Coming up with a unique way to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Transformers from 1985 is not as easy as it seems. Thanks to the resurgence in popularity the brand enjoys it's like every day is an explosion filled celebration of the 25 year old robots toyline from Hasbro that I wished would last forever when I was a kid. Except this was not the future I thought it would be where Bob Budiansky became the next Stan Lee and Flint Dille the next Spielberg and they'd unite to bring about a golden age of toy robot based Oscar winning entertainments. Instead I feel like I'm stuck in some crazy alternate bizzaro universe where the men who brought about Transformageddon were Pat Lee and Michael Bay. And so as I live out my mid-life crisis in this post-roboplastic apocalypse I am left wondering how to pay proper tribute to the greatest of toy robot Volkswagens and their associated transforming Tyrannosaurus cohorts in a way that does not involve Hot Topic t-shirts or Shia LeBouf calendars. The Transfornerddom is a vast and frightening and sometimes it feels like everything that can be written about this stuff already has. What can be said about these toy robot grasshoppers from Hasbro that has not already been echoed in a thousand wikipedias? So I celebrate the only way I know how-by looking at old newspaper ads and wishing it was 1985 really hard in the hopes that I will teleport back in time far enough to get a marketing job at Tonka so I can save the GoBots and doom all other toy robots to obscurity, preventing future catastrophes like the Transformer comics from Dreamwave and Megan Fox's career.
AND AWAAAAAY WE GO!
After kicking off the Transformers section of their 1985 toy catalog with a nice big two page spread introducing the line, Hasbro got straight to business with the next two pages featuring assortments 5705 and 5715-the Autobot Mini-Vehicles and Constructicons. The catalog is arranged roughly in ascending order from lowest price point to the highest, just like what was done with the 1984 book. I use "roughly" because there are instances where some assortments with a unified theme are grouped together despite being in different size and price classes like the Insecticons sharing a spread with the Deluxe Insecticons or Soundwave grouped with the Decepticon mini cassettes. Along with the Decepticon cassettes that appear later in the catalog, 5705 and 5715 made up the entirety of carded figures in the 1985 Transformer lineup and they represented the entry level price point for their respective Autobot and Decepticon factions.
Autobot Mini-Vehicle Assortment
These mini-vehicles are small but swift Autobots who act as messengers and spies. Five new mini-vehicles join the Autobot cause, ready to battle the Decepticons. Push in the sides, swing in the arms, fold in the legs...they transform from robots to mini-cars, trucks, and aircraft!
Each Autobot Mini-Vehicle is packaged as a robot on a blister card. All include bio, Tech Specs chart and special liquid crystal Transformer logo as proof of authenticity. Assortment includes four each of hovercraft, plane and tank, three each of dune buggy and space ship and one each of continuing styles.
5 5/8x7/8x7 3/4" CU:.7 WT.:6.5lbs. PK:24
For 1985 the minis of assortment 5705 got their own full page unlike in 1984 when the Autobot Minicars had to share a small sidebar with the rest of the Autobots. The same six minis from the 1984 catalog make a return appearance here but this time they aren't simply Japanese MicroChange figures with Transformer stickers slapped on them like last time. The red Bumblebee and yellow Cliffjumper are not shown although those two continued to be released in 1985. Of course the big new change is that the assortment is no longer referred to as 'Minicars' but 'Mini Vehicles' because of the five new additions to the size class with non-street automobile alternate modes. Several Wikipedias speculate that the new figures-Beachcomber, Cosmos, Powerglide, Seaspray and Warpath-were the very first toys designed exclusively for the Transformers line and were not just recolored versions of robots that were originally released previously in Japan. The new guys dominated the 24 pack with each of them showing up 3 to 4 times while the returning '84 guys only showed up at one to a case. Notably absent from the product description is mention of the Mini Spies promotion where for a while the mini vehicles were packaged with little motorized bonus robots.
