- With regards to the sets: originally sold under the LEGO Technic title as opposed to having its own, the sets were built around certain action-based gimmicks and put a lot of emphasis on the importance of collectible items, like masks. Their gear structures were at times complicated to build, and the figures suffered from limited articulation and very blocky aesthetics. A stark contrast to the later, highly articulated, streamlined and skinny (and at times organic-looking) action figures that came with projectile weapons instead of collectibles, and were easier to build. Many early larger figures initially came in pairs, encouraging kids to duel with them, which can be seen as an extension of the older Competition or CyberSlam LEGO theme. Smaller toys were designed to be able to knock off each other's masks, which was also gradually done away with. The 2015 reboot utilized both projectiles and mask-popping gimmicks in its first year, mostly abandoning them in the second.
- Storyline-wise: imaginative setting but a painfully basic, linear plot, focusing mostly on the monster of the year and collecting the current items of importance. No secretive organizations or scheming murderers, barely any sci-fi but a lot of talk about mystical prophecies and legends, and the character personalities are little more than stereotypes. Almost the exact opposite of what it has turned into since the beginning — numerous, decidedly non-straightforward and non-generic plotlines, but in exchange it is very hard to get a sense of atmosphere due to all the differently-toned stories and the constant shifting between settings.
- According to a quote from the story writer, this initial weirdness was one of the key reasons why the line didn't receive a movie at its debut. The first year's story was apparently stuck in an indecisive middle-point between the early and bizarre "Doo Heads" concepts and what it eventually settled on.
- Some pieces of very early promotional material more closely aligned with the Toa's preliminary depictions as gods of nature rather than "just" super powerful legendary warriors. There were references to the Toa commanding nature itself, with their arguments causing storms or earthquakes, and even the canonically ultra-friendly Pohatu was described as fierce and temperamental. They were also said to be of different ages instead of having been created at the same time. Other abandoned concepts and character traits also came up, like the significance of tribal and victory dances, or Turaga Matau's never-seen ability to fly. However, given that much of the early lore was relayed to the audience through the legends and beliefs of the Matoran villagers, these strange descriptions do make sense when put into that context.
- In the 2001 plot, the substance protodermis was seen as a rare, life-giving element. In 2002, the Toa's transformation into Toa Nuva was attributed to the mystical powers of protodermis. Beginning from 2004, all materials in the Matoran Universe were explained away as being protodermis, including rocks, metals, water, flesh and wood, essentially making it the most abundant substance in existence. The type with transformative properties was retroactively renamed to "energized protodermis".
- The 2001-2003 arcs also placed a bigger emphasis on the franchise being a Lego toy-line. Upon arriving on the island, the Toa reassemble their scattered bodyparts, the ability to form Kaita or Nui fusions is important, and there's multiple plots related to collecting items of interest, which was partially inspired by the canceled Legend of Mata Nui video game. Later years would only give occasional, off-hand reminders of these concepts; Kaita and Nui combinations were dropped after 2004, and the collecting angle diminished as Lego phased out collectibles in favor of various projectile gimmicks. This also meant that while most early masks were made available in a variety of colors, later on it was rare for a mask to be released in more than one color.
- Much like its predecessors Slizer and RoboRiders, Bionicle's story would have featured elemental creatures such as rock monsters, mud monsters or fire dragons as foes. These appear in concept art and the canceled Legend of Mata Nui PC game as level bosses, but are suspiciously absent from every canonical story source. A smaller variant of the Vatuka Nui mud monster, simply named a Vatuka, did appear thanks to the Quest for the Toa Game Boy Advance title, and a handful other elemental beings were referred to at points, but never were they anything more than throwaway curiosities. A few possible exceptions are the Energized Protodermis Entity and various plant monsters, who were introduced later, bearing no relation to the original concept of the elementals. It is easy to see why they were dropped: they had no toys to sell and they came off as cheesy once the franchise settled on its more serious tone.
