|Generation One »|
The Transformers (retroactively called Generation One or G1) started as a joint venture between two companies: Hasbro of America and Takara of Japan. After an idea to rebrand and sell Takara's Diaclone and Microchange robot toys as a whole new line with a new concept behind it, Hasbro unknowingly would wind up creating what would be one of its longest running franchises.
In contrast to today's franchises, which tend by design to run 12 to 18 months, Generation One was essentially an unbroken line from 1984 to 1991; its logo and packaging format only underwent one major change in that time. Toys tended to linger longer in the line; a few (Starscream, Bumblebee) were even sold for three years in a row. The changing circumstances of retail have made this a thing of the past; toy lines now require yearly rebranding.
The Generation One line introduced a number of concepts which would stay with subsequent iterations of the brand. Most prominent among these were package art showing the character's robot form, tech specs rating the character's abilities, bios giving a personality profile of the character represented by the toy, and (in the Japanese toylines) ID numbers for each figure to identify them. Other "premiums" which didn't survive the 1980s included robot points and various mail order exclusives.
In addition to the toy and its weapons and accessories, Generation One toys typically included a sticker sheet, instructions showing how to transform the toy and apply the stickers, and a toy catalog flyer showing the entire year's toy line. In the early years of the line, a red plastic "tech spec decoder" and various mail-away offers were included as well.
The line began with toys already designed by Takara and other companies, and over time expanded into numerous original designs and concepts through its seven-year run. The line changed direction and focus so many times that a year-by-year breakdown is the only way to get the full picture.
- * Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers and its successor franchises
- * The Transformers (toyline)/Europe
- * The Transformers (toyline)/China
The first two years of Transformers product in America mostly consisted of toys from the two Takara lines. A wide range of sizes and price points, from $3 Mini-Vehicles up to larger toys costing $20 or more, ensured that every kid could pick up at least a few Transformers, and still have a few left for the Christmas wishlist -- a marketing strategy that continues up to the present day.
The early G1 toys were largely marked by attention to vehicle mode detail, rubber tires, the frequent use of die-cast metal (particularly on larger toys), and a variety of loose parts which had to be kept track of and attached separately. The early toys were also marked by a lack of posability -- not a single one of the Autobot cars had knee joints, and most had feet that were fused together. The Decepticon jets couldn't do anything but raise their arms forward.
The combination of heavy die-cast and the brittle plastics of the time also made many of the toys fragile; toys such as Prowl and Mirage are infamous for winding up broken.
Due to products coming from different pre-existing product lines, the 1984 toys were highly inconsistent in terms of relative scale. Later years would not do much to mitigate this issue.
Many of the 1984 toys included the pack-in brochure Reinforcements from Cybertron!
- Although the official catalogs and the box artwork depict Bumblebee in yellow and Cliffjumper in red, both toys were actually available in both colors. Additionally, a third toy of a similar design was also available in yellow, and sold on Cliffjumper cards. That toy was not officially marketed by Hasbro as a separate character, but was later dubbed "Bumblejumper" by fans, which was shortened to just "Bumper" by the time he was officially integrated into the fiction as a character in his own right.
- Another Decepticon Cassette, Buzzsaw, was available with Soundwave.
The initial toyline was wildly successful, making "Transformers" a household word for the rest of the 1980s and leading to an ever-expanding product line. 1985's offerings more than doubled those of 1984. Additional cars, jets, and mini-vehicles were released; many of the standard cars and jets were retooled versions of 1984 toys (or of each other, in the case of Grapple and Inferno.)
The line also veered into mechanical dinosaurs and insects, and futuristic vehicles. Some of these toys were designed and manufactured by companies in competition with Takara, among them Jetfire, the Deluxe Insecticons and the Deluxe Autobots. These toys are among the few G1 toys with good articulation. However, their conflicting origins doomed most of them never to appear in the cartoon, as Takara did not wish to sponsor a show advertising its competitor's products. See Jetfire for more.
This year's toys primary pack-in brochures were Earthlings: The S.T.A.R.S. Need Your Help Now!, and later Have the Decepticons Defeated Us Once and For All?
In 1985, the Transformers line (with a few deletions) was ported back to Japan, as Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers.
