More Than Meets The Eye.
A long-running franchise consisting of dozens of toy lines, many Animated Series, quite a few Comic Books, and a trilogy of live-action movies. Reduced to its simplest terms, Transformers is the story of an eons-old battle between two factions of a race of transforming robots, usually called the Autobots and Decepticons, whose battles frequently take them to Earth. Originally, the Autobots primarily transformed into cars, while the Decepticons transformed primarily into military hardware (with some from both sides becoming innocuous items such as cassettes and cameras), though this became less distinct over time.
Considering its origins as a toy line, the show is highly Merchandise-Driven, each incarnation serving to pimp a line of transforming toys. The original toy line sold in America came about when Hasbro imported several disparate Japanese toy lines, primarily Takara's "Diaclone" and "Microchange". The piecemeal origins of the individual toys are largely responsible for the enormous disparity in scale and style of the early toys (the original Optimus Prime, for example, has a cockpit designed to hold a Diaclone action figure, while the original Jetfire's toy is easily recognizable as a Valkyrie from Macross). When brought together as a single toy line, they were given the Transformers brand and established the "sentient robot" aspect of the story.
After the original toy line, further incarnations were designed specifically for the mega-hit Transformers brand, creating a more internally-consistent style, though still with inappropriate sizes between toys.
Recurring character archetypes of note across the various series include:
- Optimus Prime: Leader of the Autobots. In the original continuity, he appeared to be the supreme leader of all Autobots by a sort of divine right. In later incarnations, he is often reduced to the role of a high-ranking military leader that answers to an Autobot High Council. In the third season of the original series, his successor was Rodimus Prime. A version of Rodimus (sans Prime) reappeared in Energon, as an Autobot general of comparable rank to Optimus. In Beast Wars, he was replaced by Optimus Primal, a sort of cousin, who transformed into an ape. In one of the more recent series, Transformers: Animated, Optimus Prime is actually a lower-ranked Autobot and "Prime" is actually a military title rather than a personal designation. Optimus Prime is often portrayed as a conflicted pacifist shouldering the burden of military leadership. His alternate form is usually an eighteen-wheeler truck cab of some kind, but a fire truck is also slowly gaining acceptance. Japanese versions of the series have given him the alternate modes of a lion, a woolly mammoth, and a sports car, and also have shown alternate leaders of the Autobots, including one driven by a human.
- Megatron: Leader of the Decepticons. Often portrayed as quite mad, but usually brilliant as well. His original form was a Walther P38 pistol modeled after the variant created for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. This was back in the days when children were allowed to play with realistic firearm toys. Later characters with the same name transformed into a tank, tyrannosaurus, dragon, body parts (because they could), several kinds of space fighter jets, a "futuristic" (i.e. Nerf-inspired) pistol, an attack helicopter and a Mack truck. In Generation 1, Robots In Disguise, and all three Unicron Trilogy series, he was eventually upgraded and renamed "Galvatron". The Beast Wars variant is generally considered to be the most successful, despite several instances of...
- Starscream: Megatron's lieutenant. Starscream is highly treacherous, and is quick to seize power when the opportunity arises (except in Energon, where he is little more than a puppet). The only reason he is tolerated is because he is an excellent soldier and is otherwise afraid of confronting Megatron directly. In Armada, he briefly became an Autobot, but was unable to overcome his own nature. Starscream always transforms into a jet fighter of some kind; the Beast Wars equivalent was the pterodactyl Terrorsaur, though the "spark" of the original did show up, and all but two Predacons had his behavior on some level. Of course, this character has so many examples in this franchise he's his own trope.
- Bumblebee: A young, brightly-colored Autobot character with kid appeal, he's usually the closest with their human allies and/or has a childish, exuberant personality. Early in the original series, this slot was naturally filled by the original Bumblebee, who also showed up in the live-action movie and Transformers Animated. He's always bright yellow, and turns into a Volkswagen Beetle, a Camaro, or a generic but Beetle-esque hatchback. Other characters in this mold include Hotshot in the Unicron Trilogy, Cheetor in Beast Wars, and Hot Rod from the G1 movie who eventually makes good and becomes Rodimus Prime.
- Primus: In the later series, the effective "God" of all Transformers: their individual sparks were split off from Primus. Primus actively serves as Optimus's superior in Robots In Disguise and Armada, but is semi-mythical by Cybertron, Beast Wars and others. He originally showed up in the UK Marvel comics before being imported to the US line and, eventually, other continuities altogether. His name is often used as an Unusual Euphemism for God. In some continuities, he's linked to the Transformer-creating computer Vector Sigma, from Generation 1. In others, he is the actual Planet Cybertron. Though other characters may change between series, Primus and directly related characters are generally multiversal constants. Starting with Beast Wars, the Covenant of Primus became a multiversal Cybertronian bible.
