REVIEW: FansToys FT-52 Aussie

There are more than a couple of classic Transformers characters who you suspect might never be tackled in official Masterpiece form, no matter how long the line runs for.

True, we’re now living in a world where comparative no-names such as Skids (no shade, I love him) can be given the treatment. Yet here I’m talking about the real D-listers, the absolute second-stringers. The Renford Rejects of the robot world, you might say.

All of which brings us to Outback, who, despite a fairly memorable turn (and a decidedly dodgy Australian accent) in the classic Sunbow cartoon, remains about as likely to be given a high-end makeover as Sky Lynx is to win an award for modesty. It ain’t gonna happen.

Naturally, that leaves the door open for some enterprising third-party outfits to step forward and plug the gap, which explains why this is now the second unofficial attempt at the character. That said, it’s been a minute since Badcube’s Backland was dropped all the way back in 2014, so arguably, we’re well overdue FansToys to step in with their take too. And now, here’s Aussie.

It will come as no surprise to learn that this is a repaint (and retool) of their Hunk design, given that Outback and Brawn have shared a mould ever since the beige ‘bot was first seen in 1986. Yet FansToys has arguably gone above and beyond in making changes to portray this new take as accurately to the screen as possible, even if that’s not immediately obvious as far as the vehicle form goes.

Still, that’s no problem, as this alternate mode looks nothing but stellar, capably bringing the proper sense of style in portraying the character. The tan colour is spot on, and the finish is entirely in line with what collectors have come to expect from FansToys, with complements such as rubber tyres and the obvious presence of heft-inducing diecast all present and correct. It looks and feels gorgeous in this form.

Everything clips and holds together solidly, leaving you with a remarkably kibble-free and tidy result. I was already a massive fan of this design on Hunk, but I like how it’s worked out on Aussie just as much. Additionally, plugging in Outback’s signature cannon atop the roof adds more than enough interest to the proceedings and helps set him apart from his mould-mate. All good so far, then.

Transformation is where things get slightly more intriguing, as this is when it becomes truly apparent just how much work FansToys has done to differentiate the two designs. Whilst the general principle is essentially the same, several pieces unfold in varying ways, with more than a few surprises in store for anyone already familiar with Hunk. It also leaves you with a very distinct result at the end of it.

Let’s not beat around the bush here; Outback is a somewhat odd-looking chap, isn’t he? Don’t get me wrong, the vintage figure is neat, but between the overly-brown stylings and his inability to not look like a vending machine, the lad isn’t exactly one of the most stylish of G1 Transformers. In that regard, FansToys has both entirely nailed this yet somehow fluffed it in equal measure.

I say that honestly because even a cursory glance should inform you how well they’ve captured the look of the character’s animation model in all its awkward glory. The aesthetic at play is tough to pin down, but to my eye, Aussie captures the proper sense of proportions and visual cues to make this work really well as a screen-accurate outing for the character.

Perhaps naturally, such slavishness can lead to a touch of awkwardness in some cases, and so it is here. Certain designs make for a hard job when translating them accurately to 3D form, and you very much get the impression that FansToys had some hard choices to make regarding how best to realise Outback in this case, especially given they were working from a pre-established design.

In that way, Aussie, perhaps more than any other recent FT putting in memory, feels like he’s served up with a fair degree of compromise on the side, never quite fully formed in his own right. The robot mode is immediately not as enjoyable or impressive as Hunk by any objective measure. Yet unfortunately, it falls short of making Outback’s ungainly presence a satisfying adventure too.

Firstly, the colour scheme cannot help but be decidedly drab. Where this was fine in vehicle mode, here it’s quite literally crying out for a zing; just any slight pop of colour to try and elevate it beyond being just a bit boring. What’s especially weird is that FansToys has opted for a silver visor, whereas the cartoon switched between this colour and blue. Given the choice, the latter would have been more interesting to look at, not least because the rest of the head design is white.

Beyond that, the face sculpt itself feels indistinct, too, with the details severely lacking versus FansToys’ usual quality standard in this arena. It all looks too washed out and hard to discern, and coupled with the monochromatic visor, it almost leaves Aussie coming off as an unfinished test shot.

