Transformers was a Hasbro toy line and cartoon series that debuted in 1984 and quickly became one of the best-selling toys. Transformers inspired an animated film in 1986, numerous future toy lines, and a series of live-action films. But did you know how Hasbro came up with Transformers Toys?
Hasbro executives went to the Tokyo Toy Show in 1983 to look for new toys to release in the United States. After discovering a series of transforming robot toys, they collaborated with Marvel Comics to create a comic book and animated series called “Transformers” to sell the toys.
Transformers was not a novel concept. The origins can be traced back to Takara Toys’ Diaclone toy line, which debuted in 1980. It was a toy line that included transforming vehicles and robots piloted by miniature figures from the micro-man toy line.
They released a line of car robots that could also transform in 1982. Hasbro licensed the car-robot toy line from Takara, either because they were too lazy to come up with something or because they saw the vast potential. They would combine the two to create the Transformers.
Many of the Autobot Transformers were derived directly from the car-robot line. Many future Transformers were already available as Takara toys, such as the Dinobots, Insecticons, Decepticon planes, and Constructicons.
In 1983, Hasbro executives went to the Tokyo Toy Show in search of new toys to import to North America. They would acquire the rights and molds for all 28 Diaclone figures. (Source: Medium)
Hasbro had the foresight to realize that simply releasing a new toy line was not the best strategy. Giving the toys backstories and character profiles gave them a sense of identity that kids could relate to.
A transforming robot is cool, but it becomes much more enjoyable when you realize they are a robotic race from the planet Cybertron, and they are made up of both good and evil robots.
Hasbro enlisted the help of Marvel to create a backstory, names, and brief descriptions for each character. The story would be developed by Jim Shooter and Dennis O’Neil, while Bob Budiansky would come up with the Transformer’s names and characteristics.
Budiansky worked for Marvel for 20 years as a writer, editor, and penciler. Aside from coming up with names and backstories, he also wrote interesting tech-spec biographies printed on the toys’ packaging. (Source: Medium)
The Autobots versus the Deceptions
The Transformers are comprised of two factions: the heroic Autobots led by Optimus Prime and the evil Decepticons led by the villainous Megatron. They live on Cybertron, a metallic planet. Both groups would have to leave Cybertron to find new energy sources to re-energize their war efforts.
This caused them to crash land on Earth and lay dormant for 4 million years. When they awakened in 1984, the deceptions pillaged the Earth while the Autobots tried to protect the new world they had discovered.
The full story of the Autobots vs. The Deceptions would not be revealed until the cartoon series premiered in 1986, but the general plot of the Autobots vs. The Deceptions was there. The cartoon series we’ll get to later was one of the first and most successful examples of a show created to promote a toy line. (Source: Medium)
Image from Youtube