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Old 02-07-2009, 10:58 PM   #26
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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VI. Transformers Beginnings

Now we come to the point in the history of the actual Transformers toys that many TF fans might be familiar with. Let's start at the beginning and bring things up to speed with a quick timeline:

1964 - US toy company Hasbro introduces the 12 inch tall soldier doll "G.I. Joe"

1970 - G.I. Joe brought to Japan and sold by Takara toy company as "Combat Joe"

1971 - Takara releases Combat Joe dolls with superhero costumes and sci-fi themes and accessories (a concept similar to the Captain Action doll from the 1960s)

1972 - Takara introduces the "Henshin Cyborg", a 12 inch Combat Joe spin-off doll with clear robot body parts and a metallic head

Henshin Cyborgs with G.I. Joe

1974 - Takara produces smaller 3.75 inch tall versions of the Henshin Cyborg and calls this new toy series "Microman"


1975 - Microman vehicles and robots are produced. They don't transform, but they have interchangeable parts

1976 - Microman figures and vehicles brought to the US and sold by Mego as "Micronauts"

1980-81 - Takara introduces the "New Microman" toy line featuring the 3.75 inch tall miniature cyborgs with new special battle machines and playsets.
A spin-off toy line from this is also introduced by Takara, called Diaclone (AKA "Diakron") - a series of vehicles and combiner robots that are driven by human-sized cyborg pilots. The scale of these toys is 1/64, so the pilot figures are only one inch tall. The original 1980-81 Diaclone robots (mostly combiners) were designed by Shoji Kawamori and Kazutaka Miyatake, who would later go on to design the mecha for Macross.

1980 Diaclone catalog

1982 - The first two transforming "Car Robots" are introduced as part of the Diaclone line. These will later go on to be released in the US as the Autobots "Sunstreaker" (after a color change to yellow) and "Ironhide", so these are technically the first of the Transformers.

1982 Diaclone catalog

Also in 1982 - Popy releases the first toys in its transforming "Machine Robo" series, that will later be released as Gobots in the US by Tonka in '84 .


1983 - Another spinoff from the New Microman toy series debuts from Takara - "MicroChange", a series of minature robots and vehicles disguised as life-size tools and houshold items. This first wave of MicroChange toys includes several robots that will go on to be Transformers, including the Walther P-38 "Gun Robo" (Megatron) and "Cassette Man" (Soundwave). Also included in this first wave of MicroChange are the "Mini Car Robo" robots, intended to be disguised as toy "penny racer" cars. These will later become the Transformers mini Autobots "Cliffjumper", "Bumblebee", "Gears", "Brawn", "Windcharger", "Huffer", and the so-called "Bumblejumper".

Microman/MicroChange 1983 catalog page

Meanwhile, the 1983 Diaclone wave introduces many more future Transformers, including "Battle Convoy" (Optimus Prime), "Jet Robo" (Starscream/Thundercracker), and the "Insecter Robo" (Insectacons).

1983 Diaclone catalog pages

Finally and perhaps most importantly, 1983 was the year that Hasbro representitives visited the Tokyo Toy Fair, saw the potential in the Diaclone and MicroChange toy lines, and made the historic deal with Takara to market these toys in the US under a new name and storyline.


Next...More than meets the eye!
It appears that the Autobot combiner Raider (made up of six Trainbots) were created back in 1983, and not at the end of 80's with the Headmasters line.

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Old 02-08-2009, 12:57 AM   #27
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Lizard, thanks for compiling this history. It brings back a lot of memories. I wish I had the patience to compile something like this. I wish I still had my die-cast Mazinger Z toy that I had from '79.

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Old 02-08-2009, 09:52 AM   #28
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Bandai made a new larger more articulate die cast Mazinger Z a few years ago as part of the Soul of Chogokin line.

http://japanesetoylink.com/Bandai/Sc...SOC-GX-01R.htm

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Old 02-08-2009, 10:09 AM   #29
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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It appears that the Autobot combiner Raider (made up of six Trainbots) were created back in 1983, and not at the end of 80's with the Headmasters line.
Yep -- the "Train Robo" seen in the 1983 Diaclone catalog above was the first Diaclone gestalt combiner made from transforming robots with regular earth vehicle alt modes.. He beat Diaclone Devastator to Japanese toy stores by at least one year.


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Old 02-08-2009, 10:29 AM   #30
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

A matched pair with "Devastator", the diaclone construction robo's.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFQUnL3VucE

The only Diaclone toys that Hasbro never put into Transformers was the trainbots and the 3rd Diaclone triple changer. See it here in the triple changer ad.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hipzmR9Gy7A

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Old 02-08-2009, 02:44 PM   #31
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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.
VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:

^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, Dorvack and Sasuraiger. 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!)

VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:

^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....
VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:


VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:

^ Gobots and Transformers 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!


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Old 02-09-2009, 12:39 PM   #32
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

VIII. The Continuing Japanese Invasion and "Robotechnology"

American fans of Japanese robots were in hog heaven during the mid-1980s, and it seemed like every toy store shelf was full of imported transforming goodness. In 1985, Hasbro released the second (and some might say the greatest) wave of generation one Transformers to the public.

In addition to the other new robots that came from sources other than Takara, the 1985 Transformers release included Shockwave, whose Japanese origin was as a toy called "Astro Magnum" released by the lesser-known company ToyCo. Although Shockwave's hand-held laser gun alt form fit in well with the MicroChange theme, the large size of the toy, along with the increased articulation and non-humanoid head made it resemble the Takatoku-based Transformers a little more closely. A non-Transformers version of Astro Magnum made in China was also sold at Radio Shack at the time, indicative of the market saturation of transforming robots that was taking place.

Original Japanese Astro Magnum (AKA Shockwave)
VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:

^ 1985 TF commercial featuring Shockwave and the only animated version of Jetfire that resembled the Macross Valkyrie toy it was based on.

Indeed, outside the Transformers brand, there were plenty of other Japanese robot toys to be had. Tonka, perhaps feeling the need to compete with the larger and more detailed Transformers toys, continued to beef up its Super GoBots line to include bigger versions of the Machine Robo/GoBot characters.
Bandai, who by this time had absorbed its subdivision company Popy, continued to license the Machine Robo line to Tonka, but also had distributed some of its other robot toys directly to the US market as Bandai America since 1983. The "Godaikin" toy line from Bandai America was much like the Shogun Warriors brand from the 1970s, in that it was basically a random gathering of Japanese robot toys repackaged in English for the US market. The Godaikin series was mostly made up of larger diecast metal combiner robots from various anime and "Super Sentai" live action series. The toys were very high quality and were unchanged from their Japanese releases (complete with those lethal firing plastic missiles). However, the high prices of the Godaikin toys coupled with the fact that most Amercian consumers were not familiar with the TV programs the robots came from resulted in sluggish sales. Hasbro's Transformers stole away much of the Godaikin target consumers and by the mid-to-late 1980s, Godaikins were being marked down in the bargain bins of stores like Lionel Playworld (a great bargain for robot collectors).


Godaikin toy robot series catalog

On the subject of combiner robots, Matchbox toys had distributed the Bandai diecast robots from Golion, Dairugger XV, and the unaired-in-America anime Albagas as part of their Voltron series of toys. Unlike the earlier Godaikin release of the Golion combiner, the Matchbox release removed all the missile launchers and sharp weapons.

Matchbox "Voltron" toys

Matchbox also went on to release a toy and action figure line based on the American Robotech TV series. Matchbox used some existing Bandai toy molds from the Macross anime series that comprised part of Robotech, including a transforming SDF-1, small Destroid robots and a series of "super-deformed" transforming Valkyries. Matchbox also created its own series of action figure-based, mostly non-transforming plastic Robotech toys that were of a much lower quality.

Two Bandai Macross toys recycled by Matchbox for "Robotech"

Distribution of the Robotech brand and mecha designs outside of Japan had always been a bit confusing. The "Robotech" brand name was originally used by Revell models in 1983 as a general title for a variety of Japanese plastic model kits Revell took from different series and put together under one product line. Most of the kits in Revell's "Robotech Defenders" series were from the anime series Dougram and Macross, although there were a couple from other series like Orguss as well. After a brief DC Comics mini-series based on the Robotech Defenders model kits failed miserably, the brand name "Robotech" was bought by US animation company Harmony Gold for its English-language animated series that would combine Macross, Southern Cross and Mospeada.
VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:

^ US opening for Robotech (1985), incorporating three different Japanese anime series

Meanwhile, many of the "Robotech" model kit designs taken from Dougram and Macross were incorporated into the popular BattleTech mecha table-top wargame published by FASA. So during the mid-1980s, the Robotech brand and its Japanese robots were seen in several different formats and storylines. Eventually, FASA would have to change all of the anime-based robot designs in the BattleTech game for legal reasons.

