If you're looking for the live-action movie series, see Transformers. For the original Generation One animated film, see Transformers: The Movie. For more information, you might want to consult the Transformers wiki, TFWiki.net. Its informality is similar to that of TV Tropes.A long-running franchise consisting of dozens of toy lines, many Animated Series, quite a few Comic Books, and a trilogy of live-action movies. Reduced to its simplest terms, Transformers is the story of an eons-old battle between two factions of a race of Transforming Mecha, usually called the Autobots and Decepticons, whose battles frequently take them to Earth. Traditionally the Autobots transform into civilian automobiles, while the Decepticons transform into military hardware, though this distinction has grown less obvious over time.Considering its origins as a toy line, the show is highly Merchandise-Driven, each incarnation serving to pimp a line of transforming toys. The original toy line sold in America came about when Hasbro imported several disparate Japanese toy lines, primarily Takara's "Diaclone" and "Microchange". The piecemeal origins of the individual toys are largely responsible for the enormous disparity in scale and style of the early toys (the original Optimus Prime, for example, has a cockpit designed to hold a Diaclone action figure, while the original Jetfire's toy is easily recognizable as a Valkyrie from Macross). When brought together as a single toy line, they were given the Transformers brand and established the "sentient robot" aspect of the story.After the original toy line, further incarnations were designed specifically for the mega-hit Transformers brand, creating a more internally-consistent style, though still with inappropriate sizes between toys.Recurring character archetypes of note across the various series include:
Optimus Prime: Leader of the Autobots and known as Convoy in the Japanese dubs. In the original continuity he appeared to be the supreme leader of all Autobots by a sort of divine right and was shown to have the "Matrix of Leadership," a mystical artifact that has been passed down for generations of Cybertronian leaders. Optimus Prime is often portrayed as a conflicted pacifist shouldering the burden of military leadership. In later incarnations the title of Prime is more a high-ranking military designation and he is still under the command of a governmental body. After The Movie and in the third season of the series he was replaced by Rodimus Prime, although that character type has had much fewer incarnations. His typical alternate form is some sort of heavy vehicle like a semi-truck or a fire engine, and in the beast era he was a gorilla (anime series have had him as a woolly mammoth and a lion as well).
Megatron: Leader of the Decepticons. He is a megalomaniac whose thirst for power is unmatched and orchestrated the civil war when the Autobots wouldn't just accept him as their leader. Often portrayed as one of the most powerful Decepticons alive, but usually mad and brilliant at the same time. In Generation 1, Robots In Disguise, and all three Unicron Trilogy series, he was eventually upgraded and renamed "Galvatron". His original form was a Walther P38 pistol modeled after the variant created for The Man from U.N.C.L.E.note This was back in the days when children were allowed to play with realistic looking firearm toys. In later versions his alternate mode usually takes on the form of a tank or heavily armed air vehicle (jet, helicopter, etc) and if the toys feel nostalgic they make a "futuristic" (i.e. Nerf-inspired) pistol. In an animal form he has become a T-Rex or a dragon.
Bumblebee: A young Autobot with kid appeal, he's usually the closest with their human allies and/or has a childish, exuberant personality. His role is the Autobot scout and he is entrusted by Optimus for some of their most vital missions. The exact character himself has been left out of a lot of media (until the movie made him popular again) but other characters in this mold include Hotshot and Cheetor. He's almost always bright yellow and traditionally transforms into a VW Beetle or other smaller vehicle (like a hatchback), but (again, from the movies) a muscle car has gained acceptance. As long as it's yellow.
Starscream: Megatron's lieutenant. Starscream is treacherous, vain, arrogant and whiny, and is quick to seize power when the opportunity arises. The only reason he is tolerated is because he is an excellent air commander and is otherwise afraid of confronting Megatron directly. If he ever does acquire power he tends to be reasonably competent, though nowhere near as dangerous and diabolical as Megatron can be. Starscream always transforms into a jet fighter of some kind. Of course, like Bumblebee, the exact character doesn't always show up but his character archetype has so many examples in this franchise he's his own trope.
Primus: In the later series, the effective "god" of all Transformers: their individual sparks were split off from Primus. Depending on the incarnation, he varies in how directly he takes a role in a story. Sometimes he is directly leading the heroes and in others he is merely a mythical god. He originally showed up in the UK Marvel comics before being imported to the US line and, eventually, other continuities altogether. His name is often used as an Unusual Euphemism for God. In some continuities, he's linked to the Transformer-creating computer Vector Sigma, from Generation 1. In others, he is the actual Planet Cybertron. Though other characters may change between series, Primus and directly related characters are generally multiversal constants. Starting with Beast Wars, the Covenant of Primus became a multiversal Cybertronian bible.
