One thing that helps define alot of our heroes and villains in the super-entertainment world is their transformation sequence. Yes, that thrilling moment when they go from regular (and not so regular) A to Super B. It is easily one of the coolest parts of being super and something we love to watch. There have been many of these sequences that have etched themselves in my memory over the years. Here they are in no particular order.
1. Clark Kent to Superman
"This looks like a job for Superman."
This transformation from mild-manned news reporter to Kryptonian powerhouse is one of the greatest superhero transformations of all-time. Never are so many men so happy when another man pops open his shirt. And I'll tell you why. When Clark Kent reveals the S-shield we know whatever the problem is in the current story he is in, it is about to be solved. The feeling in our minds is: "Thank God! We're saved!" The first time I saw this transformation sequence in live-action was when Christopher Reeve did it in the first Superman movie. It thrilled me then and it still does now. It also saw to it that I never looked at a phone booth the same way again.
2. Fat guy in trenchcoat to Ninja Turtle (Michaelangello)
"Robots? Let's Rock!"
In "Turtle Tracks", the first episode of the first Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles animated series, the Turtles, all dressed in trenchcoats and fedoras are in the process of looking for a suddenly disappeared April O'Neil. They end up on a rooftop. There, they encounter a large group of the Foot Clan for the first time. A pair of the clan attack Raph and Leo. There is a dull metalic sound when Raphael hits the clan member on him with his sai.
"Clang? Did you say clang?" Raph exclaims.
Leo slices his clanner open and sizzling robot circutry is revealled.
Realizing the clanners are actually robots, Michaelangello says, "Robots? Let's rock!" and leaps out of his trenchcoat into full turtle action. Way cool!
3. The TMNT transformations from the first Animated Series
"Turtle Tracks" also had another pair of cool transformations: the turtles became man-like and Hamato Yoshi became rat-like. All thanks to a container of mutagen. The Hamato Yoshi to Splinter transformation in this episode was way cooler than the Turtles' transformation. But what really makes it stand out for me is it was a departure from the original concept of Splinter. Splinter was originally Hamoto Yoshi's already super-intelligent pet rat that grew in size and became even more intelligent when exposed to the mutagen. No disrespect to Eastman and Laird, but I like the Animated Series origin better. I have a hard time believing a rat can learn ninjistu from simply imitatiing his master from his cage. I prefer the idea that Splinter was a human ninja master first.
4. Bruce Wayne to Batman (Batman: The Animated Series)
In the BTAS episode "The Clock King" Bruce Wayne spots someone on a rooftop. He runs up four flights of stairs like they are nothing to get up there. We watch his silhouettte as he climbs through the building's windows. For the first two flights he's Bruce. For the last two flights he's Batman. The musical score done by Shirley Walker marks the costume change and it makes you tingle with cool. This is just one of the multitude of cool moments where Bruce Turns to Batman in this series. I will not attempt to list them all here. You fans know your favorites.
That said, When Bruce first dons the cape and cowl in Batman:Mask of the Phantasm is one more transformation from this series that definitely NEEDS to be mentioned. This sequence does an excellent job of illustrating Bruce's decison to enter the shadows and become one of the greatest and most tragic superheroes of all time. When Alfred first laid eyes on Bruce as the Batman, he exclaimed, "My God!" and so did we all.
5. Veritech Jet to Guardian or Battloid (Robotech Animated Series)
We've all thought about flying a supersonic jet at one point or another, but when we saw the Veritechs take their gunpods in hand for the first time they took our fantasies even higher. I bet there are Robotech fans in cockpits now, even as you read this, who just wish there were levers marked "G" and "B" amongst their controls.
6. Firestar and Iceman (Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends)
The thing that stands out about these two mutants transforming in this series was that their transformations were dazzling and near instantaneous, while poor Spidey had to take time to put on his garb. I remember how Bobby Drake would encase himself in a block of ice and then bust out. And I remember how Angelica jones would go nova like a star and change to Firestorm. The sound effects, excellent for their time, only added to the coolness (or hotness)factor of these transfromations. Choose your pun.
7. Ryo Saeba (City Hunter)
Yeah I know, this guy never changed clothes. However, when Ryo went from skirt-chasing pervert to all-business gun-fighter in an instant, the change in his facial expression, voice and body language was uncanny. This was one anime series where the Japanese voice-acting was top-notch.
8. The Mighty Orbots
When Rob Simmons shouted "Orbots Unite!" an amazing aerial ballet unlike any we have ever seen since began. Tor, Bort, Bo, Boo, and Crunch enlarged, transformed and merged to form the gestalt: Mighty Orbots. The animation and sound effects for this sequence combined with the theme song made it an amazing experience. It still fires me up everytime I see and hear it. And, of course, I still blame TONKA for taking this great show away from us (See the article Happily Ever After? on this site).
9. Bill Bixby to Lou Ferrigno/Bruce Banner to the Hulk
I saw the new Hulk Movie. It was OK. The transformation sequence was CG and nothing fantastic. It made me long for the old Hulk Series. Bill Bixby and those contact lenses did a great job. They chilled us to the bone and we just knew the Hulk was coming to smash some bad-guy ass.
10. Prince Adam to He-Man
"By the Power of Grayskull! I HAVE THE POWER!!!!!"
This is the transformation that inspired this article. It doesn't get better than this. I just hope John Woo who I heard/read may direct the next He-Man movie (this is not an absolute confirmation) does it justice. The effects, theme music, and voice acting worked together to create a transformation sequence that reached our very core and thrilled us. Of all the secrets of Grayskull, this was the greatest. She-ra came later, but her change (Barbie with a sword) just didn't have the impact He-man's did.
11. The Constructicons to Devastator (Transformers: The Movie)
Megatron: Constructicons, merge for the kill!
