2017 was a year. It occupied 12 pages of a traditional calendar, or even more if you had a weekly or even one of those fancy-learnin' word-a-day calendars! And during that year, things relating to the Transformers happened. Some more positive than others, or more fondly looked back on. Not everything was a winner, after all. Thus, I'll memorialize the year that was with some of my best remembered times in Transformers - in no particular order since I'm bad at chronology sometimes as well as weighing priority of a memory over others. I am literally the best at lists.
I'll start with an honorable mention of something that definitely didn't happen last year. We most assuredly did not see leaked internal presentation slides that outlined most or all of the upcoming iteration of Transformers Generations so far in advance that most of it was represented by Google Image Search-derived placeholder assets. In what might have been the most damaging and infamous leak of all time if it had actually happened, all of the surprise we could realistically expect to be fed out as far as Toy Fair 2018 was just laid right out in front of us. This would not have been the first year that we were denied the chance to have any officially planned first reveals because someone either wanted to put some attention on themselves, or was acting in a misguided sense of community service by cluing everyone in right away. Whatever the reasoning, the originator has already been forgotten, probably even before all of the evidence was ordered stricken from the internet by Hasbro. That is, if this event had taken place, which I am obligated to assure you that it did not.
• Transformers The Last Knight Underperforms
This was not anything we didn't already expect going in. Paramount undertook a huge marketing campaign across different levels for this movie, even inviting the fan media out a couple times to see different facets of production as they were happening. But the writing was kind of on the wall, because a lot of major websites were putting it there with expectations of failure and franchise fatigue that they were none-too-shy about sharing with their readership. When the day came, The Last Knight had about the lowest opening weekend in the US for the series, and it didn't get better going forward. The final domestic box office take was not even enough to cover the production budget of the movie - and as we've come to consider since, maybe not even the cost of the marketing campaign. This might not have been a major issue, except that the Chinese box office which was hoped by many to be what would carry the financial performance ended up similarly bombing out - though at least to a higher number than the US showings. Worldwide, the movie surely covered its costs and probably made some profit, but it was far from the monetary event anyone involved hoped for, especially after Paramount had already been dealing with a rough time of its last handful of releases falling short of expectations. Little wonder then that Bumblebee The Movie featuring John Cena has a substantially smaller production budget, a sizeable chunk of which was furnished by the state of California in exchange for doing all filming there. May you profit greater, young Bee.
• Masterpiece Dinobot Costs HOW Much?!
Though fairly recent, this moment is one that may continue to stand out for those who were there to experience it in progress. Masterpiece Dinobot was known for several months to be in the works by TakaraTomy, though we went quite a while between being given glimpses of it prior to its full debut. One of the interim events was the leak of a retailer order sheet listing that for the first time included a price: ¥28,000. That made it the single most expensive regular retail Masterpiece release at that time, and was more than some people could accept or even comprehend. One desperately popular theory that briefly floated around held that the price was the retailer's cost for a shipping carton of MP Dinobot, and that it would only be a fraction of the cited ~$250 equivalent price. This would, of course, be proven false, with the official reveal showing that the cost was thanks largely to the crazy engineering needed to make Dinobot's patently magic TV show transformation remotely reproducible in an actual physical product. But that still didn't stop a fair few folks from proclaiming that they would just wait for the knockoff instead.
• Street Fighter II x Transformers
In all honesty, Street Fighter is not something that holds much special personal meaning for me like I know it does for others, and so this moment stands for me more in its merits as something patently crazy rather than because it fuses two franchises of consequence to me. But come on, who would ever have expected that we would get from an official release a mashup seeing several Transformers character molds decoed to reflect prominent Street Fighter characters? This is the kind of thing someone would make up just to say something as dumb as possible and see who'd buy it. Except it's for real and, if you live in Japan, you could order it direct from TakaraTomy for delivery around the summer of 2018. All at once it feels like this is too crazy to really exist, but I still want to see them announce wave 2 just to find out what characters they'll map on to what range of molds!
