In the late 1970s, sci-fi was all the rage, thanks in large part to the blockbuster success of Star Wars. In the midst of this cultural phenomenon, Mego Corporation saw an opportunity to create a new line of action figures that would ride the wave of sci-fi popularity. The result was Micronauts, a line of toys that quickly became a classic of the genre.
But the story of Micronauts actually begins in Japan, with a toy line called Microman by Takara. Mego licensed the toys from Takara and adapted them for the American market, creating a new mythology and backstory for the Micronauts. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the origins of Micronauts, how they capitalized on the popularity of Star Wars, and their lasting impact on pop culture.
The Origins of Micronauts:
Micronauts were originally created by the Japanese toy company Takara in 1974. The Microman toy line consisted of 3.75-inch action figures with interchangeable parts, which allowed children to customize their toys and create their own unique characters. The Microman toys were highly successful in Japan and even inspired an anime series called “Microsuperman Ginga.”
In 1976, Mego Corporation obtained the rights to distribute the Microman toys in the United States under the name Micronauts. Mego adapted the toys for the American market, creating new names and backstories for the characters. For example, the base Microman figure became “Time Traveler” in the Micronauts line, and the character “Acroyear” was created specifically for the American market.
Riding the Sci-Fi Boom:
The timing of Micronauts’ release in the United States couldn’t have been better. In 1977, Star Wars was released, and it quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Mego recognized the opportunity to capitalize on the popularity of sci-fi and marketed Micronauts as a space-based toy line. The Micronauts packaging featured space-themed artwork and emphasized the interchangeable parts feature of the toys, which allowed children to create their own spacefaring heroes.
Micronauts also had tie-ins with other popular sci-fi franchises of the time. For example, Mego released a Micronauts playset called “Mobile Exploration Lab,” which was designed to look like the vehicle used by the characters in the TV show “Space: 1999.” Mego also released a series of Micronauts comics published by Marvel, which featured crossovers with other Marvel characters like Spider-Man and the X-Men.
The Legacy of Micronauts:
Micronauts proved to be a successful toy line for Mego, and it continued to be popular throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s. However, the line eventually fell out of favor and was discontinued in 1980. Despite its relatively short lifespan, Micronauts has had a lasting impact on pop culture.
One of the most notable legacies of Micronauts, with the assistance of Diaclone toys, is its influence on the development of the Transformers toy line. Hasbro, the company behind Transformers, was inspired by the concept of interchangeable parts in Micronauts and incorporated that idea into the design of their own toys. This led to the creation of the popular Transformers line, which has had a major impact on pop culture in its own right.