Transformers- A brand of toys that has become as indelible in pop culture and the minds of young boys as the likes of Star Wars or G.I. Joe. Originated in the ‘80s, with roots in the ‘70s, and major cultural refreshes in every succeeding decade, Transformers have become relevant to generations of children and adults.
The Transformers success story started in the new wave of the 1980s: the toys are characters in a vast and exciting fiction told through comics, books, cartoons, and movies. This generated a real impetus to “collect them all” – the more of the toys you own, the more of the fiction you can reenact in imaginary living room battles.
Hasbro executives, high off the revival of G.I. Joe through the same marketing concept, decided to acquire rights to toys from a variety of Japanese “Super Robot” series. Transformers didn't introduce the concept of super robots to the United States, but for the first time, the genre became widely recognized and popular outside of Japan. As the Transformers brand grew throughout G1, it began to define the genre, and all other super robots were measured competitively to Transformers' standard.
By the ‘90s, the genre had begun to fade, and boys' minds turned to more high-impact action, often centered around mutants, monsters, and karate. Hasbro saw potential in the embers of the Transformers brand, and turned it over to newly-acquired subsidiary Kenner for a jump-start. Kenner threw out all the old rules, and invented a line of Transformers that were more poseable, more feature-packed, and more exciting. Backed by a high-tech CGI cartoon, Beast Wars turned the brand around, making Transformers a bestseller again.
By the early 2000s, Japanese anime storylines took the forefront as the tide of Japanese youth culture in the U.S. swelled. Many of these series centered around a common feature or “gimmick”, such as keys to unlock special powers or action features.
The brand was yet to get its biggest revitalization, though. In 2007, Paramount Pictures released a high-budget live-action movie. Though many long-time fans resented the changes in style and story that the movie brought forth, it performed incredibly well at the box office and launched the brand into the public eye all over the world. Now, everyone recognized the concept of alien robots disguised as cars, and everyone associated the concept with the name: Transformers.
The brand has explored many styles and themes since then, but the years since 2007 continue to be dominated by the release of three sequels to the movie.