Unicron: A planet-eating giant transformer, sort of a Eldritch Abomination/Satan-esque counterpart to Primus. In Transformers: The Movie, he is destroyed by Rodimus Prime using the Matrix, though his disembodied head continues to work its evil machinations throughout the third season of Generation 1. Unicron appears at the end of Armada, and is destroyed again, but is resurrected in Energon by Alpha Q, in an attempt to recreate its home planet (in this incarnation, Unicron is able to recreate anything it has consumed). Supplementary materials to the Transformers multiverse suggest that Primus and Unicron are incarnations of rival gods, born from the same The One. Though other characters may change between series, Unicron and directly related characters are generally multiversal constants. Incidentally, he has never been seen in the same room asGalactus.
"Freedom is the right of all sentient beings."The Transformers franchise has known the following incarnations in television, anime, film, and comics:Note: Descriptions here are to be kept brief; for detailed information, see the individual series pages. Please do not apply formatting to the bulleted titles, as this screws up the indexing.
Generation 1 continuity family
The saga that started it all, Generation 1 specifically refers to the base story of the Autobots and Decepticons war and their leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron, crashing on prehistoric Earth. Back on Cybertron the war came to a very uneasy stalemate because of their missing faction leaders. It isn't until their return that the war begins again. Other than that, between the various series and comics there is little that is consistent.
Transformers Generation 1 premiered in 1984. It involved Autobots and Decepticons crashing on prehistoric Earth and remaining in stasis until they were revived by an erupting volcano in 1984. To blend in with their surroundings, they took on the forms of common Earth vehicles and other machines. It consisted of:
Scramble City, an OAV originally released only in Japan, though a version was included on the 25th anniversary DVD of the animated movie in the United States. It focused on the mix and match aspect of the combiners, as well as introducing Metroplex, Trypticon and some of the movie characters, as the movie itself wouldn't be imported for several more years.
A comic published by Marvel, running from 1984 to 1990
Transformers Zone, which was basically a series of illustrated text stories. Followed by Return of Convoy and Operation Combination.
Kiss Players (2006-2007) was a short lived incarnation of the franchise, depicting Transformers given power-ups when kissed by human girls.
The Beast Era is a break from the usual presentation, featuring Transformers with animal altmodes instead of vehicles, and Maximals and Predacons replacing Autobots and Decepticons. It is in continuity with the Generation 1 family, but the toys and fiction are distinct enough to be considered on their own. Despite being quite different from the original series (and most subsequent Transformers series), the Beast Era is what saved the brand from falling into the abyss to which most other 80's toyline properties fall victim. Beast Wars revitalized the whole franchise.
Beast Wars (1996) was animated in CGI and produced by Mainframe Entertainment, famous for the first CGI television show, ReBoot. At first, Beast Wars was controversial simply for the change into transforming into animals. (This culminated in the 'Trukk Not Munky' meme.) But over time, the depth and direction of the story was praised, and the series as a whole is currently very well-regarded. Treating the events of Generation One in Broad Strokes as historical legend, it featured a determined Maximal crew fighting a rogue band of Predacon criminals on what turned out to be prehistoric Earth (an Earth All Along halfway through the series). It also introduced several plot points that would go on to greatly influence future fiction, notably sparks.
Beast Machines (2000), the direct sequel series to Beast Wars, was animated by the same company, and saw a return to Cybertron, but was received poorly by many at the time. It had a massive change of the writing staff, and it shows; the characterization of established characters, "spiritual" aspects and themes of nature vs. technology didn't play well with the previous series. It's part of the Fanon Discontinuity of many fans, and one of the voice actors that worked on the series referred to it on one occasion as "the bad thing that happened". Still, the series had its good points — the aforementioned spiritual themes were deeper and more genuinely philosophical than anything the franchise had seen before — and the general hatred has died down with time.
Beast Wars II, a traditionally animated show set far into the future of Beast Machines but broadcast in Japan between the first and second series of Beast Wars to fill the gap while the second series was being dubbed. It is powered by slapstick.
Beast Wars Neo, which continued after Beast Wars II and was broadcast between the end of Beast Wars II and the start of the second series of Beast Wars. There are fandubbed episodes of this series and Beast Wars II at TFCog.net.
