The Transformers: The Movie (1986) - Why did it bomb?

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by Leadfoot, Feb 4, 2011.

  1. Leadfoot

    Leadfoot The Strongest.

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    I was only six at the time this movie came out, and it was not released in my area. So I never had a chance to see it in the theater, but in the few video rental stores that actually had the VHS, I did spend a lot of money subsequently renting it and obsessively watching it. My experience with it was primarily watching the movie at home on VHS with my dad shortly after its release, then for a number of years its legend grew exponentially in my mind as the franchise dwindled and I was unable to find a copy for purchase and most rental store copies were one by one stolen by other customers.

    Finally in the beginning of the DVD era I scored one of the early prints and it mostly lived up to how I remembered it. Quality animation, great dialog. I've since bought the 25th anniversary edition.

    One of the things that's always stuck in my craw (well, since learning of it anyway) was the fact that the movie bombed in its theatrical release. Everyone pretty much agrees that the changes it made in storyline led to the eventual deminse of the cartoon series, but that's a seperate issue; one would think that a series of its popularity at the time would at least do modestly well in theaters, especially considering how much universal love it gets from the fandom who were kids at the time of its release.

    Does anyone know what happened? Why did the studio or distribution company, or whomever it was, fail to support the movie enough to widen its release? Or did it perform poorly even in the limited areas in which it was released? Was it a victim of insufficient advertising and publicity? Or were parents just too sick of Transformers to drag their kids in to see it? Did it get bad word of mouth due to Optimus' death?

    Anyone?
     
  2. Nightrain

    Nightrain Senior Villain

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    I wasn't even aware of it until it went to TV.
     
  3. Lock Cade

    Lock Cade Tarn Fangirl TFW2005 Supporter

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    I think the main reason that the '86 movie didn't do well in theaters was because of Optimus Prime's death in the movie that made a lot of kids upset.
     
  4. MrByatis

    MrByatis Questioning Rumble

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    From what I've read, one reason was because it wasn't shown in many theaters
     
  5. Chopperface

    Chopperface Holtzmanned

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    Probably word of mouth about Prime and most of the old cast dying stopped a ton of parents taking their kids... especially the stories of traumatized kids. Bambi's mom didn't have nothing on that. Otherwise, it probably would've been more succesful, seeing as how big Transformers was.
     
  6. Inikalord

    Inikalord Legal Binding Contracts

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    I can think of 2 reasons

    1. The death of many rememberable characters (Prime, Megs, Scream etc)

    2. Most, if not all of the critics who reviewed Transformers were not familiar with the Transformers franchise and probably never watched a single episode. Remember, this film was for the kids and not for first-timers getting into Transformers.
     
  7. Nevermore

    Nevermore It's self-perpetuating a parahumanoidarianised!

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    Reviews were also pretty devastating.

    Some of the standard points of criticism:

    a) It took the established characters for granted. It didn't try to introduce them to the average moviegoer who never saw the cartoon, they were just treated as if the viewer was supposed to know who everyone was, thus alienating everyone who wasn't a fan already.

    b) Then the established characters were brutally killed off and replaced by random "nobodies", thus alienating the fans.

    c) Unicron is a plot device without an explained origin (don't anyone dare mention "Call of the Primitives", which didn't air until months LATER) and equally unexplained motives. He simply exists and is evil.

    d) The only thing that can stop Unicron is ANOTHER plot device whose origin is equally unexplained. So basically there's "evil guy X who is evil because he's evil, and the only thing that can stop him is magic mcguffin Y".

    e) The Quintessons. MORE evil guys whose intentions are never explained. Woo hoo!

    e) The whole plot is a rehash of a standard "good vs. evil" plot, going back to the legend of King Arthur, with little variation.

    f) All the similarities with Star Wars. Hot Rod = Luke Skywalker, Springer = Han Solo, Arcee = Leia, Unicron = Death Star...
     
  8. Megatronwp38

    Megatronwp38 Megatron? Is that you!?!?

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    I saw it in theaters when I was a kid and I remember talking about it with my friends at lunch the next monday.
     
  9. Aernaroth

    Aernaroth <b><font color=blue>I voted for Super_Megatron and Veteran

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    Im pretty sure it had a really crappy marketing campaign, and was pretty much expected to survive on the renown of the brand. Also, the PG rating may have scared some parents away and limited audiences.
     
  10. D-Unit

    D-Unit #1 Heel

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    They really didn't market it that well, the commercials were sporadic, and didn't reveal much about it other than saying "Does Prime die?" As otehrs have stated, the death of Prime turned a lot of people off, and it wasn't shown in many theatres. That being said, I saw it twice in the theatre, but I guess my efforts to support it were futile.
     
  11. Rodr-Evil

    Rodr-Evil Lucifer's children TFW2005 Supporter

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    I saw it in theaters when I was a kid too, with my grandpa, great memories. I love the fucking movie to death! I want a copy in my coffin!!
     
