Just like that, we’re back for the third and final part of our FansToys Thomas write-up. Whilst I’ve been framing this whole exercise as part of a wider look at a set of 3PMP Decepticon triple changers, this lad is the only one that represents an entirely new experience, so it’s been a lot of fun to put him through his paces.
And yes, you may be aware that I have already commemorated this guy on my fairly recent top ten of 2020 list, so it should equally come as no surprise that it’s been a pretty glowing appraisal of the toy in the two parts thus far.
But then it’s all been well-deserved too, which is especially rewarding when you consider what a milestone the release is, in many ways. I already mentioned in part 1 that simply having a Masterpiece-styled Astrotrain at long last is a joyous affair, but the fact that FansToys have actually been pretty speedy with the release and seemingly done a very nice job with it is even better.
You see, for too long he’s been one of the notable cartoon characters absent from my shelves. Yes, there have been previous attempts by other companies and yes, the DX9 alternative is one that a lot of people really hold in high regard, but it’s never been quite the right aesthetic to scratch my particular itch. Now, at long last, here we are.
So, with just the robot mode left to assess, exactly how good is Thomas then? Well, the first thing to note is once again how much fun the transformation is, on the whole. It’s by no means the easiest example in the whole sphere of 3PMP collecting but it’s also surprisingly straightforward given the three entirely distinct forms the toy has to cycle through, and really shouldn’t present too much challenge on the whole. It’s also a real testament to how right FansToys can get it at times when you see just how splendid it looks in robot mode, too.
Now that is Astrotrain. Every inch, nook and cranny screams the character as we knew him from the original animation. He’s here, at long last, made real.
FansToys typically have an innate knack for screen accuracy in the strictest sense but I have seen them criticised for somehow failing to give their toys a sense of ‘life’ in the past, almost like they can be a little stoic or ‘uninspired’ at times. Whilst I have observed some of that myself, I absolutely don’t think it’s a statement that adheres to Thomas in any way. Not only does this thing look the part but it ‘feels right’ in terms of the character, bringing Astrotrain to life in 3D form with style.
And that’s a big compliment for a toy that also happens to look like a bunch of stacked grey boxes but there you go, I stand by it. Some character designs probably wouldn’t work so well in the wrong hands but here, FansToys have done a remarkable job with realising it in plastic. It looks exactly as it should but never feels silly at the same time.
It’s also one of those that could maybe be thought of as being a little boring, particularly in the colour scheme. After all, there’s a heavy reliance on grey with precious little in the way of highlights or other colours to break it up at all, yet again, Thomas looks fantastic in hand.
I think it’s mostly because of the superior finish on offer. Whereas I suspect a similar design could have come off as a bit plain if produced by some rival third party outfits, FansToys have given Thomas that lovely sparkly quality that helps to sell the otherwise monotone look going on. It also helps that the grey they’ve chosen is a pleasing, warm colour, too.
Yet where there are highlights, they sing. The purple is particularly pleasing and never fails to catch the eye where it’s used, and little touches such as the translucent red on the abs and the painted yellow head crest look superb too. He’s no slouch in the visuals department, that’s for certain.
Speaking of that head, it’s pretty magnificent stuff. The face sculpt feels spot on to the character but also manages to work nicely in its own right. I wasn’t quite convinced by it from the promo pics I’d seen beforehand but honestly, it’s a real stunner. I’m also a big fan of the shining red eyes.
I even love that they managed to incorporate elements such as the two raised sections on either side of his head, which, in this case, are pieces specifically designed to transform into place purely to replicate this look. That’s the kind of dedication in design that I appreciate.
It manages to be a pretty clean figure on the whole, despite there being some evidence of kibble here and there. The most obvious example is the back of the legs, which do feature bits of vehicle mode guff fairly evidently, although it’s not really all that offensive. Perhaps the only bit that gives me pause are the two small grey panels, which form part of the wings in shuttle mode and don’t tab into place. They just kind of sit there hoping to look tidy but even then, I’ve made my peace with it.
