New from The Clone Wars: Five different vehicles, five different scales… -_-

December 7, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, I’ve decided to review the new Clone Wars vehicles I’ve acquired over the past year.  Hasbro continues to produce an exciting array of action figures and accessories for this latest line of Star Wars products, and their figures remain as consistent in quality and scale as ever.  Unfortunately (given the compromises necessary to maintain such a large and varied toy line in an ever-changing market), their vehicle line is constantly hampered by gross inconsistencies in scale and proportion.  To my frustration, the five new vehicles presented here (while all intended for use with their line of 1:18 action figures) were each produced at a uniquely different scale.

The only one accurately to scale with their action figures is the “Republic Swamp Speeder,” or ISP (that’s Infantry Support Platform), not to be confused with Kenner’s ridiculous ISP-6 (nor your Internet Service Provider, for that matter).  Among the various automobiles in Star Wars — or speeders, to use the in-universe nomenclature — this one’s one of my favorites, even though it can only barely be glimpsed in Revenge of the Sith, and doesn’t appear in The Clone Wars TV series at all.  The best reference image I could find comes from Star Wars: Complete Cross-Sections (one of the only images in the book that isn’t, in fact, a cross-section):

Illustrated by either Hans Jenssen or Richard Chasemore (or John Mullaney, or Jon Hall); DK Publishing is not clear on this point.

It appears more frequently in movie tie-in video games, and its single Clone Wars appearance comes from a comic book.

The toy is lovingly detailed, with appropriately weathered paint applications, and includes a design feature entirely unique to Star Wars vehicles: seat belts! 

However, despite being made of soft, flexible rubber, actually fitting them over a figure in Clone Trooper armor requires the patience and dexterity of a Jedi.

I somehow managed to get the starboard driver belted in without incident, but the port seat belt wouldn’t stay in its housing and eventually needed to be glued down.

The figure’s hands kept popping out of his forearms, too, since the control sticks on the seats are just a little too far forward for the figure to comfortably reach. Again, Krazy glue provided a permanent (if problematic) solution, and my Clone Troopers look right at home at the controls.

There are pegs molded into the platform on either side of the craft, so other figures can be mounted standing on the vehicle.  Of course, unless there’s some kind of “anti-gravity plating” or “acceleration compensators” built into the floor, there’s no way anyone could remain standing while the craft is in motion… and if they could, then seat belts for the drivers hardly seem necessary, do they?

Those pegs are perfectly adequate for keeping figures firmly attached, even when the vehicle is in motion.  Wheels concealed on the underside of the toy allow it to roll smooth and easily across the floor.

The package even comes with this gorgeous cardboard backdrop depicting Felucia… although for some reason, mine didn’t.

The other speeder I picked up this year also came with an impressive cardboard display diorama, this one beautifully depicting a vast industrial sector of Coruscant:

The painting accurately recreates a setting featured in the Clone Wars episode “Lethal Trackdown.”

In the episode, Plo Koon and Ahsoka take a Praxis Mk. I down into the seedy underworld of Coruscant.

It’s a huge speeder (larger than even most of the fighter craft seen in Star Wars), and its sleek, manta ray profile suggests great speed.  The open-air cockpit looks awfully dangerous — no seat belts here! — and the windshield’s not quite high enough to cover the top of Plo Koon’s head. 

Maybe that’s how he lost his hair.

The toy version, as you can see, is considerably under-scaled; about 1:24, I estimate.  Two figures can sit in the cockpit (provided they’re of frail Clone Wars proportions), but the windscreen’s reduced to little more than a dashboard cover.

Behind the cockpit there’s an astrodroid socket, and putting an R2 unit back there makes the scale discrepancy even more apparent… but without a droid there’s just a gaping hole in the fuselage, which is equally unattractive.

Still, the dashboard’s nicely detailed, including instrument panel stickers, and even the floor of the craft has sculpted detail!

Unfortunately, there are unsightly holes in the engine pods for loading and firing spring-loaded missiles.

