It was the year 2005, a year shockingly not marked by people donning silver jumpsuits or driving around in flaming winnebagos. What 2005 did bring was the third of the Unicron Trilogy series, Transformers Cybertron, which premiered first in Japan as Transformers Galaxy Force. New license holders abound too, as IDW Publishing took up the reins of Transformers comics, and Fun Publications took over running the conventions, restoring the original name Botcon and even getting a Transformers Collector’s Club set up, complete with exclusive toys. In addition, the Transformers live action movie got a director in the form of Michael Bay… At the start of 2005 Hasbro was still finishing up the Energon toy line with the last few toy releases, including the last few members of the new Combiners. Takara launched headlong into what would be their last Transformers toy line pre-Tomy merger, Transformers Galaxy Force, which came to the US later in the year as Transformers Cybertron. Transformers Galaxy Force was conceived as a separate continuity set apart from the previous two shows, although Hasbro linked Transformers Cybertron to Energon as a full sequel (Takara would later also canonize the connection between the series)
Transformers Cybertron opening credits. Uploaded to Youtube by OptimalOptimus2[/size]
Transformers Cybertron / Galaxy Force took place an undetermined amount of time after the end of Transformers Energon / Super Link. A black hole, called Grand Black Hole in Galaxy Force and the Unicron Singularity in Cybertron, threatened to swallow planet Cybertron and the rest of the galaxy too. Optimus Prime decided to evacuate the population of Cybertron to Earth where they could hide in plain sight as robots in disguise. To save Cybertron and the universe, the Autobots needed to awaken their creator, Primus, by recovering the four Cyber Planet Keys, one of which was located on Earth and the remaining three of which were located on the lost colony worlds of Velocitron, Gigantion, and an unnamed jungle planet (called Animatros in Galaxy Force). The Autobots were guided by the ancient Transformers Vector Prime, and they were opposed by a new version of Megatron wearing armor fashioned after Unicron, and Starscream, who was now back to his classic, ambitious, backstabbing self, and Sideways / Noisemaze was introduced as a third faction, playing both sides to his own benefit.
The series got off to a slow start with all too many episodes being set on Velocitron in a racing arc. The mid point of the series saw Starscream strike out on his own, and in the final 13 episodes, Soundwave was introduced as a fellow member of Sideways’ faction, although what could have been an interesting plot involving them was rushed through all too quickly. The series culminated in an “everyone VS the remaining Decepticons” battle, where the five Decepticons still in play grew to huge sizes, followed by a final showdown between Optimus Prime and Galvatron, ending in the final death of Galvatron. The series closed with an epilogue episode, which showed the fates of many of the characters, and in Transformers Cybertron only, the final scenes included two extra stills showing Rad, Alexis and Carlos from Transformers Armada and Kicker from Transformers Energon bidding farewell to their friends.
The Transformers Cybertron cartoon was, overall, a better dubbed show than Energon or Armada. The fact it came out six months after it aired in Japan meant that properly translated scripts and completed animation were available – and the dub even added extra dialog to fill out the long stock footage attack sequences, which filled up as much as five minutes of every episode. The pacing as mentioned was problematic. The series did manage a good wrap-up of what was by this point nearly five years of stories with a good clash between Optimus Prime and Galvatron, and the finale was a great way to close out the series. An oddity in the way the show was produced was that the first two episodes of Galaxy Force were collapsed into a single first episode for Transformers Cybertron, with the last episode of the series being essentially a dub of the uncut second episode. A feature of both the Galaxy Force and Cybertron dubs was that the characters had prominent regional accents, such as Jetfire’s Australian accent or Thundercracker’s Texan drawl. Like Airazor in Beast Wars, Nitro Convoy / Override underwent a gender change in the dub – in Japan, Nitro Convoy is a sleek male character, while Override, his Cybertron equivalent, is female. Unlike Airazor, this change does not have an impact on character relationships.
