It was July 1986, I was nine years old, and school was out for the summer. This was during the golden age for the Transformers franchise in the 1980s. The funnier-than-usual “Kremzeek” episode had just finished airing, and it featured Prime, Blaster, and Bumblebee trying to stop a pesky little energy life-form named Kremzeek (who incessantly screamed “kremzeek!”) from scrambling the world’s machines. The film trailer that aired in the commercial break before the closing credits changed my life forever.
That trailer featured animation of a quality I had never seen before: a gold-plated shuttle blasts off into space from a metallic airfield, with heavy metal music blaring in the background. Then Optimus Prime in truck form launches triumphantly into the air and transforms as a heavy metal vocal chorus calls out “Transformers!!!”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of the lucky kids and didn’t get to see Transformers: The Movie in theaters. But I did get to see it on home video in the spring of 1987, and my life was never the same thanks to the score by Vince DiCola.
As a child, I always noticed and loved good background music (BGM). Some shows that had excellent BGM included Voltron (that theme alone is iconic and Superman-esque in my opinion), Dungeons & Dragons (which shared some cues with The Incredible Hulk), and of course, the Sunbow shows Transformers and GI-Joe. Season 3 of The Transformers introduced new BGM themes. What I didn’t know before seeing Transformers: The Movie, was that some of the BGM themes from Season 3 actually first appear in early form from the film (and it was very cool to recognize them)!
But more importantly, I had zero idea that the movie would be scored any differently than the TV show. So when it became clear the film had its own score AND that it was of higher quality than anything I’d heard before it by leaps and bounds, the explosively painful migraine I experienced (from being so excited) during my first viewing of the film was inevitable.
Despite Transformers: The Movie being a commercial failure at the box office, in the years since, the film has become a cult-classic among fans. For many years it was my favorite film of all time, and that was in large part due to the score. Thanks to the magic of the internet and social media, it is now much easier for fans to actually thank those who created what they love so much, and I am very glad that over the years, Vince DiCola has been very much appreciated for the music he created scoring Transformers: The Movie.
And so in the continued spirit of appreciation and celebration of everything Transformers: The Movie, we’re going to showcase key selections from Vince DiCola’s score. Unfortunately, the majority of the score is not available on Spotify (at least not in the U.S.) but thankfully YouTube has most of them. Here we go:
As the film opens up, we see visions of deep space and two giant stars (one blue, one red) in the distance. A much closer shot reveals a solitary spherical object emerging and approaching from between the two giant stars, and it is at that point the high pitched, bell-sounding melody plays. But as we get closer to the object it looks questionable (pic included for proof, lol), and by the :20 mark begins, the most adult-sounding, sinister BGM ever applied to an animated toy franchise begins. It’s a genius combination of percussion, breaths, and a dark staccato bassline.
From the :33 mark, we’re introduced to a bustling planet full of Transformers we’ve never seen before. There are even child robots running through the halls as adult robots are going about their day, living peacefully. The music fits this scene until a tremor shakes things up by the 1:07 mark, we see two of the robots looking up at their sky, we see the spherical object approaching, and one of them shouts, “Arblus, look! It’s Unicron!”
It’s mayhem from here. Unicron (now this travelling spherical object has a name) approaches the planet, engages a giant vacuum beam from its glowing maw, and uses its tusks to piece the planet and bring it closer to devour it (and all the living beings we saw on it moments before). It’s an utterly apocalyptic moment, and DiCola’s score drives home the inescapable despair of the predicament. But perhaps most powerfully, it gives Unicron a powerful identity, it sets the tone for the rest of the film: that no one would be safe from the threat of actually killed off…absolutely no one.
The song ends with a rejuvenated-looking Unicron (portions of the planet light up) having devoured the entire planet as the camera pans away from him into deep space. A heck of an entrance for sure. Since there is very little dialogue in this scene, and given that the music itself is prominent as well (and let’s be real: because I could actually find the scene online) you can listen and watch below.