In today's article, I'll be taking a look at internal memos and correspondence passed between the Sunbow New York and Westwood (Los Angeles) offices, as well as internally within Marvel Productions. While only a few such examples have come to light, they often provide more insight into the decision-making process in a single page than in an entire script.
Starting chronologically, we first look at a nine page piece of correspondence from incoming Transformers story editors Bryce Malek and Dick Robbins, to company President Margaret Loesch and Executive In Charge Of Production Lee Gunther. Dated April 30th 1984, ahead of the completion of the show's Writer's Bible on May 10th. In the correspondence, Malek and Robbins discuss their development for the main series, including how they intend to salvage elements of Marvel's previous network pitch for The Transformers into the syndicated show. Ideas discussed here would soon evolve into the inclusion of the character Chip Chase, as well as a focus on allowing both Earth and Cybertron to be featured on the show, which would lead to the plot for The Ultimate Doom miniseries.
Unfortunately, no scans of this correspondence are available, so I have archived the transcript featured on the TFArchive website.
Moving on to the main series itself, our next memo is sent by Bryce Malek to Nelson Shin, the show's Supervising Producer - on July 2nd 1984. The memo accompanies revised pages for Doug Booth's script to episode 6: Fire On The Mountain.
Looking at the finalised script (linked below), the requested change from Wheeljack to Bumblebee on page 4 relates to the character at Autobot HQ who tells Spike to launch the Sky Spy in response to the energy detected from the Andes Mountains. This would indicate that pages 13 and 13A - featuring the scene of Wheeljack and Sideswipe rescuing flying Autobot Skyfire from the ice he was buried under at the end of his debut episode Fire In The Sky - are the revision pages being supplied with this memo.
It seems apparent that Doug Booth's script was initially written with the knowledge that Skyfire would already have debuted in the prior episode, but not knowing that Malek and Robbins had effectively written him out at the climax,
Moving on to mid-season 2. Unhappy with the direction the series was taking, Griffin-Bacal instructed Associate Producer Flint Dille to transfer from GI Joe to Transformers in January 1985. By the beginning of February, Flint had put together a circular that was included with a show bible supplement informing writers about the new characters debuting that season. In the circular, Flint instructs new and returning writers about avoiding the show's own clichés and other Saturday Morning stock conventions. As well as offering a dozen story springboards, the majority of which saw full or partial use on the episodes A Decepticon Raider In King Arthur's Court, The God Gambit, Make Tracks, Childs Play, Prime Target and perhaps The Search For Alpha Trion and The Key To Vector Sigma.
Many times when working on animated shows on behalf of a toy company, writers and editors would be instructed to add or remove characters from a script. Based purely on arbitrary decisions made regarding which toys were to be promoted and which ones were being discontinued. Instructions that had to be followed, regardless of whether the story could accommodate the changes or not.
One notable example of this occurs at the beginning of season 3. Flint Dille was halfway through writing the season-opening miniseries Five Faces Of Darkness, when this bombshell memo came from Elise Goyette, Production Co-Ordinator for the Sunbow New York Office.
The instruction to remove Shockwave from the story posed a problem. His role in the miniseries outline was to be the one Decepticon dissenter who held vague memories of the Quintessons and knew they shouldn't be trusted. At the climax of the story, he would aid the Autobots to try and foil the Quintessons plan to shut down all of the Transformers and retake Cybertron. Being cast out of the Decepticons by a furious Galvatron and accepting Rodimus Prime's offer to switch sides.
Shockwave's role was reworked and given to fellow 1985 toy Blitzwing. Who would receive the same fate in the follow-up story Starscream's Ghost, being replaced by new 1986 Decepticon Octane. Who gave a quick explanation, hurriedly tying the plot into his own spotlight episode Thief In The Night.
Five Faces Of Darkness outline
Starscream's Ghost cast page showing Blitzwing's intended involvement
Finally, we look at the incredibly rushed nature of animation production during this period. Especially for Marvel Productions in 1986, who were contracted to deliver over 100 hours of television for that season.
Towards the end of production on season 3, Marvel Production Co-Ordinator Paul Davids sent the following memo outlining progress on the series.
For context, this memo was written on the very day that Five Faces Of Darkness, Part 5 aired. Meaning that with the rest of the season due to air in ten days, only The Killing Jar, Chaos and Dark Awakening were fully complete and ready for broadcast.
As always, if anyone out there has more correspondence like this, for any of the series covered at the Archive, please get in touch