1985 BattleTech game showing a Macross "Destroid Tomahawk" robot in the box cover

To add even more confusion to the Robotech toy situation, the toy company Excite distributed some of the transforming toys made by Japanese company Gakken from the Mospeada anime series (AKA 3rd Generation Robotech) in the US under the Robotech label as well. The Excite releases of the Gakken toys removed the missile firing springs, but other than that the toys were a direct import. In addition to the Gakken transforming "Alpha" fighter jet from Mospeada/Robotech, there was also a deluxe transforming "Ride Armor" motorcycle that converted into battle armor. This amazing item was one of the most complicated transforming toys of the 1980s, and is still a desired collectible to this day.


Robotech/Mospeada transforming ride armor by Gakken


Next: Gundam and the 1986 Transformers Movie bring changes


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Old 02-10-2009, 10:30 AM   #33
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

IX. TV, Movie and Video Transformations

In Japan in 1985, the legendary Mobile Suit Gundam series that changed the format of giant robot storylines finally received a sequel series titled Zeta Gundam. Not surprisingly, Zeta Gundam introduced transforming mecha to the Gundam universe in the form of the "wave rider" spaceship mode for the Zeta Gundam robot. Other "mobile suits" in the series could transform as well, although the purpose of the transformations was aerodynamic flying forms, not disguise.
The Gundam toy line history was also a change from the traditional Japanese robot toys. When the original Gundam series aired in 1979-1980, a Japanese toy company called Clover had released a diecast, missile-launching Gundam toy. However, the chunky, simplified forms of Clover's robot toys didn't appeal to fans of the Gundam series, who prefered the increased detail and articulation of the Gundam plastic model kits. As a result of this increased demand for realism in robot toys, Clover soon went out of business in 1983 after unsuccesfully trying to adapt to the "real robot" aesthetic by making toys for the anime mecha series Xabungle and Dunbine. As usual, Bandai was quite willing to step in and take over, and their Gundam model kits remained very popular.
Thus, when the time came to make toys for Zeta Gundam in 1985, Bandai decided to forego the diecast metal and instead make super-detailed, super-poseable toys that were completely made of strong ABS plastic. Although Bandai continued to produce the diecast "chogokin" robot toys based on the anime and live-action combiner robots, the shift towards high-detail all-plastic collectible toys had begun.


1979 Gundam toy by Clover, 1980 Gundam model by Bandai, and 1985 Zeta Gundam transforming toy by Bandai.

Another change that took place in the world of Japanese robots in 1985 was the introduction of the original animated video (OVA). These direct-to-VHS releases enabled one-shot anime with more adult storylines to be viewed by the anime-hungry public. Certain popular animation design companies like Artmic and Gainax soon took advantage of this medium to introduce their own privately created anime and mecha designs during the mid to late 1980s. Popular OVA of this time that featured transforming robots were Megazone 23, Bubblegum Crisis and Gunbuster.

Back in the US, 1986 saw the release of Transformers: The Movie, and a rather large change to the Transformers toy line as well. Not only did TF: The Movie kill off many of the original generation one characters, but it also introduced many new toys that were newly created and based on the animation character designs for the movie. By this point, Takara had discontinued the MicroChange and Diaclone toy lines and instead marketed the repacked toys as Transformers in Japan. With some exceptions (like Ultra Magnus, Sky Lynx and the large city-base Transformers) the 1986 wave of new Transformer toys based on the movie were created especially for Hasbro, and the difference between these toys and the earlier pre-existing Transformers were obvious for several reasons. The diecast metal parts were mostly eliminated as a cost-cutting measure. Also, the transformation process on many of the new toys was simplified, resulting in less detail. This was a trend that would mostly continue into the late 1980s, along with a marked increase in futuristic or outlandish alt forms.


1986 TF catalog, Decepticon side

In Japan, Takara introduced a series of Transformers spin-off toys called Beastformers in 1987. These small, non-transformable cyborg animal figures were sold by Hasbro in the US as Battle Beasts, with no connection to the Transformers series being made.

Tonka's GoBots toy series ended in 1987 after the addition of the Rock Lords to the toy line and an unsuccessful feature film cartoon. The Machine Robo series carried on in Japan however as a totally different anime series, Machine Robo Chronos.

After the third season of the Transformers TV cartoon, set after the futuristic events of TF: The Movie, there was a brief three-episode mini-series that made up season four in late 1987. This wrapped up the animated story of the G1 Transformers. However the Japanese G1 TF anime series continued on in new directions for three more seasons in the series Transformers: Headmasters(1987), Transformers: Supergod Masterforce (1988), and Transformers: Victory (1989). Each of these series used more new characters and less of the familiar G1 characters from the US cartoon.


Characters from the 1989 Japanese anime series Transformers: Victory.

