The Transformers: The Movie [SteelBook] – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

Amazon Commissions Earned

Film Title: The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
Release Date: 2021
Rating: PG
Runtime: 85 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free (4K), Region A (Blu-ray)
Distributor: Shout! Factory
Audio Formats: DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo & 5.1
High Dynamic Range: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray SteelBook
Amazon Commissions Earned
Release Date: 8/3/21
Director: Nelson Shin
Voice Cast: Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Judd Nelson, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Orson Welles, Gregg Berger, Corey Burton, Scatman Crothers, Casey Kasem, Eric Idle, John Moschitta Jr., Don Messick, Lionel Stander, David Mendenhall, Neil Ross, Clive Revill, Dan Gilvezan

Jump to Sections:
Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom

click to view a 4K Screenshot

The Movie

“The Transformers: The Movie” was a 1986 hand-drawn animated film based on the toy franchise (Transformers) created by Hasbro. The film was directed by Nelson Shin, best known for his work in the animation field, spanning from co-directing the “My Little Pony” (1984) TV movie to working as a producer on “The Land Before Time II: The Great Valley Adventure” (1994) as well as two other sequels to that, to eventually working as a producer on “The Simpsons Movie” (2007). The screenplay to the film was written (in the first draft) by Ron Friedman. Friedman had a writing career that spanned back to the early 1960s with writing episodes of TV shows like “My Favorite Martian” (1965), “Get Smart” (1965), “Bewitched” (1965), “Gilligan’s Island” (1966), “The Andy Griffith Show” (1966), and “I Dream of Jeannie” (1967) to just name a few. The original story was then adapted by a story consultant named Flint Dille.

The story for the film is set in the future, at that time, in the year 2005. At this point, in 1986 (in real life at that time), “The Transformers” TV series has been on the air since 1984 and has established the toy brand and characters pretty well. Most know that the “Autobots” led by “Optimus Prime” (Peter Cullen) are at war with the “Decepticons” led by “Megatron” (Frank Welker).  The war has raged on for millennia between the two until one day a colossal planet known as “Unicron” (Orson Welles) comes along and starts to consume planets. And it’s pretty obvious that Unicron’s next stop (target) is “Cybertron” — the home planet to both the Autobots and Decepticons. So, they’re going to be going at it even harder than ever.

Simply put, there will be a fight between the heads of these two rival Transformers factions and one is sure to not make it out alive. Yes, you read that correctly. Optimus Prime and Megatron will fight to the death here in this film, and that’s not at all a “spoiler” — as it was in fact mentioned in all of the TV spots back then and even the trailers. Some kids ended up getting pretty upset, as you might imagine when the first bit of the film leaves the fight over and a lot for kids and even adults to take in, emotionally.

“The Transformers: The Movie” was undeniably made as a further way to saturate the entertainment market and sell more of the toy franchise. No one has ever doubted that, nor did they with the original animated TV series that ran from 1984 through 1987 — spanning a total of 96 episodes. The franchise would go on to spawn live-action films and the toy franchise still thrives to this very day. This was one of the first big motion pictures for a toy franchise and one that a whole lot of kids, now adults, my age remember. It’s nothing amazing as a film, but it comes with the characters that you knew mostly from the animated TV series and toys as well as some animation art style that you’ll most certainly learn to appreciate more as an adult.

Movie Rating: 4 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Video Quality

“The Transformers: The Movie” on 4K UHD Blu-ray is presented in the intended theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio, unlike most previous television airings and home video releases which were in the 4×3 1.33:1 aspect ratio. And yes, I know that this was filmed originally in 1.33:1 and turned to 1.85:1 for theatrical purposes. Keep reading and you’ll hear more about that part. Trust me. This 4K UHD Blu-ray comes with both HDR10 and Dolby Vision forms of high dynamic range. The movie was originally put to 35mm film, and that’s important to remember.

So, there’s a bit of history here to the theatrical experience versus the home video and TV versions of this particular movie. As IMDb states the movie was shown theatrically in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio (that we get here on 4K), but it should definitely be noted that it has an original 1.33:1 aspect ratio. Essentially it was turned into a widescreen ratio just for the theatrical exhibition appeal, without knowing then that someday it could be experienced that way at home. If you’re old enough and saw it theatrically you will remember seeing it widescreen as a kid but if you’re like me you saw it on VHS or via TV airings in its original 1.33:1 aspect full frame, and believe it or not, you actually saw a bit more via that version, primarily at the tops and bottoms. So, as I said before, this movie was cropped from a 4X3 aspect ratio to fit into 16X9 widescreen but they tried their best to keep enough of the beautiful visuals in the frame.