More missile launchers are concealed in the front of the speeder (retractable sections pull out from either side), and the rear section opens to reveal further guns facing fore and aft, with pegs to attach gunners.  Jedi don’t carry guns, of course — as Yoda famously tells Luke, “a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack” — so naturally, Hasbro’s “Jedi Turbo Speeder” is armed to the teeth.

Another toyetic compromise to appeal to gun-loving American boys, perhaps?  Or is this part of a larger Hasbro agenda to fuel the military-industrial complex?  (Hey, what blog is complete without wild conspiracy theories?)

Despite its abundant play features, however, this one does not have wheels concealed in the undercarriage; it may look fast, but it won’t move an inch.

The graceful backswept wings are made of soft PVC plastic, and don’t hold their shape well; they also have hinges attached at their base, for no apparent reason. In order to keep the engine pods properly aligned, I needed to pull the ends of the wings out of their housings in the fuselage.  They have to sit at an angle facing forward in order to hold the engine pods parallel to the plane of the speeder.  A minor design flaw, but it does further detract from the sleek lines of the vehicle (even with all the weaponry concealed).

The engine pods, the wings, the clean lines and symmetry of the design, and the total lack of weathering all give a distinctly Star Trek feel to the craft, and I’m sure it would look at home in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie series.

Next up is the HMP (Heavy Missile Platform), a flying battle droid seen over the skies of Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith:

At about 1:32 scale, the HMP toy (known simply as “Droid Gunship”) is considerably smaller than it ought to be… although its actual size is difficult to determine onscreen, since they only appear briefly in a few aerial shots.  The scale of the toy is largely irrelevant.

This craft also has a Star Trek flavor to it, reminiscent of Klingon or Romulan starship design.  It’s appropriately bristling with weaponry, most of which can be rotated, aimed, and fired.  Unfortunately, these play features require large, round buttons for launching missiles and dropping bombs, protruding from the surface of the craft both on the sides and on top.

They might’ve been less obtrusive, if the sculpted detail on the hull had been painted to stand out a little more, but the two-tone blue color scheme is so bland that the HMP almost looks like an unpainted model kit.

As with the Octuptarra Droid and the Corporate Alliance Tank Droid toys, Hasbro has seen fit to include a cockpit to accommodate a Battle Droid pilot.  Why a droid needs a droid to pilot it remains a mystery to me, but I imagine Hasbro sells more action figures this way…

Again, the intricately sculpted detail cries out for a decent paint job.

Props to the Hasbro design team for the practical addition of a retractable landing leg.  Without it, the only viable display option would be to hang it from the ceiling (which is what I’m going to do anyway)…

This next vehicle, the AV-7 Mobile Cannon, actually makes a couple of significant appearances in The Clone Wars, first in the dismal pilot film and again in the second-season episode “Weapons Factory.”

The Hasbro toy is well-proportioned (with the possible exception of the legs), and appears to closely match the CGI model.

The gunner seat fits Clone Trooper figures, and looks appropriately scaled…

…until you attach it to the cannon.

See the scale discrepancy?

It looks even more pathetically small when posed with troopers on the ground.

In the aforementioned episode, Clone Troopers can be seen walking under these cannons — that’s how big they’re supposed to be — and if the legs of the toy were better articulated, the base of the cannon could at least be raised a little higher off the ground; alas, the legs only hinge upwards, the ankle joint is severely limited, and the knee joint is fake.

To add insult to injury, Hasbro has seen fit to include half-assed play features, such as a flimsy flip-down platform to mount additional figures on the left side.  There are pegs for three figures, but it can barely handle the weight of one, much less three; see the precarious angle these two are leaning at?

Fold up the back legs, and spring-loaded tank treads swing down from the undercarriage.  There’s no mechanism to lock them in place, however, and they collapse back into their housing with even the slightest downward pressure.  What’s more, the treads are as fake as the knees, merely a single plastic piece painted black on the outside edge.  The whole thing is even more awkward and unstable than it appears.