Robots In Disguise
Transformers: Robots In Disguise started the trend of Hasbro creating a new line of Transformers toys and backstory, then rebooting the property with a new continuity about two or three years later; this has caused an explosion of independent continuities in the past decade. However, while RiD was originally intended to be a filler series - as the Japanese did not opt to import the poorly received Beast Machines for several years - it was very successful in western markets.
Robots in Disguise (2002) rebooted the series continuity, with the Autobots facing off against their perennial rivals, the Predacons (the Decepticons in this continuity are a group of Autobots subverted by the Predacons). The first Japanese Transformers series to have major Western distribution, the series was somewhat unpopular with fans who expected the seriousness of the American-penned Beast Wars, instead of the borderline-self parody and younger target demographic that RiD actually brought to the table. Nevertheless, a few characters remain fan favorites (Optimus Prime's Evil Twin/clone Scourge and the hapless but loveable Sky-Byte, among others). RiD is also notable due to several episodes of the series being pulled from American airwaves after the September 11th attacks, as they featured footage of collapsing buildings.
The Unicron Trilogy (2003-2006) was the next reboot and was intended as a full saga with an expansive toy line. It featured three anime series that were dubbed into English (with varying degrees of quality) and aired on Cartoon Network. Each sub-series to the trilogy had a 'gimmick' that was always in the limelight.
Armada restored much of the original mystique, as the world's smallest armada (Autobots: 3, Decepticons: 4) duke it out to dominate a race of smaller transforming robots, the Minicons. The Minicons can link up to their larger counterparts to give them power upgrades, having obvious Merchandise potential. Transformers: Energon and Transformers: Cybertron are sequels to this series, the three are retroactively referred to as the Unicron Trilogy, concerning the reboot of the Generation One Movie villain Unicron and a new take on his presence.The gimmicks for Armada toys were the Minicons, micro-transformers who would activate lights, sounds and/or hidden weapons by plugging into the larger toys. Energon toys were "powerlinxing" where every transformer of a certain size class could combine with another. Cybertron toys had "Planet Keys" which were similar in function to to the Minicon gimmick. The general disinterest shown in these gimmicks by the fans has led to a reduced prominence in later toy lines, focusing more on what features they can do with the actual transformation instead.Of note is that Cybertron was not intended as a sequel to Energon; the original Japanese Transformers: Galaxy Force took place in its own universe. Hasbro designer Aaron Archer had intended it to continue the earlier shows, so this is a case of conflicting sources. Interestingly enough, recent material released in Japan seems to have retconned Galaxy Force into the same universe as Armada and Energon.
Dreamwave also did a Unicron Trilogy comic. Armada focused on the plight of the Mini-Cons as born to serve the larger robots, then did an abrupt turn into the characters fending off Unicron. Energon had several ongoing plotlines, all of which were cut off when Dreamwave went bankrupt.
In addition, a preschool based Transformers series, Transformers: Go-Bots was released during this part of the franchise. It's usually considered as its own canon from the rest of the franchise.
Transformers (2007) introduces the new continuity, featuring an origin of the Transformers in a mystical artifact known as the All Spark. The hype of the movie was enormous, and while a very divisive topic it made a lot of money, bringing in the current fans and even the nostalgic crowd; a sequel was guaranteed days before it opened. Part of the film's success comes from a general respect to the franchise, the impressive CGI for the title robots and the casting of the original voice actor for Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen.
The sequel, Transformers: Revenge of The Fallen (2009) continues directly from the first movie, delving deeper into the Transformer mythology. Because of the first film's success, many new robots were introduced and it has broken records both financially and with computer graphics (a rumor has spread around that in rendering Devastator it melted one of ILM's computers). Critical response was overwhelmingly negative but the general public seemed to love it.
The third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) follows a new story dealing with further Transformer involvement in human history, with a story that arcs back to a Secret History involving the first moon landing in 1969. The general response has remained about the same, but it received some praise for having a more involving plot with some real twist and turns. It escalates the story to where it becomes a full-out Alien InvasionRobot War.
Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), intended to be the start of a new trilogy with a new mythological arc to it. The art design was changed dramatically (with completely new appearances for returning characters like Optimus and Bumblebee). The movie stars Mark Wahlberg and deals with a human conspiracy targeting Autobots and Decepticons alike, with a new enemy tied into Cybertronian origins setting its sights on Earth. Fans approved of the new focus on the robots themselves instead of strictly human drama, although critical reception was the same.
