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March 22, 2009

Missed Opportunities - The Legend of Non-Toy-Based Transformers

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 3:10 am

I was thinking about Arcee and how the G1 Transformers cartoon is littered with characters who never made it into a plastic form, or if they did, it wasn’t until years later or in a form unrelated to the original. I can’t imagine a toy company not taking full advantage of such an opportunity today. And yet, there are at least a dozen examples of missed opportunities, or rather, cartoon characters that were plot-driven rather than toy-shelf-driven. Here’s a list:

Alpha Trion - Everything ends up pointing back to Alpha Trion. He sacrificed himself to bring the Aerialbots online and created Optimus Prime out of Orion Pax. He even led the uprisings against the Quintessons that led to the Golden Age of Cybertron.  And until the Transformers Collectors’ Club put out a repaint of Cybertron Vector Prime in 2007, the closest he came to an official toy was the PVC figure from Takara.

Arcee - Arcee may be the most famous example of this treatment. She’s literally in every episode of Season Three and even suffers through becoming a headmaster to an injured Daniel in the abridged Season Four. And though there were apparently plans to have her made as either an original form or a repaint of Chromedome, it was only in 2001 that she took plastic form as a repaint of Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Blackarachnia. Even now, despite appearing in Energon and proposed for the Movie (and having the toys to prove it) the best transforming representation of her G1 likeness available is a hard-to-find garage kit. We can only hope that the Animated version makes it to store shelves.

Defcon - An autobot bounty hunter. Almost seems to be a contradiction in terms. Nevertheless, in a single episode that focused on Smokescreen, the race car found himself competing for screentime with this newcomer. Although kicked around on two occasions for the convention crowd, as a repainted Beast Machines Mirage for Botcon and a repainted Energon Slugslinger as part of cancelled OTFCC plans, he’s yet to find representation in any form

Chromia - It seemed that the “female” autobots were all paramours of Earth bound “male” autobots.  Chromia, a van, got paired off with another van, Ironhide. I wonder if Ratchet was jealous. Anyway, Chromia’s sole plastic adventure is one of mistaken identity. when the Botcon folks had to substitute her name for what was suppose to be Moonracer-as-Energon Arcee.

Elita One - Former companion to Orion Pax, Ariel was upgraded to leader of the “female” Autobots by Alpha Trion. She is the second most prominent female on the side of good, which is to say she shows up in two episodes, one a flashback. Oh, and she’s also pink. Elita One was speculated to be a Transformers Collectors’ Club exclusive based on the Cybertron Thunderblast, but she’s yet to see released.

Firestar - It’s odd watching a twenty-five year old cartoon through the eyes of current sensibilities. Firestar and Inferno could be argued to have a history, and yet you wonder if Red Alert ever comes up in their personal conversations. Oh, right, just robots. Gotta remember that. Anyway, no sign of Firestar at all, who at least got a name compared, unlike the forever-known-as “the green one” and “the orange one.

Junkions - There was a whole planet of them in the Movie and yet the only one of their kind to grace toy isles was Wreck-Gar. Of course this was before the day when every figure could be assured at least one or two repaints. The closest representation of a Junkion on the market is an eHobby repaint of Hound.

Guardian Robots - Omega Supreme had a bunch of friends that defended Cybertron, first for the Quintessons and later before the Great War. But again, it was before the days of multiple repaints. Fortunately, the absence of Omega’s blue friends was rectified at significant cost by eHobby in 2008 with its Omega Supreme repaint.

Moonracer - Somehow paired up with Powerglide, Moonracer should have found some kind of plastic form through Botcon. Alas, the name was lost and her shot was taken by Chromia. She not expected to make another fan-driven list for awhile.


Nightbird - Nightbird wasn’t a transformer, but rather a ninja robot that Megatron wanted for some magnificent plan or another. As a plot devise, it’s no surprise she never made the toy section, although Impossible Toys has long threatened to bring about her release.


Orion Pax - Okay, Optimus Prime has of course been rendered into a variety of plastic forms, but Hasbro has never taken the opportunity to recreate his pre-leadership self.  EHobby saw the possibility in a repaint of G1 Kup. The release brought with it Dion, Orion’s murdered friend and a targetmaster weapon, but no Ariel. Whether we will expect a more modern version is unclear.

Quintessons - Like Arcee, the Quintessons were everywhere in Season 3 and in multiple forms, and yet if it wasn’t for the work of Impossible Toy’s Quints line, the only way they would have appeared would be through the dreadful Energon Alpha Quintesson or a Japanese garage kit.

