Release Date(s)1986 (September 13, 2016)
Studio(s)Hasbro/De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (Shout! Factory)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A-
- Extras Grade: B+
What’s the best way to capitalize on a successful toy line and cartoon show? Make a movie out of it! That’s sort of the gist of what became Transformers: The Movie, which was released in 1986 and took place in between seasons two and three of the TV show. It didn’t do very well at the box office and critics were mostly mixed on it, but it managed to remain a popular staple with the kids who saw it at the time and became a cult classic of sorts. In the film, the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons rages on as the sentient cyber-planet known as Unicron makes its way through the universe, destroying worlds and instructing others to do its bidding when needed. After the Autobots are dealt a fatal blow, they face grave danger when they gain access to the Matrix of Leadership, something that Unicron will do anything to get, even aiding Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons.
Besides having a bigger budget to make a much grander-looking story than was seen on the original show, Transformers: The Movie was also featured the voices of a number of guest stars, including Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Eric Idle, Scatman Crothers, and Orson Welles, the latter two of which both died not long after working on the film. The overall quality of the final product legitimized The Transformers for a legion of fans that were already devoted to it, despite the film being severely dated by its music selection, which included Stan Bush, Weird Al Yankovic, and a hard-rocking version of the original theme song by Lion. Looking at the film with a critical eye, there are lots of things about it one could nitpick. Considering the audience it was produced for and the quality that shines through, however, those details seem unimportant to mention now. It’s a very well-made animated film that one can both admire and have fun watching, even as an adult.
Shout! Factory’s release of Transformers: The Movie in a 30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray package features a presentation sourced from a recent 4K transfer of a 35mm interpositive element. Because the film was animated full frame and cropped for widescreen theatrically, both aspect ratios have been included on separate discs. The major thing to note about this transfer is that the overall clarity has been dramatically improved over previous releases. It’s a very organic and film-like presentation, complete with a pleasant grain structure and an abundance of fine detail. The film’s color palette remains intact, with solid black levels and excellent contrast and brightness too. It’s also a very stable presentation with only some minor film artifacts leftover, including scratches and speckling. The audio portion comes with two options: English 2.0 and 5.1 DTS-HD. Both tracks have strong fidelity, but are quite front-heavy. The 5.1 track opens things up slightly, but mainly for some ambient moments and score; the surrounds are only lightly used. Dialogue is always clear and discernible while sound effects are strong, but not overly potent in the final mixes. The score and music used in the film has plenty of heft to it, although it does tend to drown out other sounds at times. There’s also some decent spacing and great low end activity, but not a ton of speaker to speaker movement. Overall, this is a very good A/V presentation, and certainly the best the film has ever looked and sounded on home video. Note that subtitles are included in English SDH and Spanish for those who might need them.
As for supplemental material, there’s a nice chunk of it to sort through. First up is an audio commentary with director Nelson Shin, story consultant Flint Dille, and actor Susan Blu. There you get the new ’Til All Are One: Looking Back at Transformers: The Movie retrospective documentary; the new Transformers: The Restoration featurette; the new Rolling Out the New Cover featurette; a separate set of previously-released Featurettes (The Death of Optimus Prime, The Cast & Characters, Transformers Q&A); a set of Animated Storyboards (Fishing Scene, Battle, “One Shall Stand, One Shall Fall” With Deleted Sequences); 2 theatrical trailers; 8 TV spots (including a sweepstakes commercial and a toy commercial tie-in); and finally a paper insert with a digital copy code. There was also a Steelbook packaging option (available directly from Shout!), but it’s no longer available. All of these extras are definitely worth digging into, especially the main documentary and the restoration featurette.
That being said, there is a lot of other material from previous releases not present here. 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, as well as test, deleted, and alternate footage (all with non-optional audio commentary); various U.S. and Japanese toy commercials; an additional Japanese toy commercial as an Easter egg; and an Activate Autobot City trivia game, accessible via DVD-ROM. Also missing from the Australian Blu-ray release is the test, deleted, and alternate footage (all with optional audio commentary); a set of Japanese trailers (with optional audio commentary); a set of alternative scenes from both the U.S. 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. Obviously, this is a lot of missing content, some of it non-essential as far as the movie is concerned. To be fair, a lot of this was probably not included due to rights and ownership issues, not to mention the prohibitive costs of actually acquiring and encoding it. The point is that, if you have either of these previous releases, holding onto them might not be a bad idea. And just so it’s not left out, the U.K. Blu-ray release is bare bones.
I can’t say I was a huge fan of Transformers as a kid, though I still enjoyed it from time to time on TV and I dug Transformers: The Movie when I eventually discovered it. While it doesn’t hold up entirely, this is an enjoyable film with plenty for you to appreciate, including some beautiful animation. All of it is represented quite well on Shout! Factory’s new Blu-ray release of the film. This should be an essential pick-up if you’re a fan of The Transformers. Highly recommended!
- Tim Salmons