I needed to come back to the beginning of this story before the masturbation jokes, before the minstrel show droids, to 1986. This was "The Transformers: The Movie" an animated feature created by the original studio behind the 1980s cartoon, the first chance children had to see Optimus Prime and their other mighty morphing friends on the big screen. Tranformers purists view this film as the alternative to the Bay era, an electric-guitar filled spectacle of robot violence and major turning points for the transforming characters. However, what they would not like to admit is just how similar this movie is to its three-hour cousins. I can see elements of this movie inspiring Bay's new tetrology of automaton action.
Much like the Ninja Turtles, the Transformers were not born of pious intentions. The 1980s were an innovative time in children's entertainment, when drooling toy companies watched greedily at the extraordinary profits George Lucas was raking in with his "Star Wars" products. Suddenly movies did not have to just be movies, they could be entire brands, coming with scores of T-shirts and dolls and the odd flamethrower.* It was only a matter of time before Saturday morning cartoons stopped being merely cartoons, and became half hour long commercials for the toys based on the characters within. The old Transformers line (later renamed by a crafty Hasbro ad man "Generation 1") was an elaborate scheme to reach into your heart and wallet. What would make a better vehicle to sell toys than a show about steel heroes that transformed into vehicles?