The year 2008 will be remembered for a lot of things. It has certainly been a tumultuous year, with the financial markets in disarray and lots of political wrangling. For the Transformers universe, it has been a year that perhaps holds some of the best times for the franchise in quite awhile. It all started with the Animated series.
On January 5th, the long awaited Cartoon Network produced Transformers: Animated series begin airing season episodes. The series originally drew controversy for it's animation style. However, a lot of that concern seemed to melt away due to several things. First, the writers made efforts to please all fans from all continuum with heavy doses of tributes and references. Second, the show threw in a heavy dose of comedy, normally in the form of a human “super villain”. Finally, it brought back fan favorites from different series while making the whole package cohesive. These favorites included Dinobots from Generation 1, Blackarachnia from Beast Wars (who had a former identity of Elita-1, also from the G1 era), and Waspinator.
Their efforts seemed to have paid off, as the series gained the distinction of having the highest ratings among target audiences. As much of a success as the show was, it didn't immediately translate to the action figures. Due to an extended run of the 2007 movie merchandising, many had to wait until June 22nd for the official street release of the toys.
When the figures did appear on shelves, there was little to remain disappointed about. Armed with some of the best articulation and a high show appearance accuracy, the figures received overall good reviews. There was also a new class introduced: The Activators. With these figures, pressing a button while in their alt mode will result in a spring-loaded transformation into robot mode. These figures were more hit and miss, as certain ones managed not to translate as well.
As for the show itself, 2008 brought 2 seasons totaling 30 episodes to the table. The 3 episode pilot was released on DVD 1 week prior to the street release for the figures. Season one was released August 19th, with season 2 due to be released on the 1yr anniversary of the show's first regular season run. If the shows and the figures weren't enough, Hasbro handed out licenses to scores of other companies. This included clothing, backpacks, dinnerware, tents... well, this could go on for paragraphs. You get the idea.
Transformers the movie had 2 runs in 2007, with the original theater run and the IMAX showing. However, the movie carried it's news well into 2008. It was the best selling DVD movie of 2007. It grossed the 3rd highest figure for theater sales, only behind Shrek 3 and Spiderman 3. It was a winner of 4 Visual Effects Society Awards. Although nominated for 3 Oscars, it ended up being empty handed at the Academy Awards. Wrapping up on the film, there was some grumbling about the movie being released on the HD-DVD format. When Toshiba bowed out of the next-gen race and handed Sony's Blu-Ray technology the reins, the movie eventually became offered on that format as well. Released on September 2nd, the Blu-Ray version premiered as the highest selling DVD movie for the week, with 2 out of every 3 Transformers DVDs purchased being on Blu-Ray. It is currently listed as 8th best selling Blu-Ray title for 2008.
The movie figure offerings didn't slow for the first half of 2008, either. Premium figures began appearing at stores, with Allspark blue accents being added in, as well as new metallic based paint jobs. Target continued with their exclusive Scout class figure offerings, which were based off of repainted Cybertron figures. Target also offered a silver repaint of Starscream as a limited edition “Deep Space” variant. Walmart got into the act, offering 2 waves of Deluxe exclusives which were also based on the Cybertron line. Toys R Us, not to be outdone, offered Voyager and Ultra class repaints from Cybertron and Armada.
With the 2007 movie finally cooling down, the limelight began to shift to the sequel. Named “Revenge of the Fallen”, there were many rumors that floated around about the title, as well as the events of the 2nd movie. Some of these rumors, such as the debut of the Dinobots, were quickly debunked. Other rumors, such as Megatron's resurrection, now appear to be on the level. One rumor that continues to be debated is the premier of the Gestalt team, Devastator. Signs are pointing to the Constructicons appearing, although it is still unknown how they will be portrayed. There are anywhere from 5 to 9 members, with the majority of them purported to be drones. However, it does seem that they will all combine into one giant robot.
Filming began in June, with sites including Bethlehem PA and Princeton NJ. During these shoots, some more information was found. One of these tidbits was the sighting of what looks to be a Chevrolet Corvette concept car. General Motors, although in ill financial health, is once again contributing vehicles to the Transformers cause. Several models will be debuted on the movie, including the compact Trax and Beat models, as well as Chevrolet's much talked about Volt. Around this time, we also found out about Jetfire, who will assume the form of a SR-71 Blackbird.
Filming continued during the summer, with shoots at Edwards AFB in California during July and Long Beach CA the following month. An car chase/explosion scene was videotaped by nearby residents in Long Beach and quickly made their way to YouTube. Speaking of leaks, there has been several figure leaks in the last few weeks. The first was of Soundwave, who has the alt mode of either a satellite or a Cybertronian aircraft. Shortly afterwards, a total of 4 scout class figures were leaked. There has also been spy shots of Fast Action Battlers figures shown, including Megatron in his tank mode.