- Unicron: A planet-eating giant transformer, sort of a Eldritch Abomination/Satan-esque counterpart to Primus. In Transformers the Movie, he is destroyed by Rodimus Prime using the Matrix, though his disembodied head continues to work its evil machinations throughout the third season of Generation 1. Unicron appears at the end of Armada, and is destroyed again, but is resurrected in Energon by Alpha Q, in an attempt to recreate its home planet (in this incarnation, Unicron is able to recreate anything it has consumed). Supplementary materials to the Transformers multiverse suggest that Primus and Unicron are incarnations of rival gods, born from the same The One. Though other characters may change between series, Unicron and directly related characters are generally multiversal constants. Has never been seen in the same room as Galactus.
And besides all of these, there are usually other members that fit into the Five-Man Band / Five-Bad Band mold. Of the Autobots there is also usually a Ratchet (The Smart Guy / The Medic), a Jetfire (Heel Face Turn member), and/or an Ironhide (The Big Guy). For the Decepticons there is often a Soundwave (Evil Genius and/or Flunky Boss), Shockwave (Wild Card) and/or a Devastator (The Brute).
"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings."
Note: Descriptions here are to be kept brief; for detailed information, see the individual series pages.
Generation 1 continuity family
The saga that started it all, Generation 1, specifically refers to the base story of the Autobots and Decepticons war and their leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron, crashing on prehistoric Earth. Back on Cybertron the war came to a very uneasy stalemate because of their missing faction leaders. It isn't until their return that the war begins again. Other than that, between the various series and comics there is little that is consistent.
- Transformers Generation 1 premiered in 1984. It involved Autobots and Decepticons crashing on prehistoric Earth and remaining in stasis until they were revived by an erupting volcano in 1984. To blend in with their surroundings, they took on the forms of common Earth vehicles and other machines. It consisted of:
- A cartoon, running from 1984 to 1987
- |A comic published by Marvel, running from 1984 to 1990
- Transformers: Generation One, a Revival published by Dreamwave between 2002 and 2004
- A comic published by IDW, published since 2006. Notable stories include:
- Transformers the Movie opened in 1986, between the second and third seasons of the cartoon. The timeline jumped to to futuristic 2005 and Optimus Prime and most of the original Autobots were killed off, passing the torch to a new generation led by Rodimus Prime. The movie featured the voice talents of Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack (Of Unsolved Mysteries fame) and Eric Idle, as well as the last screen performance of Orson Welles (as the first on-screen appearance of Unicron, a Transformer the size of a planet).
- Scramble City, an OAV originally released only in Japan, though a version was included on the 25th anniversary DVD of the animated movie in the United States. It focused on the mix and match aspect of the combiners, as well as introducing Metroplex, Trypticon and some of the movie characters, as the movie itself wouldn't be imported for several more years.
- Transformers Headmasters, an Anime Continuation that ignores the last season of G1, the three-part "Rebirth" story.
- Transformers Super God Masterforce, another anime, continuing on from Headmasters.
- Transformers Victory, a third anime, continuing from Masterforce.
- Transformers Zone, which was basically a series of illustrated text stories. Followed by Return of Convoy and Operation Combination.
- Transformers Generation 2: The cartoon series Generation 2 was simply selected G1 episodes with some CGI added. The associated comic ran for 12 issues, while the manga lasted far longer.
The Beast Era is a break from the usual presentation, featuring Transformers with animal altmodes instead of vehicles, and Maximals and Predacons replacing Autobots and Decepticons. It is in continuity with the Generation 1 family, but the toys and fiction are distinct enough to be considered on their own.
- Beast Wars (1996) was animated in CGI and produced by Mainframe Entertainment, famous for the first CGI television show, ReBoot. At first, Beast Wars was controversial simply for the change into transforming into animals. (This culminated in the 'Trukk Not Munky' meme.) But over time, the depth and direction of the story was praised, and the series as a whole is currently very well-regarded. Treating the events of Generation One in Broad Strokes as historical legend, it featured a determined Maximal crew fighting a rogue band of Predacon criminals on what turned out to be prehistoric Earth (a Planet of the Apes Ending halfway through the series). It also introduced several plot points that would go on to greatly influence future fiction, notably sparks.
- Beast Machines (2000), the direct sequel series to Beast Wars, was animated by the same company, and saw a return to Cybertron, but was received poorly by most. It had a massive change of the writing staff, and it shows; the characterization of established characters, "spiritual" aspects and themes of nature vs. technology didn't play well with the previous series. It's part of the Fanon Discontinuity of many fans, and one of the voice actors that worked on the series referred to it on one occasion as "the bad thing that happened". Still, the series had its good points -- the aforementioned spiritual themes were deeper and more genuinely philosophical than anything the franchise had seen before -- and the general hatred has died down with time.
- Beast Wars II, a traditionally animated show set far into the future of Beast Machines but broadcast in Japan between the first and second series of Beast Wars to fill the gap while the second series was being dubbed. It is powered by slapstick.
