Floroformers – it´s a thing!

Do you recognize this man?

Floro_Dery

If you consider yourself a true Transformers fan, you should. The man is Filipino artist Floro Dery, responsible for finalizing the character models for all Transformers in the Generation 1 cartoon, as well as original character (and environment) designs for it and the 1986 animated movie. According to TFWiki, he takes credit for other things as well, and seems to have a had a few run-ins with the fandom of an arguably embarrassing character, but for this post, let´s focus on Dery´s legacy as an artist. I will in fact argue that his original character designs are so distinct, that they deserve to be viewed as their own “genre” within TF design. So, which are his original character designs?

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Evolution, from left to right: Courtesy of Kojin Ono, Shohei Kohara, Floro Dery.

Some might argue that all Transformers characters, as they appeared in the cartoon counts, since Floro Dery after all finalized their character models after Shohei Koharas templates, in turn based on the toy designs of the likes of Hideaki Yoke, etc. But as stated above, these are his adaptations of existing designs rather than original ones. So which are his original designs? The first, obvious answer is of course the whole Transformers cast of the animated movie, containing some of the most recognizable and iconic characters including Hot Rod, Kup, Springer, Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge. So which are the other characters, and how do they demonstrate the overall features of “Floro-ness”? In fact, it seems that his designs preceding the movie anticipates its aesthetics, in a step-wise fashion:

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1.Nightbird – Curvy, organic design

Some might argue that this character is not a proper Transformer, given that she is human-built, has no apparent alternate mode and possibly not even a consciousness (although it is hinted at at the end of her episode in the cartoon). She is however, stylistically a precursor of things to come, with her curvy, almost organic appearance.

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Am I the only one being as happy about this as for Arcee herself?

Further, she just a got a toy which is labelled as a Decepticon Transformer, with an alt-mode to boot, since she is a clever repurposing of Generations Arcee (another of Dery´s designs, a move which echoes Impossible Toys doing the same thing for their version of Arcee a few years back…). I hope to see more of Nightbird in the future!

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The Sage and his gals. Note the varying degrees of curviness to them!

2.Alpha Trion, the Female Autobots – Kibble-free, colorful and (sometimes) bearded!

Alpha Trion, the old Cybertronian sage, has become one of the central characters of the franchise. He is undoubtedly a Transformer, possibly the eldest still alive, but he has no apparent alt-mode and a kibble-free, rounded appearance, much like Nightbird. Also, he displays two features that are quite novel; a quite gaudy color scheme, and a beard! Overall, he looks more like a human  than a robot, and the same could be said about the Female Autobots he mentors on Cybertron – they look more like women in armor, sporting similarly striking color schemes! In the case of Firestar and Moonracer their boxy vehicle modes are shown in the cartoon, yet, they are seemingly kibble-free, rounded and curvy as robots.

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Trademarked head cannon (not “canon”), as previously seen on Firestar and later on Scourge…

Devcon – Sci-fi alt modes

The above things goes for Devcon, the Autobot bounty hunter, as well. A common feature for him and the Female Autobots is also that their vehicle modes are decidedly “Cybertronian”, as we don´t encounter any one of them on planet Earth, but while the ladies have car modes somewhat reminiscent of futuristic cars, Devcon´s is a futuristic jet which bears no resemblance at all to any vehicle found on Earth; this “alien-ness” would re-manifest itself in many of the designs he did for the movie…

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The Japanese video release poster is the better one, albeit containing a few spoliers…

The Movie – The full realization of Floro-ness!

To test the above points on the movie crew, let´s compare two group pictures, one of the Ark Crew Autobots.and one of the Movie Autobots:

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Stark contrast, yes?

All the above-mentioned differences are there: The Ark crew have decidedly boxy appearances with a few rounded features here and there, while the movie Autobots are overall rounded, with pointy features here and there. While the early Autobots all sport what could be called basic colors; red, blue, orange, green and so forth, the Movie crew sports pinkish red (Rodimus), cyan (Blurr), turquoise (Kup), lime-green (Springer), tangerine (Wheelie) and pink (Arcee). Further, rather than transforming into realistic Earth vehicles, they all have futuristic alt-modes, and at least Blurr does not really resemble any existing Earth vehicle (this is even more true for Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge´s alt-modes). Finally, Wreck-Gar sports a mustache and a beard! As do Scourge, and Unicron himself… Overall, the aesthetic departure from the original, toy-based Transformers characters is enormous, part of which can of course be attributed to the then futuristic setting of the movie, but with Floro Dery at the helm of the designs, the Movie cast turned into something truly unique, spreading its influence to this day…

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The back row – inspired by the front row?

The Legacy

So what is the legacy of Dery´s designs? To see if his style continued after the movie and the end of Season 3 of the cartoon, let´s take a look at what came after! The 1987 lineup was the first to not use any pre-existing molds for its new toys, but rather design all toys from scratch. While a generally boxy design ethos marks its return, Cybertronian alt modes are now a dominant presence, as is striking color schemes. Further, it can be argued that except for the occasional backpack and wing pair, the new toys are extremely kibble-free, exemplified by the Autobot Headmasters, the Clones and by Sixshot, who pulls this off despite having six (or seven) modes!!! It should be noted, however, that while the color schemes became increasingly gaudy all the way through Generation 2, Earth vehicle modes made a strong comeback already in 1988, and boxiness continued to be the norm until Beast Wars. Verdict of long-term impact of style: debatable. Maybe Dery´s style was a passing fad after all?

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Kibblier than they used to be, and I dig it. Can you find the one bot not designed by Dery here? Tip: he is hiding in the back…

Nevertheless, his Movie cast forever made their mark on the Transformers universe. While the movie script, with the events and themes it conveyed was arguably a huge part of its impact, it was Dery who defined it visually through his designs, both for the environments and the characters that inhabited them. Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime, Kup, Springer, Arcee, Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge, not to mention Unicron, are all Transformers icons today, and they have appeared in countless sub-franchises since. As the movie marks its 30th anniversary next year, more Masterpiece homages might follow MP-28 Hot Rodimus which is set for Japanese release at the end of February 2016…

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God knows I want it…

Finally, a word of honesty: I personally never fancied Floro Dery´s designs too much, even as a child! Then, I simply found it too different from the look of the 1985 cast. Today, I feel that his design style made the at least the future TF Universe look more like fantasy than sci-fi.

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As evidenced by this discarded dragon combiner design…

I never liked kibbleless-ness, as I thought things like Prowl´s car chest and door wings was what made TF´s special among hordes of other robots, showing off that they do transform into stuff rather than attempting to hide it (still do). Today, as something of a Takara purist, I have even had a bit of a hard time accepting the Movie cast as “true” Transformers! (Although conversely, an argument could be made that they are among the first TF characters who are not repurposed Diaclone/Micro Change bots and thus most “true” in that regard). But at the end of the day the impact and presence of the movie lot to this day cannot be denied; they are an integral part of TF history and evolution, and as a active member on TFW2005 I sometimes feel Floro Dery does not get enough credit for his enormous contribution to the franchise. What if we could recognize his designs by giving them a name that evokes that their creator? How about… “Floroformers”?😉

Combiner Wars – Trends and Predictions

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So far, exceeding expectations…

Hi y´all! This week I will try something different… We are almost a week past some awesome reveals at the 2015 Toy Fair in New York. And at least for me, seeing the mold uses for the Protectobots, Cyclonus and Viper set my imagination in motion. So I thought I´d make a summary of the combining characters so far and what molds they use, and using this, as well as other clues given by toy listings, comic covers etc, try to predict which the upcoming Combiner Wars characters are and what molds they will use… This post will be quite lengthy, but I have a lot of thoughts to convey, so please bare with me!

