Steve RewindNoobMember0 XPJun-30-2014 12:17 PM
Why Transformers Age of Extinction is perfect!
In 1984 Hasbro looked to Japan and picked up word of a line of transforming action figures produced by Takara.
The Japanese firm Takara had been manufacturing two lines of toys that featured vehicles and robots that had interchangeable parts or were able to be manipulated into another form, these were selling under the brands Diaclone and Microman.
Diaclone had been selling a line-up of robots that turned in cars that complimented their other more futuristic designs. These robots were designed to disguise themselves within their 20th century surroundings.
The Microman line had been exported to the USA under the brand name of Micronauts however in 1982 the company responsible for the US side of the imports filed for bankruptcy.
Hasbro seeing the full potential of these toys that could be two in one, thus giving them a serious USP for the era, licenced the ranges and merged them.
The Diaclone Car-Robots were the first to be adopted and receive the Hasbro rebrand, followed by the dinosaur range, insect range and several transforming aeroplane toys.
Transformers was born!
The Hasbro rebrand of the figures now meant the premise was simple.
We had the car-robots, now known as the Auto-Bots and the Plane series branded as the Decipticons. These would form the two factions in an ancient galactic war that would be brought to Earth.
The only question left was how to get these figures into the hands of every child in America?
How to drive sale through pester power, a buzz word probably not even conceived in 1984?
How could Hasbro expose children to their toy line and brand in a way that they couldn’t miss? I mean if you just show 30second adverts here and there chances are they will work to the same extent as previous traditional marketing campaigns, however kids can easily miss the ads.
So with no sense of irony Hasbro needed something big, something gripping, something revolutionary, they needed an advert in disguise!
And thanks to Ronald Reagan they got their wish.
The FCC in 1946 released its “Blue book”, this do***ent was the guideline for restricting TV advertising.
After some legal battles in the 1960’s the FCC, in 1974, was able to state and enforce that a maximum 16 minutes per hour of air time could be allotted to commercial presentations per hour of actually programming.
Actions for Children’s Television had managed to limit broadcasters to 12minutes of commercials during hours of programming specifically targeted towards children.
Then in 1981 Ronald Reagan began an overhaul of the regulatory systems relating to advertising to children.
This new era meant that past issues, such as the Hot Wheels cartoon issue, were no longer under any form of scrutiny from regulators.
However according to several sources the level of interference from the toy manufacturers meant that these shows were in fact not just left to the writers and producers to develop story arches involving the toys as characters. The brand image was paramount and combing the lists of demands with tight schedules meant that the shows were pumped out as rapidly as possible. Even if the story line was weird or downright rubbish, it did not matter as if a new toy was due to be released it would receive a whole episode dedicated to mentioning its name as often as possible. It even got to the point where the episode would be named after the new entry into the toy range.
These shows were by the numbers, simplistic and designed at every level to sell and promote products with the characterisation and story line falling way down the list of priorities.
Even the animation was of little concern, as “dumb kids won’t notice if the frames aren’t aligned or the background is missing”. This was not an endeavour of artistic expression or creativity this was cold hearted, hard-nosed business.
Now as a kid I didn’t understand any of this and nor did I care. I was getting epic Transformer action every Saturday morning and that was all I cared about…until now.
Well ok let’s stick to the original show a bit more before moving on.
Transformers ran from 1984-1987 over four seasons comprised of 98 episodes.
And in retrospect the show is still amazing as a nostalgic watch and does have some great episodes, then again…it also has a lot of what the **** episodes that, as previously mentioned were jumbled messes, which made no ****ing sense and are now a curiosity. However back then upon original run these episode were purely shoe horned in to advertise the latest figure or one that they wanted to shift more stock of. Or they were just plain ****ing stupid which the result of having to come up with a story line on Monday morning and have the script thrown to the slavish animators by lunch.
Episodes such as “Sea Change”, “Hoist Goes to Hollywood” and “The Girl Who Loved Powerglide” are just weird.
So Transformers wasn’t a perfect TV show, so at least by acknowledging that I cannot be accused of bias with what I get onto later.
