Canadian G1 Transformers should be known for more than just the ‘Red Slag’. OK, we all love a colour variation of obtainable rarity and significance, and as far as representatives go, it’s a good one but there is much more there to intrigue us about Canadian G1 Transformers. This week we’ll take a look at some amusing errors, fascinating extras and hopefully a few surprises too that will raise awareness and appreciation for this terribly underrated area of G1 collecting.
On the whole, despite my personal enthusiasm and interest, I’m surprised that it usually takes a lot more to convince the community that packaging variants warrant much attention when it comes to G1 Transformers. These are usually the domain of nostalgic collectors who are native to the country of origin, character variant specialists or those who like to research differences in region and historic connections between certain releases. While on the surface it appears that Canadian G1 is just a bilingual mirror image of US G1 with a fancy exclusive dinosaur, a number of quirky errors and variants demonstrate that there may be more to the story than that. Let’s start gently with some packaging differences…
The most basic difference between Canadian and US G1 is the addition of French text alongside the English on all sections of the packaging and paperwork. You can see from the first picture above that the yellow and black name/function bar has a second row where often the character has a different French name and accurately translated function. “Optimus Primo” actually has one of the least-altered names of the lot, my personal favourites being “Solo” for Sunstreaker, “Invento” for Wheeljack and “Ego” for Starscream.
The second picture shows that even the text relating to the toy’s transforming abilities has been translated and included, taking up a little more space than usual. This can easily be used to explain why European quad-lingual packaging has no text there at all, can you imagine how crowded the box front would appear? Those of you who remember our article on Early US G1 will have spotted the lack of white borders on this particular Canadian Optimus Prime’s stock photography. This is in fact a metal-plated Canadian G1 Prime with grey Roller and bloated parts, which tells us that Canada was receiving G1 in the earlier pre-rub era of 1984 just like the US.
Looking a bit further than the box front, this Canadian G1 Mirage box really presses home the extent of the bilingual nature of these boxes, so much so that the bilingual techspec on the box back is so big, the Robot Points and copyright text have had to be shifted onto the bottom of the box at the expense of the stock photography! Mirage is one of the few whose US G1 name has been retained and not altered, as a result it’s not entirely clear that the left side of Canadian G1 boxes are printed solely in French and the right flap in English.
Right, enough of the obvious, now onto the erroneous.
The Canadian G1 Megatron, “Chef Des Decepticons”, is mistakenly labelled as “Autobot” on his techspec! This glorious gem of an obscurity automatically makes this Megatron packaging variant hard to forget and affords it a little more charm. You can see that everywhere else on his packaging and paperwork he is referred to as a Decepticon. As far as printing errors go, this one is reasonably easy to overlook, but in the case of poor Swoop they didn’t even get his name right…
The Canadian “Assaillo” Swoop somehow ended up being called “Tracks” on his techspec, and it was the first of the techspec blunders I became aware of in this sub-category. Of course, US G1 had its own fair share of issues with tech specs, notably Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, but that mix-up was understandable. Labelling Swoop as Tracks is just downright hilarious, but no doubt a function of the printing template not being changed. Oddly, this error makes me want this version of Swoop over any other G1 release of the winged dino.
As far as errors and misprints go, the point of interest on the Canadian Shockwave may well strike you as pedestrian, but I love these little trivial errors that would make excellent quiz questions like “Which North American G1 box is missing the yellow and black name/function bar?”. This particularly rare and obscure “Onde De Choc” has its name and function printed directly onto the purple grid pattern of the box instead of within the normal yellow and black text boxes synonymous with G1 Transformers packaging. Once more, if I was going to buy a boxed G1 Shockwave, this release would be top of my list.
It wasn’t just single-packed Transformers that were released in Canada, they got giftsets too:
Apart from looking immaculate, the interesting thing here is that Slingshot’s US name is spelled “Slingslot”, in keeping with Megatron and Swoop whose box errors also exist on the American section of the printing. Also worthy of note, the American names for the Aerialbots are printed in yellow on black which is not a combination used on US packaging normally. The US Superion would just have had the name of the Aerialbot printed in black on yellow. At the bottom of the box front you can see they have had to add a completely separate French name/function bar for the combined robot.
Canada got minibots too.
More differences abound here! The Canadian Gears shows the process of transformation twice side-by-side in each language, this time the battle scene artwork from the back of the Transformers packaging has been sacrificed to accomodate the two sets of images. You can see just how much space is at a premium. And just to prove that, earlier pre-rub Canadian minibots which were packaged in vehicle mode (like the US) such as the “Bruto” Brawn, didn’t even have enough space on the back for the Robot Points at all, they were actually on the card front!