IDW has done prequels, adaptations, and sequel comics for the movies. Titan Magazines also does a series based on the movie, with issues that fit around IDW's, much as Marvel UK did for Marvel US.
A new continuity and a dramatic new art style highlights this series. It is largely a throwback to the classic G1 while cementing a stronger canon and taking influence from newer series. This series ended up returning the franchise to its roots, being American produced with no dramatic changes to the core story and not trying to highlight any new toy gimmick (instead focusing on the transformation itself as the gimmick).
Transformers Animated had its pilot in late 2007 to ride the popularity of the movie, and was the first American-written series since Beast Machines. Despite severe fan reactions to the character designs and animation style, the show's story and scripting (and a healthy respect to the saga as a whole) have won over many converts in short order. This time the Autobot/Decepticon war ended years ago and Optimus Prime is only the commander of a small repair crew, with Ultra Magnus as the Autobot commander. Megatron hasn't been seen in years but when they come across the AllSpark this small team has to deal with the feared Decepticon, which eventually strands them on Earth.
Fun Publications Transformers continuities
Fun Publications has introduced multiple continuities of their own for the official fan club and conventions. These continuities are not very prominent compared to the others due to their relative inaccessibility, their stories mostly having only been released to convention attendees and fan club members.
Transformers: Classics is a splinter timeline to the original Transformers Marvel comic in which the events of Generation 2 and some other stories did not occur.
Transformers: TransTech, a universe populated by highly advanced Cybertronians, apparently contains the only known version of Cybertron that never experienced a civil war.
Transformers: Wings of Honor is like Classics in that it creates a separate timeline out of an existing one. In this case, it does so via prequel and sequel stories to the original Generation 1 cartoon, and contains some differences.
Transformers Prime is a new cartoon, animated in CGI, that premiered November 2010 on Hasbro's new Hub network. The designs are strongly influenced by the complex Transformers Film Series look while retaining the more stylized approach of Transformers Animated. The overall series appears to aim for much of the same tone as the films, complete with the movie writers taking on roles as Executive Producers. Peter Cullen and Frank Welker have been cast as Optimus Prime and Megatron, making it the first Transformers series in which the two have reprized their roles together.
Transformers Prime The Game is a video game with an original story the takes place during the animated series about a meteor made of pure Dark Energon containing an ancient warrior of Unicron called Thunderwing that falls to Earth.
Transformers Rescue Bots is a new series taking Broad Strokes from the rest of the Aligned Continuity, while also being a Lighter and Softer series targeted towards preschool children. The series focuses on a rescue team of Autobots consisting of Heatwave, Boulder, Blades, and Chase, who work with a family of first-responders to aid people in trouble. Peter Cullen returns as Optimus Prime, but Prime will only occasionally show up while the show focuses mainly on its new characters. Its focus is primarily on safety education.
Transformers Go An animated series direct-to-dvd with the Samurai Team and the Isami Tatewaki to find Laserdiscs and awake more transformers.
Transformers: Exodus is partly a novelisation of War for Cybertron and partly a manual further explaining the backstory. Although it contradicts both the game and itself on a number of occasions, which leads to the majority of Continuity Snarls within this new franchise (Starscream was stated to be a dedicated scientist only for it to later state that he wasn't ever a scientist).
After the Transformers franchise began releasing the Lego-like Kre-O construction sets, these have also began to develop their own fiction, and just like the sets are based on several iterations of the franchise, the fiction also bases its stories on a mix-and-match of versions, with a humorout touch.
The Transformers Kre O animated shorts use stop-motion without dialogue for one-minute gags. These were later replaced by the Think Like A Kreon shorts, which use a wider variety of Kre-O figures besides Transformers.
The Transformers Kre O webcomic, being made in Japan, is drawn in Manga style and features wacky humor and cameos of several fiction-only Kreons based on characters from all corners of the franchise.
A scene change gimmick from G1 is a faction symbol wipe, if switching to the Decepticons to the Autobots the symbol will flip from Autobot to Decepticon, but it can also flip from Autobot to Autobot (for another Autobot scene) or Decepticon to Decepticon. Some incarnations have used a similar eye-catch and it has been parodied in many instances in modern media.
