Good evening, and welcome to that section of Labville where I -- along with 40% of the blogosphere -- talk about Transformers. First, though, I'd like to clarify something. It's been sixteen years since I bought one. I kept none of them. I don't have any of the cartoons on DVD, and I haven't imported any of the Japanese versions.
I can, however, recite the names, forms, and personalities of all twenty-eight original Transformers from memory. I don't try to remember -- I've just never forgotten. When I was nine years old, I knew the Transformers Universe better than I knew my own.
When I was ten, the movie was released. I didn't know a single thing about it, save that I must go. On the opening weekend, right up until the theatre lights dimmed, my brother and I must have been vibrating at least a centimetre above our seats.
The first eight minutes were phenomenal. Battles like we had never imagined them, armoured giants shaking the earth with every blow. This was our mythology, writ large and brought to life. Then, in the next eight minutes, they killed off almost every last one of those original twenty-eight.
My jaw was on the floor in astonishment. There was only one thing I could do -- leave. I took my brother by the arm, and ran outside. Since neither of us had a quarter for the phone, we just waited in the mall for another hour, at which point our parents picked us up, right on schedule. My brother was a little peeved by my decision, but I couldn't bear to see all my childhood heroes turned to ash and flames.
My love for the toys didn't die, but I did learn something from the experience. You see, all the Transformers that survived the movie were part of the latest lineup. My old favourites had been killed off, simply to make room for the new product. That's a sobering thought for a young boy, which is why I've also always remembered that movies as my first lesson in marketing.
And now, twenty-one years later, there's a brand-new Transformers movie hitting the theatres. I don't know what the death toll will be, but I do know that all the robots have been redesigned to look "more modern". There's another reason they were redesigned, though... take a look.
Ironhide: was a Nissan Vanette/Datsun C20, is now a GMC TopKick.
Ratchet: was also a Nissan Vanette/Datsun C20, is now a Hummer H2.
Bumblebee: was a Volkswagen Beetle, is now a Chevrolet Corvette.
Jazz: was a Porsche 935 Turbo, is now a Pontiac Solstice.
Notice a trend there? Check the URLs, and see if you can spot a similarity.
Optimus Prime seems to have broken the trend -- he transforms into a Peterbilt truck. But wait! He used to transform into a Freightliner, a company now owned by Daimler-Chrysler. Apparently, that didn't sit well with the financiers.
They're not just putting the right bottle of vodka in the background this time. These are decisions that literally define who the heroes are. That's a lot of power to give to the sponsors, and I'm not pleased to see to my old childhood friends answering for it.
On the bright side, it seems like a whole new generation is about to learn the same lesson I did.