Transformers
Transformers franchise logo introduced in 2014
Franchise logo, 2014–present
Created byTakara
Hasbro
Original workTransformers (based on Diaclone and Micro Change)
Years1984–present
Print publications
Book(s)Complete list
ComicsComplete list
Films and television
Film(s)Animated Live-action
Animated seriesComplete list
Games
Video game(s)Complete list
Audio
Soundtrack(s)Transformers audio releases
Miscellaneous
Related franchisesBattle Beasts
G.I. Joe
GoBots

Transformers is a media franchise produced by American toy company Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara Tomy. It primarily follows the heroic Autobots and the villainous Decepticons, two alien robot factions at war that can transform into other forms, such as vehicles and animals. The franchise encompasses toys, animation, comic books, video games and films. As of 2011, it generated more than ¥2 trillion ($25 billion) in revenue,[1] making it one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time.

The franchise began in 1984 with the Transformers toy line, comprising transforming mecha toys from Takara's Diaclone and Micro Change toylines rebranded for Western markets.[2] The term "Generation 1" covers both the animated television series The Transformers and the comic book series of the same name, which are further divided into Japanese, British and Canadian spin-offs, respectively. Sequels followed, such as the Generation 2 comic book and Beast Wars TV series, which became its own mini-universe. Generation 1 characters have been rebooted multiple times in the 21st century in comics from Dreamwave Productions (starting 2001), IDW Publishing (starting in 2005 and again in 2019), and Skybound Entertainment (beginning in 2023). There have been other incarnations of the story based on different toy lines during and after the 20th century. The first was the Robots in Disguise series, followed by three shows (Armada, Energon, and Cybertron) that constitute a single universe called the "Unicron Trilogy".

A live-action film series started in 2007, again distinct from previous incarnations, while the Transformers: Animated series merged concepts from the G1 continuity, the 2007 live-action film and the "Unicron Trilogy". For most of the 2010s, in an attempt to mitigate the wave of reboots, the "Aligned Continuity" was established. In 2018, Transformers: Cyberverse debuted, once again, distinct from the previous incarnations.

Although initially a separate and competing franchise started in 1983, Tonka's GoBots became the intellectual property of Hasbro after their buyout of Tonka in 1991. Subsequently, the universe depicted in the animated series Challenge of the GoBots and follow-up film GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords was retroactively established as an alternate universe within the Transformers multiverse.[3]

Fiction

Transformers: Generation 1 (1984–1993)

Main articles: Transformers: Generation 1 and The Transformers (TV series)

Classic Transformers franchise logo used until 2014
Spider-Man battles Megatron on the cover of The Transformers #3.

Generation One is a retroactive term for the Transformers characters that appeared between 1984 and 1993. The Transformers began with the 1980s Japanese toy lines Micro Change and Diaclone. They presented robots able to transform into everyday vehicles, electronic items or weapons. Hasbro bought the Micro Change and Diaclone toys, and partnered with Takara.[4] Marvel Comics was hired by Hasbro to create the backstory; editor-in-chief Jim Shooter wrote an overall story, and gave the task of creating the characters to writer Dennis O'Neil.[5] Unhappy with O'Neil's work (although O'Neil created the name "Optimus Prime"), Shooter chose Bob Budiansky to create the characters.[6]

The Transformers mecha were largely designed by Shōji Kawamori, the creator of the Japanese mecha anime franchise Macross (which was adapted into the Robotech franchise in North America).[7] Kawamori came up with the idea of transforming mechs while working on the Diaclone and Macross franchises in the early 1980s (such as the VF-1 Valkyrie in Macross and Robotech), with his Diaclone mechs later providing the basis for Transformers.[8]

The primary concept of Generation One is that the heroic Optimus Prime, the villainous Megatron, and their finest soldiers crash-land on prehistoric Earth in the Ark and the Nemesis before awakening in 1985, Cybertron hurtling through the Neutral zone as an effect of the war. The Marvel comic was originally part of the main Marvel Universe, with appearances from Spider-Man and Nick Fury, plus some cameos,[9] as well as a visit to the Savage Land.[10]