Originally talked about during BotCon 2007, the Universe line re debuted almost concurrently with the Animated line. As with the original Classics lineup, one of the first figures offered was a Triplechanger. As other figures appeared (or were repainted from previous lines), more Generation 1 references were made including Triggercons and Micromasters. In perhaps a tease to some older fans, former gestalt team leaders were released as Ultras, but now showing any hint of having their former combiner abilities. Exclusives continued to be a part of the Transformers way. K-Mart released a 12pk minicon set, wth Target offering several exclusives from the Cybertron lineup. Hasbro's online arm, HasbroToyShop.com, also got into the act with 4 special edition figures offered only on their website.
The Land of the Rising Sun was busy in 2008 as well, offering several lines not seen in the US. The first lineup was Henkei, which was a slightly modified Classics offering. The main difference was chrome applications on various parts. While some chrome parts were tasteful, some others left people wondering what was being thought. There were also some paint modifications with some of the figures. Universe figures have also been integrated into Henkei, with some offering more traditional G1 paint jobs. In some angst to US fans, Thrust and Dirge were released in limited edition. There was also a black Rodimus exclusive offered.
The Encore series continued it's run in 2008. Some of the larger figures were offered, including Sky Lynx, Metroplex and Omega Supreme. A set of the original minibots was also offered. Also continuing it's run was the Masterpiece line. This included a confirmed rumor started at BotCon 2007 of a Grimlock figure. The mold will be anime-faithful and will include the brain transfer device and waiter set, giving reference to the 3rd season.
BotCon was held in Cincinnati, OH for 2008. Utilizing Classics and Cybertron figures, TFCC offered a “Shattered Glass” theme, reversing the roles of the Autobots and Decepticons. These figures, also not talked about highly on the boards, nonetheless sold out in record time. For those who were fortunate enough to attend, they had an extra treat. The Animated figures were released to retailers in the immediate area, irking those in the rest of the country. For the SDCC, 2 exclusives were offered. The Titanium series was rekindled with a War Within Skywarp repaint, and Classics Voyager Optimus Prime was repainted into Nemesis Prime.
The TFCC managed to offer several new figures for 2008. The first was the long anticipated G1 Seacons set. This set included the original 6 members of the Seacons, who can combine to form Piranacon. Energon Hot Shot was repainted and release as Nightbeat, although not a Headmaster. For the annual membership figure,Topspin was featured. This was a repaint of the Energon Blackout figure used to form Bruticus Maximus. The TFCC also offered the Transtech comic line. This covered the period after Machine Wars.
Toys R Us managed to resurrect the Titanium line for 2 more 6” offerings. War Within Prowl and War Within Grimlock were released in September and were 2 original molds originally intended for mass released before the line was truncated. As of now, there are no further plans to release future Titanium figures.
IDW continued to impress comic readers with their offerings. One of their offerings was a filler looking at events after the 2007 movie entitled “Reign of Starscream”. “Revelations” managed to close the 4 series run of the G1 story by offering 4 Spotlights that tied all the events together. The Marvel UK G1 series also continued into this year with releases of “Space Pirates” and “Time Wars”. Transformers: Animated also got it's own treatment by IDW, offering tie ins and story lines not seen in the TV series. “All Hail Megatron” has managed to get the most publicity. This arc looks at how Earth might have been affected had the Autobots not landed on Earth with the Decepticons. The series will continue into 2009. The UK publisher Titan was also busy offering the Transformers magazine, with it's own twist on the 2007 movie events.
So what does 2009 hold for the Transformers universe? One of the very first things will be the release of Animated's 2nd season on DVD. As the 3rd season of Animated debuts sometime in the spring, more original figures will trickle into stores. Wreck-Gar and the Constructicons Scrapper and Mixmaster are amongst the upcoming offerings. There will also be new characters showing up, including Blackout, Spittor, Rodimus and Stryka.
Revenge of the Fallen is on track for a June 2009 release to theatres. Taking a cue from the blockbuster hit The Dark Knight, RotF will simultaneously debut on traditional screens and IMAX screens. As of yet, there is no definitive date to view the first trailer.
The 25th Anniversary line will run on the Universe banner. Already, several figures have been released, including Targetmaster Cyclonus and G1 Hound w/Ravage. There will be numerous other references included in the 25th line, including Hot Shot from Armada, Dinobot from Beast Wars and Vector Prime from Cybertron. Superion Maximus and Bruticus Maximus will also have a showing as repaints in the 25th line.
Takara will be busy as well. The Alternity line will debut in 2009, depicting Optimus and Megatron as 1/34 scale Nissan GT-Rs. There will, of course, also be the MP-08 Grimlock figure. Henkei will prod on offering more revisions of Universe and Classics figures.
Finally, BotCon 2009 has been announced as being held in Pasadena CA from May 28th to 31st. The theme has not been announced yet, and there has been no word on which figures will be offered. Venue and hotel information is noted on the site as “being released in a few days” as of this writing.
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