If you were trying to sell the concept and qualities of the Transformers Animated toy line to a non-collector, or an enthusiast who doesn’t collect Animated, which one toy would you pick to represent and ‘sell’ the line? What about Generation 1 1984 to 1986? And Masterpiece? DOTM? These are the questions we put to our contributors, and their responses demonstrate the kind of insight – and surprises – that we hoped an article series like this would produce.
Last week we met the ‘ambassadors’ for Classics/Generations, Pre-Transformers, Car Robots/RiD and Generation 2 Transformers. The selections made by our contributors created just the kind of discussion we expected, but this week’s choices are almost infinitely more difficult knowing the depth of feeling collectors have for early G1 and Masterpiece, not to suggest that the other lines don’t inspire the same feeling, Animated is known to have a fiercely passionate following, myself included. So here again is our question:
”What toy would you choose to represent an entire toy line, if you had ONE choice, one toy you could pitch to a non-collector in order to sell the line?”. So, in no particular order…
MASTERPIECE – MP-1 CONVOY
~ By Morgan Evans (aka Genetic) ~
”Maz disagrees with my choice and anyone reading this probably will too, but my choice to represent the Masterpiece line is MP-1 Convoy. I already can hear the complaints that MP-10 is better but I respectfully disagree and also we’re talking about a representative of the line to someone who isn’t already a collector. Convoy is an immediate attention grabber; at 12 inches tall it’s an imposing sight and it’s G1-style boxy, realistic look is something that collectors and non-collectors alike can immediately identify with as opposed to MP-10’s more stylised anime look.
“You can argue that more recent releases like Sideswipe, Prowl and MP-11 Starscream are better toys and they quite likely are, but casual collectors aren’t necessarily going to know who Sideswipe or Prowl are whereas even non-collectors know Optimus.
“MP-1’s incredible likeness combined with the lovely attention to detail like the working suspension, opening vents and most of all the moving mouthplate are all gimmicks that are impressive, but especially to people who don’t collect Transformers at all. Its appeal to the hardened collector, the casual collector and the playability and interactivity for non-collectors make Convoy the perfect ambassador for the Masterpiece line”.
GENERATION 1 1984 to 1986 – DEVASTATOR / CONSTRUCTICONS
~ By Marco Salerno (aka Puffmarko)
“I am conscious many of you will be not be in accord with my decision but I’ll try to justify it. The choice of one ambassador is hard, since every character could be at the same time valid for a lot of (individual) reasons, often dictated by the fact that each G1 toy from 84 to 86 has a special place in our hearts due to a prominent or a specific role into comics and anime show. My choice will be determined by several factors: complexity of engineering, innovative features compared to the other 80s toys from Takara, fun factor and playability for a child, and durable appeal even for an adult. In my opinion, among the 1984/1986 Transformers toy line, the ultimate ambassador should be a toy able to go beyond the ordinary; not a simple ‘transformer robot’ or a simple ‘assembling robot’, but both features together. In accordance with all I’ve written until now, Devastator fulfils the role of 84-86 Transformers ambassador perfectly, incorporating the essence of the G1 brand.
“Let’s take a little step back: during the end of 70s and during the 80s, in an era where futuristic toys touched maximum levels of popularity, to be successful for a toy line meant not only durable materials and good looks, but to also be the bearer of a new idea, a new concept rather, and to be able to add a new layer of playability to an ordinary toy. For the standards of that period and in respect to the cost for which they were sold, Takara created a large variety of virtually flawless toys, full of accessories – often interchangeable – and packaged into colorful boxes. The mould of toy we know as ‘Devastator’ originally made its debut in 1984 as Construction Robo under the Diaclone toy line in Japan. From 1985 Hasbro was able to distribute this toy worldwide in a nearly contemporary and homogeneous way.
“Most children (boys) have a special spot for jets, toy guns and cars but just try to give them a construction vehicle and you will see how happy they become! Try to realise how deep the impact of this toy was into the collective imagination of children of the 80s, they had simply never seen a toy like it before. We have six well-characterised robots able to change themselves into six different wheeled construction vehicles, each one with its own gimmick (Scrapper moves his bucket, Hook extends and rotates his crane, Scavenger rotates and articulates his shovel at two different points, Long Haul can tip over his open-box bed, Mixmaster can roll his mixer, Bonecrusher moves the blade of the bulldozer).
“Each robot comes with an individual extra part that can be used as a unique ‘weapon’ (not interchangeable) by the vehicles. By the way, what is the feature that makes this set of toys so special? Thanks to the use of extra parts, the six members merge together forming a super robot known as Devastator, that comes with a giant weapon and firing rocket-punches. All six members are the same size and they are all painted in green, purple and black, and this is enough to strengthen into the mind of a child the fact they were a cohesive team.
“So Devastator is my personal ambassador of early G1 even if I haven’t forgot the importance of all the rest of the G1 toy line, including the battery operated robots, triple changers, combiners, everyday items, cars, jets and futuristic vehicles. I want to repeat that every toy from G1 can be considered a perfect ambassador for the whole Transformers toy line, as this brand itself represented a revolution in the toy market. Hasbro created an innovative, iconic and successful toy line made up of fantastic and exciting toys packaged in stunning boxes, loved by children and adults even today. Tribute must be paid to the influence of comics, TV shows and a fandom that created a mass phenomenon that enabled Transformers to enter into the realm of pop culture.”
TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED – DELUXE PROWL
~ By Richard Brown (aka IronicHide) ~
“Transformers Animated was a humble show in some ways, playing to a strength of storytelling. So the toy line is humble, too, without too much gimmickry or trying to impress with hardy badasses, and where the deluxe price-point toys were the stars. Prowl is the Animated toy which, voyager-class Optimus aside, most closely follows the Animated style throughout the robot and alternate mode. There is no clunky interruption to any of the curves (a fault of Sentinel Prime, Swindle and Soundwave) and no unflattering or parts-forming weaponry (as with Starscream or Blurr).
“The sheer range of motion available in a toy which has a ball-joint waist (make it do stomach crunches!), every point of articulation you can imagine in a modern Transformer (aside from a thigh swivel) and zero constriction. The only ornamental parts of the robot mode are the oval-shaped struts formed behind the shoulders, which are, again, on-model for the cartoon and remind you this is a character who moves like a bird with clipped wings. Face sculpt is accurate and provides two artistic touchstones for the series: The big chin and the Mighty Orbots visor-look. Although there’s no light-piping, and the expression is minimal, we are reminded that Prowl’s character is aloof and hard-to-read, not available with the same charisma as Swindle or Sentinel Prime. The only minus point for the toy – or curiosity in the long term – is coming with the most needless accessory ever attached to a Transformer: a traffic light on a string”.
~ By Dan Ghile (aka Scubaboy31) ~
“So Animated… such a hard line to choose from. It’s a line that plays by very different rules to most of the Transformers brand. In many respects Prowl is the perfect introduction to the Animated line. His reputation still stands as the best motorcycle Transformer of all time, an accolade that becomes apparent the moment you get him in hand. The motorcycle mode is sleek and agile and notably has no real obvious robot mode kibble visible. The transformation is mind blowing, and is probably the reason Prowl is my choice here. He literally explodes into robot form, with not a single wasted inch of the toy expanding into limbs in a bafflingly simple, intuitive transformation. I say simple in terms of executing the process, the engineering is sublime here. Prowl towers over current deluxe price point figures in robot mode. It’s impressive even years after first handling him. The fact that a kibble free, symmetrical robot can come out of a motorcycle is an amazing achievement. He is a perfect representative for everything Animated has to offer, right down to the massive chin.
“Overall though almost any Animated figure is impressive in its own right. Blurr is sleek with beautiful hollow wheels, Lockdown unfolds into a voyager size toy from a deluxe car in jaw dropping fashion, Megatron has the best laugh of any Western transformers toy… the list is endless. It really is a line where you could blindly buy a toy of your favourite character from the show and come away not only content, but also having seen something we rarely get in Transformers. A degree of playful innovation not seen since the franchise’s early days, and that’s probably the greatest G1 homage that Animated achieves, in a corner of the franchise that is nothing but a glorious love letter to the first generation of Transformers”.
“2011 was the year of the ‘final’ Transformer Movie: Dark of The Moon (DOTM). The majority of the toys are in lieu of a better term, lacking. Many of the more anticipated ones were either shortpacked or Japanese exclusives. We started to see the pattern of downsizing and simplification that is today´s norm. Even though we still got many deserving figures, one springs to mind more than the others. The toy I choose to represent this period is of one character that somehow epitomises the first movie trilogy. Loud, go-getter, armed to the teeth, explosive and aggressive. Most definitely: Weapons Specialist and Optimus Prime´s ‘Old friend’ Ironhide!
“We had to wait up until the third live action movie to get the ultimate Ironhide toy in the form of Leader Class DOTM Ironhide, a size that a character of his magnitude deserved. He is maybe not the best movie toy, but one of the most representative of these times and one as a newcomer you wouldn´t need to sacrifice an arm and a leg to get. He is very detailed in both modes and well equipped.
“He is a lot of fun because of his movie accurate design, articulation, details, weapons, sounds and alt mode. And the gimmicks/weapons don´t get in the way but make a nice combo. He looks stocky and complete and not like an enormous gun with a transformer attached to it (like many DOTM figures). Furthermore, although it keeps the movie aesthetic, he is not as difficult or counterintuitive to transform as other TFs, nor does he look like a convoluted-wire-alien-monster. He is a perfect homage and a nice update of an old Autobot for the newer generations. A definite option for someone who just wants to start with the line or to get a nice toy of an important character”.
Still to come: Generation 1 1987 to 1990, Japanese exclusive G1, Binaltech/Alternators, ROTF, 2007 Movie, 3rd Party and Unicron trilogy. And if anyone is interested in reading my own picks from last week’s Ambassadors Part 1 categories, you can find them on my new blog at Square One!
Huge thanks to Morgan Evans, Marco Salerno, Richard Brown, Dan Ghile, David Buenaño Hochman, Bryce Rutledge. Podleian and Steve Phiakkou for verbal and photographic contributions this week. Ambassadors one and all.
All the best