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10 Weirdest Facts About The Transformers

by Chris Jenkins
fact checked by Jamie Frater
Featured photo credit: Hasbro/DreamWorks/Paramount

The core idea of the Transformers is pretty basic: robots who can turn to cars, trucks, and planes. However, writers have had to stitch that neat concept into decades of Transformers stories, and some of them are just plain bizarre.

10Widespread Death

The death of Optimus Prime

Transformers is often rightfully accused of being a show simply designed to sell toys. By the time Transformers: The Animated Movie came out, the filmmakers, in conjunction with the toymakers, had a simple problem: How could they sell new toys and new characters to kids who already had their own favorites? The answer was simple: Kill a ton of robots and traumatize children into buying something new.

While it’s simple enough to fill a Transformers movie with gruesome deaths of nameless characters, Slate notes that the movie kills over a dozen notable characters from the cartoon series. These deaths include the wheedling Starscream, who was turned to ashes by Galvatron. Most unforgettably, though, was the death of Autobot leader Optimus Prime, whose quiet death inside an Autobot hospital helped kids relive the deaths of their loved ones as they watched their cartoon best friend die. That’s the kind of trauma that the new Rodimus Prime figure just couldn’t cure.

9Orson Welles’s Last Movie

2- Unicron

Photo credit: Hasbro

Transformers: The Animated Movie boasted an interesting celebrity cast, ranging from Judd Nelson as Hot Rod to Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron. However, none of the casting is more surprising and bizarre than Hollywood legend Orson Welles playing the part of the planet-eating Unicron. This was, after all, the man who brought the world Citizen Kane back in 1941 and, in his own words to biographer Barbara Leaming, he spent his afternoons “playing a toy.”

Given his modest contempt for the role—taken so that he could finance projects better suited to his status as a legend—it is particularly tragic that this role ended up being the last one that Welles ever played. The movie earned only $6 million and served as a strange and cartoonish coda to a Hollywood career that spanned four and a half decades. Welles died of a heart attack in October 1985.

8Optimus Prime Was Once A Jesus-Like Zombie

3- dark awakening

Photo credit: Hasbro

For young Transformers fans, one of the most difficult things to watch was the death of Optimus Prime in the animated movie. He died a hero, fighting off Megatron and the Decepticons before succumbing to his wounds. However, Hasbro wasn’t done twisting the knife, and when fans next see Optimus Prime, he is one part robot, one part Jesus, and entirely a weird zombie.

In the animated episode “Dark Awakening,” the Autobots find a spaceship tomb for fallen warriors. Their annoying human sidekick Daniel finds the body of Optimus Prime and tries to bring others to come see it, but all they find is an empty tomb. Yes, Optimus is risen, arriving just in time to drive off a Decepticon attack. However, it’s soon revealed that Prime is being controlled by the bad guys, the Quintessons.

Over the course of the episode, young fans get to watch Prime try to kill all of his friends, get his arm torn off, and get half of his face busted and scarred like a robotic Two Face. Thankfully, the original Prime personality asserts itself at the end . . . and Prime promptly suicide bombs his Quintesson tormentors, dying for a second time in front of a horrified child audience.

7The Transformers Fail To Save Humanity

4- vok

Photo credit: Hasbro

For better or for worse, one of the common threads linking Transformers cartoons, movies, and comics is the dedication of the Autobots to save the Earth. Many assumed that the Transformers’ biggest failure on this front was shown in the 2011 film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, in which a Decepticon attack on Chicago is made to resemble the horrifying grandeur of the September 11 terrorist attacks. However, a decade before that movie, small-screen Transformers writers confirmed that humanity eventually gets wiped out.

The CGI cartoon Beast Wars was one of the odder entries in the Transformers franchise. It involved robots transforming into animals instead of vehicles, and stories took place in the prehistoric past as well as the future. One of the weirder foes of the series were the Vok, who were descended from a freaky form of life called the Swarm. At the end of the short-lived Transformers: Generation 2 comic, the Swarm descend upon San Francisco, doing what they do best: consuming life. The writer of this comic, Larry DiTillio, morbidly imagined that this would lead to the death of all human life on Earth, and he incorporated that into Transformers canon via Beast Wars. This is his explanation for why future Earth is devoid of all human life.

6Transformers Can Asexually Reproduce

6- cybertronians

Photo credit: Hasbro

Perhaps the only thing weirder than the extinction-causing Swarm is where they come from: Transformer babies. One of the things that Transformers fans have often been curious about is how, exactly, Transformer reproduction works. Transformers seem to be gendered—they are mostly male with the occasional female, such as Arcee. But it seems dubious that they have any real sexual identification. Put another way: Arcee has a peppier paint job and a higher-pitched voice box, but she otherwise has all of the same parts that Optimus Prime does.

Where, then, do Transformer babies come from? One of the common elements of Transformers media is that, more often than not, it is not enough to just build a new robot. To be brought to life, life must be breathed into that robot from a god-like power source. This is also what gives the robot its personality, whether it is that of a noble protector like Optimus Prime or a reviled conqueror like Megatron. However, conquerors need armies, so in the Marvel comics continuity, self-described Cybertronians revealed a process called “budding” in which they can create new versions of themselves.

These versions are made without the divine spark, so compared to their more animated cousins, they’re cold and emotionless. The Cybertronians budded for millennia to grow their army, but the budding process eventually created the humanity-exterminating Swarm. These hungry pests are actually hungry for Transformer souls, but they’re happy to eat the crunchy outside first.

