Optimus Prime! Transforms from tractor trailer to robot with headquarters and back. That’s the whole point of Transformers, figures that can be converted between modes. While the process of going between configurations is an important one, we can often attach more importance to factors such as appearance, scale, accessories, aesthetics, posability and the like. But this week, I will be listing my personal top 5 transformation sequences across all the official Hasbro and Takara Tomy Transformers toys that I have had the pleasure of experiencing.
While I accept that my personal experience will automatically exclude entire categories of Transformers like Beast Wars, Beast Machines, Generation 2, much of Car Robots, TF Prime, Unicron Trilogy, Machine Wars etc, I have faith that any reader will understand that I cannot have owned every Transformer ever, and that my own circumstances have forced prioritised buying and collecting as well as periods of non-collecting upon me. Therefore all will hopefully accept this as nothing more than the opinion of one fan, enthusiast and collector.
I asked a few of my collecting buddies to answer this question too, their top 5 official transformation sequences across all eras. While most could get as far as 2 or 3, the full top 5 required more thought and only one person was able to supply me with all five, and they set themselves the parameter that no toy released in the last 12 months could qualify. While I understand that restriction very well and respect it, one must understand that up until 18 months ago my personal collecting and buying was very insular.
Within one year and a bit I opened up my previous Generation 1/Diaclone and Binaltech only buying together with very limited Animated, Classics and Human Alliance experience to include Generations, current mainline Masterpiece, the rest of TF Animated beyond the main cast, TF Prime, Beast Hunters, Alternity, 3rd Party, Robots In Disguise and more Movie Transformers. Nearly all my experience of proper diversity has come in the last 12 months! For that reason, I am going to allow a bit of fresh-toy shine to dilute my top 5 transformation list. Anyway, should you ask me again in a month, the answers may well have changed. So let’s get down to it, then.
~ #5 – TF Prime Deluxe Wheeljack ~
At a time when I had just started discovering Transformers Animated moulds previously ignored, I was handed TFPrime Wheeljack by a friend and told “Try to hate this figure”. In order to understand just how much I was not able to do that, I currently own TFPrime Wheeljack, Dark Energon Wheeljack and Dead End, Arms Micron Wheeljack and Wildrider, TFCC Chromedome, Beast Hunters Wheeljack, Transformers Go! Hunter Wheeljack and three oversized KOs of this mould in Wheeljack, Cyberverse Hyperspeed Wheeljack and Dead End colours. I also have all the Cyberverse versions and their oversized KOs. I was not successful in hating it.
For a while this was my favourite transformation of all new figures post 1986. It had everything I enjoy about a transformation including rotation and fold-out of panels and sections, limb extensions along a rail, fold-out feet and clipping, so much clipping. Every single move had a finality, closure that oozed satisfaction. Transforming back to vehicle mode is a wonder too, as I love to almost completely build the roof and rear of the car, then convert the feet and legs back to the front of the car, finally folding down the whole assembled top and rear to clip in to the front. A series of clicks tells you that everything is aligned into a gorgeous and solid alternate vehicle mode.
~ #4 Masterpiece Ultra Magnus ~
It might be considered bad form to place such a recent figure that still gleams from unpacking onto such an illustrious list. I can’t help it though, for a number of weeks there if I didn’t finish the day with a sit down at the table to transform Masterpiece Ultra Magnus , I went to bed unfulfilled. It is by far the longest transformation on this list, and normally long transformations won’t make a list like this for me. I like fiddle-formers, toys that can be picked up and transformed quickly, and then back, and so on. Human Alliance figures usually need concentration and some time cleared on the schedule, but they are satisfying. Magnus isn’t a fiddle-former, but the amount of satisfaction derived from his conversion is off the scale.
There are a number of sections on Ultra Magnus that make him stand out above the heroes of bygone TF eras. The sides of the trailer that fold up and rotate behind his calves are special, the explosion of the cab to become his chest and backpack (and butt flap) never fails to bring a smile to my face. The rotation of the wheels at his feet is something I look forward to, but the section that brings me the most enjoyment is the arms, hands and shoulders. This would be Ultra Magnus’s ‘Masterpiece Moment’. That double rotation of the arms during vehicle to robot transformation makes me grin just thinking about it. This is the best sit-down transformation I’ve ever experienced…or rather, my current favourite.