If only they’d spent those tooling costs on properly-articulated legs instead, this vehicle might not be a total write-off… but being so pathetically small to begin with (not even 1:35 scale, I reckon), it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference.

I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money on this one.  It’s a big disappointment.

Even more ridiculously under-scaled, however, is the improbably-named Republic Attack Shuttle, seen early in the first season of The Clone Wars.  Being a big fan of the Imperial Shuttle from the original trilogy, I fell in love with this ship as soon as it appeared in “Rookies”:

Hasbro’s toy version is reasonably well-proportioned (all things considered), and looks almost as cool.

This elegant design is both aggressive and graceful at the same time.

The cobalt-blue engines and gunmetal grey housings have a distinctly Gundam vibe, and from the rear it looks more like a Bandai toy than a Hasbro one.

The triangular folding wings, the shape of the fuselage, and the overall dimensions of the ship are clearly derived from the Return of the Jedi shuttle design, another nice touch of visual continuity bridging the gap between the original trilogy and The Clone Wars.  As the wings fold up and the shuttle lands, the pilots are visible through the cockpit canopy:

That’s Captain Rex and Commander Cody in the two-man cockpit.

The toy cockpit actually seats two figures — well, perhaps “seats” isn’t the right word, since they’re in more of a standing position — but only one is visible through the cockpit cover.

The included Clone Pilot figure features an entirely new helmet sculpt, and isn’t merely a repack of 2008’s “Odd Ball” figure.  It’s an extremely well-articulated figure, by necessity: you’ve got to get him into a pretty funky pose for him to fit in that cockpit, after all!

In the show, troops are seen exiting the ship from the front ramp.  Cody and Rex walk down the ramp side-by-side.

The shape and inclination of the ramp is more apparent in this image from “Lair of Grievous”:

The engineers at Hasbro even managed to get the height of the landing gear correct (something they failed to do with either the Imperial Shuttle or any of their various iterations of the Millennium Falcon).

There’s just one problem:


Obviously, a shuttle properly scaled to the action figures would be ridiculously large and prohibitively expensive — making it impossible to market as a toy — so why make this half-hearted attempt to accommodate 1:18 figures in a 1:48 scale vehicle?  The inclusion of a couple 1:48 figures would’ve made a lot more sense, and the ship wouldn’t look so absurdly small by comparison; the interiors could’ve been reproduced as accurately as the exterior, providing much more authentic play value.

Instead, we get intricately detailed interiors that look terrific empty…

…but are much too small to suit the action figures they’re designed for.

How are these guys supposed to get out?

A child-like “Kubrick” figure, at least, would likely fit through that door…

…but even Kubricks are too tall to get though here.

I did, however, manage to find one appropriate Hasbro figure suited to the interior proportions.

Regardless of the scale issues, this vehicle is packed with electronics and play features.  Flip up the wings, pull up the top of the fuselage, and pop out the side panels, and suddenly the ship is transformed into an “attack base” with “recon fighter.”  It’s completely apocryphal, of course (having no basis in Star Wars fiction whatsoever), but it’s the perfect playset for kids who care more for cannons than canon.

Figures can be pegged in all over the place, manning consoles, pillboxes, and rotating gunner stations; it could easily be marketed as Hasbro’s first Star Wars/G.I. Joe crossover.

Figures can even be mounted on the lookout tower, although it doesn’t look like a particularly safe place to stand…

This guy appears to be in the firing path of his own guns!

Even the recon fighter has a slot on top to accommodate a gunner for the built-in cannon.

The weapon racks molded into the panels on both wings are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.  The white rifle is included with the vehicle, and appears to be the same ABS plastic as the hull; the black guns are PVC plastic accessories sold with individual figures.

Criticizing the accuracy of Hasbro’s Star Wars toy line is becoming increasingly time-consuming, and preparing this latest post has clarified the reasons why this blog was neglected for such a long time: it takes too much damn time!  I’d much rather be painting model kits and customizing Transformers than writing weblogs, after all.  While the continued attention and feedback this blog receives is encouraging, I lack the motivation to keep this up on a regular basis.