- A lot of Bionicle's early installment weirdness comes from the drastic changes Lego issued around the end of 2001. Most of the media before that was heavily disjointed with many under-explored and outright abandoned concepts, and a greater focus on mythology lifted from real life Polynesian cultures. The late-01 shifts centered around a variety of factors: the infamous Maori incident wherein activists threatened Lego for using their culture to promote toys (resulting in the abandonment of the tribal themes), the storyline being extended with Mata Nui's reveal pushed back due to the toys' success (resulting in a more extensive lore and a backstory rethought from scratch), Bionicle becoming its own franchise instead of being a Technic sub-series (leading to more unique toy design), the development of the 2003 Direct-to-Video movie (more outsider influence), the cancellation of the 2001 PC game (bringing the Mata Nui Online Game to the forefront), and even 9/11 (Lego tightening their violence policies). The post-2002 franchise was very different from what Lego had originally planned.
- LEGO itself didn't have normal bricks in green or brown when it started, because even the option to build anything substantial out of camouflage colors was seen as encouraging violence.
- The mini-comics included with the first few waves of Masters of the Universe action figures painted a very different mythos than that which would be established later by the DC comic books and the animated series. He-Man didn't have a secret identity and was a Tarzan-esque jungle man rather than the prince of Eternia, and he predominately used his axe in combat - the Power Sword was merely a MacGuffin that could be used to unlock the door of Castle Greyskull. He-Man and Skeletor each owned one half of it, and they were fighting over the complete sword, an idea that was quickly abandoned in later media. It's also worth noting that He-Man (even in the comics, after some of the other more well-known elements were established) spoke in Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe from time to time, of all things. The Castle itself was presented as more of a prize that all the characters wanted to claim for themselves rather than a base of operation for He-Man. Even Skeletor was given a very different origin story - the first mini-comic explicitly states that he comes from a race of skull-faced beings from another dimension and that he wants to conquer Eternia for his people, while every portrayal of the character after the 2002 reboot has used the story that he was originally an ordinary Eternian sorcerer whose face was burned off in an attack with an acid vial Gone Horribly Wrong.
- The series bible from the original show includes some ideas that the actual show abandoned and were never used again. Most notably, Snake Mountain was located on another planet rather than on Eternia, and Beastman, Tri-Klops, and Evil-Lyn were all astronauts from Earth.
- Similar to the above, the early Beast Wars bonus comics and toy biographies detailed a story that the actual TV show completely abandoned. The characters of Optimus Primal and Megatron were initially described as being new forms of the Generation 1 originals — actually, Primal is the descendant of Optimus Prime, while Megatron simply took up G1 Megatron's name. The story would have taken place in a modern-day setting, and the Beast forms would have came from human laboratories instead of the Transformers' DNA-scanners. The personalities and stats of the characters varied, too — for instance, Tarantulas was at first envisioned as a ninja with an intelligence stat of 4, but the show's writers changed him into a highly intelligent, if very crazy, Mad Scientist.
Apart from the story, the first toys also had a bizarre feature called "mutant masks" — basically, every bigger figure had two faces or heads: one robot-face and one based on some kind of animal (not always on the one that the toys actually transformed into). This concept was done away with when the show, due to the limitations of CGI, gave each character only one face.
- Transformers: Generation One as a whole was this.
- In general the toyline started as a combined banner for numerous licensed transforming robot toys that Hasbro got the rights for from basically anyone who had a transforming robot toy in Japan. The main bulk of the line came from two different Takara toylines, Diaclone note and Micro Change.note But there were other toys like Jetfire, Roadbuster, Whirl, and the Deluxe Insecticons (all originally Takatoku toys), Sky Lynx and Omega Supreme (ToyBox), and Shockwave (ToyCo, who also licensed the design to Radio Shack).
- Having leftover parts between modes has more or less been eliminated, especially with Combiners. The original combining robot toys had armor, hands, feet, and connectors that all just say around doing nothing when separated, and most characters had weapons that had nowhere to go in their alternate modes. Later G1 figures at least made it possible to mount the weapons on the vehicle, and Beast Wars did its dardest to incorporate them into Beast Mode seamlessly. It even introduced Combiners that didn't need extra parts, with the feet, hands, and head integrated into their component robots. Very few modern toylines will have loose extra parts, primarily the collector-focused ones like Masterpiece with alternate faces, hands, etc.
