Let’s talk about the most popular truck character: Optimus Prime from Transformers. Optimus Prime is a semi that transforms into a powerful robot. He’s the poster boy for the Autobots. The truck’s distinctive red and blue paint job and imposing size make it instantly recognizable in any version that you can come across. He made his live action debut in Michael Bay’s 2007 movie.
Modified from a 1992 Peterbilt 379. The controversial decision to make it more blue opposed to the classic red from the toys, animated series and comics, this was due to red not working well on camera with the way vehicles had to be lit for shots, according to Michael Bay. The controversial flames though… Were an Aesthetic choice. That being said, Michael Bay is a huge fan of cars and automobiles with an extensive knowledge of the vehicles that were available at the time, more so than a lot of the crew members who worked on the movie. Say what you will about Michael Bay, but he knew exactly what he was looking for and he’s a key factor to what makes Optimus Prime so iconic during this time. Major kudos goes out to all the talented stunt workers and brilliant VFX artists who made it all possible!
Optimus was later redesigned to fit the aesthetics of the much beloved Generation 1 version for the Bumblebee movie in 2018. Director Travis Knight mentioned that Optimus to him has always been a semi that’s big, boxy, and powerful! Despite the majority of Optimus’ scenes being set on Cybertron, Travis Knight wanted to honor the parts that make Optimus instantly recognizable with a clear silhouette. With a background in animation, having worked on films from acclaimed stop-motion studio Laika, he had a strong sense of visuals that made Bumblebee 2018 so well regarded. With very distinct colors and silhouettes for Autobots and Decepticons, this helped audiences identify who was who and who was where during action scenes.
As of writing this post, Optimus makes his live action return on Earth in Transformers Rise of the Beasts with a slightly slicker design while maintaining the visual elements that make Optimus, Optimus!