Back in the US, the Transformers toy line that would come to be called "generation one" continued through 1989, with the introduction of the Headmasters, Targetmasters, Powermasters, Micromasters and Pretenders.


1989 TF catalog


As the 1980s wore on, Japanese animation became more and more popular in the US and other countries. The only way to see a lot of it was by sometimes viewing grainy, untranslated 4th generation VHS copies, but the anime style was undeniably gaining public attention and a loyal American fan base. In Japan, the Gundam series continued with the often humorous Gundam ZZ ("double zeta") in 1986-87.


1986 Gundam ZZ transformer/combiner toy by Bandai

The Gundam-wannabe trend also continued with anime series such as SPT Layzner (1986) and Dragonar (1987), which had great mecha designs, but strictly forgettable storylines. The toy lines connected to these short-lived series were small, consisting mostly of model kits or the occasional deluxe action figure.
In 1989, Bandai officially ended the diecast metal "chogokin" toy series, which had mostly consisted of just live-action Sentai Ranger combining robots for several years.

Although there had been many depictions of live-action transforming super-robots on Japanese television in the Sentai/Ranger series, it wasn't until 1989 that an attempt to produce a live-action feature film with a "real robot" transforming mecha feel was made. The Japanese movie was called Gunhed, and it featured transforming tank mecha. An American movie called Robot Jox was filmed around 1988, but wasn't completed and released until 1990. While Robot Jox provided more traditional humanoid giant mecha, it was definitely a low-budget (but entertaining) attempt, and spawned a 1993 sequel, Robot Wars.




Next: 1990s re-imaginings


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Old 02-10-2009, 11:08 AM   #34
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Another thing is that many Transformers released in 1985 and 1986 were diaclones/Microchangers that Takara never released. As in 1985 they scrapped Diaclone Car Robo's and Microman Micro change in favor of Transformers. Such toys as the 1985 mini-bots, Astrotrain. And the 1986 "scramble city" combiners, and Metroplex. These guys were originally going to be part of another Diaclone subline. And all 21 bots could combine with each other in various ways. Such as the base modes of 4 the combiner team leaders being able to combine with Metroplex's city mode. And the 16 limb bots being able to combine with Metroplex in robot mode, but not all at once.

Gotta track down that pic with all 4 on Metroplex.

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Old 02-10-2009, 03:52 PM   #35
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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Meanwhile, many of the "Robotech" model kit designs taken from Dougram and Macross were incorporated into the popular BattleTech mecha table-top wargame published by FASA. So during the mid-1980s, the Robotech brand and its Japanese robots were seen in several different formats and storylines. Eventually, FASA would have to change all of the anime-based robot designs in the BattleTech for legal reasons.

1985 BattleTech game showing a Macross Destroid robot in the box cover
...Known in the BattleTech universe as the Warhammer.

The various BattleMechs from BattleTech that had their origins in Japanese anime became known as the "Unseen" when FASA were prohibited from displaying their image. Use of the designs continued in the rule sets and text publications continued however and the publication of Project Phoenix gave rise to redesigns now dubbed the "Reseen." Some of the Unseen were also playable BattleMechs in the hit Activision PC Game MechWarrior 2, though these were shuffled aside in the MechWarrior sequels when the legal struggle came into play.

Transforming 'Mechs in BattleTech were rare, but three of the Unseen, the Phoenix Hawk, Wasp and Stinger made appearances in BattleTech with "LAM" versions (Acronym: Land Air 'Mech). These were based on veritech fighters from Macross/Robotech.


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Old 02-10-2009, 10:56 PM   #36
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

All very nice and informative.

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Old 02-12-2009, 12:16 PM   #37
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

X. New visions and changing landscapes

1990 was not the best time for Japanese animation or the transforming robot genre. During the anime boom of the late '80s, many Japanese animation studios overextended themselves by producing expensive feature films that didn't provide enough return at the box office. Although there were a few exceptions (notably the famous Studio Ghibli started by Hayao Miazaki), most of the anime studios were hurting and had to scale back their releases. The direct-to-video animated features became a main focus of the giant robot genre, but there weren't any real breakthough hits until well into the '90s. The Gundam franchise continued with moderate success, including the continuation of the comedic SD (Super Deformed) Gundam anime series, the serious Gundam 0083: Stardust Memory (1991-92) and Gundam Victory (1993). Also continuing into the early '90s was the mecha police series Patlabor, which began as an OVA and spawned a movie and TV series. 1990 also brought an OVA continuation of the transforming animal robot combiner series Dancouga.