First, let´s take a look at an overview I made of released and upcoming combining toys in Combiner Wars, containing everything we know so far. The colors in the cells signify molds, so if two characters share a color they also share the mold. Let´s take a look now!

CW now

(Click for larger view)

This is about it. Many gaps, but we can still see some patterns, and base on these make some predictions. These are:

We have nine Scramble City-styled teams so far, and the Autobots outnumber the Decepticons

Assuming that Optimus Prime and Maximus will get their own full teams, and assuming that Onslaught will be followed by the rest of the Combaticons, we have six (!) Autobot teams and three Decepticon teams, so far. Given that Decepticon combiners historically have outnumbered Autobot teams, it is an interesting development, but it might get evened out eventually…

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Most likely, the Blackjack mold, too…

The Motormaster mold is used three times…

Usually the norm for Transformers is that each mold will be used two times (I think Metroplex´s one, will he get one, will be found on Caminus). As for Combiner Wars, it however seems that every mold being part of a gestalt will be used at least THREE times each. It is especially “Optimus Maximus”, the white Optimus Prime paired with a Legends Rodimus (Blackjack remold) that has made me convinced of this. But further, seeing how easily Silverbolt was turned into Cyclonus mainly by switching the jet strapped to his back for a new one, it is easy to see how the same could be done for Scattershot. Further, Off-Road, having already been repurposed as First Aid, is a likely base for Swindle, and Alpha Bravo, already sharing mold with Blades, in principle looks like a Vortex repaint. Overall, this concept, let´s call it the “three per one rule”, leads us to another realization…

Molds

Above: The “base teams”

We have seen all the molds used for the “vehicle leg” of Combiner Wars (but none of the beast ones… )

As much as I want to see new molds, I think the remaining combining teams will be using molds we have already seen in the previous teams. This is, for teams with vehicle-based alt modes. Since Hasbro has said Combiner Wars will continue into next year, I think it is safe to assume that the beast-former combining teams will appear, and that these will constitute their own cluster of molds and mold-sharing. But as for vehicle formers, using the “three per one” assumption above, it is easy to see how existing molds can cover the remaining characters, with quite some accuracy at that.

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These, plus nine deluxe molds…

Further, consider the picture for the torso section in the poll for the fan made combiner. Here Hot Spot´s and Groove´s molds were first revealed, but no others. I think this is basically it; there will be one large jet accompanied by a small jet, used for gun, a truck cab accompanied by a small car forming a chest, and a long truck with a motorcycle forming a chest, and those are the choices, since these molds are the ones that will be used, period. It is somehow symmetrical as well; three Legends, three Voyagers and nine Deluxes together make up nine Gestalts… Now, Rook´s mold was indeed not in the poll and turned up eventually, and it could be that Brawl and Nosecone will share a mold, but then I don´t see where Rook would be used next. In the Optimus Maximus team, as… Bulkhead? (Would be cool). On a hole, however, it seems that there are three “base teams”, the Aerialbots, Stunticons and Protectobots, that are providing the molds for the other teams. Now, assuming that this is correct, extrapolating on the “three per one” rule”, as well as using some other hints from elsewhere, I have made the following predictions…

CW predictions

(Again, click to zoom in)

So, what can we make out of this? Let´s see…

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Above: 2015 – The glorious return of Road Pig?

Combaticons: There will be a new member, turning into a bike

Since the pattern for Hot Spot/Groove seems to be a set one, judging by the recurring Motormaster/Blackjack pattern, and the seemingly recurring Silverbolt/Powerglide pattern with Cyclonus/Viper, supported by the schematic representations of these in the Fan Built Combiner poll. Also, it seems that we will get a Brawl without treads, but exchange that claw Rook´s vehicle mode is using for a hefty, twin-barreled cannon, and paint him military green, and he will look the part. Just like Off Roads mold will be excellent for Swindle, and especially, Hot Spots for Onslaught! Blast Off? An Aerialbot remold, most likely…

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Above: Probably close to the truth. By Siegfried07 at the TFW2005 forum

Technobots: Remold Galore

As awesome as all-new molds would be, the Technobots will use a mix of molds from the previous “base teams”. In short: Scattershot will be a remold of Silverbolt, Strafe a more or less heavy Aerialbot limb remold and Lightspeed a Stunticon (most likely Dead End) remold. Afterburner will not be a motorcycle, but the slimmest car on offer (Drag Strip´s) and Nosecone, well… Rook´s vehicle mode is the beefiest one, and notice that hole it has in the front? Seems like we could fit a drill with a 5mm peg there… Also, there will be a new little mini-jet member, unless another Legends mold which can be used as a weapon is used. This would be a quite reasonable way for Hasbro to recreate a quite unique team in an economically sound but still somewhat satisfying way. For purists, there is always Quantron…

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Above: Siegfried07 does it again

Optimus Prime team: Bee is the last piece of the puzzle

Well, we´ve seen him combined with the Aerialbots, but there have also been listings of upcoming deluxe class Prowl, Mirage, Ironhide and Sunstreaker, suggesting that a full team for Optimus is coming our way. The one thing we don´t know about yet is who would form the chest plate, but for this crew, Bumblebee seems like the obvious choice. For one, he can be seen in the poster below (albeit in his Classics incarnation)…

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Above: Riddled with clues…

Optimus Maximus team: The new Autobots in the 1986 Movie 

Say “White Prime” and any G1 fan will answer “Ultra Magnus”. While an upcoming toy is named “Optimus Maximus” he is indeed a white Prime, and seeing he will use Rodimus for chest plate further evokes our favorite City Commander, and the combo of the two is evocative of the 1986 animated movie. My personal take on who the remaining members will be is therefore that they, too, will be classic characters from the movie; Arcee, Blurr and Kup reusing Stunticon molds and Springer reusing the helicopter mold. I however admit that this theory is not rock solid; Rodimus and a Magnus core bot lookalike could in all honesty mean anything…Maybe some random Lost Light Crew members? Maybe they will be 1987 Autobot Targetmasters (based on an idea below)? We´ll see… Personally I am however disappointed that the third use of this mold was not the awesome Thunder Clash, it could however be remedied by giving him a unique toy…

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Above: Let´s hope I´m right!