- Beast Wars Neo, which continued after Beast Wars II and was broadcast between the end of Beast Wars II and the start of the second series of Beast Wars. There are fandubbed episodes of this series and Beast Wars II at TFCog.net.
Despite being quite different from the original series (and most subsequent Transformers series), the Beast Era is what saved the brand from falling into the abyss to which most other 80's toyline properties fall victim. Beast Wars revitalised the whole franchise.
Robots In Disguise
Transformers Robots in Disguise started the trend of Hasbro creating a new line of Transformers toys and backstory, then rebooting the property with a new continuity about two or three years later; this has caused an explosion of independent continuities in the past decade. However, while RiD was originally intended to be a filler series - as the Japanese did not opt to import the poorly received Beast Machines for several years - it was very successful in western markets.
- Robots in Disguise (2002) rebooted the series continuity, with the Autobots facing off against their perennial rivals, the Predacons (the Decepticons in this continuity are a group of Autobots subverted by the Predacons). The first Japanese Transformers series to have major Western distribution, the series was somewhat unpopular with fans who expected the seriousness of the American-penned Beast Wars, instead of the borderline-self parody and younger target demographic that RiD actually brought to the table. Nevertheless, a few characters remain fan favorites (Optimus Prime's Evil Twin/clone Scourge and the hapless but loveable Sky-Byte, among others). RiD is also notable due to several episodes of the series being pulled from American airwaves after the September 11th attacks, as they featured footage of collapsing buildings.
The Unicron Trilogy
- The Unicron Trilogy (2003-2006) was the next reboot and was intended as a full saga with an expansive toy line. It featured three anime series that were dubbed into English (with varying degrees of quality) and aired on Cartoon Network. Each sub-series to the trilogy had a 'gimmick' that was always in the limelight.
- Transformers Armada
- Transformers Energon
- Transformers Cybertron
Armada restored much of the original mystique, as the world's smallest armada (Autobots: 3, Decepticons: 4) duke it out to dominate a race of smaller transforming robots, the Minicons. The Minicons can link up to their larger counterparts to give them power upgrades, having obvious Merchandise potential. Transformers: Energon and Transformers: Cybertron are sequels to this series, the three are retroactively referred to as the Unicron Trilogy, concerning the reboot of the Generation One Movie villain Unicron and a new take on his presence.
The gimmicks for Armada toys were the Minicons, micro-transformers who would activate lights, sounds and/or hidden weapons by plugging into the larger toys. Energon toys were "powerlinxing" where every transformer of a certain size class could combine with another. Cybertron toys had "Planet Keys" which were similar in function to to the Minicon gimmick. The general disinterest shown in these gimmicks by the fans has led to a reduced prominence in later toy lines, focusing more on what features they can do with the actual transformation instead.
Of note is that Cybertron was not intended as a sequel to Energon; the original Japanese Transformers: Galaxy Force took place in its own universe. Hasbro designer Aaron Archer had intended it to continue the earlier shows, so this is a case of conflicting sources. Interestingly enough, recent material released in Japan seems to have retconned Galaxy Force into the same universe as Armada and Energon.
- Dreamwave also did a Unicron Trilogy comic. Armada focused on the plight of the Mini-Cons as born to serve the larger robots, then did an abrupt turn into the characters fending off Unicron. Energon had several ongoing plotlines, all of which were cut off when Dreamwave went bankrupt.
- Armada also had a video game based off of it, which surprisingly actually turned out to be pretty darn good, in a rare aversion of The Problem with Licensed Games.
- In addition, a pre-school based Transformers series, Transformers: Go-Bots was released during this part of the franchise. It's usually considered as its own cannon from the rest of the franchise.
- Kiss Players (2006-2007) was a short lived incarnation of the franchise, depicting Transformers given power-ups when kissed by human girls.
Live-Action continuity family
- Transformers (2007) introduces the new continuity, featuring an origin of the Transformers in a mystical artifact known as the All Spark. The hype of the movie was enormous, with many fans upset over the stylistic changes (dubbed "Bayformers"). Critically, those praising the movie liked it for being a sit back and enjoy "Rule of Cool" feature. Those criticizing it were mostly for the same reasons, though some of the hate was more of Michael Bay then the movie itself. The plot was patterned like a mix between a disaster film and an Alien Invasion. It made a lot of money, bringing in the current fans and even the nostalgic crowd; a sequel was guaranteed days before it opened. Part of the film's success comes from a general respect to the franchise, the impressive CGI for the title robots and the casting of the original voice actor for Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen.
- The sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) continues directly from the first movie, delving deeper into the Transformer mythology. Because of the first film's success, many new robots were introduced and it has broken records both financially and with computer graphics (a rumor has spread around that in rendering Devastator it melted one of ILM's computers). Critical response was overwhelmingly negative but the general public seemed to love it.
