Western Animation: The Transformers aka: Transformers Generation One
"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 Entertainment. Animation was done by Toei Animation and a few other (uncredited) studios, including AKOM, some Philippines-based studio and several feeder studiosnote Sei Young, Dai Won, Sam Young, Trans Arts, Anime R and Toei's Filipino studio, all of whom did stuff along the effect of Photography, Finalization, special effects and Inking & painting, with one episodenote "Call of The Primitives" presumed to be by TMS Entertainment. 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.
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.
In general, the Autobots were given blue eyes and the Decepticons red eyes, regardless of what their toys had. For example, the Dinobots had blue eyes in this series instead of the red found on their toys, and Soundwave's toy's yellow eyes were switched to red.
The Sweeps' beards are white or grey in the box art and toys, but vary between blue, grey, and black in the series.
Alien Lunch: In "Starscream's Ghost", Octane has gotten a job transporting junk for the Junkions. Galvatron sends a Scuxxoid to plant a bomb on the transport ship, and it explodes. The destruction of the ship doesn't kill Octane, however, and he's rescued by an alien vessel. The passengers are eating something that has visible steam wafting to Octane's nose, and he clearly doesn't like the smell at all.
Octane: Sheesh, what have you been eating?
Alien (speaks alien language and offers some nasty-looking chunky purple food in a bowl)
Octane: Oh, gee, thanks, n-no, never mind, I just want to be taken to Autobot City, where it's safe!
Animation Bump: "Call of the Primitives" is the best example. 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 the rest of the series.
Despite their constant Off Model moments, AKOM's animation does have an occasional moment of good animation in several scenes of The Five Faces of Darkness five-parter, Thief In the Night, Dark Awakening and The Rebirth series finale.
Arbitrary Skepticism: The park ranger at the beginning of "The Insecticon Syndrome": "Giant robotic insects that eat trees?! You gotta be kidding!" Note that he's saying this to Beachcomber.
He was probably skeptical that giant robots could eat.
And the fact that they're insect robots.
Arm Cannon: Megatron's fusion cannon. He also had an arm cannon as Galvatron.
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.
Back from the Dead: Optimus Prime, twice. Starscream regained his body after spending some time as a ghost.
Badass Decay: Scourge and the Sweeps in Season 3. In the Movie, they tore apartUltra Magnus, in the series, they're Galvatron's punching bag. Devastator went from being a match for most of the Autobot army put together to being taken down by Perceptor in the third season.
Badass Normal: Lord Chumley from "Prime Target" is 100 percent British stereotype but also such a bad ass that he captures a Soviet jet with a submarine and makes mechas and traps to capture several Autobots with the goal of getting Optimus Prime.
Canon Discontinuity: Unicron's origin as presented in the cartoon, being built by an alien scientist, was completely ignored in subsequent Transformers fiction.
Caps Lock, Num Lock, Missiles Lock: In the episode "B.O.T.", the Decepticons built a cannon designed to knock the moon out of orbit... yet it features an "OVER LOAD" button on a human-height control panel.
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.
Chummy Commies: The Soviets may look and act kinda funny, but are allied to the Autobots like most Earth governments.
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.
Reflector was an uncommon variation: three little robots combined into a camera for their alternate mode.
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?
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
Deus ex Machina: At the end of "A Prime Problem", Megatron throws Splick Spike 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 Three Part 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.
What really makes this a headscratcher is the fact that the flight ability disappeared without explanation in the middle of the 3-parter. In the first two episodes, the Autobots are able to fly without problem. Than the third part rolls around and suddenly Optimus Prime needs to use said jetpack to chase after the Decepticons' spaceship.
Really this show is Early Installment Weirdness for the entirety of Transformers. Amongst other things there's very little continuity until the movie, Megatron is a Generic Doomsday Villain instead of the Knight Templar he would later be shown as, there's no mention of key concepts (such as sparks), the origins of the Transformers and Unicron are completely different from any other version of the series, and the Decepticons are Always Chaotic Evil (except Thundercracker and Blitzwing) with little to no Grey and Grey Morality, which would become commonplace in the series.
Eldritch Abomination: Tornedron. Unicron is much less of one in this cartoon compared to subsequent stories.
Also Chaos, Torkulon, and to a lesser extent, the Dweller in the Depths.
Enhanced on DVD: An extremely bizarre case of it receiving this treatment not once, but twice! However, they weren't really "enhanced", so to speak:
The first time this happened (by Rhino Entertainment at the turn of the century), the picture was clearer, but as early masters were used, there was a lot more animation errors than when the series originally aired. As well as unfitting sound effects that were also not in the original. Needless to say, the fans were not pleased.
When Shout! Factory started releasing their own version of the series, they (wisely) used the televised masters. Unfortunately, the picture quality hadn't aged well on them, causing severe fading at various points. Not only that, but there's two episodes ("Countdown to Extinction" and "Heavy Metal War") where the sound effects track is considerably lower in volume to either the vocal or music tracks.
Evil Sounds Deep: Inverted with Starscream and Welker's Galvatron; played straight with Megatron, Cyclonus, and Unicron.
Fantasy Kitchen Sink: "Dinobot Island, Part 2" has it all - barbarians, mammoths, dinosaurs, pirates, motorcycle gangs, cowboys, and scantily clad bikini chicks, in addition to giant space robots. "A Decepticon Raider in King Arthur's Court" with the medieval time period and the dragon. Both justified in that time travel was involved.
