The United States is a very litigious society. If a child is injured or (heaven forbid) killed by use or abuse of a toy, that child's parents are very likely to sue the toy manufacturer. As such, Hasbro puts its toys through rigorous testing, for safety reasons. Sometimes, a Transformers toy has to be altered from the original design in order to maintain safety standards, which vary from country to country.
Hasbro has several tests that come up frequently. One of the more famous ones is the "drop test." As its name implies, this involves dropping a toy from great heights in order to ascertain whether or not said toy will break, and if any of the parts which may have broken loose could potentially injure a child (sharp edges, swallowable/chokeable bits, etc.). This is often cited as the reason Fortress Maximus has not been reissued in the United States, as well as the reason for the shortened smokestacks on the shoulders of various Optimus Prime toys (it's a common mistake to assume this started in 1988 with the Powermaster version; however, it was actually the Japanese Super Ginrai version that had the shorter stacks, not the Hasbro Optimus Prime version). This test is also used to determine the durability of a toy's packaging, making sure that only the packaging is damaged should it be dropped.
Other tests have similar goals, generally concerned with breakage issues. Hence, the Japanese version of Vector Prime has hard plastic wings, but the U.S. version uses a rubbery material less likely to accidentally snap off or gouge out the eye of a child (or a particularly clumsy adult). Even as early as 1985, Jetfire and Swoop were altered to have blunted nosecones, and the Seeker jets had rubber nosecones instead of hard plastic. Again, this was likely to prevent trauma from a thrown or jabbed toy.
Besides the safety testing, Hasbro (and other toy manufacturers) try to make sure their products conform to certain standards. Some of these standards are self-imposed, while others are mandated at the state or national level. Most notably, these laws include choke laws, which are designed to prevent small parts (especially projectiles) from being lodged in a child's windpipe; the use of toxic materials like lead-based paints; and toy gun laws, which are designed to prevent scenarios where law enforcement officials accidentally shoot children or adults who are not armed, but carrying "realistic" toy guns; like say, G1 Megatron. U.S. law requires that toy guns have either an orange plug in the barrel, or a coat of orange paint on the barrel. Some states have even more stringent laws, which require that toy guns must be brightly colored and must not resemble real-world firearms. (Some retailers won't even carry realistic toy guns anyway, so that's a double-whammy some places.)
Note that the major federal toy gun law was enacted in 1988, and applies to all toy guns manufactured after May 1989. As such, it is entirely legal for dealers to sell original G1 Megatron figures, as they are grandfathered in; but any later American release of the toy WOULD have to meet these standards, hence the "Safety/Lava Bath Megatron" toy, which STILL failed to meet these guidelines, as the entire external surface was not (and likely could not be) made from a single color of plastic.
Safety standards in other countries
The USA isn't the only country with rigid toy safety standards that affect Transformers. In fact, some countries have safety standards that are even more rigid than anything the USA has. Examples:
- Japan apparently has extremely lax toy safety regulations. The Japanese toy safety standard is called "ST", which can be applied to toys aimed at children under the age of 14; however, that doesn't mean that a toy can't be sold if it doesn't sport the "ST" seal. The only difference is that parents will receive a compensation if their child gets injured by playing with an "ST"-approved toy.
- In Italy's Trasformer (sic) line by GiG, many toys' missile launchers didn't have their springs removed, but the missiles did have comically-huge giant rubber balls attached to the tips. Some of the subsequent, officially-licensed-by-Hasbro Transformers re-releases of those toys still featured the same kind of missiles. Makes those elongated Commemorative Series missiles seem not so bad after all, huh?
- Whereas European toy gun laws are more relaxed, hence making the import of G1 Megatron reissues and Masterpiece Megatron less of a legal hassle, Australia actually has harsher regulations than the US, officially classifying MP Megatron as a "firearm replica". Some Australian states even consider the possession of the toy illegal, even if it was painted in bright orange or sported a permanently glued on orange plug. Apparently, the only way to circumvent this problem requires joining some kind of registered Collectors' Club.
- Members of the European Union don't consider American safety regulations sufficient, but require their own safety tests, with the toys having to adhere to the European standard EN 71. As a consequence, toys that are perfectly fine to be released in the USA might occasionally not be considered suitable for the European market. And since Hasbro has long since abandoned producing international "variants" of toys beyond mere packaging differences, that would mean those toys simply won't come out in Europe at all. (However, while specific examples are unconfirmed, it's highly doubtful that this affects a large number of toys.)
|Specifics: GiG goofy ball-missiles, some other stuff|
- According to Hasbro, toys that represent flying characters are given more stringent drop tests and rounded/collapsible bits, as children (and the kind of adults who buy Transformers, actually) are more prone to throwing these figures around or ramming them into things (or people).
- Page featuring articles on the genesis of the choke-gate test, due to a missile-firing Battlestar Galactica toy.
- CFR Title 15, Part 1150, the official federal law on "realistic" toy guns and the markings thereof.
- Overview on toy safety standards in the UK
- Pages five and six of this article give a brief summary of the federal safety guidelines regarding breakability testing. (PDF format.)
- The Onion's slightly snarkier take on the subject, for those who like their snarky snark snarkiness.
- Canadian ruling that Masterpiece Megatron does not constitute a "replica firearm" for importing purposes.
- ↑ For one thing the pegs on Powermaster Prime's shoulder-canons were brittle as hell!
- ↑ Details about the legal situation concerning the import and possession of Masterpiece Megatron in Australia