Decepticon Jet Team: The 1987 Decepticon Targetmasters make their comeback 

Seeing Silverbolt being remolded into Cyclonus and Powerglide becoming Viper, them belonging together seems obvious. So what about the limbs? It could of course be that these are Scourge and the classic Seekers Starscream, Skywarp, Thundercracker, but I don´t think so for a number of reasons. First, they don´t fit together thematically. Cyclonus, Scourge, Ramjet, Dirge and Thrust of course constitute the 1986 “Decepticon Jets”, but this too is a rather loose connection. Rather, I suspect that we will see a 1987 Decepticon Targetmaster team, with more or less extensive remolding turning the Aerialbot limb members into Scourge, Triggerhappy, Misfire, and Slugslinger. If not else, this is an excellent opportunity to boost the attractiveness of these otherwise obscure characters (save Scourge). Befittingly enough, Viper would effectively become the Targetmaster of a Targetmaster-themed gestalt! Also, since a Starscream repaint of Leader Thundercracker (himself a remold of Leader Jetfire) seems to be in the works (befitting for Cybertron´s current leader) we might assume that Skywarp will follow and that this is how we will enjoy the classic Seekers in the years to come…

Buest Guess

Above: My best guess…

Fan Built Combiner Team: Hot Spots third use

We already know that this team will hail from the Sea of Rust and have a mixture of cars and planes for limbs. As for the torso, I call it now; this team´s leader will use the Hot Spot mold. Look at the table above and you realize that this way, every Voyager mold gets used three times. I for one chose this mold when voting, maybe just because of the novelty factor, and maybe Hasbro counted on this for having it winning, or maybe they already had a finished design in the pipeline… Either way, it just seems obvious that there will be a third use for the “long truck” mold…With a mix of random cars and planes😉

Bonus Predictions…

There is some other speculation which can be done on the basis of the above, let´s check it out…

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At least these two are essential…

Beastformer combining teams, evening the odds

Again, I am pretty sure that there will be a “beast wave” following the vehicle leg of combiner wars covered above. I think we will see Predaking, possibly next year, not Scramble City-styled, but Titan-sized, much like Devastator of this year. We will then see Abominus and Piranacon, sharing molds to some degree. If the “three per one” pattern is correct and consistent, there should be a third use for these molds as well… Monstructor? This way, we would have, all in all, six Scramble City-styled Autobot teams, and six Decepticon ditto, which would finally even the odds a bit for the Autobots (although we would have to ignore the Titans…) Other possibilites… Combining Dinobots? After a combining Optimus Prime, nothing truly surprises me…

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He looks good, but is it really Huffer?

Yet more extensive mold reuses as a rule?

To have three characters per mold makes a lot of sense in Combiner Wars given the large number of often similar characters which has to be covered. But what if it doesn´t stop here? If we get a Leader Starscream, we have a non-combining mold getting more than two mainstream toys. While this has always been the case for the Seekers and the Datsun brothers, having Jetfire sharing molds with the former seems to mark the start of a new era, where we might have to expect more than two uses for many new molds. This is indeed a cost-effective way of covering more characters with less investment in product development, but it could sure cause an outcry among fans if its use becomes too widespread or careless. Combiner Wars Huffer, anyone?

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Left: Two characters in one toy? Right: Never truly canon in the first place anyway?

Ultra Magnus will be split into two characters

We seem to be getting a new (combining) white Prime, around roughly the same time as we get a Leader Class Ultra Magnus, the former toy is based on the cab/inner robot of the G1 Ultra Magnus toy, the latter on the trailer/battle armor of the same toy. Could this be a way for Hasbro to end the ambiguity about the existence of the inner white Prime of Magnus, by making it a separate character, Optimus Maximus? It makes great sense, financially, as it creates an incentive for all the detractors of the “inner white Prime” to start buying previously undesirable white Prime redecos as they retroactively become incarnations of this new character… The existence of Minimus Ambus in the Leader Class toy somehow underscores this… Minimus is Magnus now, the white Prime someone else… …which also would render Fansproject´s City Commander kit irrelevant from a canon point of view (Leader Magnus seemingly already has for many on pure esthetical grounds). From now on, maybe Optimus is a character for which we can expect at least two mold repurposes for every toy as standard?

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And this guy, the new standard repaint for Ultra Magnus, never mind the “inner blue Prime”?

As for Optimus Maxmimus, if he is indeed “White Prime” from now on, I wonder what kind of personality he will have? There are indeed many exciting things ahead for us!

Thanks to Seibertron for reference pics, the TFW2005 forum for the combiner poll pics, and to forum member Siegfried07 for his excellent digibashes!

EDIT: Jalaguy of the Allspark forum kindly pointed out to me that Hasbro has been releasing Generations figures in a 6 Voyagers – 16 Deluxes pattern for the last few years, meaning that some of the Voyagers above might remain void of their own exclusive limbs. However, seeing the new three toys per mold rule (rather than the usual two toys per mold) seen in Combiner Wars might change this. It is true that Optimus has been illustrated combined with Aerialbots, but the current combination scheme for Superion on the back of the Aerialbots packaging shows Drag Strip as one of the limbs, so it might just be a matter of the irregular release schedule for the toys. Let´s wait and see… It´s a great year to be a Transformers fan!😀

EDIT 2: I have realized that I might not have expressed this explicitly, but another clear pattern that did influence my predictions is that for the teams released so far no mold occurs twice in the same gestalt. Also, another member of Allspark noted that each (Scramble City-based) team has featured one new member so far. This was an oversight in my above analysis, and if this holds true for the Technobots Afterburner might be released “on the side” using the Groove mold, possibly being wielded as a weapon. In that case, taking all the above into account, the chart would look like this:

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In time, soon enough, we´ll see!

A Few Years Into the Future…

In the last post I discussed what I think will happen to the Great G1 Remake Marathon, but let´s now expand the scope to the franchise as a whole. There are a few things I think will happen in the near future engineering-wise, and these are…

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Above: How about a toy factory in your living room?

1. 3D Printers will transform Transformers manufacturing and distribution

Like the media industry has already become transformed by digital technology, so will the toy industry. This revolution will not change the design of the toys themselves so much (at least not in the beginning), but WHO makes them, and HOW. We already see the beginnings of it; fans putting up their creations on Shapeways, Hasbro inviting fans to co-create their products, and so forth. And as 3D printers become cheaper and eventually a common household appliance, many changes are likely to occur. First, distribution models: As it becomes easier for people to print at home, it is likely that Hasbro makes as least part of their products blueprints for model kits, which fans purchase online, print and assemble at home. In addition to whole figure kits, additional weapons etc might become distributed like this as well. Second, the DIY scene is likely to explode on the design level as well. From custom replacement parts and accessories to whole figures, which can be traded through services like Shapeways, or directly from fan to fan.

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Tardimus Prime, anyone?

Of course, there is more to making a Transformers toy than fitting some pieces of plastic/resin together; for examples screws and pins are needed as well. This might mean that other design solutions will take over the ones previously had by for example pins, maybe transformers in general will start looking more like Construct-Bots. However…

2. Automatically transforming Transformers becomes the next paradigm

As regular Transformers become easy to design and assemble at home, there will still be categories of figures that are traditionally produced and sold. One such category will be high-end collectibles with degrees of engineering and deco still not feasible to achieve for the general masses, but in the same way that the use of ball joints dramatically increased the poseability of Transformers toys, standardized from Beast Wars and onwards, the next big evolutionary step might be this:

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You might think I am kidding. But think about it. About 30 years ago, G1 Brawl, a toy achieving four modes by means of manual, step-by-step transformation looked like this:

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Now fast-forward to this, same character, same four modes, new toy:

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As much as some long-time fans loathe it, one-step changers and “flip-and-changers” are probably here to stay. And as esthetically compromised as they are today, so were many G1 Transformers back in they in order to accommodate intrusive gimmick of other kinds. Give these “auto-transforming” toys a few years, and they might start looking like today´s Generations figures in terms of proportions, complexity and overall esthetics. While losing the puzzle aspect of classic Transformers toys, they would be superior in terms of action; imagine a Bumblebee who switches from car to robot with the press of a switch, and back simply by gently pushing a part of the robot mode, by means of a chain of interlocking internal pieces…

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Like how the armor of this badass toy opens and closes with the pressing of one lever…

3. Marionette-style Transformers

Imagine that on the automatically transforming Bumblebee´s back, there is some kind of grip allowing for his arms and legs to be steered, accomplishing a running motion by the hand that holds him, a bit like a marionette…

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Like the kicking action of this toy, only more advanced…

4. Remote-controlled Transformers toys…

The next step would be to have such toys remote-controlled, driving, transformation, running, posing, everything! It may start sounding like sci-fi at this point, but given that Transformers stays another 30 years or so in the business, things are bound to happen eventually, aren´t they?