Now with the rampant success of the show a motion picture was put into production.
In 1986 the Cybertronion war was brought to the big screen.
The film had the usual great voice actors that we had come to instantly recognise as our favourite characters and brought in a top additional line up including Judd Nelson, Orson Wells, Eric Idle and Leonard Nimoy.
The film was more serious in tone, hardcore in action, a seriously well written and well-made feature length adaptation!
However we all know why this film, aside from its epic scale in comparison to the small screen fair, became instantly infamous amongst fans!
This film is an interesting example of business and art blending seamlessly.
Hasbro was using the film, yet again, as an 80minute toy commercial and wanted to use it as the longest advert/trailer ever for the next line of toys and series three.
This was designed to be a transitional episode to eliminate the beloved original characters and generate consumer recognition of seasons three’s roster.
And man did they eliminate the original cast with extreme prejudice!
They didn’t **** around with the opening to this film!
“What’s that kid your favourite is Iron Side? Well **** you he’s dead!”
“Oh you like Wheeljack? Dead!”
Dead! Dead! Dead! Dead! Dead!
So the film had some serious balls! And set its no holds bar tone very quickly!
Not only did they waste all your favourites in one opening battle! Jesus Christ how horrific is it when Prowl dies!!! That’s the stuff of nightmares! They had some serious intentions coming up! Also when the hell did the Decepticons learn to shoot straight?
Anyway, so from this manufacturer demand we actually get an epic Autobot versus Decepticon battle!
It’s a shame that the background to this carnage is merely just a cynical toy promotion.
However regardless of the motives it was something very risky and yet that was nowhere even close to the biggest risk Hasbro was taking with the opening to this film!
After the Decepticons take over the Autobot supply shuttle they head straight for Autobot City on Earth to finish the job that they had not even come close to achieving over the space of 2 seasons in the space of act one!!!
But don’t worry Optimus Prime is stationed at Autobot city to save the day!
Oh dear god! Noooooooooooo!!! Optimus!!!!!!!!! No, no,no,no,no,no!!!!
For a brand to kill of the prime focus of the toy line and show? I am sure that was un-heard of at the time!
So anyway for all of the corporate reasoning behind the opening to the Transformers movie it comes out as a solid animated feature, hell it’s so good you almost don’t even file it under animated movies and just put it in the best films DVD pile regardless.
It wasn’t just the Autobots that got the boot, Starscream is taken out and Megatron becomes Galvatron!
The film was timed for release at the peak of Transformer mania and made $5.8million at the US box office, however Box Office Mojo has no data for worldwide gross.
However after an initial strong opening the film failed to recoup its budget.
As a kid I was blown away by seeing the characters I loved both from the show and the toys I used to play with on the living room floor on the big screen! It was a step up in all terms from the cartoon. The film was louder, bigger, the action was high octane and the soundtrack is rocking as hell!
However think about what I just said.
Does that not sound like I could be describing another Transformers film?
This was printed at the time of the animated movies release in 1986.
Caryn James of the New York Times described the movie by stating, "While all this action may captivate young children, the animation is not spectacular enough to dazzle adults, and the Transformers have few truly human elements to lure parents along, even when their voices are supplied by well-known actors."
So flash forward to 2014 and what has just been release?
The core of Transformers has always been to sell products. The show was funded from Hasbro’s marketing budget and if it had not aided sales would never have existed.
As mentioned the show came into being to capitalise upon a change in the regulatory system of US Television advertising. So firms had a new channel to target a consumer previously protected by the FCC. The FCC acted as a barrier to just how much could be broadcast to this target demographic.
So what has happened in the decades since that can explain the existence and soul of Transformers: Age of Extinction?
Globalisation and the fall of Communism!!!
Three tried and true business practices which Hasbro are the masters of have been adopted by Paramount, especially with this fourth instalment of the Transformers franchise.
As with all companies growth is, well paramount, to continued success. When a company has maximised its domestic potential they seek out new international markets for revenue.
McDonalds is a global operation and the Golden Arches are now prevalent in over 100 countries!
