After President Ronald Reagan de-regulated children’s programming in the 1980s, it opened up a world of cartoons based on toys for kids where the cartoons would, in effect, serve as viral marketing for the toys. G.I. Joe: The Real American Hero was the first major success in this field, leading to a number of other properties to try to copy the success that the action figure line had.
With Hasbro’s Transformers, the cartoon series (and the Marvel comic book series on which the cartoon series was based) had to do a tremendous amount of work to make the Transformers line of toys make coherent sense, since the whole concept of the line was that Hasbro merged a bunch of different Japanese transforming robot toy lines into one big toy line. So the toys were inherently all over the place in design and the cartoon show had to make sense of it all. With such a difficult task, the show’s writers would sometimes try to work in some odd and inappropriate moments along the way. Here, then, are 15 times that Transformers cartoons (including Beast Wars: Transformers and Transformers: Prime) snuck things by the censors.
15. THE LOVE THAT CANNOT BE NAMED
First off, when you name your episode, “The Girl Who Loved Powerglide,” you’re probably already admitting that you’re having some fun. Come on, that title sounds like it is the name of a different kind of “film.” However, the episode itself was possibly even odder, as the Autobot known as Powerglide finds himself the de facto protector of a rich young woman who ended up as the CEO of her father’s corporation and in possession of a formula that the Decepticons want to get their hands on.
In the end, Powerglide and the young woman, Astoria Carlton-Ritz, end up falling in love which, of course, makes no sense as she is a human and he is a giant robot that transforms into a plane. At the end of the episode, he opens up his circuit board and shows that it is in the shape of a heart.
14. GIANT ROBOT THERAPY
For a TV series that was aimed at children, the Season 3 episode of The Transformers, “Web World,” is a bizarrely adult examination of psychotherapy. Cyclonus tricks Galvatron (who is a transformed Megatron) into getting some help with his madness. Galvatron ends up on Torkulon, a planet designed to serve people (or sentient robots, apparently) with severe mental health problems.
The aliens on the planet engage with Galvatron in variations on word associations and role-playing before, ultimately, they decided to lobotomize him, since his madness is just too far gone. In the end, though, Galvatron is too strong for them and razes their planet, allowing their former patients to run amok. The concepts on the episode were way more adult-oriented than a typical episode of the series.
13. BUNCH OF BABIES
In Season 3 of the Transformers cartoon, a major player was Earth Defense Command, which was a joint Autobot/human group that was designed to defend the Earth from any attackers. The main human featured as part of the Earth Defense Command was Marissa Faireborn. She was a strong ally to the Transformers and a respected adversary of the Decepticons (also, in the bizarre Japanese continuity of Kiss Players, she gets way too close to the Transformers).
In the Season 3 episode, “Forever is a Long Time Coming,” the Quintessons end up threatening reality itself when they begin to mess with time. At one point, Melissa is blasted by a time blast that de-ages her so that she is an infant. Her clothes are now so big for her, of course, so we see a naked infant on top of her clothes. It’s kind of creepy.
12. MY EYES ARE UP HERE
The bizarre world of Transformers/humanoid love continued in the Season 2 episode, “Sea Change,” when the Transformers show up on the planet Tlalakan to help the people of that world fight off Deceptitran, who has been harvesting the planet for Energon cubes for the Decepticons. The people of Tialaken can transform into mer-people.
The Transformer known as Seaspray ends up falling in love with one of the aliens, Alana. So much so that he decides to use their magical waters to turn himself into a human! In the featured image, Alana is staring at Seaspray’s feet, which are still robotic. They both turn into mer-people but when they cannot defeat the bad guys, Seaspray becomes a robot again. This time, Alana becomes a robot, as well! In the end, though, she returns to humanity and they part.
11. THINGS JUST GOT REALLY REAL
When the Transformers were given their own theatrical film, which was then eventually broken into multiple heavily-edited episodes of the television series for syndication (so that’s why we’re counting it on this list), Hasbro made the shocking decision to give the filmmakers a list of characters that they could kill off. The list, though, was surprisingly extensive. It was essentially every character from the first wave of the toy line, as they were no longer being produced.