|Playworld 10/31/85||Osco 12/11/85|
1985 saw a shift in how stores would advertise action figures with less use of line art and more actual photography. Hasbro would continue to produce line art throughout the span of Generation One but beginning in '85 retailers would use it less and less. Since '85 was the biggest year for Transformers in newspaper advertising a lot of line art was used but finding ads with a specific individual robot got tougher as the assortments got larger. So while I've found ads with line art for every one of the '84 minicars, art of the new mini vehicles doesn't pop up as often and I've still never found an ad with Powerglide or Warpath line art. What is interesting is that unlike the 1984 catalog I have, this 1985 catalog is not the source from which all the line art for the newspaper ads was made. One store called Diamonds (a Dillard's outlet of sorts) did run an ad on December 3, 1985 with a Seaspray graphic based on his pose in this catalog, but that is the sole exception. All other line art I have found does not match up with the poses in this book. Check out Beachcomber's pose in this November 28th 1985 Karl's ad or this alternate Seaspray from a December 19th 1985 Labelle's ad. I think this is because there was another Hasbro Toy book from 1985 that I do not have and have never seen. I suspect a Hasbro 1985 pre-Toy Fair catalog exists with many Transformer prototypes and product descriptions that weren't shown in this book based on what I've found in 1985 newspaper ad line art. Playworld's use of the word 'drone' to describe the minis in their October 1985 ad above is another indication that the retailers had an alternate source of ad copy not taken directly from this book.
CAN WE BREAK IT? YES WE CAN!
The Constructicons create the Decepticon fortresses, energy plants and massive energy-recovery installations. Swing down the cab, pull out the arms and lift up the head...each transforms from a construction vehicle to robot and back. And for special assignments, all six Constructicons join together to form the mighty Devastator!
Each Constructicon is packaged individually on a blister card containing attachable weapons and accessories, character bio, and Tech Specs chart. Each one includes the special liquid crystal logo and is sold individually to encourage collectibility. Assortment includes four of each Constructicon.
6 1/2x2x9" CU.:.9 WT.:4.7lbs. PK.:24
Hasbro did another great job of providing a product description full of elaborate fantasy for the Constructicons. Unfortunately much of it would go unused in newspaper ads because another trend in 1985 was a reduction in the amount of words they used. I've never seen an ad that makes mention of their role as Decepticon engineers but stores did often promote their combination abilities. For some reason a lot of retailers just could not get the word 'Constructicon' written correctly in their ads. I think it's funny how these ad copy writers would often copy word for word the description Hasbro provided but they'd take it upon themselves to change the spelling of the group name to 'Construction'.
Once again line art in ads based on the photographs from this book is the exception. There was a Diamonds ad with Hook from December 13th, 1985 and a June 23, 1985 Toys R Us Bonecrusher ad that were based on photographs here but all the other Constructicon ads I've seen differ significantly. Even grocery stores like Furr's had Constructicon art that was totally different from what was shown in this 1985 Hasbro catalog. More examples of Constructicon line art can be found at the Transformers 1985 section of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. There must be a catalog that serves as the source for this line art.
|Target 12/22/85||Toys Plus 12/19/85|
The Devastator line art used in some ads (like the above Toys Plus ad from December 19, 1985) is also a bit of a mystery because it looks nothing at all like typical Transformer line art. It's a head on view of the toy at eye level instead of the usual 3/4 angle looking down at the toy. I think I've seen it somewhere before but it's not an exact match with the line drawings from the Devastator instruction booklet so I can't remember where it's from. If there is indeed a phantom 1985 pre-toyfair catalog I haven't seen yet I seriously doubt it would have such a simplistic rendering of Devastator. If I were to guess I'd say the pre-Toy Fair catalog I suspect exists probably has a Devastator with black forearms like the one in the 1985 Devastator giftset commercial. Line art from this theoretical catalog would then have black forearms which would be evident even in black and white, but I've never seen line art like that. Chances are the outline based art in the ads comes from materials sent to retailers that ordered the giftset, which would be rarer than a catalog. I'd love to see more of these promotional line art materials and catalogs unearthed one day but they're proving tough to find. But you never know.
NEXT TIME ON ROBOSSORTMENT ADPOCALYPSE: The Insecticons cons!