The Transformers cartoon is an interesting animal of a television series because it never really ‘ended.’ Things got weird continuity-wise after “Transformers: The Movie” was released and, at some point, the Transformers must have gotten pretty good at just going back and forth between Earth and Cybertron, since the marooned-on-Earth story thread was no longer much of a factor.
The U.S. got a total of 98 episodes (about 1/3 of them take place after the movie). It wrapped up with the official return of Optimus Prime, as they had his ‘ghost’ come back in a prior mini-series. After that, Japan actually got three more full series, totaling almost 100 additional episodes that focused on new products such as the Headmasters and other items that were released towards the end of Transformers’ popularity in the U.S.
The documentary on “Transformers: TheMovie”‘s recent 20th anniversary disc has a semi-hilarious interview with the writer. He admits that he thought that ‘We were just getting rid of the old year’s toy line to make room for the next year’s toys.’ And this was true, also explaining why the movie’s story abruptly ‘jumps’ ahead in time.
It’s initially confusing because you spend the first 1/4 of the movie trying to figure out what has happened to everyone… and then they all die. The writer admitted that if he’d known that he’d get the amount of hate mail and angry parent calls that the studio got, he’d not have killed Optimus Prime.
Although, he does also point out that the only reason that anyone remembers the movie is because it scarred the youths of most of a generation of males.