Henry Orenstein, the creator of the popular Transformers toy franchise, has died at the age of 98. A Polish immigrant, he was a survivor of the Holocaust who came to the United States as a refugee after the war. Initially, he started out working in the US for Libby’s canned food company. His interest in toys would be piqued by noticing a bride doll in a department store window display and after seeing its expensive price tag he decided that he could make one that was more affordable.
This idea lead Orenstein to transition to becoming a toy manufacturer. After creating his own dolls and gaining success with them he eventually went on to found Topper Toys. The company would produce such well-known toys as the Dawn Dolls, Dream Kitchen, and the Johnny Lightning line of model cars which are similar to the Hot Wheels cars that we know today.
Orenstein is credited by former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld as the reason why the Transformers toys existed as he is the one who convinced Hasbro to buy the Diaclone and Micro Change toys and repackage them as Transformers.
Transformers follows the battles of sentient, living autonomous robots, the Autobots and the Decepticons, who can transform into other forms, such as vehicles and animals. The franchise encompasses not only toys but animation, comic books, video games, and films. The franchise got its start in 1984 with the Transformers toy line, with transforming mecha toys from Takara’s Diaclone and Micro Change toylines which were rebranded for Western markets. The franchise has grown enormously over the years and has become one of the highest-grossing media franchises with over $25 billion in sales.
On top of Transformers, one of Orenstein’s best-known inventions is a device that detects and displays hole cards used in a poker game. Over the span of his entire career, he held more than 100 patents.
Orenstein’s achievements are greatly celebrated and his legacy of redefining Transformers in addition to his many other achievements will be remembered and revered by many.