  12. Moonscream

    Moonscream YES, We EXIST!

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    Because crying, screaming children clutching their favorite toys that were just violently offed does not make good press. Neither do the angry moms.

    And it just wasn't a great film. It could have been, but for the severe miscalculation of treating the original characters (not just Prime) like they didn't matter to anyone, and the big fight that fans wanted to see occurring only 20 minutes in. If there had been a long buildup to that fight as the climax or near the climax, then the non-fans might have also gotten a chance to know the characters and thus also care.

    --Moony
     
  13. D-Unit

    D-Unit #1 Heel

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    ^ Here here. I saw it once with my dad and once with my grandfather. Both laughed when Spike said "shit"
     
  14. Voiceroy

    Voiceroy Trans-fo-mahs!

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    Question: Why did Transformers: The Movie bomb?

    (a) poor marketing effort
    (b) limited theatrical release
    (c) limited appeal
    (d) PG rating
    (e) controversy over content (Prime's death, lots of violence)
    (f) bad reviews
    (h) bad timing (other films released between July-August 1986 included Aliens, Stand By Me, The Fly, Friday the 13th Part VI, Flight of the Navigator, and The Great Mouse Detective)
    (i) all of the above.

    Hint: The answer is (i).
     
  15. GBglide

    GBglide Furst Fanatic

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    It was poorly advertised. I saw it in a theater, but most of my friends didn't even know it existed, then "The Five Face of Darkness" came on TV and people started asking me "why is the show different"?
     
  16. The_Black_Sheep

    The_Black_Sheep Willyna...

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    You've summed it up right there. Let's face it - The TF Movie was not gonna draw the adult market so therefore the target audience was exclusively kids. & what type of "kids" movie was it? It was jam-packed full of death scenes. No wonder it failed. Just look at some of the "kids" movies of today - Toy Story, Shrek, one Disney movie after another (each with virtually identical scripts). & how many of those "kids" movies have violent, gruesome deaths in them? None.

    No wonder the TF movie bombed... *shakes head*
     
  17. revlimiter

    revlimiter Bot Hacker

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    I seem to remember it being marketed as "in theaters for 2 weeks only!!!" I remember this because I was going on vacation when it came out and desperately wanted to see it. My dad had to take me to a theater in Texas so I could see what happened.

    Am I imagining that 2 week release?
     
  18. sto_vo_kor_2000

    sto_vo_kor_2000 Banned

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    I think this was a major hit to the film.

    A kids cartoon movie with out a G rating was pretty much unheard of back in the 80's.
     
  19. Pravus Prime

    Pravus Prime Sorcerer

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    Largely this. It bombed mostly because of issues other then what fans critique it for.

    Animated movies at the time were pretty much the Disney G fanfare, which meant that most theatres showing a G film would stop showing it after about 3 PM. In order to get around that and hopefully entice college students to go to it was why there was the profanity. That knocked it up to PG, which got it shown later in the day (more screenings, more $$). That, along with big name voice actors and advertising it as a rock and roll based movie was what they hoped would get older kids to see the film.

    Unfortunately things didn't go their way. For starters every film critic panned the movie, 99.9% of them knew absolutely nothing about Transformers so they didn't know what the hell was going on and weren't roped in by any of it. Furthermore the PG rating worked against them as most parents were warned about the profanity in the reviews.

    Then you had timing, the biggest film of the year, the mega-blockbuster Aliens was very fresh in the theatres and that was the movie college kids flocked too. Going off memory Aliens was in week three or four, so word of mouth was really kicking off Aliens big successful run.

    That's if you could find a theatre showing the movie. A PG cartoon movie wasn't at the top of most theatres must show list; it meant it had to be shown later in the day and why take a chance on a cartoon movie when you could instead bring in new live action movies that are getting major advertisement dollars spent on them?

    While members of the fan club at the time got promos for the movie, it wasn't pushed very hard in other media; most of the promotions was essentially preaching to the choir.

    Then in later run, stories about traumatized children (including a boy who locked himself in his room for a whole week to mourn the loss of Prime) further disinclined parents to take their children to see the movie.

    In essence they tried to get older kids to see the movie and it failed causing the movie to bomb.
     
  20. Feralstorm

    Feralstorm I ship Nick & Judy TFW2005 Supporter

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    I remember it said some time ago that the PG rating was a marketing decision, with the intent of bringing parents in to see the film with their kids, right there when the kid points at the screen and says "I want a toy of that!", or at least so they would have some idea what the child is talking about when they say they want Rodimus Prime or Scourge or whoever.

    If that's correct, it's an idea that backfired badly. Come to think of it, while I went to see the movie in a theater as a younger me, I was with a friend the same age, and my parents were not in that theater.
     

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