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Many millions of years ago, on the planet Cybertron, life existed, but not life as we know it today. Intelligent robots that could think and feel inhabited the cities. They were called Autobots and Decepticons. But the brutal Decepticons were driven by a single goal: total domination. They set out to destroy the peace-loving Autobots, and a war between the forces of good and evil raged across Cybertron.
—Narration from the first episode.
With their home world depleted of energy due to the war, the Autobots leave on their ship to find a new planet with energy sources. The Decepticons follow in a ship of their own. The ensuing battle led to them crashing on Earth. Millions of years later (in 1984), both factions wake up, resuming their war on our world.
The Transformers was the first Transformers cartoon, part of the Transformers Generation 1 franchise. It premiered in 1984. The writing and distribution of the series was handled by both Marvel productions and Sunbow Productions. Animation was done by Toei Animation and a few other studios, including AKOM, some Philippines-based studio, possibly Tokyo Movie Shinsha (now called TMS Entertainment) and several feeder studios; all uncredited. AKOM's animation was generally worse than Toei's.
The show ran for three whole seasons, plus season 4, which was just a three-part episode, "The Rebirth". The Japanese version branched off into a different continuity right after the end of the third season, replacing "The Rebirth" with Transformers Headmasters.
The continuity of this series provided the basis for Transformers Wings of Honor.
- Abusive Precursors: The Quintessons.
- Action-Hogging Opening
- Action Girl: Arcee in the movie onwards. A season 2 episode featured a group of female Autobots.
- Ad Bumpers
- Adaptation Dye Job
- Infamously, this version of Transformers Generation 1 made Rumble blue and Frenzy red, instead of the other way around, in contrast to their toy and comic book appearances. The Japanese dub got around this by calling the red one Rumble and the blue one Frenzy.
- The Dinobots had blue eyes in this series instead of the red found on their toys
- Animation Bump: Call of The Primitives is the best example in the series. The More Than Meets The Eye three parter, Atlantis Arise, Chaos, Dweller in the Depths and The Return of Optimus Prime are also better animated than most of the series.
- Another Dimension: Menonia.
- Ambiguously Gay: Tracks.
- Anachronic Order: A few of the episodes.
- Arbitrary Skepticism: "Giant Robot Insects that eats trees, ridiculous!" While the park Ranger is STANDING there getting the brief from Spike and Mirage!
- Arm Cannon: Megatron's fusion cannon. He also had an arm cannon as Galvatron.
- Authority Equals Asskicking
- Asskicking Equals Authority: Grimlock leads the Dinobots because he’s physically the strongest.
- A-Team Firing: Many episodes featured large-scale gun battles between the Autobots and Decepticons... not that they managed to hit much of anything mind you. Some of these battles would even show both sides standing right out in the open and not even attempting to dodge incoming laser fire.
- The Bad Guy Wins: Though not commented on much, by the time the series started, the Decepticons had all but conquered Cybertron.
- Badass Family: Spike, Carly and Daniel.
- Big Bad: Megatron (who later becomes Galvatron).
- Big Bad Duumvirate: Astrotrain and Blitzwing in the episode "Triple Takeover". Blitzwing actually fared the better of the two, until Megatron returned and reasserted himself.
- Arguably Galvatron and Zarak in season 4.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The Quintessons often shared the role of the main antagonists with the Decepticons in Season 3.
- Back From the Dead: Optimus Prime, twice. Starscream regained his body after spending some time as a ghost.
- BLAM Episode: Quite a bunch, most notably 'Carnage in C Minor', 'The Core', and the absolutely terrible B.O.T.
- Canon Dis Continuity: Unicron's origin as presented in the cartoon, being built by an alien scientist, was completely ignored in subsequent Transformers fiction.
- Captain Crash: While not remarked upon in show, Cosmos is rarely in an episode without crashing into something. One of the few times he got through an episode without it, it seems like Optimus is Tempting Fate by sending him out into space a third time in a day.
