Transformers Pop Culture References
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"And who could forget Trans Farmers: robots that turned into barnyard
machinery."--Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, "The Great Cufflink
Two decades ago, the Transformers became such a phenomenon unto themselves
as a cultural icon that they crept their way into various television programs,
films, comics, and more. Some of the references were oblique, some
were blatant, and some of them might very well have been unintentional.
The references have also seen a resurgence of late, due in part to
the recent resurgence in all things retro-1980's, but also, I think, because
the sorts of people who collected Transformers as kids are finally old enough
to be working on the TV episodes and whatnot in which those robots in disguise
are making appearances.
This is a fairly comprehensive, but by no means exhaustive, list of references
to Transformers in publications or recorded media. This list does not
document references found on the Internet (like web sites or self-published
web comics), and I skipped the obvious official crossovers like appearances
in Marvel's G.I. JOE, but as far as I'm concerned just about
anything else is fair game. (I leave it to you to decide whether some
of these are "true" pop culture references or not.) Quite a few of
these were gleaned directly from ATT (in fact a few were shamlessly
cut-and-pasted from Google), so if you notice any inaccuracies below, please
inform me of them. I've tried to acknowledge the person who first mentioned
these, but I did find a few of them myself.
ALF. Alf is reading an issue of the
HEADMASTERS comic at the beginning of one episode.
Angel. In the episode "Hero," the boat which Angel planned
to use to ship some demons out of the country was named Quintessa.
The phrase "more than meets the eye" was reportedly used in a previous
Anything but Love. They ran an episode about a couple
taking a cross-country train trip. There was a scene where the woman demonstrated
the fold-down sink, and the man made a sarcastic remark to the effect of,
"Great. We're travelling across the heartland on a Transformer!"1
Batman: the Animated Series. In the episode "His Silicon
Soul", the opening scene takes place at the "Cybertron Warehouse", which
is adorned with a suspiciously Autobot-like logo. 1
Clerks. In an episode from 2000, there's a scene that's
done in the style of low-budget Korean animation, and includes a scene with
a red car full of midgets who then transforms into a robot and crushes his
occupants to death. In another episode, there's a dance scene in which
a crudely-drawn G1 Scourge makes an appearance, complete with Decepticon
symbol on his chest.1
Daria. At the end of every episode, images
of the main characters are shown during the credits in assorted costumes,
occasionally satirizing elements from pop culture. One of them is Mr.
O'Neill, Daria's English teacher, dressed up in a robot costume with a vague
resemblance to Optimus Prime (pictured, right).22
Doug. In an episode aired in 1999, Quail Man encounters
a group of Robotic Assistant Principals from planet Nebulous. (The
joke isn't immediately obvious until you realize that before the word
"headmaster" was used to describe Transformers with detachable heads, it
used to refer to the principal of a school.)33
Dexter's Laboratory. In episode #52, "Last but Not Beast,"
four vehicles that can combine into a robot make an appearance, one of which
is a green, futuristic Winnebago looking very much like Rodimus Prime. (He
forms the right leg.) The key Dexter uses to activate the transformation
is straight out of Voltron, incidentally.
Family Guy. In the episode "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein,"
Peter visits a synagogue and marvels at all the people there he's familiar
with. At this point, a red truck drives through the doors, turns into
a robot, and puts on a yarmulke, prompting Peter to respond, "Optimus Prime's
Jewish?" (This episode was originally pulled from the line-up, but
has subsequently aired on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim programming block,
and was included on the DVD set.)
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Jeffery the Butler came
into the room and announces that he's bought some Transformers for his son.
Will Smith's character walks by and notices them, grabbing them and
proclaiming, "Oh man, Razorbeast! I've been waiting for this one since
October!" He snatches up Razorbeast and the other toy, Iguanus, and
proceeds to growl and have the toys fight each other before running off to
play with them s'more.
Garfield and Friends. One episode opened with Garfield
saying, "The Garfield Guarantee: No giant robots or annoying little blue
people."1 (Okay, so it's not Transformer-specific. But
it's close enough.)
The Incredible Hulk. In a 1997 episode of this UPN animated
series, Bruce Banner is searching through some mecahnical equipment and
identifies one of the instruments as a "Unicron Transformer." (It's
no coincidence that this episode was penned by Bob Forward, former story
editor for Beast Wars.)
It's Garry Shandling's Show. One episode opens
with Garry Shandling playing with the Transformers Battlin' Robots game (he
called it Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, if memory serves--it's the same concept).
