Wednesday 25 January 2017

GiG's Diaclone & Trasformers (Part 1: The Micronauts)

GiG's Time Traveller figure from 1980 (Source: eBay)

Italian toy company GiG was founded in 1968 by Gianfranco Aldo Horvat and mainly licensed toys from other toy companies for sale in Italy. Best known by Transformer fans was GiGs partnership with Takara, bringing their Diaclone Car Robots and others under the new brand name "Trasformers".

In 1985, Hasbro asserted their dominance against GiG pushing them into line to use their Transformers branding which Takara themselves had adopted after dropping their Diaclone and Micro Change lines when they saw its popularity. GiG still maintained their relationship with Takara and even released a few "exclusive" Transformers of their own such as the Bruticus & Abominus giftset and Transformer Victory's Galaxy Shuttle.

GiG continued to operate as in independent toy company until 1994 when it partnered with another Italian toy company, Giochi Preziosi. In 1999 GiG was completely merged into Giochi Preziosi. Gianfranco Aldo Horvat remained with the company until 2003 and he died in 2009.

I wouldn't usually go into toylines unrelated to the Transformer lines but to explain GiGs relationship with Takara which brought Italy the Diaclone line, I need to delve into the Micronauts line, which incidentally featured a lot of Takara's figures from their Microman line.


North American toy company, Mego Corp, were well known for their action figure toylines; their initial 1971 Action Jackson line was an attempt to compete with Hasbro's GI Joe line. Expanding their action figure line, Mego approached Japanese toy company Takara and they started production for Mego 1976. Takara licensed most of their Microman line to Mego under the name "Micronauts", Takara would even handle production for Mego. The Micronauts Series 1 was released in early 1977; although there was no backstory or biographies with the figures they were still incredibly popular.

Takaras Acroyear A30X (1975) (Source: Microman Forever)

Mego Micronauts version of Takaras Acroyear: "Acroyear II" (1977) (Source: eBay)

For the second series Takara produced original toys for Mego using two of their figures from the Magnemo toy line "Kotetsu Jeeg" (Steel Jeeg - based on a 1975 TV serires) as templates. Those two were Kotetsu Jeeg (a humanoid figure) and Panzeroid (a horse). In later series Takara also provided toys from their "Godam" line.

Micronauts Baron Karza, one of the 4 Magnemo figures released in Series 2, 1978 (Source: eBay)

Takara initially made toys for Mego in Japan but Mego moved production to their facilities in Hong Kong later on. As well as using Takaras back catalogue of figures, Mego also designed and released their own toys under the Micronauts line starting in Series 3 with toys such as Alphatron, Betatron and Gammatron.

Mego's own Betatron figure (Source: eBay)

In Series 4, Mego also produced their own action figures which were alien adversaries of the Micronauts; these featured glow in the dark parts.

Antron (Source: eBay)

Although Mego saw promise with the Micronauts line, one property they were offered was Star Wars but Mego declined to produce the figures and the licence was eventually picked up by Kenner. Star Wars popularity was unsurpassed and Mego tried to complete with other science fiction properties such as The Black Hole and Buck Rogers. Further investments in new toys would prove unsuccessful for Mego who would go on to struggle financially and by 1982 they were no more.

Lobros, meant for Series 5 but was unreleased by Mego themselves. Excess figures which were produced were released by various distributors, the rest went to Italy with GiG. (Source: eBay)

Mego had also designed toys to be released in Micronauts Series 5 but production stopped in 1980 due to financial difficulties and some of these toys went unreleased in North America.

Micronauts around the world

Mego licenced their Micronauts brand to other foreign toy companies; Airfix (UK), released the Micronauts in the UK and Germany (distribution handled by Mego's Lion Rock Limited); Grand Toys released figures in Canada; Pin Pin Toys, a division of Lutece Trading released Micronauts in France. In Italy, GiG took on the Micronauts brand.

I Micronauti

Giant Acroyear. The initial series GiG released were Mego stock with a few stickers added by GiG (Source: eBay)

GiG released a few Micronauts in Italy late 1977; the majority released were Megos stock but with a black GiG stickers placed on the box; a few also came with Italian instructions. Other figures released in Megos 1977 Series 1 such as the popular Time Traveller figure, were later released on Italian language card bearing the brand "I Micronauti" in 1978. From Series 2 in 1978 onwards all figures released were branded with "I Micronauti". GiG released the same toys as Mego up to 1980.

Viaggiatore Del Tempo aka Time Traveller, translucent version 1978 (Source: eBay)

After Megos financial difficulties and the future of Micronauts was looking bleak, GiG came in and took over the Micronauts brand and licensing from Takara. GiG also bought the toys that Mego themselves had produced for the fifth series.

Blizzard, a Series 5 figure which was from Takaras Microman line (Source: eBay)

Green Baron, one of the new Magnemo figures released in Series 5 (Source: eBay)

Series 5 was released in Italy from late 1980 into 1981. This final series comprised of 15 more figures; just as in Micronauts Series 2, I Micronauti saw 6 more Magnemo figures released, heavily remoulded from the 1975 toy line Kotetsu Jeeg (using Kotetsu Jeeg and Panzeroid as mentioned above). A seventh Magnemo figure was also released in 1981, from Takaras 1979 Machine Saurer toy line - Deathcross. GiG renamed this figure "Red Falcon".