Daniel: Kup, Hot Rod, look!
In Transformers: The Movie, these lines were delivered just before Devastator started to lay waste to what was left of Autobot city after the Decepticons breached its defenses. I'd seen Devastator before on the Transformers animated series and he was ho-hum. But, in the movie, with the Autobots so badly beaten, his appearance made me shudder. Totally evil and totally awesome. "Prepare for Extermination!"
12. Optimus Prime (Transformers: The Movie)
Optimus Prime: Megatron must be stopped. No matter the cost.
After delivering this line, Optimus transformed into his truck mode (another cool sequence), rolled into the ruins of Autobot City, ran down a number of Decepticons, and then performed the transformation sequence above, before blasting more Decepticons into scrap. All the while, "The Touch" by Stan Bush thundered in our ears alongside the sound effects. This transformation sequence is the kind a hero like Prime deserves. I've said it before and I'll say it again. If all the heroes in toontown got together to fight a common foe, Prime deserves to be among those who would lead them. I know they brought Prime back in a later series, but his death in this movie still saddens me to this day.
13. Cutey Honey
Well...um...this is the first anime I rented strictly for the transformation sequence. Any plot I enjoyed was strictly coincidental. ;-) Gotta love those Japanese and their strong belief that their can be no superhero costume change without a brief second or two of nudity. I'm probably not the only one who wore out his video player pause button watching this series. Honey Flash! And flash she did. Heh.
14. Bionic 6
"Bionics ON!-on-on-on." This series was fantastic. I'm surprised no one has tried to bring it back. This bionicized family would smash their activator rings into their hightech wristbands (at least it sounded like they did) and transform into the Bionic 6. I remember one time they transformed in particular. The family was in the middle of a panicikng crowd. People were running every which way and screaming. One of the team said something like. "We've got to change now!" Another followed with something like, "But what about all these people?" And Mother-1 said something like, "It's so crazy here, who'll notice?!" and they transformed right there in public, without getting spotted. Cool. Not many heroes can say they have done that.
15. Clayface (Batman: The Animated Series)
"I'm not Matt Hagen anymore. I'm not even. A man."
This is one villain that was transfroming all the time. When Matt Hagen started turning into people, I was like, okay, he's a mimic. But when he started turning his hands into pick axes, crab pincers, morning stars, brick walls, axes, and other horrible objects, Well, that's when he became a real bad ass. Out of all the BTAS villains, he was easily one of the freakiest and made me the most concerned for Batman's well being when they fought. It should be noted that the rapid transformation sequence in the third act of part two of "Feat of Clay", the second episode clay face appeared in, is considered a landmark in Warner Brothers animation. It's so complex yet so fluid. Cool.
16. Brett Matthews to his car. (Turbo-Teen)
Turbo-Teen is the story of Brett Matthews. He accidently crashed into a secret science lab, interrupted an experiment, got hit by a funky laser beam and he and his car became one. Flesh to car? Who'd a thunk it? This is easily one of the craziest and unlikely transformations I've come across. Brett was clearly more than meets the eye and he wasn't even a robot. As I recall, temperature triggered his transformation. A squirt of cold water could turn him human. A nice hot kiss from his girlfriend could turn him into the car. I liked this show. It was such an odd concept.
17. Cyclone Cycle (Robotech the Animated Series)
When I first saw the transformation sequence for this machine during the Invid invasion, I thought it was really cool. It was no Veritech fighter to be sure, but the Cyclone Cycle definitely had appeal. The thought a motorcycle could become a exosuit was just awesome. The Invid Regent lost alot of children to these bikes and their pilots again and again. For him, it was a vicious cycle.
18. The Entire Heroic Cast of Sailor Moon
You can't have an article about hero/villain transformations without mentioning these characters. I would argue they have the longest transformation sequences on record for human-sized characters. The fact that the company responsible for the animated Sailor Moon could replay the transformation sequences in every show must have saved them alot of money in terms of production costs. My friends and I used to joke that if Sailor Moon and her pals ever teamed up with another hero, say Batman for example, Bats would have all the bad guys beaten by the time the sailor team finished transforming. Yeah, I know. In "reality" the transformation occurs in an instant and is just slowed down for us viewers. Yes, the transformations are dazzling and the music works well with them. Moon Crystal Power all the way!
19. Unicron (Transformers: The Movie)
Unicron (raising fist): "For a time, I considered sparing your wretched little planet Cybertron. But now. You shall witness. Its dismemberment!"
This is the longest and most unnerving transformation sequence I've ever seen. I thought Unicron's planet form was nasty. But his robot form with those big Dracolich wings was just downright monstrous. I'm sure it suprised and awed a number of us when we watched the massive planet slowly transform to robot in theatres. This was one transformation that was absolutely amzaing--on a planetary scale.
20. Devil Hunter Mano Yohko
I love the theme song for this Anime about a boy crazy demon hunter and her pals. Yohko's transformation sequence is a cross between Sailor Moon's and Cutey Honey's: sexy and dazzling. I'm willing to bet the same hairstylist worked on Sailor Moon and this anime. ;-) If you are a fan of the aforementioned animes and have not seen this one, you should.
21. Goliath (Disney's Gargoyles)
"Now, here in Manhattan:The spell is broken. And we live again!"
Cool picture, eh? Anyway, when the sun went down, no one had a cooler transformation sequence than Disney's Gargoyles. I just loved how Goliath busted out of his stone shell and roared! Even Beast from Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" changing back into a prince can't hold a candle--sorry Lumiere-- to these winged defenders of the night waking up in the evening.
Well, there you have it. Some people aren't fond of change, but I sure hope you enjoyed reading this article about it. I know I had a good time writing it.
Thanks again, Retrojunk, for the opportunity.