When a company develops a product, especially a non-essential product, they target a specific consumer.
Seize every opportunity afforded to you by changes in the macro-environment!
So therefore Transformers: Age of Extinction is the most perfect Transformers movie ever!
The studio already has heard the criticism levied at the opening three in the franchise. They have heard that people hate the vapid stereotyped characters, the overly goofy toilet humour and the over the top Bayisms!
However why should they change? As ultimately they are making money hand over fist at the box office and the films are no longer for anyone like me or you. This is, as in the traditions of the property, just one giant commercial!
Looking back at that review of the animated movie from 1986, that review could be reposted in a comments section on YouTube under “Transformers: Age of Extinction” trailer and no one would ever know that the review is almost 30years old!
So in a world where even the Breaking Bad finale just about beats the now ailing viewing figures of X-Factor (UK) then why try to deliver a real film that requires effort? Why not churn out mindless pap?
Paramount has made the conscious decision to target a whole new mass market and this means that TF:AoE is the most two faced film in cinematic history.
They had no interest in making the film fans had been crying out for, all they needed to do was market it to look like it was the film that you had all been desperate to see.
The advertising campaign pushing a fresh cast and what appeared to be a more serious tone was designed to lead the fed up Transformer consumer to believe that all the rants, reviews and middle fingers had been duly noted and this was a true reboot. Leaving behind the humping dogs, humping robots and formulaic Bay stereotyped characters.
To some extent that is true, however all this film provides is basically the same characters in the disguise of different actors!
So Paramount has deliberately attempted to deceive fans who hated the sequels by suggesting this time things were different, that’s just not on! Especially since they did pretty much the same thing in the marketing for Dark of the Moon! The trailers and Apollo conspiracy plot device made for a trailer campiagn that conveyed a more serious take on the franchise and that the mistakes of Revenge of the Fallen would not be repeated. It worked, as even I rushed to the theatre opening weekend.
So why did Paramount do this? Well it’s simple they do not need me or you!
All they need to do is dangle out a few decent trailers with the promise of some fan service, aka Dinobots, and a change of direction. That is all they need to get your $8 opening weekend, and that is, I am sorry to say, all you were needed for!
As Transformers fans are not even close to their target audience for this film! We are just the break evens now. It used to be that the fans were the ones that went to see a film 5 even 17 times throughout its run.
Well they do not need repeat trade anymore, they do not need you seeing it opening weekend with a few matinees thrown in.
Paramount are no longer treating the franchise like a Camaro, which is ironic as that’s the main product placement, no, this is now more like a Ford Pinto, it’s mass produced and who gives a **** about the quality as long as people buy it!
Well maybe not so much the Pinto, ok let’s think of a better car analogy, well the Pinto is pretty apt since it was a nasty explosive piece of **** and Ford declared it was cheaper to pay out to victims of its combustive nature than improve the vehicle, so pretty damn accurate to Transformers. However the point I really want to make is that this film is like putting the body shell of a Ferrari on a Ford Mondeo. It looks good but ultimately is boring. Ah **** it the Pinto comparison is better.
Anyway why do they not need the fans?!
Well simple, this film is following the same tactic as the original series and has a whole new mass market targeted!
With the increases in living standards across the globe and the fall of Communism there are now nations with billions of consumers to target.
In less than 30 years the Soviet Union has gone from being behind an Iron Curtain which meant that Western firms could not gain entry and Hollywood films were smuggled in.
Now the majority of ideologically based restrictions have been lifted and after an initial destabilised era the Russian market is primed to target in the same way 80’s kids were when deregulation kicked in.
With globalisation even China has eased off on some their restrictive nature and that is 1.3billion people to target. In a country where people have thankfully experienced a growth in their economic status and standard of living, don’t get me wrong it’s not a place with lush meadows, rainbows, unicorns and paved with gold, yet what I am saying is that a **** tonne of people can now afford to go to the cinema and watch more films than they used to and not just Communist Party propaganda! Even though that **** still exists, it’s an improvement to what it was not 10 years ago.