Advertising Only Continuity: Sometimes it's relatively minor, like a movie Jazz figure recolored as an homage to G1 Jazz being explained in his bio as having been revived by Ratchet, or Beast Machines quietly expanding the small band of surviving Maximals. Other times it's more complex, like how the early Beast Wars toys' bios set up the series as a direct continuation of G1 on modern-day Earth, with Optimus Primal and Megatron being the same characters as G1 Optimus Prime and Megatron (which would later be contradicted by the TV series). In extreme cases, such as the current Kre-O sub-line, on-package bios and commericals may be the only fiction available.
The Ageless: Almost always applies to the Transformers.
Though occasionally averted by characters whose schtick is that they're old fogies. Not only do they have the personality to match, but for some reason they're the only Transformers to physically age.
Alien Among Us: Alien robots, but aliens nonetheless, the series has many elements of this plot.
Alien Invasion: Technically, almost every series, but the 2007 movie and the IDW comics focus most on this trope.
All Deaths Final: While it varies how much the franchise adheres to this trope, Transformers is notable for being one of the few children's series to often have characters be Killed Off for Real. As long as you're not a huge name person like Optimus Prime, than chances are if you die you stay dead. The comics are able to go even further with this since they're meant for adult fans.
All There in the Manual: Many characters have all or most of their characterization provided in toy bios or profiles.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Dinobots. Even bigger robots that can turn into robo-dinosaurs? Awesome! Only problem is Transformers are Transformers (mostly) because they blend into Earth machines and since humans don't drive around in giant robot t-rexs this makes it a bit trickier to work in the Dino-bots. It is most likely why The Wreckers were made to be alternate heavy hitters.
Beware the Nice Ones: Rhinox in Beast Wars and Bulkhead of Animated are both fairly gentle, if large transformers, but are also the ones to avoid getting angry.
Big Damn Heroes: Take your pick of series or characters. Inverted in the 2007 movie when Starscream shows up and beats up Ratchet and Ironhide, stopping their protection of Sam in what could be called a "Big Damn Villains" moment.
Though in Transformers Animated some of the Autobots are selfish, corrupt, or incompetent, though not in the main cast. Sentinel Prime,we are looking at you. Likewise, while "sympathetic" might be stretching the portrayal of the Decepticons as a whole, they are at least clearly motivated (most of them want to reconquer Cybertron, but some have other motivations).
And in the IDW comics Continuity, the conflict has its origins in Gray and Grey Morality, as the Decepticons were a group that were rising up against the corrupt government that preceded the Autobots.
Many Transformers continuities play with and partially subvert the idea, going right back to the Marvel comic series in the 1980s. It is always with individual characters though so the trope is played straight for the overall factions even if the individuals within the groups don't necessarily all adhere. Also, the trope is played painfully straight whenever Unicron is involved, usually with "Unicron = BAD Those who fight him = good"
Well Unicron is basically the cybertronion equivalent of Satan so it's not entirely unreasonable.
The new book Exodus also establishes a whole lot of gray in the origins of the war and looks like a subversion, but later on plays this trope straight. Sort of.
C-List Fodder: Issue #50 of the original Transformers comic featured Starscream on a killing rampage that culled older characters by the dozens. Victims included C-list characters like Gears and Buzzsaw, as well as popular ones such as Omega Supreme and the Predacons.
Also, in Cybertron, Shortround collects...Transformers toys. The "grails" of his collection? Generation 2 Defensor and Menasor. Two toys whose real-world counterparts were never produced (or at least never mass-produced) in full.
Combining Mecha: The combiners, such as the Constructicons, Aerialbots, Stunticons, Destruction Team, etc.
For the record, all three of those media allegedly take place within the same continuity.
Cool Car: Kind of a given, but the live action movie had to use real cars. Barricade in the 2007 movie is a Ford Mustang, Jazz is a Pontiac Solstice, Bumblebee is a 1976 Chevy Camaro who later becomes a 2008 Camaro, Revenge of the Fallen is showcasing a one-of-a-kind Concept Corvette that will not actually reach consumers.
This is a common way for saving the big battle with Megs for a big moment. The movie keeps him frozen until the climax, and Animated keeps him a disembodied head until the first season finale.
Another example came from Transformers Cybertron, where Megatron ends up in a life support bubble of some kind after having Atlantis, an ancient Cybertronian starship, explode with him aboard. He fully recovers several episodes later.
Dark Reprise: A non-musical, cross-continuity version during Animated!Waspinator's last appearance. He speaks a line originally said by Beast Wars!Waspinator, but in a much less humorous, darker intonation.
Death Is Cheap: Let's just say "destroyed" doesn't necessarily mean "dead" and leave it at that.
