If there’s anything that Pinoy drivers are fond of more than their rides, it’s probably the cartoons they watched during their younger years. Specifically, cartoons starring cars doing the coolest things a kid can imagine: they can talk, drive by themselves, perform stunts, and basically save the day from the bad guys.
In hindsight, we know that these car movies were intended to sell the inevitable toys and other merchandise that the show came with. But as kids, all we did was gaze slack-jawed at the TV screen while the cars zoomed their way into our memories.
These days, we’re starting to get a glimpse of how these beloved fantasy cars might be translated in the actual metal. We’ve got cars that can drive themselves, cars that can park on their own, cars that can quickly find the best possible route to avoid traffic and obstacles, and even quirky cars that can physically change their appearance. The “wow” factor these cars exude is undeniable, and readily take us back to the days when such advanced automobile technologies only existed in the fertile minds of animators.
Let’s look back at some of these “car” toons, or best car movies, that defined our childhood, and find out which ones ultimately inspired you to get behind the wheel, Philippine traffic be damned.
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1.1. Plot summary
This show has probably the most recognizable cartoon cars from yesteryear, especially since they mostly belong to the good guys. As a backgrounder, Transformers is a media franchise jointly produced by the American toy maker Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara Tomy. The series was adapted from Japan’s Microman and Diaclone series, the latter featuring robots capable of transforming into everyday vehicles.
Transformers is a media franchise jointly produced by the American toy maker Hasbro and Japanese toy company Takara Tomy
It has spawned comic books, video games, animated films and live-action movies, but Transformers is most fondly remembered by today’s middle-aged adults as the animated television series that first aired in 1984 (now retroactively called Generation 1 by ardent fans), as well as the toy line that accompanied it. The show’s tagline was “More Than Meets The Eye”.
Transformers tells the story of two warring factions within the fictional planet of Cybertron: the Autobots, descendants of a line of robots created as consumer goods, and the Decepticons, machines that were originally created as military hardware.
They were both created by beings known as the Quintessons, who were eventually driven away from Cybertron when the Autobots rebelled against their forced servitude. After the Quintessons left, the Decepticons lusted for power, believing that such is their right since they were created as weapons of war.
As the Autobots were outmatched in terms of firepower and fighting ability, they turned to stealth, developing transformation technology that enabled them to assume alternate forms and slip by the enemy undetected; this helped them to triumph over the Decepticons. However, after a period of relative peace on Cybertron, the Decepticons also adopted transformation capabilities, resuming the conflict and nearly depleting Cybertron of its energy resources.
Upon learning that the Autobots were leaving to search for new possible sources of energy, the Decepticons intercept their ship the Ark in space, drifting too close to prehistoric Earth and crash landing on the planet, plunging all occupants into emergency stasis. After 4 million years, a volcanic eruption awakens the ship, which sends spy satellites to scan various Earth vehicles and devices, assigning them as alternate forms that each Decepticon and Autobot can use to hide, in case humans turn out to be hostile. Thus revived, both factions bring their war to human civilization.
1.2.1. Protagonist characters
Transformers tells the story of two warring factions within the fictional planet of Cybertron: the Autobots and the Decepticons
Most of the transforming automobiles (in the beginning, at least) belonged to the Autobot faction, among the most recognizable are:
Optimus Prime is previously known as Orion Pax, a dock worker who looked up to the Decepticons before he was severely damaged during a Decepticon raid on Cybertron. Rebuilt by the ancient Autobot Alpha Trion and given a more battle-hardy configuration, Optimus Prime assumes leadership of the Autobots and leads them against the Decepticons.
Optimus Prime assumes leadership of the Autobots and leads them against the Decepticons
His alternate form on Earth is a red Freightliner FL86 tractor cab, accompanied by a trailer that converts into a battle station when Prime assumes robot mode. As a leader, Prime demonstrates a strong sense of justice with regard to all sentient beings. Within his chest unit (the cockpit in truck mode) is a mystic talisman known as the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, which he passes on when he seemingly dies in the first Transformers animated movie.