- The "Mini-Cars" were renamed into "Mini-Vehicles" beginning with 1985. The 1984 Mini-Cars/Mini-Vehicles were re-released. 1985 Mini-Vehicles were briefly available with extra Mini-Spies, later replaced the Autobot symbols with rubsigns like the ones first featured on the Mini-Spies, and later shipments of the rubsign versions were available with iron-on patches. The versions of Bumblebee and Cliffjumper that came with the Mini-Spies were available in both yellow and red; the rubsign versions still featured color variants. The Bumper mold was no longer available. None of the characters appeared in the commercials.
- The 1984 Autobot Cars were re-released. All 1985 Autobot Cars sported rubsigns. The European version of Tracks released by Milton Bradley was originally available in red.
Autobot Deluxe Vehicles
Autobot Air Guardian
Autobot Motorized Defense Base
- "Drill Type"
- "F-1 Type"
- "Jet Type"
- The Powerdashers were only available via mail order. Figure names are in quotes because these figures were not officially named. Names are taken from the Diaclone versions.
- The Omnibots were only available via mail order.
- "Pepsi" Optimus Prime
- A limited edition variant of Optimus Prime was available with additional "Pepsi" stickers on the trailer. The Canadian version sported yet another variant with a large sticker covering the entire side of the trailer.
- "Cookie Crisp" Jazz
- A variant of the Jazz toy was available as a Cookie Crisp promotional premium via mail order. Unlike the regular version, the "Martini" decals are missing from the doors.
- The entire 1984 lineup was still available in 1985, now sporting rubsigns.
- Because of copyright issues, Whirl and Roadbuster were never featured in the cartoon.
- Curiously, though animation models exist, Top Spin and Twin Twist were also not shown in the cartoon, or even commercials.
Decepticon Military Operations Commander
- The entire 1984 assortment of Decepticons was still available in 1985, in updated packaging, now also sporting rubsigns.
- The Deluxe Insecticons made no appearances in the animated series.
1986 broke more ground with multiple combiner teams, two large "city" robots, and a full-length feature film to push a new crop of toys. By this point, Hasbro had gone through almost all of the "suitable" Diaclone and Microman toys, and were using up the last of the pre-existing (yet previously unmade) Takara design concepts, mostly in the form of the Scramble City combiner teams and the two citybots; thus the toys for The Transformers: The Movie became the first original designs developed by Hasbro (and also the first of a very few times that characters' in-fiction designs predated their toy designs). That year also marked the end of rubber tires and die-cast metal in the toys, as shipping and manufacturing costs dictated an all-plastic approach; many toys from that year were available both with and without rubber and die-cast. Though many fans regard this as a drop in quality, it had the effect of creating much sturdier toys.
Starting with 1986, the first Transformers toys - the Mini-Cassettes, the Triple Changers, the newly introduced Special Teams Mini-Vehicles and the Special Teams Large Vehicles - were available in mixed assortments that contained both Autobot and Decepticon characters. The 1986 toys are still listed as Autobots and Decepticons for simplicity's sake.
Some assortments of the movie character toys included one of four free posters promoting the Decipher the Decepticon contest. Many toys included the S.T.A.R.S. advertisement You Have Been Chosen. Mini Vehicles included an iron-on patch promoting the Prizes in Disguise contest.
The 1986 line was sold in Japan as Transformers 2010, minus Sky Lynx.
- Bumblebee, Beachcomber, Seaspray, Cosmos, Powerglide and Warpath were re-released. All twelve 1986 Mini-Vehicles were alternatively available with or without an iron-on patch.
- The smaller Aerialbots and Protectobots were alternatively available with or without an iron-on patch. Silverbolt and Hot Spot have never been found with a poster.
- All 1986 Triple Changers were alternatively available with or without a poster.
- All three 1986 Autobot Cars were alternatively available with or without a poster.
Autobot City Commander
- A variant version of Ultra Magnus was available exclusively from KB Toys stores, replacing the diecast parts and rubber tires with plastic parts and sporting unpainted heads.
Motorized Autobot Space Shuttle
- A limited edition version of Optimus Prime was available with a "Movie Edition" certificate.
