Transformers: Generation 2 - The Best Of Transformers Toy Commercials
ExVee - Sunday, February 12, 2017
I'll admit I might be a little bit biased since I have what I'd call a greater than average love for G2, but even among the generally high quality of early Transformers toy commercials, G2's have always stood out in particular to me. Discovering that The Spacebridge, purveyors of rare and unusual supplemental Transformers material, had a compilation of these commercials on their Youtube channel gave me cause to revisit them - and share that with you. Said to be sourced from original tape masters, these are likely the highest quality we'll ever see these. Click through to see!
So, why are the G2 commercials so much more special? In truth, they don't particularly start out that way. They initially contain typical trappings of early 90's toy advertising: Basic action environments the toys get moved around through, at least one instance of a "city" comprised of ramps and loosely stacked cubes, and at some point the bizarre disclaimer that such environments were not available for purchase. Transformers G2 was not the only Hasbro property to state certain elements of the commercials were not products to buy during this timeframe, either.
The Spacebridge compilation omits the cartoon promo spots which would feature the signature Cybernet Spacecube, and so starts with the commercial for the Marvel comics. The original CG animation for this was adapted in to the intro sequence for the G2 cartoon itself. And of course visually the animation had nothing to do with either of those media.
Anyway, the toy commercials. There's a basic chronology here, where the commercials get more technically sophisticated as the product moves off of recolors of existing G1 toys and in to newly developed products. Starting out with Sideswipe, Inferno and Jazz vs Starscream and Ramjet, the commercials are quite basic, make use of a tiny bit of CG animation... and oddly pay no service to Sideswipe at all. Weird. The basic pattern carries on with the Constructicons and Dinobots, Optimus Prime, and even through the first all new designs, Megatron and the Color Changers. Besides some visual flourishes appropriate to the time, they look and feel mainly like regular old Transformers commercials. And if these were all G2 commercials were, they'd never stand out more substantially than, say, the Beast Wars commercials that would eventually follow.
But then you get to the second year, and oh boy does this go places. Starting with the combiner teams, the Aerialbots and Combaticons, and going through Rotor Force, the Laser Rods, the smaller, poseable "Combat" Optimus Prime and Megatron, and Dreadwing, you get the hallmarks that G2 toy commercials are known for.
That's not everything these had to offer. There was a lot more CG use, in ways where it tried to integrate with footage of real life environments. That may have been more of a double edge sword than anyone planned, but to its credit it did manage to somehow look a little less... primitive, let's say, than the prior year's full-CG environments. The modeling remained kind of rough in any case. At least one toy in each commercial was portrayed a little more as a character rather than just presented as products. It was a memorable approach in its own right.
But yes, it's mostly just the raps. And honestly, why wouldn't those be memorable? Onslaught WAS a meta-morphin' dudicus, and Dreadwing's cannon? That thing was absolutely 'illin'. You know it was a cool toy because its main action feature got described with a non-word-abbreviation with TWO apostrophes in it. You simply do not commit atrocities against grammar like that for just any old missile launching gimmick. Tell you what, too: the only reason I ever knew the names for the Laser Rod cars was because of the commercial. They sure didn't get spotlight enough in the comic to register that specifically. I may not have owned the toys, but I will always remember all four of their names, in the precise beat of that toy commercial rap.
Alas, eventually that style gave way, and the tail end of commercials for G2 featured the same products and footage with more standard narration. Sadly with that you lose gems like Peter Cullen's Optimus Prime saying "battle this!" as he punches Megatron in the face. Also sad is that the Cyberjets, my favorite of the various G2 product types, never even had a rap commercial aired. If one was never even produced, they would be the only TV advertised product from the second year of G2 to have gone without. In either revision though, the visual style of the toy presentation overhauled to no longer be the odd city/desert hybrid playscapes, now being vaguely "tech" environments of grey panels, with angled beams and such. But still occasional stacks of geometric shapes for the toys to smash through. All told that was probably better for keeping attention on the toys and not the scenery. Plus you got plenty of environment from the CG/live action combination openings of each commercial.
Finally, a special note for Dreadwing's commercial. It's the only one where the Decepticons are played as decisively winning a battle, as the end of both versions have the CG Dreadwing and Smokescreen smashing a pair of Laser Rods together. And as I believe one of them was Electro, the bright yellow explosion at the very end was probably his gold plastic violently disintegrating. It's sensible as Dreadwing was the big Decepticon toy for that product year. But even Megatron's commercial still ended on an uncertain moment, with Optimus and Megatron about to clash - but both looking basically equal. Dreadwing was indeed 'illin', and didn't even need to use his gatlin' gun.
But yes, G2 commercials are by far my favorite of the Transformers toy commercials. Despite starting out kind of unremarkable, they developed a very distinct personality, and a presentation style which, while hideously dated within just a few years, still stands out clearly. I can't say whether they were effective toy commercials. Given G2 ended early with a fair bit of product planned and unreleased, one is led to think they probably weren't. But then, the most enjoyable and popular commercials are often not all that good at selling their product. But they're fun to look back on once in a while!
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