Fans seemingly love to argue what Generation One Galvatron’s color is.
It’s a silly, tedious and pointless discussion, so of course I’m going to talk about it.
Along the way we’ll take a look at how Galvatron has been coloured in his Generation One toy, cartoon and comic book aesthetic.
We will also take a look at his model sheet and dubious concept art.
But keep in mind the toy was based on the original movie character (the reverse of the usual process), so I’m going to defer to the medium Galvatron was first created in (animation) for his intended colors rather than the cluster fuck of misinformation that was the toy and promotional tie in materials that featured Galvatron.
ALL THE PRETTY THINGS THAT CHANGE
The Transformers The Movie (1986) on screen animated Galvatron leans towards a blue-purple-hue, while later in Season 3 of The Transformers TV show he’s usually more deep or light purple, but even that varied and was inconsistent. Plus when you throw shadow on him, or different light sources in the cartoon his colour would change again.
Typically in Japan when Galvatron has appeared in promotional hand drawn comic style images – he’s usually the lilac or lavender color associated with royalty or emperors in various cultures, which is also the color used for the reissue toy below on the right, and the color of many Takara-TOMY produced Galvatron toys over the years. While for some this lighter lilac color makes sense, to me he he just looks like one of those old cheap bathtub toys for little kids.
Below is a color grid that I will call The Purple Grid for the sake of simplicity. In this grid you can see the potential shades of Purple that Galvatron has been in animation and toy production. Purple being a mix of Red and Blue – it changes in shade depending on how much red or blue is dominant in the mix. People often have trouble distinguishing subtle colors in these shades with their naked eye – especially at a distance.
You don’t have to be color blind to confuse colors – but if you’ve never been exposed to say many different varieties of colors in the natural world such as the wild flowers on green trees and bushes the ones our eyes have been trained to see and value or avoid over thousands of years, then we tend to be a bit collectively…. I don’t know… color dumb?
Our perception and cognition lumps what we see most often into the most familiar categories such as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet etc – giving us seven broad colors (as well as black and white). In contrast the range of colors there are in the physical world, current estimates are around 10,000,000. Yes, that’s ten million. That’s a few more than we see in a typical week.
…what one botanist calls red may not be what everyone else calls red. Barring a persons ability to see all of the visible light spectrum, there is no set standard, for flowers at least, as to where we draw the lines between colors. What we end up with at the end of the day are lumped packages of color pertaining to a chunk of the spectrum visible to us. – InDefenseofPlants.com
As many Transformers toy photographers know, Purple and it’s various shades and mixes is a real pain to photograph. That’s because under variable lighting conditions (more light, or less light etc) it changes shade to our visible eye. As do all colors really, but Purple is just that much more noticeable with even a small difference in lighting. Now, the toy being photographed doesn’t change, just our PERCEPTION of it does according to how much or how little light is present.
THE BLURPLE EMPEROR
And the same thing happens in animation where we have simulated light and shadows. Now, here is a cropped piece of Galvatron’s chest from Transformers The Movie (1986). It’s not the best quality as I’ve had to enlarge it from a relatively low resolution image.
To the left of the image, note the lighter color. The area in shadow to the right, and the middle left has his faction symbol. In this square alone, we have Galvatron showing three shades from The Purple Grid. A portion of his chest is lit, other portions are unlit.
Now let’s take a look at how Galvatron sometimes appears in promotional materials, often in his Manga form, or fan art – which was different than his standard movie version and the toy box art. The art below shows the contrast not only in Galvatron’s potential color shades, but also his alt design elements such as his more spiky crown, different chest, different legs, knees and feet. The Galvatron below left is the one we typically encounter when we watch the Western cartoons, but both versions here have elements that appear in early stages of the toy and toon production.