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In fact, they already are

5. …and beyond!!!

Life imitates art, so why stop with toys? These guys won´t stop until they have their own full-sized car-former…

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…now, give this a few years and combine it with the latest AI technology…

Now, am I completely unrealistic in my assumptions? Or maybe too humble? What do YOU think? Please share your thoughts below!

The Great G1 Remake Marathon Part 2: Trends and Speculation About the Future

In the last post I presented an overview I have created of what I call the Great G1 Remake Marathon. In this post I will summarize my findings and offer a little discussion based on these…

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Above: Sideswipe – sufficiently remade yet?

From the initial discussion of the list it in the last post, we can see a number of trends materializing for the Great G1 Remake Marathon. Among these are:

1.Within 2015-2016, the 1984-1986, i.e., most iconic, character lineups will have been mostly completed as CHUG, thanks to Combiner Wars.

As we can see from the list, basically all essential characters from 1984-1985 have already gotten CHUG updates, and as for 1986, the biggest gap was constituted by the Scramble City Special Teams. We now know that Devastator, is getting released during 2015, and most likely, all of the Special Teams as well. As we have been told Combiner Wars will last for more than a year, it is reasonable to think that during 2016, the remaining Scramble City teams, as well as Predaking will be released (the latter possibly in the same Titan Class scale as Devastator). That leaves only a few, albeit large holes in the “remade lineups” of 1985-86, namely, Omega Supreme, Sky Lynx and Trypticon. Given that we got Generations Metroplex, it might not be unreasonable to believe that the others will in time become realized as well… Regardless, Combiner Wars is in a way the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to recreating classic G1 characters, with the large hole previously constituted by the combiner teams seemingly becoming filled in the foreseeable future…

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Above: Soon, not too many left to cover…

2. Both HasTak and 3P´s are treading into 1987 and beyond…

It´s already been a while since third party companies started recreating the 1987 Headmaster characters to much fan acclaim, what is new is that HasTak has now followed suit with the release of Brainstorm, the first remade Headmaster with its unique mold – that also functions as an actual Headmaster! And from 1988 we got a unique mold with Scoop. 1989 has seen two Pretenders getting their own molds, but on a whole, 1987-1989 has only seen some of their most popular characters realized. To which degree will these years become covered? More on this below…

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Above: Do you see these guys getting their own new molds anytime soon?

3. Third Parties seem to be shifting from CHUG to Masterpiece-styled toys

This is not so much derived from my overview as from the Transformers news flow the past few weeks. Nevertheless, it is possibly a sign of something of a saturation point for 3P CHUG releases. Right now, the members of Unique Toy´s Abominus tribute Ordin are being revealed and released. Looking back, it seems that combiners have indeed been a staple of 3P companies, since this category of Transformers was the most sorely missing category until recently. Indeed, after Ordin, the only truly classic combiner not remade by 3P´s will be Piranacon, and if we count all G1 combiners, also Monstructor. Given that we have now begun the Combiner Wars on the official side of things, should we expect 3P´s to homage them any time soon? Judging from the past few months, the trend is instead shifting towards Masterpiece-styled toys, and multiple companies making the same  We are already in the midst of a “Dinobot War” where some of the companies are clearly following Fanstoys in going for this size and aesthetic, and apparently an Insecticon War is underway. Also, with the release of a 3P MP Mirage, and multiple versions of Hound coming up, even from companies not having dealt with Masterpiece-styled toys before, we might be seeing something of a paradigm shift…

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Sever or Guttur… design-wise, a pair of front paws apart?

These trends open up for a few questions…

1. So, when will the race end, and where does it end?

Judging from what we have been seeing so far, it seems that the word “media representation” is key. The market for remakes of G1 toys is based on nostalgia. Nostalgia for the toys themselves, but perhaps even more so, for the characters they have come to represent. From its very inception, the Transformers franchise has built its strength on a clever synergistic effect between in themselves fantastic toys and exciting media creating characters and a mythos around them. The fact that the very toys eventually becoming Transformers were originally unsuccessfully marketed in the US by Takara proves this; only after the creation of fleshed-out characters, a captivating back story, and a well-made cartoon to showcase these, the toys met unprecedented success, well up to the somewhat anticlimactic animated movie. Few would disagree that the most iconic Transformers characters are still the original 1984 lineup, followed by 1985 and then the 1986 characters, all of which were well represented in both the cartoon and comic. From thereon, the 1987 toys were only shown in the cartoon miniseries “The Rebirth”, and from there, only in the comic, which had admittedly far less impact. Increasingly, the franchise struggled with diminishing sales until its eventual demise in the early 90s.

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For some, the buzz died with Optimus…

So, while it could be argued that HasTak are still in the midst of recreating 1986 characters and eventually will remake the whole 1987 cast and beyond, there are reasons to be skeptic. If we think about which comic-only characters were most popular, thanks to the effort of Simon Furman, we get Nightbeat, Bludgeon and Thunderwing. All of these have indeed been remade. As for Brainstorm and Scoop, they were arguably made popular as characters, by IDW. While it is possible that IDW have made more 1987-1990 characters commercially viable as toys, question is, will they ever cover these years as a whole? Even for 1987, 3rd parties have been remaking Headmasters, but not yet Targetmasters, and they indeed seem to be shifting focus towards MP-styled toys. Character-wise, 1986 is still the last lineup to be iconic across the board, and it remains to be seen how thoroughly the years beyond will be remade…

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In all honesty, how many of the above characters, or even toys, are absolutely essential?

Also, from 1988 onwards we have whole categories of toys which divides the fandom; Pretenders, Micromasters, Action Masters… How will Pretenders be remade? With small, articulated robots in fetal positions in cavities in large, articulated shells? Or as action figures with “tech drones” on their backs as 3P company Play With This Too are going for? Or as robots bearing traits of the shells, transforming into the core robots alt-mode like with Generations Skullgrin? As for Action Masters, will they follow the examples of Treadshot and Axor? Again, it can be done, but is there enough fan support? I think that Micromasters could really work as a modernized concept, but I don´t think each and every character from there will be remade, as they had little coverage even in the comics. As for nostalgia-based remakes of individual characters, my personal guess (although I´d love to be proven wrong) is that CHUG will stop expansive coverage after at least 1987, and MP might not stretch beyond 1986, with a few added highlights of later years.

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Above: The Pretender Skullgrin, G1, Generations and Play With This Too´s “Desolataur”. Which one is for you?

