The Real Story
When I was young, I like many Generation-X individuals adored sci-fi TV shows such as Transformers, Robocop, Star Trek, etc. Loving to draw and noting myself as an “Artist”, I started to draw my own characters and write my own stories loosely based on The Transformers TV show. During my teenage years, I created over 160 different characters and numerous stories about the world inside my head. These were the Zapbots, a slight variation on The Transformers with subtle hints of a Star Trek story line. The drawings, art and stories were my distraction, my survival of growing up in the 80’s/90’s.
When I reached college in 1994 the majority of this work was placed quietly on a shelf as college duties took the majority of my time and attention. The Zapbots were occasionally brought out to show my references to perspective drawing or used as an inside joke amongst friends. Occasionally the references would be filtered into my artwork during my college years, but at that time I grown disinterested in Transformers. I slowly moved on to other interest and priorities in my life.
Around 1998 South Park the TV show came onto the air. I was an instant fan of the show and concept. I loved the colorful show of paper-collage, cheap animation, with intelligent humor, and liberal views. I bought the T-shirts, saw the movie three times, and up to the point of the Oscars 2000 thoroughly enjoyed the show.
It should also be noted that I have always been an extreme Phil Collins fan. I had every album, every bootleg possible and numerous recordings of him on video. I was (and still am somewhat) a fanatic. At this venture in my life Phil Collins represented to me the average individual who enjoyed what he did, but constantly got made fun of for being who he was. My life was built around his persona and I related to him just a little to much, but hey… I was a fan, and there are worse things to be into (drugs, Jesus, etc…)
I endured numerous taunts and ridicule from individuals from High School through College and on. I found myself throughout my life defending my musical tastes in a time in my life where I was always obsessed with what everyone thought. I took my music seriously, almost too serious. The highlight of this was when Phil was asked to do the Tarzan sound track for Disney. The movie and the soundtrack were the pinnacle to me of redemption for my tastes amongst my friends, co-workers and the world.
That was until Phil Collins won the Oscar for best song, beating out Trey Parker and Matt Stone for the Southpark Movie.
"Crap, Matt and Trey are now going to make fun of him!" I thought.
This caused me much unrest. Now the battle I had to endure during my younger years not only came back to me, but was now exploded on a global level.
Not more than four weeks later they debuted a new show where they completely bastardized Phil Collins, taking every cheap pot-shot they could to make fun of him.
At this stage of my life (going on 36), stuff like this doesn’t bother. I’m a bit more relaxed, more confidant and posses a bit more of the ‘I Don’t Give a Darn’ syndrome. But at that time in my life, this was like a massive punch to the gut, if not including a swift kick to the balls.
I enjoyed South Park, but I LOVED Phil Collins, and now South Park which up to that point I had respected had basically gone and did a ‘Wahhh it’s not fair we’re going to be dicks about it’ show. I promptly took down all my South Park posters, burned my mouse pad and threw everything but the sticky foam book out (that will be worth money someday I hope.)
The most frustrating thing of this of course was I had no recourse. I posted to message boards, I faxed Comedy Central, I did everything I could to get noticed to proclaim that ‘Phil Collins deserved that Award!’ I took this personally, perhaps a bit too personally. By attacking Phil Collins they had attacked me and everything I stood for.
However, with frustration there sometimes comes creativity!
In between jobs and having a LOT of free time on my hands I was playing around with FLASH animation. Then came a moment of inspiration.
Why not create a parody of Transformers in the same cartoon style as Southpark?
Suddenly I had a new idea for the Zapbots. Instead of trying to be serious of which numerous friends of mine shrugged off as ‘been done before’, why not make it comical?
It took a week but numerous nights late at the keyboard I structured a pretty decent Flash Animation featuring my version of the Transformers, going to save Phil Collins from the South Park kids. The animations were crude, there was no sound except for music and sound effects, and the plot was as bad as South Park could be. But it was fun, I was creating art and it gave me a chance to sharpen my experience of Flash, which helped me in numerous jobs going forward.
I posted the animation to newgrounds.com and various Transformers fan boards. The reaction was almost instantaneous. Individuals from around the globe, some as far as New Zealand either loved or hated my little animation. In a very short time the Zapbots had become some famous on the Internet.
The moment of glory finally came when Phil Collins had a very successful Farewell Tour visiting Columbus, where I got the opportunity to get his attention during the show with my personally designed SouthPark shirt which had him bashing Cartman over the head with his Oscar. There’s a whole story to that night which you can read here.
My fifteen minutes of fame faded but I found rebirth in creating a Transformers Podcast (TFormers.com) and numerous fans of the show remember my Zapbots animation. I've even let go of the whole thing and started watching South Park again. I ponder, if I had more time, more energy and maybe some voice actors I could of possibly had the next Homestar Runner. Alas I let the idea die down again and once again my Zapbots were put into the confines of my closet and my computer drive for a while.
Recently I started to revisit these old drawings. A friend of mine who was a fan of Podcast inquired about them and I started to pull out all the various sketches I had drawn.
Besides being amazed at the amount of work I created in my youth I was actually surprised at the vastness of my imagination. There was a “Story” here, and it was actually not half bad. While a lot of the ideas were lifted from Transformers the stories were not. It was a whole saga I had created in my head and it was pretty darn good for someone 14-18 years old!
Since I had gained some fans based on my work in the Transformers field, there might be way to actually present these ideas now. There is a forum for the stories and concepts my younger self had those many moons. I now have the ability to share them with those who would most appreciate them.
So this thus explains the purpose of this wiki. To provide the most basic information about the stories and ideas I had in my head from my youth. As well as the ability to publish the numerous drawings I did in numerous sketches books and pieces of paper that rendered many color pencil kits to nubs. I now present to you the world, the story of the Zapbots in their original format (with minor spelling and grammar corrections). This is all the original art, and soon the original stories and maybe this can be somewhat of an alternative view of The Transformers. If per chance Hasbro was run by a 14 year at the time.
Anthony S. Anselmo