SD Gundam video and Dancouga OVA

Certain classic robot series from the '60s and '70s were given a makeover and had updated "re-imaginings" released as OVAs during this time period, with varying degrees of success. These included Getter Robo Go (1991), Giant Robo (1992) and Ambassador Magma (1993). An alternate-timeline sequel to Macross was also released as a 1992 OVA series titled Macross II: Lovers Again. This Macross sequel series bore little resemblence to the original TV series or movie, and was generally not well received either in Japan or in the US, where it saw limited theatrical release as a condensed feature film.

Macross II VF-2SS Valkyrie II

Also continuing uninterupted into the 1990s was the unstoppable live-action Super Sentai TV franchise, which has introduced a new series every year since 1979. Bandai continued to produce the toys of the color-coded combiner robots from these shows, but no longer as the diecast metal "chogokin" toy line. The 1992 series, Dinosaur Squadron ZyuRanger, is noteworthy as the first Sentai series to be edited into the first US season of Power Rangers.


Giant robots from ZyuRanger, later to become Power Rangers in the US.

Of interest to Transformers fans is the 1990 Japanese direct-to-video anime Transformers: Zone. This was intended to be a new TV show to continue the Japanese-created TF anime series, but the series was canceled before airing and it was merely released as a 30 minute OVA. This is considered the final Japanese contribution to their "generation one" Transformers anime series. In spite of this, there two more small waves of Transformers toys released in Japan from 1991-1992 that had no anime series to support them.
The Japanese were quick to replace the G1 Transformers anime series with the new and unrelated Brave Exkaiser, which used some similar TF-type plots and robot designs, including slight variations on the Dinobots. The show and its related Takara toy line was popular enough to spawn several similar but unconnected sequel series referred to as the Yusha ("Brave") series that ran from 1990-1998. A few other Transformers designs were used in the following "Brave" series as well, including the six-changing Decepticon "Sixshot".


Transforming "God Max" combiner robot toys from the Brave Exkaiser series (1990)


The 1987 Decepticon "Six Shot" remolded as "Shadow Maru" in the 1994 series Brave Police J-Decker

Back in the United States, the Transformers toy line known as G1 came to an end in 1990 with the release of the Action Masters line of figures. The figures were smaller, more faithful depictions of the G1 cartoon robot forms, but without the abilty to transform. Transforming weapons and vehicles were included to make up for this, but the concept of non-transforming Transformers didn't catch on and the toy series was short-lived.

Hasbro was not content to let the Transformers toy series lie down for long however, and 1993 saw the release of the "Transformers: Generation 2" toy line in the US. At first, the G2 toys were mostly just brightly colored repaints of selected G1 toys with additional weapons and electronic sound accessories. However, completely new robot designs were soon commisioned from Takara and some popular redesigns of G1 characters were introduced from 1993-'95. Possibly the most notable redesign was that of Megatron, who was given the new form of a tank. Other new toy molds of various sizes and types followed, including a group of small vehicle Transformers called "Go-Bots", courtesy of Hasbro acquiring Tonka and the "GoBots" brand name in 1991. Unfortunately, this new wave of Transformers didn't really take off. The so-called Transformers: Generation 2 cartoon was merely the old G1 episodes framed with new computer generated opening credits and introductions. The G2 toy line was canceled in 1995, but Hasbro's recent purchase of Kenner toys would bring in a new design team and a new vision for the next Transformers concept.


Generation 2 Grimlock and Megatron

Next: Beast Wars and a new "Genesis" in Japan


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Old 02-12-2009, 01:33 PM   #38
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

I own a few of the G2 toys, like Optimus Prime, Sideswipe, and Inferno. Back then, they were pretty affordable and they were MISB, unlike the G1 toys that were usually out-of-box and either have missing accessories or loose joints.

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Old 02-13-2009, 05:03 PM   #39
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

XI. Revitalization

While the giant robot genre had recovered reasonably well in Japan, the most successful series had been aimed squarely at younger kids during the early 1990s. The "Brave" anime series and the ongoing Sentai Ranger series, while popular, didn't have much to offer the older fans of the dramatic "real robot" anime franchises from the 1980s. There was an ongoing continuation of the Gundam series, as seen in Mobile Fighter G Gundam (1994), but this contained more kid-friendly elements than previous entries in the Gundam franchise. There was also another attempt to relaunch the Macross franchise with the Macross Plus OVA movie and the Macross 7 TV series, both starting in 1994.


VF-19 Fire Valkyrie toy from Macross 7, made by Bandai in 1995.
During the mid-1990s, many Japanese toy companies began to manufacture their products in China. Thus, "made in Japan" became a more rare thing to see stamped on toys from 1995 onward.