- The third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) follows a new story dealing with further Transformer involvement in human history, with a story that arcs back to a Secret History involving the first moon landing in 1969. The primary new villain is stated to be Shockwave, but this seems to have been a red herring and he's really just The Brute, albeit a formidabble one. The real new villain is actually Sentinel Prime, joint with Megatron in a Big Bad Duumvirate.
- IDW has done prequel, adaptation, and sequel comics for the movies. Titan Magazines also does a series based on the movie, with issues that fit around IDW's, much as Marvel UK did for Marvel US.
A new continuity and a dramatic new art style highlights this series. It is largely a throwback to the classic G1 while cementing a stronger canon and taking influence from newer series. This series ended up returning the franchise to its roots, with no dramatic changes to the core story and not trying to highlight any new toy gimmick.
- Transformers Animated had its pilot in late 2007 to ride the popularity of the movie, and was the first American-written series since Beast Machines. Despite severe fan reactions to the character designs and animation style, the show's story and scripting (and a healthy respect to the saga as a whole) have won over many converts in short order. This time the Autobot/Decepticon war ended years ago and Optimus Prime is only the commander of a small repair crew, with Ultra Magnus as the Autobot commander. Megatron hasn't been seen in years but when they come across the AllSpark this small team has to deal with the feared Decepticon, which eventually strands them on Earth.
Fun Publications Transformers continuities
Fun Publications has introduced multiple continuities of their own for the official fan club and conventions. These continuities are not very prominent compared to the others due to their relative inaccessibility, their stories mostly having only been released to convention attendees and fan club members.
- Transformers Timelines is the label which many of Fun Publications' Transformers stories are put under.
- Transformers Classics is a splinter timeline to the original Transformers Marvel comic in which the events of Generation 2 and some other stories did not occur.
- Transformers: TransTech, a universe populated by highly advanced Cybertronians, apparently contains the only known version of Cybertron that never experienced a civil war.
- Transformers: Shattered Glass takes place in a Mirror Universe where the Autobots are evil and the Decepticons are good; Optimus is a megalomaniac, Starscream is a loyal officer, Ravage is the embodiment of LOLcats, etc.
- Transformers: Wings of Honor is like Classics in that it creates a separate timeline out of an existing one. In this case, it does so via prequel and sequel stories to the original Generation 1 cartoon, and contains some differences.
- The Transformers Aligned Universe is meant to establish a definitive multi-medium continuity for Transformers by cherry-picking the best aspects of past iterations of the franchise, the continuity line was launched in 2010 with the video game Transformers: War for Cybertron and the corresponding Exodus book. The intention behind this set-up is to create a longer-lasting Alternate Continuity than the frequent reboots every few years in the 2000's.
- Transformers: War for Cybertron is a video game that dives into the basic history of the Autobot/Decepticon war and meant to be a stepping stone showing how that war finds its way to Earth. It takes major mythology points from various sources and re-presents them to the audience, setting up the greater franchise (such as why Starscream is The Starscream and how come Megatron doesn't just shoot him). It was built from the Unreal engine and was released on PC, Xbox 360,
Wii, DS, and Play Station 3 in July 2010.
- Transformers Exodus is partly a Novelisation of War for Cybertron and partly a manual further explaining the backstory. Although it contradicts both the game and itself on a number of occasions, which leads to the majority of Continuity Snarls within this new franchise (Starscream was stated to be a dedicated scientist only for it to later state that he wasn't ever a scientist).
- Transformers: Fall of Cybertron is the sequel to War for Cybertron, including a heapload of new characters, as well as a Darker and Edgier plot.
- Transformers Prime is a new cartoon, animated in CGI, that premiered November 2010 on Hasbro's new Hub network. The designs are strongly influenced by the complex Transformers Film Series look while retaining the more stylised approach of Transformers Animated. The overall series appears to aim for much of the same tone as the films, complete with the movie writers taking on roles as Executive Producers. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker have been cast as Optimus Prime and Megatron, making it the first Transformers series in which the two have reprised their roles together.
- Transformers Universe is a video game largely based on this series.
- Transformers Rescue Bots is a new series taking Broad Strokes from the rest of the Aligned Continuity, while also being a Lighter and Softer series targeted towards preschool children. The series focuses on a rescue team of Autobots consisting of Heatwave, Boulder, Blades, and Chase, who work with a family of first-responders to aid people in trouble. Peter Cullen returns as Optimus Prime, but Prime will only occasionally show up while the show focuses mainly on its new characters. While multiple toys have been released, a sneak preview aired in December 2011, and the show will premiere in full in 2012.
A standard gimmick across most Transformers incarnations is the scene-change effect: the emblem of the side featured in the previous scene pulls back, then flips over to reveal the symbol of the side to be featured in the next scene. It has been parodied in many instances in modern media.
For more information, you might want to consult the Transformers wiki. Its informality is similar to that of TV Tropes.