Demoted to Extra: The franchise is somewhat the reverse of many other examples on this page, in that a number of characters appear only in the toyline. That said, there's plenty of straight examples...
Developing Doomed Characters: An endemic problem with the franchise is that the first installment - the 2007 film, Armada,Infiltration - will sometimes focus excessively on the less-than-likable Puny Humans and ease into the robots. Infiltration is a case of this backfiring spectacularly, with the humans' development inspiring enough annoyance and boredom that the next arc, Stormbringer, was advertised as "Nothing but ROBOTS on CYBERTRON!"
Optimus Prime will usually be called "Something Convoy" in Japan (Optimus Primal is "Beast Convoy", for instance); Jet Optimus's first appearance in the English dub of Armada infamously referred to him as "Jet Convoy". Averted in the Japanese dub of Animated in order to fit the live-action movie... but it also changed Bulkhead's name to Ironhide for the same reason.
Megatron/Galvatron's name is usually the same, but Beast Wars II reused the name "Galvatron" for an unrelated character, Car Robots (Robots in Disguise) originally called him Gigatron/Devil Gigatron, and Galaxy Force (Cybertron) called him Master Megatron/Master Galvatron.
In US media, the Autobots from planet Cybertron fight the Decepticons. In Japanese media (except the Animated dub) the Cybertrons from planet Cybertron (pronounced differently) fight the Destrons.
Dull Surprise: Pat Lee currently holds the dubious honor of providing its page image; his art is full of it.
Though that was because in the G1 cartoons, they were built on Earth, without Cybertron-built brains. The "GI Joe Vs. the Transformers" Dinobots were originally five totally Cybertronian Autobots who were time-warped to Earth's prehistoric age by Teletran 3, and given dinosaur bodies (with which they tore through Shockwave's Decepticons) as alternative forms. The following volume, had Grimlock talk in the familiar third-person speech we know him for, but he does learn to appreciate the Joes as valiant warriors... and "Good friends."
Devastator in the original, Tidal Wave in Armada
Dysfunction Junction: Many of the Transformers, Autobot and Decepticon alike, are barely-functional piles of neuroses.
Expository Theme Song: Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons!Transformers Cybertron has not only the regular lyrics, but also a monologue from Optimus Prime describing the show's basic premise.
Expy: The franchise is constantly rebooted, technically making Optimus, Megatron, Starscream, etc. expies of about eight or so identically-named characters. And then, there are other examples:
Hooligan from the G2 series is Skywarp in all but name and color. A dumb jetformer who is fairly powerful but only focused on pranks.
One notable Expy is Breacher from the "Hunt for the Decepticons" toyline. He's an Expy for Roller, the drone in Optimus Prime's trailer. They're both six-wheeled blue (well... usually, when it comes to the toys) all-terrain vehicles with a black gun on top, and they're both designed to fit in the back of a larger figure.
Fake Ultimate Hero: Sort of. Most of the Autobots victories are because of their human allies.
This was lampshaded by Beast Wars Megatron, who used the golden disk to alter time so the Decepticons will triumph over the Autobots. He would've succeeded if it weren't for his former right-hand man, Dinobot. That's right folks, a Predacon (therefore a descendent of the Decepticons) enabled the Autobots to win all those battles.
There's also ignoring the movie (and Seasons 3 and 4) completely.
Many fans are discontent with theUnicronTrilogy, and try to rewrite the entire series (yes, 52 episodes for each) to make it better fit with their sensibilities. This usually results in a fanverse that, but for the names of the characters, is absolutely nothing like the original shows. Keep an eye out for Darker and Edgier, elimination of perceived Scrappies, and the Decepticons as Always Chaotic Evil.
The symbols themselves also qualify, seeming to indicate good/evil alignment; the Autobots' insignia is traditionally red and the Decepticons' traditionally purple; in the mirror universe called "Shattered Glass", populated by evil Autobots and heroic Decepticons, the Autobot insignia is purple and the Decepticon insignia is red.
Humans Are Special: Played with. Humans are often instrumental in defeating the Decepticons, but they are rarely shown as being somehow "better" than any other species or important to the universe. The Transformers tend to be the special ones since they are the only ones who were directly created by the only known god in the Transformers franchise and typically have lifespans, technology, and powers beyond that of most other species.
Interpretative Character: Several names have been used throughout all the various continuities. While there are often consistencies between these incarnations of these names, there is usually enough leeway to take them in all sorts of directions. TFWiki.net's article on the term "character" is a good analysis on this phenomenon, and the Interpretative Character page here has more specific examples.