~ #3 Masterpiece Bumblebee ~
Right, I’m starting to feel a little embarrassed now as my second consecutive just-released Masterpiece has ousted something you were hoping would make you say “Hmm that’s a great one!”. So much for me appearing cultured or interesting with any sort of knowledge of the hobby, number 3 on my list is MP-21 Bumble. Despite looking like a fanboy and a freshie to the hobby, let me explain. I am as surprised as anyone at how this little tiny figure of a character I don’t much care about has worked its way into my heart. I can’t fault it, the transformation is a wonderful journey of engineering appreciation and ingenuity.
There’s much clipping and rotation to let you know when something has been done fully, and the fold-over and clip in (!) of the knees is divine. I even look forward to the folding out of the car doors from the feet. The way part of the hood folds diagonally into the abdominal cavity was remarkable when I witnessed it for the first time. Much like TFP Wheeljack, every section’s full transformation has a satisfying sense of completion. It’s also rare that within such a good transformation, I have no distinct preference about which direction I’m going, Bumblebee is equally enjoyable going to a car or robot. A true Masterpiece in every sense, an ambassador for the Transformers concept and brand.
~ #2 Generation 1 Jetfire ~
Absolutely timeless in its elegance, logic and symmetry is the original 1/55 Macross Valkyrie, specifically the Super Valkyrie upon which G1 Jetfire was so heavily based. My personal G1 Jetfire is boxed and sealed in its styro so I wasn’t going to drag out those boxed images yet again. As a result, you are treated to the glorious Bandai reissue of the VF-1S Super Valkyrie, basically the same toy and definitely the same transformation. The chunk and metal of this mould make every rotation, clip-in, extension and flap movement a purposeful and solid exercise.
It is one of the few larger Transformers that can be transformed symmetrically where one hand can operate the left side of the transformation while the other hand mirrors those actions simultaneously instead of one side at a time. I owned at one stage about 15 iterations of this mould, all of which transformed precisely the same way. With a head sculpt and shade of grey being the difference between most of the Valkyries I had, every new addition that was unboxed and transformed for display provided the same gleam, satisfaction and happiness, so perfect is this toy’s conversion. It is possibly the very finest transforming toy mould in history when you take into account its delectable appearance as a robot or jet and how far ahead of its time it really was. Attaching the armour is fun too.
But before I reveal my #1…
… I must pay tribute to the Transformers that could have made my top 5 on another day of the week, or another month. Age of Extinction as a whole was a let down for toys in my opinion, but Evasion Mode Optimus Prime was a shining light despite not everyone buying its appeal. I find it to be a wonderfully original and enjoyable transformation in either direction, the rotating sides of the truck completely blowing my mind the first time I nailed the whole conversion. The finishing touch of folding over the grill/bumper to create the top of the robot chest seals the deal for Evasion prime as a classic.
Also delightful to transform is G1 God Ginrai, a toy that burns the flame brightly for those much-maligned partsformers. With Godbomber coming apart completely to form God Ginrai’s armour, feet and backpack, every step of that conversion is superb. God Ginrai’s supreme quality feel and construction over Powermaster Prime elevate it, and I’m clearly a sucker for armoured Transformers with snap-on bits. Creating a perfect segue-way to our number 1 is TF Animated Rodimus Major, who isn’t my favourite Animated toy, but does contain one of the best deluxe class conversions of all time. If the arms didn’t pop off so regularly, he may have been a stronger contender for my top 5, but even that doesn’t stop me loving that figure. Praise must also be heaped upon toys like Masterpiece Laserbeak, Binaltech Overdrive, G1 Rotorstorm, Human Alliance Jazz, Animated deluxe Optimus Prime (either) and FOC Blaster for their wonderful transformations.
Now, as promised, #1.
~ #1 Generation 1 Hot Rod ~
This was the easiest choice of all and the first one on my list. Of Hot Rod’s supremacy there is no doubt in my heart. Any collection of Transformers on the table or shelf, I’ll reach for G1 Hot Rod before the rest. In order to get this list sorted in my head I placed about 10 Transformers on a table and transformed each in turn, back and forth, to decide how I was going to narrow it down to five and then order the shortlist. Every time, Hot Rod was picked up first and transformed first. It is the perfect transformation.
The leg extensions that end in a sublime click, the metal feet so cold to the touch which flip out and stay tight. Then there’s the head loop-and-clip, followed by the chest loop-and-clip, countless times I’ve seen collectors position the neck incorrectly behind the chest instead of in front where that satisfying connection occurs. The fold-out of the arms followed by a lovely rotation of the elbows is topped only by the satisfying rotation of the canopy and wing. This is even more spectacular on the reissues where it is spring-loaded and literally snaps into position perfectly. I forgive this toy and all of Generation 1 every single flaw and limitation for giving me Hot Rod and that transformation. A clear winner in my eyes and my heart.
All the best