The Brands Of Transformers, Part 4: Milton Bradley
by RAC March 5, 2018
Not every brand that has been attached to Transformers has made a major contribution to the franchise, and if you're in the US you could easily have missed Milton Bradley's connection entirely. But in Europe, games manufacturer Milton Bradley was key to the early success of G1. It's also one of the oldest subsidiaries of Hasbro, predating the parent company's 1923 founding date by some sixty years! Keep reading for more information.
Before it was a company, Milton Bradley was a person. Born in 1836, Bradley was an inventor who ultimately founded the company that bore his name to sell a board game of his own creation, The Checkered Game of Life. That's right, The Game of Life was created in 1860. When croquet became a fad in America during that same decade, Bradley was there as the first US manufacturer of the game - and with his own interpretation of the rules which became the standard still used into the 20th century. In the 1890s, the company was one of the first to produce watercolor and crayon sets with standardized colors.
The company continued along after Bradley's death in 1911, as profitable companies tend to do. Falling on hard times coming into World War II, the company survived by manufacturing parts for the American war effort and by reviving a Civil War-era product, The Milton Bradley Game Kit For Soldiers.
While Milton Bradley the person had always been a champion of education - he was part of the movement that introduced Kindergarten to the United States - the company's educational products dwindled coming into the latter half of the 20th century, focusing more on entertaining toys and games. The company continued along until the first video game boom of the late 1970s and early 1980s cut into toymakers' profits, at which point they were acquired by Hasbro. The Milton Bradley brand continued under Hasbro, which also acquired Parker Brothers as part of Kenner-Parker toys in the early 1990s. Around 2009, both were rolled into the Hasbro Games brand.
What Toys Are They Known For?
Besides The Game of Life, the modern version of which was created in 1960, Milton Bradley was known for a great many other boardgames such as Candy Land, Chutes And Ladders, Connect Four, Twister, and Crossfire(You'll get caught up in the). They also published the Simon, the electronic game where players have to match a pattern of colored flashing lights.
What Transformers Products Have They Made?
In the US, the company's biggest contribution to Transformers were as the makers of the Action Cards trading card series of the 1980s. But in Europe, where Milton Bradley had a stronger distribution network than Hasbro at the time, Milton Bradley became the distributor of G1 for many parts of the continent with their logo appearing in place of Hasbro's on the earliest waves. This continued until about 1991 when all local branches of the company were reformed under the Hasbro name.
Fascinatingly, there's also a theory that the harder-to-find second wave of Milton Bradly Transformers toys was originally manufactured by rival toymaker Joustra, holder of the Diaclone license at the time. This could be why such obscure, second-string characters as Optimus Prime were relegated to a very weird, irregularity-laden second wave of figures in Europe.