- Sunstreaker, Mirage, Ratchet and Wheeljack, none of which were shipping to regular stores anymore by this point, were made available again via mail order.
- Ratbat & Frenzy (available as a two-pack)
- Frenzy was a re-release of the 1986 Decepticon Cassette, now available as a two-pack with the new mold Ratbat rather than with Laserbeak. The two-pack of Ravage and Rumble was also re-released.
- While packaged samples might exist, Bruticus was presumably never officially released in giftset form in the USA.
- The smaller Stunticons and Combaticons were alternatively available with or without an iron-on patch. Motormaster and Onslaught have never been found with a poster.
- Predaking was never available in giftset form outside of Japan.
- All five Predacons as well as Gnaw were alternatively available with or without a poster.
- Blitzwing and Astrotrain were re-released. All 1986 Triple Changers were alternatively available with or without a poster, and Astrotrain and Blitzwing are very difficult to find.
- Starscream, Dirge, Ramjet and Thrust were re-released. Only Scourge and Cyclonus have been found with or without a poster. The other four jets in the asortment have never been found with a poster.
Decepticon City Commander
Motorized Decepticon City
- Reflector was only available via mail order.
- A limited edition version of Megatron was available with a "Movie Edition" certificate.
- Thundercracker, who was no longer shipping to regular stores by this point, was made available again via mail order.
- For the marginally different toyline released in Japan this year, see: The Headmasters (toyline)
1987 was dominated by two sublines, the Headmasters and Targetmasters. It also marked the peak of the line's ambition, as it introduced the two-foot-tall Fortress Maximus toy -- still the largest Transformer ever produced and, at nearly $100 in 1987 dollars, still one of the most expensive.
At the other end of the price scale, the $3 Mini-Vehicles of previous years were replaced by the Throttlebots. Apart from them, the line was dominated for the first time by fictional vehicle modes (variously explained as "Cybertronian" or "futuristic") and mechanical monsters and beasts.
The smaller carded toys were sometimes available with a rubber decoy figure, as well as a bonus mini-comic. Larger toys included the pack-in mail-away brochure Digital Doom on the Highway to Destruction.
- The Aerialbots and Protectobots were also re-released. All individual Aerialbots, Protectobots and Technobots were alternatively available with or without a rubber decoy.
- The Throttlebots were alternatively available with or without a rubber decoy.
Autobot Doubly Spy
Large Targetmaster Autobots
- Pointblank with Peacemaker
- Sureshot with Spoilsport
- Crosshairs with Pinpointer
- Blurr with Haywire
- Kup with Recoil
- Hot Rod with Firebolt
Large Headmaster Autobots
Headmaster Autobot Base
Metroplex, Rodimus Prime, Wreck-Gar, Ultra Magnus and Sky Lynx were also still available. The Autobot Mini-Cassette two-packs of Rewind/Steeljaw and Ramhorn/Eject were re-released.
- Abominus was never officially released in giftset form in the USA.
- The Stunticons and Combaticons were also re-released. All individual Stunticons, Combaticons and Terrorcons were alternatively available with or without a rubber decoy.
- The two-pack of Ratbat and Frenzy was also re-released.
Decepticon Six Changer
Large Targetmaster Decepticons
- Triggerhappy with Blowpipe
- Slugslinger with Caliburst
- Misfire with Aimless
- Cyclonus with Nightstick
- Scourge with Fracas
Large Headmaster Decepticons
Headmaster Decepticon Base
Galvatron, Trypticon, the Predacons and the Sharkticon figure Gnaw were also still available.
- For the noticeably different toyline released in Japan this year, see: Super-God Masterforce (toyline)
1988 introduced a new logo design and tagline (More... MUCH more than meets the eye), but otherwise continued the directions of 1987, with a new line of Headmasters and the new Powermaster gimmicks, and a mixture of realistic and fanciful vehicle forms.
1988 also introduced the Pretenders, bringing non-transforming figures into the line for the first time. The Pretenders tended to have very simplified transformations and often unconvincing vehicle modes, though their designs make them among the most well-articulated of all G1 toys. The outer shells, by contrast, rarely featured any articulation beyond a swivel joint at the shoulders.