Above we can see the main dominant shades Galvatron tends to get colored in. Below left is the Marvel UK comics Galvatron, and on the right his Marvel US Transformers comic profile appearance, which is based on his animation model, but colored in the weird toy deco colors. Confused yet? Why the heck was Galvaton grey in the comics, instead of in his movie colors? My assumption is that they typically had the black and white model sheet, but only the toy / toy based art for color reference. Which explains a good number of weird stuff when it comes to Galvatron. There was *also* a comic released as a direct adaptation of the animated 1986 film where Galvatron has his proper movie colors.
So already we have Galvatron appearing in shades of purple, lilac, lavender and grey, with his torso seemingly almost never drawn the same way twice.
Even when Galvatron was colored consistently, he still shows up in different shades/lighting of that color. And don’t get me started on the inconsistencies of his torso. Like in that toy pic at the top, same mold, diff torsos! And is his arm cannon on his forearm or bicep? The answer is both, depends on what material you look at.
I was going to skip over the Marvel Transformers The Movie comics adaptation showing Galvatron…..because it’s a major fucking headache. I don’t want a further tangent into 1980’s comics color theory, I’ve already redacted an entire section of this article on that topic. #PRINTINGPROBLEMS
I’ll post this image below, and then NEVER speak of it again *sigh*
If you thought that was strange enough, check out this epic kids books cover below from Ladybird…
GETTING DARKER ONE CEL AT A TIME
Most mainstream low budget western animated TV shows don’t have a whole lot going on when it comes to lighting and shading. It’s very basic, or nonexistent. With theatrical animated films – it’s a different story. Big budgets mean more special effects. In the real world, you point a camera and there is going to be light and dark. In animation, it’s all virtual. There is no camera, there is no light. So it has be a special effect. If the people making the animation don’t know what they are doing – then it looks shit. When they do know what they are doing – then you don’t even notice the virtual lighting – it’s seamless and doesn’t draw attention to itself like any traditional well made film.
In this image below, we can see the light source is clearly “off virtual camera” to the right, with the light falling across Galvatron in a leftward direction. As a result of this light, we can see both light and dark elements on his model. This virtual light is either Unicron himself, or a sun/star whatever. This is the beginning of some fanboy arguments right here.
In different transfers of the film (there have been multiple slightly different versions over the years) Galvatron appears more towards the lilac part of the The Purple Grid, while in other versions he was more closer to the darker Purple toys that Hasbro typically makes. And whenever he is lit, partially or fully – the shade changes again. So, you have several different cuts of the film, with different qualities of transfers (typically too bright or too washed out looking) and then you throw in the settings on whatever TV you watched it on – and it gives a whole stupid fucking spectrum of misconception.
It’s interesting that the earliest Galvatron images by Floro Dery were just black and white, and that as production moved along – versions of that image were used for products. Box and toy reference, licensed tie in stuff. The usual low quality cash grab bullshit. However, there is a really weird chain of people having different references, adding or taking away various details and it’s a whole article of its own that somebody else already wrote over at The Mechanical Maniacs website.
This article linked above is a great informative read, and this version is updated from an earlier version. It’s easier to read. However I have saved an older version of The Mechanical Maniacs Galvatron Guide, which has the early rare images no longer in the final version of the article for some reason. It was this older version I read multiple times, so if you want to check out the older version here it is linked below. I recommend READ the article in the above link, then click over to the second link to see the images. Some mind boggling stuff in there.
The short story version of why is Galvatron such a bloody inconsistent maniac is materials were rushed out during production (to external parties) as is typical of a multimedia licensed production – resulting in a mix of weird inconsistent coloring for Galvatron. His FINAL FORM was still being created while early materials were supplied in time for licensed merch to be out in time to coincide with the release of the movie.
I mean look at his official box art below, sweet fucking robo-jesus, what is going on there? Look at his head, those shoulders, the weird gun in his hand, his legs. You can see some of the various elements that chopped and changed through his early designs to final form. I never liked his stupid vertical shoulder pads (which only make sense as a stand in cannon mode), at least here in this design the horizontal shoulder pads make more sense even if they are still damn ugly.