- Autobots Rock Out
- Hate Plague: It first appeared in the Generation 1 cartoon, and reappeared in a more virulent form in Beast Machines.
- Intro Dump: The term originated in the Transformers wiki.
- Kibbles and Bits: Off the fandom term for irrelevant alternate mode parts stuck on the robot form.
- Mode Lock
- More Than Meets the Eye
- Ruined FOREVER: Named from a (/the) wiki for Transformers, mocking the way fans react as though every change will destroy the franchise.
- The Starscream
For tropes specific to individual installments, visit their respective work pages.
- The Ageless: Almost always applies to the Transformers.
- Though occasionally averted by characters whose schtick is that they're old fogies. Not only do they have the personality to match, but for some reason they're the only Transformers to physically age.
- Alien Among Us: Alien robots, but aliens nonetheless, the series has many elements of this plot.
- Alien Invasion: Technically, almost every series, but the 2007 movie and the IDW comics focus most on this trope.
- All There in the Manual: Many characters have all or most of their characterization provided in toy bios or profiles.
- Alternate Continuity: Currently, 5 different "main" continuity lines. When you go into the comics, on the other hand, talk about Continuity Snarl.
- This chart is also several years out of date.
- Here is Japan's take with their continuities. It's not any better.
- Ancient Keeper
- Animal-Themed Superbeing: The Dinobots, Insecticons, and everyone on Beast Wars are robot-alien variations of this trope.
- Anime Theme Song: Several in the cartoon series, whether Japan releases it first or dubs it after the US releases. More notable with Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo.
- Arms and Armor Theme Naming: The Insecticons have bomb-related names: Bombshell, Shrapnel, and Kickback.
- Asskicking Pose
- Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: Not surprising, since they can choose their alternate forms, but each invariably picks a vehicle that suits them very well.
- Author Catchphrase: Furmanisms
- Awesome but Impractical: The Dinobots. Even bigger robots that can turn into robo-dinosaurs? Awesome! Only problem is Transformers are Transformers (mostly) because they blend into Earth machines and since humans don't drive around in giant robot t-rexs this makes it a bit trickier to work in the Dino-bots. It is most likely why The Wreckers were made to be alternate heavy hitters.
- Badass Automata: ...pretty much the entire crew?
- Big Bad: Mostly Megatrons, but the Marvel comics gave Shockwave and other Cybertronians chances to gloat. More recently, Overlord as seen in IDW's Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers might also qualify.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Rhinox in Beast Wars and Bulkhead of Animated are both fairly gentle, if large transformers, but are also the ones to avoid getting angry.
- Big Damn Heroes: Take your pick of series or characters. Inverted in the 2007 movie when Starscream shows up and beats up Ratchet and Ironhide, stopping their protection of Sam in what could be called a "Big Damn Villains" moment.
- Bodyguarding a Badass: Optimus Prime (i.e. one of the most powerful of a race of giant, sapient Humongous Mecha) sometimes has a human military escort.
- Brother Chuck: Happens to many characters who aren't killed off when their toy is discontinued.
- Butt Monkey: Beast Wars' Waspinator.
- Canon Discontinuity: Every series has a few insane ideas that got ignored, like Unicron being the discarded science project of an alien monkey...
- Canon Immigrant: The Transformer "Spark" concept introduced in Beast Wars has continued and become a vital part of Transformers mythology.
- Catch Phrase: "Autobots! Transform and roll out!", among others.
- The Chew Toy: Four words: "Why universe hate Waspinator?!?"
- C-List Fodder: Issue #50 of the original Transformers comic featured Starscream on a killing rampage that culled older characters by the dozens. Victims included C-list characters like Gears and Buzzsaw, as well as popular ones such as Omega Supreme and the Predacons.
- The Collector of the Strange: Autobot Pipes collects interesting human knick-knacks.
- Also, in Cybertron, Shortround collects...Transformers toys. The "grails" of his collection? Generation 2 Defensor and Menasor. Two toys whose real-world counterparts were never produced (or at least never mass-produced) in full.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Decepticons tend to have red optics, Autobots have blue. Exceptions exist.
- The symbols themselves also qualify, seeming to indicate good/evil alignment; the Autobots' insignia is traditionally red and the Decepticons' traditionally purple; in the mirror universe called "Shattered Glass", populated by evil Autobots and heroic Decepticons, the Autobot insignia is purple and the Decepticon insignia is red.
- Combining Mecha: The combiners, such as the Constructicons, Aerialbots, Stunticons, Destruction Team, etc.
- Continuity Snarl: Non-fans or casual fans have NO idea how crazy it's gotten since the release of Transformers: War for Cybertron, its accompanying prequel novel "Transformers: Exodus", and the announcement of Transformers Prime.
- For the record, all three of those media allegedly take place within the same continuity.
