Have you ever watched the Transformers cartoon show as a kid and said “WOW, I wish they made a toy of THAT!” Then one day your walking through a store and see said character was turned into a toy -or- saw a well made and over produced commercial hyping the Transformer of your dreams is now on toy shelves. After either waiting for your parents to crumble and buy you this awesome “as seen on TV” Transformer -or- waited patiently for Santa to put it under your Christmas tree, you finally had it in your little dirty mitts.
You crack open the box or rip open a blister pack and your dreams have finally come true. You can now recreate your favorite scenes from the TV show. Or can you?
After playing with it a couple minutes you feverishly thumb through the instruction manual or read the back of the package a hundred times only to discover that it does absolutely nothing you wanted it to do. Hasbro was slick back in the day, the Transformers toys were sold in their vehicle forms which all looked awesome. You only felt the heart break after you struggled to transform them into their robot mode.
Over its many decade run (which is still going strong), Transformers have given us some real stinkers when it comes to comparing the toy with the cartoon/comic book version. Most of the time the vehicle mode is right on the money but things sometimes fall apart when it comes to the whole transformation thing.
1. Ironhide / Ratchet (1984)
Can you see a difference in the pictures above?
Just imagine being a kid that loved Transformers and wanting the toys of some of your favorite heroes from the show. Especially after the first mini-series when the whole thing was fresh and exciting and it blew your mind that there was a new toy line on the block. Cars and trucks and planes that turn into robots…holy Sh!t!
Here is the package that Ratchet came in that I received for a Christmas present from my parents friends. Well, not the actually package, this is one I found on Google.
On first impression you are lulled into a false sense of security because Ratchet has a pretty great vehicle mode. It’s a solid ambulance and if I was into cars I would be happy enough with that. They picture of Ratchet? I had no idea what that was and I didn’t think twice about it at the time…I was 8. Wow, if I only knew the writing was on the wall, as they say.
Long story short. Out of my few remaining Generation 1 Transformers I still own, Ratchet is one that I don’t mind my 2 year old son playing with. If he were to destroy it, it wouldn’t break my heart because Hasbro already did that 33 years ago.
2. Megatron (1984)
I never had ol’ trigger crotch here but I still feel the pain as if I did. I understand that it has to be pretty hard to engineer a hand gun that can turn into a robot, I really do, but damn.
Originally part of the”Gun Robo” subset of the Micro Change toy line, Megatron was the first of the gun themed Transformers. In Japan Megatron was sold in a standard form and a “licensed” Man From U.N.C.L.E. form. Hasbro released the U.N.C.L.E. version in America because it came with more accessories. Hasbro removed his ability to fire real plastic bullets because we know how to ruin a good thing here in the States, and the rest is history.
The purist in me will always say “Megatron is a gun and nothing else” but the realist in me thinks he works so much better as a tank when it comes to his robot form. I don’t know which is worse honestly, the trigger crotch or the gun barrel hanging off his hip. He is a very messy looking robot and when side-by-side with others he looks less like the leader and more like a cobbled together minion. There are some damn fine G1 reproductions that have fixed some of the problems but I’m only talking about 1984 here.
3. Wreck-Gar (1986)
The whole design of Wreck-Gar in Transformers: The Movie is pure awesomeness. Everything from his mustache to his spikes to his ax were great (but lets not talk about the gun barrel nipples shall we). Did it make it better because Weird Al’s “Dare to be Stupid” was playing during some of his scenes? The answer is “Not Yes, but HELL YES!”
Cool Fact, Weird Al voiced Wreck-Gar in the 2007 cartoon Transformers: Animated. The Original from Transformers: The Movie was voiced by Monty Python alum Eric Idle.
I was always hellbent of getting a motorcycle transforming toy after my still traumatic experience of not getting the Cyclone Robotech toy. Wreck-Gar even had the same style as the Cyclone motorcycle. But when he’s a robot, oh god.
Well to be fair it’s not all bad, it mostly loses it at the head. Like, why does it have to be so big and with no detail at all.
There are newer versions that are flat-out awesome, but i’m talking about the disappointment of a kid…not what i can buy now.
4. Brawn (1984)
Ok, I’ll give credit where credit is due. I’m sure it is vastly harder to create a transforming vehicle of this size while also making it a very cost effective toy. But come on!! Most of the other Transformers in the mini-con line didn’t miss the mark as much as Brawn did.
In the cartoon Brawn was awesome. He was shorter than most of the other Transformers (like all the mini-cons) but he was strong and tough. So strong in fact that he was called in to do the heavy lifting when bots that were double his size couldn’t do it. Anyone who knows me knows that I love characters that hide their strength behind the guise of a smaller size, so I always loved Brawn.
It was a tremendous kick to the nuts though when you tell your parents how much you love the character and how much you want the toy only to open this disappointment on your birthday. Hasbro was slick back in the day, the Transformers toys were sold in their vehicle forms which all looked awesome. You only felt the heart break after you struggled to transform them into their robot mode. But also to Hasbro’s credit the mini-cons were sold in their robot forms, sadly I wasn’t able to frequent the toy aisles as much as I liked so I only had my after school cartoons to point me in the direction of cool characters. And what was up with those hook hands?
For most of us the Transformers movie was a clear divide between the old and new world of Transformers. Of course this is heavy handedly served to us on a steaming plate of dead Optimus, but the divide was seen in other ways as well. In my humble option the toys suffered almost more of a deadly blow than the cartoon series. Quality took a steep dive as the new toys seemed to be molded from plastic colors that seemed to be just laying around. Even though the colors matched the color palette of 80s fashion at the time it still seemed so muted compared to the original glossy colors of the toys made only a year before.
Out of all the new heroes we were forced to endure Wheelie was by far the worse. He was wedged violently into the role that Bumble Bee once held and he lacked any of the coolness that helped the Bumble Bee character endure to this day. Or did he? After a search online I turned up a pretty cool little relic of Wheelie’s. In a book entitled “The Story of Wheelie, The Wild Boy of Quintesson”. In the book we learn that Wheelie is a child who lost his parents when their ship crashed on Quintesson. Alone, he fended for himself and became a bad-ass known for taking down Sharkticons with a light saber like blade. Now that story is cool, what we got was not. We got a rhyming little shit who used a slingshot.
But none of that matters. We are here to talk about his toy, not his backstory…and his toy SUCKED! But a cool character can sometimes save a shitty toy….so two strikes against you Wheelie.
As we wrap this up I feel the need to give a shout out to the package artists. To their credit they gave us the honest to god version of the toy on the package. They could have stuck an animated version on the box and have been done, but these brave souls tried to get the truth out there. I for one was to stupid to realize it. I wanted to believe, so I was blind to the writing on the wall. Thank you all for your bravery.