It’s been quite the journey with threezero’s officially-licensed Transformers releases. I’m only a relatively recent convert myself, having first hopped on board with their DLX Bumblebee from the film of the same name, yet it’s only fair to say that I’m slightly obsessed with them now.
— Sixo (@SixoTF) February 16, 2022
Seriously, there is now no new toy delivery I anticipate more, which might sound a bit mad if you’ve never handled one before (and especially for the remaining crowd put off by the mere fact of them being non-transformable toys) but given the incredible hit rate of these things, it’s entirely justified. Every single one of them that I’ve experienced has been a total knockout, so far!
So it didn’t take too much for me to jump on board the idea of their new MDLX line, although I can objectively understand why it might seem like a strange prospect to the uninitiated collectors out there. For starters, yes, it’s a non-transforming toy at a similar size as convertible versions of the same character that already exist. Secondly, it’s not a design based on any prior Transformers series of any kind, so the automatic familiarity factor is somewhat lost.
Thirdly, and I say this not lightly, it’s another flippin’ Bumblebee, isn’t it? I mean, I love the little blighter and all, but he’s gone from being the child-friendly member of the rank and file to becoming the poster boy of the franchise in more recent times, and this isn’t even the first time threezero have taken a crack at him. I get why some people might be a little over it all by now, not to mention sceptical of the other points.
So, let me reassure you that those worries go straight out of the window the minute you get this lad in your clutches. Yes, they’re still very real points, but MDLX Bumblebee is so wonderful to handle that I doubt you’ll be pondering any of them much beyond a cursory examination of the goods on offer here, he’s just so marvellous to behold.
Let’s start with examining what this line is about then, shall we? Well, pretty simply, the MDLX design claims to take inspiration from the original Transformers G1 cartoon and toy line, albeit with a heavy overhaul by threezero Art Director, Kelvin Sau. Looking at this guy up close, you can see all of that influence being worked in and blended quite seamlessly; there is a familiar nostalgic feel to the design despite it being entirely new at the same time.
Case in point, there are plenty of elements featured all over the body that ably recall the appearance of both the G1 Bumblebee cartoon model and the vintage toy in many ways. It’s not just the obvious placement of things like the feet or the chest, but more in the way everything fits together or how the curves and proportions work to evoke that sense of the classic character.
I think it helps to see there’s a clear effort to make this figure look like it could actually transform, even though it doesn’t. It would be one thing to slap some VW Beetle feet on him and call it a day, but I love how the insides feature textured tyre parts and other mechanical details that all appear as though they would shift into place should the moment arise. It’s the same with the back featuring the rear half of the car’s roof and the spare tyre section, and it all reminds me of the 1990/1 Action Master line in that way.
I appreciate such a comparison perhaps won’t win over any collectors already hardened against the non-transformable nature of this figure, but it does have several significant advantages over those old toys that I think are also worth serious consideration. Firstly, it’s one of the most articulated releases for its size that I’ve seen in ages.
Action Masters were always touted as super-articulated G.I.Joe-style figures back in the day but by modern standards, it’s only fair to acknowledge they fall a bit short of expectations. By comparison, MDLX ‘Bee is a work of art, with an exceptional number of joints and so much fluidity all over that he’s just a charm to pick up and pose – far more expressive than even your average Masterpiece Transformers release (and certainly outstripping something like MP-45 Bumblebee, for what it’s worth).
It’s not even the range that each limb allows, thanks to solutions such as double-jointed knees or elbows, but how many additional points of movement there are overall, meaning you can contort ‘Bee into some truly awesome poses. I gave this guy a good going over before and during the photoshoot shown here and let me tell you, there wasn’t anything he couldn’t achieve in terms of how I wanted to pose him. He’s also remarkably stable and solid, making this an altogether fun and satisfying experience.
The only slight dose of compromise here is the non-articulated hands, as threezero has instead opted for swap-out options that allow for some expression or for holding the gun accessory. This may not be to everyone’s tastes but it’s something I was expecting after handling quite a few of their DLX releases already and for what it’s worth, it’s an easy-to-operate solution.