Thanks to anybody who’s actually read this far, and Season’s Greetings for 2012!  I’ve got some awesome new Transformers acquisitions to share, but I doubt I’ll get around to it before Christmas…  -_-

When 1:1 equals 1:18

November 25, 2011

Ever since I acquired a Rubies “Supreme” Boba Fett costume back in September, I’ve been researching and exploring the world of Star Wars props and costumes.  In my attempt to accurize that costume, my attention has shifted away from the 1:18 scale Star Wars miniatures, and more towards 1:1 scale reproductions of weapons and armor.  This has led me to a whole new group of friends and Star Wars aficionados, and toy collecting has taken a back seat of late.

However, the more I learn about what bits and pieces were used to construct the various costumes, the more I find this new hobby overlapping with a previous obsession of mine, the studio-scale filming miniatures.  The same model kits that were cannibalized to detail the spaceships in Star Wars — a time-saving process known as “kitbashing” — were also used for detailing the props and costumes worn by the actors (Carrie Fisher’s Boushh outfit, for instance), and having spent as many years as I have obsessing over the original Millennium Falcon miniature, rediscovering these parts in other areas of the Star Wars universe is as exciting as an archaeological find that links birds to dinosaurs.

And thus it occurs to me that, while spending all that time researching and constructing my own replica of the “studio-scale” Millennium Falcon model, I’ve really been reproducing a 1:1 scale prop, rather than a 1:18 scale playset for my action figures.  It was that glorious coincidence of scale that prompted me to begin my reproduction to begin with: having discovered that the filming miniature built by ILM for A New Hope in 1976 was almost exactly 1/18th the size of the Falcon set constructed at Elstree Studios in London, I realized that the original model was the perfect scale for 1:18 (otherwise known as 3 3/4″) Star Wars figures.

What followed was years of online research, various attempts to reconcile discrepancies between interior and exterior sets, prototype mockups in foamcore and styrene, and combing through hundreds and hundreds of Tamiya, Bandai, and Airfix model kits trying to find the exact parts used to detail the original model.

While the pioneering work of Robert Brown and David West Reynolds has been instrumental to my project, the actual work of fitting 1:18 scale reproductions of the Falcon interiors into a replica of the studio-scale model required months and months of planning.  I used Photoshop to produce blueprints of the model, utilizing multiple overlapping layers to determine exactly what would fit where, and deciding where and what to compromise to actually make it work.  The documents themselves are extremely detailed high-resolution images, but this simplified multi-layered rendering should give you the basic idea of what I’m attempting:

I started with a foamcore mockup of the outer hull, to determine the exact shape and dimensions required for an accurate reproduction.  The base was this large piece of dense foam I bought at a hardware store, and cut to the proper shape:

I cut foamcore ribs and hot-glued them to the base to provide an endoskeletal structure to build on.

Next, curvilinear parts were measured, cut, and folded into the proper shapes to form the hull.

The unique and distinctive shape of the cockpit required particular attention…

…as did the port and starboard docking rings, below which our heroes are often seen entering and exiting the ship.

Having attached the lower hull and the cockpit, the Falcon was beginning to take shape.

Next came the upper hull, and the boarding ramp.

The hydraulic struts on either side of the boarding ramp are a combination of wood, styrene, PVC plastic and metal rods:

The engine grill is comprised of 68 separate styrene fins, each cut to exactly the same shape and glued one centimeter apart from each other.

The rectenna dish, carved from a wooden tea saucer with PVC detailing, is the only part to have been primed for painting:

I then began to attach the model kit parts I had identified from the studio model, starting with the Tamiya 1:35 Panther engine covers (seen behind the lower three exhaust vents on the engine block).

Given many of these vintage model kits are quite rare and expensive to acquire, I did my best to scratchbuild whatever parts I would require multiples of:

After building a styrene skin to attach all the kitbashed parts to, the engine deck began to take shape.