- Cool Car: Kind of a given, but the live action movie had to use real cars. Barricade in the 2007 movie is a Ford Mustang, Jazz is a Pontiac Solstice, Bumblebee is a 1976 Chevy Camaro who later becomes a 2008 Camaro, Revenge of the Fallen is showcasing a one-of-a-kind Concept Corvette that will not actually reach consumers.
- Cool Guns: Megatron's original altmode was a The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Walther P38 with stock, barrel extension and scope; the latter became his Fusion Cannon.
- Copycat Cover: Transmorphers, whose title also copied the classic font and was released just after the 2007 movie.
- Cyber Cyclops: Shockwave
- Dark Reprise: A non-musical, cross-continuity version during Animated!Waspinator's last appearance. He speaks a line originally said by Beast Wars!Waspinator, but in a much less humorous, darker intonation.
- Death Is Cheap: Let's just say "destroyed" doesn't necessarily mean "dead" and leave it at that.
- Developing Doomed Characters: An endemic problem with the franchise is that the first installment - the 2007 film, Armada, Infiltration - will sometimes focus excessively on the less-than-likable Puny Humans and ease into the robots. Infiltration is a case of this backfiring spectacularly, with the humans' development inspiring enough annoyance and boredom that the next arc, Stormbringer, was advertised as "Nothing but ROBOTS on CYBERTRON!"
- Did Not Do the Research: Lots, given how fast and loose the series plays with facts.
- One issue of the original Marvel comic series described water as a "rare compound" which was able to remove the parasitic Scraplets without harming the afflicted. In reality, water is fairly common in the universe, and a race capable of burning hydrocarbons for fuel would definitely be familiar with it.
- SABOT (Say-boh) rounds do not work by simulating a Magnesium burn, in fact, they don't even explode. Nor can they be fired from a hand held grenade launcher.
- Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: When Unicron is a robot Eldritch Abomination, they come across this trope in order to win.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Nearly all of the cast from the first two seasons is killed off during the movie, as well as Optimus and Starscream albeit temporarily.
- Beast Wars was sometimes almost careless with how they killed certain characters; a few times they were intended to be dead but Hasbro insisted they bring them back.
- Dueling Shows: Transformers Generation 1 vs. The Go-Bots
- Dull Surprise: Pat Lee currently holds the dubious honor of providing its page image; his art is full of it.
- Dumb Muscle: The Dinobots, especially Sludge.
- Devastator in the original, Tidal Wave in Armada
- Dysfunction Junction: Many of the Transformers, Autobot and Decepticon alike, are barely-functional piles of neuroses.
- Eldritch Abomination: Unicron
- Everything's Better With Dinobots
- Executive Meddling: Tons and tons and tons, relating to marketing and the usual reasons. Recent example: the Grand Finale to Simon Furman's Myth Arc comic series was cut from 12 issues to 4 so that IDW could publish All Hail Megatron instead.
- Expository Theme Song: Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons! Transformers Cybertron has not only the regular lyrics, but also a monologue from Optimus Prime describing the show's basic premise.
- Eye Lights Out: Whenever a Transformer
- Five Episode Pilot
- Flanderization: Grimlock, who, in the original cartoon, goes from a "Brawn over Brains" thug to a mentally-challenged child between season 2 and The Movie.
- Good Guy Bar: Maccadam's Old Oil House
- Grumpy Old Man: Kup, Jetfire and Ratchet qualify.
- Hammerspace: It's been an accepted Hand Wave that Transformers have this to explain Robots changing size from what would logically fit into their alternate form, most famously Megatron and Soundwave from G1. Also, exactly how big individual Transformers are varies radically based on the needs of the plot. Scale in Transformers is, not to put too fine a point on it, screwed.
- Hanging Judge: The Quintesson judge would actually often find the defendant innocent. Too bad that the Quintessons throw you to the Sharkticons either way.
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: Plenty of human proverbs Recycled in Space:
- "You can stuff it up your
- "Do you ever think you could be
destinedprogrammed for something bigger?"
MindProcessor over matter."
- "He eats
- "I've got one foot in the
- "You can stuff it up your
- Humongous Mecha
- Idiosyncratic Wipes
- I Know Kung Faux: Occurs fairly often throughout the various Transformers lines, most notably with Metallikato, Crystalocution, and Circuit-su.
- Insistent Terminology: Despite being Transformers, the instructions never tell you how to "transform" them; instead they tell you how to "convert" them to robots, vehicles, beasts, etc. This is because if they used the term "transform" so informally, the franchise name would be considered descriptive and would be impossible to defend legally as a trademark. This has not, however, stopped them from making Optimus's Catch Phrase, "Transform, and roll out!"
- Interpretative Character: Several names have been used throughout all the various continuities. While there are often consistencies between these incarnations of these names, there is usually enough leeway to take them in all sorts of directions. TFWiki's article on the term "character" is a good analysis on this phenomenon, and the Interpretative Character page here has more specific examples.
- Intro Dump
- Just a Machine
- Kill'Em All: The Original Movie was deliberately plotted to kill off as many characters/toys as possible, traumatizing kids who expected a continuation of the TV show.
