Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Joustra G1 Starscream

There's something I have missed deeply about writing vintage G1 articles, especially those that are about obscure variants, and that's the thrill of discovering something new or undocumented. I recently bought the above Starscream from a European seller, not expecting it to be anything groundbreaking; it just happened to be a good price and in highly displayable condition. Perfect for someone rebuilding their variant collection. What I found instead was a hugely significant and probably historical - yet tiny - detail. Spoiler alert, though, there may only be five of us worldwide who will care!

Anyone who is familiar with my blog and European G1 Transformers variants will have already recognised the toy in the photographs. The wheels are black plastic on this Starscream and the nosecone is hard plastic, but it has a rubsign. The grey is closer to normal than the Mexican gunmetal grey variant...and if you look at the box and paperwork, there is evidence of multilingual text. So yes, it's what is commonly referred to as a Ceji Starscream.

Ceji were a big French-based toy manufacturer who had a number of subsidiaries, the most well-known of those (to Transformers collectors) will have been Ceji Joustra, makers of those fabulous European, art-adorned "Diaclone" toys that I may have a few of, and may have written about occasionally. Hasbro, through Milton Bradley, acquired the rights to many Transformers moulds from Ceji Joustra in 1985, but Ceji manufactured certain figures for the Transformers line in 1985 and 1986 before they ceased trading altogether. This has always been interesting because during the Ceji Joustra Diaclone era, the moulds were still manufactured in Japan/Macau by Takara and sent over to Europe for packaging.

This is not new info, though, and I covered it in the original Ceji G1 Starscream article I wrote for this blog. Starscream is among a number of Transformers characters known to have been manufactured in France through Ceji facilities for the Hasbro Bradley Transformers range in mainland Europe. Others include Optimus Prime, Megatron, Soundwave, Thrust, Ramjet, Dirge, the Insecticons, the Constructicons, minibots etc.

Did someone finally trim G1 Starscream's eye stickers to fit?

So why am I doing another piece on Ceji Starscream? Is it just because this time around I actually got his box? Partially, yes. I didn't really blink twice at the fact that he came with his box, because I assumed that one of my previous 3 Ceji Starscreams had the box. Turns out they never did. It also turns out that I was not able to find another Ceji Starscream box photo anywhere - at least not through Google.

Again, what's the big deal? Ceji boxes are pretty well documented. They do not have the "Transforms from robot to..." text in the top left corner above the plastic display window, mainly because multilingual text would not fit there. The back of the box would have the larger tech spec with four languages; English, French, Dutch and Spanish. The instructions are multilingual too, but interestingly - and I don't think I ever noticed this before - the four languages on the instructions do not match the four on the box. Instead we get German, French, Dutch and Spanish on the Instructions. No English, which is carried over from when the Transformers in mainland Europe were Milton Bradley-badged.

This is where things get a little odd, because on the Ceji coneheads, Soundwave and Insecticons, the four languages on the instructions match the four languages on the tech spec. So far, Starscream is the only one where there's a disparity. Also, it seems only on Starscream's packaging does English get to be the first language instead of second.

That's not where the uniqueness of this European Starscream's package ends, though. He's got the standard MB-era toy catalogue featuring the prototypes and pre-TF variants as we've seen before, but there's something on the box that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. Have you spotted it yet?

Well, it's not the "MB Belgium" writing on the side of the box. Having said that, none of the other Ceji G1 boxes or cards that I have had featured this MB Belgium text on the side. MB Belgium was a subsidiary of MB International BV, and would have acted as a distributor for MB International within a particular region, even after Hasbro took over MB during the Transformers period. It's interesting to me as I have seen MB France stickers on Euro TFs (mainly MB badged), but I think this is the first MB Belgium text I have seen, and even more surprising to find it on a Ceji box. It's just one more thing that seems to set this Starscream package aside from his Ceji buddies.

The shocker is also not the "Cajofe" logo on the inner box flap. This is also a common feature of European G1 Transformers in 1985 and 1986. Cajofe was the company who produced the packaging for the mainland G1 Transformers, and they were located a mere 17km from the Ceji Joustra factory in Strasbourg, France.

The price tag of 135 French Francs (equivalent to $19 in 1986) may also seem unusually high for a Transformers figure for the time, but again that's not the main surprise on the Ceji Starscream packaging. 

I keep calling it a Ceji Starscream but...

