A look into the history of the Transformers, and the toy lines that lead to their creation.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Although there is much to be found on the web concerning the immediate forefathers of the celebrated Transformers toys (Diaclone and Micro Change), it was hard for me to find a place where the full ancestry was discussed at length. I decided that others might be as interested as I in the origins of these childhood toys, so I decided to create a place where I could share what little knowledge I have found.

When I started getting into the history and lineage of Transformers I traced it back to 1964, when Hasbro released their 12" GI Joe Action series of action figures. From there, the Japanese company Takara slowly evolved it over the years into the toys that became the Transformers series that we all know and love.

The following is a brief list of each of the toy lines that lead to the creation of the Transformers, followed by links to photos of some of the toys. Enjoy!

1964-Hasbro releases the GI Joe Action series of figures (this is actually where the term "action figure" came from. Hasbro coined the term because they did not want to call them "dolls". They were afraid boys wouldn't purchase and play with dolls):

1964 Hasbro GI Joe Action Series

1970-Takara licenses the body of the popular Hasbro GI Joe mold and produces their own New GI Joe line for sale in Japan. These Takara action figures, like their Hasbro counterparts, are mostly based on WW2 military men. The only "villians" Takara produced were the Nazis; Japanese soldiers were notably missing from the Axis of Evil. (take note that the heads of these Japanese made toys are a lot more "manga" like than their North American brethren):

1971-Seigi No Mikata (Allies of Justice): Takara does not find success in the New GI Joe series, as it consisted of American GI soldiers and German Nazi soldiers. One can only assume Japanese boys wanted to play with Japanese figures (not too mention Japan was on the opposite side of the war). This shortly lead to the creation of the Seigi No Mikata toy line, which packaged the same New GI Joe figure with costumes from popular tv shows at the time (Ultraman/Ultra Seven, Kamen Raider, and more). Unfortunately, I have yet to own any of these figures, so no pictures yet.

1972-Takara decides to step even further away from the Gi Joe concept. They name their newest series Henshin Cyborg. This figure uses the exact same mold, only in clear colorless plastic. Visibly contained within these clear bodies are metallic robotic innards. The villain of this series, King Walder, is also clear, only he is made of bright colors (green, purple, blue, yellow). Walder also has visible innards contained within, only his are organic and alien looking. As a side note, the word "henshin" means "change" or "transform" in Japanese. This is the beginning of Takara's transforming toy idea, as the Henshin Cyborg figure has multiple limbs with different features that you can swap out. There were even sets availablle to use part of the Henshin Cyborg figure and transform it into a motorcycle. (three of the figures from this toy line are licensed by Denys Fisher Co. and brought to Great Britain as the Cyborg toy line):

1974-The iconic Microman line is born. Takara decides that the Japanese market needs smaller toys because they are smaller people, with smaller houses (haha, I'm joking! it's okay, I can say this because I am half-Japanese). Takara takes the idea of Henshin Cyborg and shrinks him down to about 4". The figures are still clear, but they no longer have robotic innards. This leads to a successful toy line that still survives to this day. (this toy line is licensed by Mego Corp. and brought to the United States as the famous Micronauts):

1978-The Timanic series is almost a step backwards. It is smaller than Henshin Cyborg, but considerably larger than Microman. If you look closely, you see that the feet and hands of the Timanic toys are exact replicas of Microman, only larger. I assume that Takara decided to cancel the short run of this series because the figures are extremely delicate. It is hard to find examples that are not broken. (I'll have to post pics of mine later)

1980-After many years of success with the Microman toy series Takara relaunches it in 1980, renaming it New Microman. They simultaneously launch their exciting new Diaclone series. Diaclone was initially a spinoff of the Microman series. They featured futuristic transforming robots and vehicles. Their figures, known as Inch-Man (Dianauts/Diaclone Pilots), were a further shrinking of the initial action figure.

1982-Takara launches the Real and Robo/Car Robot sub-series of Diaclones. This series differs from the earlier Diaclones in the fact that instead of futuristic transforming vehicles, these designs are based on real life vehicles that were modern at the time. This is where many of the Generation 1 Transformers come from. It explains why many of the original G1's had usable cockpits, even the Dinobots.

1982 Diaclone Car Robots

1983-Takara releases the Micro Change  sub-series of New Microman. The shifting tides that start with the Diaclone Car Robots brings Microman into the fold, as this also features many real life objects that transform into robots. There were mini vehicles, this toy line also incorporated many other day to day objects like a walkman, boom box stereo, microscope, binoculars and more.

1983 New Microman Micro Change part 2

1984-Hasbro and Takara come full circle as they decide to work together. Takara has the product designs from their Diaclone and Micro Change toy lines. Hasbro comes up with the story concept and cartoon series. Generation 1 Transformers is born and sees enormous success worldwide.

There were several other companies involved in some of the Transformers toy designs that make the story of Pre-Transformers a little more complicated. That is something that I will have to delve into later. Here are a few pics to enjoy for now.

That's all for now!
If you would like to contact me with any suggestions or questions, please email me at You can find me on Facebook as Bill Prestonesquire , Instagram as BILLPRESTONESQ, and on ebay as billprestonesquire. These are my own personal photos. Please do not use them without permission, especially for any EBAY auctions, or for the creation of bootlegs or knock-offs. Thank you to those that contributed to my knowledge, without even knowing it. And, many thanks for taking the time to read this.

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