One thing Transformers fans are never shy of is a random fact or trivia tidbit to share.
Perhaps it’s no surprise given the four-decade span of the franchise, but there’s simply an incredible amount of minutiae to pick up from over the years; some of it fascinating and crucial and some of it entirely arbitrary or throwaway, but all of it thoroughly enjoyable.
So for today, here are 10 essential bits of random robots in disguise trivia, presented in no particular order or theme. Consider it the kind of stuff that might be useful for a Transformers pub quiz.
#10: The original Powermaster Optimus Prime design was going to be a triple changer
The vintage 1988 Powermaster Optimus Prime design is an all-time classic. Yet now, in an age where multiple versions of the character are churned out every year, it’s hard to estimate how much was riding on this first follow-up design to the legendary Diaclone Battle Convoy figure that started it all. No doubt that’s why PMOP went through so many stages of development, with numerous concepts and designs worked on before the figure’s eventual release, an unusual prototype showing up in 1988 catalogues at the time, and even two separately finished versions of the core toy put out by both Hasbro and Takara. Yet it could have all been different had the initial idea for the toy stuck, as shown in these patent diagrams.
The trailer section is similar, besides the super mode head being fully integrated (and not having the character’s signature mouth plate in favour of a more traditionally humanoid mouth instead!). Still, you can see the genesis of the figure we now know and love in this initial concept. Meanwhile, the smaller robot form is the true talking point here, as it would have incorporated a third mode, transforming from robot to truck cab to jet form!
Ultimately, the idea was abandoned, and whilst PMOP would go through many more revisions and stages of development before finally being released, it’s still fascinating to imagine what could have been if this had come to pass. One suspects that the typical blueprint of “Optimus Prime = truck” might not have been so rigidly applied over the years if this classic sophomore effort had dared to stray from the path at the time, but who knows? The idea did eventually happen during Titans Return, after all!
#9: An unproduced episode of Beast Wars saw Optimus Primal fall in love with a female gorilla
As with any TV show, Beast Wars featured numerous ideas that didn’t quite make it to fruition in one form or another. One of those came to light during a panel with story editors Larry DiTillio and Bob Forward at Botcon 1998 and involved a script for an episode called A Greater Ape. Written by Katherine Lawrence, the storyline never came to be as, in Larry’s own words, the animators “just felt they couldn’t render it“. However, it would have involved Optimus Primal getting “bonked on the head” and becoming a real gorilla, entirely forgetting that he’s a robot in disguise. He would have affiliated with a pack of apes and even had a courtship with a lady gorilla, before being brought back to his senses during an attack by Megatron. Sadly, it seems as if his new love would have rejected the real him, not wanting anything to know after his return to robot form. Larry described the premise as “Optimus’ last chance“. Others may have called it King Kong Adventure F…
#8: Machine Wars features almost exclusively recycled art that doesn’t match the toys at all
I’ve already written a fair bit about the KB Toys-exclusive 1997 line, Machine Wars, though the artwork involved continues to fascinate. Most will know about the above example, whereby the Optimus Prime art was heavily recycled from the 1995 Generation 2 Laser released and was hugely unrepresentative of the actual toy as a by-product. The figure’s lack of a mouth plate caused a whole generation of fans some long-lasting disappointment, after all! Yet whilst it might be the most egregious example from the line, it was hardly the only offender, despite many of the others flying much further under the radar.
Falcon artwork credit: Botch the Crab
Consider the art for Megatron and Megaplex, which was directly taken from the G1 Predator toy called Falcon. It just about gets away with it by the grace of the general aesthetic of the two toy designs not being entirely dissimilar, with the jet cockpit ending up in the right place on the chest and the wings fanning out to the side. The head design only needed a slight modification to work, although there are still numerous differences, such as the all-too-obvious missile launcher weapon.
Yet a far more apparent and slightly outrageous example is the art for Mirage and Prowl, who cribbed from the G2 Laser Rod called Jolt and therefore looked very little like the toys in question! Yet, the bonnet chest is mostly on point, but that’s mostly where the similarities end, with the head design being arguably less consistent with the corresponding 3D figure than even Optimus Prime’s example.
In fact, the only unique art created specifically for Machine Wars was the one used for Hubcap and Hoist, although at least toys such as Sandstorm, Starscream and Soundwave all re-used drawings from previous versions of those same toy moulds. For more on Machine Wars, check out our overview of the line here.
#7: Arcee was originally planned as one of the main cast of the 2007 movie
Image credit: Ben Procter
If you’ve been gorging yourself on the new Rise of the Beasts trailer this last week or so, you’ll no doubt have clocked the prominent presence of fan-favourite female Autobot Arcee! It’s not the first time she’s shown up in the live-action portion of the franchise, although what’s interesting is that she was initially conceived as making her debut in the first instalment in 2007 as part of the main Autobot roster. The robots in the film went through massive development during pre-production. Still, for a long time, Arcee was planned to be an integral part of the team instead of Ironhide, and no doubt would have brought a different look and feel to the film. Like her eventual appearance in Revenge of the Fallen, she would have transformed into a motorcycle, although it was a much more straight-up take than what we eventually saw there.
Image credit: The Spacebridge
Ultimately, it was not to be, as Arcee was dropped due to uncertainty about how to explain the presence of a female Autobot in the script (evidently, the rest of the Autobots being coded as male wasn’t a problem), and Ironhide was subbed in instead. How different things could have been!
#6: Transformers: Prime was initially meant to lead into a shared universe crossover with other Hasbro properties
2011’s Transformers: Prime remains a favourite amongst many robots in disguise fans and was certainly not lacking in scope or ideas. Yet it was initially intended to lead on to a massive shared universe Avengers-style crossover that would have helped to jumpstart some of Hasbro’s other historic properties, as came to light at TFCon Charlotte in 2015. It would have involved Unit:E, the secret government agency that Fowler works for in the TF:P storyline (presumably in a bit of a Nick Fury/ SHIELD archetype). The team-up was conceived to include Ratchet and Fowler alongside Duke from G.I. Joe, Synergy from Jem and the Holograms, Princess Lollipop from Candy Land: The Great Lollipop Adventure, and more characters from M.A.S.K., Stretch Armstrong, Micronauts, Sectaurs and Primordia. It’s hard to imagine now, but it all sounds very ambitious and would have been a very unique spin for the franchise!
Be sure to join us for part 2 soon.