Mystery Science Theatre 3000. In "The Brute Man" episode,
the main villain brings a lovely gift to a girl who was nice to him, not
realizing she's blind up until just then...
GIRL: What did you bring me?
CROW: A Transformer I got with my Happy Meal.2
My Two Dads. There's an episode in which Nicole gets
a Sixshot toy for her birthday. Sixshot himself becomes the source
of a story gag when Joey proceeds to randomly invent transformations for
The Powerpuff Girls. In the episode "Jewel of the Aisle,"
the girls are watching a TV show called Mech-Animals, animated in
CGI (above, right), which takes place on a Cybertron-like world. A
robotic ostrich character says to a koala, "We will fight, Koala... we will
fight!" before the ostrich changes into robot form in a drawn-out, over-dramatic
Sealab 2021. This Cartoon Network series, aired on their
late-night Adult Swim programming block, has made several references to
Transformers. In episode 16, "Hail Squishface," a Soundwave toy can
be seen among the junk that the Asian peddler is trying to sell. Later
in the same episode, the Gloop creatures assemble themselves around Captain
Murphy's body to form armor, and both the shape of the armor and the pose
he strikes are obviously borrowed from Hasbro's package art for the
toy.40 (I am told there's another episode in which a lawyer
sues some robots and gets energon cubes as part of the settlement. I
need to start watching this show again.)
In "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show," episode #4F12, Krusty the
Klown is lamenting the poor ratings of Itchy and Scratchy and says,
"I gotta replace it with some Chinese cartoon where the robots turn inta...
"Girly Edition," episode #5F15, features The Mattel and Mars Bar Quick
Energy Chocobot Hour, which includes a character who bears a resemblance
to Rodimus Prime.8
In "Kamp Krusty," episode #8F24, as Homer is doing push-ups, he recites:
"Size... strength... agility..."28 Is he chanting
Dungeons & Dragons character attributes, or Transformers tech specs
categories? You decide.
"HOMR," episode #BABF22, includes a clip shown at an animation convention
of two transforming robots duking it out, one of which Bart calls "one badass
In "Worst Episode Ever," episode #CABF08, Bart and Millhouse get into a fight,
and each of them grabs a transformable robot. Bart transforms his into
a weapon, while Millhouse's toy ends up changing into a watering
Sheep in the Big City. On this Cartoon Network series,
there was a toy commercial for a robot action figure called the "Action Pop
'Em Transformerizerator Squad Guy."
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the episode "The
Big Cufflink Caper!" the speaker at an awards show demonstrates, "...and
who could forget Trans Farmers--robots that turn into barnyard machinery,"
and proceeds to convert the robot into a tractor. (As an aside, many
episodes of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles written by David Wise tend
to borrow heavily from the scripts he wrote for Transformers.
There's an episode called "Plan Six from Outer Space" in which a robot
impostor takes Splinter's place. The robot is called a Pretendicon
and can transform into a briefcase.)
The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Tom Hanks appeared as
a guest on the January 6, 2001 show, and the discussion turned to childhood
toys of the 1980's. Tom Hanks notes that Transformers were a favorite
of his and proceeds to sing the theme
song (435K; 40 seconds long).
Welcome to Eltingville. In the premiere episode of this
Cartoon Network series, two characters compete in a trivia contest of fanboy
obscuria, and one of the questions is, "Which Transformer transforms into
a VW beetle?" (Come on... does anyone not know this one?)
Baby Monitor: Sound of Fear. In this 1998 made-for-TV
thriller, you can spot the Beast Wars Optimus Primal toy laying on
the bed near the beginning of the movie.38
Big. Tom Hanks' character plays with some test-market
toys at a board meeting. One of them is a robot that turns into a
skyscraper. Not especially impressed, he suggests "a giant, prehistoric
bug" instead. (Ironically, the building used for the exterior shots
of the MacMillan toy company is in fact the Hasbro building in New York
Boogie Nights. One of the characters sings Stan Bush's
"The Touch" (583K; 54 seconds long)
the heroic theme from The Transformers: the Movie.
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman. A man enters a toy store, planning
to buy a gift for his son, and behind him you can see an entire wall's worth
of Transformers toys.
Flight of the Navigator. David, the main character, is
taken to what will be his new room in the military base. To placate
him, the army has loaded up his room with toys, including Megatron and a
couple of Shrapnel toys, still in the boxes.