The Transformers TV series began around the same time. Produced by Sunbow Productions and Marvel Productions, later Hasbro Productions, from the start it contradicted Budiansky's backstories. The TV series shows the Autobots looking for new energy sources, and crash landing as the Decepticons attack.[11] Marvel interpreted the Autobots as destroying a rogue asteroid approaching Cybertron.[12] Shockwave is loyal to Megatron on the TV series, keeping Cybertron in a stalemate during his absence,[13] but in the comic book, he attempts to take command of the Decepticons.[14] The TV series would also differ wildly from the origins Budiansky had created for the Dinobots,[15][16] the Decepticon turned Autobot Jetfire[17] (known as Skyfire on TV[18]), the Constructicons (who combine to form Devastator),[19][20] and Omega Supreme.[19][21] The Marvel comic establishes early on that Prime wields the Creation Matrix, which gives life to machines. In the second season, the two-part episode The Key to Vector Sigma introduced the ancient Vector Sigma computer, which served the same original purpose as the Creation Matrix (giving life to Transformers), and its guardian Alpha Trion.

In 1986, the cartoon became the film The Transformers: The Movie, which is set in the year 2005. It introduced the Matrix as the "Autobot Matrix of Leadership", as a fatally wounded Prime gives it to Ultra Magnus; however, as Prime dies he drops the matrix, which is then caught by Hot Rod who subsequently becomes Rodimus Prime later on in the film. Unicron, a transformer who devours planets, fears its power and recreates a heavily damaged Megatron as Galvatron, as well as Bombshell or Skywarp becoming Cyclonus, Thundercracker becoming Scourge and two other Insecticons becoming Scourge's huntsmen, the Sweeps. Eventually, Rodimus Prime takes out the Matrix and destroys Unicron.[22] In the United Kingdom, the weekly comic book interspliced original material to keep up with U.S. reprints,[23] and The Movie provided much new material. Writer Simon Furman proceeded to expand the continuity with movie spin-offs involving the time travelling Galvatron.[24][25] The Movie also featured guest voices from Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Scatman Crothers as Jazz, Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper, Orson Welles as Unicron and Eric Idle as the leader of the Junkions (Wreck-Gar, though unnamed in the movie). The Transformers theme tune for the film was performed by Lion with "Weird Al" Yankovic adding a song to the soundtrack.

The third season followed up The Movie, with the revelation of the Quintessons having used Cybertron as a factory. Their robots rebel, and in time the workers become the Autobots and the soldiers become the Decepticons. (Note: This appears to contradict background presented in the first two seasons of the series.) It is the Autobots who develop transformation.[26] Due to popular demand,[27] Optimus Prime is resurrected at the conclusion of the third season,[28] and the series ended with a three-episode story arc. However, the Japanese broadcast of the series was supplemented with a newly produced OVA, Scramble City, before creating entirely new series to continue the storyline, ignoring the 1987 end of the American series. The extended Japanese run consisted of The Headmasters, Super-God Masterforce, Victory and Zone, then in illustrated magazine form as Battlestars: Return of Convoy and Operation: Combination. Just as the TV series was wrapping up, Marvel continued to expand its continuity. It followed The Movie's example by killing Prime[29] and Megatron,[30] albeit in the present day. Dinobot leader Grimlock takes over as Autobot leader.[31] There was a G.I. Joe crossover[32] and the limited series The Transformers: Headmasters, which further expanded the scope to the planet Nebulon.[33] It led on to the main title resurrecting Prime as a Powermaster.[34]

In the United Kingdom, the mythology continued to grow. Primus is introduced as the creator of the Transformers, to serve his material body that is planet Cybertron and fight his nemesis Unicron.[35] Female Autobot Arcee also appeared, despite the comic book stating the Transformers had no concept of gender, with her backstory of being built by the Autobots to quell human accusations of sexism.[36] Soundwave, Megatron's second-in-command, also broke the fourth wall in the letters page, criticising the cartoon continuity as an inaccurate representation of history.[37] The UK also had a crossover in Action Force, the UK counterpart to G.I. Joe.[38] The comic book featured a resurrected Megatron,[39] whom Furman retconned to be a clone[40] when he took over the U.S. comic book, which depicted Megatron as still dead.[41] The U.S. comic would last for 80 issues until 1991,[42] and the UK comic lasted 332 issues and several annuals, until it was replaced as Dreamwave Productions, later in the 20th-Century.

In 2009, Shout! Factory released the entire G1 series in a 16-DVD box set called the Matrix of Leadership Edition.[43] They also released the same content as individual seasons.[44]

Transformers: Generation 2 (1993–1995)

Main article: Transformers: Generation 2

It was five issues[45] of the G.I. Joe comic in 1993 that would springboard a return for Marvel's Transformers, with the new twelve-issue series Transformers: Generation 2, to market a new toy line.

