Transformers is one of the most popular geek franchises out there, inspiring a series of TV shows, comic books, video games and a hit movie franchise. Based on the idea of a race of giant robots who can turn into different machines and vehicles, the Transformers are divided into the heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons. Of all the Autobots, one of the most popular -- and certainly the most endearing -- is Bumblebee, the small and plucky robot who's been in almost every version of the series since the beginning. He's a friend to humans, a fierce soldier in battle and usually has a fun and wisecracking personality.
The robot is going to take center stage in Bumblebee: The Movie, scheduled to be released on December 21, 2018, so it seemed like a good time for CBR to explore his stranger side. Unless you're a huge fan, you probably don't know all the yellow-and-black Autobot's secrets, so it's time to find out. We'll be going over the robot's past, present and future from the historic franchise to explore every nook and cranny of this pop culture icon. This will also be an overview of some of the lesser-known parts of his history in the animated series and comic books. Autobots, roll out!
15 BUMBLEBEE'S NAME
Why is Bumblebee named Bumblebee? In the original cartoon, Bumblebee was a Volkswagen Beetle (better known as a Bug), and was black and yellow; his car doors also formed wings, so it all kind of made sense. Over time, Bumblebee's alternate form has changed to sports cars, so the name is kind of a holdover. That might be why other reasons have been given, to explain something that, at least aesthetically, no longer makes sense.
In 2008, the animated series had Bumblebee in "Autobot Boot Camp" where he was trained for combat. Bumblebee's hot temper and lack of experience left him struggling to get through camp. At one point, his gruff superior officer Sentinel Minor yelled that Bumblebee was "nothing but a bumbler" and that his name would be Bumblebee from that point on. That's probably not something Bumblebee would be too happy about others finding out.
14 HASBRO LOST BUMBLEBEE
Bumblebee's popularity has made him a major player in almost every version of the Transformers TV shows, comics and movies. However, there was a gap when he didn't appear in the US because of legal troubles. Apparently, Hasbro allowed its claim on the name Bumblebee to lapse because it stopped making Bumblebee toys in 1995. By the time Hasbro was ready to launch a new Bumblebee figure in the 2000s, other companies like Playcore (which had a "Buzz the Bumblebee" toy) and the company Bumblebee Toys claimed they had rights to the name.
The legal battle is why 2002's TV series Transformers: Armada included a yellow Autobot named Hot Shot. Hot Shot was originally named Bumblebee but was changed to avoid problems. In 2005, Hasbro fought with multiple companies to reclaim its Bumblebee trademark until it finally just made toys with Bumblebee's name as an unregistered trademark.
13 THE SECOND TRANSFORMER EVER
If your first contact with the Transformers was the original 1984 animated series, Bumblebee became one of your favorite Autobots -- that's not an accident. The fact that Bumblebee was one of the first Transformers ever seen set him on the path to stardom. The original pilot for the show aired in in the US on September 17, 1984, and was retroactively subtitled "More Than Meets the Eye."
Written by George Arthur Bloom, the very first scene was of Wheeljack and Bumblebee on their home planet of Cybertron, sent on a mission to find energy conduits for the other Autobots. When they ran into a Decepticon patrol, the Autobots had to fight their way home. While Wheeljack was also there and fought valiantly, it was Bumblebee who stole the show by getting hurt and literally driving Wheeljack home.
12 BUMBLEBEE THE LEADER
If you ask the average person who the leader of the Autobots is, you'll probably hear Optimus Prime, but that's not always the case. It's true that Optimus Prime was the leader from the first series and was even created to lead the Autobots in the original continuity but Bumblebee has had his turn.
In 2014, Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising ended with the Optimus Prime sacrificing himself to save the Transformers, followed by a new series, Transformers: Robots in Disguise in 2015. In the pilot, Bumblebee was surprised by a vision of Optimus Prime that made him the leader of a new team of Autobots, sent to Earth to stop escaped Decepticon prisoners. Bumblebee turned out to be a great leader until Optimus Prime returned to take command once again.
