Micronauts

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This article is about the Micronauts toy line. For other uses, see Micronauts (disambiguation).
Micronauts
Micronauts Catalog 1977 Cover.jpg
A scan of the 1977 cover of an official Mego Micronauts catalog.
Type Action figures
Inventor Takara/Mego
Company Mego
Country  United States
Availability 1976–1980
Materials Plastic/Die-cast
Slogan “The Interchangeable World of the Micronauts”

Micronauts was a North American science fiction toy line manufactured and marketed by Mego from 1976 to 1980. The core of the Micronaut toy line—designs, articulation and modeling—was based on and licensed from the Microman toy line created by Japanese-based toy company Takara in 1974.[1][2]

Mego officially discontinued the Micronauts line in 1980 prior to the company’s bankruptcy and dissolution in 1982. But years after Mego’s demise other toy companies—such as Palisades Toys and SOTA (State of the Art) Toys—have attempted to revive the toy line over the years.[3][4]

Description[edit]

The core of the Micronaut line consisted of 3.75-inch-tall (9.5 cm) action figures (such as Time Traveller) which were known for their high number of articulation points relative to other toys of similar size/scale in the 1970s. The toy line also included vehicles, robots, playsets and accessories. Many of the Micronauts toys used interchangeable 5-millimetre (0.20 in) connectors and ports that allowed parts to be transferred and connected between different toys.[5][6][7]

History[edit]

Takara[edit]

Further information: Microman
A photo of a Mego (U.S.) Acroyear (Red) action figure which was based on the Takara (Japan) Acroyear 2 (A311 Mad Pink).
A photo of a Mego (U.S.) Acroyear (Red) action figure which was based on the Takara (Japan) Acroyear 2 (A311 Mad Pink).

Takara first released Microman toys in Japan in 1974 as a smaller version their popular 8-inch-tall (20 cm) & 12-inch-tall (30 cm) 1972 Henshin Cyborg (Transforming Cyborg) line. Henshin Cyborg figures were based on 8-inch-tall (20 cm) & 12-inch-tall (30 cm) Combat Joe figures—which themselves were based on Hasbro’s G.I. Joe figures—with their bodies molded in clear plastic, exposing their inner workings and supposed cybernetic parts.[1][2]

By downscaling their size, Takara sought to create the Microman line to offset the sheer cost of producing a full line of plastic-based 8-inch-tall (20 cm) & 12-inch-tall (30 cm) figures and related playsets as well as acknowledging that basic living space is limited—and considered a premium—to most Japanese households. Smaller Microman figures would not only cost less to produce during the energy crisis of the 1970s, the line’s smaller scale would also take up less physical space in a household and thus be more attractive to space conscious consumers in the Japanese market.[8][9]

In Japan, the Microman figures themselves were marketed as actually being 3.75-inch-tall (9.5 cm) cyborg entities that hailed from the fictional planet known as "Micro Earth" and who disguised themselves as toys in their exile on our Earth.[10][11]

Mego[edit]

Further information: Mego Corporation
A photo of a Micronauts Biotron toy.
A photo of a Micronauts Biotron toy.

In 1976, Mego licensed Microman action figures—and other similar toys—from Takara and marketed the toy line in North America and other countries as Micronauts. During their initial series 1 and series 2 release, Takara produced small quantities of products in Japan before production was officially moved to Mego’s facilities in Hong Kong.[1][12][13][14]

While much of the initial Micronaut toy line offerings were simply repackaged versions of Takara Microman equivalents, some items in the Micronaut toy line were original Mego creations that used, modified and reconfigured parts from existing Takara toys—not just Microman items—in creative new ways. For example, the larger, 6.5-inch (17 cm) magnetic action figures—and companion horses—named Baron Karza and Force Commander were simply re-colorings of the magnemo Kotetsu Jeeg action figures with newly designed heads. In addition, as the Micronaut line grew in popularity, by 1980 Mego expanded their R&D role by creating whole new figures from scratch such as the “Aliens” line which included Antron, Repto, Membros, Lobros, Kronos and Centaurus.[15][16][17][18]