G1 tended to be extremely non-self referential; until 1988, only one existing character, Bumblebee, had ever been revived with a new toy after having his older toy discontinued. That year, however, Hasbro seemingly began to realize the strength of the characters they had developed, as the line featured the return of Optimus Prime in Powermaster form following his death in Transformers: The Movie two years prior. The following two years would see more 1984/1985 characters return in Pretender and Action Master form.
This year's toys included the pack-in mail-away brochure The Autobots Are Under Attack!.
- The Rewind/Steeljaw and Ramhorn/Eject two-packs were also re-released once again.
Small Targetmaster Autobots
- Landfill with Flintlock and Silencer
- Quickmix with Boomer and Ricochet
- Scoop with Holepunch and Tracer
- The Large Targetmaster Autobots Pointblank, Sureshot and Crosshairs were also still available.
Small Headmaster Autobots
- The Large Headmaster Autobots Chromedome, Hardhead, Brainstorm and Highbrow and the Headmaster Autobot Base Fortress Maximus were also still available.
Powermaster Autobot Leader
Autobot Six Changer
Large Autobot Pretenders
- Groundbreaker, Sky High and Splashdown were not released in Japan.
Autobot Pretender Beasts
Autobot Pretender Vehicles
The Autobot Doubly Spy Punch-Counterpunch, the Autobot Clones two-pack of Fastlane/Cloudraker and the Monsterbots Grotusque, Doublecross and Repugnus were also still available. The Technobots were re-released.
- The Piranacon giftset only included five of the six individual Seacons; Nautilator was left out for reasons unknown.
- The Terrorcons were also re-released.
- The Slugfest/Overkill two-pack was also re-released.
Small Targetmaster Decepticons
- Spinister with Hairsplitter and Singe
- Needlenose with Sunbeam and Zigzag
- Quake with Tiptop and Heater
- The Large Targetmaster Decepticons Triggerhappy, Slugslinger and Misfire were also still available.
Small Headmaster Decepticons
- The Large Headmaster Decepticons Skullcruncher, Mindwipe and Weirdwolf, the Headmaster Horrorcons Apeface and Snapdragon and the Headmaster Decepticon Base Scorponok were also still available.
Large Decepticon Pretenders
Decepticon Pretender Beasts
Decepticon Pretender Vehicles
The Deception Clones two-pack of Pounce/Wingspan and the Decepticon Six Changer Sixshot were also still available.
- For the totally different toyline released in Japan this year, see: Victory (toyline)
By 1989, Hasbro's Transformers releases had been effectively split into two almost distinct sub-lines - Pretenders and Micromasters - that were available concurrently, a separation that was stronger from a marketing standpoint than the Autobot/Decepticon distinction from previous years.
The Pretender subline expanded to include a combiner team and increasingly complex gimmicks, including robots with multiple shells, and outer shells which could transform themselves and even combine with their inner robots.
The 1-inch-tall Micromasters attempted to capitalize on the popularity of the Micro Machine toyline. They were originally sold in carded 4-member "patrols", and later with various bases and vehicles. Micromasters tended to have realistically styled vehicle forms. Though the first five patrols featured relatively diverse transformation schemes, as the subline proliferated, their designs would become extremely standardized.
Small Autobot Pretenders
Autobot Pretender Classics
- The Legends figures were identical to the Pretender Classics' inner robots, but lacking the Pretender shell. They were exclusively available from KMart stores. Curiously, Jazz and Bumblebee appear to have switched weapons.
Autobot Mega Pretenders
Autobot Ultra Pretenders
- Powermaster Optimus Prime, the Autobot Cassette two-packs of Rewind/Steeljaw, Ramhorn/Eject and Grand Slam/Raindance and the Large Autobot Pretenders were also still available.
Small Decepticon Pretenders
Decepticon Pretender Classics
- The Legends figures were identical to the Pretender Classics' inner robots, but lacking the Pretender shell. They were exclusively available from KMart stores.
Decepticon Mega Pretenders
Decepticon Ultra Pretenders
- The Decepticon Cassette two-packs of Slugfest/Overkill and Squawktalk/Beastbox and the Large Decepticon Pretenders were also still available.