5The Autobots Let The Galaxy Get Conquered

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Photo credit: Hasbro

Those same Cybertronians from Marvel’s Transformers: Generation 2 comic dropped another bombshell on the Autobots. After Optimus Prime, Megatron, and their whole sick crew were lost aboard the Great Ark that would eventually bring them to Earth, the Decepticons back on Cybertron discovered budding and created a mighty army to replace the troops they had lost. With a clinically detached, soulless army at their back, these Decepticons went out and conquered huge chunks of the galaxy, wiping out entire planetary populations so that they could “cyberform” the natives’ planets to better suit their own needs.

This naturally comes as a morale blow to Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots. While they have been spending years fighting over the Earth and defending the human race, they let countless other civilizations be destroyed by their enemies. Interestingly, these Cybertronians were not great fans of the Decepticons we know, either. The emotionless Cybertronians calculate their planet-wide exterminations as a necessary part of the greater good, and Megatron and his ilk just get too much sadistic pleasure out of killing for the tastes of the Cybertronians, despite Megatron’s relatively tame body count in any comic or cartoon other than the animated movie.

4The Transformers Have A Version Of The Holy Trinity

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Photo credit: Hasbro

Any fan of the Transformers animated movie knows about Unicron. As presented in the movie, he seems to be the Transformer version of Galactus, eating planets and generally menacing the galaxy. And veterans of the original cartoon are familiar with Transformer pseudo-god Primus, who is responsible for breathing life into these robots. However, many aren’t familiar with the bizarre way the Transformers comics tie these two together: In the comics mythology, the original Transformers god was simply known as “The One.” This god made Unicron first, and then split him in half to create Primus.

Despite their similar origin, these guys are in total opposition: It is Primus’s job to bring life to the universe and Unicron’s job to destroy it. Apparently, the great Transformer god is okay with the billions (if not trillions) of lives consumed by Unicron because the hungry robot helps to maintain the balance between order and chaos in the galaxy.

3The Transformers Nearly Ruined History

Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Starscream Explains Everything

Given the usual Decepticon modus operandi, you might think that traveling to the Middle Ages of Earth would give them a unique opportunity to better change history to their favor. Fortunately for future humans, when some Decepticons are sent back in time, they are led by Starscream, whose primary goal seems to be getting some land in his own name. In order to accomplish his real estate scheme, he decides to help some knights fight their enemies, even going so far as to enter a jousting tournament.

When the Autobots foil this, Starscream has to get creative. He takes over a castle, creates an electrical generator, and gathers as much bird poop as he can to create gunpowder. This insane plan nearly works, and the weakened Autobots would have been defeated if not for the timely intervention of a wizard. This magical wizard restores the Autobots to their normal strength, leads them back to the cave that had transported them through time, and drives away a dragon guarding the cave. Autobots and Decepticons alike return to the future, where Megatron is waiting to blow away the Autobots. Fortunately for them, Starscream’s travels through time activated his latent father issues, and he hugs Megatron so fiercely that all the Decepticon leader’s shots miss.

2Seaspray Becomes A Mermaid And Falls In Love

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Photo credit: Hasbro

Even with all the insane Transformers cartoon moments, it is tough to top the episode “Sea Change.” It starts out as a fairly standard Transformers adventure, with the Autobots Bumblebee, Perceptor, and Seaspray heading to an alien planet because of a distress call they received. The Autobots arrive just in time to save one of the natives from a Decepticon attack, and that’s when things start to get weird.

Seaspray seems instantly smitten with the native Alana, and she shows him the Well of Transformation, which is capable of dissolving an old body and reshaping it into a new form. When Decepticon hijinks ensue, Seaspray drives through the Well and is transformed into a mermaid. He is not a robot mermaid, but instead an Aquaman-like human who inexplicably still has mechanical feet. The magical well also transforms Alana into a mermaid, and during some weirder-than-usual Decepticon battles, the Well’s power helps Seaspray transform back into a robot and turns Alana into a pink Transformer.

The good guys win in the end, of course, but Alana is back to being humanoid and Seaspray is back to being a robot. They vow to make the relationship work, even though it likely involves many embarrassing trips to the doctor’s office for Alana. Then, they literally sail into the setting sun.

1Starscream Just Won’t Die

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Photo credit: Hasbro/DreamWorks/Paramount

One of the more shocking deaths in Transformers: The Animated Movie was Starscream’s death. While other Generation 1 robots were killed with little fanfare, Starscream was blown away by former-Megatron-turned-Galvatron right as Starscream was being crowned the ruler of the Decepticons. Shocking as this was, most viewers assumed that Starscream was dead for good.

This was not the case. In a later episode, appropriately entitled “Starscream’s Ghost,” the Decepticon was revealed to have survived as a vengeful spirit capable of taking over others. He continues body-hopping after being driven out of the body of Cyclonus, going on to infect the robot Scourge. Later, he uses Scourge to seemingly bring Unicron back to life, but double-crosses the giant Transformer as soon as Unicron has given Starscream a new body. Some Autobot explosives then send both the head of Unicron and Starscream into the depths of space—where, presumably, everyone will still be able to hear his annoying scream.

Tell Chris the Go-Bots were cooler @PocketEpiphany.

fact checked by Jamie Frater