The Micronaut toy line sold extremely well for Mego, which one point—according to Mego’s Executive VP of Marketing/Vice President of Mego Research & Development (1972-1980), Neal Kublan—generated more than $32 million in sales for the $110 million company during one period.[4][19] After Mego’s 1982 bankruptcy and dissolution, the original molds for many of the toys were sold to Hourtoys/M&D Toys for their Interchangables discount toy line, other original molds were sold to PAC Toys for use in their Lords of Light toy line and even Takara produced several series 5 toys for Italian licensee/distributor Gig’s i Micronauti line.[1][3][4] Additionally, leftover Micronaut toy line stock from Mego’s production run was eventually sold for sale/clearance in North America by Lion Rock Limited under the Micronauts name.[1]

Mego Micronaut Releases[edit]

Below is a basic overview list of Mego Micronaut toys with size/scale, release dates and Mego series numbers as well as cross-referenced information connected to the Takara equivalent toys they were based on; Microman and otherwise. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all Mego releases/variants but rather a high-level overview of their Micronaut line offerings.

Mego Micronaut Releases
Micronauts (Mego) Microman & Equivalent Toys (Takara)
Name Type Size/Scale Release Date Series Name Release Date
Acroyear Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Acroyear 2 (A31X) 1975
Astro Station Ship 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Microman Connig Station Base 1975
Biotron Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Robotman 1975
Crater Cruncher Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Machine Car #3: Bull Crane 1975
Galactic Cruiser Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 MIC-01: Space Buggy 1974
Galactic Warrior Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Super Steel Microman (M22X) 1975
Hydra Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 MIC-02: Bulk Lifter 1974
Hydro Copter Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Mecha-Cosmo: Marine Copter 1975
Microtron Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Micro Robot-1 1976
Mobile Exploration Lab (M.E.L.) Ship 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 M115 Conning Tower Base 1974
Photon Sled Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Machine Car #4: Super Jet 1975
Space Glider Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Super Steel Microman (M21X) 1975
Stratastation Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Road Station Base 1975
Time Traveler Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Microman (M10X) 1975
Ultronic Scooter Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Machine Car #2: Auto Buggy 1975
Warp Racer Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1976 1 Machine Car #1: Formula Z 1975
Acroyear II Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Acroyear (A30X) 1975
Andromeda Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1977 2 Magnemo: Panzeroid 1975
Baron Karza Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1977 2 Magnemo: Kotetsu Jeeg 1975
Battle Cruiser Ship 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Micro Base: Transfer Fortress 1976
Force Commander Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1977 2 Magnemo: Kotetsu Jeeg 1975
Giant Acroyear Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Giant Acroyear 1977
Neon Orbiter Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Spy Car #4: Drag Tiger 1976
Oberon Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1977 2 Magnemo: Panzeroid 1975
Pharoid Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Microman Command 2 (M16X) 1977
Rhodium Orbiter Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Gōdam 5: Geso Machine 1976
Thorium Orbiter Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1977 2 Spy Car #6: Jet Mirror 1976
Alphatron Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3
Aquatron Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Spy Car #1: Marine Condor 1976
Betatron Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3
Galactic Defender Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Microman Command 3 (M17X) 1977
Gamatron Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3
Micropolis: Galactic Command Center Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Play Build Series: Build Base 1978
Micropolis: Interplanetary Headquarters Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Play Build Series: Build Base 1978
Micropolis: Microrail City Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Play Build Series: Build Base 1978
Micropolis: Satellite Survey Station Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Play Build Series: Build Base 1978
Nemesis Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Micro Robot-1 1976
Phobos Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Robotman 1975
Star Searcher Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1978 3 Surveyor-1 1977
Antron Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Deluxe Rocket Tubes Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Hornetroid Ship 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Karrio Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Membros Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Repto Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Rocket Tubes Deluxe Set 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Solarion Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Star Defender Ship 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4 Surveyor-3 1977
Taurion Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Terraphant Ship 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1979 4
Ampzilla Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5
Blizzard Tron 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5 Blizzard 1980
Centaurus Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5
Emperor Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Magnemo: Kotetsu Jeeg 1975
Green Baron Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Magnemo: Kotetsu Jeeg 1975
Hyperion Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5 Timanic NicMachine 2 1978
King Atlas Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Magnemo: Kotetsu Jeeg 1975
Kronos Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5
Lantaurion Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Magnemo: Panzeroid 1975
Lobros Action Figure 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5
Lobstros Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5
Megas Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Magnemo: Panzeroid 1975
Pegasus Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Magnemo: Panzeroid 1975
Red Falcon Action Figure 6.5-inch (17 cm) 1980 5 Death Cross 1975
Sharkos Vehicle 3.75-inch (9.5 cm) 1980 5