Fiction500: Shawn Berger in "Megatron's Master Plan".
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.
Foreshadowing: Surprisingly, the show did have some. During season two, the Dinobots voiced their displeasure in having to save the Autobots all the time. The Dinobots would briefly leave the Autobots because of this in the Desertion of the Dinobots two-parter.
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. 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.
"Starscream's Ghost" has, as TFWiki so eloquently puts it, Octane looking up robo-porn.
God Guise: Cosmos crashes on the moon Titan in "The God Gambit", and his unconscious body is worshiped as a god. Astrotrain, the enemy, only encourages it.
Improvised Lightning Rod: Inversion: In an episode, the Autobots have to stop a plot by Decepticons but there's a lightning storm going on, and if a bolt hits a Transformer, something very bad happens. So the Transformers go into battle riding on other Transformers who are in their Vehicle modes; the rubber of their tires on the road isolates the Transformers riding on top so they're safe.
La Résistance: The Nebulans fighting against the Hive in "The Rebirth".
Last Episode New Character: The final episode of the first season ("Heavy Metal War") introduced the Constructicons. "The Rebirth" introduced dozens of new characters.
Likes Older Women: Spike at the start of the series is around fifteen when the series started. Carly at most is eighteen years old (she's in college at the time). His father Sparkplug actually encourages him to pursue her. And They Do in the Time Skip with a kid to boot.
Made of Iron: Aside the usual Transformers, the humans of the series can take more punishment than you think. The Transformers wiki even calls Spike "Superhuman Spike" for all the injuries he could've sustained. Dr. Harding in "Attack of The Autobots" is another example as she manages to survive a 4-story building of her lab and survives getting thrown into a wall, which should have turn her into a pancake.
My God, What Have I Done?: In "The Ultimate Doom, Part 1", Megatron forced Optimus Prime to activate the pylon or he'll be responsible for catapulting Cybertron into oblivion. Unwilling to sacrifice his home planet, Optimus activates the space bridge, bringing Cybertron into Earth's orbit, but wonders if he is dooming Earth in the process.
Optimus: Have I saved Cybertron... only to destroy the Earth?
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.
Starscream in "More Than Meets the Eye" Part 1, when after the Decepticons exit the Autobot's ship, Starscream shoots at some rocks, and the falling of those rocks knocks Optimus Prime's body into Teletraan One's repair beam.
In "War Dawn", Megatron sends the Aerialbots back in time to witness an earlier Megatron and his troops gun down several Autobots, including Orion Pax, Dion and Ariel. The Aerialbots bring Orion back to Alpha Trion and he's rebuilt as Optimus Prime (while Ariel's rebuilt as Elita-1). It also shows Slingshot (who previously admired the Decepticons) just how evil Megatron really was, and the disillusioned Aerialbot swears the Aerialbots won't stop until Megatron's finished.
Deceptitran in "Sea Change" sends out a distress signal... but the Autobots get the call as well, and their arrival before Megatron does causes Deceptitran to attack them, and show them what Deceptitran is up to. It also allows Seaspray to enter the Well of Transformation and be somewhat human at first, then a merman like Alana. (And Alana in turn becomes an Autobot for a while for the final attack on Deceptitran.)
Blitzwing and Astrotrain's attempt to replace both Megatron and Starstream as potential leaders of the Decepticons in "Triple Takeover" shows Megatron their true colors, and in a battle royale against them, Starscream AND Devastator, leaves Megatron as the last 'Con standing...and now the unquestionable Decepticon leader.
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.
Off Model: While the series was never exactly the pinnacle of quality animation. There were several episodes that had a much lower level of quality compared to the others. With constant, and often times glaring, mistakes present. Worst offenders include most of season one, "Enter The Nightbird", "Child's Play", "Kremzeek", "B.O.T.", "Trans-Europe Express", "Triple Takeover", and almost all of AKOM's episodes note "The Five Faces of Darkness" and "Carnage In C-Minor" especially.
The Original Series: The original television series. The comic book was released a bit earlier.
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.
Or really, any time Starscream really got Megatron mad ("More than Meets the Eye" (particularly part 3), "Countdown to Extinction", "The Revenge of Bruticus", "Auto Berserk", "Enter the Nightbird", "'Triple Takeover"), he came back in the very next episode as if nothing had happened.
Stock Footage: "The Ultimate Doom, Part 3" reused some scenes from Part 1.
Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Justified with Laserbeak, Ravage, Ratbat or any of the other cassettes of Soundwave for the Decepticons, and via Teletraan One's Sky Spy for the Autobots. In "Prime Target", Lord Chumley has a million hidden cameras everywhere, with no apparent justification.
Terrible Trio: Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker. Also Thrust, Dirge, and Ramjet.
The Other Darrin: Voice director Wally Burr substituted as Thundercracker for John Stephenson in "War Dawn", and as Ratchet for Don Messick in "Masquerade".
After the death of Roger C. Carmel, Jack Angel took over as Cyclonus.
The Other Marty: Ted Schwartz was originally intended to be Judd Nelson's replacement as Rodimus Prime's voice after Transformers: The Movie, and he still has a few lines (in the recap of part 2 and one line in part 3) that weren't dubbed over by Dick Gauthier in "Five Faces of Darkness".
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.
Tickertape Parade: The Autobots and Decepticons both get one in "Megatron's Master Plan".
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.
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.
Working For A Body Upgrade: A mutual example in "Ghost in the Machine", when Starscream's ghost and Unicron's head each work to restore the other's body.
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.