A couple of weeks ago I scored a nice vintage 1986 G1 Jetfire inside European packaging from a seller in Belgium. I already have a Jetfire inside 1985 European packaging, but the difference between the two is the branding on the packaging. The 1985 Jetfire comes with an MB logo on the box and the 1986 Jetfire comes with a Hasbro logo. I understand that collecting packaging variations is not everyone’s cup of tea, but as someone who likes to collect vintage toys in their original packaging it makes total sense to me! :-) I mean, how can you resist a G1 Jetfire in his original packaging! Such an awesome toy and such impressive packaging.
Jetfire (Hasbro Europe) – 1986
In 1986 Hasbro decided it was time to introduce their own brand in continental Europe and Jetfire was re-released, but now with Hasbro branding and that’s the Jetfire pictured here. I haven’t made any detailed comparisons yet, but as far as I know both the 1985 and the 1986 Jetfire are the same toy made by Takatoku/Bandai.
Jetfire (Hasbro Europe) – 1986 – Hasbro logo
“Me Jetfire, Leader!”
In continental Europe Jetfire was originally released in 1985 inside MB branded packaging. This European Jetfire also had the oddity of being designated the leader of the Autobots, instead of Optimus Prime! There’s a long and interesting story behind that, which you can start reading here if you have the inclination and the time.
Jetfire vs Megatron (MB) – 1985
Long story short, when MB was preparing to release the Transformers in Europe in 1985, Takara had already given away the exclusive distribution rights to Optimus Prime (and several other Transformers) to a company called Ceji, which released them as Diaclones. So initially Optimus Prime was off limits to MB. Megatron was not part of this deal so we got Megatron as the leader of the Decepticons, but for the Autobots MB needed a new leader and Jetfire was chosen.
At some point later in 1985 MB and Hasbro managed to secure the rights to Optimus Prime after all and released him as the leader of the Autobots. The funny thing is that if we look at the back of this 1986 European Jetfire and check out the tech specs, we still see Jetfire listed as leader of the Autobots in Dutch!
Jetfire – “Leader of the Autobots”
My guess is that MB and Hasbro were too lazy to bother with updating the tech specs or that it was just an oversight. They only changed the MB logo on the front of the box to a Hasbro logo, updated the copyright notice and that was that. What does puzzle me to this day is that Jetfire is only listed as leader in the Dutch translation. The German, French and Spanish texts are all more or less a translation of his proper designation, that of “Air Guardian”. There is ample evidence that Jetfire was initially considered leader of the Autobots in those territories as well.
Although the branding has changed, the distribution of Transformers in most of continental Europe was still being handled by MB at this point. This is made evident by the product code that is printed on the lower right of the packaging. Jetfire has number 9114 98, which is exactly the same number that the 1985 MB version of Jetfire has. Makes sense of course, because although the branding on the packaging has changed, the distribution process remained the same.
Jetfire’s MB product code
Let’s explore the rest of the packaging for a moment. I have often praised the beautiful design of the original G1 Transformers packaging and Jetfire is truely one eye catching piece, not in the least because of its size! But size is not all that matters, I mean, just look at this awesome, awesome rendition of Jetfire.
Jetfire box art
One more close up of the awesome packaging design. Here’s a shot of Jetfire in alternate mode, both with and without the added armor, along with the signature European quad lingual texts.
Jetfire – packaging design
Although most Transformers originally came from Takara’s Diaclone and Microchange lines, several Transformers were sourced from rival Japanese companies. Jetfire was originally made by Takatoku Toys as a Macross toy (the VF-1 Valkyrie). Takatoku went bust at some point and Bandai apparently acquired the rights to Jetfire’s mold and licensed it to Hasbro for use in the Transformers line. We can also see a reference to Jetfire’s origins on his packaging, in the form of the name “Valkrie” which seems to be a misspelling of his original name.
Jetfire – “Valkrie” (sic)
Also, if we look closely at the packaging of Jetfire we can spot the logo of Tatsunoko, a Japanese animation studio on the front and the back of the box.
Tatsunoko logo – back of the box
Apparently at some point it was decided that a logo on the back of the box was not enough and a second logo was added to the front of the packaging as well. How do we know it has been added afterwards? Well, because it’s a sticker! Oh the joys of licensing, copyrights and lawyers. ;-)
Tatsunoko logo – front of the box
Because Jetfire was a competitor’s toy to Takara in Japan and because Hasbro and Takara had an agreement which would allow Takara to distribute the Transformers cartoon in Japan as well, Jetfire could not be used in the cartoon. Also, it might be that Tatsunoko owned the rights to animated model of Jetfire in Japan (just theorizing here). So instead, Hasbro introduced a character called Skyfire, which looks a little like Jetfire, but is really different.
Skyfire – Transformers cartoon (Sunbow/Marvel Prod.)
A shame really, because imagine how kick ass it would have been if Jetfire had actually featured in the Transformers cartoon?! Well, we need not wonder, because there is a relatively unknown portion of animated Jetfire available from the 1985 U.S. commercial! Here’s a screencap from that very commercial.
Animated Jetfire – (1985) U.S. Transformers commercial
As you can see, this is what Jetfire would have looked like if licensing issues hadn’t prevented him from appearing in the original G1 Sunbow cartoon! Although the toy itself has red eyes, you can see that the animators have given Jetfire cartoon accurate blue eyes! (In the cartoon Decepticons had red eyes and Autobots had blue eyes). This makes me wonder if there might exist a proper cartoon model for Jetfire, which was (sadly) never used. The U.S. Transformers commercials were created by advertising agency Griffin-Bacal, a company that had strong ties with Hasbro. Griffin-Bacal was also the owner of Sunbow Productions, the company that produced the Transformers and G.I. Joe cartoons for Hasbro, together with Marvel Productions. You can find the complete commercial of Jetfire on YouTube (just search for “transformers g1 jetfire commercial”).
And that’s Jetfire! An awesome looking toy with a very interesting and complex history. Here are some extra snapshots that I made of the packaging. Enjoy and hope to see you back soon!
Screen cap of Skyfire from the Transformers cartoon courtesy of Seibertron.com