VII. Robots in Disguise!
1984 was a very,VERY good year to be a collector of Japanese transforming robot toys.
MicroChange Walther P-38 (Megatron) and Diaclone Battle Convoy (Optimus Prime)
1984 Hasbro Transformers catalog flyer showing the first wave of G1 toys.
Hasbro was busy working with Marvel Comics and Sunbow Productions
animation company to introduce the storylines that would unify the MicroChange and Diaclone toys they had brought to the US under the Transformers name. Some lucky collectors already had access to various Japanese-imported Diaclone and Machine Robo toys sold at specialty shops. Certain Diaclone and Microchange pre-Transformers were distributed under their Japanese brand names by GiG toys in Italy before getting the official Transformers brand name.
Non-Transformers Diaclone triple-changer sold by GiG in Italy
An immediate change that Hasbro made to the toys themselves was to alter any plastic missile-firing weapons to give them very weak firing springs or make them inoperable altogether. This practice was a carry-over from 1979 when some of the missile-firing toys from Mattel's Battlestar Galactica
vehicle line were implicated in the choking death of a child
. After that, all missile-firing toys sold by mainstream US companies either featured ridiculously enlarged "safety" missiles or deactivated firing springs.
Since the Transformers were supposed to be sentient robots in the new Hasbro storyline, the small Diaclone pilot figures were eliminated from the toys as well. Many a curious kid wondered who was supposed to sit in the empty cockpits of his brand new Transformers toys.
^Original 1984 TF toy commercial
In Japan, other interesting events were also taking place in the transforming robot genre in 1984.
July 1984 saw the release of the anime movie Macross: Do You Remember Love?
in Japan, bringing Macross popularity to new heights. Unfortunately, the toy company Takatoku that produced the high-quality "perfect transformation" Macross toys in 1982 didn't partake in this success. From 1983-1984, Takatoku lost money on several follow-up transforming robot toy lines based on the anime series Orguss
. A final series of transforming insect robots called Beetras
didn't even get an anime series attached to it before it became clear Takatoku was in trouble.
In a final bid to produce revenue, Takatoku sold the molds of several of its transforming robots to other companies. Bandai bought out Takatoku and continued the Valkyrie fighter
toy line in conjunction with the 1984 Macross movie. Hasbro by this time knew that it had a hit on its hands with the Transformers line, and was actively looking for more transforming robots to import from Japan. In addition to the Macross VF-1S Super Valkyrie that became Jetfire, Hasbro also bought the rights to two of the robot toys from Dorvack
(which would become the Transformers "Whirl" and "Roadbuster" in 1985), and all four of the Beetras
robots (which would be released as the "Deluxe Insecticons"). These Takatoku toy molds were some of the highest-quality G1 Transformers with regard to robot articulation and detail.
Collage of the Takatoku robot toys that became Transformers
The 1984 Takara Diaclone line introduced several future Transformers such as the Constructicons/Devastator, Triple-Changers and Ultra Magnus. Also introduced were the kyoryu robo
, or "dinosaur robot" series, which would of course become the Dinobots!
Diaclone Tyranosaurus Robo (later to become -- duh -- Grimlock!)
^Diaclone Dinosaur Robo commercial, 1984
Interestingly enough, the Diaclone Dinobots had a specific enemy created just for them -- the non-transforming, somewhat goofy-looking "Machine Dragon":
Needless to say, Machine Dragon did NOT make the cut for inclusion into the Transformers.
Speaking of "somewhat goofy", let's not forget the September 1984 debut of Hanna-Barbera's Challenge of the Gobots
cartoon, which right from the get-go had no chance against the Transformers
cartoon, which premiered about a week later....
cartoon openings. Yeah.....no contest.
First wave of Bandai's Machine Robo toys, released in the US as "Gobots" by Tonka.
NEXT: Super Gobots, Transformers and Godaikins - oh my!