Reflector - While most characters were plastic first and cartoons second, Reflector took the reverse path. Although Takara had a plastic model that they released domestically in 1985, he only showed up in North America as a mail-in special offer in 1986, long after the cease and desist edict was issued to the cartoon writing staff. Even then, he only notionally resembled his animated self. Even now, at a time when there are hard resin statues and non-transforming style figures, the closest we have to Reflector is still the 1987 decoy packed with the Throttlebots and Scramble City figures in North America.

Sharkticons - While we did get a Gnaw release, we never did see the other types of Sharkticons depicted in the Movie that are often nicknamed the Alligatorcons. Not much love expected here to be honest.

Sweeps - Scourge did not come into this world alone. Depending on the episode, he came with between four and seven huntsmen, all of whom conveniently disappeared for the shortened Season Four. And while one could simply use the pre-existing Scourge to round out the assortment, it’s surprising that the cartoon didn’t exploit the Sweeps screentime by using other toys in their place. But who knows? Maybe we’ll see a huntsman or two at Botcon 2009.

It’s an interesting list and one that is not easily repeatable, post Generation One. Although the toys don’t always exactly look like their on-screen counterparts, they most often appear as a toy if they appear on the show.

For Beast Wars / II / Neo, only Unicron fails to make a toy appearance. Even the Tripedicus Council can be argued to be found in the Tripedicus merge group and Ravage made his way to Japanese shelves courtesy a remoulded Transmetal Cheetor. And there were certainly efforts to bring forward Unicron for the Japanese market, efforts that certainly saw some degree of fruition in his eventual Armada release.

For Beast Machines, aside from the fact that toy lines were barely recognizeable compared to their Mainframe selves, only Botanica is left off toy shelfs and possibly because of a late introduction into the final season of the show. I’d say something about a non-marketable alternate mode but then the onscreen flying tribute to Unicron known as Megabolt Megatron saw release.

For Car Robots / Robots in Disguise, Brave Maximus / Fortress Maximus saw release only in Japan. And even non-transformers like Alpha-Q and Kicker saw release in North America in association with the Unicron Trilogy. And even Dispensor saw release as a Movie-based Robot Hero, although we are unlikely to see him in his transforming Dewmaster form.

And so we come to to Animated. While we don’t know the fate of the show or the toys past Season Three and Hasbro’s movie plans, the rumours are fulsome that this is the end of the road. While Arcee, Soundblaster and Ratbat are on deck, and Sunstorm, Thundercracker, Cliffjumper and Skywarp have seen at least one release or another, the fate of Omega Supreme, Rodimus, Brawn, Ironhide, Susan, Lyra, Mixmaster, Scrapper, Cyclonus, Strika, Blackout, Spittor, Mainframe, Perceptor, Wheeljack and Highbrow is unknown.

Let’s hope that we don’t have to leave these characters on the drawing board.

9 Comments »

  1. I wonder if there’s ever been any kind of study done on how buying patterns relate to tv show appearances? Do characters that are featured in the show (beyond the obvious Optimus/Bumblebee/Megatron) sell more toys than more obscure characters? To what extent does character recognition (by the kids OR by the parents) influence sales? Does it matter if the character is (in the show) cool or sympathetic, or is it just a matter of whether the toy looks cool or not?

    Comment by Kirilaw — March 23, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  2. they girls are always dissed! but i am hopeful that we get at least a rodimus & red alert. they are just such amazing designs!

    Comment by puppylove — March 23, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  3. Kirilaw, there are probably studies out there on the subject. It was a big argument when they deregulated TV under President Reagan in the early 1980s, that a cartoon based on a toy line was little more than a 22 minute commercial. I will investigate further.

    Also I think Oil Slick’s appearance in the first episode of Season Three may have been helped by the fact he has been out for sometime on store shelves. And languishing a bit too. The episode certainly made him cool!

    Puppylove, I know! I doubt we’ll get a Red Alert or an Omega but I hold out hope for a Rodimus and a remoulded Ironhide. At least at deluxe size, they should be viable. But you know I want them all!

    Comment by Colin — March 24, 2009 @ 5:50 pm

  4. [...] After 10 years of missed opportunities, it’s time for Botanica to stand tall beside her fellow Maximals in the battle for Cybertron. [...]

    Pingback by fairplaythings.com » Botanica (05-31-09) — June 9, 2009 @ 1:22 am

  5. [...] From the missed opportunities file, Devcon is, after Alpha Trion, probably the best example of a classic Autobot who screams to [...]

    Pingback by fairplaythings.com » Devcon (05-27-09) — June 9, 2009 @ 1:53 am

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