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Before They Were Transformers: Meet the Early Japanese Toy Versions of Optimus Prime and Grimlock

Marcus Errico

The year was 1980. Michael Bay had yet to detonate anything on screen. Mark Wahlberg was a decade away from assembling his Funky Bunch. There was no such thing as an Autobot or Allspark.

But the robots in disguise had arrived.

As shown in this vintage Japanese TV commercial, a company called Takara Toys introduced its Diaclone line led by Battle Convoy, a semi that converted into a sword-wielding sentinel.

Cooler yet was the flame-throwing tyrannosaur of the subsequent Dinosaur Robots, promising hours of fiery fun. (Alas, the T.rex didn’t really come equipped with blowtorch action; to the delight of Diaclone-purchasing parents and the chagrin of their children, Takara Toys didn’t subscribe to that whole truth-in-advertising ethos.)

Before They Were Transformers: Meet the Early Japanese Toy Versions of Optimus Prime and Grimlock

Flames or no, by 1984 Hasbro had taken notice and was all in, licensing the Diaclone line and adapting it for U.S. consumers. Battle Convoy became Optimus Prime. Singeosaurus morphed into Grimlock, king of the Dinobots. Reborn as Transformers, the toys begat umpteen cartoons, comic books, and eventually the movie franchise that brings us the Bay-helmed, Wahlberg-starring Transformers: Age of Extinction this week.

Which, thankfully, features Grimlock in all his scorching glory.