• Machinima Announces New Celebrity Casting For Titans Return
Seemingly bolstered by ...someone? asserting Combiner Wars was somehow analogous to Game of Thrones, but with robots or something, Machinima led their publicity push for the Titans Return web series by playing up their new cast list, featuring besides some returning names from Combiner Wars, "celebrity" actors! Like Michael Dorn. Or Wil Wheaton. Or Jason David Frank, of all people. Topping this though was the reveal that Jon Bailey who had done a very solid performance as Optimus Prime in the first web series was being replaced by Peter Cullen this time around. At least the (several time) ex-Power Ranger and the Star Trek alumni were voicing new parts. And from what little I've seen, Wil Wheaton actually is pretty decent as Perceptor, so even if it was gimmick casting, that part seems to have paid off okay. JDF is completely unremarkable in every way, and Dorn is kind of just Michael Dorn talking but not bringing anything else to his role. Oh, and speaking of that, Judd Nelson was here too. Outside of Wheaton, for as much as they leaned in to this aspect, it does not feel like getting recognizable names served the final product at all (there's a shock) and in at least one case specifically took away from a more than capable member of the previous casting. Maybe this money could have been better spent on improving the scripts, or tightening up some of the animation, or even some better quality directing in the voice booth. You know, things that might actually tangibly improve the quality of the show and make everything better instead of just trying to stir up some brief buzz because they cast Wesley Crusher.
• The Best Toy In The Last Knight Premier Edition Is The Hardest To Get
I'm talking about Cogman, by the way. Cogman was generally a hit in the movie (him and Nitro Zeus) and when we got to see Cogman's toy, it followed suit in catching a lot of interest. Not in any small regard due to the Titan Master cross-play feature. But crikey did circumstance conspire against this toy and everyone who wanted one. It was relegated to wave 4 of The Premier Edition, and as we would learn later was the sole new mold to feature in that Deluxe assortment. However, abysmal product performance and distribution of The Last Knight's toyline overall means that even today in the early part of January 2018, a lot of places have barely seen wave 3 at all. This is a big problem in the US, though the severity differs elsewhere in the Hasbro-served world. But seeing Cogman at major retail remains something of a pipedream. But then there's TakaraTomy, with fixed release dates and preorders in advance to make everything super easy. Sure, you'll pay $30-ish when all is said and done, but if the SRP from Hasbro is $19.99, it's not so bad, right? So we thought, until TakaraTomy one day very politely informed everyone that their release of Cogman had been delayed. Indefinitely. Somehow fate, the universe, and the very fabric of existence itself had conspired to deprive the world at large of access to Cogman. By then the only recourse was mildly shady sources from China which would cost at least as much as the Takara release, but by now a lot of people were too scared to worry about the price. Of course eventually TakaraTomy's Cogman got rescheduled and presumably everyone who kept their preorder finally were able to get one. But here in the US we're still waiting for any actual retail appearance of that toy.
• HasCon, Will Travel (Oh Yeah, That's SUPER Original)
Finally on this little trip down memory lane, we come to the very first HasCon, the Hasbro brand-enthusiast event for "Fanmilies". The build up to this felt a lot like Botcons of the last several years with important details being left in the air until uncomfortably close to the event date. While this was designed to hit a wide cross section of the things Hasbro offers, naturally we in the Transformers fandom were left wondering what was actually going to be there to draw and represent us. This uncertainty probably led to a lot of fans opting out of the event, and there were real concerns from the outsider's perspective of if the show would have any real traction. The opening day by many accounts seemed a little bit rough in some respects, but that's not the story here. The second day? Saturday? Kids everywhere thanks to families doing walk-in admission for the day (and maybe some coming back for a second visit Sunday, too!) and having a great time with the varied brands, activities, and displays geared with the younger demographic in mind. In this regard, by all solid accounts the show was quite successful. It looks like Hasbro got what they wanted out of it overall too, as they announced the second show not very long after - albeit it with a year off in between. But we can imagine HasCon 2019 will probably be an even greater show, even on the opening day thanks to everything they had a chance to learn from this past year.
I could of course go on for quite some time on the things that stood out to me, good and bad from the last year. Especially if you let me just dive deep on the toy end of things. But these are some of the more stand-out events that made up my 2017 in Transformers. There's even more generalized things in there, like the run of Till All Are One, and more personal accomplishments like significantly improving my photography compared to this time last year. Seriously, check out something like Krok versus ...anything in the last few months. RID Twinferno is a good example just to name one. Overall it was a year of ups and downs, but good or bad, all the experiences were certainly... interesting. I can hardly imagine what will make my list for 2018. See you back here next year, and we'll find out together!
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