In a behind-the-scenes feature discussing the making of “The Transformers: The Movie,” actor Neil Ross claims the cast wasn’t given scripts in advance, so they were naturally taken by surprise when characters started dying: “So we show up and they pass out the scripts and it’s like –- you know, we’re doing the Pat Fraley thing, you know, ‘BS, BS, my line. BS, BS, my line…’ And suddenly we’re going, ‘Wait a minute! I die? Wally [Burr, the voice director]!’ You know? And it was like consternation all around as ‘It says here I die!’ Yeah, that’s kind of what it says.”
Ross was actually one of the lucky ones — he was voicing Springer, Dinobot Slag, and the Constructicons Bonecrusher and Hookone. The first of them was a shiny new toy, and his previous characters had all been spared. Not everyone in the cast was so fortunate though.
Peter Cullen was part of the unlucky group. Cullen voiced Optimus Prime and the Autobot leader’s right-hand Ironhide, both of whom met their end in “The Transformers: The Movie.” Prime’s death proved especially unpopular. Cullen, for his part, wasn’t pleased: “I hated it, I really did […] I was standing with Frank Welker [the voice of Megatron] and we were reading our lines. I got to page, I don’t know, 17, and I said, ‘Hey Frank… I’m getting whacked on page 17! … Wait a minute, I’m not coming back! Ooooh, there go the car payments.'”
When Cullen learned years later of the backlash to Prime’s death, his feelings soured even more. As Ross put it in the aforementioned interview, “I don’t think they realized what they had with Peter Cullen and Optimus Prime, I mean now they do, but back then, ‘Oh kill him off no problem.’ But kids loved that character, they loved what Peter did.” As a result, Optimus Prime was resurrected in the subsequent third season of the ongoing TV show, returning just in time to close out the series.