A brief history of transforming robots (Part 2)

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A Billion Dollars


Or, why Michael bay was inducted into the transformers hall of fame

Toys for a new millennium

‘Adults who had grown up playing with the toys now had discretionary income to spend on anything bearing the transformers label’ 1986 was a turning point for Transformers. An animated movie was released, which resulted in a large change to the toy line as well. Not only did the movie kill off many of the original characters, it also introduced new toys that were created specifically for the movie. By this point, Takara had discontinued the Micro Change and Diaclone toy lines and instead marketed they toys as Transformers in Japan. With some exceptions (like Ultra Magnus, Sky Lynx and the large city-based Transformers) the new toys based on the movie were created especially for Hasbro, and the differences between these and the ealier Transformers were obvious: the diecast metal parts were mostly eliminated as a cost-cutting measure. The transformation process was also largely simplified, resulting in less detail.

This was a trend that continued late into the 1980s, eventually reaching its low point with the 1990 release of Action Masters, Transformers without the ability to transform. Unsurprisingly, the concept never caught on and the line was soon cancelled.

The 1990s continued to be a low point for the franchises. The original cartoon series had finished airing in 1988, and, despite critical acclaim for thhe new Beast Wars CGI animated series, it failed to reignite interest. The rapid evolution of the video game industry had taken over as America’s best selling toy and Optimus Prime and Megatron were all but forgotten.

Then, in the early 2000s, the Transformers found a surprising new market. A resurgence of 80’s nostalgia saw renewed interest in the Transformers, as adults who had grown up playing with the toys now had discretionary income to spend on anything bearing the Transformers label. Takara first tapped into this by bringing back vehicle-transforming robots with the 2000 Japan-only release, Transformers: Car Robots. The toys, which came with a higher price tag, but more complex transformation steps – Megatron had no less than nine alternate models – sold well and was soon re-released by Hasbro as Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Based on the success of the line, a new, higher priced range called Binaltech in Japan and Alternators in the rest of the World, was released in 2003, featuring realistic, licensed reproductions of actual cars and trucks with highly complicated transforming processes.

Description: Transformers

2004 marked the 20th anniversary of the Transformers franchise and to commemorate it Takara introduced the Masterpiece Series: 12-inch collectible toys reminiscent of the first series of Transformers, but with ultra-detailed sculpts and highly complex transformations. Capitalizing on nostalgia value, along with intricate and advanced engineering, the series quickly became the preferred range of collectors.

‘The movie was a smash success grossing us $708 million worldwide’

The resurgence in popularity for the franchise culminated in the 2007 release of the Michael Bay directed and Steve Spielberg produced live action blockbuster film Transformers, featuring radically changed designs for the robots and cutting-edge CGI special effects. Despite mediocre reviews, the movie was a smash success grossing US $708 million worldwide, and resulting in two sequels, 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen and 2011’s Dark of the Moon, which grossed over US $836 million and US $1 billion respectively, worldwide. Amid protests from fans, Bay and Spielberg were inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame at BotCon 2011, the official Transformers fan convention, for their contributions to the franchise.

A fourth movie (early rumors have it titled as ‘Rise of Galvatron’) is tentatively slated for release in 2014, which will also mark the franchise’s 30th anniversary. Not bad for a boy that started out as thee sideline to another toy and, if not for a certain US President, might never have existed at all.

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