Transformers Cybertron toy releases from 2005 included new versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron, Scourge the leader of the Jungle planet, new versions of Hot Shot and Red Alert, and Vector Prime, who was one of the ancient first 13 Transformers. The Japanese Transformers Galaxy Force versions of the toys are shown here[/size]
The Transformers Cybertron toyline renamed the size classes once again, and with this rename, the size class names were fixed – all future lines have used these size class names in one form or another. The Basic size class became known as Scout class, while the Deluxe class once again took the name Deluxe class. The Mega size class became known as Voyager class, while Ultra class was once again known as Ultra class. The Super class kept its Transformers Energon name as Leader class, with Supreme class remaining the only size class to have kept the same name from when it was first introduced in the Beast Machines line.
The Cybertron toys all had a line-wide gimmick involving the “Cyber Keys” (“Force Chips” in Japan). The plastic Cyber Keys could be inserted into the toys in order to unlock new abilities or play features, which ranged from Snarl bearing his fangs, to Crumplezone deploying two very large cannons. Conceptually, the gimmick was similar to the Mini-Cons of Transformers Armada, but was executed in a less intrusive fashion here. The line had a variation of designs and styles, including semi-realistic “Earth based” vehicles, futuristic racers, mechanical beasts and dragons, and huge construction vehicles, alongside futuristic space fighters. The toys had a great level of detail and articulation to them, and represented the very best that this era of Transformers toys was capable of.
As had been the case in the Transformers Energon line, a series of molds were developed for the US Transformers Cybertron line which were not released in the Japanese Transformers Galaxy Force line. These were mainly Scout class toys, though some US only Deluxes were released in 2006. One other regional oddity was Starscream – in the Galaxy Force line, Starscream was released as a Voyager class toy, while in the US line, Starscream was upscaled to a massive Supreme class toy. The gigantic Starscream would be referenced in the cartoon series by having Starscream steal the power of the Cyber Planet Keys and grow to colossal size.
Unfortunately the line was not successful in Japan, where it sold poorly and ended up on heavy clearance in some Japanese stores. Many characters featured in the later episodes of the show were not released in the Japanese line – the final releases in the line came out in September 2005, and there is evidence that the line had been cut short, as some solicits were released in the months before the lines’ end which included Armbullet, the Japanese name for the upgraded Crumplezone, who was never released in the Japanese line. With Hasbro’s energy all directed to the emerging Transformers live action movie, Takara once again reduced their Transformers toyline output dramatically, and the Galaxy Force line would be the last one that Takara released before they merged with Tomy in 2006.
There was one final Galaxy Force release which deserves a special mention, which was the Hybrid Style Galaxy Convoy. The Transformers Hybrid Style series was a line of just two releases, the first of which was Galaxy Convoy. A small yet expensive die-cast toy, Galaxy Convoy transformed in the same way as his larger self, though with interchangeable super-mode head parts. He also featured interchangeable hands for different poses. While a cool oddity, the release went largely under the radar of many since the larger Galaxy Convoy / Cybertron Optimus Prime was such a good toy to begin with.
The 2005-6 Legends of Cybertron assortment of the Transformers Cybertron line offered a series of small, pocket-money priced versions of core Transformers Cybertron cast. Both the 2005 and 2006 releases are shown here.[/size]
In the US though Hasbro found better fortunes with the Cybertron line and particular in the production of smaller toys. As well as bringing back Mini-Cons from Transformers Armada in two-packs, Hasbro introduced the Legends of Cybertron series. The Legends of Cybertron were smaller versions of the mainline characters sold at $5 or less, and were roughly the size of the earlier Spychanger toys. The assortments performed well, well enough that the size class has stuck around ever since, in one shape or form, eventually giving rise to the Cyberverse series.