This story reveals that the Transformers originally breed asexually, though it is stopped by Primus because it produced the evil Swarm.[46] A new empire, neither Autobot nor Decepticon, is bringing it back, however. Though the year-long arc wrapped itself up with an alliance between Optimus Prime and Megatron, the final panel introduced the Liege Maximo, ancestor of the Decepticons.[47] This minor cliffhanger was not resolved until 2001 and 2002's Transforce convention when writer Simon Furman concluded his story in the exclusive novella Alignment.[48]

Beast Wars and Beast Machines (1996–2000)

Main articles: Beast Wars: Transformers and Beast Machines

The story focused on a small group of Maximals (the new Autobots), led by Optimus Primal, and Predacons, led by Megatron, 300 years after the "Great War". After a dangerous pursuit through transwarp space, both the Maximal and Predacon factions end up crash landing on a primitive, uncivilized planet similar to Earth, but with two moons and a dangerous level of Energon (which is later revealed to be prehistoric Earth with an artificial second moon, taking place sometime during the 4 million year period in which the Autobots and Decepticons were in suspended animation from the first episode of the original Transformers cartoon), which forces them to take organic beast forms in order to function without going into stasis lock.[49] After writing this first episode, Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio learned of the G1 Transformers, and began to use elements of it as a historical backstory to their scripts,[50] establishing Beast Wars as a part of the Generation 1 universe through numerous callbacks to both the cartoon and Marvel comic. By the end of the first season, the second moon and the Energon are revealed to have been constructed by a mysterious alien race known as the Vok.

Beast Wars Megatron attacks Optimus Prime in a clash of generations.

The destruction of the second moon releases mysterious energies that make some of the characters "transmetal" and the planet is revealed to be prehistoric Earth, leading to the discovery of the Ark. Megatron attempts to kill the original Optimus Prime,[51] but at the beginning of the third season, Primal manages to preserve his spark. In the two-season follow-up series, Beast Machines, Cybertron is revealed to have organic origins, which Megatron attempts to stamp out.

After the first season of Beast Wars (comprising 26 episodes) aired in Japan, the Japanese were faced with a problem. The second Canadian season was only 13 episodes long, not enough to warrant airing on Japanese TV. While they waited for the third Canadian season to be completed (thereby making 26 episodes in total when added to season 2), they produced two exclusive cel-animated series of their own, Beast Wars II (also called Beast Wars Second) and Beast Wars Neo, to fill in the gap. Dreamwave retroactively revealed Beast Wars to be the future of their G1 universe,[52] and the 2006 IDW comic book Beast Wars: The Gathering eventually confirmed the Japanese series to be canon[53] within a story set during Season 3.[54]

Beast Wars contained elements from both the G1 cartoon series and comics. Attributes taken from the cartoon include Transformers that were female, the appearance of Starscream (who mentions being killed off by Galvatron in The Transformers: The Movie), and appearances of the Plasma Energy Chamber and Key to Vector Sigma. The naming of the Transformer ship, the Ark (and reference to 1984, the year the Transformers on board are revived), the character Ravage being shown as intelligent, and Cybertron having an organic core are elements taken from the comics.

In 2011, Shout! Factory released the complete series of Beast Wars on DVD.[55]

Dreamwave Productions (2001–2005)

In 2001, Dreamwave Productions began a new universe of annual comics adapted from Marvel, but also included elements of the animated. The Dreamwave stories followe the concept of the Autobots defeating the Decepticons on Earth, but their 1997 return journey to Cybertron on the Ark II[56] is destroyed by Shockwave, now ruler of the planet.[57] The story follows on from there, and was told in two six-issue limited series, then a ten-issue ongoing series. The series also adds extra complexities such as not all Transformers believing in the existence of Primus,[58] corruption in the Cybertronian government that first led Megatron to begin his war,[59] and Earth having an unknown relevance to Cybertron.[57][60]

Three Transformers: The War Within limited series were also published. These are set at the beginning of the Great War, and identify Prime as once being a clerk named Optronix.[61] Beast Wars was also retroactively stated as the future of this continuity, with the profile series More than Meets the Eye showing the Predacon Megatron looking at historical files detailing Dreamwave's characters and taking his name from the original Megatron.[52] In 2004, this real life universe also inspired three novels[62] and a Dorling Kindersley guide, which focused on Dreamwave as the "true" continuity when discussing in-universe elements of the characters. In a new twist, Primus and Unicron are siblings, formerly a being known as the One. Transformers: Micromasters, set after the Ark's disappearance, was also published. The real life universe was disrupted when Dreamwave went bankrupt in 2005.[63] This left the Generation One story hanging and the third volume of The War Within half finished. Plans for a comic book set between Beast Wars and Beast Machines were also left unrealized.[64]

