Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 3

Transformers Universe

In 2003, Hasbro launched a line of toys under the name "Transformers Universe". This was a line made up entirely of repainted figures from older lines and was hoped to see the return of some sought after older figures. Instead, Universe saw the re-release of mostly newer figures, many of which were presented in color choices that ranged from uninspired to "wtf were they thinking"? As always, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, your mileage may vary.

Many of the unreleased Universe items were to be store exclusives. Thanks to TFW2005 for the following information.

Two different "Battle-in-a-Box" sets were released for Universe, and a third planned for a Target exclusive. "Smokescreen vs. Drench" would have been a repainted Armada Hot Shot and Wheeljack as G1 Smokescreen and the G2 color changer Deluge. Fear not, Smokescreen fans, there have been several Smokescreen figures since this set was canceled, and a figure very similar to Drench was released as Shattered Glass Sideswipe, a Borcon 2008 exclusive, so you Drench/Deluge fans can get him for a highly inflated eBay price.

Another set of "VS." 2-packs were proposed for Wal-Mart under the name "Halloween Horrorcons". Releasing figures to coincide with a particular holiday would have been pretty unique, and the return of the Horrorcon sub-group from G1 would have been fun, but the deal fell through when Wal-Mart became uninterested.

Blackarachnia vs. Leatherhide would have seen the "Beast Wars" Tarantulas/Blackarachnia mold paired with the "Beast Wars" Mutant Soundwave. Weren't the Mutants the most reviled Beast era toys? Pretty sure they were.

Nightprowler vs. Waspinator was the original "Beast Wars" Cheetor with the "Beast Wars" Transmetal Waspinator. Nightprowler is actually kinda cool looking. The purple Waspy, not so much. Maybe because I have such bad memories of Universe Silverbolt.

Menasor...presumably named such because Hasbro couldn't get the rights to Motormaster....was a repaint of the "Machine Wars" Optimus Prime mold, which was in turn a repaint of the European toy Thunderclash. The other large "Machine Wars" toys all saw a release in Universe, but this one never made it. They did get so far as to commission the package art, though.

Another "Prime" mold that fell by the wayside was the uproariously garish Toxitron. Ole' Toxi here would have been a repaint of Laser Optimus Prime, aka Robots in Disguise Scourge, that would have most likely offended even hardcore G2 collectors. Toxitron would have made a great conversation piece for anyone's Optimus Prime shelf.

Not all canceled Universe toys wound up in limbo. Spacewarp, which was Armada Jetfire repainted as G1 Astrotrain, was to be a Toys 'R Us exclusive. The Piranhacons, aka the G1 Seacons, were planned for Wal-Mart. Both became Transformers Collectors Club toys, albeit at more than twice the price they would have been at retail. There were other Universe figures that appeared in product listings, yet no prototypes have surfaced. These include Sonar, Optimus Minor, Thrustor and a set of Stunticon Spychangers. We can only speculate as to what these would have looked like.

(Let's be honest, they'd probably be ugly.)

I've got more to come next week including Botcon, Titanium and.... Transtech!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 2

Generation 2

Some years after the end of Generation 1, Hasbro attempted to recapture the glory of the Transformers with a new line dubbed "Generation 2", known as G2 to fans. G2 consisted of a variety of recolors of some original toys and, later in the line, some all-new molds. There were quite a few toys planned for G2 that were never released.

The most infamous of the G2 unreleased repaints are the Protectobots and Stunticons. Only a few pieces of each team are known to exist and they have become a Holy Grail among Transformer collectors. Both teams received an.... interesting.... set of colors, as did much of the G2 line. Only Stunticon Breakdown saw an eventual release as the 1994 Botcon exclusive toy, limited to 300 pieces. Was it a bad thing that these never saw the light of day? Take a look at the colors and make your own judgment.

Decepticon jets Starscream and Ramjet saw an initial re-release in G2, but recolors of both were planned. Dubbed "Jungle Camo Starscream" and "Desert Camo Ramjet", only samples of these have been seen at auction. The Classics line figure Acid Storm looks much like the jungle camo version of Starscream.

Hasbro apparently planned to expand the G2 line further by repainting a variety of molds, a strategy they continue to use to this day quite vigorously. Here's a selection of proposed repaints. First, the Laser Cycles, which would have been called Jazz and Soundwave...