Palisades Toys[edit]

In 2002 Palisades Toys acquired the rights to manufacture a new line of Micronauts toys from Abrams Gentile Entertainment, LLC; the company which was formed in the aftermath of Mego’s collapse to retain and manage Mego’s licensing contracts, rights and deals. This licensing agreement was done by Palisades under the assumption that the original manufacturing tooling and molds from the 1970s Mego toy line were still available. When Palisades discovered the manufacturing tooling and molds were not available—presumably lost or destroyed over the years—it turned to the Micronaut/Microman collector’s community to donate vintage toys so Palisades could create new molds to replicate the figures. Most of the Palisades reissues were Mego Micronaut figures based on Takara designs, but several original alien designs from the original Mego toy line—such as Repto, Membros and Centaurus—were included the line as well.[20][21]

Sadly, when initial manufacturing of the Palisades figures was completed—and the new, retro line shipped to consumers and stores—many figures were found to have defective or broken parts caused by questionable manufacturing practices followed by the first Chinese factory. And if that weren’t bad enough, many consumers who returned defective merchandise were often, inadvertently given defective replacements by Palisades who had still not grasped the full depth of the quality control issues at the first factory.[22]

Facing these issues, Palisades tried to salvage its reputation by developing series 2 figures—as well as special line of series 1.5 figures—utilizing other, more reputable factories in China, but they ending up losing more money than expected dealing with this unexpected turn of events. As a result, retailers were wary of carrying the new Micronauts toy line, which resulted in the abrupt cancellation of a third series which was in already in development. The whole series of events was Palisades’ largest financial loss to date, and contributed to the company’s bankruptcy in 2006.[22]

Palisades Toys Micronaut Releases[edit]

Below is a basic overview list of Palisades Toys Micronaut toys with size/scale, release dates. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of all Palisades Toys releases/variants but rather a high-level overview of their Micronaut line offerings.

Palisades Toys Micronaut Releases
Name Type Size/Scale Release date Series
Acroyear Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2002 1
Baron Karza & Andromeda Action Figure 6 1/2 (6.5) inch 2002 1
Membros Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2002 1
Force Commander & Oberon Action Figure 6 1/2 (6.5) inch 2002 1
Time Traveler Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2002 1
Space Glider Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2002 1
Battle Acroyear Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 1.5
Radioactive Membros Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 1.5
Space Commander Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 1.5
Time Traveler Medic Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 1.5
Centaurus Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 2
Emperor & Megas Action Figure 6 1/2 (6.5) inch 2003 2
Galactic Defender Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 2
Pharoid Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 2
Red Falcon Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 2
Repto Action Figure 3 3/4 (3.75) inch 2003 2

SOTA Toys[edit]

Further information: SOTA (State of the Art) Toys

In January 2005, SOTA (State of the Art) Toys unveiled plans for a collector’s toy line called “Micronauts: Evolution” which would be a redesign of the Micronauts figures presented in a slightly larger 6-inch (15 cm) size. Concept art was released and prototypes displayed at the 2005 Toy Fair, with a projected release of late 2005. They appeared at the 2006 San Diego Comic Con.[23]

