ByDave Yaeger, writer at Creators.co
I run a movie blog (https://justkillingti.me) and love to review movies, trailers, movie news and mull over all manner of geekery!
Dave Yaeger

With the release of the latest disappointing Michael Bay film, children of the 1980s are dusting off their copy of the only movie to ever truly capture the majesty of the Autobots and Decepticons: 1986’s Transformers: The Movie.

By now, running back to the pinnacle of the cartoon series, which started a billion dollar empire for Hasbro, is becoming a yearly rite of reassurance for Transformers fans. The film holds up amazingly well 31 years after its release, but while you might know every line of the ultimate Prime vs. Megatron showdown and all the lyrics to Stan Bush's classic stadium anthem "The Touch", there are some wild things about Transformers: The Movie that you might not know.

If only Unicron had thick, lustrous hair to go with his Wellesian voice. [Credit: De Laurentiis]
If only Unicron had thick, lustrous hair to go with his Wellesian voice. [Credit: De Laurentiis]

1. Unicron and Orson Welles

Most fans of the film know that the movie's villain, the planet-consuming giant, Unicron, was voiced by the great Orson Welles. Welles took the role of "playing a toy" to finance future projects, though this turned tragically ironic since Welles died shortly after recording his dialogue and before the film was ever released in theaters.

The man who brought us Citizen Kane was in such poor health during his recording sessions that his dialogue had to be heavily distorted to disguise Welles' labored breathing. Things were almost worse for Welles' legacy. The robot form of very nearly had a luxurious mane of robot hair along with a smooth cybernetic goatee that was nixed at the last minute. The film was also the last credit for The Shining's Scatman Crothers, who plays the Jazz.

Your soundtrack credit was destroyed by Megatron. Sorry! [Credit: De Laurentiis]
Your soundtrack credit was destroyed by Megatron. Sorry! [Credit: De Laurentiis]

2. Spectre General: The Imaginary Band

Transformers: The Movie's soundtrack is a true ode to 80s hair band rock and is most famous for Stan Bush's power ballad "The Touch" (which found second life when Mark Wahlberg sang it in 1997's Boogie Nights). Several songs on the soundtrack come from a band called Spectre General. Good luck finding any of their albums, because the band doesn't actually exist. "Nothing's Gonna Stand in Our Way" and "Hunger" were actually recorded by a band named Kick Axe, but that seemed a little too risque for Hasbro to deal with, so they made up the moniker "Spectre General"... they just forgot to tell the band.

The moment that sent a generation of kids into therapy. [Credit: De Laurentiis]
The moment that sent a generation of kids into therapy. [Credit: De Laurentiis]

3. Optimus Prime's Death Saved Duke's Life

Transformers: The Movie is probably most famous among 80s kids for traumatizing them when Autobot leader Optimus Prime was slain in a final duel with leader Megatron. Kids were so traumatized by the death of Prime, and parents were so caught off-guard at having to deal with their children's robo-grief, that Hasbro changed the script for the following G.I. JOE: The Movie so that JOE leader Duke didn't die, but was merely put into a coma.

As for Optimus Prime, he was far from the only casualty as over a dozen major characters from the series, including the insufferably whiny Starscream, met their end in the galactic conflict.

Did you just say what I think you just said? There are kids here, Spike! [Credit: De Laurentiis]
Did you just say what I think you just said? There are kids here, Spike! [Credit: De Laurentiis]

4. Spike's Random Potty Mouth

Parents were likely to be equally surprised when the film's human hero, Spike, dropped a seemingly random, "oh sh*t" after a failed attempt at taking down Unicron. Even with the robot-on-robot violence, the MPAA was going to give the film a G rating, which meant in 1986 it could only be played at certain times of the day, so the expletive was added just to get a PG rating, then removed for home video until restored to the film during a remastering in 2000. Given that Transformers: the Movie only made $6 million at the box office, it wasn't a terribly effective tactic.

And we just thought it was shiny and hard to open. [Credit: De Laurentiis]
And we just thought it was shiny and hard to open. [Credit: De Laurentiis]

5. The Matrix of Leadership: It's a Catholic Thing

The leader of the Autobots carries within him an object of great power called The Matrix of Leadership. It's passed down several times during the film. grants it to Ultra Magnus upon his death. Ultra Magnus can't get the confounded thing to open when he needed it to (lacking "The Touch"), and is promptly gunned down and added to the bot body count. From there it is picked up by Hot Rod, who opens it at the key moment and uses the pesky little macguffin to defeat Unicron and become the new leader of the Autobots: Rodimus Prime. The passage of The Matrix from leader to leader was inspired by The Petrean Touch, explains Transformers: The Movie screenwriter Ron Friedman:

"I tried to establish an essential ingredient for the Optimus Prime character that he was both the caretaker and exponent of. That was the Matrix. It’s like the Petrean Touch in Catholicism. St. Peter touched his successor and every successive Pope has touched the next Pope carrying the touch of Peter into eternity [...] In effect, Prime did not die, he assumed another form resident in his successor, Rodimus Prime."

(Sources: Den of Geek, Digital Spy, Fast-Rewind.com, Film School Rejects, Listverse, Moviefone)

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