2. How will the Third Party scene look a few years from now?

Again, as much as I like to be optimistic, I am skeptic that the ongoing proliferation of 3P companies can last in the long run, it just don´t seem economically viable to have a scene crowded enough to have five (?) different 3P companies making the same five Dinobots, sometimes with minor differences in between them. As much as we love choice, many fans might also agree that the current Dinobot race is something of an overload, supply-wise. We simply don´t need THAT many multiple homages to the same characters, especially not when they are Masterpiece/3P-priced. It might be that the current Dinobot boom represents something of a climax, after which there will be some form of contraction as too many companies find themselves doing the same thing, and only the best will survive the competition. When Dinobots have been covered both in CHUG and MP-style, what are we missing? Possibly MP-styled combiners. Warbotron are already making them however. I just don´t see enough characters with enough nostalgia factor being viable for “3P MP”-release. MP Punch/Counterpunch? It´s hard to believe, but again, I like to be proven wrong in this instance… I regardless think that eventually, 3P´s must more and more become what has been dubbed as an “Indie Transformers scene” first with more characters never haven gotten toys, and then with original characters like Steel Core and the Glacialbots… It´s what I hope for, anyway😉

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Above: The way to go, IMO

3. So, if the CHUG and MP remake races reaches their ends, then what?

Here´s where it gets interesting, speculation! I have thought of a few alternatives…

  1. When the 1986/87 marks are reached, the remake race will just go on…

This would go against my theory about nostalgia factor. Indeed, to true old-time fans ANY G1 toys have some degree of nostalgia to them. So, remakes would continue consequently through 1990, and when G1 is finished, the race would continue into G2, Beast Wars (which we already have seen being remade) and into the Unicron Trilogy. But this raises two questions. First, do the Beast Wars and Unicron Trilogy have strong enough fanbases for “their” generations of Transformers? They have clearly gotten the money by now, but have they got enough nostalgia? Second, even for Beast Wars toys, with high articulation being standard, it is unclear whether today´s toy engineering have much improvements to offer for said toys. Again, although we have seen some Beast Wars and Armada characters being remade, does it mean that complete lineups of characters will be remade?

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Above, left: Admittedly, improvement. Right: Perfect as is?

  1. The G1 remake cycle will start anew, before completing 1990.

This option suggests that the remake of classic G1 characters will never really end, but keep on repeating a remaking of 1984-1987 characters in a continuous fashion, making use of the following facts;

-For every character, there are several possible size classes. For example, I passed on Generations Springer and Blitzwing because I think these characters should be “normal-sized” ie Deluxe-sized, not to tower over most other of the toys. Conversely, many people feel that Classics Grimlock should have been a Voyager, etc.

-New molds for characters remade as “unconventional remolds”: The newly released Combiner Wars Huffer is making use of a Legends Class Optimus Prime mold, making many fans feel that save the head sculpt, Huffer has actually not been adequately remade. Also, there are a few things we have come to expect of Transformers toys since the advent of Classics, like ankle tilt, which makes some cases of remakes desirable.

-We just can´t get enough of certain characters – Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, anyone? Jetfire/Skyfire just got a second update as well. And this might go on…

In fact, as the examples above shows, we are in fact already in a at least a second cycle of remakes running alongside the completion of the first, and we have toys from later generations already being remade as well ( it´s in the sub-line imprint, duh!). But, perpetually?

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Above: Jetfires – Original (1985), second remake (2014) and the first, in my opinion superior, remake (2006)

  1. The whole remake marathon will actually subside in a few years, until the next big revolution comes along

Here we assume that, indeed, you can only make so many remakes of so many characters, and eventually we reach a point where further remakes becomes redundant, simply because they won´t be significantly improved over their predecessors. Arguably, there have not been enough technological revolution in toy engineering since the Generation 2 Cyberjets (and even G1 Astrotrain has some kind of ball joints for his arms, right?) for it to be possible to improve significantly on at least mainline toys for motivating further remakes after the current run “finishes”. What would then happen is a few (or more) years of less feverish remaking, until something comes along that completely revolutionizes the way toys are being made, making possible yet new heights of realism to our beloved characters, warranting their purchase. But when? And, in all honesty, will I care as much about Transformers when I am, say, 50 years old? It is hard to say, but a generation ago it was not socially acceptable having toys as a hobby for grown-ups (if you don´t count model trains), in ways we are the first generation bringing our childhood culture into our adult lives, full-on. Will we always be active collectors? Hard to say. And if we are not, will our kids carry the torch into the future, even for G1?

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For today´s kids, is Bumblebee even a beetle? Does he even have a nose?

Having said all this, I certainly don´t think that Transformers as a whole will disappear any time soon. If these 30 years has taught us anything, it is that this particular toy franchise is lasting and adaptable as few, outliving most other contemporary toy brands by far. While G1 will always be first and always revered as such, the “second coming” of the G1 toys we are seeing now could indeed be the last one, at least in terms of magnitude. But again, that does not have to be a bad thing. Whatever shape the franchise takes in the future, I am sure excited to see where it goes, be it to my personal preferences of liking or not. Long live Transformers!!!

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Note: This post was about my thoughts on the future of G1, specifically. For my thoughts on Transformers toys as a whole, see next post…

As usual, big thanks to Seibertron for their excellent archives of TF pics, and to Botchthecrab for his great catalog scans!

The Great G1 Remake Marathon

Today I will write a few (?) lines about what might be the main concern for us adult Transformers fans, or more specifically, the ones of us who grew up with the very first wave of Transformers toys and media: Generation 1, or again, to be specific: G1 remakes!

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It should be obvious why…

While Hasbro and Takara continue to produce new Transformers sub-lines, introducing new cartoons, toys and characters, the majority of characters in these offers are taken from the classic Generation 1 roster. Further, while these new sub-franchises (Like Robots in Disguise, starting this year) tend to be the mainlines along the Movie sub-franchise, there are sub-lines mainly focused on celebrating the G1 toys and characters running alongside them. This subsection of the Transformers toy franchise was possibly sparked by the Alternators/Binaltech sub-line back in 2003, the year which the first Masterpiece toy was also released. It was however during 2006 the Classics sub-line was launched, mostly as a filler toy line, but in the form of its Japanese counterpart, Henkei! Henkei! and its spiritual successors Universe and Generations it is continuing to this day (commonly lumped together into the acronym CHUG). Together with Masterpiece, which arguably got a reboot in 2011 with the new Optimus Prime (MP-10) we now gave two official “remake lines”, further, third party companies like Fansproject and Mastermind Creations are mainly focused on reproducing G1 characters with modern engineering as well, contributing to what I like to call “The Great G1 Remake Marathon”, running for a little more or less than ten years, depending on how you count.

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If you count this guy, even 12 years…

So, having had around than a decade of G1 toy remakes, what is the current state of affairs? Are we close to “finishing the race”? In that case, where do we draw the finishing line? If we ever “finish”, what next? This is what I mean to discuss, later, but first…

To get a more comprehensive picture of what has been remade so far, I spent a fair amount of hours and put a list together for an overview. I put up the list on this page in the blog. My working method was as follows: List all Transformers toys during the US Generation 1 run, from 1984 to 1990, year-wise. Exclude Micromasters, due to the high unlikeliness all of them will get remade. Make separate sections for Pretenders and Action Masters, due to the same reason (more on this below). Add prominent toys only released in Japan, as well as characters appearing in G1 media but not getting toys back in the day. Also, add a few new characters from the IDW comics and elsewhere which have been retconned into the G1 continuity, for fun!

