Home » The New ‘Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts’ Movie Trailer Gets A VW Microbus Very Wrong For No Good Reason UPDATED

The New ‘Transformers: Rise Of The Beasts’ Movie Trailer Gets A VW Microbus Very Wrong For No Good Reason UPDATED

Transformer Bus Top
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I understand how important suspension of disbelief is in fiction, and I’m generally a willing participant. That said, I have my limits. For example, I’m absolutely willing to believe that there is life in the universe besides us, and some of that life is comprised of machines given life via a quasi-religious entity and/or force known as the AllSpark, and that these machines can, via a mind-bleedingly complex mechanical design, transform from a vaguely humanoid or zoomorphic form into a fully functional vehicle like an automobile or big rig truck or forklift or something. That’s fine, I’m willing to accept all of these difficult concepts for the sake of being entertained or for spiritual reasons, whichever is applicable. What I cannot accept, though, is the concept that a major motion picture, from a major studio, with a budget of $200 million flapjacking American dollars and more computing resources than the entire world a couple decades ago, is somehow incapable of modeling and rendering an accurate model of a Volkswagen Type 2 bus. And yet, that’s exactly what is happening right now.

Here, look, let me show you what I’m talking about in this trailer for Transformers: Rise of the Beasts:

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

While I’m glad to see a classic, air-cooled VW in a Transformers movie after the series’ shameful switch of Bumblebee from a VW Beetle to a Camaro, I just can’t understand how they’d get this so wrong. So, the old VW Bus seen in that trailer must be a Transformer named Wheeljack, who seems to be some sort of scientist/inventor and has had several automotive guises, including a Mercedes-Benz E550, and now, for this new movie, is a repair van for a small television repair shop for a place called Frank’s T.V. Repair. That’s all fine.

The problem is the VW Type 2 cargo van model used in the movie is just, well, wrong.

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Let me explain what I mean by wrong: the problem is the van, as it is shown, never existed. I can’t tell you what year the Bus is supposed to be because the model in the movie is so screwed up it’s actually a hybrid of two very different models, bridging one of the biggest changes in VW Type 2 design history. Let’s look at the bus in the clips:

Wheeljack Grabs

Now, at first glance, this looks a lot like the classic pre-’68 Type 2 Bus design, with the prominent V-shaped front end graphic and the old-style double-glass headlamps, and bumper with overriders. But there’s something – well, lots of somethings – that feel off about it. The bumper shape, the location of the lights, but all of those are details when you realize that the whole upper half is from the ’68 and up T2 version of the Bus, known as the “bay window” buses because of the large, one-piece windshield instead of the old “splittie” style two-piece windshield.

Transformers Bustypes

This was one of the most significant changes in VW Bus evolution, and a strange half-and-half hybrid like what is seen in these trailers never existed. I mean, I’m sure at some point in the many, many decades of VW Buses being around someone has customized a ’68 or later bus to look mostly like an earlier bus while keeping the big panoramic windshield, but that’s not how we’ve really seen Transformers work, is it? The other cars in the movie seem to match their real-world counterparts pretty exactly, like the Camaro or the Porsche 911:

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Othercars

…so why did they screw up the VW Bus so badly? It doesn’t make any sense, especially because there’s toys of Wheeljack available right now that get it right:

Bustoy1

That’s correct! That’s what a proper 1967 or earlier Volkswagen Type 2 cargo van would look like! The bullet-shaped front indicators on this toy suggest a 1956 to 1960 model, but the weird version in the movie uses the later ’61 to ’67 flatter oval ones, but who knows. Still, this toy represents an actual bus that was built and sold pretty well, unlike the movie version.

By the way, a commenter already noted the sliding door on Wheeljack there, too. That part is actually okay! Even though sliding doors weren’t standard until 1968, they were an option from 1962:

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Slidingdoor

These weren’t exactly common, but they at least did exist.

I don’t think this is some attempt to get around VW’s intellectual property protections or anything, because the VW logo is right there, all front and center and huge, and there was a version of Wheeljack as a VW bus that was very much designed to skirt VW’s IP, and it looked like this:

Otherbustoy

That’s very clearly not what we’re dealing with here. That also has a combination of pre- and post-’68 characteristics, but also a whole bunch of made-up stuff so they can reasonably claim, what, no, we never meant this to be a Volkswagen! The movie is definitely not taking this route, and therefore does not get to use this excuse.

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I’m just baffled. They had all the resources in the world to do this, so why do it wrong? They had to know some geek like me would notice, right? Was that the plan all along? With the lack of a split windshield factor into the plot in some clever way? Or were people just being lazy?

What makes this especially ironic is that such a strange Frankenstinian mix of Bay Window and Splittie buses did actually exist, but in the opposite way, and in Brazil:

Brazilbus

In Brazil, Type 2 Kombis were built with post-’68 bay window front ends but with ’67 and earlier rear ends, from the end of the front doors back. This doesn’t make the Transformers fictional Type 2 any more accurate, but it’s worth noting that if, for some unknowable reason, they really needed to have a Bus with characteristics from both generations, they could have done that, and done it accurately.