Hackers. This film, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina
Jolie, features a scene where the boyfriend of the character Kate refers
to Dade and his gang as "Leopard Boy and the Decepticons."7
Knock-Off. In this 1998 Jean Claude Van Damme film about
bootleg merchandise from Hong Kong, a character appearing near the film's
end is carrying an all-black version of Beast Wars Megatron, which
is actually a bomb in disguise. (There's a metaphor if ever I've seen
The Princess Bride. Trypticon can be spotted among the
toys in the grandson's bedroom during the opening scene.24
The Professional. This film is also known as
Leon. Natalie Portman's character can be seen watching
clips from the G1 show on five separate occasions, specifically from the
episodes "More Than Meets the Eye" and "War of the Dinobots."
Spaceballs. The ship Spaceball One, that turns
into a giant robotic maid who threatens to suck the atmosphere from the Earth
with her vacuum cleaner, is referred to as a Transformer. When the
maid is destroyed, her head is even jettisonned from her body like Unicron
from The Transformers: the Movie. What's more, both the Spaceballs
coloring book and lunch box that Yogurt holds up at one point are both
Transformers brand products with new logos slapped on
Spawn. The back of the video cover includes the blurb,
"Beyond good, beyond evil, beyond imagination," which is almost identical
to the tag line used in the movie posters for The Transformers: the
Top Gun. When his wife and son come to visit him at the
air base, Goose gives his son a G1 Starscream toy as a gift.
ARCHIE COMICS. My source was uncerain
from which issue this scan was taken, but the hovercraft in the background
is unmistakably the Autobot Seaspray.11
CAPTAIN AMERICA. In volume #3 issue #10,
Captain America happens across two kids during an hallucination sequence
who have the following exchange:
"F'r the last time, you dweeb--Micronauts rule!"
"Shut up! Shut up! Transformers kick Micronaut
The Family Circus by Bil Keane.
(50K). A certain Guardian Robot makes a cameo.
G.I. JOE: SPECIAL MISSIONS. In issue #5,
"Showdown," Slipstream buys a transforming toy and gives it to an air force
mechanic, whose son is in the hospital. He identifies the toy as "Jetfire,
a swing-wing fighter," even though the comics artists were using Megatron's
animation model sheet as a reference.
LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES. In issue #99,
as a nuclear power plant is changing configuration into a battle station,
Robin exclaims, "It's bending... changing... like some kind of Transformer
MAD MAGAZINE. This satire magazine has
parodied Transformers now and again:
In issue #257 (Septmeber 1985), a three-page segment suggests Truly Logical
Transformers, toys that reflect elements from real life, such as a car that
turns into a lemon (literally). The beginning of the segment also has
a drawing of a robot that is obviously based on Shockwave.
Issue #285 (March 1989) includes a mock Toys "R" Us advertisement for the
Transrobonauts Action Assortment Set. "Clicks, snaps, and interchanges
with Technobugs, Dinotron Slimemasters and Transrodent Reptobots to form
a pile of rubble you won't know what to do with!"
Finally, issue #343 (March 1996) suggests that if Nautilus merged with
Transformers, you could transform your weight machine into an entertainment
center after you gave up exercising. (This bit includes a hand-drawn
Transformers logo, complete with Autobot symbol.)
Marvin by Tom Armstrong. (six panels,
360K). Hasbro never made a transforming TV set, though maybe they
NINJA HIGH SCHOOL. In volume #2 issue
#1, as Princess Asrial is transformed from her normal Salusian form to a
slightly less furry humanoid form, Optimus Prime shows up in a cameo with
the reminder, "Kids, don't try this at home! Leave it to the
experts!"11 (Incidentally, Asrial apparently uses Mecha
Armor in the image of Optimus Prime, if the unused cover to issue #2 is any
Sally Forth by Francesco Marciuliano.
(156K). This strip from 10/31/04 ruminates on the Halloween
costumes of days past.
SCUD: THE DISPOSABLE ASSASSIN. In
issue #15, a character named Jeff, who speaks in sound bytes, at one point
uses "It's over, Prime!" as a battle cry.39
SONIC THE HEDGEHOG. There have been
numerous Transformers references in this title, also published by Archie
In issue #13, Dr. Robotnick's converting ship is referred to as a Transformer.
In issue #31, Sonic says of a giant transforming robot prototype, "There's
more to him than meets the eye!"
The pin-up poster of Espio Chameleon from KNUCKLES THE ECHIDNA
#18 appears to take place on Cybertron itself, including a purple tower in
the background adorned with the Decepticon insignia, as well as Laserbeak
and two Decepticon jets in Cybertronic form flying overhead.