- Cartoon Crossover: The episode "Only Human" featured a character who's clearly Cobra Commander. Also, Marissa's father seems to be Flint, also from G.I. Joe. This led to the Fandom belief that all the '80s Hasbro cartoons took place in the same universe something which eventually became Ascended Fanon.
- Word of God has confirmed Marissa's parentage (Flint and Lady Jaye).
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Many of the Transformers that didn't die in the movie.
- Colony Drop: Galvatron attempted to crash Cybertron into Earth during "The Rebirth".
- Combining Mecha: The various gestalt teams, starting with the Constructicons and continuing with the Stunticons, Aerialbots, Protectobots, Combaticons, Predacons, Terrorcons, and Technobots.
- Continuity Snarl: It's a good thing Megatron decided to build the Constructions in some caves on Earth ('Heavy Metal War', Season 1)... Especially after they built him on Cybertron 4 million years ago ('Five Faces of Darkness, Part 3', Season 3)... and then he brainwashed them into becoming Decepticons who tried to brainwash Omega Supreme ('The Secret of Omega Supreme', Season 2)... Wait, what?
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Shawn Berger from the Megatron's Master Plan episodes.
- The Dragon: Starscream, then Cyclonus.
- Do-Anything Robot: Ironhide
- Dub Name Change: The Japanese version switched Frenzy and Rumble's names around in order to correct the animation error that reversed their colours. This meant that Frenzy, a previously expendable character, became a major character. On the other hand, it meant that Rumble became scarce.
- Also, Optimus Prime was Convoy, Jazz was Meister, Sideswipe was Lambor, Mirage was Ligier, Shockwave was Laserwave, Devastator was Devastar, Metroplex was Metroflex,
Blaster was named Billy
- Also, Optimus Prime was Convoy, Jazz was Meister, Sideswipe was Lambor, Mirage was Ligier, Shockwave was Laserwave, Devastator was Devastar, Metroplex was Metroflex,
- Deus Ex Machina: At the end of A Prime Problem, Megatron throws
SplickSpike off a ship. The Autobots don't know what to do. Cue Powerglide, who shows up to save Spike despite not being acknowledged by anyone prior to this, and mainly not existing until this scene.
- Dumb Muscle: Generally, the combined forms of multiple Transformers aren't very intelligent. Except Computron.
- The Dinobots, in spades.
- Early Installment Weirdness: In the Five Episode Pilot, More Than Meets The Eye, the Autobots have consistently being shown to be capable of independent flight without the use of jetpacks, something that will not happen again until Skyfire and The Aerialbots come into the story much later on.
- Though considering the Autobots had little fuel on Earth and flew virtually all the time in Season 3, it may have been a question of low fuel while on Earth.
- Eldritch Abomination: Tornedron. Unicron is much less of one in this cartoon compared to subsequent stories.
- Evil Laugh: The sheer creepiness of Megatron's Evil Laugh in the original animated series is in and of itself Nightmare Fuel.
- Believe it or not, Soundwave laughed in the episode "Auto-Bop". It's fricking nightmarish.
- Evil Overlord: Zarak
- Evil Sounds Deep: Inverted with Starscream.
- Five Episode Pilot
- Flanderization: During seasons 1 and 2, the Dinobots' brute strength and lack of intelligence made them dangerous wildcards to both sides. From The Movie onwards, they were mostly comic relief. Fortunately their final appearance in "Call of the Primitives" returned them to their brutish and freakishly-powerful standing.
- Flowers for Algernon Syndrome: Gears in Season 2 (Changing Gears); Grimlock in Season 3 (Grimlock's New Brain)
- Freudian Couch: Forcibly done to Galvatron in the episode "Webworld".
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: While the series actually didn't do all that much there was this infamous scene with the Decepticons. Take a wild guess on what Energon gets to be in this case.
- Must be noted that Energon (or engine oil) tends to sub for food and drink in situations where humans would ingest it, e.g. Hot Rod offering Energon 'candy' to the Sharkticons in the movie.