Micromaster Autobot Patrols
- Off Road Patrol (Highjump, Mudslinger, Powertrain & Tote)
- Race Car Patrol (Tailspin, Free Wheeler, Roadhandler & Swindler)
- Rescue Patrol (Seawatch, Stakeout, Fixit & Red Hot)
- Battle Patrol (Big Shot, Sidetrack, Sunrunner & Flak)
Micromaster Autobot Transports
Micromaster Autobot Stations
Micromaster Autobot Bases
Micromaster Autobot Rocket Base
Micromaster Decepticon Patrols
- Air Strike Patrol (Nightflight, Storm Cloud, Whisper & Tailwind)
- Sports Car Patrol (Detour, Blackjack, Hyperdrive & Road Hugger)
Micromaster Decepticon Transports
Micromaster Decepticon Stations
Micromaster Decepticon Bases
Micromaster Decepticon Jet Command Center
- For the totally different toyline released in Japan this year, see: Zone (toyline)
Like 1989 before, 1990 also effectively saw two almost distinct Transformers sub-lines being available concurrently: the vastly-expanded Micromasters, and the non-transforming Action Master figures. The Micromasters came both in the $5 carded patrols and with transforming bases, some of which were quite large. The Actionmasters likewise came as carded figures with small transforming partners, and also with larger boxed vehicles.
The European version of the "G1" line, which continued after Hasbro had abruptly cancelled the line in the USA, would furthermore add the "Classics" sub-line to the mix.
Waning popularity led to the line's cancellation at this point; Transformers disappeared from shelves for two years, not returning until the debut of Generation 2.
Micromaster Autobot Patrols
- Construction Patrol (Neutro, Groundpounder, Crumble & Takedown)
- Air Patrol (Sky High, Eagle Eye, Blaze Master & Tread Bolt)
- Monster Truck Patrol (Hydraulic, Slow Poke, Big Hauler & Heavy Tread)
- Hot Rod Patrol (Big Daddy, Trip-Up, Greaser & Hubs)
Micromaster Autobot Combiner Squads
- Metro Squad (Wheel Blaze, Roadburner, Oiler, Slide, Power Run & Strikedown)
- Astro Squad (Phaser, Blast Master, Moonrock, Missile Master, Barrage & Heave)
Micromaster Autobot Combiner Transports
Micromaster Combiner Autobot Battlefield Headquarters
- The Micromaster Transports Overload and Erector, the Micromaster Stations Hot House and Ironworks and the Micromaster Autobot Rocket Base Countdown were also still available.
Micromaster Decepticon Patrols
- Race Track Patrol (Roller Force, Barricade, Ground Hog & Motorhead)
- Military Patrol (Bombshock, Tracer, Dropshot & Growl)
Micromaster Decepticon Combiner Squads
- Battle Squad (Meltdown, Half-Track, Direct-Hit, Power Punch, Fireshot & Vanquish)
- Constructor Squad (Stonecruncher, Excavator, Sledge, Hammer, Grit & Knockout)
Micromaster Decepticon Combiner Transports
Micromaster Combiner Decepticon Anti-Aircraft Base
- The Micromaster Transports Flattop & Roughstuff, the Micromaster Stations Greasepit and Airwave and the Micromaster Decepticon Jet Command Center Skystalker were also still available.
Autobot Action Master Figures
- Grimlock with Anti-Tank Cannon
- Jazz with Turbo Board
- Rad with Lionizer
- Rollout with Glitch
- Bumblebee with Heli-pack
- Blaster with Flight-Pack
- Jackpot with Sights
- Mainframe with Push-Button
- Inferno with Hydro-Pack
- Snarl with Tyrannitron
- Skyfall with Top-Heavy
- Kick-Off with Turbo-Pack
Autobot Action Master Action Blasters
Action Master Autobot Vehicles
Action Master Autobot Armored Convoy
Decepticon Action Master Figures
- Soundwave with Wingthing
- Treadshot with Catgut
- Devastator with Scorpulator
- Krok with Gatoraider
- Shockwave with Fistfight
- Banzai-Tron with Razor-Sharp
Decepticon Action Master Action Blasters
Action Master Decepticon Attack Vehicles