The giant robot genre was suddenly shaken up again with the 1995 premiere of Neon Genesis Evangelion. Evangelion introduced a radical new design for giant Japanese robots thanks to its creator, artist Yoshiyuki Sadamoto, a founder of Gainax studio and artist on the Gunbuster series. The giant mecha in Evangelion have a sleek, almost skeletal body shape instead of the blocky profile and Popeye-type forearms of previous robot designs. The "Evas" are actually cyborg mecha that have organic body parts. The mystical and religious overtones of the storyline were novel, and the 1995-96 manga and anime were an immediate success. Soon there were many similarly-themed anime, including Neo Ranga and Gasaraki (1998).


Neon Genesis Evangelion anime and toys.

As home video game systems offered graphics that were more advanced during this time, there were several giant-robot themed video games that featured original robot designs that were more detailed than any seen before. An example is the Front Mission series, which premiered in Japan in 1995 for the Super Nintendo, and came to the US in 1999 in the form of Front Mission 3 for the Sony Playstation.


Giant robot "Zenislev" model from the Front Mission video game series

In the US in 1996, Hasbro relaunched the Transformers line again, but this time with a larger change than had ever been seen in the franchise before. Transformers: Beast Wars built on the popularity of the "animal robot" Transformers like the G1 Dinobots and Predicons, but introduced the concept of the robots transforming into organic-looking creatures instead of robotic ones. The Beast Wars animated tv series was completely computer generated, which added to the popularity of the toy line, and it worked to incorporate itself into the existing Transformers timeline from the Generation 1 toys, cartoons and comic books. The Beast Wars toys had a range of articulation not seen in previous Transformers toys thanks to the use of ball-and-socket joints, and they set a new standard for increased poseability in the Transformers robot modes.


1996 Transformers: Beast Wars catalog
VIDEO-CLick to Watch!:

^ Beast Wars toy commercial featuring Optimus Primal and Megatron in their most memorable alt modes

The Beast Wars toy line and CGI cartoon would continue on through the end of the 1990s, eventually including the more robotic Transmetals toy series. It should be noted here that although female Transformers had appeared in previous cartoons and comic adaptations, the Beast Wars toy line was the first to introduce toys of female Transformers in the form of "Blackarachnia" and "Air Razor". The animated series would spawn two brief Japanese anime spinoffs Beast Wars II (1998) and Beast Wars Neo (1999), as well as the Beast Machines CGI series in the US in 2000


Beast Wars Transmetals Megatron, 1998

As more of the classic Japanese anime and toy series of the 1970s celebrated 20th anniversaries during the late 1990s, there was a resurgence in nostalgic toy re-releases, as well as "upgraded" versions of classic super-robots made strictly for the adult collector market. In 1997 Bandai brought back the diecast metal robot "chogokin" toy series, now labeled "Soul of Chokogin", and featuring highly detailed and articulated versions of the older diecast super-robots. This was just the beginning of a large marketing push for revamped versions of classic robots of the '70s and '80s that would truly take off and spread to the US in the following decade.


Nostalgia launches a powerful offensive in the form of the deluxe "Soul of Chogokin" series of the late 1990s


Next: Everything old is new again!


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Old 02-13-2009, 05:07 PM   #40
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

wow, i didn't think you were really goign to make this thread.

I promised i would read it though.

ps, are you just linking this from another site?

you should make a wikipedia entry of all of this once you've put it all together

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Old 02-13-2009, 05:26 PM   #41
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

dupe lag post


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Old 02-13-2009, 06:19 PM   #42
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Anyway -- yes I'm putting together all this original text myself, but also using info from various robot/anime/toy sources to confirm dates and such. I'll post a list of sources at the end.


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Old 02-15-2009, 02:21 PM   #43
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

XII. Transformers for everyone in the 21st century

As the Beast Machines Transformers TV series and toy line continued during 1999-2000, the storyline made some controversial changes to TF history, but it also brought back mechanical vehicle alt-forms for the robots. The heroic Maximals fought evil "Vehicons" that transformed from robots to Cybertronian war machines, the first return to vehicle Transformers in four years.


