Synopsis of Toy
“More Than Meets the Eye”
A lesson in synergy: Robots = Cool. Toy Cars = Cool. Therefore, Robots + Toy Cars = 2x Cool, right? Wrong. Hasbro’s Transformers toy line proved once and for all that the whole can be much, much greater than the sum of its transformable parts. These weren’t just robots and toy cars, nor were they robots in toy cars; no, these robots were toy cars—and trucks, and guns, and boom boxes, and jet planes, and helicopters, and brontosauruses, and… ANDTHEYWEREGREATANDITWASTHECOOLESTTHINGEVER!!!!!!! Sorry.
It was kind of hard not to get excited about Transformers. Really, it was like getting two toys in one (“See, dad, it’s like you pay for the robot, and you get the Volkswagen Beetle free. How can we afford not to buy it?”). Hasbro adapted the toy line from a pair of Japanese toys from Takara: the Diaclones and the New Microman. With a slight redesign and a new storyline, the Transformers hit the American shores in 1984.
The gimmick of these plastic and metal robo-toys was so simple, it was brilliant. With a few easy moves (though never as easy as the cartoon made it look, and without that cool transforming sound either), that Lamborghini Countach split off a pair of arms and legs, popped up a head, and voilá: robotic warrior. To sweeten the pot, Hasbro teamed up with Marvel Comics to produce a comic book and syndicated cartoon to expound on the toys’ storyline. A quick rundown: Long, long ago on the planet Cybertron, heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons waged a battle that eventually had them crash-landing on a prehistoric Earth. An erupting volcano led to the bots’ reactivation, and the battle began anew.
Big rig robot Optimus Prime led a platoon of Autobots that included VW Bug-bot Bumblebee, Bluestreak, Ironhide, Jazz and more. Representing evil were the head honcho handgun Megatron, jet Starscream, cassette player Soundwave, and assorted transforming nasties. As toy, comic and cartoon all shot to mega-popularity, the line expanded into prehistoric Dinobots, high-flying Aerialbots, savage Terrorcons, evil Constructicons and others. Some groups combined to form one larger robot (a la Voltron), others had separate transforming heads (the Headmasters), and the line grew to encompass the very large to the very small.
Since the toys were so heavily tied in with the cartoon, their fates were inextricably linked. And so, after years of success and even a big-screen movie, the Transformers were retired in 1990. Not for long, however. “Generation II” toys and cartoons arrived in 1992, and in 1996, the Transformers were completely revitalized by the Beast Wars line. New robots like the ape-like Optimus Primal and the T-rex Megatron (not the same guy as the gun, but just as bad) joined the fight, and kids went nuts. Accompanied by the computer-animated series of the same name, Beast Wars Transformers came to dominate the action figure market just as surely as their 80’s counterparts did. Times may change, but transforming robots never stop being cool.
“Robots in Disguise”
Release History of Toy1984 - Transformers
1992 - Transformers: Generation II
1996 - Beast Wars Transformers