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Mexican Transformers: The History

The Beginning
When Hasbro released The Transformers toy line in 1984 even they couldn't have predicted its success. TFs annihilated the competition in the US and then in the UK when they were launched here and again in mainland Europe, TFs ruled the shelves. Like an invading army, Hasbro decided to target the Transformers marketing machine on South America, launching the toys in Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and Venezuela but in these countries, they had a lot less success.

South of the border TFs
In South America, where importing laws were strict (Brazil's government banned the importing of toys), instead of producing Transformers directly, Hasbro leased the rights to various companies thereby giving small companies the hottest property in toys. Antex produced TFs for Argentina, Estrela for Brazil and IGA produced the Transformers toys for Mexico (the company who produced the toys for Venezuela is unknown at this writing.) and they all have one thing in common: they had no idea what to do with the golden opportunity given to them. Brazil and Argentina only ever had the Minicars and the Jumpstarters in their toy lines and needless to say, Transformers failed very quickly in those 2 countries. However, in Chile, the US toys were imported into the country by Importadora Abramowickz although some stores imported Transformers from Mexico and Brazil. Chile is the only country in which Transformers survived for the duration (G1, G2 and Machine Wars were all imported).

Back to Mexico

                           Arriba!
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In December 1984 while the UK was running out and buying the newly released Insecticons by the truckload, Mexico were sitting down to watch the premiere of the Transformers cartoon. Unlike other South American countries, an effort had been made with this production but it confused many as it wasn't consistent with the other Transformer products released in Mexico.


The Toys
While Antex and Estrela were churning out multi-coloured Minobots in packaging that sort of resembled the US versions, IGA were producing TFs in the same vein as Hasbro: the packaging was the same (except for the Spanish language) and the toys were....almost the same.




IGA's initial release of TFs featured differences from the US releases: the Decepticon jets has solid plastic nosecones and the wheels were made of plastic instead of metal, Bluestreak was grey instead of silver and most obviously, Prowl was mainly black instead of white with black parts. IGA obviously produced Transformers with their own materials as the red plastics were more of an orange colour and their white paint was a cream colour. Mexican TFs didn't have rubsigns and the paint jobs were universally bad as were the factory applied stickers (the sticker sheet that came with them was a US one). The stickers featured the same image as their US counterparts but was of poorer quality and was generally in a different font and layout.

Tangent: Rubsigns
Rubsigns were introduced in 1985 on US and European TFs with an advertising campaign along the lines of "if your Transformer doesn't have a heat sensitive sticker, then it's not a real Transformer!". This campaign was due to the volume of Transformers that were being bootlegged (Shockwave and the Jumpstarters have multiple bootleg versions) and it was also due, in part, to the unsold South American Transformers being exported to the US, Europe and mainly the UK. As Transformers weren't being imported into South America, South American Transformers did not have rubsigns.

Back to IGA
A lot of what IGA did in the production process seemed to be trial and error and they also seemed to have a varying amount of production details from Hasbro. Some Mexican TFs are almost identical to their US counterparts (Red Alert, Trailbreaker, Ironhide, Blitzwing and Ratchet are all good examples) but even those exhibit the different stickers, paint and plastic quality that all Mexican TFs do. In the case of Inferno and Prowl, IGA seemed to correct errors as they went along (standard practice for small toy companies, McFarlane Toys create a lot of variants as they use this practice) resulting in the arms reversed/arms not reversed variant Inferno and the 3 different Prowl paint jobs. However, it seems, some product was never fully corrected due to the lack of direct Hasbro input (Prowl for example).

In the case of the jets, it doesn't seem that IGA had the capability to produce the metal wheels so they went with plastic ones instead. It doesn't seem to be a cost cutting measure as the jets were still die-cast. With Hoist and Bluestreak, this is where I believe that IGA had limited help from Hasbro: I think that IGA either weren't given the head mold for Hoist, something happened to it or Hasbro simply never mentioned that Hoist had a different head to Trailbreaker. I think that it's possible that IGA simply never knew there was a head difference, which explains the other discrepancies between the Mexican toys and US ones, like the differing paint jobs (Bluestreak, Prowl).


1985
By 1985 Mexico was drowning in unsold Transformers while the rest of the world was crying out for them. The confusing marketing in Mexico had killed off interest before it had really built and now Transformers were warming shelves in stores all across Mexico. In 1985, the UK was suddenly bombarded by a wave of Mexican Transformers to try and meet the demand, but these imports were not through Hasbro, they were coming into the countries through the same means that bootlegs do. Children's programme 'Newsround' featured the Mexican Transformers and detailed how they had more lead in their paint than was legally allowed in the UK and that prolonged exposure to these toys was not healthy. Obviously, the solid nosed jets did not conform with UK safety standards, nor did the spring loaded launchers that Mexican Transformers came packaged with (US and UK Transformers were released with launchers that had the springs removed to conform to safety standards imposed after an American child choked to death on the missile fired from his Battlestar Galactica Viper toy).


1986
While residents of the US, UK and Europe were crammed into movie theatres and cinemas watching Transformers: The Movie, the few Mexican children who were still interested were also watching the Movie, but they were now buying Transformers that were imported into Mexico from the US. IGA had abandoned producing TFs after the 1985 line due to their contract with Hasbro expiring. The last Transformers produced by IGA were the third series Minibots: Hubcap, Outback, Pipes, Swerve and Tailgate, which were merely repaints of the first series molds as IGA didn't have the new retooled moulds. This last wave of IGA Transformers were released in limited numbers as a store exclusive.


The End of the Road
By 1992 Hasbro's market for Transformers had died pretty much worldwide for different reasons. In the UK, Europe and the US, the line had lost steam after constant attempts by Hasbro to extend the longevity of the line with new concepts. Headmasters, Targetmasters, Powermasters and Pretenders had not captured children's imaginations the way Hasbro had hoped. The final nail in the coffin were the Action Masters (Transformers that.....didn't Transform!) and what is now known as Generation 1 came to a close.

Not content to sit idly by and watch the biggest boy's toy line in years vanish, Hasbro made an attempt to capitalise on previously untapped markets. Hasbro expanded into the one country they hadn't been able to supply to until that point: Russia. The Russians were suddenly bombarded by Hasbro's marketing machine (cartoon, comic, toys) and all of Hasbro's un-sellable stock was sent there including, presumably, the vast quantities of lead-poisoning-in-a-box that we know as Mexican Transformers.



A very big thank you to Ivan Mihovilovic M for the information about Transformers in Chile.
Thanks also to David Pacheco for the information about Transformers in Brazil.