- Many early toys also had extremely limited range of motion except where absolutely necessary (i.e., the bare minimum to transform and stand up on their own), had odd proportions (Ratchet and Ironhide had no head and their shoulders and hips were almost on the same plane), and often had their legs fused together to meet toy safety standards. Ball joints, now ubiquitous, weren't as common and the slotted ball joint often used for elbows and hips wasn't even possible with early 1980's plastic, since the softer plastic this type of joint requires weren't as cheap or easy to make as they later became.
- The slotted ball joint itself has kind of become this during the 2010's, since bicep swivels eliminate the need for a universal elbow joint and hips have transitioned to using a swivel for front-to-back movement and a riveted pivot for in-and-out.
- The near-universal Autobot blue eyes and Decepticon red eyes basically didn't exist in the G1 toyline, being a product of the cartoon. Many toys on both sides had yellow eyes, the Dinobots had red eyes, and purple or silver weren't uncommon for Decepticons.
- The original My Little Pony toys were only what are now called "Earth ponies". It wasn't until Year 2 that pegasus, unicorn, and sea-ponies were introduced. Likewise, the ponies were less anthropomorphic early on, which is why early material has them doing stuff like licking each other and living in stables - they eventually became more anthropomorphic, gaining less elongated heads, living in houses and behaving more like oddly-shaped humans, rarely doing pony things like neighing, pawing the ground when angry, or eating hay. Additionally, ponies from the first generation were made of a much softer plastic than what became standard later, and that generation contained a lot of experimental lines and additional types of pony, quite a few of which either were never seen again, or didn't reappear in any form until the similarly experiment-filled fourth generation.
- The first three generations of Beanie Babies had much plainer designs and no cutesy poems in their tags. Generation 4 introduced the poems or birthdays, and the toys' designs started to become gradually more varied throughout generation 5 onward. It was also at this point that the fad took off in full force.
- SH Figuarts in the beginning was very different. The figurines only had the bare minimum of accessories to mess with, usually a couple of hands and a weapon. Compare the original S.H. Figuarts figurine of Kamen Rider BLACK RX, which only had a few hands, his Revolcane and a ball-joint system which make it look like he was wearing Underwear of Power, to his Renewal version, which not only fixed the ball-joint system to make it more show-accurate, but also gave it multiple hands and the ability to mimic having Black RX pull out Revolcane from his belt. Figuarts from the Pretty Cure series also show the vast difference - compare the sparse options involving the Yes! Pretty Cure 5 GO!GO! characters and the glut with the Heartcatch Pretty Cure figures.
- Epitomized with their Dragon Ball Z line of pose-able figures - the original figures in the line, such as Piccolo, Gohan, and Vegeta had cheaper, looser joints, a flatter paintjob that looked more like clay than actual plastic figures, much more subdued and simplistic expressions, where the grimacing and shouting faces were practically the exact same (if there even were shouting expression faces), and completely different torso to legs articulation, simplistic ball joints with no rotating parts, making any poses besides standing and sitting cross-legged almost impossible. As well, a lot of characters made re-use the original Goku Gi mold or were repaints entirely. Comparatively, the new figures, such as Yamcha, Tien, and the remade Vegeta, are much more expressive, have much better joints, paint jobs that better resemble their manga/anime incarnations and are much more solid and vibrant, and a completely new torso-to-leg joint system that allows much more movement for posing. The older molds are still used, but the figures that use them (such as Ultimate Gohan) usually have a breadth of accessories and are cheaper than the newer mold figures to make up for it, or (in the case of Kaioken Goku) exclusive to events.
- Power Rangers:
- Bandai Americas Power Rangers Legacy line was intended to release slightly higher end versions of toys from the original series. Their first release of their Power Rangers Legacy line was the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Megazord. Unlike later releases that focused more on premium detailing and features, the Megazord was just the 2010 version with better paint and some die cast parts. The next release would be the Power Morpher that aimed to bring out something close to what was on the show with die cast parts. Following Zords and Megazords focused on more articulation and had full painted parts while the original Legacy Megazord had stickers most of which you had to apply yourself.