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Above: Drift and Straxus, most welcome additions to “G1”

In the list, bold letters stands for the character having gotten a CHUG remake, and CAPITAL letters signifies a Masterpiece release. Simple black letters signify that a third party company has released the equivalent of a CHUG toy for the character, underscore means that there is a 3P Masterpiece-styled release. Red letters means that a character does not have any update, as of yet. Further, an asterisk means that while there is an official release for a given character, it has had limited distribution, through mail-order service, a single chain store retailer or by being a convention exclusive. Further, some remakes are repaints of existing characters whose counterparts were not mold-mates during G1, meaning that their robot modes often look significantly different from those of their original character designs. This can also be the case with mainstream releases, two notable examples are Generations Sandstorm and Doubledealer. Such remakes are marked with a “#“.

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Above, left: So good we don´t care about resemblance. Right: Stretching it?

However, as long as their robot modes are not significantly different from their G1 counterparts, I accept toys with new alt-modes as legitimate updates, examples of this are Generations Sergeant Kup and United Frenzy and Rumble. The key question is has the character in question gotten a mold designed for it with the intention of being an update of the G1 character? While this is the case for Kup, Sandstorm is arguably but a clever re-purposing of the excellent Springer mold, with corresponding alt-modes but a robot mode vastly different from the G1 one. On a side note, there is a discussion in the fandom that CHUG releases have departed more and more from a pure G1 esthetic in favor of portraying the designs featured in IDW´s G1-based comics. However, as these comics is a take on the G1 continuity, rather than say, Aligned or Movieverse, I count them as G1 regardless of whether the designed debuted in the comic or toy shelf first.

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Above: G1, in my book

At last, I have not included toys based on (the awesome) War For Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron designs. While it is subject to intense discussion as to whether they count as G1 or not I say they don´t; they are part of the Aligned continuity family, and even as these design turn up in IDW´s G1-based comics, they themselves are not more G1 than say, Waspinator, Tankor and Starscream´s Armada body. Whether one think the WFC/FOC toys work as G1 updates is a different matter; these toys are obviously closer to the G1 esthetic than they are to the Prime one (for one, they have noses…), but as their first appearance was in the Aligned continuity they don´t count, IMO. I do however count toys from Music Label and Device Label when they are a good fit for “G1 update”. These sub-lines are not tied to media of a different continuity and are clearly representing the G1 incarnations of the respective characters.

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Above, left: counts. Right: doesn´t. My list, my rules😉

Having gotten all of this out of the way, let´s try to get a quick overview. First, as for Masterpiece releases, it is not yet (if ever) feasible to discuss what have not been done, as the series have such few entries. Let us therefore focus on CHUG remakes, as there at least seem to be a theoretical possibility of reaching some kind of higher level of completion eventually. While I do not intend to reproduce the whole remake list here (again, it´s here), let´s take a look at the general trends and interesting cases.

1984:

Bumper

BUZZSAW*#
LASERBEAK*#
Reflector*#

Aragon
Cromar
Zetar

Most of the characters on this list were never featured in the cartoon means they are obscure and unlikely to ever get official updates. The three Powerdashers (bottom of the list) were only available through mail-order  Bumper was not even an official character, the toy instead randomly appearing packaged as Bumblebee or Cliffjumper (!), only becoming recognized as as his own character retroactively. The three robots making up the SLR camera Reflector were only available through mail order, but nevertheless featured in the cartoon, and the team leader (?) Viewfinder saw a release as “Reflector” but the other two team members are still missing. The really surprising omissions on this list are however Laserbeak and Buzzsaw. The only explanation I can come up with is that their releases of Masterpieces might have made them getting CHUG releases become seen as redundant, but I think many with me would disagree…

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Above: 1984 omissions. Left: Understandable Right: Strange

1985:

Top Spin
Twin Twist

Snarl
Sludge
Slag
Swoop

Omega Supreme
Sky Lynx

Shockwave

Venom# (“Venin”)

Kickback
Barrage
Ransack

Overdrive
Camshaft
Downshift

The Omnibots (the last three on the list) were only available as mail orders in the US back in the day, and they were never presented in the media, hence their lack of updates is not surprising. Venom is member of the Deluxe Insecticons, a group that similarly never were featured in the media. While Chop Shop was mini-partner for Legends Megatron, and him and the others of this group at least got Fansproject releases as repaints of the Fansproject´s Insecticon team (due to them sharing alt modes with these), this is not the case for Venom, and it seems unlikely anyone will pay attention to him anytime soon. Worthy of note is that the mini-partner “Venin” (trademark issue?), a repaint of Waspinator, was released together with Legends Acid Storm. Given that there is only a fleeting similarity in name and alt-mode between him and Venom, I am not inclined to consider it is a proper update, but I included him for the sake of overview. Omega Supreme and Sky Lynx would both demand massive toys, which make them unlikely getting G1 updates out of share budget reasons. Having gotten Generations Metroplex, we should however never say never… The big and obvious omission on this list is however Shockwave. While he has gotten an excellent third party Masterpiece-styled toy (Fanstoy´s Quakewave), any official update is missing. Strange! As for CHUG releases of him, we only have a FOC toy. Kickback should soon follow his fellow Insecticons and get a G1 update released. However, apart from Grimlock, the Dinobots only have third party updates. Actually, so many 3P renditions of them are coming up that HasTak might wait for a while longer to release their own…

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Above: 1985 omissions, again understandable (left) and inexplicable (right) 

1986:

ULTRA MAGNUS#

Gnaw

Sandstorm#
Broadside
Runabout*#
Runamuck*#
Hubcap
Pipes
Outback*#
RATBAT#
Overkill
Slugfest
Rewind*
Eject*
Ramhorn
Steeljaw
Predaking
Razorclaw*#
Rampage
Headstrong
Tantrum
Divebomb

Sixgun
Slammer

Trypticon#
Wipe Out#
Brunt
Full-tilt

First: Ultra Magnus has recently gotten an excellent Masterpiece toy, but his CHUG release is only a “white Prime”, without his outer armor (conversely, his Masterpiece toy lacks an inner white Prime), hence, the completeness of his CHUG representation can be discussed, although Fansproject somehow rectified this with releasing their City Commander Armor for the CHUG toy. Sandstorm has gotten an awesome update, I am really only listing him here to acknowledge that he did not get his own mold. Gnaw is the only movie character missing, but he is rumored to turn up this year. Until recently, none of the Scramble City Special teams (making up a respectable share of the 1986 lineup) had gotten real updates, but as of now all seem to get covered during 2015´s “Year of the Combiner”. The question however is, will Predaking get released as well? Also, there´s a whole slew of cassette characters not getting remade, as well as mini vehicles, but third party companies has these all covered for “remake completists”. Trypticon was released as a Deluxe-sized repaint of an Energon toy, clearly making him miss a unique updated mold, and of his minions only Wipe-Out got released as a Windcharger repaint. The fact that Trypsie is a city bot requiring a hefty investment to produce could speak against him being remade. But again, Metroplex got an update and he needs a rival…

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Above: An armor-less Ultra Magnus and Senator Ratbat in “bat-mode”, close enough?