Ironhide is an old friend of Prime’s and one of his trusted lieutenants. Ironhide mainly fulfills the roles of Prime’s bodyguard, as well as a seasoned Autobot warrior on account of his age (which also explains his gruff demeanor most of the time). His defensive capabilities usually mean he’s assigned to some sort of protection detail, safekeeping anything or anyone of importance.
Ironhide mainly fulfills the roles of Prime’s bodyguard
Ironhide’s alternate Earth mode is a red Nissan Vanette. As a veteran, he sometimes feels that he has become too old to be of any use to his fellow Autobots, since he’s the slowest of them and breaks down the most. While the younger members on the team see him as a liability, Optimus Prime continues to value Ironhide’s presence and experience.
Bumblebee is an Autobot scout, and looked upon as the younger brother on the team. This doesn’t always sit well with Bumblebee, who feels he must constantly prove his worth to his teammates, which often leads him to take risks that put him in danger. His small size makes him a suitable messenger and spy, enabling him to reach enemy areas that would otherwise be impossible for his larger teammates to access without being seen. In addition, Bumblebee is fuel-efficient, possesses great visual acuity and can particularly adapt to underwater environments.
His alternate Earth form is a yellow VW Type 1 Beetle. While Ironhide’s insecurity lies in his age, Bumblebee is self-conscious about his size, which is why he is able to form a close association with the Autobots’ human allies on Earth, especially Spike Witwicky.
Bumblebee is an Autobot scout, and looked upon as the younger brother on the team
Ratchet is the chief medical officer on the Autobot team. As a pacifist, Ratchet is rarely seen joining his fellow Autobots in battle; he mostly stays at the Autobot base either attending to battle-damaged Autobots or assisting Wheeljack with creating new ones.
His alternate Earth form is a Nissan Onebox Vanette ambulance, externally similar to Ironhide except for the colors and the presumably stronger armor that Ironhide has. As a physician and medic, Ratchet often has an irreverent bedside manner, and he loves having a good time. But being primarily a healer, he doesn’t think that he’s a particularly mighty warrior and considers himself expendable. Optimus Prime has to constantly convince him otherwise.
The Ratchet's alternate Earth form is a Nissan Onebox Vanette ambulance
Wheeljack is the inventor and mad scientist in the Autobot faction. Probably the biggest nerd on the team, he would sometimes come up with actual working inventions and weapons that help the Autobots in their fight. Most of the time though, the nature of his experiments tend to be unpredictable, blowing up in his face and requiring fellow Autobots Ratchet and Hoist to put him and his laboratory back in order.
Wheeljack’s alternate Earth form is a Lancia Stratos Turbo 5 rally car with Alitalia livery. Despite mixed results of his work as a gadgeteer, Wheeljack is the most accomplished driver among the Autobots in vehicle form, displaying his prowess through various road stunts. With such inherent ingenuity and driving skill, could Wheeljack be Filipino?
Sideswipe is a brave, if brash, Autobot warrior. His jet pack makes him one of the few G1 Autobots with the ability to fly, whether in atmospheric conditions or in space. Sideswipe is one of the most skilled Autobots in battle, but he can be a bit brash at times. He’s what most humans would consider a jock, engaging in battle for the sport of it to test his mettle against his opponents. Sideswipe is also not above cheating, if it means gaining the upper hand.
His alternate Earth form is a red Lamborghini Countach. Sideswipe is considered one of the Autobots’ resident pranksters, along with Jazz.
Sunstreaker is Sideswipe’s twin brother, generally seen as having more sociopathic tendencies, in addition to being vain and egotistical, which usually puts him at odds with the other Autobots. Sunstreaker demonstrates quite a mean streak; he loudly complains about everyone else’s shortcomings, and he’s unwilling to help those who can’t keep up with him. His arrogance means he is notoriously difficult to work with, and Sideswipe is the only one he gets along with, especially during sorties.
Sunstreaker’s alternate Earth form is a yellow Lamborghini Countach, modified to have the engine sticking out (as opposed to concealed in Sideswipe’s case). His skill and effectiveness on the battlefield is likely the main reason Prime keeps him in the Autobot fold, even if he tends to be ruthless.
Jazz is Optimus Prime’s second-in-command, as well as head of special operations, with his own team of agents. His cool and calm demeanor often means he assigns the most dangerous assignments to himself, since he really has the coolest head for the toughest missions. Jazz is a master of improvisation, which makes him an indispensable asset in battle.