The exhaust grills are cut from exactly the same material ILM used in the ’70s (which is also the texture used to mimic the solar panels on the TIE Fighter wings):

Having discovered that the seats used in the Falcon cockpit set were taken from a Porsche 911, I found a 1:18 scale diecast Porsche (with accurately-colored upholstery) to steal the chairs out of:

Han’s chair was mounted much higher than Chewie’s, to account for their considerable height discrepancy.

Luke’s chair (behind Han’s) is just a temporary LEGO mockup.

The front mandibles were then covered with a styrene skin, so that kitbashing could begin in earnest.  The panels on the front are Tamiya 1/12 Ferrari 312B engine blocks, identical to those on the original model.

The inner mandible walls are lined with the undercarriage of an AMT/Ertl 1:25 ’57 Chevy Bel-Air.  Quite an exciting find!

For the sake of scale comparison, I photographed my Falcon mockup next to the old Hasbro toy:

…and the new Hasbro “BMF” version, once it came out.

My accurately-scaled version will have a great deal more interior space, as Han inspects first-hand:

Chewie appreciates the headroom, while Han considers possible smuggling compartments.

Here’s a shot of my workspace, on the living room floor.  The HD video projector is an invaluable asset.

I’ve just begun cutting the hundreds of panels that will be required for detailing the upper and lower hull.

Now the real fun begins…  -_-

(Some of) the Star Wars toys

November 20, 2011

Now that I’ve made the acquaintance of several hard-core Star Wars fans through the 501st Japanese Garrison and the Jedi Order, I thought I should upload some photos of my Star Wars toy collection as a whole… which is just about impossible, actually, since it won’t fit in one room (much less the confines of a single photograph)!  Here’s the best I’ve been able to do, without the benefit of a wide-angle lens:

That’s the bulk of my Star Wars displays… at least, the 1:18 scale Hasbro merchandise.

Since you may be wondering, I’ll answer a few questions pre-emptively:

I don’t how many figures I have, nor how much I’ve spent acquiring them.  I would estimate over 2000 Star Wars figures are in my collection, but (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) there’s a lot of other stuff on display as well, even in the toy room… and among my regular purchases, Star Wars merchandise is the least expensive.  I spend far more on 1:6 scale figures, die-cast cars, and transformable Japanese toys.

Almost everything on display was purchased at Toys ‘R’ Us in Okayama (when they still distributed Star Wars toys to Japan), or through online distributors.  Some of it is acquired by friends in North America, to help me save on shipping and avoid paying Japanese import prices; some of it is purchased through online auction sites, like Yahoo! Japan auctions or eBay.  The only stuff that I brought with me from Canada are my vintage Kenner figures, a complete collection of loose figures I’ve had since the ’80s.

I’m not a vintage Kenner enthusiast, mind you; I much prefer the modern Hasbro toy line, and love to watch the product evolve from year to year.  I lose interest in older figures and vehicles as soon as more accurate versions are released.

I don’t feel compelled to purchase every Star Wars toy produced, even within a single scale or sub-line; I’m actually rather picky about what I buy, and don’t obsess about what I have or haven’t managed to acquire.  I’m even pickier about cost, and sometimes put off buying a particular figure or set until I can get it sufficiently cheap, often waiting years until it falls into my price range.  Much of my Star Wars collection was purchased at considerably less than its retail value — I probably don’t spend as much as you think I do.  ^_^

Mark Boudreaux’s gallery of shame

October 18, 2008

Unbelievable. As it turns out, the reason Hasbro’s new Millennium Falcon toy failed to correct any of the problems that plagued the original toy is… because they hired the same guy to design the new one!

Mark Boudreaux was apparently responsible for designing the original toy AND the new “BMF” version, which goes a long way towards explaining why they’re both so depressingly off-model. As I explained earlier, my biggest problem with either Falcon toy is the grossly inaccurate proportions, including a comically oversized cockpit and a pathetically undersized rectenna dish.

