There are plenty of card and board games that have endured for generations — many of them that arguably didn’t deserve to. But, because of the evolution of the technology behind toys, relatively few classics have made it through the years to appeal to today’s kids as much as they did to their parents when they were kids — at least, not without fundamental changes to the way they work.
The Transformers series is, inarguably, one of the best toy series that had its genesis during the youth of those of us who grew up in the 1980s. It was one of the first major toy series directly tied to a new cartoon show on TV — which may or may not be a good thing, depending on your point of view — and then to comic books. I was among those who acquired as many of the toys as my parents would allow (not nearly as many as I wanted, of course), and created my own stories around them to expand on the show. I can still hear the theme to the original Transformers TV show in my head, which is why the phrase “more than meets the eye” will always have a special connotation to me.
Of course, I bring up the Transformers because they are a perfect example of a toy that has survived in a very similar form to how it first appeared. Unless you’ve been living on another planet for the past six years, you know of the Michael Bay-directed films, which feature some very cool-looking computer-generated Transformers amid poor acting and many, many explosions, and the fourth installment of which is scheduled to hit theaters just over a year from now. And you may be aware of the current toys, based mostly on the current TV show, Transformers: Prime, now in its third and final season on The Hub, subtitled “Beast Hunters.”
I recently spoke with Jerry Jivoin, Transformers global brand marketing director for Hasbro. While Jivoin is a bit older than me, and so was outgrowing kids’ toys round about the time Transformers hit the shelves, he nonetheless was captivated by them. Of course, given his job, he’s thrilled that the brand has carried its appeal to a new generation, but he’s equally glad about it because he’s a dad of two and is excited that he can share something he’s loved since he was young with his own kids.
Jivoin told me he’s made it a priority to ensure that the brand always retains something from Generation 1 Transformers, which makes it an ideal way to connect dads and their kids (I’m not saying moms can’t have played with Transformers as kids, too, just that dads are more likely to have done so). I know I enjoy the opportunities I get to play Transformers with my kids, and watching them play by themselves — playing with robots that transform into vehicles would be cool enough by itself, even in 2013, but the sense of nostalgia it gives me enhances the experience.
It’ll be interesting to see where the toy brand goes from here. The Construct-Bots coming out from Hasbro later this year look really promising, adding a layer of creativity (via customization) to the toys that wasn’t there before. And the new Transformers: The Ride 3D, open at Universal Studios Singapore and Hollywood and opening next week in Florida, should do its part in keeping the Transformers experience alive for families. I’m going to be at the Orlando opening, in fact, so check back here on GeekDad for my report on the ride.
Photo of Jerry Jivion by user “Monzo” on TFwiki.net.