Beast Machines Vehicon "Tankor"

This change not only created a demand for a return to the traditional vehicle Transformers, but also carried over the increased ball-joint articulation from the Beast Wars toys. In Japan, the 2000 anime series Transformers: Car Robots embraced this change, moving the storyline back to earth and mixing the Transmetals Predacons with updated vehicle-transforming Autobots. Hasbro abandoned a Beast Machines follow-up series called "Transtech", and instead decided to bring Transformers: Car Robots to the US in 2001 dubbed and relabeled as Transformers: Robots In Disguise. Many American TF fans who had never been exposed to the more kid-oriented Japanese series of TV shows found the middle-school-aged protagonists and typical Japanese slapstick comedy elements of TF: RID a bit jarring. However the RID toy series was popular enough for Hasbro and Takara to partner together for a continuation of the Transformers franchise in both the US and Japan.

The next three Transformers animated series, Armada (2002), Energon (2004), and Cybertron (2005), were all Hasbro/Takara co-productions that had little or no connections to previous Transformer storylines beyond character names and basic appearances. In addition to the toys relating to these anime series, Hasbro released a general Transformers Universe toy line in 2003 that featured various repaints and reissues from Robots In Disguise as well as the three newer series.


The first commercially-released toy of the giant evil Transformer Unicron, sold as part of the Armada series in 2003

While these early 2000s TV shows continued using kid-oriented anime styles and character types, older Transformers fans were able to read some more mature G1-based storylines in the Transformers comic book series started by Dreamwave Productions in 2002 and continued by IDW Publishing in 2005. Some of these comic series involved crossovers with the G.I. Joe characters, similar to those published by Marvel Comics in the 1980s.


Art from the Dreamwave Productions Transformers comic

The current Transformers toy lines were not limited to what was featured in the cartoons or comic books however, and some fantastically creative toy series were created for the collector market alone. The 2003 Transformers toy series called Binaltech in Japan and Alternators in the US introduced realistic 1/24 scale licensed reproductions of actual cars and trucks with highly complicated transforming processes. The US versions of these toys lacked some elements present in the Japanese releases, like diecast parts and weapons. Despite poor sales in the US leading to the discontinuation of the Alternators line in early 2006, the toy series remains a favorite with older collectors and Transformers toy customizers.


Siverstreak, Hound and Optimus Prime from the Alternators / Binaltech toy series

2004 marked the 20th anniversary of the Transformers franchise. While there had already been re-releases of selected classic commemorative G1 Transformers toys in both Japan and the US since 2002, Takara introduced a special treat for collectors in the form of the Masterpiece Series Convoy, released in the US as the 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime. This foot-tall, ultra-detailed toy with diecast parts represents the ultimate fusion of complex transformation elements with the original G1 cartoon aesthetic. The "Masterpiece" series has continued yearly ever since with the introduction of new releases and repaints based on Optimus Prime, Starscream, Megatron and most recently Grimlock.


Masterpiece Edition Optimus Prime, generally considered to be the greatest Transformers toy of all time.

The continuing nostalgic desire for the G1 Transformers lead to the 2006 Classics toy line, featuring updated versions of G1 characters with more detailed transforming designs and increased articulation. The Classics line has since become incorporated with the ongoing Transformers Universe toy line. Also in 2006, Hasbro introduced the Star Wars Transformers toy line, where famous vehicles from the Star Wars saga are given a transforming robot re-imagining. The "Crossover" Transformers series continued in 2008 with Marvel superhero robots featured in the Transformers Crossovers: Marvel toy line.


Transformers Classics 2006 toys

An oddball 2006 spinoff from the Binaltech Transformers toy line in Japan resulted in one of the most disturbing Transformers series to date: Transformers: Kiss Players. The idea behind this collectors toy series was that the Transformers receive their powers and transformation abilities from being kissed by cute anime girls. This already strange concept was made even more creepy by the fact that the girls depicted on the packaging for the toys had a distinctly underage sexual "lolicon" look about them.


2006 Transformers: Kiss Players -- "Why don't you have a seat right over there?"

2007 of course brought the release of the Micheal Bay-directed live action blockbuster film Transformers, featuring radically changed designs for the robots and cutting-edge CGI special effects. Despite mediocre reviews from critics and some fan controversy surrounding the "re-imagined" Transformers, the movie was a smash success ($319 million US, $708 million worldwide total), and the 2009 sequel releases in June. The movie-Transformer toy designs have taken their place on toy store shelves next to the more traditional Transformers toys, as well as highly stylized toys from the 2008 Transformers Animated toy line. The Transformers toy series has definitely regained its past popularity as its 25th anniversary takes place in 2009.

Next: The present and future of transforming robots in Japan and the US


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Old 02-21-2009, 01:56 AM   #44
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Loven this thread.

I got a question for you.

Do you recognize these robots???





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Old 02-21-2009, 10:20 AM   #45
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Quote:
Originally Posted by sto_vo_kor_2000 View Post
Loven this thread.

