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Transformers, robots in, uh, product placement deals

June 1, 2006

Growing up, I was fortunate to find myself in something of a toy golden age.  That’s right, the 1980’s.  Looking back, it was a strange confluence.  On the one hand, a number of toy brands exploded onto the scene.  On the other, the nanny state had yet to assert itself, and so these toys were often made out of injury-inducing die-cast metal, and fired injury-inducing air and spring-launched projectiles.  Suffice to say, we had some cool toys.

The coolest of the bunch, however, was always Transformers.  I mean, what is cooler than cars and fighter jets and semi trucks and dinosaurs (metal ones, at that) that turn into robots voiced by the likes of Eric Idle and Orson Welles?

When I first learned that Hollywood was going to be making a live-action Transformers movie, my immediate reaction was "kick ass!".  I mean, come on.  It could be terrible, and I’d still see it just for the sight of robots turning into stuff while destroying things.

My second thought was that the filmmakers would find themselves swimming in a pool full of automakers’ cash from all the product placement deals they could score.  Because when it comes down to staying true to the source material, or depositing $5 million into your bank account, well…

Anyway, this morning I found the first glaring instances of product placement.  Let me start with Bumblebee.

Those who watched the cartoon growing up will remember that Bumblebee was a yellow VW Beetle.  And a wuss.  And the Autobot who always bumbled into the Decepticon traps, got everyone else in danger, and ultimately had to be rescued by the cooler Autobots who, coincidentally, cost more at Toys ‘R Us.

Those who did not watch Transformers, that’s all you really need to know.  Bumblebee was the weak, inept Transformer that nobody wanted to play with when it came time to share the toys.  I think his expression in this…I guess it is a sculpture…says it all.

Bumblebee1

Well, surprise surprise, Bumblebee is no longer a Volkswagen.  To see what he’ll be in the 2007 movie, follow the link below…

Bumblebee2

Here you go.  Instead of an inept, weak VW bug, Bumblebee’s going to show up as a badass, if somewhat rusted out, 1970 Camaro.

But wait, there’s more.  It seems that, at some point in the movie, Bumblebee gets roughed up and requires a rebuild.  At this point, he will reemerge as this…

Bumblebee3

If you haven’t followed any automotive news whatsoever this year, this is the Chevrolet Camaro concept.  A silver one debuted at Detroit, and right now GM is playing the obligatory "we need to build a business case before we can approve it for production" game, while everyone knows they’ll built it anyway, because they can’t sit there and let the Mustang have all the fun.

Now…I think the Camaro would be a good fit in the movie…but as Bumblebee?  That would be like casting Russell Crowe as Frodo Baggins, or something.  But, I’m sure GM is paying a metric buttload of cash, and, considering that the original cartoon was produced with the sole intent of selling toys, the move is at least true in spirit to the original.

See a few more pictures (including a Decepticon Mustang) HERE.

In other news, the Decepticon’s token whiner, Starscream (who was always plotting to overthrow Megatron), will get an update.  Where he used to be an F-15 Eagle, he will now be an F-22 Raptor.

And Optimus Prime will for some reason become a fire truck.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2006 11:47 am

    Fuck off! Optimus Prime is an articulated lorry, Bumblebee is a VW and the Decepticons were extras on “Top Gun!” How can this be allowed to happen? It’s an outrage! What next? I suppose Soundwave is going to be an iPod now? Where does that leave Buzzsaw and Laserbeak, the two cassettes that turned into eagles? Also, Where exactly does this leave my personal favourite Autobot, Hound? A Humvee? A frigging Humvee? he is a US military jeep, and always will be, update or no update. I am so cheesed off now 😦

  2. June 1, 2006 1:16 pm

    “Where exactly does this leave my personal favourite Autobot, Hound? A Humvee? A frigging Humvee?”

    Worse…he’ll probably be an H2.

  3. June 1, 2006 1:32 pm

    Over my cold, dessicated body will he be an H2.

  4. Tim permalink
    June 1, 2006 9:51 pm

    See, when I play cars with Max, the deal is that he always gives me the crappiest car of the bunch to play with. When we’re playing with Hot Wheels, that usually means the brown El Camino with the chipped paint and the left rear tire that doesn’t spin any more. (Seriously, and I don’t know how that one ever came home from the store with us.)

    If they didn’t change Bumblebee … THAT’S what I would’ve have had to play with for the next year.

    Way I look at this, I win. So I get to dance on your cold, dessicated body while the H2 and Camaro concept car back up over it multiple times. Neener neener.

  5. June 4, 2006 10:09 am

    I’ve had a word with Megatron, who has now been “upgraded” to a tactical nuclear device with eyes, and he’s looking for you…

  6. mark permalink
    June 5, 2006 12:23 pm

    i had the laserbeak toy, and i had soundwave. What was the name of the yellow decepticon who looked EXACTLY like starscream except yellow, and he wasn’t a whiny bitch. anyone? i can’t remember.

    by the wya. returning the to usa tomorrow. pompeii was amazing.

  7. Tim permalink
    June 5, 2006 9:30 pm

    Do your toys often speak to you, King?

    Please ask He-Man if he liked Brokeback Mountain. Some of us would like to know.

  8. June 7, 2006 7:56 pm

    I had Transformers, too, but they were all small because my parents were cheap or something, I don’t know. My first car was a 1970 Camaro and for that reason alone, I’m glad for the change.

    King needs to switch to decaf.

  9. June 8, 2006 10:20 am

    mark – wasn’t soundwave the bird that turned into a tape recorder? I always though that one was lame!

  10. June 9, 2006 10:07 am

    soundwave was the blue dude whose voice inspired Setphen Hawking many years later…and yes he turned into a tape recorder, and yes it was lame, and yes our family was poor so he was probably discounted at Toys R Us.

    I loved He-Man but I didn’t have that elaborate kick-ass Castle Greyskull. Instead the parents tried to assuage my depression with the less elaborate and not nearly as cool Snake Mountain plus this stupid little car thing where you pulled the plastic rip cord and it would jet forward about five feet before stopping. I lived a paltry existence as a child to be sure.

  11. June 10, 2006 10:17 pm

    Come on Mark, Snake Mountain was pretty cool. I know that it was no Castle Greyskull, but not a bad runner up.

  12. Tim permalink
    June 11, 2006 9:01 pm

    Hey, my gold standard is still the Planet of the Apes Fortress with the net you could use to capture those annoying humans. Sure, it had cardboard walls, and if somebody rolled over on it, it went from fortress to, um, underground bunker.

    Plus, you could, um, make spaceships for the humans out of Pringles cans. Because, well, that was the ONLY FREAKING WAY YOU COULD CREATE ONE.

  13. June 13, 2006 6:48 pm

    Oh I love the Pringles Spaceship. If you were lucky, you could fing a clear piece of plastic and fashion it into a window! That was the deluxe model.

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