G.I. Joe crossovers (2003–present)

Throughout the years, the G1 characters have also starred in crossovers with fellow Hasbro property G.I. Joe, but whereas those crossovers published by Marvel were in continuity with their larger storyline, those released by Dreamwave and G.I. Joe publisher Devil's Due Publishing occupy their own separate real life universes. In Devil's Due, the terrorist organization Cobra is responsible for finding and reactivating the Transformers. Dreamwave's version reimagines the familiar G1 and G.I. Joe characters in a World War II setting, and a second limited series was released set in the present day, though Dreamwave's bankruptcy meant it was cancelled after a single issue. Devil's Due had Cobra re-engineer the Transformers to turn into familiar Cobra vehicles, and released further mini-series that sent the characters travelling through time, battling Serpentor and being faced with the combined menace of Cobra-La and Unicron. During this time, Cobra teams up with the Decepticons. IDW Publishing has expressed interest in their own crossover.[65]

IDW publishing (2005–2022)

Main article: The Transformers (IDW Publishing)

The following year, IDW Publishing rebooted the G1 series from scratch within various limited series and one shots. This allowed long-time writer of Marvel and Dreamwave comics, Simon Furman to create his own universe without continuity hindrance, similar to Ultimate Marvel. This new continuity originally consisted of a comic book series titled The Transformers with a companion series known as The Transformers: Spotlight. The main series was broken up into several story arcs. Eventually, with IDW Publishing losing sales, the series was given a soft reboot. Beginning with All Hail Megatron, the series was set in a new direction, discarding the mini series and Spotlight format with ongoing comics. By 2012 the series had split into three ongoing series; The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, The Transformers: Robots in Disguise (which later changed in 2015 to "The Transformers") and The Transformers: Till All Are One. In 2022, it was announced that IDW lost the publishing rights to Transformers.[66]

Alternative stories

In January 2006, the Hasbro Transformers Collectors' Club comic wrote a story based on the Transformers Classics toy line, set in the Marvel Comics universe, but excluding the Generation 2 comic. Fifteen years after Megatron crash lands in the Ark with Ratchet, the war continues with the characters in their Classics bodies.[67]

IDW Publishing introduced The Transformers: Evolutions in 2006, a collection of mini-series that re-imagine and reinterpret the G1 characters in various ways. To date, only one miniseries has been published, Hearts of Steel, placing the characters in an Industrial Revolution-era setting. The series was delayed as Hasbro did not want to confuse newcomers with too many fictional universes before the release of the live-action film.[68]

However, IDW and the original publisher Marvel Comics announced a crossover storyline with the Avengers to coincide with the film New Avengers/Transformers.[69] The story is set on the borders of Symkaria and Latveria, and its fictional universe is set between the first two New Avengers storylines, as well in between the Infiltration and Escalation phase of IDW's The Transformers.[70] IDW editor-in-chief, Chris Ryall hinted at elements of it being carried over into the main continuities,[71] and that a sequel is possible.[72] In June 2018 it was announced there would be Star Trek and Transformers Crossover being released in September 2018.[73]

Transformers: Kiss Players (2006–2007)

Transformers: Kiss Players (トランスフォーマー キスぷれ, Toransufōmā Kisu Pure), shortened to Kiss Players (キスぷれ, Kisu Pure), is a Japanese Transformers franchise which began in 2006 to 2007 as was helmed by artist and writer Yuki Ohshima. By virtue of being the only Transformers toyline and fiction released in Japan by Takara between the conclusion of Cybertron and the live-action movie, it was also effectively the main Transformers line in the country for that time. It takes place in the Generation One cartoon continuity, specifically in the five-year milieu between The Transformers: The Movie and Transformers 2010.[74]

