Robots in Disguise 2001 is something of a cult classic amongst Transformers fans. Although it did well enough at the time, it’s arguably gone on to find even greater legs since and has become a firm favourite line in the eyes of many fans, both new and old alike.
There are many reasons for that, not least of which was the series ushering in a significant return to more traditional vehicle mode designs after an extended period of Beastformers, with both the Hasbro line-up and its Takara Car Robots equivalent feeling more akin to the Transformers of yore, in the eyes of many. Yet RID’s popularity in more recent times is undoubtedly relevant beyond just that, which explains why so many collectors would love to see some of the original toy designs revisited in updated form, whether as part of the current Transformers: Legacy line or whatever else.
However, there are also some significant challenges involved should RID ever be brought back for such a makeover, so let’s dive in and see just what they are…
#8: The original toys are already very cartoon accurate
Cartoon accuracy can be a poisoned chalice in modern toy design. While many collectors love seeing their favourite animation represented in 3D form as closely as possible, plenty feel it often steers towards being too overtly slavish. However, there’s always been some logic in seeing Generation 1 designs overhauled towards looking more like their on-screen counterparts, given how much they often varied versus the vintage toys. Not so with RID, however, which is objectively one of the Transformers cartoons from over the decades that most accurately portrayed its toy line, sticking incredibly close to the plastic designs in a way that was especially surprising given it was traditional cel animation for the most part. Not only did the characters look spot-on to the toys in their various modes, but the transformations were recreated painstakingly, and all of this was portrayed in breathtaking detail.
It leaves any potential modern take on a RID character as needing to rely on more than just looking akin to the equivalent cartoon to improve on its vintage counterpart and justify its existence. However, this point becomes doubly relevant when you consider that…
#7: The articulation on many of the original toys is already very good
Aside from cartoon accuracy, another arena where potential new takes on classic characters can improve on the originals is in the articulation stakes. However, once again, this would be a true challenge in the case of some RID designs, given how poseable so many of the 2000/1 toys were to begin with. True, it wasn’t universally the case (and especially when it comes to some of the moulds which were re-used from previous lines, although more on that later), but at least most of the toys that were purposefully created for the line boasted superior articulation to the vast majority of vehicle mode Transformers we’d seen before them. Optimus Prime and the Car Robot brothers are great examples of the era for how poseable they are, having incorporated the more flexible ball-jointed designs from latter-day Generation 2 and Beast Wars before them.
That said, modern toys have certainly taken things up a notch with ever-more poseable joints, and the likes of ab crunches and butterfly shoulders are now a relative staple of design too, so perhaps there’s still some room for improvement here all the same.
#6: The character designs are often quite complex
One element of the original RID toys that would be hard to do proper justice to is how intricate and complex many of the designs were at their core. Some collectors will no doubt have memories of trying to manipulate 2001’s Megatron through its many modes, with an unprecedented number of moving parts allowing you to convert him between ten separate forms (or potentially more…). Then there’s Side Burn, a toy which even today is regularly nominated for boasting one of the most labyrinthine conversions of the time, at least when it comes to a so-called mainline release (although I would add that some of that is more in memory than anything). Even toys such as Sky-Byte, which may not have been so challenging to transform, had plenty of intricacy in terms of how they were made or even in their asymmetrical presentation, all of which would be a challenge to recreate in modern form, much less improve on definitively.
None of this is to say such toy designs couldn’t be achieved; more that it would be a difficult road towards truly outshining what we already have.
#5: A lot of the alternate forms are ‘real’ vehicles
Of course, this next point is not entirely exclusive to RID, but it is still interesting nonetheless. Whilst many alternate forms from the series are either beastformers or vehicles of made-up origin, there are more than a few prominent characters who turn into instantly recognisable real-world cars and the like. The most obvious examples are the Car Robot brothers, with Side Burn clearly a Dodge Viper, Prowl a Lamborghini Diablo and X-Brawn a Mercedes-Benz ML320. It’s worth noting, however, that none of these toys was officially licensed at the time, with Takara’s original 2000 releases simply skirting the issue altogether and Hasbro’s line-up a year later having to make some tweaks to avoid any potential legal problems. Still, they’re easily identifiable all the same, which leaves any modern takes as needing to find another suitable workaround for the situation.
Odds are the designs could be made just generic enough for it to not be an issue (much as has been done with so many live-action movie toys over the years). However, it’s still a quirk to overcome and another way it will be hard to beat those original vehicle forms.
#4: Many of the original toys are considered all-time greats
Alright, this is certainly one of the more subjective entries on the list, but it still has merit! Ask any sizeable group of Transformers fans what their favourite Optimus Prime toys are from over the years, and there’s a good chance someone will mention RID. The same goes for top combiners and the likes of Rail Racer and Landfill, or for carbots like Side Burn and the other lads. They’re all outstanding original designs from Car Robots/RID that have stood the test of time and remain firmly lodged as top-tier material in the broader fandom consciousness. That’s to say nothing of some of the designs re-purposed for RID, such as Scourge or Sky-Byte, which a lot of collectors would argue have yet to be improved upon despite new takes on these characters now existing.
Again, this is far from a universal opinion. However, even objectively, the recent Legacy: Velocitron Speedia 500 Collection take on Scourge left some fans wanting, if only because it eschewed the character’s classic look in favour of some more stylised elements, and that’s to say nothing of how pared back the trailer gimmicks were versus the vintage equivalent’s massive arsenal of play value. None of this is to portray the new toy as less valid, but it still presents a sizeable challenge for such modern remakes, given how popular and beloved some of the original designs are in many fans’ eyes.
Be sure to join us for part 2 soon!