This may be my first "Andy Rooney moment" on this blog, but I feel like a crusty old man today.
Growing up in the 80s, I was a huge fan of the cartoon show The Transformers, as well as the complete line of toys that the show hawked. Yes, "hawked". I never realized it at the time, but looking back at it now, I realize it was nothing but a giant commerical for the Hasbro toy company to help them sell more toys. Each episode would introduce one or more new characters for the sole purpose of making kids say, "Woah! That one's cool. Mom! Dad! I want that one!" Of course many parents obliged, and Hasbro made a nice mint.
I had a whole bunch of them. I won't say I had all of them... my parents did a good job of not spoiling my brothers and I too much. I kept mine in good condition. While most kids had broken off all of the flimsy parts, I was rather anal about keeping the weapons and detachable parts in zip lock bags along with the instruction manuals and "battle cards" that were from the back of each box.
One day, when I had outgrown the Transformers, my parents wanted me to clean out my old toys. So... at a garage sale my folks had, I ended up selling all of them in one pop for $25. Woo hoo! $25 bucks! That was a windfall to a tweenager eager to fund his next obsession: Music. I went down to Musicland in the old Manalapan Mall and was able to buy two Billy Joel CDs. CDs were relatively new at the time. Some how, the ability to play crystal clear music instantly on demand seemed a lot more desirable than Optimus Prime and Megatron figures sitting on the shelf in my bedroom.
A couple of years ago, the Transformers cartoon series was released on DVD. On a nostalgic streak spurred on by that news, I took a peak on eBay at the Transformers. I was shocked to see that the original toys were fetching $100 bucks or more a piece! What an idiot I was back in '88! Why, oh why, did I practically give them all away for nothing! I could have made a couple of thousand if only I had held on to them!
Lesson learned: I will NOT throw out any of my son's toys! One day they may be worth something and perhaps help contribute to his college education.
Not long after that, I learned that Hasbro was selling re-issued versions of the original toys from 20 years ago for much cheaper than they were going for on eBay. While I was seriously tempted to buy some, I didn't want to turn into "that guy" who has a toy museum in his room that freaks out anyone over the age of 12 who visits. Instead, I settled for buying the cartoon series on DVD.
Recently, the day arrived for me to experience my nostalgia vicariously through the excitement of my son who, due to my DVDs, had discovered the Transformers for the first time. With the Christmas holiday approaching in December, I decided I'd gift him with some Transformer toys!
Off I went to Toys R Us. They still have to make Optimus Prime, right?! Well, sure enough, there was a whole new line up of Transformers. I always expected that the new ones would be different and perhaps more improved from the old ones. So it was no surprise when I saw some wacky robots and different versions of Optimus Prime and Megatron. (Megatron is a tank now instead of a gun! I guess the anti-gun folks got their way with Hasbro. Although, I really don't see how a tank is less violent than a gun?)
But, then I saw something that really freaked me out. I had to do a double take when I saw one Transfomer that looked like a vehicle contraption from the most recent Star Wars move: Revenge of the Sith.
Huh? What's this? This couldn't be right? A Star Wars vehicle is now a Transformer? The box was mixed in with the other Transformers on the shelf. It had the Transformers' logo on it. I was confused? What's going on here? But then, with a second look, I saw that it also had the Star Wars logo on it too!
Hasbro still makes the Transformers. Apparently, they also make the Star Wars line-up of toys. I looked up and noticed that the Star Wars and Transformers toys were situated in the same aisle, just next to each other. As I panned back over towards the Transformers section of the aisle, I noticed a whole block of toys shelved between the two toy lines that featured both logos. These were Transformers themed after Star Wars. Yes, Hasbro had cross-pollinated the two toy lines!
So now kids will want to play with Star Wars space ships that turn into robots? Are they trying to confuse kids? I don't remember any space ships that turned into robots in the Star Wars films?! Of course there were robots in Star Wars. Who doesn't know and love R2D2 and C3PO! But I don't recall Luke Skywalker ever telling R2D2 to transform and roll out. (Okay... C3PO was 'transformed' into a bunch of broken robot parts in The Empire Strikes Back, but that's not the same thing.)
As I examined the bastardized toys, I saw the most ridiculous item of all. It was a box containing what appeared to be the Millenium Falcon, the well known space ship flown by good guys Han Solo (played by Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca (the furry bear looking guy). According to the box, the Millenium Falcon was a Transfomer that could split in half and turn into robot versions of those two Star Wars characters! Yes... the picture on the box showed a robot with a hairy Chewbacca head!
Nooooo!!! Panic set in! My world was caving in around me! What had they done to my childhood memories?!
Note: Dramatization exaggerated here for the sake of this post.
My poor son is going to be deeply confused! Is R2D2 an Autobot? Darth Vader a Decepticon? It's going to ruin his experience with these classic movies & cartoons. I can see it now... he'll be playing with the new Optimus Prime robot Santa bought him, and acting out a strange new twist on that character's famous line: "Chewbacca... transform and fly out!" What on earth has this world come to!?
I hear that this summer a live action movie based on the Transformers will be coming out. Stay tuned... as next year I'll likely be writing about Transfomers: The Decepticons Strike Back and later Transfomers: Return of the Autobots!