11 BUMBLEBEE WAS KILLED
If it seems like all the best characters end up being killed, well, that's because it's true. Let's face it, killing a popular character is a good way to get our emotions all worked up and also to put consequences behind epic battles. Bumblebee has faced death a few times, like in 2006's G.I. Joe vs. Transformers: The Art of War. The five-issue miniseries is set in an alternate continuity where the Joes faced the robots in disguise.
In issue #2 (Tim Seeley, Joe Ng), Cobra Commander discovered an android with the combined knowledge of great human warriors and the deactivated Megatron. Known as Serpent O.R., the android united the Decepticons and crushed Bumblebee with his mechanical tentacles. Oddly enough, the death of Bumblebee was the only time the sociopathic leader felt emotion.
10 BUMBLEBEE IS GOLDBUG
While most people know and love Bumblebee, the character has briefly changed to a new name and personality: Goldbug. In 1987's Transformers, the two-part episode "The Return of Optimus Prime" brought the Transformers up against space-born spores that caused them to become full of rage. The so-called "Hate Plague" spread quickly until Optimus Prime was brought back while Bumblebee was damaged in the fighting.
The plague was stopped by Optimus Prime and Bumblebee was rebuilt into a shiny gold Throttlebot renamed Goldbug. Goldbug was a more mature and seasoned hero than Bumblebee. Though the original Bumblebee returned, Goldbug also showed up in other places like the Marvel comics, and the final season of the original show while defending Cybertron from the Decepticons. He also popped up in the follow-up series, Transformers: The Headmasters.
9 BUMBLEBEE BROUGHT BACK THE CAMARO
In the original animated series, Bumblebee transformed into a Volkswagen Beetle, which inspired his codename. When the first Transformers live-action movie hit theaters in 2007, Bumblebee changed into a Chevrolet Camaro instead. Apparently, the change was made because the Beetle reminded Michael Bay too much of the old movie, Herbie the Love Bug.
The change also led to big changes for General Motors because the Camaro had been out of production since 2002. At first, Bumblebee transformed into a 1977 Camaro but he changed later into a new Camaro that didn't actually exist. GM had to build a Camaro specifically for the movie based on an earlier concept car. The new Camaro turned out to be so popular that it went back into production and has continued ever since.
8 HOW BUMBLEBEE LOST HIS VOICE
One of Bumblebee's new and most iconic traits in the movie series has been his need to speak with music and audio clips instead of his real voice. Unfortunately, the reason why his voice was lost in the first place was left kind of vague. The first explanation for how it happened wasn't even in the movie or the comics or the novelization. No, it was on the biography for the Decepticon Hardtop's action figure. That bio claimed Hardtop and Bumblebee were longtime enemies and that it was the Decepticon who broke Bumblebee's vocal processor.
Unfortunately, that contradicted Transformers: Movie Prequel (by Simon Furman, Chris Ryall and Don Figueroa), a comic published in 2007 that showed Megatron destroying Bumblebee's voicebox in a rage. That's become the official explanation for Bumblebee's missing voice.
7 HOW BUMBLEBEE GOT HIS VOICE BACK
While Bumblebee never had a problem talking on the old TV shows and comics, he lost his voice in the 2007 movie. By the end, Bumblebee got his voice back (at least until the next movie) but some viewers were confused by how it happened. It was implied but now's your chance to have it spelled out.
In an interview, the screenwriter Robert Orci explained it. When Bumblebee and Ratchet were reunited on Earth, he said he was working on the Autobot's voice and shot him with a laser beam. The laser turned out to have healing properties but it never actually finished restoring Bumblebee's voice until the end of the movie. Even Orci said it wasn't clear and certainly didn't help matters by having the effects take so long to kick in.
6 BUMBLEBEE'S AIR FRESHENER
One of the most underrated touches for Bumblebee in the movie ended up getting Transformers into hot water. Bumblebee had a bee-shaped air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror that said "Bee-Otch." It caused a minor sensation because it turned out the design was copyrighted and used without permission.
The design was made by Alia Madden in 2002, and she licensed it for T-shirts, mugs and (yes) air fresheners. She said Dreamworks bought several of her air fresheners and what we saw on screen was pretty much the same as the original except the copyright notice was removed. She was never asked for permission or paid for them, and only found out when she saw the air fresheners at a publicity booth for the movie. She sued the studio and the outcome was never disclosed.
