The original GoBots were the main competition for Hasbro's Transformers in the 1980s. Notably, their launch actually preceded that of the Transformers own, although they ultimately proved not to have the same level of lasting popularity.
Premiering in 1984, Tonka's GoBots toys were mostly small, similar in size to Transformers' Mini Vehicles, although they were generally more complex than similarly-sized Transformers. After the line's initial success, a series of larger Super GoBots toys was also released, featuring both new characters and larger versions of some pre-existing toys. Tonka also released a number of supporting toys such as spaceships, bases, the monster "Zod", and later a set of combining "Power Suits" which GoBots figures could be placed into.
In 1991, Hasbro bought Tonka and its subsidiaries (including Kenner), and at that time acquired all of Tonka's intellectual property, including jurisdiction over GoBots-related names and trademarks. The rights relating to the toys that made up the GoBots line, however, are still owned by Bandai, who had merely licensed them to Tonka for GoBots'.
GoBots got its start as a Japanese toyline called Machine Robo which was created by Takara-competitor Bandai. Machine Robo toys were initially marketed in the United States under the name Machine Men by Bandai themselves, but the line didn't see widespread success until Tonka adapted the toyline into GoBots and created a new animated series for the brand, as well as an array of supporting merchandise such as coloring books, stickers, and even an official GoBots magazine.
Besides distributing them in the United States as Machine Men, Bandai also sold the Machine Robo toys in other non-Asian countries before their partnership with Tonka began. Bandai appeared to retain the international marketing rights to the series following the change to GoBots, and so adapted their international toylines when the line was rebranded.
In Europe, where the toyline began as Robo Machine, the packaging changed over a period of time to reflect Tonka's developments, eventually touting itself as Challenge of the GoBots: a Robo Machine product. In Australia, however, the toyline began with the Machine Men title, which it evidently retained even after the rebranding in the United States.
In France, both the American GoBots cartoon and the Japanese Machine Robo: The Revenge of Chronos series were aired. The latter was renamed Revenge of the GoBots and was dubbed as a sequel to the American series. The show took place in the future, and the Voice Actors from the French dub of Challenge of the GoBots returned to voice their roles (or as many equivalents as were applicable) in Revenge of the GoBots.
This makes France the only country to combine the American and Japanese GoBots shows into one story. We salute them.
The cartoon, called Challenge of the GoBots, was produced in the United States by Hanna-Barbera. It aired in some markets outside the US (possibly just Australia, Brazil & the UK). The Australian title was Challenge of the Machine Men and the Brazilian name was just Os GoBots (The GoBots). In the UK, the show was known as The GoBots and rarely aired outside of School Holiday breakfast television.
The cartoon focused on the interstellar struggle between the friendly Guardian GoBots, led by Leader-1, and their enemies, the Renegade GoBots, commanded by Cy-Kill.
In addition to the leaders, the main GoBot cast included Turbo (a rough-and-tumble Guardian), Scooter (a cowardly young Guardian), Crasher (a cackling Renegade madwoman), and Cop-Tur (a dumb, thuggish Renegade). The series was rounded out with human allies and enemies, along with various GoBot guest stars and other aliens.
Despite the tagline "Mighty Robots, Mighty Vehicles" the background material for the cartoon established (most notably in the episode Sentinel and the multi-part GoBotron Saga) that the GoBots are not true robots, but rather alien cyborgs. The GoBots began as a race of alien humanoids, who, after a great catastrophe, had to put their brains into "GoBot forms" to survive.
The GoBots appeared in one theatrically released film, Challenge Of The GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, where they met the Rock Lords, voiced by television and movie icons such as Margot Kidder, Roddy Mcdowell, and Telly Savalas. A spinoff line Tonka was launching involving alien humanoids that transformed into rocks. (Yes, rocks. No, they must not have seen Big. Or It's The Great Pumpkin; Charlie Brown.)
Impact on Transformers
Following Hasbro's acquisition of Tonka and Kenner, the GoBots universe has largely remained idle - with some notable exceptions.
- Hasbro first put the newly acquired trademark to use on the G2 Color-Changer figure Gobots in 1993, then again (albeit in hyphenated form) on a G2 subline titled Go-Bots in 1995.
- The most prominent GoBots-specific reference, beyond use of the brand name itself, came in the form of the Armada Mini-Con Leader-1, who was under the control of Megatron and shares his name with the leader of the heroic Guardian GoBots.
- At one point, Unicron's Mini-Con Dead End was going to be called "Gobotron", in reference to the home planet of the GoBots. The idea, however, was ultimately discarded.
- Unexpectedly, the most direct usage of the GoBots characters in Transformers has come not from Hasbro, but Takara. As part of their e-Hobby line of collector toys, six redecoed Mini Vehicles were released as the "Dimensional Exploration/Experimentation Team G1 GoBots". The included bio alludes to concepts and technology from Tonka GoBots fiction, with the toys themselves representing various GoBot characters. However, the individual character names were dropped just prior to release, making their official status somewhat blurry.
- Several GoBots appear in the background in a number of Dreamwave Transformers comics as visual jokes.
- In the third volume of G.I. Joe vs. the Transformers, Cobra Commander refers to the Autobots as "glorified Go-Bots".
- Botcon 2007 followed up on the earlier e-Hobby use of the GoBots and continued the story begun there, specifically naming the white Bumblebee repaint Bugbite and thus solidifying the connection that was always implied. Apparently some actions or events from the Transformers Marvel Comics universe had resonated through the multiverse and devastated the GoBots universe, causing "time itself to come undone" the few survivors traveled there to seek either a solution or revenge.
- In IDW's Megatron Origin, Cy-Kill is Megatron's first opponent in the Forge. He gets a cover appearance and dialogue before being defeated and killed. Further, a robot that is clearly his fellow Renegade Crasher is part of Clench's inner-circle/gladatorial team and later fights alongside Megatron.
- In IDW's Beast Wars The Ascending, the GoBot monster Pincher is shown as a murdered Angolmois junkie.
- In the Shattered Glass alternate universe, Renegade GoBot Fitor and Guardian GoBot Leader-1 (the latter in Cy-Kill's color scheme) are among the evil Autobot forces. What looks like Cy-Kill's claw is seen amongst the cheering throngs joining the evil Autobots too. Heroic Renegade Crasher is described as Blurr's cousin in his tech spec.