- Leader Forms the Head: Very common across all media.
- Live Action Adaptation: The 2007 movie.
- Lolicon: Kiss Players clearly has this in mind.
- Long Runner: There have been Transformers toys in production somewhere in the world since 1984. Even when the line was cancelled in America in 1990, European and Japanese exclusives were continually made.
- Loud of War: Soundwave (in numerous incarnations) uses this as a weapon, while Frenzy and Rumble (his cassette minions) used ultra- and infra-sound respectively (although the cartoon opted for earthquake-inducing earthpounders instead). Thundercracker's sonic boom could collapse structures and blow up enemy jets, and Dirge's engine vibrations were supposed to induce panic in his victims.
- Martyr Without a Cause: Optimus Prime
- Meaningful Name
- The Merch
- Merchandise-Driven: ...but, as the entry on that page states, Transformers fans generally embrace the merchandising aspects.
- Toyless Toyline Character: Most of the humans, and some of the early female transformers.
- Monochromatic Eyes: Considering they're robots, it was the default look for them. Later incarnations would avert this in some instances though.
- The Movie: Twice, 1986 and 2007.
- The Multiverse: The franchise spans many different universes, sometimes implied, sometimes explicitly.
- Mythology Gag: PLENTY in the later series.
- NameTron: Megatron, Cybertron, Galvatron, etc.
- Never Say "Die": Depending on franchise. The characters in Generation 1, for instance, freely used the words 'die', 'dead', and 'kill', but other series have used 'destroyed', 'sent to oblivion', 'offline', and so on.
- Can't forget "We're all gonna die..."
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Just being a Transformer makes you a giant, alien, transforming, robot. Then there's the ones that are also things like ninja, dinosaurs, bounty hunters, and wolves.
- 90% of Your Brain: The book Project Brain Drain.
- Non-Lethal Warfare: Mostly.
- No One Should Survive That
- Not Quite Dead
- Obfuscating Stupidity: In most of the comics, Grimlock acts like this. He still talks in the caveman dialect of his animated counterpart, but is one of the Autobots' most brilliant leaders, often coming off as a sort of brutally cunning Josef Stalin to Prime's FDR (or Prime's Churchill, if you're reading Marvel UK).
- Off-Model: To the point where it's not funny. None of the shows, movies, comics, games or toys are safe. Special mentions goes to the Generation One cartoon, the Armada Anime, the Generation Two comic and most of the Dreamwave run.
- Omnicidal Maniac: Unicron
- Galvatron too. Megatron wanted power, Galvatron just wants to kill everything
- Only One Name
- Palette Swap: Redecoes are very common. The most well-known examples are Frenzy/Rumble, the Seekers, Bumblebee/Cliffjumper, and Prowl/Bluestreak/Smokescreen.
- In Beast Wars, there's also Cheetor/Tigatron, and Tarantulus/Blackarachnia (notable for being the only one of these with one character of each gender), plus a few others exclusively in the toys.
- Phlebotinum Muncher: Energon.
- Planet Eater: Yet again, Unicron.
- Planet of Hats: Cybertron revolves around five planets. Cybertron and Earth are both hatless, but on the Speed Planet, all anyone cares about is racing, on the Jungle Planet, everyone is obsessed with strength, and on the Giant Planet, the only thing anyone does is build stuff.
- A robot planet full of robots is hatless?
- Just as much as a human planet full of humans.
- A robot planet full of robots is hatless?
- Praetorian Guard: The Wreckers, for Emirate Xaaron.
- Promoted Fanboy: Benson Yee, frequent convention visitor and operator of a popular Transformers web site. He was approached on Generation One expertise for Beast Wars and received a "Consultant" credit on certain episodes.)
- Then there's Don Figueroa, who built his own meter-tall custom Transformers from scratch before becoming a fan-favorite artist and toy designer.
- And even more promoted fans beyond that.
- Then there's Don Figueroa, who built his own meter-tall custom Transformers from scratch before becoming a fan-favorite artist and toy designer.
- Quirky Miniboss Squad: Before making an appearance in The Movie, The Fallen created one of these in the War Within comic series. Decepticon mystics Bludgeon, Bugly, and Mindwipe made a very effective one, too.
- Refuge in Cool: The entire franchise is all about this.
- The Renaissance Age of Animation
- Retcon: G1 presented the Transformer origin as being created by a squid-robotic race called the Quintessons as slave labor. Most later incarnations, including G1 versions, have ignored that origin story in favor of the Primus-God version.
- Although it could be argued one does not preclude the other...
- Rhymes on a Dime: Wheelie and Blaster (though not as often as Wheelie).
- Robot Buddy: Reversal: the Transformers have human buddies.
