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…
Be sure to check out part 1 first, in case you missed it!
#3: It’s hard to match the presentation of the original line
The early 2000s was quite the era for toy presentation. The lush paint applications, plentiful chrome, rubber tyres and lack of hollow parts all made for beautifully presented toys, even at a mainline price point. In fact, it regularly strikes me when you revisit figures from that era how the finish is often so good that it arguably brushes up against what we now see in the modern Masterpiece line, at least in specific examples. These days, we’ve become accustomed to budgetary restraints being an ever-more present part of modern toy production, with collectors typically well-attuned to the limitations imposed to avoid the result being entirely cost-prohibitive. It’s seemingly a reality of our times in more ways than just toy collecting, of course, but it does stand in stark contrast to even just twenty years ago.
Naturally, that means if the RID designs were to be given a re-do, we’d likely have to adjust our expectations slightly regarding how they would be presented. For starters, I wouldn’t anticipate Car Robot brothers with rubber tyres, chromed rims and highlights, translucent plastic windshields or intricate paint detailing. That’s not to say such an attempt wouldn’t be welcomed, but it’s another way it would be hard to compete with what’s already out there.
#2: The original line was a purposeful hodgepodge
I feel this next point is more relevant towards RID than perhaps any other toy line in Transformers history (even including its own Japanese Car Robots equivalent). You see, the 2001 roster was a veritable melting pot, boasting a line-up of toy designs from every previous iteration of the robots in disguise franchise at that time. There’d been instances of this happening before, mostly in lines such as Takara’s Beast Wars II. However, RID was a fully-fledged, unadulterated trip-down-memory-lane affair, with G1, G2, Beast Wars, Beast Machines and even Machine Wars toys all standing shoulder-to-shoulder with new moulds for the line. It was bizarre in many ways, but it worked surprisingly well, especially given the corresponding cartoon didn’t shy away from representing so many of the designs as accurately as it did. If anything, it’s part of the innate charm of the series.
The challenge for a modern take is how best to capture that same mishmash spirit when all the toys are designed from the ground up. From a particular perspective, it could be seen as an advantage, as there’s a chance to make the whole affair much more homogenous than the vintage assortment. However, you’d also risk losing part of the fun of it, too.
#1: The vintage toys are often not hard to get hold of
OK, so we’ve talked about how the old RID toys are beautifully presented, often with excellent articulation and intricate designs for the time, and that they already do a fabulous job at bringing the relevant cartoon to life. All these aspects make it harder to imagine how a modern makeover might have the same apparent advantages as a remake of a vintage G1 design, for example. However, there are other vital factors to consider here, as well – the availability and the cost.
Vintage G1 is often hugely desirable now, and typically carries an aftermarket price to reflect that. Even if a collector preferred a classic toy over its modern equivalent, there’s rarely a chance of acquiring it within anything approaching a similar price bracket outside of a current reissue. Even then, they can be on the costly side. However, this is arguably less a factor with RID, where a surprising number of the classic toys can still be found in new or mint condition at relative low cost today. The Car Robot brothers are a great example here, as the Hasbro releases will regularly pop up on sealed cards for around the same price as a modern Voyager toy, making them a reasonably easy acquisition should anyone want to see these characters represented in their ranks.
True, some of the larger toys in the line are much more expensive nowadays, with a boxed Optimus Prime likely to be a more significant outlay should the classic fire truck design take your fancy. That said, you’re spoilt for choice regarding availability, with dozens of listings on eBay at any given time. These are not hard toys to track down, by any means. So, whilst modern RID toys might have a slight advantage in this arena, it’s not like their vintage counterparts are quite as out of bounds as other classic lines, either.
However… they should just do it anyway!
At the end of the day, though, it would still be truly wonderful to see this beloved part of the franchise given new attention and focus with a modern twist, and none of the challenges presented here takes away from that.
Yes, the classic toys stack up amazingly well even over two decades on, and I wholeheartedly encourage anyone who is interested to take a look in that direction. Yet I can’t deny the appeal of seeing designs such as Optimus, Side Burn, Prowl, X-Brawn, Rail Racer, Landfill and the rest all revisited. With Beast Wars, Unicron Trilogy, Animated and more already on the Legacy slate, surely it’s only a matter of time before it comes to pass, and I cannot wait to see how it turns out, hopefully before too long!
So that’s our list! Would you be excited to see modern takes on classic RID toys?