So, in Transformers: The Movie, kids showed up to watch their heroes in action and then saw a disturbing opening sequence where almost a dozen classic members of the Autobots are murdered by the Decepticons, including the legendary leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime! It was such a major shock to fans that Hasbro quickly reversed plans to kill off Duke in the G.I. Joe movie.
10. IT’S A DECEPTICON RAGER!
In the Season 2 episode, “Microbots,” Megatron ends up in possession of the Heart of Cybertron. He hooks it up within his body and then becomes extremely powerful. He singlehandedly almost destroys all of the Autobots. The Autobots come up with a plan to then shrink down and sneak into Megatron’s body and disconnect the Heart from within.
They are able to gain access to his body since the cocky Megatron celebrates his good fortune by… getting wasted. Yes, the Decepticons get together and get drunk on Energon cubes (the show was inconsistent on whether the cubes were like alcohol). Megatron slurs out, “Ah, those were the good ol’ days, back on Cybertron… Didn’ hafta… sneak around in these… ugly Earth disguises, heh… Good ol’ Cybertron! Land… of the metal moon!”
9. THAT’S NOT HOW HUMAN ANATOMY WORKS!
While Bumblebee is traditionally the Autobot most associated with the human character of Spike on the Transformers TV series, it was Hound who was Spike’s most common Autobot partner in the earliest episodes. Hound’s role, in general, was much bigger early on, especially in the initial Transformers cartoon miniseries, “More Than Meets the Eye.”
In the second part of that miniseries, Spike almost drowns. Hound doesn’t know how to revive him since he doesn’t understand human anatomy — he thinks that Spike must have just “flooded his engine.” So, he just keeps pushing down on Spike’s back until it somehow works. In the episode, though, it seriously looks like Hound is mounting Spike repeatedly. It’s hard to believe that such an extended sequence was just an accidental piece of out-of-context humor.
One of the characters that was killed off in the Transformers movie was Starscream. However, the character was far too popular to just excise from the series, so in Season 3 of the show, Starscream was revived in an episode appropriately titled, “Starscream’s Ghost.” The episode involved the Decepticon known as Octane breaking free from the rest of the Decepticons and going on the run, ultimately landing on a crypt planet and running into the ghost of Starscream (who became corporeal again, eventually, in a later episode).
However, before he is attacked by his former comrades, we see Octane on his ship and he is looking at… well… essentially the Decepticon equivalent of stag films. Sexuality has rarely been addressed in the Transformers cartoons, but when it does, it is often disturbing like this.
7. “OH, YOU’RE ONE OF THOSE”
Since sexuality is rarely addressed on the Transformers cartoons (and when it does get mentioned, it is almost always just for a single episode, like the aforementioned episodes involving Seaspray and Powerglide), then the question of same-sex relationships is even rarer. That is, unless you count the character of Knock Out, from the Transformers: Prime cartoon series.
Knock Out was a Decepticon voiced by Daran Norris, who played the character way over the top. Unlike most Decepticons, Knock Out chose to go with a land-based vehicle instead of a flying one. He is shown to highly value his appearance and the appearance of other land-based vehicles. This can be viewed as though he is attracted to Optimus Prime when he whistles at Prime’s truck form. Most notably, Starscream once said of him (ostensibly referring to his land-based choice, but dripping with innuendo), “Oh, you’re one of those.”
6. HIDDEN MESSAGES
In 1996, the Transformers received a cartoon reboot with the new series, Beast Wars, with the characters now transforming into animal-based characters. The series was animated by Mainframe Entertainment (which is now called Rainmaker Entertainment), who were most famous for their series, ReBoot, at the time. On ReBoot, the animators of Mainframe always tried to hide little codes in the background in indecipherable language.