The 4K UHD Blu-ray is from a new 4K restoration that used a new scan from the original 35mm film elements. NOTE: The Blu-ray included is presented in the original aspect ratio and I’ll discuss that further below in the bonus materials section. However, now back to the 4K.

Next, let me get technical, for a bit, in regards to the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc itself here. This release is using a BD-66 (66 gigabytes) disc, 59.34 gigabytes total, and 58.0 gigabytes for the film itself.

Blu-ray VS. 4K Screenshots Comparison:

SOURCES: 2021 Full-Frame Blu-ray (left), 2021 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)

This offers up such a unique and heavily detailed animated experience and that has only been intensified by this getting a true 4K restoration and having HDR passes added here in the HDR10 and Dolby Vision forms. The black outlines look so much better than before, feeling sharper and more solid. The Blu-ray from before featured colors that felt just a tad bit exaggerated, now looking back at it, in hindsight. You were likely able to tell that from just the screenshots comparison (above), regardless of the aspect ratio difference between the two pieces of the source material. That being said, I would go as far as to say that the colors now feel more believable than they did before via this 4K presentation.

As mentioned, there’s a nice bit of addition to the blacks or deeper colors here, and that’s because this comes with a solid black level. There’s a bit of film grain here, all throughout, but it’s a hand-drawn animated film so they’ve cleaned some of the dirt, hairs, and other debris up when they did the same to lots of visual imperfections along the way. It doesn’t feel too overly cleaned up though, in my opinion, but it looks like eye candy in ways for a movie 35 years in age. It really has an abundance of detail here now via the 4K presentation in every little scene and most especially in those beautiful backgrounds. This movie could almost be considered a piece of art or an art film, as some have said, and that becomes every bit more apparent once you’ve experienced it in 4K.

The film itself (here in 1.85:1 aspect ratio) restored and in 2160p true 4K is now even more of a trip back to the past in a whole new way. It’s also a very unique experience for those of us who grew up seeing this film on various other formats like VHS and DVD and even Blu-ray — in resolutions of 480i or 480p SD or even 1080p HD.

The 4K restoration that was done here is able to show off way more than the previous Blu-ray release of the film from this same distributor from like five years or so ago. I have to say that for this type of hand-drawn animation and the age of the film, this proves to look fantastic in my honest opinion and is reference material for the animated genre on 4K. That being said, “The Transformers: The Movie” on 4K UHD Blu-ray earns itself a perfect 5 rating for video quality. This is a blast from the past that really is “more than meets the eye” (here in 4K) as the catchphrase said for this franchise in its theme song.

Video Quality Rating: 5 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Audio Quality

“The Transformers: The Movie” makes its debut on the 4K UHD Blu-ray format with the choice of either a DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround lossless sound mixes. I will be covering the 5.1 surround lossless mix here, with a slight bit of discussion and analysis of the original 2.0 Stereo lossless mix along the way. I did listen to the film in the 2.0 Stereo for one viewing and I can say that it is equally as enjoyable, but I just found the 5.1 to be more worth focusing on here in the review. 

First off, the dialogue here is distinct on both mixes and for the 5.1 surround mix, it is delivered spot-on via the center channel speaker. The original score (composed by Vince DiCola) sounds great here, with a nice amount of rear channel presence and use of the subwoofer to deliver a nice bit of oomph at times in terms of bass in the 5.1 surround mix. The songs on the soundtrack like Stan Bush “The Touch” and “Dare,” as well as his version of the theme song, and even a song by Weird Al Yankovic (“Dare to Be Stupid”) all sound great here as well in the 5.1 mixes, as well as even in the 2.0 Stereo lossless mix.

The 5.1 mix here manages to make some nice use of a stereo source. There is a really good use of the rear channels and pans across the left to right, front to backs, or so forth here. It is nothing too complex but enough to really do an animated film like this justice. There are a lot of sound effects here put together nicely along with the music and dialogue that make this one a very fun 5.1 surround mix.

All and all, this 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of the film comes with two very nice 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo lossless sound mixes. That said, it proves to be just enough for the movie and it bodes as impressive and does the film itself justice, earning a 4.5 rating for audio quality.

Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Bonus Materials

  • This 35th Anniversary 4K UHD Blu-ray SteelBook limited edition release includes the physical extra of 4 Exclusive Art Cards and the packaging.
  • A Blu-ray Disc (the original 2009 release) of the film is included in this “combo pack” release featuring a 1080p HD video presentation in the full-frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround lossless sound. Because this is in the 4×3 1.33:1 aspect ratio, it’ll have black pillar bars on the sides.

Bonus materials included on the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc are listed below.

  • Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, Story Consultant Flint Dille, and Star Susan Blu

Bonus Materials are (as mentioned) primarily included on the Blu-ray Disc here and are listed below. These are all presented in 1080p HD video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.

  • Audio Commentary with Director Nelson Shin, Story Consultant Flint Dille, and Star Susan Blu
  • ‘Til All Are One – Looking Back at Transformers: The Movie Retrospective Documentary (46 minutes, 32 seconds – HD) includes interviews with Flint Dille (story consultant), Dan Gilvezan (“Bumblebee”), Neil Ross (“Springer”), Livio Ramondelli (“Transformers” comic book artist), Gregg Berger (“Grimlock”), Susan Blu (“Arcee”), Stan Bush (singer/songwriter), Vince DiCola (composer), and even a short archival audio interview clip with Nelson Shin (director) — taken from the audio commentary track. This documentary was produced and directed by Brian Ward and comes from the 30th anniversary edition Blu-ray release. This is a must-see for any fan of the film.
  • Featurettes include:
    • “2016 Stan Bush Acoustic Performance” (9 minutes, 46 seconds – HD) has the musician who worked on the original rock songs for the film discussing his contributions and then performing them live on acoustic guitar. It is fun to learn that he and a friend put together the most memorable song from the film and had actually tried to get it put on the soundtrack for a Stallone film. Instead, it ended up getting put on this soundtrack and he seems to certainly appreciate it. The songs performed acoustically here include “The Touch” and “Dare.
    • “The Death of Optimus Prime (5 minutes, 2 seconds – HD) is a spoiler of a title but yeah, that’s the actual title. Here, in this archival featurette from a previous 20th anniversary edition DVD release, you get a discussion about said title and all from the following folks who worked on the film: Flint Dille (story consultant), Susan Blu (“Arcee”), Joe Bacal (producer), Tom Griffin (producer), and Nelson Shin (director).
    • Transformers Q&A” (13 minutes, 3 seconds – HD) includes interviews (that answer questions) with the following people who worked on the film: Flint Dille (story consultant), Nelson Shin (director), Susan Blu (Arcee), Tom Griffin (producer), and Joe Bacal (producer). They will answer questions like “what is their favorite scene in the movie?” and such here, to give you an idea of what to expect. This is an archival featurette ported over from a previous 20th anniversary edition DVD release of the film.
  • “Feature-Length Storyboards” (1 hour, 19 minutes, 45 seconds – HD) gives you the entire movie itself storyboarded out. This is downright amazing to be able to see for any aspiring filmmaker, artist, or animator. You even get the backing soundtrack and such to go along with the storyboards. This is a whole lot of fun.
  • Deleted Scenes (11 minutes, 32 seconds – HD) come in the form of storyboards in between clips from the film. You’ll have to somewhat use your imagination here. Just think back to the days when you were playing with these toys, you didn’t seem to have any problems using your imagination with these characters in those days. However, most of the deleted scenes are actually (as mentioned) using animated scenes for reference points to give you an idea of where they were supposed to go in the movie.
  • Original Theatrical Trailers (3 minutes, 3 seconds – HD) give you a total of two different trailers for the film.
  • TV Spots (5 minutes, 52 seconds – HD) is fun to see, as it promotes the fact that this included widescreen animation (partially true).
  • “Brand-New Cover Art Gallery by Matt Ferguson” (2 minutes, 6 seconds – HD) will automatically play as a slideshow, but you can use the chapter forward and backward (the |<< and >>| buttons) on your remote to navigate or hit pause when you find a shot you want to look at for more than the playlist allows for. This will show you how the new cover art for this 4K SteelBook and the upcoming standard 4K release came to be.

Overall, the bonus materials here are excellent. There’s a lot to enjoy after you’ve watched the film in 4K (in 1.85:1 aspect ratio) with HDR and that includes the audio commentary (found on both discs), as well as the retrospective feature documentary, some new features, the full film in storyboard form, TV and theatrical trailers and such. My only complaint of what is missing here would be honestly the 1.33:1 original aspect ratio presentation in 4K with HDR instead of just on a Blu-ray in 1080p HD with SDR. I’m glad that it is included as a Blu-ray, regardless, but I think I would have rather seen two 4K UHD Blu-ray Discs used to give us the film in both aspect ratio options. 