SONIC SUPER SPECIAL #8 has three references. The
first is the appearance of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership being kicked
up in the dust behind Sonic as he runs. The Autobot symbol also appears
on Rotor's computer console. Finally, Soundwave (pictured, right)
can be seen in his Cybertronic form in the background at one point. (It
is interesting to note that the Matrix always seems to pop up behind Sonic
A fire safety ad that appears in numerous issues features a superhero (named
Inferno, incidentally) instructing two boys who each just happen to have
an Autobot and Decepticon insignia on their shirts.
The Autobot Matrix appears again in SONIC THE HEDGEHOG #81,
once more following Sonic in a trail of assorted debris.21 You
can also see an Autobot insignia mounted on the wall at one point in this
In issue #96, Sonic is reading a comic book called "Auto Hero" that depicts
an Autobot symbol on the cover. In the comic, a character disappears
into a Cyber-Tone phone booth, and emerges as a caped superhero wearing Optimus
Prime's mask and colors, and proclaims, "Roll Out!"31
The Tick: Mighty Blue Justice.
This tie-in book has a page of grandiose plans for a "Tickmobile,"
including the note, "Some cars I've seen on TV can turn into giant robots.
Find out how this is done!"1
THUNDERBOLTS. In issue #4, the character
Meteorite says, "But like those popular children's toys of a few years ago,
there's more to us than meets the eye."12
WOLVERINE. In issue #140, Wolverine and
Nightcrawler are searching for Magneto, who was reportedly spotted in a junkyard,
but instead find his mechanical duplicate along with numerous other robots.
One of the robots they fight (pictured, left), thrown in by
artist Leniel Francis Yu, is amalgam of Optimus Prime and Soundwave.
He's even got an Autobot insigna on his chest.20
Doctor Who: Father Time, Lance Parkin. This book, set
in the 1980's, includes an encounter between the Doctor and a Volkswagen
Beetle in which the vehicle transforms into a robot form.26
Doctor Who: The Taking of Planet 5, Simon Bucher-Jones and
Mark Clapham. One passage is as follows: "There was a
time when it always seemed to be Saturday when I was on Earth, and the children's
programmes were excellent, if the memory doesn't cheat." [The Doctor] made
folding motions with his hands and muttered something that sounded like "robots
in disguise." In the same novel there is a reference to a planet
of alien philosophers known as New Quintesson.15
Good Omens, Neil Gaiman/Terry Pratchett. The novel has
a brief mention of transforming toys, as well as a scene where a kid mistakes
the Metatron (the voice of God) for Megatron. 1
Infinite Jest, David Foster Wallace. This 1996 novel
includes a passage in which one of the characters, Don Gately, is having
a fever dream in which "it seems somehow real vital to be able to remember
his doing something more than just hunkering blankly down amid his
Transformer-cars and trying to see if he could hear tiny agonized screams,
listening very intently."34
Needful Things, Stephen King. The novel mentions a kid
watching the Transformers cartoon.1
Popsy, Stephen King. In this short story, a character
mentions that he wanted to buy some of "those Transformer figures" for his
Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud. A chapter
called "Show and Tell" opens with a kid demonstrating a transforming robot
toy to his class.1
Alien Nation, "Return to Cybertron"/"Unicron." This
hip-hop group has a vinyl album called "Return to Cybertron" that contains
these two tracks, the latter of which has samples from the Beast Wars
episode "Other Voices." The cover for the album (pictured,
right) prominently features original artwork of Soundwave and
The Decepticonz, "Intro." This song from the former ska band's
debut album retold the story of the Transformers from the Decepticons'
perspective, with lyrics like "from these ships came all our men, masters
of deception," and "behind our leader, Megatron, you know that we can't go
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince, "The Magnificent Jazzy Jeff."
This 1987 song from the Rock the House album, contains the following
lyrics: "Now this is a story that should not be forgot/ about the day
my DJ turned into an Autobot/ He got struck by lightning in an electrcial
storm/ he got coated with the steel, and began to transform!"25
DMX, "Get At Me Dog." Part of the song goes something like this:
"When it's on, I transform like Optimus Prime. I'll form the
head--roll out!--let's stay alive."3
Dr. Dre, "Light Speed.". This track from the album Chronic
2001 has the line, "Makin' fools retreat like Megatron and Starscream.