5 BUMBLEBEE'S VOICE WAS AN HOMAGE
Why does Bumblebee usually speak in the movies from sound clips patched together by his radio? It's not something Bumblebee ever did in the animated series, so where did it come from? Dedicated fans know the fact that Bumblebee speaks with quotes from TV shows and movies as a reference to another character, Wreck-Gar.
Wreck-Gar first appeared in 1986's Transformers: The Movie when the Autobots landed on a planet of junk. The planet was bombarded by Earth TV signals so Wreck-Gar would talk using slang and phrases from TV shows and commercials like "Don't look behind door number two" and "I'm a doctor, not a forklift." Wreck-Gar turned out to be hugely popular with a toy and appearances in other Transformers cartoons so it was a shame he never showed up in the movies himself.
4 BUMBLEBEE'S HUMAN HEAD
Bumblebee has always been a robot except for a previous period of time where he was a human. Sort of. In 1988, Hasbro introduced a line of Transformers called Pretenders that had external shells over robot bodies. The Autobot Pretenders came with a robot that snapped into an external shell that looked like a human being in armor while the Decepticons had monster shells. In the Transformers universe, the shells allowed them to hide their robot form more easily and also let them self-repair.
Bumblebee became a Pretender in The Transformers #58 (Simon Furman, José Delbo) as part of a plot by the Decepticons to bring Starscream back to life. Megatron forced the Autobot Ratchet to put Starscream in a Pretender shell, and Ratchet took the chance to turn Bumblebee into a Pretender as well until the shell was damaged and removed.
3 BUMBLEBEE'S OTHER CARS
If you're one of the older Transformers fans, when you think of Bumblebee's alternate modes, you think of a Volkswagen Beetle. If you grew up on the movies, you probably think of Bumblebee turning into a Chevy Camaro. However, Bumblebee's had other alternate modes in the past.
For one thing, when Bumblebee was on Cybertron and no one had ever heard of a VW Bug, he turned into a hovercraft native to Cybertron. In the 2007 Transformers: Animated series, Bumblebee turned into a supermini police car. The Timelines Deluxe Goldbug toy gave him a Chrysler ME 412 concept car mode. In Japan's Transformers: Alternity Bumblebee turned him into a Suzuki Swift Sport and the Transformers: Prime animated series turned him into a fictional Urbana 500 muscle car.
2 BUMBLEBEE OUTSOLD OPTIMUS PRIME
Optimus Prime is the single most popular Transformer of all time. In many cases, Optimus Prime is the very symbol of the entire franchise but Bumblebee is a close second. That wasn't the case in 2016 when two of the movie's iconic vehicles were up for auction. The 1992 Peterbilt semi-truck used for Optimus Prime's vehicle mode went up alongside Bumblebee's 1967 Chevrolet Camaro.
Besides the coolness of owning the vehicle from Transformers, Bumblebee's Camaro had a lot going for it. The Camaro was owned by Michael Bay before the auction and had some sweet modifications like an LS3 engine, a six-speed gearbox, custom suspension and an extra rear brake caliper. Plus, how many people can park a semi-truck in their garage? That might be why, when the auction was over, Optimus Prime sold for $121,000 but Bumblebee sold for $167,200.
1 BUMBLEBEE IS A WARRIOR
For most of his history, Bumblebee was the plucky underdog of the Autobots. In the original series, Bumblebee was smaller and less experienced than most of his team. Over time, he became more mature as symbolized by his destruction and rebirth as Goldbug. At the same time, he's never been the one to run away from a fight.
That's why it might surprise you that Bumblebee didn't start out as a warrior in all versions of the franchise. In some versions of the Autobots, a warrior is a specific class of robot and in Transformers Prime, Bumblebee began as a scout because Optimus Prime felt he needed to learn. Bumblebee used his small size and skill to sneak up on Decepticons, but over time, Bumblebee impressed Optimus enough to get promoted to a warrior. He also got a cool sword to go with it.