Friday, December 9, 2011

The First Stop On A Tour Of Optimus Primes


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Okie dokie, shelf's fixed, cat's contained, I think it's time for another toy review. I'm going in the way back machine for this one, because I want to hit on every Optimus Prime toy in my collection roughly chronologically, in order to build up to one of my most recent acquisitions. I don't have every Optimus Prime, but I've got just about all of the major representations of him.

So, Optimus Prime, as we know him, was first released back in 1984. I've mentioned it before, but all of the original Transformers up until the toys released with the 1986 animated movie, were all borrowed from previous toylines. Optimus Prime is a reuse of the Battle Convoy mold from Takara's Diaclone toyline, hence his Japanese name of "Convoy". The specific toy I'm looking at today is actually a reissue from Takara's "bookstyle" reissue line. So named, because they can be displayed similar to books. The series came out right as Dreamwave had started making waves with their licensed comics, and as such, includes a lot of art from their work, although for some later figures, Takara produced their own art, which is very similar in style.

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Fingers crossed that Odin won't be able to get back up there and knock them down again.

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The bookstyle series was really meant to be displayed in package, they were all window boxes with flaps that were secured down with velcro. In the window package, the figure and all of the accessories are labeled on the backsplash, which is a nice touch. In addition, the boxes all came with pages in the fold of the box, that were perforated so that they could be torn out. Optimus Prime came with a six ring note book that could hold all of these pages, and makes for a really interesting coffee table book, if you're into Transformers.

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The pages come in all sorts of different flavors, some had story guides for the cartoon, others had character bios, with art and photos of the original toys.

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My personal favorites are the catalog scans, they fold out, and on the back is some nice art.

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Enough about the lovely packaging
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On to the toy itself, obviously Prime is a very iconic character in the Transformers franchise, but his original toy stands out to me as being the ultimate toy, especially for it's time. In vehicle mode, he's a very classic cab over style semi-truck with a trailer. By today's standards, he's actually a fairly small toy.

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The trailer has supports that flip out from the sides to keep it propped up while detached from the cab. At least that's what they look like they're supposed to do, in reality they just barely manage to keep the hitch from hitting the ground, but they serve a better purpose in the trailer's transformed mode.
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An up close shot of the front of the cab, I want you to pay a lot of attention to it, because it will come into play when we start looking at the successive Optimus Prime designs.

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I'm sure a lot of kids int he 80s were very confused as to why Optimus Prime had an opening cab with seats. The reason is of course that he was original part of the Diaclone toy line, which featured tiny little drivers, called Inchmen.

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I just so happen to have one to use here, it's interesting to note that the Inchmen all featured magnetic feet, so that they could attach to all of the diecast metal in the original transformers, sadly the alloy used for all of the reissues I have is not ferrous enough for them to stick to any longer.

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But they can certainly sit in the interior seats.

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The transformation is just about as simple as you can get, fold the legs down, stick out the toys, bring the arms around from the sides, and flip the head over. The only thing missing are his fists, which are just stored off to the side while he's in vehicle mode, and then simply plug into the headlights.


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Plug them in, give him a gun, and bam! You've got Optimus Prime. There's a clever bit of aesthetic engineering going on here, that manages to give him a very anthropomorphic torso, considering he's a blocky robot toy from the early 80s. Essentially the entire front of the truck is used in whole, as the torso, the headlights are pulled out to form the hands, leaving the grill to be his "six pack" and the windshields as his pectorals. What's amusing about that is that almost every Optimus Prime toy since has emulated these features, usually cheating a little bit by having features that resemble the front of the truck, that aren't actually... I can't think of a better way to word that, but you'll get it.


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There are certainly a few funky things going on with this toy, the forearms use the entirety of the wheel well, meaning there's a really odd shape to them. He doesn't actually hold the grip of his gun, but rather a tacked on post.

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There's a really impressive amount of articulation to be found on him, you can't actually move his hip joints forward, which does limit the natural looking poses that you can achieve with him.

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Again, not a terribly large toy, by today's standards, but it was one of the tallest of season 1 transformers toys.

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As much as I like the Optimus Prime toy, the thing that always made it seem cool to me was the trailer. Instead of having the more traditional double doors, the trailer opens with a fold down ramp. You can roll up just about any of the season 1 autobot cars into the back.

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And then the sides fold down, revealing the entire base.

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There's a lot going on in the base, there's the repair drone, which can extend on an articulated arm, which has a sort of radar dish arm, and then an articulated pincher arm, as well as twin spring loaded missile launchers.

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And of course, an Inchman can fit in the cockpit.

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The trailer also has a recon vehicle, called Roller in the fiction, he seats four, and has a post hole in the back, that can fit either a gas pump (pictured) or Optimus Prime's blaster.




The best part of Roller's inclusion, is that there's a spring loaded launcher for it. Pressing a switch on the front of the trailer releases it, and sends Roller flying. With this particular version, the spring is ridiculously strong, I don't know how it compares to other versions, because the only other one I've used is the US reissue, which didn't even have a functioning launcher. As the video above shows, Roller doesn't even need the ramp.

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There are two holes in the trailer which allow the repair drone to be deployed while the shell of the base is closed.

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Aside from the repair drone and roller, there are two terminals on the sides of the trailer, which can also seat Inchmen.
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The last configuration of the trailer is the repair bay, sometimes this is included in the instruction manuals, and sometimes not. It's a leftover from the Diaclone days, and as far as I know has never been used in the fiction. The Diaclone Battle Convoy, as well as a few of the early versions of Prime had metal plates on the inside of the trailer, giving the Inchmen more surfaces to stick to while they worked on the big guy.

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The last thing in the box is something that was only introduced with this reissue, an orange energy axe which can be inserted into the same hole that the fists plug into. The energy axe was only ever seen in the opening three part miniseries of the cartoon.

So that's it, that's where the legacy starts, hopefully I'll be able to get through all of these before I go back to school in January.

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