The series derives its name from its controversial gimmick, which involves Transformers getting "power-ups" when they are kissed by human girls - the eponymous "Kiss Players" - who fuse with the robots and share their adventures. The plot starts with the Earth Defense Command being formed in 2003 as part of a cooperative human/Autobot effort. When a virus called the Cosmic Rust critically struck the Autobots later that year, the EDC kicked off the Binaltech Project to shore up its defenses. When Galvatron was hurled out of Unicron by Rodimus Prime in 2005, rather than immediately crashing onto the intended target of the planet Thrull, he instead hurtled toward Earth. Landing in Tokyo, Japan, the Decepticon leader's impact decimated the city and scattered his Unicron-mutated cells throughout Earth's atmosphere. Following this catastrophe, the EDC was reborn as an organization dedicated to driving all Transformers off Earth. The organization built an anti-electron field (previously referred to as an Energon field) to make the planet uninhabitable to Cybertronians, and created a team of 48 transforming robots known as Autoroopers (オートルーパー Ōtorūpā), a Japanese portmanteau of "auto" (オート ōto) and "trooper" (トルーパー torūpā) or Autotroopers (aka Autobot Troopers) in English, are a group of human-created artificial Transformers that serve the Earth Defense Command to combat any other Transformers that remained,[75] recruiting young women who had been infected with the cells and gained Kiss Player fusion abilities to partner with them.

The three central characters were a younger version of Marissa Faireborn[76] as a resistance fighter against the EDC partnered with Optimus Prime who while having died in the movie, his body body was recovered and restored to life in a new body resembling that of a Dodge Ram pickup by the same organization. Rodimus devastated by his guilt in his role of the destruction of Tokyo stepped down as the then leader of the Autobots reverting to the previous name of Hot Rod in order to return to Earth to atone for his mistake. He's refitted into a vehicle resembling a Ford GT by his headstrong partner Shaoshao Li,[77] a girl of Chinese descent and an estranged friend of Marissa and used to be one of the EDC's top Kiss Players until realizing that the EDC was conducting experiments behind her back on other girls. She was then rescued by Hot Rod and joins the resistance to combat the EDC and make amends with her former friend. Lastly, Atari Hitotonari[78] of Japanese descent, who "recruited" into the EDC after the death of her parents while suffering from survivor's guilt. She would shortly become depressed and self-destructive. As she spoke aloud about her nihilistic feelings she would meet her partner by the name Ne-04,[79] a Autorooper built in the form resembling a Mazda RX-8 would shared the same feeling as she did though with the time they spend together their way of thinking would change throughout their relationship. While this plotline seems like a shift in demographics to little girls, it is said that this line was aimed at a much older adult male audience. The toys bear an "ages 15 and up" warning, and the subject matter of the accompanying manga is far from child-friendly. The franchise itself consists of a toyline, a weekly radio drama series (featuring voice acting by Lyrian as Marissa, Yui Kano as Shaoshao, Satomi Akesaka as Atari, and Keiji Hirai as Ne-04 among others), and a three part manga, which together tell the story of the line in which the toys and manga all of which were also created by Ohshima.[80]

Following the conclusion of its first storyline in late 2007, Kiss Players moved into its second (and apparently final) phase, Kiss Players Position, which shifted focus to a distinctly more PG-rated theme, though it was still heavy on the "cute girls" theme. The Kiss Players this time are a pop idol singing group made up of the three girls and three original mini-cassette Transformers Glit,[81] Sundor[82] the former is a spy and the latter shows compassion to both allies and enemies, and Rosanna[83] who's the only heroic one out of the three. The group's purpose is to promote a positive relationship and friendship between humans and Transformers in the wake of the Tokyo disaster of 2005 and the subsequent rise and fall of the E.D.C.. They wear E.D.C. logos on their costumes as a group, appearing to be either sponsored by or a public-relations arm of the revitalized organization.[84]

Additionally, Ohshima's other major contribution to Transformers at the time, the 1-page Information Administration Teletraan 15 Go! Go! comic published in Dengeki Hobby magazine, also featured several tie-ins to the Kiss Players story. These primarily served to introduce readers to the Kiss Players story and characters when the line was launched, and then later, to summarize the final few radio dramas when both series were drawing to a close. Information Administration Teletraan 15 Go! Go! also featured the first part of a story in which Starscream's ghost possessed Atari (which was continued in the radio drama), and in the second year, notably incorporated the further adventures of the Kiss Players Position cassette trio, who were rather confusingly dropped from the radio storyline in its second week and never mentioned again.[85]

Reactions ran the gamut from outright disgust to comedic derision, with most fans agreeing that the content such be included a children's toyline was distasteful. The fact that several Japanese fans were themselves openly decrying Kiss Players, fearing that American fans would think that it was somehow accepted as normal in Japan regarding its sexually suggestive material. Oshima himself even admitted that he crafted the series in this manner because he wanted to "make people's jaws drop."[citation needed]