Oh yeah, I scream on stars..."3
Faith No More, "We Care a Lot." This song form the 1985
Introduce Yourself album has the lyric, "We care a lot... about
Transformers, 'cause they're more than meets the eye!"5
Electro Science. The cover for this album (pictured,
left) features an image of Blitzwing, lifted from his TRANSFORMERS
UNIVERSE profile and strangely
Lost Prophets, The Fake Sound of Progress. The cover
art for this album includes a line art drawing of a Macross Valkyrie,
which is tangentally-related to Transformers in that it strongly resembles
the Jetfire toy. 32
Pop Will Eat Itself, "Can U Dig It." The song includes the line,
"We dig Optimus Prime and not Galvatron!"
Public Enemy, "Fight the Power." In the beginning of the music
video, someone is waving a flag sporting a Decepticon insignia.10
Rahzel, "Make the Music 2000." At the beginning of the second
verse, the self-proclaimed "Human Soundwave" proclaims, "Drop more bombs
than Megatron, watch me transform!" At this point he makes a passable
transformation sound effect, and then the video cuts to four different shots
from "Transformers: The Movie."3
7L & Esoteric, "Be Alert." This track contains samples from
the Transformers cartoon show (no specific data available at this
Shockwave, Dominicon. All nine songs from this album
were named after Transformers characters, and each of them includes introductory
clips from the original cartoon. ("Ravage" opens with dialogue from
"Blaster Blues": What is that noise? Humans call it music.
Not this human!) Also, one of the tracks from
Autohate is entitled "Merge for the Kill."24
Tailothepup, "Starscream." The transformation sound effect is
featured throughout the entire song, and ends with a sound clip of Starscream
from the episode "Divide and Conquer." As of this writing the song
is available here.
Warren G, "Transformers." The song contains the refrain,
"Transformers, bustas in disguise," complete with robotic
Wu-Tang Clan, "Impossible." This song includes the passage,
"I space knight like ROM, consume planets like Unicron, blastin' photon bombs
from the arm like Galvatron."3
Comedy Central. On one of the network's many television
compilations of comic routines, one stand-up comic mentions The Transformers:
the Movie and questions why a children's toy would get its own theatrical
film. He asks, "What's next, Etch-A-Sketch the movie?" and proceeds
to demonstrate what it might be like if there were two giant knobs on either
side of the movie theater screen.36
Dinosaur Park (Ogden, UT). A 1999 television
commercial for the Dinosaur Park began with a clip show of assorted dinosaur
toys, including the Beast Wars Megatron T. rex.
Johnson State College (VT). There is a local punk band
at the college that calls themselves "Transformers for Girls."30
Select. In the November 97 issue of Select (an English
music magazine embodying 'fab' and other British adjectives), on page 75,
there is an ad for 'The Future Sound of the United Kingdom', a 'UK big beat
scene' compilation album. The bottom left of the photo has Red Alert from
TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE #3 cut directly from the comic.
Ridge Race 64. This Nintendo 64 racing game features
a desert track with a movie theater. In the Intermediate skill level,
if you enter the theater at night, one side reads Transparents the Movie:
More Than Meets the 'Y' and on the other side you'll see "Starring P.
Culling as Optimize Prime." The game also includes a tractor trailer
that is nearly identical to Optimus Prime's truck mode.17
1TV's Grady, 2M Sipher, 3HooksX,
4 firstname.lastname@example.org, 5Crystal Screamer,
6Jeff Morris, Patrick Webber, 7Suspsy,
8Scarab8006, 9Scott E. Kampa,
10Ben Poston, 11JFoster917, 12Aeronaut,
13ZacWilliam, 14The Nixtr, 15"Josh" (kbowl8343
at charter.net), 16Metlhd3138, 17Aryudsoh,
19Punicron, 20David Cousens, 21
Jon Brown, 22 Dragonclaw, 23Robert Pessognelli,
24Hooper_X, 25Outtsyder, 26Brian Kilby,
27Matt Marshall, 28Derek Bassemir,
29Bdrodman, 30Nathan Bouvier, 31ShadowWing,
32bigedmachine at hotmail.com, 32Devastator,
33Blevins, 34AriX, 35Jim Lee,
36JSimmons81, 37Ground Zero, 38Wombat King
Thanks to Kathleen "Nightwind" Kirkland and ppgworld.com for the screen shots.
The Family Circus was created by Bil Keane and is property
of King Features Syndicate, ©1986. Marvin was created
by Tom Armstrong and is property of North America Syndicate, ©1986.
Sally Forth was created by Greg Howard is property of King Features
Syndicate, ©2004. This page is not intended to infringe on the
trademarks of the aforementioned copyright holders. I just thought
it was neat that they made Transformers references, is
This Page Created 1/1/2000
Last Update: 11/1/2004
©2004 Inspiration Studios