There is an alternate face, which is very easy to swap out and manages to boast severe “g’day!” vibes, so that’s a bit of fun. It also appears to be slightly better defined than the default take, so there are some points there, although I’d have merrily given it up in favour of a blue visor option, myself.

Unfortunately, the somewhat lacklustre first impression isn’t relegated to the looks, as my copy is a little lacking in tolerances, too. The knees are the worst, with both of them quite loose and flopping a fair bit back and forth. It’s possible to tighten the screws and fix this to a degree, but it’s just another way in which this toy doesn’t quite live up to the usual FansToys seal of approval.

Then there’s the articulation itself, which is by far and away the most significant drawback on offer here. I wasn’t expecting ab crunches and butterflied shoulders given that I’m already familiar with Hunk, but where that toy managed to be fun to pose, somehow Aussie makes it a total chore. It’s so chock full of half-hearted, baffling decisions that it leaves you feeling like you must be doing something wrong with it. Except you’re not.

The knees already looked slightly ungraceful on Hunk, yet here that’s compounded by some distinctly dodgy feet. The retooling is appreciated in bringing the cartoon design to life, yet in this case, it feels tacked on rather than integral to the design, and it leaves the new feet parts looking awkward but also quite unstable. Aussie struggles to hold a solid stance, given how much he wobbles around with such odd clompers.

Working our way up, one of the worst bits here is the crotch design, which features two very large hip flaps that barely even make an effort to move out of the way when you’re trying to articulate the legs. They look and feel hugely cumbersome and entirely restrict the forward hip movement. It’s an unfortunate bit of design, to say the least.

Even weirder, the head and accompanying ‘helmet’ section cannot move from side to side, though each bit is as inexplicable as the other. You would fully expect the head to be able to twist inside its casing somehow, yet it’s apparently stuck in place, whilst the bulkier outside section is hindered by the backpack and thus cannot move more than a few degrees either way. It’s not good.

To say I’m a bit disappointed is an understatement, especially as Hunk was a real highlight of last year for me. The transformation is so creative and unexpected, and I loved how both modes were realised, so Aussie cannot help but feel like his rather unfortunate long-lost cousin by comparison. It’s excellent that FansToys went to such efforts to differentiate the two, yet the actual result is so unexpectedly duff to handle that it feels like a bit of a wasted effort.

On the plus side, another very neat accessory is on offer here, which is meant for use with Hunk. It’s a recreation of Megatron’s fusion cannon but scaled to match the scene from Fire on the Mountain, where Brawn briefly wields it. It fits very neatly on Hunk’s shoulders, but in a neat twist, it can also be extended and slotted onto the arm of MP-36 Megatron. There’s even a light-up feature, so that’s kind of fun.

And hey, even if Aussie may not be all that much fun to handle, he at least does a good job at recreating the animation look of the character, which may well be all that some collectors need him to do. The appeal of this toy increases immensely once you line him up with any other number of Masterpiece-styled toys and attempt a cartoon homage.

Besides, it’s by far and away a more screen-accurate take versus the previous offering of Badcube’s Backland, which looks very squat and chonky by comparison. I have enjoyed this toy a fair bit over the years, yet the appeal of Aussie’s appearance is reasonably distinct here. As much as Backland is arguably the more solid option, I’d say Aussie is more fun to transform, too.

In that way, I almost feel like I’ve been too harsh on this figure, given that it does some aspects of its job very well, and especially considering what a bizarre inspiration Outback is to start with. It’s still possible this may well end up being the best outing the character will ever receive in Masterpiece-style, which, at least in some weird way, feels rather fitting, I suppose.

It also means that Aussie stops short of being a total dog’s breakfast, even if he’s not quite the hunk he could have been.

WHAT’S HOT? The vehicle mode is pretty fab and the transformation is fun. The robot mode looks a lot like the cartoon.

WHAT’S NOT? The robot mode is so awkward! Weird articulation choices and mine has floppy knees, too.

About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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