The cancellation of Transformers Animated was a tragedy to many collectors and fans, in no small part due to the fact that a fourth season expanding the Animated universe never came to be, meaning the fandom missed out on many characters – and toys – that would have been touched by the genius, freshness and Derrick J Wyatt-inspired style of Transformers Animated. But Animated isn’t the only line to have gaping holes in it that Hasbro and Takara Tomy never filled. Masterpiece, Generations, they’re everywhere. So we turned to 3rd party companies to expand our universes, to fill the gaps, and to give us things that are completely new. That brings us nicely to Mech iDeas, their Techno Toon Titans line and the inaugural releases within that line, TTT-01 “Bluster” and “Trench”.
Bluster is the name given to the Mech iDeas interpretation of the Transformers Animated Huffer, and Trench is inspired heavily by Animated Pipes. Huffer was seen during season 3 of Transformers Animated in the episodes “This Is Why I Hate Machines” and “Decepticon Air”. Pipes was never in the show, but both were shown off by Derrick Wyatt on his blog as a 2009 April Fools semi-joke, and that image now serves as an excellent starting point from which to review, judge and appreciate the upcoming Mech iDeas Bluster and Trench.
One thing you will immediately notice is that – with all characters in Transformers Animated – the models are almost caricatures of themselves, or their well-known personas intertwined with prominent pop culture, Transformers media history or in some cases (Sentinel Prime) the voice actor responsible for bringing them to life. Animated Huffer and Pipes are clearly based on Nintendo’s hallowed duo of Italian plumbers, Mario and Luigi, complete with robo-dungarees, cyber-taches and mecha-caps.
As the two were only ever shown on Cybertron, it follows that the character models for Animated Huffer and Pipes feature Cybertronian vehicle modes, not completely unlike that seen on Cybertronian-mode Ratchet, Ironhide and the Autotroopers. That’s probably enough backstory on Animated Huffer and Pipes, the real significance of this is that they have provided the inspiration for a 3rd party initiative whereby Mech iDeas – a sister company to Mastermind Creations (MMC) – plan to tackle that which some have wanted for years, the unproduced cast of Transformers Animated. Transformers Un-animated, if you like.
So here they are, Bluster (Not-Huffer) and Trench (Not-Pipes), or at least some early test shots of what we should eventually receive. That’s right, test shots, not final production samples or even final stage test shots. These particular specimens are from an earlier run than even the samples shown off at BotCon just recently, so expect a number of noticeable changes in appearance and construction by the time you put your money down. The main thing will be that Bluster should sport colours far closer to Huffer than what you are seeing here, and the release figures will generally hold together better, so if we can put details like that to one side, we should still be able to form some idea of how these guys will be in hand. After all, even toy manufacturers like Hasbro are not keen for the general public to get their hands on samples such as these and form unfair judgments about the final product based on the state of play at this stage in proceedings.
Very Animated, very Huffer and Pipes, very Mario and Luigi but most importantly, very true to the original concepts and what little media they have appeared in officially. But why launch this concept, and stake the credibility and success of the entire project which is so precious to so many, with BlusterHuffer and TrenchPipes?
Ceno Kibble who often works with MMC/Mech iDeas says “I’ve been a fan of Animated since the first episode, and I almost cried when I found out it was cancelled. I made it a personal mission to try and get more toys made. We chose Bluster and Trench because we wanted to start small, and we felt if we’d started with another Bumblebee mold (Cybertronian dontchaknow?) people would complain that we were just going for the cheap, obvious, repaint options.
“So we opted for the more obscure but still on-screen canonical Derrick Wyatt designs of these two to show our commitment to the longevity of this project, knowing that there would be less repaint options, but that the ones that existed would be very, very cool”.
To be fair, had Hasbro or Takara Tomy ever decided to revisit Transformers Animated in any sort of committed way as was loosely rumoured (discussed here), how long do you think it would have taken them to get around to Huffer and Pipes? Would they ever have? There’s certainly no lack of Animated Bumblebee choices available: deluxe, Activators, Jetpack, Legends, Bumper Battlers etc. As Ceno Kibble says, the choice shows ambition, not a lack of judgement.
Now you have the backstory and the justification, it’s time to focus on the figures themselves. As you can see from the size comparison with deluxe Animated Ratchet, Bluster and Trench are dimunitive in robot mode, something that is wholly supported by the images shown of Animated Huffer and Pipes. They have often been shown standing in a crowd surrounded by others, conveniently satisfying our need for scaling. Their appearance is near identical, excepting the fact that Trench is the taller figure with a longer face and a more stretched torso, whereas Bluster is the shorter fatter one.
Do they suit the Animated aesthetic? My opinion is a resounding ‘yes’, primarily because they are so faithful to the animation models of the characters they are supposed to be referencing. To go into further analysis of How Huffer is Animated Huffer, or How Pipes Is Animated Pipes in regards to the position of the cab, the decision to homage Mario and Luigi or their closeness to G1 proportions, that would be a discussion about the design choices made by Wyatt in the first instance, and that’s not why we’re here. We are here to judge these toys on what they set out to do, and they achieve that with room to spare.