There is some backpack stuff going on too, mind, with his rear fin protruding a little more than I might have liked overall. Again though, we’re really pushing for nitpicks at this stage, as honestly, it’s an exceptionally tidy robot mode on the whole.
So, visuals are one thing, but how does it handle? Well, it’s by no means the most articulated design I’ve seen, but generally this is a fun toy to pose all the same. All of the usual posing points are present and correct, including the likes of waist swivel and a decent range on the ankles, although there’s nothing such as an ab crunch in sight, so don’t get too excited, either!
It means that Thomas can pose quite nicely as long as you’re not hoping for anything too dramatic or dynamic from him. The arms are impeded somewhat by the wings, meaning that they can’t move backwards all that much (bizarrely something that’s also very evident on KFC’s Ditka, although to a greater degree), but overall you shouldn’t have any trouble finding decent stances for him.
He’s very stable once posed too, so I had no concerns about him toppling over or anything like that. It also has to be said that once he’s in a pose, he pretty typically looks amazing and has fairly keenly dominated my attention in any kind of 3PMP Decepticon display I’ve made him part of.
One thing I could probably live without though is those massive hip flaps. I’ve never been a big fan of hip flaps as a design solution anyway, but here they’re just a bit too obvious when hinged upward in order to allow for greater leg articulation. Because it’s such a clean-looking design to begin with, the result ends up being just a smidge too jarring for my tastes, although again, it’s something I’ve made my peace with overall!
The thing that bugs me way more is how poorly Thomas is able to hold his rifle in his hand. Here we have the signature FansToys hands that have been relatively unchanged since the early days, and the gun should in theory connect using the all-too-familiar peg-in-palm method, yet for some reason, it just will not go securely.
I believe it may just be that the tab on the weapon itself is a little too large for the palm but it’s exceptionally annoying, meaning that the gun will often just fall out of Thomas’ hand without notice. Even when you tighten the fingers and thumb as much as you can, it never truly feels like it’s going to hold in place and can make posing a bit of a chore in that regard.
Still, I haven’t let it stop me, and truthfully it’s one legitimate grumble in a sea of otherwise positive stuff to say about this robot mode on the whole.
More than anything though, the real story is how well Thomas owns his spot on the shelf. As I’ve already said, this is a tick on the Decepticon checklist that’s far too overdue, although now that it’s finally done, I couldn’t be happier with the overall result.
Size-wise, Thomas is arguably a little smaller than I might have anticipated, mostly because I always imagine the character to be just that smidge bigger than a lot of his contemporaries. That said, a simple reference check has taught me that perhaps this is a decent size for him after all, especially as he still manages to stack up a little taller than Masterpiece Seeker height.
And whilst he’s a fraction shorter than stuff like FansToys’ own Sovereign, he never feels diminished in any way, still managing to bring his own presence to every scene he’s part of.
After all, Thomas slots in amazingly well to a MP-styled display with classic characters or newer crew alike, ably fitting the aesthetic of official toys and non. It’s fantastic to see Astrotrain finally done justice in this way.
It’s amazing to me that it took this long, especially as Astrotrain is one of those characters who managed to be fairly prominent both pre and post 1986 movie, but truthfully it’s just good to have it done!
So, that’s our first 3PMP triple changer brought to a close and it does not disappoint. This is a toy I’ve been excited about for ages and now that it’s finally here, I remain thrilled by the result. We will have to see how KFC get on with their two contributions but it’s only fair to say that they’re going to have a mighty tough time topping Thomas.
It might sound cliche but apparently, sometimes the best things really do come to those who wait.
WHAT’S HOT? Two amazing alternate modes and a heavily faithful robot mode mean this is a tremendous package on the whole. The transformation may look intimidating to begin with but it’s also surprisingly straightforward considering the scale of the challenge here.
WHAT’S NOT? My main gripe is the gun not pegging securely to the palm.