But, they didn’t, and the result is a glaring error that just didn’t have to happen. I suppose in the grand scheme of things, this is hardly a big deal, but, consider this: what if I make it a big deal? That’s more fun, anyway. In all of the time the animators spent looking at these 3D models on their screens, did nobody notice this? Did no one say anything? Are the animators so unfamiliar with what the real cars look like? They can’t be, right? They’re professionals!

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Who the hell knows. Maybe I’m the only one who cares. It’s times like these that make me question my basic belief in the glory and power of the Allspark, I can tell you that much.

UPDATE: The Frankenstein bus is real! The very same super-sleuth reader named Erik who discovered the secret of the 1970s Honda brochure/Universal Studios lot also found this amazing bit of video from Peru, where the movie was shot:

The video gives a great look at the Bus, which shows the interior, revealing that it seems to be a ’70s Bus with the old ’67 and earlier face grafted on, Hannibal the Cannibal-style. Who knows Spanish? My dad was Cuban, but never taught me, so if anyone wants to lend a translation hand, that’d be great. Also, Look at that roll cage in there. And is that a nitrous tank? Are the doors motorized?

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GhosnInABox
GhosnInABox
1 year ago

I love the idea of an alien robot beefing the mimic:

Wheeljack: “Was it bubble windshield or split screen? Damn, it, I forgot!”

Optimus: “Stop obsessing. You look fine. It’s not like anyone’s watching you, commenting on your lack of accuracy.”

Wheeljack: “But I’m supposed to be Zenki and I look downright Kouki.”

Vicente Perez
Vicente Perez
1 year ago

Here is a quick, on the fly translation. In a nutshell, they modified a more recent model because the older ones are too expensive.

-This one also… It was very difficult to find one in the US that was not too expensive, because they are very expensive in the US. We heavily modified the body of the van also. We cut the front and replaced it with the front that was requested by the production designer, the lights, the paint is all handmade with a brush. And as you can see, inside we have roll bars for the stunt drivers. Yes, yes. We can open here. 

-So we can see inside. But as you say, inside it is different. The other ones are built so you can film the actors inside, with details… 

-This one inside… it is a machine that can open the doors by itself. So the driver can push a button and the doors open when it stops. 

-Incredible. Amazing job. It looks amazing. 

Last edited 1 year ago by Vicente Perez
Mike
Mike
1 year ago

The movie did this because VW GOT IT WRONG. The pre-69 bottom with the post-68 windscreen is clearly — from a design aesthetic — correct.

Morgan van Humbeck
Morgan van Humbeck
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike

Big facts. What a stunning thing it is!

Bram Oude Elberink
Bram Oude Elberink
1 year ago

I think the tank is compressed air, and is used to power the left door which seem to have a pneumatic arm fitted. Quit common for movie props.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
1 year ago

Dadgummit. I even wrote up all the things they did to go out of their way to get the Porsche right, but they couldn’t bring someone over from VW to like, figure this out?

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
1 year ago

Eh, I see Ron DeScrotus and a few others declaring this Transformers thing to be harmful to our Christian values, and as such must be declared illegal by executive decree.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
1 year ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Y’know, because freedom!

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

Let me guess, because promoting Transformerism in schools?

Phuzz
Phuzz
1 year ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

“Can’t spell Transformer with out Trans right?”
*attempts to tap forehead. Misses.*

/s

Justin Short
Justin Short
11 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

We all (here in fla) know that allspark is a false deity!

Theotherotter
Theotherotter
1 year ago

Re: the Bus, he told the reporter that they put the new nose on it because it’s what the art director (diseñador de arte) wanted. And the whole thing is brush-painted.

Masa
Masa
1 year ago

Same for the classic FIAT 500 set to appear on the upcoming Mission Impossible move. The 500 in the movie is a mix of parts from various classic 500’s…but happy to see it!

Bendanzig
Bendanzig
1 year ago

I dunno. Once they gave up on the Energon Cubes as a critical point of the plot, I lost all interest in the Transformers. That was the entire reason for everything they did in the original cartoons and comic books. The Decepticons were always stealing oil to make Energon Cubes, stacking up piles of Energon Cubes or blowing up Energon Cubes.

Collegiate Autodidact
Collegiate Autodidact
1 year ago

In that video from Peru, while it’s hard to tell given the constantly moving camera and the less than stellar resolution, it looks like they applied body filler to the baywindow’s front panel to cover up the distinctive crease that’s in the form of a rounded-corner rectangle (squircle? rectanglicle?) The front panel seems oddly bloated? Awaiting further updates or at least a translation of that video…

Last edited 1 year ago by Collegiate Autodidact
Tim Cougar
Tim Cougar
1 year ago

Bay window busses are cheaper, but the splitties are more iconic/recognizable. To film the movie they would need several Wheeljacks so to save money they purchased a bunch of later busses and modified them to look older/more iconic. Hollywood does this all the time, dressing up cheaper cars to look better on camera.