I got a question for you.

Do you recognize these robots???
Hmmmm....Those seem to be slightly altered versions of several different 1970s and 1980s anime robots.

For example this one:



Looks a lot like Daimos. Here's a pic of a recent Daimos prototype toy without paint. Compare the overall body/head shape and alt mode...



Let me do a little more searching, but I think I recognize the others too...


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Old 02-21-2009, 04:12 PM   #46
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Hmmmm....Those seem to be slightly altered versions of several different 1970s and 1980s anime robots.

For example this one:



Looks a lot like Daimos. Here's a pic of a recent Daimos prototype toy without paint. Compare the overall body/head shape and alt mode...



Let me do a little more searching, but I think I recognize the others too...
Thanks.........I look forward to the answer.

All I know is that the paintings say they come from Takara.

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Old 02-22-2009, 12:13 PM   #47
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

Quote:
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All I know is that the paintings say they come from Takara.
I suppose that's possible, but based on the fact that the paintings seem to be mash-ups of different pre-existing robot designs, I'm more inclined to think that they are fan-made. Although the Japanese have no problems with "recycling" ideas from other sources, it would be unusual for a company like Takara to try and pass off such classic robot design elements as their own.


Lets look at this one next:



The robot arms, upper body and the jet alt mode look like they were taken from Dangard Ace...


While the legs look like they were based on Dragonar (or some similar robot featured in the Dragonar series) or possible something from the Vifam series...


The head is generic enough that it could be original or merely any existing robot with a face-plate added, for example Jet Robo from the Machine Robo series...



So IMO, those paintings were done by a giant robot fan who knew enough to mix-and-match different robot parts from existing designs to create the appearance of an original design, but none of those are truly "original" robots.

I used to do the same thing when I was in school by picking and choosing elements from different Japanese anime art books and drawing "new" robots. It's a fun exercise, but not the kind of thing you'd expect to see put out as a licensed Takara concept.


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Old 02-22-2009, 12:34 PM   #48
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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I suppose that's possible, but based on the fact that the paintings seem to be mash-ups of different pre-existing robot designs, I'm more inclined to think that they are fan-made. Although the Japanese have no problems with "recycling" ideas from other sources, it would be unusual for a company like Takara to try and pass off such classic robot design elements as their own.


Lets look at this one next:



The robot arms, upper body and the jet alt mode look like they were taken from Dangard Ace...


While the legs look like they were based on Dragonar (or some similar robot featured in the Dragonar series)...


The head is generic enough that it could be original or merely any existing robot with a face-plate added, for example Jet Robo from the Machine Robo series...



So IMO, those paintings were done by a giant robot fan who knew enough to mix-and-match different robot parts from existing designs to create the appearance of an original design, but none of those are truly "original" robots.

I used to do the same thing when I was in school by picking and choosing elements from different Japanese anime art books and drawing "new" robots. It's a fun exercise, but not the kind of thing you'd expect to see put out as a licensed Takara concept.
I guess thats possible too but this is stamped on the back of each....



So I'm more inclined to believe they were done by Takara as part of a test phase for new concepts.

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Old 02-22-2009, 01:11 PM   #49
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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I guess thats possible too but this is stamped on the back of each....



So I'm more inclined to believe they were done by Takara as part of a test phase for new concepts.
If those were actual Takara designs, they could possibly have been intended for distribution outside of Japan, since in 1985 most Americans wouldn't have known any better. Of course, anyone can have a stamp made up too, so who knows?

But I'm also suspicious of the fact that some of the alt modes don't look like they actually work with the robot modes.

For example:



The alt mode on this one is obviously taken from the classic Raideen Godbird mode:


But the body design sort of looks like a cross between something from Gundam and something from Orguss, but I'll have to look a bit further. The remaining two are tricky.

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Old 02-22-2009, 01:21 PM   #50
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Default Re: The History of Transforming Robots! (abridged)

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If those were actual Takara designs, they could possibly have been intended for distribution outside of Japan, since in 1985 most Americans wouldn't have known any better. Of course, anyone can have a stamp made up too, so who knows?

But I'm also suspicious of the fact that some of the alt modes don't look like they actually work with the robot modes.

For example:



The alt mode on this one is obviously taken from the classic Raideen Godbird mode:


But the body design sort of looks like a cross between something from Gundam and something from Orguss, but I'll have to look a bit further. The remaining two are tricky.
It could be that none of those were ment to be "Transforming" robots.

It could be that the ships are either "armor" for the robots or vehicles for them to ride or use.

Either way I was hopeing I could finally find some concrete answers.

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