Thursday, Sep 01, 2011
by Ned Wazowski
The forgotten quick-change artists
A Gobot by any other name…A brief field guide to transforming robot toys.
Coke vs. Pepsi. VHS vs. Betamax. Transformers vs. Gobots.
Back in the 1980s, lines were drawn. Unfortunately for Leader-1 of the Guardians, the Gobots lost.
The Gobots line of action figures caused a sensation when they were introduced in 1983. But their history has been eclipsed by that other line of transforming robots. Maybe you’ve heard of them?
Tonka acquired the Gobot line, originally called Machine Robo, from Japanese creator Popy. Tonka rushed to get the line to the US, but lost out to Hasbro’s version at every step of the way: Hasbro’s packaging was slicker. Their transformations were more sophisticated. And their names were cooler. (Decepticons remains the coolest name for a group of villains. Ever.)
Still, there was something charming about the Gobots. The good guys were friendlier (even called simply “friendlies” on the original packaging before being called Guardians). Their transformed modes were unpretentious and every day: dune buggies, scooters, a Dodge Caravan. My favorite Gobot growing up was a prized possession: Fly trap. The one that changed into a garbage truck.
They were the kind of vehicles most of us “regular joes” would be likely to change into. The Gobots were probably the type of transforming robots who would help a friend move heavy furniture. I’m sure Optimus Prime wouldn’t even have time to call you back.
This reproduction of the original Mantagon model sheet #2- Privates drawn by designer Philip La...