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Micronauts is the North American name for the Microman toy line created by Japanese toy company Takara (later absorbed by TOMY). First released in Japan in 1974, Microman toys were imported to the United States by the Mego Corporation in 1976, under the "Micronauts" name. The line consisted of 3.75-inch-tall (9.5 cm) action figures, vehicles, robots, playsets, and accessories which used a universal, 5-millimetre (0.20 in) inter-connective design. Although the line was commercially successful, Mego cancelled it in 1980.
Takara produced small quantities of certain Series 1 and 2 products in Japan before all production was moved to Mego's facilities in Hong Kong. After Mego collapsed, Takara also produced several Series 5 toys specifically for Italian distributor Gig's "i Micronauti" line.
In 2002 Palisades Toys bought the rights to reproduce Micronauts under the impression that the original tooling and molds were available. When Palisades discovered that these were not available, they approached collectors to donate unopened vintage samples to replicate. The company was eventually deceived by a middleman who subcontracted out the actual production to a another company with no quality control. As a result, figures had defective or broken parts, and many were returned by consumers who found they were being given only slightly-less defective replacements.
Even though financial redemption was impossible, Palisades attempted to salvage its reputation by developing Series 2 and a special Series 1.5 through different factories, but only lost even more money in the process. Retailers refused to carry the line, and a third series was in development before the Micronauts line was canceled entirely. The final result was Palisades' biggest financial loss ever which likely contributed to the company's bankruptcy in 2006.
Most of the reissues were Takara-designed figures, but several original Cal R&D aliens from the original Mego run (Repto, Membros, Centaurus) were included.
In January 2005 SOTA Toys unveiled plans for what was to be "Micronauts: Evolution", a redesigning of the original Micronauts figures. Concept art was released, and prototypes were displayed at the 2005 Toy Fair, with a projected release of late 2005. They then appeared at San Diego Comic Con 2006.
Series 1 was planned to include 6-inch (15 cm) renditions of Lobros, Baron Karza, and Space Glider; retailing for about $19.99 each. Plans shifted, however, to be an online exclusive box-set of all three characters, available through SOTA's website. The "low run, high end" figures would also be down-scaled.
In September 2006 SOTA President Jerry Macaluso, who was also a Micronauts fan and had several Micronauts tattoos, lamented that "the retail environment for collectibles is in the gutter right now" and that many stores wanting to order the "Micronauts:Evolution" line were going bankrupt. Macaluso also noted that the "disaster" that was Palisades' line "had a huge negative affect", with retailers rejecting SOTA's upcoming series. He hoped to have the line out in 2007, before SOTA's license expired, and even considered funding it himself if need be. Ultimately, however, the Micronauts: Evolution toy line would not be produced.
David Forrest and his team of artists at Kinetic Underground, Inc. assisted Abrams and Gentile in the re-imagining of the Micronauts. David Forrest was a vital part of the creative force that led up to the deal with Hasbro and JJ Abrams. David Forrest and Kinetic Underground, Inc. were also instrumental in developing new stories, concepts and characters for Abrams and Gentile, Emmett/Furla Films, and Gale Anne Hurd's adaptation of the Micronauts.
Several licensed comic book series based on Micronauts toys were published by Marvel and Devil's Due Publishing. Kinetic Underground, Inc., along with its affiliated companies, Kinetic Toyz and Kinetic Komicz, created a wide range of Micronauts products, including toys and comics. Kinetic Komicz started development on a new Micronauts comic series which was stalled by Takara Tomy Co., Ltd. The new Micronauts comic series was going to establish the new worlds, stories and characters that would eventually lead up to Emmett/Furla Films and Gale Anne Hurd’s version of the Micronauts. In 2006, "Micronauts and Capcoms Killer 7" were going to be the launch titles for Kinetic Komicz digital comic platform, ComicCasting.com and ComicCasts.com.
In November 2009, Hasbro announced that director J.J. Abrams was in negotiations to produce a movie based on Micronauts.
"The Robot Fixer", one of four short films that comprise the 2003 film Robot Stories, centers on a woman completing her comatose son's collection of Micronauts. While Micronauts and Micromen toys are used in the film, they are referred to as "Microbots", and given individual fictitious names. For example, the Lady Command figure is called "Angel Command."
In Terry Gilliam's 1981 film Time Bandits, the child protagonist's bedroom can be seen to contain parts of the Mobile Exploration Lab. A version of this is then seen in large-scale during the film's climactic battle.