...there's the shocker! This is not, like many other European G1 Transformers of the time, "Made and printed in France by Ceji" or made in Japan and "Printed" only by Ceji. No, this is the first and ONLY instance I have ever seen of the word "Joustra" on Transformers packaging! It's right there above, "Made and printed in France by Joustra".


Sure, the pre-Transformers "Diaclone" line was a Ceji Joustra production, their logos all over the thing. Sure, we know the Ceji Joustra-packaged Diaclone and Micro Change Series figures got repackaged into Milton Bradley Transformers boxes. But, this is the one time where that Ceji-owned Joustra brand actually got a mention on Transformers packaging or literature, inexorably linking Takara, Hasbro, Milton Bradley, Ceji and Joustra in one package. Officially.

The instructions still cite Ceji as the maker and printer of Starscream, but seeing as how the languages on the instructions were not updated from the Milton Bradley-badged Starscream, it's possible this text was also left unaltered. 

Maybe I'm over-hyping the significance, because at the end of the day, Joustra was not exactly separate to Ceji. Throughout 1984 and 1985, Joustra (Jouets de Strasbourg) was the French subsidiary of Ceji dealing with the Takara manufactured stuff, such as Diaclone, Micro Change Series and even Turbo Magnum. Ceji Revell handled the "Diaclone" model kits etc. So maybe a Joustra manufactured and printed Starscream is the same thing as a Ceji manufactured and printed Starscream, but when you ally this box copyright text to the disparity between the four languages on the instructions versus the four languages on the box, it leads me to believe that this Joustra Starscream may have been the first figure that Ceji/Joustra produced as part of their deal with Hasbro Bradley to supplement the mainland European stock of Transformers in 1985/1986. A transitional package, if you like.

If nothing else, I get to call it a "Joustra Transformers Starscream". Joustra Transformers has a great ring to it. Not to be confused with the Ceji Joustra Diaclone F15 pre-Starscream. Obviously.

Well, now that's done, I can use the opportunity to showcase some better photos of the standout features. The black plastic wheels remain a fascinating cost-saving feature employed by JOUSTRA, when manufacturing Starscream. You can also see the copyright block over "Japan", as France was the country of manufacture.

I have always wanted the opportunity to photograph a Ceji Joustra Starscream (yep, eat it) next to a Plasticos IGA Starscream from Mexico, as for the longest time I believed there was a connection there. Both companies had a licence to produce the toy, both companies opted for hard plastic nosecones and black plastic wheels. 

The copyrights read similarly, but as you can see, the block is not the same length. The black port for connecting the wing is also not the same shape, so there are differences that do challenge my old perception that Ceji got the moulds for their jets from IGA, despite the common features. Even the black plastic landing gears are not the same mould:

It is nice to be able to show just how much darker the grey is on the Mexican Starscream, finally. There are differences in stickers, plastic shades etc throughout, but I've covered those differences elsewhere over the years.

Overall, the key discovery here was a company name on the back of a box. The toy is still the same, and I do wonder if the rest of the fandom will ever decide to stop calling it a "Ceji Starscream" when it basically still is one. It's not going to set the Transformers collecting world on fire, but it raised some interesting questions for me. It allowed me to scrutinise Starscream's package to the point where I spotted the language disparity, which could possibly be the key to placing its release chronology within the Milton Bradley - Ceji - Hasbro Europe time frame. It also took my very first childhood Transformer (Starscream) and my deepest adult collecting passion (Joustra Diaclone), merging them into a - possibly - unique release variant that acts as a final nexus point for all of the European early G1 Transformers scene and its elements.

Joustra on a Transformers box. You're damn right that means the world to me.

Related reading:

All the best


  1. Another fascinating article. ��

    1. Cheers Nic, really appreciate it!

      All the best

  2. I'm new here and love the knowledge you have in G1 and your articles.
    This learned me that the Starscream I have is the IGA from Mexico. I found that strange because I got it as a kid in the 80s in Sweden.
    How Mexican variants found its way to Sweden I don't know =D

    1. Hi Stefan, that's awesome! IGA stuff was imported to bolster stock all across Europe, including Scandinavian countries.

      Thanks for the kind words :)

      All the best

  3. That's really cool! I collect Soundwave variants and have both the CEJI and IGA boxed. What do you think the odds are of a Joustra manufactured Soundwave? Thanks Maz!

    1. I think if the Soundwave box has "manufactured by Ceji" on it, then there won't be a Joustra version. It could be Starscream is a one-off!

      All the best