Transformers is the name of a line of toys produced by Hasbro from 1984 onwards, and also of a number of spin-offs based on the toys including a Marvel comic book series, an animated television series that began airing in 1984 (Transformers series) and a feature-length movie, Transformers: The Movie. more...
The original series was followed by a number of spin-offs with varying levels of popularity.
A Transformer is an intelligent robot (usually a large humanoid, though there are many exceptions such as animal forms) that is able to "transform", reconfiguring itself into a common and innocuous form, such as a car, airplane or animal. The taglines "More Than Meets the Eye" and "Robots in Disguise" reflect this ability.
Transformers originally featured two main factions warring for control of their home planet, Cybertron. The heroic Autobots (Cybertrons in the Japanese version) were led by Optimus Prime, and their opponents, the Decepticons (Destrons in the Japanese version), were led by Megatron. The Autobots were mainly cars in warm colors while the Decepticons were planes in cool colors, with some exceptions.
The Transformers toyline was developed by Hasbro after they met up with Takara representatives at the 1983 New York Toyfair and decided to combine and re-brand Takara's Diaclone and Micro Change toylines into the Transformers for release in the United States.
The basic backstory of the toyline and subsequent comic books and cartoons was developed by the Marvel Comics writers Jim Shooter and Dennis O'Neil (O'Neil actually giving Optimus Prime his name). Most of the subsequent character names and profiles throughout the original run were done by the primary Transformers US comic book writer, Bob Budiansky.
Floro Dery was primarily responsible for the look and feel of the Transformers cartoon series and was the visual creator of Transformers: The Movie. He refined some of the initial season one animated character models done in Japan, and subsequently interpreted the toy box art for further characters, creating the models that would become the visual guidelines both for the comic books and the animated cartoon.
Most Transformers come with tech specs which detail the Transformer’s characteristics. Older Transformers come with Robot Points which could be redeemed for special Transformers which were not sold in stores, such as the Omnibots or the Decepticon triplets known as Reflector (which featured heavily in the early episodes of the television series, despite not being easily available as toys).
The following Transformers toys came out:
- Transformers (1984-1990) - retroactively called Generation 1 or G1 since then.
- Transformers (1984-1992) - Japan and UK series ran longer than US.
- Transformers: Generation 2 (1992-1995)
- Beast Wars: Transformers (1995-1999)
- Machine Wars: Transformers (1997) - a limited release Kay Bee exclusive
- Beast Machines: Transformers (2000-2001)
- Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2001-2002)
- Transformers G1 Commemorative Series (2002-2005)
- Transformers: Armada (2002-2003)
- Transformers: Universe (2003-present)
- Transformers: Energon (2003-2005)
- Transformers: Alternators (2003-Present)
- Transformers: Cybertron (2005-Present)
See also: Transformers Universes and Transformers series.
Transformers (Generation 1) (1984-1992)
The first Transformers toys were brought together from the different transforming robot toylines from Takara, notably the Diaclone and Micro Change (Micro Man) series. Hasbro acquired the rights to reproduce them in the United States but instead of selling them as their original names, they were rebranded as "Transformers". The first two years consisted primarily of reusing the Diaclone/Micro Change molds. Some of the models from the Diaclone line still have the pilot's seat in their design. The tagline to the Transformers is "More than meets the eye!"
It was in 1986, the third year, when Hasbro began designing new original models. It was also the time when subgroup Transformers became more popular than simply labeling a character as Autobot or Decepticon. There were the Aerialbot group, Dinobot group, Predacons, Headmasters and so on. This trend continued on until the toyline's demise in 1990.
In 1989, the entire line became limited to Pretenders and Micromasters. For the first time, Transformers received a new design for their title logo. But this was also regarded by many as a time of a dearth in creativity and regarded as the lowest point in the toyline's history. 1990 saw the last American burst with the release of more Micromaster characters and the introduction of the Action Masters, Transformers who can't transform. The Action Master line was criticized although it had a few defenders. This would be the last Transformers output in the US until 1992.
While Transformers ended poorly for the US market, the same can not be said for the UK and Japan markets as they went on to produce their own continuing series between 1991 to 1992. Each country produced their own continuity. The UK continued with new Action Master figures and introduced the Turbo Masters and Predators. Japan continued with the Micromasters concept.
Transformers: Generation 2 (1992-1995)
In late 1992, Hasbro relaunched the Transformers franchise with the Generation 2 line. The subgroups concept is done away with for the first year but there are no new molds or characters. Hasbro re-used the molds for most of the characters from the 1984 and 1985 line but with mostly different color schemes and finishes as well as different weapons and accessories.
Megatron's figure was released later on. Megatron's original alternate mode was a gun but in Generation 2 this is changed to a tank due to safety and security concerns.
This line was criticized for the poor material used and being easily breakable. Generation 2 sold poorly and was abandoned by Hasbro after two years.
Beast Wars/Machines (1995-2001)
With the failure of the Generation 2 series, Hasbro decided the franchise needed an overhaul. They went in a new direction, a new beginning. Instead of robots disguising themselves as cars and planes, the idea is now of robots transforming into animals. While there have been Transformers before that change into animals, the idea here is they all change into real-looking animals. Robots on the inside, flesh on the outside. The Beast Wars toyline is launched in the fall of 1995. A CGI animated series produced by Mainframe Entertainment was aired to tie-in with the new toyline. A fresh idea coupled with a TV series with strong stories assured this series the much needed success Hasbro needed.
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