To be fair, Nerf's impact on Transformers has been fairly light, like the touch of a foam ball or a dart. But Nerf itself has undergone a transformation over the years, beginning as a safe, soft, friendly indoor sports brand and ultimately becoming the name (A name which need not be capitalized, FYI, because it's not an acronym) associated with that classic childhood toy, the dart gun. And man, did they take that places. Complicated, sophisticated places. One of which inspired one of our favorite Megatron toys! Read on for more info.
What Were They Before Hasbro?
Much less gun-oriented, for one thing. But we'll get to that.
In 1968, inventor Reynold "Reyn" Guyer, creator of the boardgame Twister, had decided to go into toy development full-time. Eight months into his new design company's existence, while testing a caveman-themed game that didn't pan out, the team got into a throwing match using the lightweight foam "rocks" that were intended for the game. After having a good laugh and realizing that nobody on the team had incurred even a mild bruise from this all-out rock war, Guyer realized that this foam could be used to make balls that could be played with indoors with little fear of injury or breakage.
Parker Brothers bought the idea, and the Nerf Ball hit the market in 1969 - not quite what Guyer wanted, as he envisioned it as a component in larger playsets. Even so, it was a runaway hit. Parker purchased the rights to Nerf from Guyer's company in exchange for a promise that his team would be the ones to work on all foam toys. From there the line expanded to include various sport-themed sets revolving around Nerf balls, including the Nerf Football, which is still made today.
As we mentioned in our last installment, Kenner and Parker Brothers were both part of General Mills by the time Nerf hit the market. Kenner-Parker Toys spun off to become their own company in 1985, then were acquired by Tonka shortly thereafter. All of whom were then bought by Hasbro in 1991. Your G1 and GI Joe dollars at work!
What Toys Are They Known For?
Since the early `90s, more or less coinciding with the Hasbro merger, Nerf has been synonymous with toy guns that are safe for kids. (Of course, the company prefers they be called "blasters" for various reasons.) As the line has gone on, the blasters have become larger, more elaborate, and have more and more in common with actual firearms with features like extended magazines, ammo belts, tactical rails, red-dot sights, and more. Nerf dart guns are everywhere, and have gained a following among adults who've been known to apply aftermarket mods to increase their power and range.
Honestly? Not a lot, but a scattering of products not far removed from their main lines: a variety of blasters, and the occasional sword. That said, the Transformers toys they have made are sometimes pretty entertaining. Our favorite is the Optimus Prime Battle Rig Blaster seen above, where you jam your hand up Optimus' trailer to transform it into Optimus' hand holding a small Nerf gun.
But perhaps the most significant contribution that Nerf has made to Transformers is that their Maverick blaster was the inspiration that allowed Hasbro to make what may well be the last-ever gun-shaped Megatron toy to hit US toy shelves. It's still one of our favorite renditions of the character, shellforming and all.
...oh right, we almost forgot: if Nerf isn't an acronym, what does it mean? It was named by a Parker Bros. employee for "Nerf Bars," foam-covered bars used by hotrodders to prevent damage from "nerfs," which was the term for small, largely inconsequential collisions incurred when a racer is passing. Which, we have to admit, makes it a pretty appropriate name!