Never has a toy concept caught the imagination of the nations young boys more than TRANSFORMERS! Robots in Disguise!
I remember first seeing one in the playground, I hadn’t heard of them at that point, and the way the other boy could change it from a truck into a robot blew my tiny mind (it still does!). How did he do it? It was like a magic trick only better because it was also a toy car and a toy robot? It was like a Rubiks cube in the way it transformed, and I was as amazed when i saw a school buddy transform it!
Soon after the toys were everywhere in the playground as well as on the television. I got an Optimus Prime for Christmas, my brother got Megatron. I was quite jealous of my brother’s Megatron – because it was a Gun as well as a robot, whereas Optimus Prime’s monster truck seemed a bit boring in comparison (what can i say, I have military tendencies).
Transformers came from Japan – like so many of the children toy concepts of the 1980’s. They were originally a Japanese toy line called Microman and Diaclone – one of which used humanoid-type figures the other used robots able to transform into everyday vehicles or weapons – or sometimes consumer goods like tape recorders!
Enter American toy giant Hasbro, which used the Microman technology, bought Diaclone toys, and partnered with Takara a large Japanese toy firm. Then two creatives, Jim Shooter and Dennis O'Neil were hired by Hasbro to create a backstory and voila! you have a legend created!
The main backstory is that the heroic Optimus Prime and the villainous Megatron, (with their henchmen) crash land on pre-historic Earth in their spaceships "The Ark" and "The Nemesis" but don’t awaken until 1985 (that's some lie-in). The “goodies” are called the “Autobots” the baddies are called the “Decepticons” and thus the war for earth begins!
There were so many spin offs from transformers, and so much back story. There was the idea of the Beast Wars that features transformers based on dinosaurs – e.g. “Dinobot” that was a velocaraptor, or Grimlock, a “Tyrannasaurus Rex”. That jump-started Transformers again for me – merging robots and dinosaurs! Genius! I was excited all over again.
They created such a large and exciting world – there were (amazingly) over 120 different transformers in all created – and even when they stopped showing it I had barely had enough of Transformers. The whole series started in 1984 and in theory stopped in 1987, but has obviously lived on. There were comics, spin off series, there was even an animated feature film with the voices of Orson Wells, Eric Idle and Sci-fi legend Leonard Nimoy.
Of course these days there are the films. Though the films have a whole new concept behind them. As large and brash and exciting as the new films are, they can never create the awe and amazement I felt at 7 years old watching a truck become a robot in the hands of a schoolmate.