Possibly as a result of the majority of fans trying to distance themselves from the series combined with the then general inaccessibility of the radio show to an English audience, there was minimal awareness of the specific details of the Kiss Players storyline in the fandom. However many of its characters and ideas have made appearances in other Transformers media. The Autroopers appeared in Transformers: Animated in 2009 with an official toyline released in Botcon in 2011.[86] The colors of white and blue used for Glit would inspire the Shattered Glass incarnation of Ravage.[87] A new toy figure of Sundor would be released under the Transformers Generations: The Fall of Cybertron line in 2012.[88] Several ideas introduced into the 2007 storyline focusing on the introduction of Primus into the Japanese cartoon's timeline have been revisited and expanded upon which shares Kiss Players storytelling while attempting to fill in gaps of the timeline in the Japanese Generation 1 cartoon continuity. The Transformers Legends manga, while featuring lewd content and new stories and characters, also has returning more mature characters Atari and Shaoshao.[89]

On July 19, 2022, most of the original media (including the radio dramas, manga, comic, and other materials) were recovered. This material was remastered and translated into English and released via torrent for download.

Robots in Disguise (2000–2001)

Main article: Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2001 TV series)

First broadcast in Japan in 2000, Robots in Disguise was a single animated series consisting of thirty-nine episodes. It was exported to other countries in subsequent years. In this continuity, Megatron recreates the Decepticons as a subfaction of the Predacons on Earth, a potential reference to the return to the vehicle-based characters following the previous dominance of the animal-based characters of the Beast eras. It is a stand-alone universe with no ties to any other Transformers fiction, though some of the characters from Robots in Disguise did eventually make appearances in Transformers: Universe, including Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Side Burn and Prowl.

The show was heavily censored in the U.S. due to its content of buildings being destroyed and terrorism references after the September 11 attacks on the United States and three episodes were cut altogether.[90]

The Unicron Trilogy (2002–2006)

Main articles: Transformers: Armada, Transformers: Energon, and Transformers: Cybertron

These three lines, launched in 2002 and dubbed the "Unicron Trilogy" by Transformers designer Aaron Archer,[91] are co-productions between Takara and (lesser extent) Hasbro, simultaneously released in both countries, each lasting 52 episodes. Armada followed the Autobots and Decepticons discovering the powerful Mini-Cons on Earth, which are revealed by the end to be weapons of Unicron. Energon, set ten years later, followed the Autobots and the Omnicons in their fight to stop the Decepticons and the Terrorcons from resurrecting Unicron with energon.

In Japan, the series Transformers: Cybertron showed no ties to the previous two series, telling its own story. This caused continuity problems when Hasbro sold Cybertron as a follow-up to Armada/Energon. The writers attempted to change certain plot elements from the Japanese version to remedy this, although this largely added up to nothing more than references to Unicron, Primus, Primes and Minicons.

Just as Marvel produced a companion comic to Generation One, Dreamwave Productions published the comic Transformers Armada set in a different continuity to the cartoon. At #19, it became Transformers Energon. Dreamwave went bankrupt and ceased all publications before the storyline could be completed at #30. However, the Transformers Fan Club published a few stories set in the Cybertron era.[92]

Transformers: Universe (2003–present)

The storyline of Transformers: Universe, mainly set following Beast Machines, sees characters from many assorted alternate continuities, including existing and new ones, encountering each other. The story was told in an unfinished comic book exclusive to the Official Transformers Collectors' Convention.

Live-action film franchise (2007–present)

Main article: Transformers (film series)

Costume characters at Universal Studio Hollywood

In 2007, Michael Bay directed a live-action film based on Transformers, with Steven Spielberg serving as executive producer. It stars Shia LaBeouf, Josh Duhamel, Megan Fox, and Tyrese Gibson in the lead human cast while voice actors Peter Cullen and Hugo Weaving voice Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively. Transformers received mixed to positive reviews and was a box office success.[93] It is the forty-fifth highest-grossing film and the fifth highest-grossing film of 2007, grossing approximately $709 million worldwide. The film won four awards from the Visual Effects Society and was nominated for three Academy Awards, for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects. The performance of Shia LaBeouf was praised by Empire, and Peter Cullen's reprisal of Optimus Prime from the 1980s television series was well received by fans. A sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, was released on June 24, 2009. It received mostly negative reviews, but was a commercial success and grossed more than its predecessor. A third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, was released on June 29, 2011, in 3-D and went on to gross over $1 billion, despite receiving mixed reviews. A fourth film, Transformers: Age of Extinction, was released on June 27, 2014, which also grossed over $1 billion, though it received generally negative reviews. A fifth film, Transformers: The Last Knight was released on June 23, 2017 to similarly negative reviews. Unlike its predecessors, the movie failed to recoup its costs for the studio.[94] Bumblebee, directed by Laika's Travis Knight, was released on December 21, 2018, serving as a prequel to the first film, receiving positive reviews from critics. The movie was a box-office success. A sequel to Bumblebee, directed by Steven Caple Jr. and titled Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, was released on June 9, 2023 to mixed reviews from critics.

