What Happened To GoBots?

Science fiction is filled with all sorts of cool beings from faraway planets, but there are few shapeshifting robots able to camouflage themselves on Earth. We know what you're thinking: Transformers. But, the Autobots and Decepticons aren't the only fictional alien visitors that fit this particular description. When the Transformers were first introduced to the United States public, there was already a race of alien robots mimicking cars and planes in toy stores everywhere, and they were the GoBots.

GoBots, like what seems to be with most cool sci-fi fandoms, are a page right out of a 1980s childhood. According to 8 Bit Pickles, there were a lot of similarities between both GoBots and Transformers — they were both robot species, they could both shapeshift into machines, both stories had a good faction and a bad, etc. — but there were just as many differences. It might not seem important, but many casual fans think GoBots are a ripoff of the Transformers. Sorry, GoBots were here first. It might not seem like an important thing to point out, but the connection between these two franchises has everything to do with what happened to GoBots and why they seemed to stay in the decade from whence they came. Let's break it down.

They had stiff competition

The GoBots franchise certainly isn't the most popular fandom around today. In fact, it's not even the most popular franchise involving machine beings that can transform from things like vehicles into sentient robots, and if you're part of the younger two generations, it's possible you haven't even heard of these shape-shifting robots until recently. There's a reason for that. As SyFy Wire points out, GoBots were introduced to the United States in 1983 after previously being released in Japan as toys called "Machine Robo." The original manufacturers, Bandai, partnered with Tonka and — boom! — GoBots were filling toy stores across the red, white, and blue. Then, the competition arose.

It was a year later, according to Game Informer, Hasbro released Transformers in the U.S., and the GoBots franchise caught its first hint of serious trouble. The marketing and quality behind Transformers were leaps ahead of GoBots. Instead of simply having cheap plastic toys on the shelves, Transformers released a pretty rad cartoon at the same time their action figures were getting their price tags. Talk about getting a leg up on the competition. GoBots had a mythos you could only find by reading their toys' packaging while Transformers had one you could watch on TV. It's surprising they were able to gain a place of nostalgia at all next to the likes of Optimus Prime and Megatron, but they tried their best to adapt, and it apparently worked long enough to become a part of '80s culture.

TV show and movie

With the "Transformers" television show burning a decades-long image into the minds of '80s kids throughout the United States, GoBots had to do something to ensure they could keep up. And they really gave it their best shot. In 1984, Tonka linked up with cartoon powerhouse Hanna-Barbera — creators of "Scooby-Doo," "The Flintstones," etc. — and produced their own cartoon, "Challenge of the GoBots," via Newsbreak. For a second there, it looked almost like they could compete with the Transformers franchise, but the GoBots cartoon only ran for a single season, albeit it was a 65-episode season. The original animated "Transformers" series, on the other hand, ran for four seasons, according to IMDb, and produced a number of spinoffs, including several other cartoons, those awesome CGI films, and even comic books.

The GoBots tried one more on-screen run in 1986, but as the Rotten Tomatoes reviews show, it wasn't the best cartoon on the market. Sure, there are people who enjoyed it, but compared to the Transformers, GoBots just couldn't hold up. The movie definitely tried to twist things up, bringing a new class of transforming robots that could take on the incredible shape of — um — rocks. Which, honestly, was at least something new. Though, even this was more of a marketing ploy to sell their upcoming Rock Lords toys. This, of course, didn't save the franchise since, as SyFy Wire notes, GoBots went under the following year.

A fringe universe of Transformers

It really looked like GoBots were going to become as much a dead part of the '80s as mullets and leg warmers, but as we've seen through history, there is always someone willing to keep nostalgia alive. In the case of GoBots, that someone was Transformers manufacturer Hasbro.

Hasbro and Tonka made a joint announcement in 1991 that the two companies would be "merging," as a Washington Post article from the time details. Which translates to "Hasbro bought Tonka for slightly over $500 million." What exactly did this mean for GoBots? To begin with, they no longer had to compete with Transformers since Transformers owned them. The Transformers Wiki mentions several times that GoBots have crossed over into Transformers media, and it's spoken as common knowledge in articles about the franchises that the GoBots world is considered an alternate dimension of the Transformers multiverse. So, they never truly died, but even to that end, it seems that only select characters make their way into Transformers as easter eggs more than anything. Take, for example, the deleted scene from "Bumblebee" (posted on YouTube) where Charlie and Memo discuss the childrens' toys "Gobots." Seems like they're pretty popular, if not fictional, in the Transformer movie franchise. That's basically "making it," right?

Didn't quite fade out of existence

We might never see a GoBots toy again, and since they're colloquially thought to be knock-off Transformers anyway, it might not be the wisest business decision to resurrect the plastic robot figurines. And for a long time, it looked like there'd never be new GoBots media either, outside of the occasional mention in Transformers movies or shows. Then, Warner Bros. released the original "Challenge of the GoBots" on DVD in the 2010s (via Home Media Magazine). Of course, releasing old media on DVD isn't the same as making new stuff, but it gave the handful of GoBots fans out there a spark of hope. Then ...

In 2019, IDW published a five-issue set of GoBots comics. Screams, applause. It was the first real new GoBots media since the mid-late '80s. The comic can still be found on Good Reads and more, but it's still a very limited set. Even so, that's more than anyone could've foreseen when the GoBots franchise went under a quarter of a century ago, and this comic book miniseries was created by Tom Scioli, who the Falmouth Public Library says is the same guy who wrote the "Transformers vs. G.I. Joe" comic series. Since his inspiration was the great Jack Kirby, that's a major step for the previously diseased GoBots. Could this be a sign?

A potential future for GoBots?

The itty-bitty resurgence of GoBots media in the past decade likely isn't a coincidence. Styles tend to revolve and nostalgia comes in almost predictable waves. We saw flared jeans that looked like modern interpretations of bellbottoms from the '70s in the '00s, for example, and it seems like the '80s are coming back around as we speak. Shows like "Stranger Things," "Cobra Kai," and "Ash vs. The Evil Dead," remakes of classic '80s movies such as "Dune" and "The Lost Boys" (in the works, according to Collider), are pretty substantial evidence that anything with a cult fanbase from the '80s has a chance at getting a modern remake. Not to mention the rumors.

What rumors, you ask? In 2015, according to Movieweb, Hasbro applied for a trademark for the GoBots franchise. This wasn't just a renewal of their old trademark, either, but two separate ones for a possible television series and for toys or merchandise. There hasn't really been any talk about a new show other than when the company first applied for the patent, but it does allow for the possibility of one in the future, especially with the '80s nostalgia still going strong. Will we get a new cartoon or movie? Only time will tell.