HEY KIDS! LICENSED CRAP!
A quick stop over in Ladybird Books town before we move on to the final section. Ladybird books (and other publishers) put out various licensed story and coloring books. Check out the first square which uses stills from the movie vs the other images that use the toy based art, and even more art based on the toy based art.
The legacy of this Grey Galvatron color scheme stuff brought us the likes of the insane time travelling Galvatron over in Furman’s Transformers UK, so it’s kind of cool that Galvatron the Grey can legitimately be considered a different character than his 1986 movie counterpart. Also note that once again, Galvatron is not drawn the same way in any of these four images below. That’s not artistic choice, it’s the early reference materials that were constantly changing/evolving so different artists had different source material to base their version on. Take not below of different his crown/helmet is in each image. The kids book cover where he is being slammed in the robo-balls is of course unintentional comedy gold, as well as horrifically bad art.
So what you have is not a matter or right and wrong, of proveable facts – but personal preference and fans dodgy memories, dodgy home movie transfers, shitty resolution TV’s incapable of showing the full spectrum of colors used in the film and inconsistent licensed and promotional tie in material for the Transformers movie and the Galvatron toys, with different source material given out to licencees that leads to the confusion about what his colors are, were or “should” be.
What color is Galvatron? A big fuck off rainbow of confusion and bullshit that’s what. Feel free to argue with me about it and submit your own theory.
GALVATRON COMPARISONS AND CONFUSIONS
Moving on, let’s take a look at his animation style sheet, based on Floro Dery’s illustration. Keep in mind the first version was black and white, the colors were added later. And style sheets are “guides” they are not meant to be definitive.
Also featured on Floro Dery’s own blog (not appearing until modern times for the public eye) is this concept art for Galvatron. Some of this art appears to be old concepts, but redrawn and done in watercolor. I can’t say how early the very first Dery Galvatron appeared as he worked privately on his work, which was later sent to Hasbro under contract (Dery designed the original movie characters). Dery is also known for stretching the truth, so we have no date for this mechanical image other than when it appeared online, and a lot of his concept art for both Transformers and Pirates of Dark Water went up for sale on Dery’s Daughters’s page on Etsy.
The mechanical theme and extra detail is a consistent motif across Floro Dery’s other concept pieces, and you see below it literally is the same picture of Galvatron just more like an X-Ray version showing some of his interiors. Which version came first I don’t know. The model sheet version was modified even further for his final movie form.
Time for another comparison. Let’s take that Floro Dery movie style model, and compare it to some later Manga style art. You can really spot the differences here with these three versions in a row. Check out the knees and crown for example, which are different in all three versions.
And let’s compare Dery’s Galvatron to the toy based art.
YIKES! Bit of a difference there. And who thought he needed ANOTHER gun in his left hand? A giant plasma cannon / space carrot was not enough on his forearm?
Let’s knock things up a notch and get on screen 1986 movie Galvatron in there for shits ‘n giggles. Things are getting crowded and it hurts my eyes, but we’re almost at the end, so take a deep breath and lets your senses bathe in confusion.
The final movie version, and the UK comics version are my two favourite Galvatron designs.
To sum up, there is no “one mythical galvatron color” to rule them all. It just doesn’t exist. He’s grey, he’s purple, he’s blue, he’s lilac and lavender and a bit of everything in between depending on who is drawing him and what purpose they are using it for and how he is lit and what is image is being viewed on. If I’ve lead you down the rabbit hole, well you are going to have to find your own way back.
Every artist and colorist who touches the character may do him a little bit different than the previous person. Galvatron is wildly inconsistent, and that to me is more fun and more interesting than any definitive answer.
If you’ll excuse me, I have empires to rule, toys to collect and line cutters to deal with.
NOTE: I did as much research as I could for this article. There are likely errors in here as some things are just unverifiable and come down to using your own reasoning and observation. If you have any corrections, feel free to add them and preferably with some sort of source.