If you don’t know what or who The Transformers are, what rock were you hiding under? The Transformers is just one of the biggest franchises ever in history. From its inception in 1984 from toy companies Hasbro and Takara Tomy until today, it has transcended generations with fans from Generation X, the Millennials, and Gen-Z.
But have you ever wondered why, for a 36-year-old franchise, it still remains as popular as ever?
More Than Meets the Eye
In 1984, Takara rebranded some transforming toys from their Diaclone and Microman lines for a western market. American toymaker, Hasbro, fresh from their success on the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline, picked up the franchise and packaged it for a US market.
They decided to take the same approach they did with G.I. Joe and hired a creative team to come up with a backstory to the toys. Dennis O’Neill and Jim Shooter were given this great privilege to create a universe that has since been loved by people of all ages.
What started with a toy line quickly became an empire. What’s not to like about it? You have vehicles that can transform into living humanoid robots and back. You have characters like Optimus Prime, who will never give a truck labor attorney any problems, and Bumblebee, who has remained one of the — if not the most — popular Transformers ever. Toys, comic books, a very successful animated series, numerous merchandise, international licensing, you name it, they had it.
However, during the ‘90s, the franchise somewhat experienced a wane in popularity which prompted Hasbro to reboot the brand with Transformers Beast Wars. While it helped spark interest in the brand once again, the direction they took was received with mixed reactions from fans. Some loved it, a whole lot more didn’t.
At that point, it seemed like the end of the road for the brand. However, when Michael Bay made a live-action Transformers movie in 2007, 23 years after its debut, the franchise was revived and has since grown even more popular.
After a series of movies that didn’t do quite well in the box office, Hollywood still keeps churning them out, with plans for another reboot with two new movies in the works. The past few live-action movies may have disappointed US movie-goers and fans but they did exceptionally well internationally.
With every movie or animated series that comes out, toys and collectibles are mass-produced. Despite the massive product distribution, the market is never oversaturated. Children and adults alike are still lured by the outstanding engineering that the toys have. Especially now that each action figure has a lot more points of articulation compared to its 1980s counterpart.
Aside from that, the creative concept behind the Autobots and Decepticons helps develop children’s creativity and fuel their imagination.
And lastly, the battle between good and evil represented as robotic humanoid lifeforms able to disguise themselves as seemingly ordinary objects is, honestly, just a very cool concept that appeals to almost everyone.
If action is an international language that audiences all over the world respond to, the coolness factor of seeing a transforming semi or Beetle rendered onto the big screen just keeps us wanting more.