- The early figures tied to the Legacy line were 5 inch tall figures meant to be in scale with the then-current show's toys. In 2016 They began releasing 6 inch figures that were of higher quality and more in line with other collector's figures with interchangeable parts and Build-a-Figure pieces.
- The first three dolls of the American Girl line—Samantha, Kirsten, and Mollywere originally released with pale white muslin bodies that sharply contrasted with the head and limbs. To hide this, all their clothing was made high to the throat and with sleeves and skirts (and underpants) long enough to cover this up. This changed in 1991 when Felicity was released; the lower necklines of the Revolutionary/Colonial Period meant that the company could not keep the body covered, so they changed the main cloth body to better match the skin tone of the limbs which is how it's since stayed.
- Whoo-boy, Gunpla (Gundam plastic models) have evolved tremendously since the early days. The earliest 1/144 scale Gunpla, released in 1980 were of a single color (you had to paint these suckers) with some articulation with the 1/100 and 1/60 scale not faring as well. Also, the intended way of putting in beam sabers back into their sockets? Breaking the blade. 1/100s would be mostly colored by the time Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam launched and it wouldn't be until the launch of the Gunpla for Mobile Suit Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket that we would have stickers for certain areas. During the early days of the High Grade Gunpla the beam sabers would still be one single-colored piece of plastic resembling the blade and hilt (or even worse, blade, hilt and hand holding it) with certain rare models, like the early Rick Dias and RX-78 Gundam having the modern day two piece blade-and-hilt. Don't expect the two-piece to be standard issue until the release of the G-Armor + Gundam set. Arm sockets were different as well; originally the arms would attach via a ball polycap attached to a stiff joint on its shoulder. As well, the elbows could only bend 90 degrees, giving stiff arm poses. It would start out slow with the start of the Mobile Suit Gundam 00 Second Season Gunpla releases (minus the Exia Repair II) that the ball jointed arm sockets and improved elbows would start up and become the norm.
- Marvel Legends:
- The line wouldn't nail down its engineering formula until after the first few waves. This meant that despite Marvel Legends later becoming famous for its immensely posable figures, some early entries like Toad, Goliath and Daredevil were noticeably lacking in the articulation department. Some of the larger characters like Hulk and the Thing also came with bendable fingers, a gimmick that was quickly discarded.
- The early figures came packaged with detailed, diorama-like display bases, usually depicting some sort of recognizable location or vehicle from the Marvel Universe (such as Ghost Rider's motorcycle, a destroyed Sentinel, or part of Doctor Doom's castle). The display bases were eventually phased out in favor of the Build-a-Figure concept, wherein each toy in a wave would come packaged with a piece needed to complete a special bonus figure. The ToyBiz-era figures also usually included a comic book featuring the character in question, something that Hasbro discarded when they took over the license.
- One of the most striking differences was the general lack of movie characters in the early years of the line. While a select few films like Blade II, The Punisher (2004) and the aforementioned Daredevil received a single Marvel Legends figure each, the general trend was for ToyBiz to do separate movie lines that featured the same sculpt and articulation style used in Legends, but without actually labelling them as such. This meant that the big Marvel movies of the early 2000s like Spider-Man 2, X2: X-Men United, Hulk and Fantastic Four (2005) did not have any presence in Marvel Legends, with the line instead focusing almost exclusively on comic book figures. When Hasbro took over the line in 2007, they did some Marvel Legends figures for X-Men: The Last Stand, Spider-Man 3 and The Incredible Hulk, but generally stuck to ToyBiz's strategy of focusing on comic figures instead. However, starting with Iron Man 3 in 2013, they completely threw out that idea and began integrating characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with each subsequent MCU movie getting its own dedicated Marvel Legends wave.note
- As Marvel Legends was originally a Spin-Off of the Spider-Man Classics line, characters from the Spider-Man franchise were also noticeably absent from Legends during the ToyBiz days. Only Doctor Octopus, Green Goblin and Spidey himself were featured in Legends under ToyBiz, while a few other villains like Black Cat, the Vulture, the Rhino and Venom were included in box sets. Once the license transferred to Hasbro, Spider-Man characters began appearing in the series far more regularly.
Early Installment Weirdness / Toys