Here’s how the Falcon‘s supposed to look (image taken directly from Star Wars):

Note the cockpit (left) and rectenna dish (right) are approximately the same size.

Now here’s Boudreaux’s original version, beloved by all us ignorant children of the ’80s:

See the difference?

And here’s his latest failure, which looks almost as bad and costs way more money.

One area where clear improvement was made over the Kenner toy is the new boarding ramp, which now looks a lot more film-accurate (and makes a nifty sound as it automatically lowers!). However, while Han will likely be able to squeeze his way into the ship, Chewie and Artoo are denied access.

Even if they could fit up that narrow ramp, though, they’ve got a very steep climb!

Compare that inclination to the original Falcon set from Star Wars:

Even model kits from the ’70s managed to get the ramp inclination right…

…although Boudreaux never cared to (as this photo of the old Kenner toy shows).

When it came to his new version, though, Boudreaux’s biggest insult was to include one of his ill-conceived “Mini-Rig” toy designs, this bizarre one-man pod that fits into the port docking ring.

That space should’ve been used for an elevator tube leading to an emergency top hatch (as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and the 1978 TV special), as opposed to that so-called “escape vehicle” (as seen only in Boudreaux’s runaway imagination). What a waste of money and resources.

And just to further annoy obsessed Falconophiles such as myself, this new sculpt was clearly based upon the 32″ studio model built for The Empire Strikes Back, itself a much smaller and less detailed miniature than the original Millennium Falcon used for Star Wars (and for all the close-up shots in Empire). One dead giveaway there is the absurd testicle-like protrusion on the front mandible wall, just ahead of the cockpit, which never existed on any other model or full-scale set mockup apart from the 32″ Empire model.

These bizarre protrusions on either side of the top cannon are even more inexcusable, as their only reason for existence is to trigger (non-existent) missiles from the top cannons, and don’t represent any version of the Millennium Falcon.

I’d go on, but I can see you’re clearly sick of hearing me whine about this toy, and would rather see my recent Transformers, Gundam, Battlestar Galactica (and of course, new Star Wars) acquisitions. I promise I’ll upload some new content eventually…  -_-

If you really do care about the BMF, however (and some of you obviously do!), you’ll notice I’ve expanded my previous entry about this toy with further photographs as well… ’cause I just can’t quit bitching about it!

Too little, too late

September 12, 2008

Hasbro’s long-awaited “Legacy Collection” Millennium Falcon toy (known to Star Wars collectors like myself as the “BMF”) has finally arrived on the shelves of our local Toys ‘R’ Us, which means there’s finally one in my collection!

There was only one on the shelves when I bought it, and I wasn’t about to wait until I could come back with my wife’s car this time… so I actually brought it home on the back of my bike!

Contrary to reports to the contrary, however, it sucks.

Obviously, scale matters as little to Hasbro as it did 30 years ago, since this new Falcon toy has all the same problems the original toy had:

– the ship’s less than half the size it should be, and the proportions are all wrong

– accuracy has been deliberately compromised to accommodate “play features”

– the cockpit’s comically oversized, giving the ship a “super-deformed” profile

– the rectenna dish is pathetically undersized

– the boarding ramp is absurdly steep, because the ship sits much too high on its “landing gear”

– the cockpit access tube is missing

– the lower gunner station is non-existent

– the interiors are grossly out-of-scale, and too small to fit the figures properly

Oh, it’s an improvement over the original Kenner toy from the ’70s, assuredly, but not by much… and it also costs nearly ten times as much.  I’m quite happy with it myself, though, ’cause it suits my super-deformed “Kubrick” Star Wars figures perfectly!

Ironically enough, what Hasbro again failed to do — produce a Millennium Falcon to scale with their action figure line — had already been done by Attakus, a French company that produces limited-edition metal dioramas.  While it’s ridiculously heavy and expensive, it shows how accurate and detailed a 1:18th Falcon could’ve been

…whereas the only room that’s properly scaled to the action figures here is the upper gunner station.  It’s not the right shape, exactly, but it looks pretty good when lit from above, and it fits the pack-in Han Solo figure well.