LTDScott
LTDScott
1 year ago

On a somewhat related note, last night I watched Cocaine Bear which is set in the ’80s but used a 1992+ Ford E-Series ambulance, but they did go to the trouble of slapping a fake grille from a ~1980 Chevy Van on it, so I at least appreciated the effort.

https://imcdb.org/i001729541.jpg

Nlpnt
Nlpnt
1 year ago
Reply to  LTDScott

Ford E-Series ambulances are such a high market share that even GM-owned OnStar had to resort to photoshopping a Chevy grille onto one of them for a print ad.

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/d8UAAOSwVApiXetj/s-l1600.jpg

JDE
JDE
1 year ago

I am going to guess someone rendered a 1969+ Sweet Pickles version and then an exec said give it the more nostalgic V nose. then the guys in the budget room said save the money on rendering the whole thing so Bay can add one more explosion pot to some tired fight sequence (I know he did not direct, but he is a producer)

Ben
Ben
1 year ago

Getting stuff wrong is very on-brand for the Transformers movie franchise, sadly. I have some hope for this movie because Bumblebee was much better than the previous movies, but it remains to be seen whether that was a happy accident or an indication that there are better people in charge now.

Trust Doesn't Rust
Trust Doesn't Rust
1 year ago

Oh man, Jason. I get it.

It’s like that scene in Knight Rider 2000 when the cops, who ALL drove Chevy Beretta’s, were pursuing the bad guys in a Lumina APV and then they opened the hatch and blew up one of the cop cars but the car that blew up was clearly a mid-80’s Dodge Charger and not a Beretta. AND THEY THOUGHT THEY COULD JUST SLIP THAT PAST US?? Boy, I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago

A guess would be an actual split screen van used as the “hero” vehicle, swapped out to a modified bay window for a scene where it gets damaged, and they CG animated the stunt version for some reason

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
1 year ago

I don’t think that fresh out of art school CGI kiddo even knows the differences

Austin Vail
Austin Vail
1 year ago

My guess is that the stunt car started out as a post-1968 bus, and at some point the director or a studio exec walked into the shop where it was being built and said “No no, that’s all wrong, that’s not what a proper Volkswagen bus looks like! Make it look like the real one, the one with the V shape on the front!”

… At which point the shop decided it would be more work to start from scratch with an older bus or convince the studio exec/director that not all Volkswagen buses have the V-shape than it would be to just modify the bus they already have to look like an older bus and keep their bosses happy.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
1 year ago
Reply to  Austin Vail

My thinking would be that the stunt car was a cheaper 1968-2013 Bay Window model, but the hero car was the more iconic 1950-1975 Splitscreen version, so the stunt car had to be modified to look similar, at least at a quick glance

Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones
1 year ago

As an artist (who did not work on this movie) my guess is:

The van in the movie has the non-split windshield either 1) because someone who had a VW van near where they were shooting had resto-modded it that way, 2) to more closely resemble some older cartoon and/or comic book version of the character, or 3) simply to honor Michael Bay (who did not direct this one, but is still a producer) with a “bay” windshield. (Those are listed in order of how likely I think they are.)

And the toy with the proper “splittie” windshield doesn’t match the movie because the toy manufacturer already had molds to make accurate ’67 and earlier VW van models, and retooling it to match the movie version’s windshield would cost more time and money than it is worth to appease Jason Torchinsky and the 2 or 3 other people who would have ever noticed if this article hadn’t been written.

Ron Bitter
Ron Bitter
1 year ago
Reply to  Daniel Jones

I now love the idea that Michael Bay is obsessed with Bay windows. I hope his home has no standard windows at all.

Crank Shaft
Crank Shaft
1 year ago

I see that the Right’s plan to drive Wokies (TM) insane is going swimmingly.

For only Leftists care about Type 2s and this sort of perversion of history is perfect playbook for the Right.

(Totally kidding, but the plausibility is the truly insane part.)

Knowonelse
Knowonelse
1 year ago

First impression was the lack of the split front window, then I also saw the sliding door. Yeah, I like old VW busses and have owned a few plus newer ones as well. Ah, I still miss my ’64 Deluxe sunroof.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
1 year ago

Perhaps it was transformed?

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
1 year ago

Just imagine Wheeljack did his little transformo-scanny thing on some very poor, incorrect restoration that someone did rather than a correct example. He’s from another planet, so it’s an understandable mistake.

Carter Young
Carter Young
1 year ago

And what about the sliding doors!

MATTinMKE
MATTinMKE
1 year ago

What are we wondering?

Acrimonious Mofo
Acrimonious Mofo
1 year ago

As someone who has very little interest in old VWs, or in the Transformers franchise I will say this: you are absolute right Jason–it looks wrong. Apparently they are driving it straight to Uncanny Valley.

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