From Toy to Toon #1: The Mini Cars

We all know that the toy designs for many G1 characters were modified when models for the characters were made for the Sunbow cartoon. The thing that often seems to differ the most is however the faces of the characters, especially (but not only) for characters whose toys were originally part of the Diaclone or Micro Change toylines. One explanation for this could be that Hasbro wanted human-like, relatable characters to sell the toys, even if the toys themselves sometimes had nondescript faces; the overall trend is that toys with faces consisting of only visor and mouthplate (or one of these) got a cartoon face that was fully “exposed” and human-looking!

In this post I will study the design disparities between toy and toon for the 1984 Mini Cars characters (with one exception) through my own drawings of the respective designs! A disclaimer: I don´t claim to be an accomplished artist by any means, but hopefully my drawings are good enough for showcasing the evolution of the designs of Transformers characters, which is the purpose of this post! Having that said, let´s go ahead…


Huffer, toy (left) and toon (right)

The G1 Huffer toy has a face typical for the 1984 Mini Cars, having only a visor to show we are looking at some kind of vaguely defined face. The head design of cartoon Huffer is a drastic departure in many ways, giving the character a humanoid face and even changed the head shape of the toy to make it more rounded and human-like. The two features that carried over from the toy (except the color scheme) are the two lines/ridges running down Huffer´s forehead, and the outline of the visor, now surrounding Huffer´s eyes. Overall, the cartoon design is certainly the more expressive and relatable one. windcharger 2

Windcharger, toy (left) and toon (right)

Like with Huffer, Windcharger´s toy to toon transformation is that of a face with a visor and mouthplate to a fully exposed humanoid face. The main thing preserved in the cartoon design is the angular dome encasing Windcharger´s head (not unlike the “head box” of G1 Motormaster), but even that is different in that the top now is completely flat (at least in the character model). One more thing that has been retained is the chin guard. It is interesting that someone at Hasbro really seems to like the admittedly wonky head design of cartoon Windcharger, given that the Power of the Primes toyline saw the release of a very cartoon accurate Windcharger toy despite there being another recent legends sized-toy more based on his G1 IDW design. I personally prefer the latter.


Brawn, toy (left) and toon (right)

Of all the 1984 Mini Cars toy, Brawn´s robot mode is possibly the one that is least human-like, as he does not only have a featureless, almost scary face, but also claws for hands and eerily flat legs (it might be a tie with Huffer). His cartoon incarnation has both a human-looking face, and more humanoid arms, hands and legs, he however still retains the dome-like helmet from the toy, which is quite unique among transformers head designs and his most defining characteristic.


Gears, toy (left) and toon (right)

Like Brawn, Gears has a pretty unique head design. In the typical fashion his toy face is visored and the cartoon face his human-like, but the latter has retained the general head shape of the toy, as well as the two diagonal bars running along Gear´s cheeks. Whether the small areas outside those bars are also part of Gear´s face or just armor is up to interpretation. While the former seems to be true for the G1 toy, Gear´s Generations toy has a complete face in between said bars and armor outside them.


Pipes, toy (left) and toon (right)

Pipes is the only 1986 Mini Car character I feature here, for the same reason that he is quite peculiar: all 1986 Mini Cars except Wheelie are remolds of the 1984 Mini Cars, sporting humanoid faces, much in line with the cartoon ideal. Pipes, however, has a face as featureless as the majority of the 1984 Mini Cars, with a visor and mouthplate! The cartoon went half-way in following the 1984 redesign pattern and gave Pipes visible eyes, but kept a mouthplate on him. Personally, I find this design less unique than the toy´s so I was  happy to see the latter return for the ill-fated IDW G1 version of the character. Rest in Peace, IDW Pipes!

Bee 1

Bumblebee, toy (left) and toon (right)

Of all the 1984 Mini Cars characters, no one has a face, no, head, where the cartoon version is more different from the toy than Bumblebee. Seemingly, the only thing that has carried over from toy to toon here is the presence of horns, but even these are vastly different between the two; while the toy has short, blunt horns more akin to some kind of antennae, the toy has the same kind of bull-like curved, pointy horns as Cliffjumper´s cartoon incarnation has. The ornament on the forehead is also reminiscent of the one on toon Cliffjumper. Toon Bumblebee´s face is humanoid and probably best designed as cute with its “chubby” shape, most befitting for the kid appeal character that he is.

Bee 2

Bumbleebee, G1 Encore toy (left) and Masterpiece Bumble toy, Battle Mask version (right)

The Encore version of the G1 Bumblebee toy is spot on the G1 cartoon design, but some fans found the face sculpt of Masterpiece Bumble a bit lacking. Included with that toy was however also an alternative face, based on the design of the face of the G1 toy. This was a nice nod the Bee´s design origins, but as you can see above, it is not only the face that differs between G1 Bumblebee´s toy and toon designs; including an alternative head altogether with the Masterpiece would have been more adequate!

The disparity of the toy and toon faces of G1 Bumblebee has been explained as the former is him carrying a “battle mask”, this mask has since become established in canon, for example in the live action movies. The battle mask concept is a good in-world explanation for all design disparities between toy and toon faces for G1 toys, another is however that the masked versions, if given a new color schemes, can be Decepticons. My personal idea for a G1 Stinger (the red Decepticon Bumblebee clone in the movie Age of Extinction) is to simply take a red G1 Bumblebee toy and let the (yellow) G1 Encore Bumblebee toy be… Bumblebee!

This was the first part of what will become a series of posts; next up I will take a look at the larger Autobot Cars, wait for it! 🙂

Thanks and TFWiki for picture references enabling my drawings!




4 thoughts on “From Toy to Toon #1: The Mini Cars

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