Review by EVA_Unit_4A
The distant planet of Cybertron was the home to a race of intelligent, feeling alien robots who could change shape at will- the Transformers. For reasons no longer remembered by anyone living, a war broke out between the two factions of robots- the Autobots and the Decepticons- which eventually drained Cybertron of all its power sources, including all-important Energon. In the quest to get more Energon to sustain their fight, the Autobots created the Ark and some of them left Cybertron. But the power-hungry Decepticons were waiting for them in their great flagship, the Nemesis, and boarded the Ark to stop them. A battle between the two ships eventually brought them both crashing down onto Earth. With their leaders and greatest warriors lost, the war on Cybertron continued on to a stalemate. For over four million years, the Ark rested hidden inside a volcano located in what would eventually become Oregon, its occupants unconscious and helpless in stasis lock. Then in 1984, the volcano harboring the Ark erupted, reawakening the on-board computer system Teletraan-1. The computer, realizing that the ship and its crew were in danger, awoke the Transformers aboard the Ark, and reformatted them to change into disguises matching those of modern day Earth vehicles so that the giant robots could move among the population in secret. The surviving Decepticons, having lost their great ship millions of years earlier, also gained new disguise forms and hid themselves on Earth until they could rebuild their forces and gather enough Energon to destroy the Autobots, subvert the intrusive and annoying humans, and renew the war on Cybertron in their quest for total galactic domination.
He is certainly the bug that buzzes annoyingly in the Decepticons’ audio processors, his quick and animated movements guaranteeing that he can’t be ignored in a battle. But on the other hand, Bumblebee is a great scout, and he can be equally stealthy when he needs to be, his buzzing about reduced to a low hum as he scans the region with high-quality sensors. This was why he was chosen to be among many of the other great Autobots when they left Cybertron aboard the Ark, which eventually trapped him in stasis lock until Teletraan-1 reawakened them all millions of years later. Ever anxious to prove himself to his leader Optimus Prime, he is quick to volunteer for any assignment, despite not being as powerful or even as tall as most other Autobots. Through his early days on Earth, Bumblebee soon became close friends with the son of an oil rig worker, Spike Witwicky, which often allowed the Autobots insight into and close-relationships with humans. Soon, this bonding between Spike and Bumblebee would lead them to become official ambassadors to each other’s planets. Years later, Bumblebee (repaired and upgraded into Goldbug by then) would also befriend Spike’s son, Daniel, with the pair of them continuing on in many adventures and battles.
This Transformers Classics figure is a completely new toy based off of the original Bumblebee (I call him “BB” for short) who appeared in the classic G1 cartoon series from 1984. In that series, he was a small yellow Volkswagen Beetle car (also known as the Bug) that changed into a robot standing 15ft tall. (Animation errors throughout the G1 series sometimes changed his height from anywhere from 5’ to 20’!) He was indeed a member of the Ark’s crew, playing a rather large role in the war on Earth, acting as liaison between the Autobots and humans, particularly Spike Witwicky, but also mixing it up quite a few times with the Decepticons. Unfortunately, for as famous and popular as BB has become in both the Transformers fandom and pop culture at-large, he is only seen in the G1/G2 cartoon and “The Transformers: The Movie” (1986)! Though the character is well-loved, his role is not entirely absent from the intervening years, being replaced with similar characters like Autobot Hot Shot (typically a muscle car) and Maximal Cheetor, who both filled the role of small-in-height, young, ambitious… and yellow. It would not be until the 2007 live-action film “Transformers” was released in theaters that the character of Bumblebee would return to the saga in both name and presence.
“Transformers” also marks a notable change to Bumblebee’s appearance, which is also reflected in this earlier Classics figure- the absence of the VW Bug as his alternate mode. As with almost all of the toys and characters from the G1 series, commonly-seen real vehicles were used for the alternate modes. Changes in toy design and trademark policies have altered significantly since the 1980s, and companies are much more wary of how their products are portrayed. This conflict actually made its first appearance when Hasbro and [Japanese toy maker] Takara approached Volkswagen for the rights to their New Beetle design for use in the Transformers: Alternators line to remake Bumblebee. However, Volkswagen refused them, saying- to my understanding- that they no longer wanted the VW Bug to be associated with the Transformers franchise because of their inherent violence. Thus, the 2007 film used a Chevrolet Camaro (both the 1977 and 2008 models) for BB’s alternate mode. (There are other reasons for the Camaro, but I’ll not get into that here.) But the people working on the Classics line, which debuted just before the film, wanted to keep as close to the VW Bug-look as possible without infringing on the trademarked and popular vehicle from the 60s. Thus, this toy’s alternate mode is not based on any particular modern car, but rather shares a combination of traits from many different makes and models. However, in all promotional materials, BB’s Classics alternate mode is not positively identified as any specific type of real car.
(After a little poking around, I think that it more closely resembles a compact version of the Nissan Skyline GT-R LM, but with rounded corners, and a shorter backside like the profile of a VW Bug.)
