Gobots Join MCU in Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special

Gobots, the most tragic transforming robots of all, are now part of the MCU thanks to the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special.

If you have no idea what Gobots are or why they’re so sad, we’ll get to that soon. But first: The pathetic beings are introduced into the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special when Drax (Dave Bautista) and Mantis (Pom Klementieff) visit the TCL Chinese Theatres in Hollywood while searching for Kevin Bacon. As the holiday special shows, the theater plaza is often packed with people who dress up as fictional characters like Spider-Man or Captain Jack Sparrow to pose for pictures with tourists, in exchange for a few bucks. In the holiday special, the guy dressed like Captain America is so good that Mantis mistakes him for the real Steve Rogers (Chris Evans).

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But the least believeable thing that happens in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special is that someone shows up the Chinese Theatres dressed as a Gobot — which would never happen, because no one would recognize a Gobot or want their picture taken with one, because Gobots are so tragic.

In the special, of course, Drax mistakes the Gobot for a real Gobot and beats the heck out of him, because, as Mantis explains, a Gobot killed Drax’s cousin. This establishes that Gobots are part of the real MCU, even though the Gobots are now owned by Hasbro, which is not owned by Disney, which owns Marvel. But it’s just a joke, so we see no need for robot lawyers to get involved.

If you’re still wondering “What are Gobots and why are they so sad,” let me explain. Gobots were transforming sentient robots, much like Transformers, that made it to market months before Transformers. They debuted in 1983, drawing lots of excitement from America’s 8-year-old boys, until the Transformers emerged a year later with the exact same gimmick — robots that transform into vehicles! — and blew the Gobots out of the water, marketwise. I know this because I was an 8-year-old in 1983, and distinctly remember the euphoric joy at my after-school day care center when a Gobots commercial came on the TV for the first time.

I also remember the consensus among my fellow kids that The Transformers were a huge rip off of the Gobots… and the consensus, soon after, that it didn’t matter, because The Transformers were so, so much cooler.

Though Tonka debuted the Gobots toy line in 1983, and Hasbro didn’t release the Transformers until 1984, the cartoons based on the toy lines appeared at almost exactly the same time. Challenge of the Gobots debuted on September 8, 1984, and The Transformers cartoon arrived on September 17, 1984. Why did Transformers become a $5 billion-dollar film franchise, Marvel comic book and TV phenomenon, while the Gobots became a joke in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special?

I wish I had a better answer, but I think it’s just that The Transformers were so much cooler. Here are mesmerizing opening credits of The Transformers cartoon, and the credits of The Challenge of the Gobots. (Good lord, that Daft Punk voice in the Transformers? Still cool.)

The Gobots toy line ceased in 1987, and, adding insult to injury, the Gobots became the intellectual property of Hasbo — yes, the company behind Transformers — when Hasbro bought Tonka in 1991. 

The Gobots did get a small shot at the big screen in 1986, with the release of the animated film GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords, but it earned only $1.3 million domestically. The animated Transformers: The Movie, also released in 1986, didn’t do too much better — but it did feature a song later covered by Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) in Boogie Knights. And of course Wahlberg later joined the massive Transformers film franchise, which Michael Bay launched in 2007.

Anyway, it’s nice to know that James Gunn, who wrote and directed the terrific holiday special and now also runs DC Films, isn’t too highfalutin’ to remember the poor Gobots.

Main image: A Gobot in the Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special