A Classification System for Transformers Part 2: Typing tricky Transformers

Welcome to part 2 of my series of posts presenting my classification system for Transformers! In this part I will apply the system on some toys being tricky to classify, some of them seemingly falling outside the scope of my system… I first intended this system to encompass only these, but there have been requests that I apply it on Transformers from other continuities as well. I seems that especially some of these present poses some serious challenge to being classified. As it turns out, however, we need not look further than to the G1 cars to find tricky cases…

Folding torsos – which part counts?

Consider these familiar bots:

r_jazz042 r_skids041

Jazz´s and Skids´s B-segments (un)fold in order for them to achieve transformation. After having studied these characters and their toys (and others), I realized I needed to add some detail to the concept of body re-orientations. Hence, consider these pictures:

Rollpitchyawplain directional_planes1358214467994

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_dynamics

If we consult the intriguing world of flight dynamics, we see that the reorientation patterns I established in the last post have formal names; falling forward or backward, i.e. movement along the sagittal plane (see right picture) is called pitch and rotating, i.e. movement along the transverse plane is called yaw. Movement along the frontal plane is called roll, but as we shall see this plane needs not be considered for my system. Observe however, that all of  the above movements take place around a center of gravity (CoG)Since the pull of gravity marks the only point of reference in the room on Earth (or anywhere gravity exerts a noticeable effect) this is the only reasonable option. Hence, it makes sense to make this the ultimate reference point for any reorientation patterns. The human CoG is placed in the lower end of the abdomen, or more specifically,  “at the level of your 2nd sacral vertebra, and just in front of it.” (Or “about three finger widths below your navel”).

cg4 gsacrum

Sources: http://www.upwithgravity.net/up-with-gravitysm-lesson-1-locating-your-center-of-gravity/, http://www.gla.ac.uk/t4/~fbls/files/fab/glossary/pelvicgirdle.html

Note however, that if we are not looking at a CoG within a rigid body (where the distance between two given reference points never changers), a CoG is, as Tekering worded it, ” not an absolute point of physical reference”. The location just described is for a human standing upright. If we assume other positions, the CoG might change location in our body, and during movement it might even be outside it! It is nevertheless the absolute point of reference for a non-rigid body in a given position.


Above: CoG in moving gymnast, marked as blue sphere. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_of_mass

Considering that Transformers in their robot modes are anthropomorphic and upright, it is reasonable to assume that their CoG is located in the same place when they are standing upright. Translated to the anatomy I established in the last post, that place would be close to the lower end of their B segment:

Segments overview chart cog

Now, consider Jazz and Skids again.

Jazz cog Skids cog

Above: Jazz and Skids, segments shown, centres of gravity marked in red

I Jazz´s case, his chest part could in theory be perceived as an empty car hood, a piece of metal, folded over his “real”, inner torso once he has removed his arms from under it. In that case, we could think of his chest hood as an appendage to his B segment. It´s harder to dismiss Skid´s chest as a piece of armor as it is seemingly constitutes the very upper half of his B-segment all the way through (but then again, it is a matter of interpretation). For both of these bots, however, these folding pieces of the B-segment does not hold their CoGs, and if we consider those parts, both Jazz and Skids are clear A0 types.

Even trickier torsos…

Trailbreaker (and Hoist) presents us with an even trickier case… In fact, this mold was the one that prompted me to finally scrap my original classification scheme. As it turns out, he is however still quite tricky, given his unorthodox transformation scheme…


Gotta love that beer-belly…

On first glance, Trailbreaker seems to be a clear case of B-orientation, given that his windshield-chest points forward in both robot mode and vehicle mode, just like with Optimus Prime. Consider, however, that we have to look at how the part of his torso containing the CoG reorientates itself during transformation. It should be located roughly behind the Autobot insignia on his belly. Doing this, we realize that his (theoretical) transformation scheme actually goes something like this (the location of his CoG is indicated by a yellow-and-red dot):

Trailbreaker study

In other words, he is not B0, but C0! Note that his CoG is located elsewhere in his vehicle mode, however, it is the movement of the part where his CoG is situated when he is in robot mode, in an standing, upright position, which is designating the type.

Expanded scope, expanded vocabulary 1: Turning upside down 

Now, If we expand the scope to include characters in the Unicron Trilogy, we there find an interesting example in Armorhide, presented to me by Tekering. Armorhide seemingly does not fit into any of the previously mentioned categories as he has to be turned upside down to assume vehicle mode. On first glance, on might think we indeed need the roll type of movement along the frontal plane (see picture above), prompting us to include a third dimension in the type designation system. We could however also think of him as falling forward once, then falling “forward” once more, before (or while) rotating two quarters counter-clockwise. We then get this designation: AA2. Simple enough, right? 😀


Above: Armorhide, not that tricky after all…

Expanded scope, expanded vocabulary 2: Splitting centers of gravity

Another character whose type designation has been brought into question is Armada Bonecrusher. He has a quite unique transformation pattern where he splits his whole torso along the anterior-posterior axis, where one lobe falls forward, its upper half rotating one quarter counter-clockwise (A1) and the other one falls backward, its upper half rotating one quarter counter-clockwise (C1). So which one is it?


To think a mere Minicon would cause such trouble…

As it turns out, both. Segments are organized along the sagittal plane, and in this case segment B, even the part containing the center of gravity, behaves differently depending on which side of this plane we are looking. We however need a way to describe this dual type designation, and writing both designations out with a simple slash in-between seems like the most straightforward way. But in which order? As segment A (the head) is attached to only one of the torso halves (the C1 one), we can designate this half the “main torso”, as ndrusi on the Allspark forums suggested. Thus, Armada Bonecrusher´s type designation will be: C1/A1.

Classi tree expanded

That´s all for this time, in the next part I will be looking at cases where the toy and media depiction of the character don´t match!

My usual thanks to Seibertron and TFWiki for the much needed reference photography, and to Tekering and a bunch of Allspark members for useful input along the way!

EDIT: Took a closer look at Trailbreaker. Also, expanded the classification chart with Armorhide and Bonecrusher


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s