Bumblebee’s vehicle mode (back) may not be a Volkswagen Beetle anymore, but it retains the same aura of small, and round… and yellow. However, BB shares the notability of being modeled after real-life vehicles like just about half of the Classics line released thus-far, such as Starscream and Mirage, as opposed to made-up ones like Optimus Prime and Rodimus which are based loosely on real vehicles. And in modern day aesthetics, the car mode is curved and streamlined- notably thenose with integrated headlights & grille, the windshield and roof (which contain two silver-painted seats within!), and the backside which features a small silver spoiler, transparent-red taillights and black license place. He also rides very close to the ground on the four black ABS wheels with painted hubcaps. A new aesthetic includes a metallic white paint application in stripes along the front and top of the car as well as the backside which is completely white. If you look closely, you can see non-functional door handles and a fuel tank cover molded on, as well as simple tire tread patterns, and the grille pattern along the front bumper!
As an additional tribute to the G1 series, each Classics figure has a heat sensitive decal placed on it. When the heat from your finger warms the black patch, the bots’ associated allegiance- Autobot or Decepticon- is revealed. The decal on Bumblebee is located right above the windshield on the roof. In robot mode, the decal is located right in the center of his chest.
Bumblebee’s robot mode (back) continues on in the spirit of small, and round… and yellow. But now black and a little blue are added to that. BB also holds an honor of being the second Transformer we ever saw in the G1 series debut (right after Wheeljack, who pulled him up from an access port on Cybertron). The biggest difference would be his size- this figure stands 4 5/8” (11.90cm), whereas the original G1 toy would barely come to his waist! The various parts of the robot mode end up in pretty much the same locations on vehicle mode between them, but the Classics ver. goes about it in a radically different way. There are quite a few other similarities between them:
- His head is mostly yellow, with a silver face. Two small antennae-like horns stick out the side of his head.
- His arms come from inside/beneath the doors.
- The engine/nose section of the vehicle ends up as his feet, with his black legs coming from beneath the passenger compartment.
- The roof of the vehicle mode becomes his chest/upper torso; though the Classics version separates the roof into two halves which end up on both his chest and back. However, the windshield on both remains as part of his front lower torso.
- Sharing also with the G1 cartoon character, his lower legs grow gently as they go from his hips to his feet.
At this point, the comparisons become more about aesthetic, and also show the difference in toy design & manufacturing over 20 years (which I do not have enough confidence to describe in detail here). Needless to say, this is an excellent and flawless transition & homage to the G1 character. I am sure that any long-time TF fan will be able to look at the Classics design, and immediate recognize him as the Autobot Bumblebee.
Aside from dedicated non-transformable figures, busts, and statuettes, this was the most detailed and complex Bumblebee figure made up to the point of the Classics’ release in late 2006. Unlike most of the Classics figures- which have slender and/or strong bodies- BB’s is not quite so, spotting a rather round front torso and big feet. His head retains the overall yellow coloring and tiny twin spikes coming from it. Unless I am too mistaken in my research for this review, Classics Bumblebee is really the first transformable figure in the franchises’ entire 22-year run to spot a smile; as opposed to a neutral expression, grimace, frown, a battle expression such as gritted ‘teeth’, or even a typical face shield to hide the lower face altogether. His arms have black shoulders & fists, but light gray forearms, and almost-square yellow shields which are made from the passenger doors. His legs are covered by the folded-forward passenger seats and the hood from the nose of the car, while they are exposed in back. (By the way, does anyone else thing that BB here is wearing the robot equivalent of overalls, or a kitchen apron…?)
Compared to other figures in the Classics line, BB’s range of motion is average. However, compared against all of his [few] predecessors, his poseability is revolutionary! His head, shoulders, elbows, and hips are all ball-and-socket joints, with only his knees and ankles having standard free-turn joints. His head was sculpted just-so so that he can actually look up! This is mostly due to how he transforms and how his head ends up in the back region of the trunk, but still-! (At least now when he’s flying in robot mode like he did in G1/G2, he can look forward to see where he’s going!) There are actually two limiting factors when posing him. First, the windshield hangs down just enough that his legs cannot bed forward beyond 45-degrees. And second, his ankles cannot pitch forward because the hood panels press up against his legs; they can still pitch backward 90-degrees, but not forwards.
Despite carrying a small light-gray blaster in G1, no BB toy has ever carried a weapon unless the character was represented by a repaint. While this may fit for the profile of a scout (who is typically not meant to engage an opponent unless detected), it certainly leaves BB here up a creek without a paddle when the shooting starts! And also, all of the Classics figures have some kind of integrated accessory. For BB, this is where the Wave Crusher trailer comes into play. It doesn’t form a weapon, and the jet ski itself can’t be separated from the trailer, but altogether it can form a winged jet pack which clips onto his back right behind his head! (Nice touch!)
The only complaint aside from the previously mentioned leg limits that I can find is how close things are when you transform him; if all of these joints are not aligned perfectly, it can cause a domino effect which can become a little irritating. But other than that, this is a very well designed and executed toy; a wonderfully re-imagined form of a beloved character who didn’t get much respect as a toy until now. Like his namesake, he is also small, but fast-looking, and also feels like because of those things he is a young Autobot willing to go out on a limb for the ones he cares about. The colors are also well integrated, with nice subtle additions of white and a tiny bit of blue to liven things up a bit. Full recommendations for Bumblebee!
|Posted 9 January, 2008 - 03:00 by EVA_Unit_4A|