Transformers: Animated (2007–2010)

Main article: Transformers: Animated

Transformers: Animated is a cartoon that was aired in early 2008 on Cartoon Network in the United States.[95] Originally scheduled for late after 2007 under the title of Transformers: Heroes,[96] Transformers Animated is set in 2050 Detroit (after crash landing 50 years earlier),[95] when robots and humans live side by side.[96] The Autobots come to Earth and assume superhero roles, battling evil humans with the Decepticons having a smaller role until Megatron resurfaces.[97] Main characters include Autobots Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Bulkhead, Prowl, and Ratchet; Decepticons Megatron, Starscream, Blitzwing, Lugnut, and Blackarachnia; and humans Professor Sumdac and Sari Sumdac. Several characters that were in the original Transformers cartoon and 1986 animated movie, as well as characters only seen in comics and such, make special appearances and cameos throughout the show, with various voice actors (including Corey Burton, John Moschitta, Jr., Susan Blu, and Judd Nelson) reprising their roles.

Aligned Universe (2010–present)

Hasbro, in an attempt to stop the wave of reboots that started in 2001, created the Aligned Universe, with the intent to unify every Transformers media into one continuity. The name of this continuity, however is not official; it was adopted by the fans after Hasbro referred to it as an "Aligned Continuity".[98]

The toy lines derived from this continuity are Transformers: Generations, Transformers: Rescue Bots, and Transformers Go!. The television series belonging to the Aligned Universe include Transformers: Prime (including its concluding film Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising[99]), the Rescue Bots TV series,[100] its sequel Transformers: Rescue Bots Academy, the Go! anime adaptation, and the 2015 series Transformers: Robots in Disguise.[101]

The video games that are part of this shared universe are Transformers: War for Cybertron (including its Nintendo DS version and the companion Transformers: Cybertron Adventures), Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, the Prime video game adaptation,[102][103] and Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark, that serves as a conclusion of the Cybertron series and crossover with the live-action film video game series.

Four novels set within the continuity have been published: Transformers: Exodus,[104][105] Transformers: Exiles,[106][107] Transformers: Retribution,[108][109] and Transformers: The Covenant of Primus.[110] The first three were published by Del Rey Books, while Covenant of Primus was published by 47North. In addition, IDW Publishing has published several comic books, including graphic novels, while Titan Magazines published Transformers Comic UK, a 20-issue series from 2007 to 2014.

The video games, novels, and television series contradict each other due to creative differences, miscommunications, constant team changes, and Aaron Archer being replaced with a different person that had no knowledge of the 354-page brand bible, "The Binder of Revelation".[111]

Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy (2016–2018)

Main article: Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy

In August 2016, Machinima and Hasbro co-produced an animated series named Combiner Wars, simultaneously published on the website Go90 and YouTube. This was followed by two further installments, Titans Return and Power of the Primes. Eric Calderon was executive producer of the trilogy.[112] The events of the series take place 40 years after the end of the Autobot/Decepticon civil war, with the Transformers having returned to Cybertron and now being threatened by ancient technology.

The trailer for Combiner Wars was released on July 26, 2016, along with four prequel episodes.[113] Eight five-minute episodes of the series Combiner Wars were released weekly beginning on August 2.[113][114] The cast of the Combiner Wars was predominantly made up of famous YouTube personalities.[115] The first series was included as a bonus feature on the Transformers: The Last Knight Blu-ray release.[116]

The second series, dubbed Titans Return featured returning voice cast from previous iterations of Transformers, such as Peter Cullen and Judd Nelson, along with newcomers such as Michael Dorn as Perceptor and Wil Wheaton as Fortress Maximus.[115] Guest voices included Mark Hamill and Ron Perlman.[117] Titans Return debuted on November 14, 2017, on the Go90 platform, consisting of ten episodes at roughly 11 minutes each. The series featured returning Titan characters such as Metroplex, Fortress Maximus and Trypticon and the resultant destruction such enormous characters create.[118]

