Though most people today recognize the Transformers brand primarily from the movies, the franchise actually began with toys. In the early 1980s, Japanese toy manufacturer Takara Tomy created a series of transforming figures known as Diaclone and Microman. In 1984, the brand was first licensed in America by Hasbro and renamed Transformers. Generation One of the Transformers characters started appearing in the mid '80s and early '90s, and it featured several longstanding characters like Optimus Prime and Megatron. The Transformers appeared in comic books, as well as an animated TV series and movie.
Over the next few decades, new series of Transformers would be introduced as the franchise bounced around from Marvel to Dreamwave before finally settling with IDW Publishing in 2005. Different mutations of the Transformers were also created by Hasbro to keep the line of toys current. The brand found a totally new audience in 2007, when the first live-action film based around the franchise was released. Produced by Steven Spielberg and directed by Michael Bay, the movie was distributed by DreamWorks and was a huge commercial success. It spawned three sequels, which have all largely featured the same cast. The Transformers who are most prominent in these films include the original nemeses Optimus Prime and Megatron as well as other characters like Bumblebee, The Fallen, and Galvatron.
The range of Transformers toys made by Hasbro spans the many incarnations of the series over the years. The One Step, Flip and Change, and Transformers Generations lines of toys are among the most basic. They allow kids to change vehicles into robot with very simple motions. Construct-Bots let your little one be more creative and build his or her Transformer from a variety of interlocking pieces. KRE-O Transformers are put together with building blocks so that you can create elaborate characters and scenes. Little kids (aged 3-6) will appreciate the Transformers Playskool Heroes collection in particular. These toys are made to be larger and less intricate so that they are easy for even the youngest fans to use.
Video games are another extremely popular division of Transformers merchandise, and these products are available for all the major consoles and handheld platforms, including Xbox, PlayStation, Wii, and Nintendo DS. Of course, toys and games aren't the only products featuring these characters. You'll also find clothing items like graphic tees, hoodies, underwear, socks, sneakers, costumes, and backpacks. These products are mainly designed for boys, but there are a few options for girls as well.
Among all the franchises your youngster might fall in love with, Transformers is one that has an extremely broad selection of merchandise available. Your tot might simply be interested in the toys or may enjoy the movies, TV shows, and comic books that tell the stories of the Transformers and their human counterparts. Often, the hardest part as a parent is figuring out all the different divisions of the brand and keeping them straight. While the toys are based on a relatively simple concept, the execution is brilliantly varied, and you'll likely never run out of new Transformers figures to buy. The live-action films have all been rated PG-13, so they aren't the best viewing material for very young kids. If you introduce your little one to the Transformers toys early in life, however, then he or she will love watching the films in a few years. On the whole, we give Transformers 4.5 stars out of 5.