The initial series was planned to include 6-inch (15 cm) renditions of Lobros, Baron Karza, and Space Glider.[24][25] Plans changed to an online-only box set of all three characters, available on SOTA’s website as smaller figures.[26]

In September 2006 SOTA president Jerry Macaluso said “the retail environment for collectibles is in the gutter right now,” and many stores wishing to order the “Micronauts: Evolution” line were going bankrupt. He noted that the Palisades-line “disaster…had a huge negative effect,” with retailers rejecting SOTA’s upcoming series. Macaluso hoped to release the line in 2007—before SOTA’s license expired—and considered funding it himself but the line was never produced.[27]

Proposed SOTA Micronaut Releases[edit]

Below is a basic overview list of proposed SOTA Micronauts releases. Since no products were actually produced this is simply a high-level overview of their proposed Micronaut line offerings.

Proposed SOTA Micronauts Releases
Name Type Figure Size/Scale Release date Series
Baron Karza Action Figure 6 inch 2005 1
Lobros Action Figure 6 inch 2005 1
Space Glider Action Figure 6 inch 2005 1

In other media[edit]

Comic books[edit]

Main article: Micronauts (comics)

Several comic book series based on the Micronaut toy line have been published by Marvel Comics (from 1979–1986),[28] Image Comics (2002–2003)[29] as well as Devil’s Due Publishing (2004).[30]

Film[edit]

During a November 2009 “Investor Day” event held today at Hasbro’s headquarters in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Rhode Island, the Hasbro’s VP of Global Designs, Brian Chapman, announced the company’s re-introduction of the Micronaut toy line and hinted that director J.J. AbramsBad Robot Productions was in negotiations to produce a film based on the Micronauts property.[31][32]

In a March 2013 IGN interview, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick said they were working on a screenplay and the film was on Paramount's list of possible productions. Wernick was quoted as saying, “We've written a couple of drafts of Micronauts and it's in the Paramount system now. We developed it with Bad Robot, and it’s probably not what you might imagine a Micronauts movie to be. It departs from the comic wildly, so if you hope it's loyal to the comic you’ll be disappointed in that particular sense. However, it's very, very different and very, very cool.”[33]

In popular culture[edit]

A screenshot of a spaceship in Time Bandits (background) that was based on the Mobile Exploration Lab (M.E.L.).
A screenshot of a spaceship in Time Bandits (background) that was based on the Mobile Exploration Lab (M.E.L.).
  • In Terry Gilliam's 1981 film Time Bandits, parts of the Mobile Exploration Lab (M.E.L.) ship can be seen in the protagonist's bedroom and large scale recreations of Mobile Exploration Lab vehicles can be seen during the film’s final, climactic battle.[34][35]
  • The opening track of British electronica band Autechre’s 1998 album LP5 is a track called “Acroyear2” which is named after the Micronauts 1977 action figure Acroyear II.[37]
A screenshot of a scene from The Robot Fixer segment of Robot Stories showing Microman/Micronauts toys in the background.
A screenshot of a scene from The Robot Fixer segment of Robot Stories showing Microman/Micronauts toys in the background.
  • The Robot Fixer—one of four short films comprising the 2003 film Robot Stories—focuses on a woman completing her comatose son’s collection of Microman/Micronauts toys. Although Micronauts and Microman toys are used in the film, they are referred to as “Microbots” and given fictitious names; the Lady Command (18X) figure is called “Angel Command.”[38][39]
  • The Adult Swim series Robot Chicken’s 36th episode (the 16th episode of the 2nd season) contained an animated short entitled “Micronaut Mountain Climbing” (aka: “Noble Micronauts”) which featured stop motion animation of Micronaut action figures climbing a set of mountains which turn out to be female breasts.[40]
  • British television and radio personality Jonathan Ross is a notable Micronaut/Microman collector who is quoted as saying, “Most awesome toys ever were Micromen. Became Micronauts in US and Il Micronauti in Italy.”[41][42]

