Release Date(s)1986 (August 3, 2021)
Studio(s)De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A-
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
The Transformers: The Movie was released in 1986, taking place in between seasons two and three of the still popular TV show. The war between the Autobots and the Decepticons rages on as the sentient cyberplanet Unicron makes its way through the universe, destroying planets and instructing others to do its bidding. After the Autobots and Optimus Prime are dealt a fatal blow, they face grave danger once they gain access to the Matrix of Leadership, something that Unicron will do anything to get, even aiding Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons.
The film didn’t do well at the box office and critics were mixed on it, but it managed to remain a favorite of the kids who actually saw it at the time, later becoming a cult classic. Besides having a bigger budget to make a much grander-looking story than what had been shown on TV at that point, the voice cast was also beefed up, featuring Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Eric Idle, Scatman Crothers, and Orson Welles. Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, and others returned to voice their characters from the show as well. It also featured rock and pop music by Stan Bush, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and Lion, the latter turning in a hard rock rendition of the original theme. Despite the lackluster returns and controversy over the killing of a major character, the quality of the film legitimized the Transformers property for a legion of fans who are still devoted to it.
Shout! Factory originally released The Transformers: The Movie in a 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray package, which featured a presentation sourced from a 4K transfer of a 35 mm interpositive. They have returned with a new Ultra HD 35th Anniversary Edition featuring the original theatrical widescreen version in a new 4K restoration of the same interpositive (the original camera negative is unfortunately lost). The image has also been newly-graded in HDR—Dolby Vision and HDR10 options are available. The jump from Blu-ray to UHD is striking in a few key areas—most importantly, the color gamut. Hues appear richer, with better accuracy, featuring a level of depth and nuance that only 10 or 12-bit color can yield (both are good, but the Dolby Vision shines here). The animation is much crisper, with more definition in the lines of moving foreground elements, while backgrounds have also been boosted. The biggest hurdles are the higher levels of grain and more obvious cel dust and dirt, as well as the film being presented on Ultra HD in its widescreen theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 only. Fans of the full frame 1.33:1 presentation will have to make do with the accompanying Blu-ray, which is sourced from the same restoration.
The audio comes in two choices: English 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD MA, with optional subtitles in English SDH and Spanish. Both tracks offer good fidelity, but they’re front-heavy. The 5.1 track opens things up slightly, mainly for ambient moments and score, but everything stays parked relatively towards the front most of the time. Dialogue is always clear and discernible while sound effects are strong, though not overly potent in the final mixes. The score and music has plenty of heft, even if they tend to drown out other aspects of the soundtrack at times. There’s also decent spacing and great low end activity, just not a lot of speaker to speaker movement.
The Ultra HD release of The Transformers: The Movie features only one extra, but the Blu-ray, which includes the film in 1080p (full frame from the same 4K restoration), carries the rest:
DISC ONE: UHD
- Audio Commentary with Nelson Shin, Flint Dille, and Susan Blu
DISC TWO: BD
- Audio Commentary with Nelson Shin, Flint Dille, and Susan Blu
- ‘Til All Are One: Looking Back at Transformers: The Movie (HD – 46:32)
- He’s Got The Touch: Stan Bush Looks Back at The Transformers: The Movie (HD – 9:46)
- The Death of Optimus Prime (Upscaled HD – 5:02)
- Transformers Q&A (Upscaled HD – 13:03)
- Feature Length Storyboards (HD – 79:45)
- Deleted Scenes (HD – 20 in all – 11:32)
- Theatrical Trailers (Upscaled HD – 2 in all – 3:03)
- TV Spots (Upscaled HD – 8 in all – 5:52)
- Brand-New Cover Art Gallery by Matt Ferguson (HD – 23 in all – 2:06)
The supplements begin with the 2006 audio commentary featuring director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille, and actor Susan Blu, which is an entertaining listen as it fills you in on a number of details not mentioned in the accompanying featurettes. ‘Til All Are One is a great retrospective documentary by Brian Ward about the film featuring recent and vintage interviews with story consultant Flint Dille, actors Dan Gilvezan, Neil Ross, Gregg Berger, and Susan Blu, comic book artist Livio Ramondelli, director Nelson Shin, singer and songwriter Stan Bush, and composer Vince DiCola. He’s Got The Touch features additional interview footage with Stan Bush, as well as a 2016 acoustic performance. The Death of Optimus Prime and Transformers Q&A are vintage featurettes with many of the same folks. New to the set is a set of Feature Length Storyboards that run the length of the entire film. Also new are a set of 20 Deleted Scenes, all sourced from the storyboards, but with clips from the final film provided for context. Rounding things out are 2 theatrical trailers, 6 TV spots, a contest tie-in ad, a toy tie-in ad, and a new cover art gallery by Matt Ferguson. Everything comes housed in Steelbook packaging with four art cards tucked away in an envelope inside.
There’s also a lot of material that hasn’t carried over from various Blu-ray and DVD releases of the film. Missing from Shout! Factory’s 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray release are the Transformers: The Restoration, Rolling Out the New Cover, and The Cast & Characters featurettes; and three animated storyboards. Missing from the Sony/BMG 20th Anniversary Special Edition DVD release is a trivia subtitle track; a fan audio commentary; a color and exposure test reel for the opening titles; the Japanese-only Scramble City episode with non-optional fan audio commentary; a promotional trailer, test, deleted, and alternate footage, all with non-optional audio commentary; various US and Japanese toy commercials; an additional Japanese toy commercial as an Easter egg; and an Activate Autobot City trivia game, accessible via DVD-ROM. Missing from the Australian Blu-ray release form Madman Entertainment is a set of Japanese trailers with optional audio commentary; a set of alternate scenes from both the US and International versions of the film; an interview with Flint Dille; a Q&A with Peter Cullen; The Touch music video by Stan Bush; a bonus episode of the Beast Wars TV show; the Scramble City episode with optional fan audio commentary; and the original screenplay accessible via DVD-ROM. And missing from the Rhino DVD release is an interview with Vince DiCola. If you own any of these releases, holding onto them might not be a bad idea.
While there’s no definitive extras package for this film on any home video release, Shout! Factory’s 4K Ultra HD of The Transformers: The Movie wins by a country mile for its A/V presentation, even if the full frame version has only been included in 1080p. It shines in 2160p and that is more than reason enough to pick the film up on home video one more time.
- Tim Salmons