Saturday, 31 January 2015

Milton Bradley Ceji Optimus Prime

History refresher (credit tfwiki) on the connection of Milton Bradley (MB), Hasbro and Ceji :

Milton Bradley

Milton Bradley is an American toy and game company. In 1984, Hasbro merged with Milton Bradley, temporarily renaming itself "Hasbro Bradley", and used MB's existing European distribution network to introduce the Transformers toyline to Europe; as a result, many of the earliest Transformers to be made available in Europe featured MB rather than Hasbro logos on their packaging. The MB Transformers came in two waves in 1985, the second of which seemed more like an afterthought despite containing some of the more well-known characters of the line.
In some countries (such as Germany), the local MB branches kept distributing Transformers toys (despite the packaging now sporting "Hasbro" logos) under supervision from Hasbro UK until Hasbro consolidated its international markets in 1991 in an attempt to establish the parent company as a worldwide household name, thus renaming all the various international subsidiaries into "Hasbro". From that point on, "Milton Bradley" continued merely as a Hasbro sub-brand with a focus on strategy games.

Connection between Milton Bradley and Joustra
A theory (based on hard evidence) suggests that most, if not all of the second wave of the MB-branded Transformers toys were originally intended for a competitor, French company Joustra, which released their own Diaclone toys under license from Takara at that time.
Because Joustra's parent company, Ceji, was in financial trouble in 1985, Hasbro/MB acquired Joustra's existing Diaclone stock and had Joustra put the toys into newly created Transformers packaging, which would then be distributed by MB. This would explain why the second wave of Joustra Diaclone toys (which became wave 2 of the MB-branded Transformers toys) is so rare compared to the first one. It also explains why Optimus Prime was originally absent from the MB line-up, as any toy released by Joustra was off-limits for MB due to Joustra's exclusive contract with Takara until the Joustra/MB deal allowed for those toys to be released as Transformers as well. 
The same theory also suggests that several MB toys (in particular, Optimus Prime and Megatron) were explicitly manufactured by another Ceji subsidiary, Revell, as part of the same deal.

In summary, this Optimus Prime was manufactured by Ceji Revell, introduced across Europe via MB's distribution network, hence MB's logo on the packaging, under license from Hasbro.

Again, the box looks rather similar with all previous G1 Optimus Prime releases except...

1. MB logo on the bottom left hand corner of the box instead of the standard Hasbro logo

2. the text "Transforms from tractor trailer to robot with headquarters and back!" on the top left hand corner of box is removed

3. tech specs area is enlarged to accommodate 4 languages - German, French, Dutch and Spanish

4. brief mention of Prime's function as "Commander", his infamous quote "Freedom is the right of all sentient beings" but no detailed description of the character

For comparison sake with a similar Ceji-manufactured box...

French "Red Feet" Optimus Prime box

5. box copyright is on the bottom of the box instead of under the tech specs

1985 Milton Bradley

Made in Strasbourg, France

Interesting to note the box variations as well...standard US Hasbro vs Mexican IGA vs Milton Bradley and all these variations setting them apart from one another.

Front of box (from top : Mexican IGA box, Hasbro box, MB box)

Back of box - only artwork is similar

top of box - step by step transformation instructions

(from top : text in English, in Spanish, in 4 languages)

Now for the routine part ie. the toy itself...but I believe I've done enough reviews prior to this. So, we shall skip this, for once.

Takara versions aside, this box is definitely a better conditioned piece in my collection. Barring a slight tear near the MB logo on the box front, the box looks relatively new as compared to the others, perceived to be well taken care of by the previous owner. Good job, mate!

While my quest for the holy grail remains unfulfilled, overall, I'm still glad to be (and own) a part of the Transformers 30-years history.