References[edit]

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  5. ^ "VINTAGE VIEW: Micronauts Time Traveler (1976)". That Figures. 17 February 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  6. ^ Clements, Zane (2 July 2013). "Skooldays: Retro - Micronauts". Skooldays. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
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  11. ^ Tetsuya (4 June 2015). "Micro Earth Story". Alpha H7 Laboratory. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
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  15. ^ Larsen, Erik (1 December 2006). "Micronaut Aliens". Micro Outpost. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  16. ^ "VINTAGE VIEW: Micronauts Baron Karza and Andromeda". That Figures. 21 February 2011. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  17. ^ Brisko, Tim; Alt, Matt; Duban, Robert (July 7, 2005). Super #1 Robot: Japanese Robot Toys, 1972-1982. Chronicle Books. p. 26. ISBN 978-0811846073. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  18. ^ Pringle, Ron (6 June 2015). "Timanic NicMachine 2". Micropola. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  19. ^ Miller, Ray (4 June 2015). "Mego Micronauts". MEGO CENTRAL. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  20. ^ Gobinathan, M (3 June 2009). "Fanmode interview: Bryan Wilkinson (part 3)". Fanmode. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  21. ^ "Micronauts - Palisades (2002-2003)". The Action Figure Archive. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  22. ^ a b Gobinathan, M (11 June 2009). "Fanmode interview: Bryan Wilkinson (part 4)". Fanmode. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  23. ^ Waugh, Dave (2006-08-06). "San Diego Comic Con 2006". Inner Space Online. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  24. ^ Jeff, Saylor (2005-02-18). "News". Figures.com. Archived from the original on 2012-03-01. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  25. ^ "Micronauts - SOTA (State Of The Art) Toys (2005)". The Action Figure Archive. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  26. ^ Waugh, Dave (2006). "Jerry Mac interview '06 (pt.1)". Inner Space Online. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  27. ^ Waugh, Dave (2006). "Jerry Mac interview '06 (pt.2)". Inner Space Online. Retrieved 2013-09-26. 
  28. ^ 'Micronauts (1979-1984) at the Grand Comics Database
  29. ^ 'Micronauts (2002-2003) at the Grand Comics Database
  30. ^ 'Micronauts: Karza 2003 at the Grand Comics Database
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  32. ^ Cochran, Jay (5 November 2009). "Hasbro Brings Micronauts Back". Toy News International. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  33. ^ Marshall, Rick (27 March 2013). "'G.I. Joe: Retaliation' Writers Offer Updates on 'Cowboy Ninja Viking,' 'Micronauts' and 'Epsilon' (Exclusive)". Movies.com. Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  34. ^ Marshall, Rick (8 November 2013). "Time Bandits (1981)". Totally Awesome Movies of the 80s. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  35. ^ Marshall, Rick (4 June 2015). "Time Bandits (1981) - Trivia". IMDB (Internet Movie Database). Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  36. ^ Stokes, Mike (1995). MK3 Official Kollector’s Book - EGM Masters Series - Volume 2. Warner Publishing Company. 
  37. ^ Autechre (13 July 1998). Autechre - LP5 (1998) (CD, Album). 
  38. ^ Greg Pak (Director) (20 January 2003). Robot Stories (2003) (Movie). 
  39. ^ Hammerhead (15 September 2011). "The Chewer 2000’s Arthouse Canon". CHUD.com. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  40. ^ "Robot Chicken - Noble Micronauts (Video)". Adult Swim. 5 June 2015. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  41. ^ Harmon, Koji (2 August 2009). "SDCC Highlights: Friends". Cometdebris. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 
  42. ^ Ross, Jonathan (2 August 2009). "Most awesome toys ever were Micromen.". Twitter. Retrieved 5 June 2015. 

External links[edit]