Every pose that Bluster and Trench hold (and production versions will hold them better than loose early test shots) oozes character, and with so many ball joints in key places, you’re never left short for ideas and poses. Toys like this remind me of my Masterpiece photoshoots where I am only restricted by my imagination and the hours in an evening. Twice I put these figures back in their storage containers only to get them out again for a few more shots. There is a little limitation when it comes to angling the legs and feet outwards in a regular standing pose, but the fact that they tend to stand toes forward suits their character. That’s not a throwaway statement to cover up an issue with articulation, I genuinely don’t feel that default heroic poses are suited to Bluster and Trench.
In terms of accessories, it appears that the two figures which will be sold as a set are going to include just what you see above, a plunger and a wrench. Either one of the bots can hold them, and in the case of Bluster they can be clipped onto the bar on the back of his cab. Flipping out the tiny heel spurs is essential to making Bluster stand because of how his legs are compacted to keep him short, this is less of an issue on Trench. Again, this is down to looseness and alignment concerns that are common in test shots, I am confidently informed that “the test shots at BotCon were about two generations on from these test shots, and they’ve had a final tweak after those, so about three generations on” is where we ought to be at release.
While there are obvious differences in the torso and head, the leg assembly is the same on Bluster and Trench. This means that when you fold down the tank-tread shins on Trench, you can fold/compact the thighs down, effectively giving him shorter legs. By the same token you can unfold the legs for Bluster and make him as tall as Trench. The feet, shoulders, elbows and hips are on ball joints, so good articulation exists there. There are no wrist swivels, but there is good neck articulation. The plumbers can look up and down, and from side to side, creating numerous enjoyable posing opportunities.
Much was made of the colours on these test shots when they were first reviewed. The shoulder joints don’t quite match the animated models where it looks as though Huffer and Pipes are wearing a shirt with short sleeves, Trench is shown as having yellow eyes instead of the desired blue, and as we mentioned before Bluster is far more Mario than Huffer in his shade of orange. For production both Bluster and Trench will have blue eyes, the shoulder joints now match the vehicle colour, hip joints and upper legs are now painted dark blue to match the rest of the ‘dungarees’ and Bluster’s shade of orange will be much more to collectors’ liking.
Now, onto vehicle mode:
The transformation on these figures is as simple and repeatable as you would expect for anything remotely related to the Transformers Animated universe. In fact, I found it so intuitive that despite being asked not to transform Trench for photography as these are priceless test shots, after changing Bluster from robot to vehicle mode, I felt completely confident that I could manage Trench without causing any damage. For once, I was right.
The transformation involves compacting the legs as previously discussed…actually it’s all about compacting as the arms, cab, hip joints and legs are basically all pushed closer to the torso where the hands clip onto the hips and the forearms clip onto the cab. The treads are angled downwards as seen on Cybertronian Mode Animated Ratchet and voyager class Animated Shockwave. I am certain that the tabbing and alignment of parts will work much better on final production specimens where tolerances are as planned, meaning that in vehicle mode everything will clip together perfectly and the right part of the tank treads will always be in contact with the ground, something you may notice in the above pictures I struggled a little bit with – albeit using kid gloves so as not to damage the test shots, so I was never going to force the issue.
You can see quite clearly how well Bluster and Trench scale with other deluxe class Animated figures, and Bluster’s Cybertronian mode does not jar at all with the Cybertronian Optimus Prime he’s sitting next to. I love how small these guys are, and how well they pull off both modes. They’re clearly Animated and clearly minibots, they have distinct character and two completely believable modes that are enjoyable to switch between.
The good news is that these will be with us in the very near future, and considering how close this project came to not happening at all, it pleases me immensely that not only will Mech iDeas be filling Huffer and Pipes-sized holes in Animated collections everywhere, but the first available toys from this range will be Mario and Luigi colored repaints (albeit released before original colours) which will be exclusives at the upcoming TFCon in Canada and Auto Assembly in the UK. For the time being, the regular colours will be available through Planet Steel Express.
I’ve become a complete sucker for Transformers Animated repaints recently, so there’s simply no doubt about whether or not I’ll be getting in line to purchase TTT-01G Blario and Truigi purely on the evidence of the test shots I’ve examined. Even handling test shots where not everything fits together as intended, and colours don’t fully reflect the final product and vision of the creators, I was able to transform Bluster and Trench and pose them without difficulty. They seemed pretty soild too, and at this stage of the game that’s a good sign. I can already tell that these are going to work beautifully in my Transformers Animated collection, and I have no trouble seeing them as fitting the Animated style. I’ve compared the toys to the animated models of Huffer and Pipes from Wyatt’s blog image and the pictures seen in the Allspark Almanacs, they are for all intents and purposes Transformers Animated Huffer and Pipes. This could be the start of something quite wonderful.
I support Bluster and Trench.
All the best