The third part of the trilogy, dubbed Power of the Primes was launched on May 1, 2018,[119] comprising 10 episodes released weekly, each roughly 11 minutes long. FJ DeSanto was executive producer of the third installment. Animation was done by Tatsunoko Productions.[120] Power of the Primes focused on the arrival of Megatronus, one of the original Primes.[121] In 2019, Machinima shut down[122] and folded into Otter Media. On January 19, Machinima removed all of its videos from YouTube, including those of the Prime Wars Trilogy.[123] After the shutdown, a number of former Machinima creations returned to the web via Rooster Teeth.[124] The series is available on the Rooster Teeth website.[125]

Transformers: Cyberverse (2018–2021)

Main article: Transformers: Cyberverse

Transformers: Cyberverse (later known as Transformers: Bumblebee Cyberverse Adventures for seasons 3 and 4) is an animated series produced by Boulder Media and Allspark Animation (later Entertainment One) which premiered on September 1, 2018 on Cartoon Network[126] and concluded on November 21, 2021 on Netflix comprising four chapters, of which the fourth was composed of two specials.[127]

Cyberverse uses characters and elements across various continuities, including G1, Beast Era, the live-action film series, Animated, and the Aligned continuity, to tell its own story.[126] It is notable for being the first television series of the franchise to have an 11-minute runtime (the latter two installments of the Prime Wars Trilogy have first utilized this format) and for having a non-union New York cast instead of the regular union-based Los Angeles cast.

Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy (2020–2021)

Main article: Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy

The Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy is an animated three-part series that was developed as a co-production between Rooster Teeth, Netflix and Hasbro. Polygon Pictures was chosen as the animation studio. Headed by FJ DeSanto, a veteran of Transformers animation having previously worked on two installments of the Power of the Primes trilogy, the series tells the origin of the civil war between the Autobots and Decepticons.[128] Comprising three parts, the series was announced on February 15, 2019, for release on Netflix.[129][130] The voice cast of the show used new actors for recognizable characters such as Jake Foushou as Optimus Prime and Jason Marnocha as Megatron.[131] Each series is made up of six episodes, each a half hour long.[131] The series also had a tie-in toyline.[132]

A trailer of for the first installment Siege was released on July 8, 2020, with the show following on July 30, 2020,[131][133] The first series focuses on the civil war on Cybertron and the conflict between the two leaders of the opposing factions, Optimus Prime and Megatron, along with the introduction of a third, mercenary, faction.[132][134]

A trailer for the second series, dubbed Earthrise, was published on December 7, 2020[135] The second series debuted on Netflix on December 30.[136] Earthrise was more limited in scope than the previous series. Instead of the entire Transformer civil war, this series focuses on the two leaders once again and the crews of their starships as Optimus seeks to flee Cybertron and find the missing Allspark. The series also saw the introduction of a fourth faction, the Quintessons.[137]

The trailer for the final series, Kingdom, debuted on July 5, 2021[138] and the series premiered on Netflix on July 29.[131] Kingdom picks up where the last series left off with Optimus and Megatron searching for the Allspark, having now crash-landed on Earth. On the planet, they encounter characters previously seen in the older series Transformers: Beast Wars.[139]

Transformers: BotBots (2022)

Main article: Transformers: BotBots

Transformers: BotBots is an animated comedy streaming television series developed by Kevin Burke and Chris "Doc" Wyatt for Netflix comprising 20 episodes.[140] The first season of ten episodes was released on March 25, 2022.[141] In a departure from the traditional conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons seen in most continuities, the series focuses on the BotBots, small robots organized in groups of tribes who can transform into everyday objects, and primarily follows the efforts of the Lost Bots, who try to find their own place amongst the others.[140]

Transformers: EarthSpark (2022–present)

Main article: Transformers: EarthSpark

Transformers: EarthSpark is an animated television series produced by Entertainment One and Nickelodeon Animation Studio for the streaming service Paramount+ and the television network Nickelodeon, which debuted on November 11, 2022.[142] EarthSpark is notable for prominently featuring humans after being mostly absent in various media of the franchise in the late 2010s such as Cyberverse, the 2019 IDW comics and War for Cybertron Trilogy, and uses a union voice cast for the first time since 2018.

See also

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