1987:

Fortress Maximus
Scorponok*

Computron
Scattershot*#
Strafe#
Lightspeed
Nosecone
Afterburner
Abominus
Hun-Grr*#
Sinnertwin#
Blot
Cutthroat
Rippersnapper
Chromedome*#
Hardhead
Highbrow
Weirdwolf*#
Skullcruncher
Mindwipe
Apeface
Snapdragon
Sixshot
Fastlane
Cloudraker
Pounce
Wingspan
Chase
Searchlight
Wideload#
Freeway
Rollbar
Goldbug(#)

Sixshot

Sureshot
Pointblank
Crosshairs
Triggerhappy
Slugslinger
Misfire
Repugnus
Grotesque
Battletrap
Flywheels
Punch/Counterpunch.

This is the first year when the omissions are more numerous than the releases, on the official side. While third parties have Fort Max, Scorponok and the Technobots, Terrorcons and Throttlebots covered, none of these have gotten official remakes yet. In fact, the ONLY character from this year who has gotten its own mold as of yet (If we don´t count Goldfire as IDW Goldbug) is Brainstorm. And while third parties have covered most of the Headmasters from this year,  the Targetmasters do not have updates at all. As is the case with the Monsterbots, Duocons and Punch/Counterpunch, as for these, official updates somehow seem unlikely due to their obscureness. Sixshot is anything but obscure, but given how costly he would be to remake for HasTak due to his complexity, he seems unlikely as well, however, MMC has got him covered. Overall, although Fort Max, Scorponok and Sixshot are icons, the 1987 lineup as a whole is the first to not be iconic across the board. This mostly has to do with the end of the Transformers cartoon, but more on that in next post.

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Above: Brainstorm(s) (left) and Goldbug/Goldfire (right), the only 1987 characters who has gotten unique molds.

1988:

From here onwards, I will only consider which characters have actually been made, as these are in the minority on both the official and unofficial side. Also, I will not bring up Micromasters here as I consider these getting updates to any higher degree unlikely. As for 1988:

Nightbeat#
Scoop
Spinister*#
PM Optimus Prime
Doubledealer#
Dreadwind*#
Darkwing#
Quickswitch
Cindersaur*#
Slamdance
Squawkbox

Skullgrin#

The only toy who has gotten it own official mold this year is Scoop, which is quite bewildering, given that Nightbeat (who only got a repurposed mold) is the only character from this year who is something of a Transformers celebrity (alongside PM Prime and the Seacons). We also see a Pretender getting an update here, Skullgrin (a remold of Darkmount/Straxus), which is a hybrid between the shell and the inner robot.

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Above, left: Scoop, the only 1988 character with a unique mold for his remake. Right: Nightbeat, the only 1987 character with true star power?

As for 1989, we have these Pretenders characters having gotten updates:

Bludgeon#

Thunderwing

Bludgeon´s toy is not a proper CHUG release, but a part of the 2010 movie line, it nevertheless is faithful to the G1 design in many respects. Thunderwing is a proper CHUG toy and very close to its G1 toy design-wise.

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Above: Thunderwing and Bludgeon, the only Pretenders from back in the day that become popular characters (in the comic)

As for 1990, there are only Action Masters and Micromasters, and as for the former, no unique molds have been made, and only Axer got a broadly released remake in the form of Axor (a remold of Movie Lockdown)

Honorable mention, 1989:

Monstructor

Monstructor (and his Japanese mold-mate Dinoking) is made up of Pretenders, but is not a Pretender in his combined form. Although he is a quite prominent character in the IDW comic, as of yet, no remakes at all.

As this post has become quite long, I will discuss the questions posed above in the next post. See you there!

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If these guys will ever get official remakes, it has to be this year, right?

So, to summarize:

  • 1984 is near completion, with the only notable omissions are Buzzsaw and Laserbeak (and maybe Reflector)
  • 1985: 1985´s only notable omissions on the official side is Shockwave and the Dinobots sans Grimlock, and Omega Supreme for HasTak as well as third parties
  • 1986 will come close to completion during this year with the release of the Scramble City Special Teams
  • 1987 characters has seen very few original molds released by HasTak, 3rd parties have covered Headmasters, the last Scramble City teams and the Throttlebots, but nobody have touched the Targetmasters, as of yet.
  • 1988 is to a large degree untouched both by HasTak and Third parties
  • 1990 is the year of the Action Masters and Micromasters, the latter who I chose not to cover in my list, no remakes with  unique molds  regardless

In the next post I will share some thoughts on the findings in this one and make some suggestions about the future of G1 remakes in the Transformers franchise. Wait for it!

Thanks to Seibertron and Brr-Icy for the pictures used in this remake exploration!

My Beef With Scramble City (And How I Got Over It)

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Above: Sideswipe and Dead End – which is the sexier bot?

I introduced newcomers to the Scramble City concept in and earlier post, where I recollect myself describing them pretty favorably. But honestly speaking, even as a child, I found the smaller toys of the sub-line (the ones forming the limbs) rather dull and unconvincing in many ways. When having toys like Optimus Prime, Blue Streak and Inferno, a toy like, say, Dead End, just seemed so simple and cheapened down in comparison.

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Still not convinced?

While the former toys had transparent car windows, rubber tires and a fair amount of die cast (metal) in them, not to mention being nicely proportioned with exquisite face sculpts, Dead End was smaller and, save for some screws and pins, made entirely out of plastic and the car windows were only painted onto the car body. Perhaps foremost, with the peculiar exception of the Protectobot Streetwise, the heads of all smaller “limb-bots” doubled as the connector peg for the combined mode, which resulted in many of them having, small, square, quite generic heads looking very much alike, with tiny faces etched unto them.

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Inferno and Hot Spot – which is the sexier fire truck bot?

Even the bigger team leaders left things to be desired. While none of Optimus Prime, Blue Streak and Inferno had much leg articulation, they had very articulated arms with elbow joints which somewhat made up for this. The Protectobot team leader Hot Spot on the other hand, had arms that had shoulder articulation, but basically were two blocks hanging on the sides of his body. Further, he had hip joints, but they only provided for moving his legs sideways, for accommodating a (much needed) split leg position when combining him with his minions into Defensor.

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Above, left: The Constructicons, carrying their combiner kibble. Right: The Combaticons – tons of loose pieces

And then there was the combiner kibble. Each Gestalt (combined robot) required an extra head, at least one chest plate, fists and feet, all of which were loose pieces not really having anywhere to go until they were needed for combination. In contrast, while the Constructions needed additional pieces for combining into Devastator, they were at least able to become integrated into their team member´s vehicle modes. Personally, as a child, I eventually traded all of my Scramble City limb bots with friends having Constructicons they had inherited from their older brothers. Even when not being able to collect all members, and none of the connecting kibble parts, I felt the Constructicons were the superior toys as individual pieces. Still do, however…

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Dead End: Still not that sexy, but a bot of many functions

Since re-entering Transformers collecting, I have come to realize that what the Scramble City bots lack in esthetics, they have got in versatility. Every scramble city bot is virtually a quadruple-changer; every smaller member of a team has a robot mode, an alt-mode (vehicle or beast mode) arm mode AND leg mode. In a similar manner, all team leaders have a robot mode, alt mode, torso mode, and in most cases, a base mode, acting as a play set for the smaller members of the team. I used to think that the distinction between the arm and leg mode for the smaller bots was simply a matter of flipping their head/connector peg, but after having made attempts to create my own scramble city transformer prototypes, I have realized that accounting for the enabling of that flip action alone affects the whole design of the toy, for better or worse, making it quite sophisticated in its own right.

