It was on September 17th of 1984 that the co-produced Marvel and Sunbow three-part mini-series entitled “More than Meets the Eye” hit television screens – introducing a generation to The Transformers. That was 35 years ago yesterday and judging from the continued production of comic books, toys, games, and of course movies – The Transformers show no sign of experiencing stasis lock. Now that three-part episode is not how I first experienced “More than Meets the Eye” – that was courtesy of a five minute clip from The Bozo Show. I had been told by a fellow schoolmate about these clips airing on that WGN show – so the next day I suddenly came down with a mysterious illness… and caught my first glimpse of the animated Transformers universe – what would set me on the path of becoming a lifelong fan of the toyline.
Now to be fair it isn’t like that clip was the first time I had heard of The Transformers, that was all covered thanks to the numerous television commercials that aired during the likes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe after school. In past articles on the former Retroist site I shared how during that time – a line in the sand had started to be drawn, whether you were for the GoBots or The Transformers. Even though Tonka’s GoBots had beaten Hasbro to the punch by about a year – thanks in no small part to the story and characters created by Jim Shooter of Marvel Comics as well as Bob Budiansky – The Transformers quickly dominated the market. It was Shooter it has been said that came up with the concept of two warring factions of sentient robots, in addition to coming up with names of the two factions – the Autobots and Decepticons. Although it should be noted that the legendary comic writer and editor Dennis O’Neil had a pass in the character creation too.
I truly do feel that it was thanks to these individuals and show writers like David Wise, Flint Dille, Buzz Dixon, Michael Charles Hill, Douglas Booth and others that The Transformers not only just celebrated its 35 anniversary but shows no signs of slowing down. I fondly recall taking over an hour to pick my out my first Transformer… agonizing over the many choices, carefully reading and rereading those character bios on the back of the toy packaging – until my Father was almost pleading with me to make my final decision. A bit later those type of choices on which toy to pick up would be made much easier after The Transformers series began to air regularly on TV, beginning on October 6th of ’84. As I would naturally start to choose new toys… or ‘recruits’… based on the characters that I began to know and love from the cartoon and even the Marvel Comics series. And while it is obviously true The Transformers animated series was created to help sell toys – it is equally true that the writers and voice performers put a lot of effort into it as well. Scooby-Doo‘s Frank Welker as the supremely evil Megatron or Peter Cullen as the absolute epitome of a leader with the noble and compassionate Optimus Prime. The series also benefited from the voice talents of Scatman Crothers, Susan Blu, Charlie Adler, Corey Burton, Chris Latta, Don Messick, and dozens of others. Together they truly helped to forge a mythos that has led to a multi-billion dollar film franchise – which all began 35 years ago with the first part of “More than Meets the Eye”!
So Happy 35th Anniversary to The Transformers – thank you for over 3 decades worth of entertainment and memorable characters and stories. I look forward to seeing what new animated series, toys, comics and games that will be released in the future. Until all are one!