Long Runner: There have been Transformers toys in production somewhere in the world since 1984. Even when the line was cancelled in America in 1990, European and Japanese exclusives were continually made.
Loud of War: Soundwave (in numerous incarnations) uses this as a weapon, while Frenzy and Rumble (his cassette minions) used ultra- and infra-sound respectively (although the cartoon opted for earthquake-inducing earthpounders instead). Thundercracker's sonic boom could collapse structures and blow up enemy jets, and Dirge's engine vibrations were supposed to induce panic in his victims.
Meaningful Name: About 90% of all names are meaningful. The few that aren't, are still usually indicative of their faction. About 1% of all the names are neither - ironically one of them is Megatron (bringing to mind somebody big, but not automatically a leader or a villain).
Wrong - it's meant to bring to mind the word 'Megaton' as in a bomb.
The Multiverse: The franchise has a whole pile of alternate universes which sometimes cross over, and which Hasbro and Takara disagree over which are actually separate and which simply occur to the side of other stories. The Transformers of the Axiom Nexus have grouped all continuities into a number of universal streams, with each stream corresponding to a continuity group. Thus, for example, Primax is the G1/Beast Era family, Tyran is the live-action movies, Gargent is the GoBots, Quadwal is the real world, etc. Some of these are negative-polarity universes in which Decepticons are good and Autobots are evil; these are assigned negative numbers. To make things really nuts, there are also characters known as multiversal singularities, of which only one exists in all reality. Some of these, such as Alpha Trion, exist in every universe simultaneously, while others, like Vector Prime and The Fallen, travel between universes. There are also sparks that resonate across the universe, giving rise to multiple similar but separate versions of Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, and various others.
It should be noted that this is All There in the Manual. There's no sign in any of the televised series or available-at-your-comics-shop comic booksnote Aside from Fun Publications' Transformers: Timelines, which do receive limited direct market print runs - that is, any canonical stories - that you could "slide" from Transformers Armada into Transformers Animated, despite years of "collector's club" and convention exclusive materials that suggest you can. Fingers are still crossed around the fandom for a Turtles Forever sort of project someday, somehow.
Multiversal Conqueror: Unicron is a Planet Eater who wants to eat everything. One planet at a time, one timeline at a time, one universal stream of branching timelines at a time, in sequence. When he says he wants to be completely alone, he damn well isn't beating around the bush. Even if he's destroyed in any one universe, he just gets shunted to another to start over again thanks to mucking about with different flows of time across the multiverse. Oh, sure, there are a few permanent methods of dealing with him, like trapping him in a physical form to slow him down, but if they go horribly wrong, well...
One Comic has another Multiversal constant state that he has so far consumed some 47% of the known Multiverse. Yeah. Not mucking about.
Never Say "Die": Depending on franchise. The characters in Generation 1, for instance, freely used the words 'die', 'dead', and 'kill', but other series have used 'destroyed', 'sent to oblivion', 'offline', and so on.
Obfuscating Stupidity: In most of the comics, Grimlock acts like this. He still talks in the caveman dialect of his animated counterpart, but is one of the Autobots' most brilliant leaders, often coming off as a sort of brutally cunning Josef Stalin to Prime's FDR (or Prime's Churchill, if you're reading Marvel UK).
Off Model: Sometimes it gets to the point where it's not even funny. None of the shows, movies, comics, games or toys are safe. Special mentions go to the Generation One cartoon, the Armada Anime, the Generation Two comic, the Beast Machines toyline and most of the Dreamwave comic run.
Planet of Hats: Cybertron revolves around five planets. Cybertron and Earth are both hatless, but on the Speed Planet, all anyone cares about is racing, on the Jungle Planet, everyone is obsessed with strength, and on the Giant Planet, the only thing anyone does is build stuff.
Quirky Miniboss Squad: Before making an appearance in The Movie, The Fallen created one of these in the War Within comic series. Decepticon mystics Bludgeon, Bugly, and Mindwipe made a very effective one, too.
Retcon: G1 presented the Transformer origin as being created by a squid-robotic race called the Quintessons as slave labor. Most later incarnations, including G1 versions, have ignored that origin story in favor of the Primus-God version.
Although it could be argued one does not preclude the other...
Since getting teleported here in "The Ultimate Doom," it probably is.
Also, partly due to the Time Dissonance described below, the Transformers backstory typically has Optimus and Megatron chasing each other around the galaxy for literally millions of years before crash-landing on Earth.