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80´s icons

Further, I have come to find the comparatively crude, “cheap” design of Scramble City toys utterly charming, in the same sense that I find 8-bit Nintendo graphics charming and evocative of my 80´s childhood. In fact, it was a third party/independent toy company, Fansproject, who fully made me have this realization and thus reevaluate the Scramble City sub-line with their eminent offer the Glacialbots. This combining team, transforming into mechanical ice age animals (and yes, I am a huge paleontology fan), were engineered and designed in such a fashion that they might as well could have been released in 1986. This included having the same measures for the figures themselves, for the connectors and their ports, as the original Special Teams, so that they can actually swap limbs with each other! What was more, they remedied the ever so frustrating concept of loose combiner parts by making sure all pieces, such as fists, feet, etc, were fully integrate-able with the individual robots of the team. Seeing the glacialbots, I for the first time viewed the scramble city concept with new eyes. In retrospect, I thus find the Scramble City teams are fun, ingenious and utterly charming in their un-articulated, generic boxiness.

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Above, right: Three members of the Glacialbots. Right: Glacialord, swapping limbs with Computron

One complain could still be made about Scramble City – why the need to swap limbs? While it could be argued that this gimmick of Scramble City combiners is unnecessary and requires sacrifices in design and appeal of individual robots, it nevertheless made it easier for us as children to collect a complete combiner, given that it could be hard to gather all members of one team, if not bought as a gift set, it also made it possible to assemble your own Gestalt with the bots you happened to like best from the respective teams. Last year was the 30th anniversary of Transformers as a franchise, and this year, 2015, actually marks the anniversary of the appearance of the first Gestalt, Devastator! Befittingly enough, Hasbro has dubbed this year “The year of the combiner”, with, as of January, Superion and Menasor under release and with well-founded rumors of Devastator and Defensor being in the pipeline. At least for the first two, the toys have a standardized connection mechanism for combining, and the smaller bots can form the arm or the leg in any of the teams. In other words, not only the Scramble City characters themselves, but the very gimmick defining the sub-line has been reintroduced, which is, if anything, a testament to the legacy of this essential chapter of Transformers history.

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Above: Superion and Menasor – updated

Thanks to Seibertron for the pictures!

My Beef With Rodimus (And How I Got Over It)

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When Hot Rod entered the stage, the fandom was kind of divided in their response. It was 1986, and the animated spectacle Transformers: The Movie went up in theaters. One of the shocking revelations here was that our beloved Optimus Prime actually died in the movie, causing 10-year olds across the world a collective trauma. While Prime passed the torch of leadership to Ultra Magnus (see below), the one who would eventually end up with Autobot leadership was Hot Rod, transforming him into the larger, more powerful Rodimus Prime in the process. Sounds pretty cool, right?

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Optimus Prime plus Hot Rod equals…

Well, here´s my first problem. Even as a child, I sensed that the name “RodIMUS PRIME” somehow tried to invite us children to accept this new guy as our new favorite in Optimus´s place. My dad had told me the meaning of Optimus Prime´s name, so the new guy´s name just seemed silly. I knew what a hot rod car was so it seemed to me that “Rodimus” was simply a pun on “Optimus”, using a car name, and Optimus wasn´t called “Truckimus Prime”, was he? So how could this guy, with such a lousy imitation, not to say parody, for a name be the new leader of the Autobots? I didn´t buy it…

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Above: Hot Rod´s original G1 toy, an if “car feature-less”, still admittedly pretty handsome bot

My second gripe was with the character design and the toy itself. One of the aspects I loved the most about Transformers was that they disguised themselves as human-built vehicles, and that elements of these vehicles were visible in their robot modes; Optimus´s iconic windshield chest, Prowl´s Datsun grill chest and car door wings, the F-15 jet intakes on Starscream´s shoulders, his cockpit chest… This was sorely missing with Hot Rod. First, I didn´t know what his car mode was supposed to look like, but it didn´t seem like an actual, real-life car. Second, very little of the car´s “anatomy” seemed to be visible in his robot mode. Sure, he had some exhaust pipes on his arms, and his spoiler seemed to resemble some kind of Dracula-esque collar, but these were details on an overall featureless body, which in my eyes just might be a regular person in some kind of suit or armor.

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Above left: The Original Rodimus Prime toy. Right: The high-forheaded, baggy-eyed old man Rodimus was never up my alley

Further, Rodimus got two toys, one for his original incarnation, “Hot Rod”, and one for his transformed, new self, “Rodimus Prime”. While the first one somehow looked good on its premises (which I wasn´t too fond of), the second one was a real disappointment. First, its car mode looked like the original fake-car rebuilt into a motorhome. The “trailer” part of the car was detached during transformation and turned into some kind of battle station for Rodimus Prime himself, another shameless reference to his superior predecessor. Second, I hated the face sculpt of the toy, it looked like Rodimus was constantly peering, with big bags under his eyes, and his body was as human-like as ever.

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Above: Floro Dery´s concept art for Hot Rod and Rodimus Prime for the 1986 movie

As for the anthropomorphism, it was apparently a conscious move. Hot Rod, like the rest of the new characters in Transformers the Movie, was designed by Floro Dery, the Filipino artist who earlier refined and provided character models for the Transformers cartoon TV-series. Possibly in a move to make Transformers even more identifiable, he chose (/got instructed?) to make the new characters more anthropogenic than before, to the degree that they might (in my opinion) fit better into the Masters of the Universe franchise. Dery himself has prided himself on making the Transformers franchise more accessible and lasting through these designs, but to this day I have a hard time getting past the “guy in sci-fi suit” feeling I get from looking at the original Hot Rod.

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Above: The admittedly badass Classics Hot Rod and Dome Zero, the concept car his new alt mode is based on

However, my disinterest/dislike of as well as Hot Rod as a toy and character, has somehow been alleviated by two developments in later years. First, in 20XX, as part of the “Classics” sub-line, “Rodimus”, a toy that was a neat re-imagination of the original Hot Rod toy, was released. While the car mode was very similar to the original one, it turned out that this time it was actually based on a real life car, the unproduced Dome Zero concept car. Suddenly, Rodimus´s car mode seemed much more legitimate, as well as his anthropomorphic design as a robot, since the relative lack of “car parts” on it was a natural consequence of the car´s own design. Suddenly, Rodimus design was pretty cool…

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Above, left: Rodimus as captain of the ship The Lost Light, as seen in IDW Comics. Right: Spikiness taken a tad bit too far?

Second, in later years the publishing company IDW Comics has been a major producer of new Transformers lore. While I will likely spend a whole post on their contributions in the future I can say that it is comic series like “Autocracy” and “More Than Meets the Eye” that finally made Rodimus a complete, fleshed-out character to me. In this incarnation, he both has elements of the original impulsive Hot Rod who often go out of his depth, and the older, wiser Rodimus Prime. He was even given a quite tragic backstory that makes his narcissistic and seemingly reckless features a bit more forgivable, and even likable. Today, I think he is a nice complement to, rather than lacking replacement for, Optimus Prime, and their interaction with each other is especially interesting. Once being a cheap substitute for the great Optimus in my eyes, I today consider Rodimus a natural, enjoyable and even indispensable part of the vast, rich Transformers universe. Sometimes, first impressions don´t last!

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Upon closer examination, he is indeed pretty cool…

Thanks to TFWiki for the pictures!