The animations of the Transformers movies

There's a children's show on Netflix called "Rescue bots academy". It's part of the Transformer's franchise. It's cute. It's sweet. It's the usual kind of "we are a team" show where each episode focuses on some kind of challenge that highlights a character weakness which needs to be overcome. I'm not sure if the folks in charge of it changed between seasons, but there was a significant jump in writing towards and within season 2. Not only were the episodes more meaningful, but they also had more advancements in terms of Transformers lore. We get to see characters from the canon including those like Laserbeak. We see obscure topics like "Titans". We get to know more about how the bots themselves are created. It's great!

Which brings me to the actual bit that I wanted to share thoughts on. All this watching of "Rescue Bots" had me wanting to check out the Trasnformers movies. You know, "Bayformers". The movies made by Michael Bay. I'm not going to lie. From a story perspective, the movies were absolute trash. As much as I try to avoid using such strongly negative language, I can't lie about Transformers. There was just no redeeming feature in any of the storylines, and they all got bad to worse as the movies went along.

BUT! That's still not what I want to share. The one feature that made me go back and rewatch those movies over and over again was just how good the animation of each transformation was. It was over the top. It was gratuitous. It was glorious. I can't imagine a world where the animation of the Transformers could be directed in a better way. This many years later I can't see anything that sticks out as having aged poorly.

It's not a single trick pony though. Particularly impressive as the movies went along was just how well the animation brought in real world references. For example, some of my favourite scenes come from the highway battle in Dark of the moon.

It's got everything. Big cats style movement. Sprinting that is straight reference from a flat out Rugby sprint coupled with the hits and the shoves. Those are the more obvious ones. Then you've got references from sports like wakeboarding and inline/ice skating. The skating in particular has been referenced multiple times and it has such recognizable moves including backwards crossovers.

And then there's all the stylistic choices for battle sequences. While the bots have the correct slower movement in order to convey weight they also use this occasional fast movement of spinning the top part of the body around the waist while the lower part stays static. That's an incredible detail that gives you the feeling that you are watching something robotic. Most of the times though, the bots will bend and stretch and lean the way you'd expect a human body to move. If it was balanced more towards the robotic style I just mentioned, I have a feeling that it would actually take away from the experience since it starts to become more challenging to relate to what you are seeing on the screen. All these details are really really hard to nail.

And all these little details mean that years later, I'm still returning to the movies trying to spot little bits that I missed the first time around. If you've watched Transformers just once, do yourself a favour and watch it again and keep your eyes open on each action scene for details

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Posted on May 15 2021 by Adnan Issadeen