As Transformers Generation 1 exploded in popularity, Hasbro decided to export the licenses for the iconic toys to Europe. Hasbro Europe continued to market new Transformers designs after G1’s cancellation in the US, as well as bring back old designs.
Right from the beginning, the history of Transformers in Europe looks completely mottled compared to Japanese or even American releases. Until the coalescence of Hasbro Europe, many countries received their Transformers branded by local licensees like Italy’s GiG (pronounced “Zheegh”), France’s Joustra, or even Hasbro subsidiary Milton Bradley. Each nation or region received a different selection based on local tastes, economics, or licensing laws. This toy guide seeks to document those toys which were entirely exclusive to one or more European markets.
Despite several unique variants and releases early on, most toys released in Europe were essentially the same as those in the US… until 1990. The first big break from the standard Western lineup was the Classics line, noted for its shiny gold packaging. These toys were all versions of popular toys from earlier in G1. Some were altered from their original releases, while others were indistinguishable outside their packaging. The primary driving force for this massive re-release of toys was sudden competition from gray-market imports of classic character toys from Mexico’s Plasticos IGA (which are covered separately in Latin American G1).
After this crisis passed, however, Hasbro’s US line was out of production, despite continuing demand in Europe. Throughout the period between US G1 and US G2, a fair number of toys were released in Europe including redecoes of US and Japanese toys, and new designs that were perhaps already in various design stages by US G1’s cancellation.
Noted primarily for their bright colors and light-piping hot pink and lime green eyes, many of these toys would be rolled into US G2 upon its debut. In fact, the toys bore the new angular faction symbols invented because of a lapse of trademarks on the classic logos. Several subgroups of these toys were also selected for re-issue in European G2 in 1994, following the US Hasbro Toys division re-entering the fray.
To clarify our choices on what to include in this list, the following items are covered here: unique designs or major variations that were not available simultaneously in the United States Generation 1, including toys also released in the US but sold in a year considerably later than their US release. The items that do NOT appear on this list are: toys produced in Mexico or other markets and imported to Europe, toys available simultaneous to their US counterparts, and pre-transformers produced by licensees (e.g. GiG or Joustra Diaclone, or GiG “Trasformer” toys sold prior to 1985). All names are given in their English or multi-national form, eschewing non-English names unless the toy was unique only to a non-English speaking country.
A brief list of European nations and their licensees or Hasbro divisions responsible for Transformers during Generation 1:
- United Kingdom: Hasbro UK 1984-1993 (marked simply ‘Hasbro’)
- Germany: Milton Bradley 1985, Hasbro UK (as Hasbro in English-only packaging) 1986-1993
- France, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain: Milton Bradley 1985, Hasbro UK (as Hasbro) 1986-1993
- Italy: GiG 1985-1993 (in Italian-only packaging, including Italian names)
- Greece: El Greco 1986 (in all-Greek packaging with Greek names), GiG (as El Greco, in Greek-language packaging) 1990-1991