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The success of Transformers as a cartoon and a set of toys led to a mania for transforming robots during the mid-1980s.
Soon enough, the airwaves were overflowing with shows like Challenge Of The Gobots and M.A.S.K. and the toy shelves were packed with replicas of the shape-shifting vehicles that appeared on the shows.
Riding at the top of this robo-wave was Voltron: Defender Of The Universe, a series that took the transforming vehicle idea a step further by presenting a series of such vehicles that could join together into one giant robot. The end result was a hit show and a series of spin-off toys that were just as popular.
The end result was a hit show and a series of spin-off toys that were just as popular.
Voltron began its life as a popular cartoon, which was actually a combination of two different Japanese cartoon series: Golion and Dairugger XV. These two series were edited together and dubbed into English by the Harmony Gold Company and the end result was Voltron: Defender of the Universe.
Syndicated to US television, the new show told the story of five pilots who protected their home planet Arus from the attacks of the planet Doom by piloting five ships that could join together to become a super-robot known as Voltron.
Voltron: Defender Of The Universe became a popular show with kids, and its cool sci-fi concept was perfect for toys.
Matchbox, a company best known for its toy cars, transformed the ships depicted in the show into toys in the mid-1980s. There were five die-cast lion ships, each one made in a different colour to correspond with the uniform of its team member: black, red, yellow, green and blue. Once a toy owner had acquired all five of these robot toys, they could be attached together to form Voltron.
The double-barreled success of Voltron on television and on toy shelves led to more shows and more toys. The original Voltron series was followed by Voltron: Defender Of The Near Future.
The new show told the story of a pilot team that flew a series of fifteen vehicles that could join together to form a new and improved Voltron.
For this series, Matchbox manufactured a Deluxe Warrior Set which included fifteen die-cast vehicles that could be assembled to form a large replica of the new Voltron robot. The new series was not as popular as the original Voltron cartoons, but the Deluxe Warrior was and continues to be a highly prized item among Voltron fanatics.
As the 1980s drew to a close, Voltron toys quietly disappeared from the toy shelves. However, the series that inspired them continued to live on through reruns and remained quite popular with both children and the young adults who were becoming interested in the newly-popular Anime genre.
Since cancellation could not keep this popular show from disappearing from the airwaves, the continued interest in it led to a new series in 1998. Voltron: The Third Dimension boasted high-tech animation including CGI effects, plus celebrity voice actors like Tim Curry and Clancy Brown.
Voltron: The Third Dimension became an Emmy-winning show, and its popularity with fans new and old led to a new series of toys. This time, a new company called Trendmasters made the toys which included lion robots that could be assembled to create a Voltron robot and replicas of the assembled Voltron.
They also added a new twist by introducing action figures. These finely detailed plastic figures were also packaged with high-tech weaponry and sleek lion helmets.
Today, Trendmaster continues to make high-quality Voltron toys that are eagerly snapped up by all different generations of Voltron fanatics. The original Matchbox Voltron toys have become collector’s items and remain hot properties on the toy collectors market.