- Also the episode "Only Human", where Rodimus Prime, Arcee, Ultra Magnus and Springer have their minds placed in synthoid human bodies. Rodimus has (offscreen but implied) sex with a human woman named Michelle, the daughter of the episode's Big Bad Victor Drath.
- God Guise: Cosmos crashes on the moon Titan in the episode "The God Gambit", and his unconscious body is worshiped as a god. Astrotrain, the enemy, only encourages it.
- Genius Loci: Unicron, Torkulon and the city-bots.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The Soviet Union is portrayed as active in the 21st century.
- Hate Plague: Trope namer. Unlike the Kid Appeal Character (formerly The Bumblebee) and The Starscream, this did not show up in the Marvel comics.
- Higher-Tech Species: When they were reawakened in 1984, the Decepticons proved able to build a fully functional Cybertronian starship, the Victory, using only Earth materials. How this miracle of engineering was accomplished using only primitive Earth materials is never explained.
- Hulk Speak: The Dinobots.
- Humans Advance Swiftly: In Season 1 and 2, humans had standard 1980s level technology (along with some hand wavy sci-fi/comic book gimmicks) but in Season 3 (2005/2006/2007), they have the ability to travel space and have colonies on other planets. Justified due to the Autobots helping them out in exchange for refuge on Earth.
- Humongous Mecha: Naturally, but there are even more humongous mechas with Omega Supreme, Sky Lynx, Metroplex, Trypticon, Fortress Maximus, Scorponok, and Unicron.
- Idiosyncratic Wipes
- Ineffectual Death Threats
- La Résistance:
- In Season 1, 2 and the Movie, the Autobots are this to the Decepticons having pretty much won Cybertron and conquered a good chunk of the galaxy.
- The Nebulans fighting against the Hive in "The Rebirth".
- Last-Episode New Character: The final episode of the first season introduced the Constructicons. "The Rebirth" introduced literal dozens of new characters.
- Me's a Crowd: The Insecticons had this ability.
- Mechanical Lifeforms
- Meta Mecha: Fortress Maximus.
- Missing Mom: Spike's mom is never mentioned.
- Modern Stasis: For Cybertron in the opening episodes of Season 1. Shockwave said Cybertron would remain as Megatron left it and it did. Not one new piece of technology showed up in the four million years it took for Megatron to make contact with Shockwave. After that, Shockwave begins building new things.
- Possibly justified due to the Energon crisis limiting the amount of R&D Shockwave could have done.
- The Movie: Transformers: The Movie
- Nobody Can Die/Never Say "Die": Averted.
- Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: In "Megatron's Master Plan," Thrust destroying Teletraan 1 is what cancels the override to Cosmos, allowing him (And Trailbreaker) to help the Autobots escape from being pulled into the sun and back to Earth.
- Noble Demon: Quite surprisingly, a few Decepticons, the supposed "bad guys of a 1980's children's cartoon" have shown to be capable of honor and even compassion, most notably Skyfire, Blitzwing and Cyclonus.
- Not So Different: The Aerialbots (except Silverbolt) and Optimus Prime in their admiration of Megatron and the Decepticons. Though they do come around.
- Off-Model: While the animation in the series was generally unimpressive, some episodes were worse than others, animation-wise. Worst offenders include S.O.S. Dinobots, The Ultimate Doom: Part Three, Heavy Metal War, A Plague of Insecticons, Child's Play, Kremzeek, B.O.T., and almost all of AKOM's .
- The Original Series: The original television series. The comic book was released a bit earlier.
- Pokémon-Speak: In a rare Older Than They Think example, Kremzeek.
- Pink Means Feminine: Elita One/Ariel, Arcee.
- Puny Earthlings: Megatron doesn't think too highly of Earthlings. Even as Galvatron when the EDC (Earth Defense Command) is established, he still doesn't even acknowledge humans as anything even resembling a threat.
- Pyrrhic Victory: The end of The Gold Lagoon, with Beachcomber mourning the loss of the beautiful valley he stumbled upon.
- Remember the New Guy?: All of the new cast who shows up in the movie. Justified since the Autobot/Decepticon conflict has spread across the entire galaxy and not everyone can be in one place at the same time.