They have also had issues in consistently getting the scale of characters and even planets right. A character that starts off as a car that people can comfortably sit in suddenly becoming a robot that a human is only at ankle-height to is commonplace, as is it suddenly losing twenty feet of height a scene/figure or two later. There's a reason why the TF Wiki's summation of scale in the Transformers series is this trope's page quote.
Sealed Cast in a Multipack: The show has this in spades. Since G1, 'bots have been sealed and unsealed time and time again. And the introduction of stasis pods in Beast Wars only served to make this even easier.
Series Continuity Error: Cybertron is sometimes a tiny planet with buildings jutting out into space in G1 to resembling Coruscant in the Beast Era and everything in between.)
Show Accuracy/Toy Accuracy: Rather famous in the original toyline, as the repurposed toy molds were from stories of piloted (not sentient) mecha and transforming defense bases. Ratchet and Ironhide (repaints of each other) weren't even humanoid in their alternate forms. Even Beast Wars had to take some liberties with the character models as the toys would have to cheat to be workable with both modes. Because of the lead time necessary for the movie line compared to the actual movie many of the toys are based on earlier designs and not the final character design, although by the third film most every character had a reasonably screen-accurate toy. Transformers Animated was the first series to feature genuine cooperation between the character designers and the toy developers, resulted in extremely screen accurate toys.
Sigil Spam: Nearly every incarnation of Transformers abuses the faction symbols to some degree.
Signature Style: Simon Furman has a series of phrases that make their way into virtually every comic he writes, referred to as Furmanisms. The most famous is either "like some vast, predatory bird" or "It never ends!"
This isn't helped by long-time Transformers comic writer Simon Furman, who writes Transformers as having no gender and has publically stated that he hates the idea of female Transformers. This, combined with the fact that Jhiaxus' experiments in giving Transformers gender made Arcee both a female and Ax-Crazy brings up some Unfortunate Implications.
Admittedly, it is a show about alien robots who technically wouldn't have genders. This is however not a good excuse for cutting out the characters designed to look female, or cancelling their toys. Also, Furman seems to think "no gender" means male by default. Literally, it would mean that there's no reason Optimus Prime can't be female!
Spiritual Successor: The Alternators line was an attempt at appealing to adult collectors by featuring licensed vehicles to scale with each other and with complex transformations that allotted actual interior space such as the seats, steering wheel and even an engine block. Characters were re-imagined in new vehicle forms; some of the characters known for a car-based mode received a different model, spiritual successor, rather than the modern version of their original model (e.g.: Sideswipe was reinterpreted as a Dodge Viper, rather than being a modern Lamborghini), while some characters known for non-vehicle alternate modes, such as Grimlock and Shockwave, were reinterpreted as vehicles. The Human Alliance line is angled towards the same principles, with the movies backing up the toys and adding to the interactivity with human figures. The Masterpiece line is a more literal update of the original toys, featuring complex transformations to convert a more detailed version of their original alt mode into a more detailed and more cartoon-accurate version of their on-screen robot appearance. The line received a "soft" reboot by revisiting the Optimus Prime/Convoy and Starscream figures, and ramping up the frequency of character releases, with the increased activity also including the introduction of several figures based on licensed versions of their original car modes.
Super Reflexes: Some characters have this power on their own, while others can acquire it through bonding with a partner (Headmasters, Powerlinx, etc.).
Suspiciously Small Army: Does this in a big way. Even when fighting for the fate of the universe, or the very fabric of space and time, it's rare to see more than a few dozen fighters involved in any battle.
Tank Goodness: A bunch of Decepticons, Warpath (who's an Autobot), including some versions of Megatron.
Telescoping Robot: Highly prevalent in G1, where the 30-foot tall Soundwave became a stereo, amongst plenty of other examples. Later installments avoid this for the most part, simply consenting to change size off camera. Not to be confused with the Cybertronians that turn into telescopes.)
Truce Zone: Maccadam's Old Oil House in some stories.
Twenty Minutes into the Future: The later seasons of Generation 1 and Energon are both obviously set in the near-future (G1 after The Movie is explicitly set in 2006). Cybertron, despite being explicitly set in the same continuity ten years after Energon, appears to be contemporary.
Unusual Euphemism: The word 'slag' seems to be a Transformer equivalent to the human word 'shit/crap'. Transformers Animated has fun with this, featuring such gems as "You'll have to pry it from my cold, offline servo!"