Speaking of minibots, not to be outdone by their neighbours south of the border, Hasbro in Canada offered mailaway promotions just like in the US, but with a very cool twist:
These fantastic mailaway Canadian minibots came with something quite beautifully unique; G1 1985-style instruction booklets! For minibots! Here we see yellow Cliffjumper, Cosmos and Warpath. So if you ever happen across a bilingual G1 instruction booklet for a minibot, you now know it’s a Canadian mailaway and you know it’s rare!
Now we’re really getting into the special stuff, so let’s take a look at a certain famous US G1 prize Transformer that got the Canadian treatment too…
For me this is the cream of the crop, the Canadian Pepsi Prime. Instead of a pack of small Pepsi stickers that could be placed in the middle of Optimus Prime’s trailer stripes, the Canadian version has a full-length trailer sticker and even one for the trailer door. This simply gorgeous variation on an already popular promotional toy is not only massively difficult to find, it’s also truly classy and something I’d love to have on display one day in my own collection. That’s saying something as I no longer collect G1 Transformers! The specimen above, nearly 10 years on, is still the finest example of this toy I have ever seen.
Yet another example of a promotion that made it north of the border is the glow-in-the-dark poster that came with Movie-era G1 Transformers.
The layout of the promotion on the outer packaging mimicked the US G1 style, but with added bilingual glory. These toys are by no means everyday items, the Canadian Springer was called “Ricochet” an eternity before thoughts of a Hasbro reissue Stepper with the same name ever surfaced, and was one of the first boxed G1 toys I bought off the Internet over a decade ago. The Trypticon above is interesting in that it only shows a US name/function bar, there is no French counterpart.
No piece on Canadian G1 Transformers would be complete without a few words on its most infamous, treasured and well-known export, the red-faced Dinobot Slag.
This figure is what put Canadian TFs on the map, and quite rightly so. I may have made every effort to bring the other Canadian oddities to the fore, but this red-faced, white-legged Dinobot “Scories” Slag is not only the most visually pleasing of all the toys derived from the Diaclone Triceratops Dinosaur Robo, it’s also a G1 show-accurate version of the Slag character which makes it hugely sought-after and usually expensive. That’s not to say it’s a very rare toy, but it’s a hyped and well-documented variant that can be hard to secure.
The combination of the red robot head, red tell-tale tab on the dino’s back, white legs and red missile launcher provide a stark contrast to the US G1 Slag which has prominent black plastic sections. There are also transitional versions of the ‘Red Slag’ with black legs and normal coloured launcher, plus other slightly different combinations. There is almost certainly a connection between this Canadian show-accurate Slag and the Italian GiG pre-Transformers red/white Triceratops variants that were being manufactured by Takara at roughly the same time (see here), although the latter can be found with Diaclone-style chrome horns too.
Certainly, for those of you who knew about the ‘Red Slag’ and were keen to see what else Canada had to offer in terms of wild variants, I would understand a degree of disappointment at seeing tech spec errors, some printing differences and a few wacky names instead of a blue Sunstreaker or an orange Soundwave. Also, there is no reason why Transformers in Canada should be any harder to find than in the US as they were popular and well distributed as commented on by Tusko:
“I don’t recall many Pre-G1 or first series Transformers. For example Optimus Prime or Starscream were rare to me. However after the comic and cartoon’s release the later figures were very well distributed. I recall department stores like Towers had some Takara Diaclone figues in 1982-3 (ish) but we’re really pushing the limits of my memory. In a broader sense of distribution I’ve seen almost every G1 toy on the retail shelf except for Fort Max and the later toys at the end of the line. So I assume toy distribution was pretty good in the central part of Ontario for retailers like Towers, Sears and Eaton’s.”
However it is worth noting that Canadian boxed G1 has yet to be counterfeited, so if I was looking for a pristine example of any G1 figure, I’d be much more confident in the purchase of a MIB Canadian item than US. I would stop just short of saying that collecting Canadian G1 is for the hardcore Transformers variant collector and fervently disagree with it being only for those who are bored of everything else, but certainly they will appeal more to those who have an eye for obscure differences and interesting detail such as an Autobot Megatron or a unique Shockwave package. However, when it comes to the rarity of some of the figures, the respect they deserve is every bit as real as for Japanese or European G1, especially Movie and post-Movie era toys like Fortress Maximus. After all, when was the last time you saw one of these?
Immense thanks to Sixliner, Chuck Liu Photography, Colin Pringle, ThemDukeBoys, Paul Vromen, Zirkej and TFW members Alldarker, Whoamidri and Tusko for their oustanding and invaluable contributions to this article. Canadian TF pictures are hard to find!
All the best