Jazz is a master of improvisation, which makes him an indispensable asset in battle
His alternate Earth mode is a Martini Porsche 935 Turbo race car. Apart from being the most stylish Autobot, Jazz effortlessly attunes to Earth culture, constantly updated on the latest trends, and his easygoing personality makes him well-liked on the team.
Mirage is another Autobot spy, known for his ability to render himself invisible, generate illusions or alter his physical appearance. On Cybertron, Mirage lived the high life as a member of upper society, but the ensuing conflict led him to sign up with the Autobots. He’s often unsure of his motivations for joining, questioning the need to fight a protracted war, and openly wishes that the Autobots and Decepticons get along instead, leading his fellow Autobots to mistrust him as a Decepticon sympathizer.
His alternate Earth form is a 1979 Ligier JS11-Ford F1 racecar. Although he is an unwilling fighter, Mirage is actually a superior melee combatant and skilled sharpshooter, having honed his skills hunting game on Cybertron.
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1.2.2. Antagonist characters
Decepticon leader Megatron, envious of the Autobots’ mobility on Earth, stole various human vehicles and customized them so that he can have his own team of fighters with cars as alternate modes. The first five were the Stunticons, who were to be the mortal enemies of the Aerialbots from the Autobot faction.
The Decepticons were machines that were originally created as military hardware
Motormaster is the leader of the Stunticons. He commands the others with fear as a brutal tyrant, and although the rest of the Stunticons despise him, they are often too scared to voice out their dissent. Motormaster has a top speed of 225 kph in vehicle mode (which is not unlike a lot of trucks running Philippine roads at night).
His alternate Earth form is a semi-trailer similar to Optimus Prime, but unlike Prime, Motormaster utilizes the entire tractor trailer for his body. Motormaster especially wants to destroy Prime in a head-on collision and claim the title “King of the Road”; his obsession is such that he fears someone else might kill Prime before he does.
He’s obsessed with winning at all costs, and thrives on bragging every time he achieves first place. Drag Strip can hardly restrain his own ego; he can be very detailed in speaking about his accomplishments, but is prone to overheating. His alternate Earth form is a Tyrrell P34 race car. His fellow Decepticons would gladly get rid of him, if it were not for the fact that his own lust for victory makes him a formidable opponent against the Autobots.
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Dead End is the pessimistic one. For him, there’s little reason to continue the war between Autobots and Decepticons, since everything is going to end in some way anyway. This makes it quite hard for the other Decepticons to motivate him to fight, although when he does get into battle, he cheers up a little, probably because the idea of self-preservation momentarily distracts him from his negativity.
His alternate Earth mode is a Porsche 928. Although Dead End is a pessimist, he still has lots of time to polish and primp himself; when you gotta go, at least you go looking good.
Wildrider is a restless Stunticon. He can often be found bouncing off everywhere, literally. Wildrider dislikes anything with peace and quiet, preferring to make his presence felt all over the place with his crazy maneuvers. Those who think he’s only pretending eventually realize it’s actually real.
Wildrider’s alternate Earth mode is a Ferrari 308 GTB. His hyperactive driving scares off even his fellow Stunticons, and is hampered only by the tire blowouts he frequently experiences as a result.
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Breakdown is the paranoid of the bunch. He believes that everything, whether living or non-living, is watching him. As a result, Breakdown doesn’t like being different and the center of attention. He would much rather become human so he can just blend into the background and nobody would notice.
His alternate Earth mode is a Lamborghini Countach. Breakdown is similar to Pinoy drivers in that heavy traffic stresses him out.
Menasor is the combined form of all five Stunticons. Massive in size, immensely strong and resistant to almost all forms of artillery, Menasor would have been the perfect Decepticon weapon, if not for the vastly different personalities of each Stunticon that comprises him, as well as the others’ hatred for Motormaster. This means that they barely get to agree on any course of action in battle, confusing Menasor and launching him to violent tantrums when he lashes out at anything in range, posing a danger to both Autobots and Decepticons alike.
M.A.S.K and Pole Position will be coming up next in our Part 2. Stay tuned!