- Robot War
- Running Gag: Optimus Prime has a terrible habit of dying to the point where it's not even considered a spoiler to say he does. Dirge and a few of the Seekers overall seem to share this trait.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Space travel varies depending on needs of the plot. Cybertron appears to sometimes be in the same solar system as Earth.
- Also, partly due to the Time Dissonance described below, the Transformers backstory typically has Optimus and Megatron chasing each other around the galaxy for literally millions of years before crash-landing on Earth.
- Serious Business: Beloved childhood toys, TV, and comics/manga ARE Serious Business. Even the newer materials.
- Series Continuity Error: Cybertron is sometimes a tiny planet with buildings jutting out into space in G1 to resembling Coruscant in the Beast Era and everything in between.)
- Show Accuracy, Toy Accuracy: Rather famous in the original toyline, as the repurposed toy molds were from stories of piloted (not sentient) mecha and transforming defense bases. Ratchet and Ironhide (repaints of each other) weren't even humanoid in their alternate forms. Even Beast Wars had to take some liberties with the character models as the toys would have to cheat to be workable with both modes. Because of the lead time necessary for the movie line compared to the actual movie many of the toys are based on earlier designs and not the final character design, although by the third film most every character had a reasonably screen-accurate toy. Transformers Animated was the first series to feature genuine cooperation between the character designers and the toy developers, resulted in extremely screen accurate toys.
- Sigil Spam: Nearly every incarnation of Transformers abuses the faction symbols to some degree.
- Signature Style: Simon Furman has a series of phrases that make their way into virtually every comic he writes, referred to as Furmanisms. The most famous is either "like some vast, predatory bird" or "It never ends!"
- Spiritual Successor: The Alternators line was an attempt at appealing to adult collectors by featuring licensed vehicles to scale with each other and with complex transformations that allotted actual interior space such as the seats, steering wheel and even an engine block. The line eventually died out because of pricing and character choices (many of the stand-by big sellers weren't in the appropriate scale range and reimagining Optimus Prime as a pick-up truck didn't boost sales that much). The Human Alliance line is angled towards the same principles but has been more successful, in part due to the movies backing up the toys significantly and the interactivity with human figures.
- Steampunk: The Hearts of Steel miniseries.
- Super Reflexes: Some characters have this power on their own, while others can acquire it through bonding with a partner (Headmasters, Powerlinx, etc.).
- Suspiciously Small Army: Does this in a big way. Even when fighting for the fate of the universe, or the very fabric of space and time, it's rare to see more than a few dozen fighters involved in any battle.
- Take That: The comics feature a lot of jabs against the mostly-forgotten competitor to the original, Challenge of the Go Bots.
- Tank Goodness: A bunch of Decepticons, Warpath (who's an Autobot), including some versions of Megatron.
- Telescoping Robot: Highly prevalent in G1, where the 30-foot tall Soundwave became a stereo, amongst plenty of other examples. Later installments avoid this for the most part, simply consenting to change size off camera. Not to be confused with the Cybertronians that turn into telescopes.)
- Third Option Adaptation: The fight between Megatron and Optimus Prime in the first movie.
- Time Dissonance: Transformers are immortal unless killed, and see time differently.
- Time Storm: What happens when you try to change history to too great a degree.
- Transforming Mecha: The entire concept.
- Truce Zone: Maccadam's Old Oil House in some stories.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The later seasons of Generation 1 and Energon are both obviously set in the near-future (G1 after The Movie is explicitly set in 2006). Cybertron, despite being explicitly set in the same continuity ten years after Energon, appears to be contemporary.
- Unusual Euphemism: The word 'slag' seems to be a Transformer equivalent to the human word 'shit/crap'. Transformers Animated has fun with this, featuring such gems as "You'll have to pry it from my cold, offline servo!"
- Verbal Tic: Beast Wars Megatron, "yeeeessss". And BAM! KAZOWIE! for Warpath. I am Wreck-Gar!
- Wasn't That Fun?: Lampshaded in an episode of the original G1 cartoon (Season 1's "Fire on the Mountain") -- Brawn has just survived a harrowing attack by the Decepticons, and quips something like, "Retreat? And miss all this fun...?" Windcharger retorts, "Remind me to talk about your definition of 'fun' some time."
- Welcome Titles: The openings tend to use this, except in the series that animate the Transformers in CGI.
- Wham! Episode: "Day Of The Machines", among others. Fully utilizes the Darkest Hour trope to its potential.
- World of Badass: Cybertron. Literally, as it is the god Primus in disguise.
- Writing Around Trademarks: Explained in further detail on the page, but to summarize, the need to avoid infringing on trademarks--and preserve Hasbro's own trademarks--has led to no end of trouble.
- Your Size May Vary: Alien robots that can transform into every conceivable mechanical/electrical item results in this, and happens often in comics and TV series (the live-action films at least tried to avert this with some limited success). Moreso if a Transformer has more than one alternate mode.
- This is mostly explained by having the Transformers having some sort of mass displacement technology.
- The irony did not go unnoticed.