It was the mid eighties (1984 to be precise) when Transformers toys first appeared in toy shops across the world, and they’ve stuck around ever since, becoming one of the most popular toy lines ever.
I distinctly remember them arriving, and whilst I never have actually owned one of the toys, I really really wanted to. The reason I didn’t was because I was around secondary school starting age when they appeared, so I felt that they were perhaps a little too childish for me to ask for. That and the fact that computers had become “my thing” so all my pocket money and present requests tended to be directed in that area.
Transformers didn’t actually start off with that name however. The original toys were made by Japanese company Takara and were actually part of two different ranges known as Diaclone and Microman. The almighty Hasbro saw these toys and immediately snapped them up, combining both series and rebranding them as the Transformers. Thus the courageous Autobots and the dastardly Decepticons were born.
Whoever came up with the original idea for these toys was surely a genius. These were two toys in one, the first being a mighty warrior robot, the second being an object of some other kind. Primarily these other objects were normally vehicles, with the Autobots tending to become cars or other wheeled vehicles, whilst the Decepticons were airplanes. That said, Megatron, the leader of the Decepticons, turned into a pistol!
The transformation process involved sliding and twisting the arms and legs of the robot into different positions, something which could take a while to learn how to do, so they were also a puzzle, in part at least. The transforming ability of the robots led to the two well known brand slogans, “More than meets the eye” and “Robots in disguise“, both of which featured heavily in the lyrics to the inevitable animated Transformers series.
The available range grew over time to encompass such things as sets of robots which when transformed could fit together to make one much bigger robot. An early example of these were the Constructicons, who could take three forms – robot, construction vehicle, or segment of the larger robot.
Transformers has spread from the world of toys to become a cartoon, cartoon movie, two live action/CGI movies, comic books and just about anything else you can think of. Today there are even cross overs with other franchises, such as the Star Wars line where Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker can convert into Tie Fighter or X-Wing respectively, and there are even Disney branded toys (currently only available in Japan), the first of which is a Mickey Mouse themed version of Optimus Prime, the Autobot leader.