- Robot War: The Transformers' backstory is a Perspective Flip on this trope, and the creators and former masters are recurring villains.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Despite being a planet full of giant robots, Cybertron is depicted as being only slightly larger than Earth's moon. Later versions would significantly up the scale of Cybertron.
- Snow Means Cold: In "Fire In the Sky," the Autobots become aware that the Decepticons are cooling the Earth when it begins snowing in July at the Ark.
- Stable Time Loop: A complex one involving Alpha Trion, Optimus Prime and the Aerialbots. To explain: The Aerialbots were sent back to pre-War Cybertron where they befriended and rescued a young robot named Orion Pax who had been injured by Megatron. The five took him to Alpha Trion who rebuilt and upgraded Orion into Optimus Prime. Nine million years later in 1985, Optimus Prime would order the construction of the Aerialbots and Alpha Trion gave up his Spark so they could be born. In 2006, a young robot called A-3 (the future Alpha Trion) would be extracted from the past and saved by Superion (the combined form of the Aerialbots) and sent back to his own time period. Does your head hurt yet?
- The Starscream: Take a wild guess who.
- Status Quo Is God: Generally, a single or multi-part episode would generally end with the Autobots victorious yet not really getting close to permanently defeating the Decepticons. Until the movie happened however.
- Strictly Formula: People outside the fanbase accuse the show of being like this, although this is mostly only true of the early episodes.
- There Are No Therapists: Averted, believe it or not; after one too many insane rampages the other Decepticons insist that Galvatron get psychiatric help. It... doesn't go very well.
- Time Abyss: Transformers generally can live up to millions of years. Case point, Kup, an "old veteran" type character. His age is a bit indeterminate, but a rough guess would put him somewhere well in the range of 9 to 12 million years old. To put it in comparison, humanity as a species is only 2.3-2.4 million years old (200 thousand years old, if one defines "human" as "homo genus primates anatomically identical to modern humans").
- Alpha Trion is more ancient than most Transformers, and has even been retconned into being on the Original 13. This makes him literally older than The Earth, at over 5 billion years old.
- Took a Level In Badass: Humanity in between Season 2 and the movie. Just not enough for the Decepticons to be worried.
- Toyless Toyline Character
- Transforming Mecha
- Turned Against Their Masters: The backstory of the Transformers and the Quintessons.
- TV Genius: Grimlock became one during the episode "Grimlock's New Brain".
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The Movie was set in 2005. Season 3 was set in the year after.
- Undying Loyalty: Cyclonus towards Galvatron. Unlike other Decepticon second-in-commands.
- Villain Episode: "Triple Takeover" and "Webworld".
- Ungrateful Bastard: In "The Burden Hardest to Bear," the Autobots repel Decepticon attacks against Japan. When it's over, government officials blame the Autobots for the Decepticon presence, the damage and scaring people away.
- With Great Power Comes Great Insanity: After Megatron is rebuilt into Galvatron, he goes completely insane, though that isn't entirely due to his new body. Spending a year face-down in a pool of lava will do that to your sanity.
- Worthy Opponent: Megatron and Optimus Prime know and respect each others' martial ability far too well to simply hate each other.
- Carried over in "The Return of Optimus Prime, Part 2," after Optimus has saved the galaxy from the Hate Plague. Galvatron is on the scene and won't hear of further battles afterwards.
"There will be no war today, Optimus Prime. You have earned Galvatron's respect."
- Both Ultra Magnus and Cyclonus respect each other as fellow warriors. Cyclonus actually saves Ultra Magnus from the ignonimious end of being pulled into a black-hole in "The Killing Jar" because "Warriors such as you and I should meet their end in battle."
- Your Size May Vary: Somehow, the Seekers (who turn into F-15 fighter jets) are no bigger than Optimus Prime (who turns into a flat-nosed semi-truck) while in robot mode. Unlike Megatron and Soundwave, the Seekers aren't explicitly portrayed with the ability to change size.