So in the US there are now 317million potential cinema patrons, whereas China, India and Russia have a combined, including the former Soviet Nations, roughly 3billion people to market to!!!
So that is Paramount’s target market! This film is aimed to advertise American brands and products to these emerging territories!
But surely the audiences in these markets know a stinker when they see one?
As we are all so diverse from culture to culture, what we perceive as a stinker is a ground breaking masterpiece in other territories. Just as what we think is “what the **** is this randomness” from their studios is not to consumers in different markets. Or when some Anime or Horror is contrived to the home nation, to us it is OMG amazeballs!
Culture and exposure plays a major role in what is considered acceptable. In some nations spitting is a norm, however in the UK spitting is sneered upon, in the US gun ownership is seen as a right in some nations the thought of owning a gun is an alien concept.
Things like that are formed through the process of enculturation, where you adopt the norms and traditions of your parent culture and don’t think anything of your behaviour. So companies attempt to force acculturation to get consumer to adopt new ****!
To a lot of people summer blockbusters are so ingrained in our popular culture we forget that some nations have only been experiencing them for 10-20 years and that there are millions upon millions of 80’s kids who never got to experience Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in the day. Hell they may have known about them but been blocked from seeing anything due to political restrictions.
Imagine how frustrating that would have been to be on the wrong side of a border and hear of kids with cars that transform into robots and Turtles with ninja weapons, while you and your best friend play with a stick and cabbage!
That brings be on to my next point, stereotypes SELL!!!
Just as in my last statement I make a very stereotypical clichéd reference to kids in a communist state, stereotypes are recognise the world over.
That is why Michael Bay uses them! Hell most of us list their favourite video game character who is a completely racial stereotype! Well could have been worse Mario could have been a Mexican and he wouldn’t even had a profession, exactly we all understand the lazy Mexican adage, doesn’t mean it is right. However when you are churning out a film that is designed to be consumed by a global audience then stereotyping is the easiest way to transcend cultures.
Audiences can instantly identify with a character without requiring development and dialogue just like in a “cartoon”. The original series had a black and white setup! Autobots were good and Decepticons were bad! It made it very easy for an audience to digest, especially an audience of kids. Optimus Prime was the bold ethical leader, Megatron was the calculating dictator and Starscream was the little *****! This simplistic two dimensional formula was expanded upon in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Each Turtle was unique in their two dimensional nature. Leonardo lead, Donatello did machines…ok that’s sounds weird…Raphael was cool! but crude and Michaelangelo was the party dude. This is marketing 101! Even those god awful pop bands do this by segmenting their members in to representations of one demographic, sporty, scary, posh blah blah blah.
So what I am saying is that it is surprisingly easy to connect to a mass audience by producing characters which are technically offensive? However Bay does this so well by making all of his characters are so two dimensional and so offensive that they cancel each other out!
See they are designed so that each member in the audience attaches to one and therefore doesn’t see the offensive representation of their character and laughs at the depiction of the others. Obviously this does not work for everyone and some of us just find them all offensive but empathetic liberal douche bags aren’t this films target audience.
The box office results for this film are massive in the aforementioned foreign markets. The movie is crafted for new overseas consumers. I am not saying that consumers in China are stupid for loving this film, on the contrary I am saying that this film has been crafted to appeal to specific audiences and that is like any product. I may not like a brand of cola doesn’t mean I am right, just means it maybe wasn’t formulated to appeal to me.
However with so much taken for granted and so many decades of exposure to films and their marketing not only do we become spoiled and demanding, like kids throwing toys out a pram, we also become cynical.
This film has been designed at every level to give a blockbuster experience to new audiences and promote American brand equity overseas!
As I said at the start of this, when I was a kid I didn’t know nor care about the political reasoning behind Transformers existence. Hasbro was pushing its products in a new way, because of a change in the macro environment, to a new target consumer and that is simply what they are doing in 2014 with Transformers: Age of Extinction.
And it is for all of this that I can conclude that Transformers: Age of Extinction is the most perfect film in the Hasbro franchise as it is achieving the ultimate aim of the firm from day one!
TO SELL ****!!!