Deathcross (1979) left and Red Falcon (1981) right. (Source: eBay)

I'm not sure whether this was GiG's first sole partnership with Takara, but with Takaras Diaclone line premiering in 1980 and GiG looking to take on the Micronauts brand for themselves that year, this may have been when Takara offered the Diaclone licence to GiG. I will be going into GiGs initial Diaclone line in Part 2.

GiGs Diaclone Il Grande Robot-Base, 1981 (Source: eBay)

After Mego - The Continuation of the Micronauts...

Micronauts - Lion Rock Limited (1981-1982)

After Mego Corp released Series 4 in 1980, their manufacturing division, Lion Rock Limited effectively finished of the Micronauts line in 1981 re-releasing a few of Megos earlier offerings such as the Photon Sled and Warp Racer. Surprisingly two new Magnemo figures which GiG released in their version of Series 5, Emperor and Megas were also released by Lion Rock Limited and they even came with GiGs signature mushroom missiles. After Mego ceased in 1982, Lion Rock Limited also folded.

I Micronauti Emperor, GiG, 1981 (Left, Source: eBay) & Micronauts Emperor, Lion Rock, 1981 (Right, Source: 2 Warps to Neptune.

I Micronauti Megas, GiG, 1981 (Left, Source: eBay) & Micronauts Megas, Lion Rock, 1981 (Right, Source: 2 Warps to Neptune.

Pharoid re-release, one of 6 basic figure assortments by Lion Rock Limited which came without any accessories (Source: eBay)

The Inter-Changeables series 1 - HOURTOY Co LTD (1984)

A company called HOURTOY released a new line called "The Inter-Changeables" in North America, consisting of 15 figures which were releases of Megos Micronauts albeit in garish colours. The plastic quality also left a lot to be desired and the names were also changed. Just as the Micronauts these figures were licensed from Takara.

The Inter-Changeables Cosmo-Man, a new version of the Micronaut Time Traveller (Source: eBay)

The Inter-Changeables series 1 - HOURTOY Co LTD / M.D. Toys inc (1985)

HOURTOY produced a second series of The Inter-Changeables in 1985 featuring re-releases of the majority of Series 1 figures but also a few new figures as well. This line up featured better colour schemes but the plastic quality of the figures was poor. HOURTOY released a few figures in Series 2 but somewhere down the line, M.D. Toys took over from HOURTOY, many of the boxes has a black sticker over the HOURTOY logo with the text "M.D. Toy inc". This line did not last past this second series.

HOURTOY's Cosmic Attack Fighter (Source: eBay)

HOURTOY's Cosmic Attack Fighter (Source: eBay)

M.D. Toys Cosmo-Man (Source: eBay)

M.D. Toys Cosmo-Man (Source: eBay)

Nuovo Micronauti, GiG (1985)

With the popularity of the Magnemo figures, GiG distributed the 6 figures from HOURTOY's The Inter-Changeables line in Italy. These came with the same names as their I Micronauti equivalents, but just as HOURTOYS version, the plastic quality was poor. These were licensed by HOURTOY and Takara.

Baron Karza (Source: eBay)

Back of Baron Karzas box showing the 6 available figures. (Source: eBay)

Fantanauti, GiG (1985)

Digressing slightly, in 1985 GiG also produced their own Magnemo styled line called "Fantanauti". This was a short lived line which looked like a cross between GiGs previous Magnemo figures from I Micronauti and He-Man. Only 4 figures were produced, the hero Totila and his steed Uragan; the villain Wiscid and his dragon Venefic. Each figure has a copyright stamp of "GiG 1984" and the boxes copyright also mentions that it is manufactured under licence from Takara, possibly due to the Magnemo concept. The boxes were in a very similar style and layout to the Micronauts, and the figures were also compatible with the other Magnemo type figures previously released.

1985's Fantanauti, Totila. (Source: eBay)

Back of Totilas box (Source: eBay)

Cavalieri Stellari Magneticieo X'Cambiabili, Litardi (1983)

Completely unrelated to GiG but released by Italian toy company Litardi, heavily remoulded from Kotetsu Jeeg and licenced again by Takara, the line of space cowboy figures featured a subline of 6 magnetic figures.

Magnemo figure "Scare-Face" (Source: eBay)

The AstroWarriors / OI ASTPOMAXHTES, ElGreco (19??)

Released in Greece by ElGreco, this is a line up of GiGs 8 Magnemo figures (apart from Red Falcon). The figures are named the same as the I Micronauti versions apart from 2 of the figures, Santana (Green Baron) and Super Commander (Force Commander). There don't appear to be any mention of either GiG or Takara on the boxes.

(Source: eBay)

(Source: eBay)

Micronauts, Palisades Toys (2002-2003)

Toy company Palisades attempted to resurrect the old Mego line in 2002, despite the good intentions it led to the bankruptcy of the company. With old moulds lost, Palisades borrowed old Micronaut figures to make the toy line. Series 1 was a disaster with all the figures poorly constructed or would break when being moved. Series 1.5 in 2002 attempted to improve on the failings. The final Series 2 also saw the release of Red Falcon.

Time Traveller (Source: eBay)

Force Commander And Oberon (Source: eBay)

Red Falcon (Source: eBay)

Micronauts, Hasbro (2016)

At the San Diego Comic Con in 2016, Hasbro released a one-off giftset of 3 classic Micronaut figures - Pharoid with Time Chamber, Orbital Defender (Galactic Defender) and Galactic Warrior.

(Source: eBay)

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