Similarly, there is a swap-out head included here too, which is a fantastic representation of Bumblebee’s classic battle mask from the original toy! I think this looks superb beyond belief, especially as it brilliantly captures the spirit of the 1984 release.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of the default head too, especially as the detail in the sculpt and the beautiful finish all make it quite stunning to look at up close. It also recalls the grim expression of the character from the recent WFC trilogy cartoon to some degree, so perhaps might entice fans of that series a little!
Yet to my eye, there’s just something about the battle mask that knocks it clean out of the park, especially for how it once again manages to ably tread the line between homaging something old whilst still being its own new thing. Stunning work.
Of course, whichever head you choose here, it’s only fair to say ‘Bee is a photographers dream in many regards. The visual presentation of this figure is so strong, it’s just impossible to pun him in front of the lens and not keep happily snapping away, given how interesting he is to look at.
A large part of that is down to the weathering seen all over the body, which is so expertly applied it actually does look like the toy is a little grubby or worn around the edges… in a good way! If anything, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a hand-painted sample, despite the precision seen on the lined panels and such. It’s just *gorgeous* and stands up to extreme scrutiny despite being so small.
Then there are the beautiful mechanical sections on areas such as the sides of the body or the limbs and joints, all brought to life with an insane amount of detail and highlighted by a metallic-looking wash. For me, it captures the aesthetic and feel of the Bumblebee movie despite the overall design being so different. One cares to speculate how if the 2018 film hadn’t needed to somewhat crib the character’s appearance from the previous live-action films then this could have been a fitting route to take, no doubt looking entirely at home with the rest of the designs used.
In any case, the toy looks terrific. There are only so many ways I can keep explaining that beyond just saying you’ll have to trust me on it, but truthfully, it’s hard to capture what a joy to behold it is once you get it in hand.
So he looks great and moves well but you’ll perhaps also be pleased to hear MDLX ‘Bee is about as robust as they come too, eh? The manufacturer’s website explains this is thanks to their “unique die-cast zinc alloy and engineer-grade plastic frame system“, which all sounds mightily impressive and means threezero are no slouches when it comes to producing top tier toys.
In all seriousness, you feel every ounce of that quality and attention to detail poured into this lad, meaning he comes off as a remarkable specimen even aside from his fantastic looks and fun play value. There’s a sense of craftsmanship here that I know a lot of collectors pine for from Hasbro & Takara’s own product at times, although again, that’s not something I say lightly!
So, he’s well-made, hugely articulated, gorgeous to look at and just generally all-round spectacular then? Well, yes! If anything the only real difference to MDLX Bumblebee and the DLX line I’m already quite familiar with is the size, as this lad shapes up to be rather pint-sized even compared to his movieverse equivalent figure.
Perhaps surprisingly, he ends up being no bigger than MP-45, or indeed the original Masterpiece Bumblebee mould, which I’m sure is a lot smaller compared to what some may have anticipated from photos. I think threezero has once again played a blinder here though, as I’m already anticipating a hopefully long line-up of figures in this style from them, so space should be a little less hindered assuming that comes to pass!
Seriously, just imagine a whole shelf of these things, all representing classic G1 characters in a new hyper-articulated style? Sure, they don’t transform, but honestly, if they were to all look as good as this, I know I wouldn’t be missing that aspect too much!
Don’t get me wrong, I love transforming toys. Love ’em! But I truly feel like there’s a definite space for this kind of thing too and in that sphere, I’ve yet to see anyone do it nearly as well as threezero. I was already more than on board with their existing releases but to see them branch out and carve out their own niche? I’m all here for it.
And if you’re still not convinced? Well, I guess some things just aren’t meant to ‘Bee.
WHAT’S HOT? Stunning figure, hyper-articulated, incredibly well-made… the whole package except…
WHAT’S NOT? …it doesn’t transform. Not a problem for me, but it will put some off, I know.