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!