|Specifics: Boxed and carded toys from every franchise. Hoo boy!|
The packaging used for Transformers toys has varied widely through the history of the Transformers brand.
Most packaging falls into one of two categories: blister card or boxes. In the US, both types have been used in most franchises, with smaller toys being sold on cards. Japan tends to sell all toys, regardless of size, in boxes.
Boxed Generation One toys featured a fold-up flap at the back of the box top, featuring the TRANSFORMERS logo. A clear plastic window allowed the toy to be viewed within; package art occupied the space on the right. On the box top, a sequence of photos labeled "Start - Change - Finish" demonstrated the toy's transformation sequence. The back of the box was dominated by a painted mural featuring that year's toy assortment, along with the robot points and the character's bio and tech spec card.
Boxed toys were most often held in a clear molded plastic tray. Some larger toys and their accessories sat in a Styrofoam tray. Such toys often did not feature the clear window.
Background designs in the early years consisted of a black background which faded into red for Autobots and purple for Decepticons. A grid typically overlaid the colors, and a round yellow area provided a background for the character art.
Starting in 1987, the round yellow glow was replaced by a pixelated area behind the character art. In 1988, the TRANSFORMERS logo was revised with a new red-white-blue cross-fade color scheme; in 1989, a new font was introduced, using the same red-white-blue cross-fade.
The initial assortment of Generation 2 toys consisted entirely of carded toys, even toys that had been previously boxed during G1, such as Starscream and Inferno, making them some of the largest carded toys on the market. Many of these larger toys, like the Dinobots, came in clamshell plastic that was glued to the card on both the front and back. This had the advantage of showcasing the toys from all angles, but made the packaging difficult to open.
Existing card art from G1 was modified and reused for the G2 portraits in almost every instance, though there were exceptions, like the Mini Autobots, Aerialbots, and Combaticons. The box artwork for characters remained constant even when color schemes continued to change, so the Constructicons always appeared in yellow on their card art and the Dinobots always appeared in grey. Interestingly, the new Combaticon card art shows the toys with stickers in place, even though no consumer-applied labels were included with the toys.
The bio and tech specs were largely unchanged from the ones written for G1, though the G2 style favored a head shot of the characters rather than a full body portrait. The text was also sometimes rewritten, ostensibly to make the characters seem more heroic. For example, Silverbolt's fear of heights was omitted, and the biography written for the pacifist First Aid describes him as "compassionate to the injured, but also a great fighter."
The Generation 2 logo was removed from the packaging in 1995 during the final year of the toy line, a deliberate decision by Hasbro, who no longer felt it was necessary to distinguish the G2 line from its predecessor.
Beast Wars continued much of the basic box layout begun during Generation One: a clear plastic viewing window to show the toy, with character art to the right. The back of the box featured photos of the toy in both modes.
Beast Wars packaging featured an ever-evolving background format. The early years of the franchise used a huge yellow reptilian eye with scaly red skin as a background; on blister cards, the eye was beneath the plastic bubble that held the toy. As the Transmetals and Transmetal 2s entered circulation, stylized mechanical greeblies became more common, and the reptilian skin became technological.
Beast Wars introduced the practice of securing toys to a cardboard backing(or a sculpted plastic tray for carded toys) using a range of flexible, plastic-coated metal wires, commonly referred to as twist ties. This allowed a toy to remain very secure in its packaging, even if it was in an "action" pose. Among the fandom, the packaging style led to some griping, as untying the twist ties could be an annoyingly lengthy and painstaking process. Some of the more complex toys could have a dozen or more ties, occasionally to the point of hilarious excess. A much quicker approach involves simply snipping the ties with nail clippers. (This highlighted another, possibly accidental, purpose to the twist ties: By making the toy harder to remove from its packaging, they discourage store theft. Any would-be thief hauling out a pair of nail clippers would be more conspicuous, presumably.)
Through careful research, fans have deduced that twist-ties can serve an additional function: they make superb cat toys.
Robots in Disguise