That was reproduced in the Beast Wars cartoon, which used the fake language, Cybertronix, to write hidden code throughout the episodes. Some of the time, the language was straightforward (like a trash can would be labeled “Trash Can” in Cybertronix). Other times, they would hide in-jokes and sometimes just flat out profanity in the episodes. Leave it to animators to always find a way to amuse themselves!
5. SPIKE IS REALLY BAD AT METAPHORS
Like many cartoon characters, the character of Spike had characterization that went back and forth depending on the episodes. Essentially, Spike would act however they needed him to act in a particular episode. For instance, Spike had been dating his girlfriend, Carly (who he would ultimately marry and have a son, Daniel, with her) for some time when, out of nowhere, he tries to hit on Astoria Carlton-Ritz when she expresses romantic interest in Powerglide in “The Girl That Loved Powerglide.”
Spike lasciviously tells her, “Yeah, well there’s a few things he can’t do, you know.” He says this as he drills a bolt into a hole. That’s not cool, Spike! However, his metaphor goes poorly for him when the bolt he is drilling then breaks!
4. DANCEFORMERS, POLE OUT!
The second season of Beast Wars: Transformers ended with a three-part story called “The Agenda.” In the first part, the Maximals (the equivalent of the Autobots on the show) find out that they might be returning home to Cybertron. Rattrap tells his friend, Silvertop, that he can’t wait to return home. His reasons, though, are kind of disturbing.
He explains, “Oh man, you are gonna love it! I know this little place where you can get dirty mech fluid mixed with just a touch of radium. It’ll take your head right off! And not only that… Not only that, but the serving bots are walking around minus their torso plates, ya know what I mean?” So yes, now we know that Cybertron has their own version of strip clubs. That was information that we all needed to know!
3. SPIKE SPEAKS FOR ALL OF US
As noted from the fact that it involved a bunch of characters being murdered, Transformers: The Movie was designed to be a more adult approach to the series. Part of this more adult approach, though, was expressed in a shocking bit late in the film (which, of course, was removed when the film was edited into multiple episodes of the series as part of the TV syndication package).
Spike and Bumblebee try to take down the mighty Unicron and they use some explosives. However, the bombs end up having no effect on the giant planet-sized Transformer. Spike spoke for everyone, then, when he shouted, “Oh $#!+, what are we going to do now?” As one amusing YouTuber noted, “I’m pretty sure this exact quote was uttered when the MPAA told them that they were giving the movie a G rating.”
2. IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE GETS DUCT-TAPED
“B.O.T.” is the final episode of the second season. It involves the Decepticon Brawl getting partially destroyed, with some of him ending up in a junkyard. Two high school students, Martin and Roland, almost burn down the school with their laser experiment. Their teacher pairs them with a better student, Elise, and tells them that they have to win a blue ribbon at the science fair if they want to avoid failing.
So, of course, the teens end up building a robot and using Brawl’s parts to make it. He then goes crazy and the Autobots turn up to save everyone, but the kids end up helping the Autobots save the day. At the end of the episode, Elise asks for any other spare parts and Martin and Roland duct tape her mouth and drag her away as the Autobots all have a good laugh. Yes, that really happened.
1. MORE RACISM THAN MEETS THE EYE
As disturbing as the duct tape incident is, nothing compares to the most offensive episode of the Transformers ever. It was so offensive, in fact, that one of their voice actors quit the show over it. In the Season 3 episode, “Thief in the Night,” Octane and Trypticon make a deal with the head of a country called Carbomya, which is an offensive name for the fake country based on Libya. The Qaddafi figure here is Abdul Fakkadi.
Note the sophisticated humor by noting on the sign that the country’s capitol city has 10,000 camels and 4,000 people. Famed Lebanese voice actor (and famous disc jockey) Casey Kasem quit the show because of this episode. It ends with Fakkadi regretting his deal, noting that he won’t do something this dumb again, “on the grave of my mother’s camel, my uncle’s goat, and even my sister’s donkeys.” Cripes…
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