Bonus Materials Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)

click to view a 4K Screenshot

Closing Thoughts

Looking back on it, The Transformers: The Movie was admittedly just an animated film made to promote toys from Hasbro, but it meant a lot to the kids who played with those toys and enjoyed the animated TV series from back then, as well as even comic books.

Transformers has made for one very popular franchise at first during the late 1980s but it maintained its pop-culture significance by continuing to be a toy franchise with entertainment endeavors like the numerous animated TV shows, and eventually the live-action films that have lasted from 2007 up until most recently with “Bumblebee” in 2018. That’s over a decade that the Transformers itself has held up as a live-action film franchise.

For a film now celebrating its 35th Anniversary, it’s no wonder that this hand-drawn animated movie managed to grab the attention of so many young people over the years and even means a lot to some of those who are still kids at heart. Plus, it had some pretty positive messages via the lyrics in the original rock songs that were featured in the film. That was always cool to see thrown in for kids, and not some angry rock anthem or such. I know that sounds cheesy but it’s just something I felt to be true, looking back at it in hindsight.

The voice cast here included some phenomenal names like Orson Welles, Leonard Nimoy, Robert Stack, Judd Nelson, and more. Also, this style of hand-drawn animation and the artistic styling itself almost felt a bit like an anime or art film in some ways. Sure, transforming robots are fighting and such but this film has just a visually pleasing appeal to it, and always felt a tad bit ahead of its time. And, I’ll admit the story isn’t that great in some parts but there are some big things that happen in the film that left a lot of us as children to take in those more serious things than we ever figured would be what the characters that our favorite toys were based on would face.

In terms of video quality, this 4K UHD Blu-ray brings you the film in the 1.85:1 aspect ratio with HDR10 and Dolby Vision forms of high dynamic range. It also has received a new 4K restoration, specifically to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the movie. To say that it’s more than meets the eye is probably going to get some cheers and jeers from some, but I’m sorry this looks excellent for a 1980s hand-drawn animated film in 4K (2160p resolution). The addition of HDR behind this gives it even more of an impressive amount of detail on the black outlines and the color overall.

In terms of audio quality, this brings you the option of two lossless mixes, either a 5.1 surround or 2.0 Stereo, and both in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. Sure, they didn’t attempt Dolby Atmos, but you might want to remember how old this source material is and that it was for an animated film that wasn’t from a company with a mouse as the mascot. These two sound mixes do just fine, and I think that fans will be pleased with the audio presentation. If it’s not broken, why try to fix it?

The bonus materials here bring you a limited edition set of physical extras first in the form of the SteelBook packaging as well as four exclusive art cards. Plus, there’s the Blu-ray of the film presented in 1080p HD and in the 1.33:1 aspect ratio (full frame, with black pillar bars on the sides) how that you remember it being when you most likely were a kid (minus the black bars). So, that’s a nice set of just physical extras here. Then you have a new set of storyboards as well as the new acoustic performances of songs from the film, as well as all of the original materials from the previous Blu-ray release, like the documentary, featurettes, the entire film in storyboard form, trailers & tv spots, and an audio commentary track.

All and all, “The Transformers: The Movie” on 4K UHD Blu-ray, here via the Limited Edition SteelBook, makes for one very impressive release of the film. It’s nice to see a film celebrating its 35th anniversary looking this good all those years later. I think the fans will be extremely pleased with the 4K presentation and impressed by the audio presentations as well as truly enjoy the excellent set of extras. This release truly is “more than meets the eye” and comes as recommended for those of all ages.

In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
5 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
4.75 (out of 5) for bonus materials

Overall Verdict:
Certainly “More Than Meets the Eye!”

Available As:

2021 4K UHD Blu-ray SteelBook Limited Edition Release

2021 4K UHD Blu-ray Release

Amazon Commissions Earned

4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:

Blu-ray VS. 4K Screenshots Comparison:

SOURCES: 2021 Full-Frame Blu-ray (left), 2021 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)


4K UHD Blu-ray Technical Specifications:

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Exact Runtime(s): 1:25:00
Audio Format(s): English
Languages: English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 Stereo (with a DTS 2.0 Stereo core), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core)
Subtitles: English, Spanish
HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Disc Size: BD-66
Disc Use: 59.34GB total / 58.0GB for the film