Transformers: Rescue Bots began in 2011 as Hasbro’s most recent, and possibly most earnest attempt at marketing to the 3-5 year-old demographic through their subsidiary, Playskool. The series debuted with an animated TV show on Hasbro and Discovery’s shared network, The Hub. With a coherent story focusing on a few main heroes and their human partners, Rescue Bots has hit on a recipe for success. Rescue Bots are in the same scale and style as Playskool Heroes, which includes other properties such as Star Wars and Spider Man.
The initial Rescue Bots figures focused primarily on one scale, but different types of sets allow them to be marketed at a wide variety of price points. The basic figure sets include a poseable human character in cute proportions, and a Rescue Gear – either a small vehicle with a rescue tool attached or some type of backpack. The Rescue Gear each have a one-step flip change that allows them to be held or mounted on a Deluxe Rescue Bot. The Deluxe Rescue Bots, like the Deluxe class of main-line Transformers, form the backbone of the series. They each have a simple transformation, sometimes only one step, assisted by auto-transforming parts (like Movie’s Automorph). The figures have rolling wheels but no articulation, and have 5mm holes to attach Rescue Gear tools.
The higher price points are occupied by various sized playsets, which typically include a human character and a non-transforming Rescue Bot. These Rescue Bots are rendered as main character vehicles with a large open cockpit for the human partner, and the robot mode is molded and painted on the chassis, not unlike Revenge of the Fallen RPMs or Speed Stars. The playsets often have some transforming feature, as well as things for the Deluxe Rescue Bots and basic figures to interact with. Finally, there are a handful of larger Electronic Rescue Bots, which are articulated non-transforming main characters with electronic voices, lights, and sounds. Activating action features or pushing various buttons elicits different quotations with the figure. Each Electronic figure also includes a slightly redecoed human partner figure. While they are larger in stature than the Deluxes, they still interact with the basic figure humans.
In 2013, the line got a package refresh as Rescue Bots: Energize. The basic figures shifted to a non-articulated human partnered with a small, non-transforming robot reminiscent of Movie’s Robot Replicas. The Deluxe assortment are all redecos using translucent blue for some of the parts, and each coming with an “AllSpark blue” rescue tool.
The subsequent year saw a much more thorough restructuring of the Rescue Bots lineup. 2014 brought Rescan figures, primarily depicting each character with new alternate modes, as well as introducing new charcaters at the same lower price point. Most figures still feature 5mm holes in their hands for holding tools or other accessories. Plasets were re-sized to fit the new scale, and human characters continued to be available in two-packs with non-transforming (but articulated) robots, often depicting the robots’s new bodies.
This formula has been even more successful for the line, judging by its continuation for multiple years. The overall line has gained popularity among children and adults, evidenced by scarce figures topping triple-digit prices on the secondary markets. Furthermore, the line isn’t regularly superceded like the fast-changing main lines targeting older kids. In addition to outlasting the venerable Playskool Go-Bots line, Resuce Bots’ cartoon series spanned 104 episodes, besting Generation 1 as the longest-running Transformers cartoon. With rumors of a sequel television show and continuous relasing of new figures, Rescue Bots is set to become the longest-lasting Transformers franchise overall!