device built in? Or does the Entity keep following them around to throw Decepticons at them? Seriously, unless these proto-Sweeps are just that good how do they keep finding the Autobots? At least when the Decepticons later track Hot Rod’s ship to the asteroid it’s because he somehow got Laserbeak on board to follow them.
Galactic Warp Hurricane. Sure, why not? It’s not like a well-placed missile could have worked without breaking out the spacial anomaly. Stressing the engines too much because Galvatron really wants that kill?
Well, I have a bit more time this round so let’s see if I can squeeze this into two where McFeely had to go to three.
As an aside, Ultra Magnus in the movie really gets a bum rap by fans. “I can’t deal with that now” gets him in trouble, but it’s day one as the new Autobot leader and he can’t save Hot Rod and crew if they die too. Putting them on the moon rather than another planet brings them closer together.
I wonder if Swoop tastes like robo-chicken? Ellen seems to be a lot more protective of Daniel (by kids movie standards this will be treated as overprotective despite Daniel’s age) than Carly does. “What’s that, you want to go to another planet? Make you sure you get home in time for dinner. Oh no, I’ll be in a meeting until late, but the TV dinners are piling up.”
We get one example (the only one mentioned) of Galvatron being remotely tortured by the Entity for not coming when summoned. Final movie Galvatron got his leash pulled so much it’s easy to believe he went crazy when Unicron went boom.
And you complain about the GoBots hanging with the Rock Lords. At least Granix would have gone out fighting instead of the pathetic death Kranix gets. Still dies and might not be the last survivor of Lithone’s equivalent but at least he added to the Sharkticon repair bill. Hot Rod notices that the Sharkticons use primitive sensors that can be foiled by covering themselves in their own grease and lubricant. First of all…ewww. Second, that seems like a poor design. I guess these Quintessons went with budget parts, though we do see they can mentally repair the Sharkticons in this version. A quick jump to the moon shows the Autobots using decoys to lure out the Decepticons. Those wouldn’t come out in the toys for a year or so yet.
Daniel save his mom and proves he can go into space battles and mom was being overprotective. Told you.
Okay, I would LOVE to know what took them from “Mad Max with Nazi helmets” to “robots who only speak in TV clips”. That’s a serious design choice.
Does the Matrix even have any special powers in this version? Outside of being a glowing Optimus Prime figurine we haven’t seen it do much…of course we only saw it do slightly more in the final movie but it mattered more than stealing Earth’s energy. Remember, “the Entity” already destroyed Cybertron, a change I’m glad they made. Also, I’m curious if, given the usual Junkion ability to repair with easy, they have any ties to these versions of the Quintessons. I don’t really see them as “creator of the pre-Transformers” like the ones we ended up with, which already felt like a retcon between movie and show.
Treating women properly isn’t “woke”, it’s “not being a jerk”. You’d think having Arcee here would have been a benefit. So the Entity was designed to be a protector but went wrong. Not the first time that’s happened. Certainly beats “let’s have Galactus and the Death Star make a baby for science”. I think that’s why so many fans gravitate towards the dark god Furman made him into. Plus it does make the weird mystical stuff we’re seeing here with life essences feel better.
So the Matrix is completely pointless? This is a more mysterious reveal than just the planet transforming. Those colors by the way are from the prototype Unicron toy that 1986 never got to play with. I’m guessing these were early color ideas because no fan artist is credited for these two pages. Not a fan. Even my late mother didn’t like purple that much.
Why? I don’t just mean why would Galvatron not want to use the Matrix to get revenge? At least in the final movie Unicron tortured him into attacking Hot Rod but here he seems to be doing it out of spite. What I do mean is “why did it take so long for the Matrix to matter?”. Even if we still got the line about using the power of the Matrix to “light our darkest hour” it hasn’t really mattered in anything until just now. Having Unicron force Galvatron to go after the Matrix as the only thing that can hurt him made more sense, so congrats on that change.
So the humans get to save the day? I can think of a few Transformers fan who would have hated that and I’m kind of neutral on it myself. While I defend humans being part of the struggle since Earth is being dragged into the war, this is the Transformers’ movie. I guess this is the finale of the “Ellen is overprotective of her son” character arc as Ellen gets into the fight and lets her son take the risk to stop the Entity/Unicron.
McFeely also notes that Hot Rod doesn’t become Rodimus Prime, he just leads the others out of the exploding planet. Unless Ultra Magnus survives I’m guessing season three would have required a new leader.
I wouldn’t mind taking a look at that second draft someday (you can read it now here). The question is…are we better off? In most ways yes. I like seeing Spike back, and it would make sense to have him marry Carly, his girlfriend from season 2, and making Daniel their son. Instead of doing the old “overprotective mother learns to let her underage son fight evil giant robots” angle we get Daniel going to rescue his father and learn how to use the tools he does so. The Matrix Of Leadership carries more weight in the story. Whatever my problem with Rodimus Prime is, it’s weird to see Hot Rod barely matter, though maybe in the full script we get to see more of him in action and overcoming his mistake with Optimus instead of ignoring it. Unicron’s colors were hideous.
However, based on these tweets we do miss out on some interesting characters, going by these designs. I want to see Chemico, Mentlar, Scrapo, and even this Blaze guy get another shot. The humans get better outfits, though that could just be fan art interpretation. Could there be a connection between the Junkions and Quintessons rather than making the Quints into the Cybertronian’s creators and how would that play out? There are some good ideas but ultimately it looks like what we got was the better option in the long run.
What say you? What do think of this first draft? Should I cover the full script when they let it out and should I look into this second draft to see the differences between what they did and what we got, like I’ve done with TV show story bibles? Let me know in the comments and do check out Chris McFeely’s YouTube channel for more Transformers trivia and lore explanations.