In 2005, the Alternators series continued onward. There were eight new Alternators released in 2005, including the line’s first characters designed from the get-go as Decepticons. The first of these was Battle Ravage, a remolded version of Tracks with a Ravage head, who was explained in the Binaltech fiction to be a reborn Beast Wars Ravage, out to alter the future and ensure a Decepticon victory. A retooled version of Jazz as Shockwave – or Shockblast as he was then known – also followed. The line underwent a further packaging retool, trading in the red boxes for “bubble boxes” which were much less friendly to collectors who liked to store their Alternators in the box, but the new packaging was much better for showing off the vehicle modes. The bubble box series repacked earlier, hard to find releases like Tracks alongside new designs like a Scion xB version of Skids and an Acura RSX version of Prowl. Special mention also goes to Swerve, the third remold of the Tracks corvette, which was the single hardest to find release in the entire Alternators line, and demand’s a high pricetag on the secondary market as a result.
The Binaltech line continued in Japan, with the in-package fiction deepening the plot as mentioned above with the introduction of Ravage. However the line was reaching its end and BT-16, the Japanese release of Skids, was the last mass-market Alternator released for the time being. Fiction exists, though, via an unofficial publication by Hirofumi Ichikawa who wrote the Binaltech story, for several other characters, including an aborted Black Widow (Blackarachnia) release of the Decepticharge mold, and chapters for prospective releases of Hot Rodimus and Convoy in the Binaltech line, but none of these came to pass (though story elements would be recycled into future exclusive releases which kept the line alive).
Toward the end of the Binaltech line, there were a trio of releases which came out under the banner of “Binaltech Asterisk”. The Asterisk trio featured human companions who could sit in the driver’s seat of the vehicles by way of swapping out their arms and legs. The partner figures were based on human characters from past Transformers series, including Ai from Car Robots (aka Tai from Robots in Disguise) and Ilumina from Transformers Victory. The three releases in this line included a Binaltech release of Sunstreaker, and two characters who never made it to the Alternators line – Broadblast, or Blaster, recolored from Skids, and Red Alert, a police retool of the Smokescreen / Silverstreak Subaru.
Transformers: Infiltration issue #0 cover, which kicked off the IDW Transformers Generation 1 continuity
There was not a whole lot going on in comics in 2005, due to Dreamwave’s collapse, although news soon came in July that Transformers comics would return with IDW publishing taking the reins, disappointing those hoping for Marvel or DC to get the rights – in retrospect, of course, IDW was the best candidate for the task, given how well they have handled the Transformers since getting the rights. Their Transformers comics involved a rebooted Generation 1 continuity after a “Crisis on Infinite Cybertrons” style crossover was deemed “too complicated for new readers”. A taste of what was to come was released in October with “Transformers: Infiltration #0”, the first part of an Ultimate style reboot of the Transformers comics universe.
The Transformers convention rights also changed hands with Fun Publications, who had been running the official G.I. Joe collectors convention for many years being awarded the rights. Fun Publications bought the rights to the Botcon name from the Hartmans and organized a 2005 Transformers convention in short order – impressive work, given that they organized everything within a span of about eight months at most. Fun Publications expanded the Botcon program, adding customizing classes and pre-convention tours, as well as increasing the numbers of exclusive toys on offer from 1-4 pieces per year to a 5-6 figure box set, an attendee-only figure, and as many as 4-6 additional exclusive toys only available at Botcon itself.
2005 saw the plans for the Transformers live action movie come together. In February 2005, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci replaced John Rogers as the screenwriter for the project, reworking his script. Then, in July 2005, the project found itself a director in the form of Michael Bay. Michael Bay was initially unwilling to work on Transformers until he was successfully persuaded by Steven Spielberg pitching the idea of the movie being the story of “a boy and his car; which happens to be a giant alien robot”. Michael Bay met with Hasbro and was given a crash-course on the franchise nicknamed “Transformers school”. Michael Bay signed on to the project, but on the proviso that he could make something that was accessible to adults and not just a two-hour toy commercial. Hasbro agreed to this, since their own ambitions were to transition from a toy company into a multi-media company – for this to work, Transformers was to become more than just a line of toys. This also underpins why the comics were more than mere tie-ins to what Hasbro had on the shelves at the time, and why the brand was undergoing diversification to reach a wider audience.
The date was set; Transformers the live action movie was to be released in the summer of 2007.