...the Autorollers Roadblock and Dirtbag as "General" Optimus Prime and "Sgt." Hound....

....and the "Hero" molds for both Optimus Prime and Megatron.

Repaints of all these molds would appear eventually in various lines including "Beast Wars 2", "Robots in Disguise" and "Robot Masters".

Some new molds were created, then canceled. Two new Autorollers were to join Roadblack and Dirtbag, a jet and a tank. These molds were used by Takara several years later in the "Beast Wars 2" series.

Go-Bots were simple Transformer cars the size of Matchbox vehicles. Many were released at the tail end of G2, but there were even more new figures planned and never released. Some finally made it into production during the "Robots in Disguise" line, but two others, a Mercedes-Benz SL500 sport coupé and a 4-wheel drive vehicle, have never been released. We can only speculate on the dozens of repaints that would have sprung from these lost molds.

The Go-Bots line was to be expanded further with a "racing rig" playset that would have worked the same as traditional Matchbox or Hot Wheels stunt sets. New recolors of the Go-Bots in rally car style were planned for the playset. Of course the question arises...why would a robot that transforms into a car need to drive a tractor-trailer rig? Let's not dwell on it.

One of the most unusual items to be proposed during the G2 era was this Transformers/G.I. Joe crossover vehicle. This transforming APC would have been packaged with an exclusive Joe figure. There have been many Transformer/Joe crossovers in the comics, yet, despite there being a line of Transformer toys crossing over with Star Wars and Marvel, no actual Transformer/Joe figures have been produced. Seems like a perfect match that would have kids and fans alike excited at the possibilities.

Info and images have come from Super Toy Archive, Transformers Wiki, Seibertron, TFW2005, Transformers @ the Moon and

See you for the next installment as we travel into the "Transformers Universe". Lots more to come!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Lost Transformers - Part 1

Welcome back to the Underbase!

Whenever a new Transformers series is started, Hasbro, Takara-Tomy and all their designers start thinking long term but, inevitably, every line must end. Items that were planned sometimes get scrapped due to cost, lack of retail support, a new direction for the brand, or a dozen other reasons. Over the next few weeks, I'll be looking at all the Transformers toys that were left on the drawing board. Where to start? How about at the beginning.....

Generation 1

Two of the most infamous unreleased Transformers came from "Transformers the Movie. A toy was proposed for everyone's favorite femmebot, Arcee. Some may say it was fortunate that the first Arcee toy was never produced as it hardly did her justice. A second Arcee figure made it to the drawing board some time later, a repaint of Headmaster Chromedome, but it never left the initial design stage.

The absolute grand-daddy of all Transformers prototypes has to be the chaos-bringer himself, Unicron. A massive prototype was made that has been shown at Botcon. Cost probably led to the toy not being released to the general public. Takara also made a sample that went one step further and added an electronic moon that would rotate around Unicron's planet mode. Takara would tease Transfans one more time when another version of Unicron turned up as a prototype during the Beast Wars Neo line until the first actual Unicron figure was released during the Armada line in 2003.

As G1 was winding down several new concepts were tried to keep the line fresh. Unproduced samples of these sub-groups have surfaced over the years.

A new concept for the Pretenders were the Double Pretenders which would have seen two robots in the Pretender shells. Samples have been seen of a gorilla warrior and a spider-like creature.

The Micromasters almost got their own command center which would have transformed into a carrying case. Something similar was released by Tonka for their Go-Bots line, but this Transformer version never made it into production.

Action Masters, the sub-group everyone loves to hate ("Transformers that don't transform? That's stupid!") also had more figures planned. Here's an example of a vehicle that would have turned into armor for an Action Master figure, as well as another proposed transforming vehicle.

One of the most bizarre Transformers concepts were the Generators. These figures would have a blob-like organic center surrounded by a transforming shell. Looks like these may have been inspired by both the concept of the Trans-Organics from the G1 cartoon as well as Krang from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I don't know how well they would have gone over with fans, but I'm guessing they would have been one of the most reviled Transformers concepts ever.

Much of the facts and images from this post come from Super Toy Archive, a great site to read about the history of modern action figures.

That's it for now, see you in a few!