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

Monday 27 August 2018

Hasbro Canada G1 Pre-rub Bumblebee

In 1984, The Transformers graced the world. Well, some countries in the world. The United States, United Kingdom and Canada are probably the three best known territories that received Transformers toys in the first year of their manufacture. Hasbro Canada had an appreciable pre-rubsign range of Autobots and Decepticons in 1984, including the very earliest 'pre-rub' minibots packaged in vehicle mode on their card backs. Canadian G1 figures had bilingual packaging, English and French, including a French name for the character. In Bumblebee's case, his French name was "Bourdon", and quite apart from being the same as a Hasbro US pre-rub Bumblebee, the packaging featured something extremely unique.

Generally speaking, Canadian G1 packaging differed from Hasbro US/UK packaging in more ways than just an additional language where there was text; the Tech Spec had to accommodate the whole bio in French on the other side of the graph, and for the minibots, the instructions had 2 sets of transformation sequence images, leaving no room for the back-of-packaging 1984 battle scene artwork.

The close-ups of the Canadian card back for Bumblebee throw up a few interesting points. The first thing I noticed was that in the English bio, the sentence "He can go underwater..." doesn't start with a capital letter like the Hasbro US one correctly does. Mistakes occur, of course, but Hasbro Canada is known for errors such as this and calling Swoop "Tracks", labelling Soundwave and Megatron as "Autobot" on their Tech Specs etc. As with most US and UK-based collectors who grew up with single-language English Hasbro Transformers packaging, the smaller text used on Hasbro Canada packaging to accommodate two languages has always made this territory's packaging fascinating to me.

But, with the 1984 pre-rub series 1 minibots, one thing absolutely stands out above every other packaging oddity mentioned above.

The Robot Points are on the FRONT of the card! I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw this for the first time years ago. I've seen Canadian pre-rub Gears, Cliffjumper, Brawn, Windcharger and Bumblebee all rocking this look, so I assume Huffer will be the same. Only Canadian G1 minibot and cassette packaging has the Robot Points on the front in this fashion, nothing else, let alone Hasbro US. Here's a side-by-side with a regular Hasbro US pre-rub G1 Bumblebee:

Plain as day, cannot be unseen. I absolutely love it and have wanted a representative Hasbro Canada pre-rub minibot card back ever since the first moment I laid eyes on the variant. You will notice that Hasbro Canada even had to remove the "Heroic Autobot" graphics that are normally attached to the Autobot symbol in the large Trans Formers logo at the top.

But why? Well, when you compare the rear of the card on the Hasbro Canada Bumblebee with a Hasbro US card, you'll see that the extended bilingual Tech Spec is not to blame, as the Hasbro US one is just printed larger but still takes up the whole length of the card back. The culprit is the set of mirrored instruction images, extending the set from 4 pictures to 8 pictures. The Trans Formers logo had to go, the back-of-box artwork had to go and the Robot Points had to escape to the card front in order to leave room for the bilingual Tech Spec description.

A real collector's item in the vintage G1 Transformers packaging world, to be sure. While we're here, though, let's have a look at pre-rub Bumblebee himself. I've always preferred the pre-rub variant because of the red sticker on his belly, compared to the rubsign. I felt the dash of red on his otherwise yellow chassis really worked well in making the toy pop on a shelf, and it's a bit more reminiscent of the cartoon representation. Ever since getting the Fun 4 All keychain Bumblebee and the Encore reissue, I've desperately wanted to add a pre-rub vintage Bee to my display. That lovely contrast of red and yellow is why I love the pre-rub yellow Cliffjumper so much, too. And why I lust after a mint vintage 'Bumblejumper'.

This toy was of course originally the Takara Micro Change Series MC-04 Car 03 Volkswagen. If you look at that toy below (the blue version in the first edition robot-mode packaging), you'll see a long bar sticker across his belly.

That's the Micro Change Series minibot factory sticker for the Volkswagen (and Porsche and Mazda) mould that you see on pre-rub G1 Bumblebee's card artwork (in addition to the Autobot symbol), and even on the stock instruction photos on the card back. I'm glad they decided to forego that sticker for the Transformers Bumblebee, it's just one more thing that would have been a git to find in mint condition in a crowded area on a small toy.

Getting a pre-rub Bumblebee with a well-positioned, undamaged Autobot sticker is a total pain in the ass, and it's getting harder as folks hoover this toy up in advance of the Bumblebee movie. Unlike the TFCollection, Encore and Walmart reissues, the vintage Bumblebee has the same masked face as the Micro Change Series Volkswagen, and in some cases the yellow paint even dips deep into the eyeband.

The first pre-rub Bumblebees shared the same copyright stamping as the Takara Micro Change Volkswagen, "TAKARA JAPAN" in a circle underneath the left foot. This copyright then changed to a 3-line Takara stamping that featured country of manufacture and dates, still in the pre-rub era of releases. The above picture shows both stamping variants for the pre-rub G1 Bumblebee.

Then, of course, rubsigns were introduced to Transformers to 'prove their authenticity' in very late 1984/early 1985. For these minibots with their limited surface area, that often meant replacing the factory red Autobot symbol with a rubsign. This really changes the overall colour balance of G1 Bumblebee in my opinion. You may also notice a slight change in yellow hue between the two pre-rub Bees above and the rubsign edition. Incidentally, the rubsign edition above is a 3-line Takara/dates stamped one; the Hasbro stamp not yet introduced, but there are variants with 5-line stampings. And then we have the Chinese 1990s issue Bumblebees with even less saturated yellow plastic colour and country of manufacture "Japan" blocked out etc etc BUT ANYWAY. This is why minibot variant collecting will drive anyone insane, bankrupt, or both.

He was also available in red. Pre-rubsign and rubsign. Also in Japan. And Mexico, but manufactured by Plasticos IGA. Also in Argentina by Antex, in Brazil by Estrela, in Peru by Lynsa and in Venezuela by Rubiplas. And more besides. Run. Save yourself.

All of that aside, I would love to one day own all of the Canadian pre-rub G1 minibots and their card backs, because I genuinely think having the Robot Points on the front of the packaging is such a wild departure from what we're used to with every other G1 Hasbro (or Takara) release, and will stand forever as quite a niche oddity, even within the Hasbro Canada range itself.

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All the best


  1. I'm always astounded by your knowledge and the detail you're able to give us. Fantastic read as usual thanks Maz

  2. Thats awesome! Yeah French on everything here in Canada, (even though in Quebec, English is basically never used lol)
    That's really cool though.
    I just got the 2018 'Bee & the stats are under the English in smaller font size than here;
    the TF logo on front has no French, but 'Converts from..." has French underneath. The rest of the front is English only...
    Whats funny is the back is like the '84 US version, with the 4 instructions, & no text with the instructions.

    1. I've been led to believe that the French translation of the new tech spec on the reissues contains grammatical errors and such, which is a shame. There was a ready made French translation on the vintage :-/

      All the best