I had seen this book go on sale a couple years back, with its friendly cover artwork and generic toy robot clip-art cover background, and I guess I didn’t think much of it. In fact, I may have raised an eyebrow at the time. Now, however, I’ve found myself with much more time for reading, and it was cheap on Amazon, so I added it to my reading list.
Let me say that the book is thin – a shade over a hundred pages. I flipped through it to find that the actual monologue by Mr. Gilvezan is less than a hundred pages. The remainder includes a list of all the voice actors that worked on the original series, complimented by Gilvezan’s commentary on their background, his experiences with them, and which characters they voiced. The other than that, the book contains an episode guide with a short synopsis for each plot. Having seen the series many times, I didn’t bother with this part. The book also includes a small gallery of fan art, mostly referencing Gilvezan’s connection to bumblebee. One piece shows Bumblebee shedding Goldbug like a glass shell… an explanation lies within the book.
Gilvezan starts out at the beginning – recounting his experiences with the casting for the series, and his initial reservations about working on a “20-minute toy commercial”, especially having just finished recording for Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends as the eponymous superhero. Things lighten up, however, and he realizes that Transformers hoped to convey a quality story for its own sake, even though it was tied to toys.
He goes on to regale us with stories of the recording booth, all the juicy tidbits about the voice actors many of us have seen at conventions, and the reason we bought this book. It’s amazing sometimes to think of all the old favorite characters as people, since a layer of animation and a layer of robotic voice alteration has a tendency to remove the reality of such a production. I won’t cite any specific stories, in case you want to read and enjoy the book. However, Gilvezan challenges his colleagues: if they disagree with his portrayal of their antics, they should “write their own damn book”! Despite this, he has nothing but the kindest feelings for his colleagues, and expresses himself in a very genuine fashion.
Before long, the short read continues on to discuss the Movie – the original animated movie. Gilvezan recorded his sparse parts alone, having had a scheduling conflict on the days the main cast recorded. I suddenly found myself wishing that Bumblebee had a stronger role in the film. Our author has already established a connection with me in those first few pages. After this, Gilvezan moves on to the much-maligned third and fourth seasons of the show. He notices the same change in quality so many people did, as the show degrades from a weekly adventure to a genuine toy commercial, with a disjointed plot that only features the newest releases. In the casting booth, this means piles of guest voice actors with no connection to the cast or their characters. It seems it was as bad on the inside as it was for many of us, let down to see many of our heroes swept under the rug because their toys were off the shelves. I can’t imagine how it was for the recording of season 4, The Rebirth, which was a massive and nearly plotless toy commercial.
As a whole, the book is engaging and fun, and Gilvezan draws the reader in with his frank writing style. However, the length of the book definitely left me wanting for more. I understand the difficulties of recounting at great length events that took place decades earlier. Regardless, I see this book as somewhat of a service to the Transformers fandom. Despite many of our favorite voice actors making generous appearances at conventions for panels and autographs, none have really given an honest, in-depth look into the real “making of”. Again, brevity would be understandable. Few people can write a 500 page novel about a job they did 30 years ago. I guess my best follow-up to this would be another voice actor answering Gilvezan’s call to “write your own damn book.” For now, though, this book is a great page-turner, and gives us a framework in which to place the other tidbits and anecdotes we have about the real story of Generation 1. In the meanwhile, I’m tempted to read Gilvezan’s other non-Transformers book about voice acting!