Here's an interesting scenerio. Gig was responsible for the release of Transformers (or 'TraSformers') into the country. Not just the regular series, but also a number of Diaclone pieces (including pieces that didn't make it into the TF-line, such as the Diaclone Triplechanger). In fact, you'd see certain Diaclone pieces advertised as late as '85, when TFs were already in full-swing. Detailed timeline...|
Allow me to quote Devvi: "When Transformers weren't available yet across the world, Gig imported Diaclone and Microman toys under the name of TraSformer. The early Diaclones still had the Diaclone logo on the boxes and came with the Diaclone driver figures. The later figures (including some of the Diaclone cars) had the logo and the drivers removed. The boxes of-course were translated into Italian."
The problem: When TFs became available across the globe, Gig continued selling the Diaclone toys. However, some toys were no longer 100% Diaclone. You'd see Transformer toys and sticker sheets in Italian Diaclone boxes. Gig mixed up a lot of toys by that time. To quote Devvi: "My guess is that Gig wanted to get rid of their old Diaclone stock (consisting of boxes and paperwork) and sold regular Transformers in these boxes." Needless to say, it creates quite a mess. :-) (Note: There is still some argument as to whether this was simply takara oldstock, or whether, with the purchase of the rights from Takara, they simply spit out their own based on the concept...see Henshin Sentai Changeforce...).
The one nice part about Italian TFs is that there weren't a ton of changes in the toys themselves. There were slight changes in the weapons; ie many toys came with rubber 'bopper' missles instead of the standard ones, but otherwise, if you are looking for a good-quality Diaclone toy, pick up the Gig version over a Japanese one. Italian Diaclone and Japanese Diaclone are functionally identical.
There are three notable exceptions to this rule: What I call the Italian-ONLY variants:
1) Mirage - There are actually three versions of him that were available in Italy: The painted Ligier version, then a *sticker* Ligier version, followed by Citanes (standard toy). This sticker, as far as we can tell, is unique to Italy. More...
2) Optimus Prime - There is a later version of him that is apparently more Magnus-esque in nature (ie, plastic wheels and feet) as compared to the standard version. The molding, otherwise, is standard (slotted legs, x-crossbar bracing, etc). More...
3) Devastator - For some reason, instead of giving him the standard bopper missles, he was given these unique purple missles. They kinda look like a bopper without the rubber on the top. :-)
In the mean time; the approximate release-order for Itialian TFs:
1) Gig imports Diaclone toys under the name of Diaclone/Trasformer.
2) Gig continues to import toys but now under the name of TraSformer only.
3) Regular TFs become available; Gig mixes them up with their leftover TraSformer/Diaclone stock (maybe).
4) Gig starts selling TFs as we all know them but leaves the TraSformer logo on the box.
It is interesting to note that a number of the TFs went through a name-change when brought over by Gig. As far as we know, all the TFs were released there. As you can see, Grimlock apparently translates into Tiran somewhere along the line. :-) Pretty much every TF in every other series goes through the same thing, from Bristleback, Pretender Skullgrin (Korno), HotHouse (Argon), and so forth. ;-) Like I said, no series was left untouched.
Here's an interesting item: Three different names on one box! Starscream translates to "Astrum", Skywarp is "Corvo" and Thundercracker is "Vampiro". The box pictured here is a multi-purpose box with the three jets' tech specs on the back as well. As Maz says, "The mother of all costcutters. :) That's why you end up with, say, a Starscream in a Thundercracker box."
Click here for the growing list of alternate names!
Toward the end, like all other variants, Italian variants tend to merge with variants in the rest of the world (I suppose streamlined, one-location production facilities help). Aside from this one blurb: what Richard calls the G2 Jazz launcher variant. You get a cookie if you can tell what it is. ;-)
For a nice pic listing of Italian Diaclones, visit Transformers Italia.