If only they’d included a second gunwell for Luke this time…

AT-TE: A Ten-Ton Elephant?

July 28, 2008

Actually no, it’s an All-Terrain Tactical Enforcer, a massive new Star Wars toy from Hasbro’s new Clone Wars line. This one’s so big, I decided I’d have to borrow my wife’s car just so I could get it home from Toys ‘R’ Us!

The AT-TE is a pretty imposing sight, heavily armored and bristling with cannons, although the driver looks a little exposed in the front there. I’d feel much safer in the cockpit of an AT-AT, an AT-ST, or even on a speeder bike…!

It’s too crowded in the toy room to get decent shots of this behemoth, so I brought it down to the living room. I’d love to fill it with Clone Troopers, but (as you can see in the background) all my loose clones are already in the Republic Gunship!

There are two interior sections to the AT-TE, both of which feature gunner stations for each of the projectile-launching cannons. The forward section features four highly detailed stations, from the grating on the floor to the ceiling controls.

The back section features gunner stations for the two rear cannons, as well as weapons racks and space for twelve additional Clone Troopers.

Watch this video demonstration of the sophisticated mechanism that controls the disembarkation ramp, and hear the sound it makes as it automatically lowers. So cool!

As has been the case since the early days of Kenner’s Star Wars playsets, strategically-placed pegs molded into the floors allow for figures to be firmly attached all over the surface, making for some pretty dynamic poses!

In fact, I liked this pose so much I took a few more pictures.

The rear-projected background is just the screensaver my computer happened to be running at the time.

Now, if only I had as many Clone Trooper figures as Hasbro had on display at the San Diego Comicon…!

It’s been a long time since Hasbro released a Star Wars toy this large — larger, in fact, than any released during the twenty years Kenner produced Star Wars toys. It’s not as tall as the Kenner AT-AT or the Imperial Shuttle, nor as long as the Rebel Transport or the Naboo Royal Starship, but it’s bulkier and more sophisticated than any of them.

What’s more, it’s got one important advantage over every other Star Wars playset or vehicle produced at this size, even the new “Legacy Collection” Millennium Falcon: it’s actually to scale with the action figures! Way to go, Hasbro! It’s about time.

Better late than never!

July 27, 2008

In 1984, the first season of The Transformers introduced nearly fifty Transformer characters to audiences around the world, virtually all of which were released as toys — all, that is, save one significant exception.

Skyfire, largest of the original Autobot characters, played a pivotal role in two early episodes and appeared throughout the remainder of the season (as well as the Marvel comics). A Skyfire Transformer, however, was never produced, which may explain why the character disappeared after the first season. Now, however — over two decades later — we finally have a Skyfire toy.

Given the character was designed first, and the toy subsequently based on the animated design (as opposed to the first ninety Transformers released, that were toys to begin with), a great deal of compromise was required in designing the Skyfire toy. The booster-rocket backpack, for instance, is clearly modeled after the Macross Valkyrie design — as is the fuselage — and bears little resemblance to Skyfire’s jetpack.

I may custom-build my own alternative backpack for this toy later on, just to bring it closer to the animated depiction.

Moving on…

In 1986, Transformers: The Movie established a whole new cast of characters, settings, and even lifeforms to the mythology, most notably the biorganic Quintessons.

While almost all the new Autobots, Decepticons, Junkions, and even Sharkticons depicted in the film were represented in toy form, none of the Quintesson designs were released. Now, however — over two decades later — we finally have Quintesson toys.

To the best of my knowledge, these are only available through certain online retailers, or auction sites like eBay (where I got mine). There’s nothing to indicate they’re a legitimately-licensed product, or that “Impossible Toys” has even had contact with Hasbro or Takara regarding rights issues… Indeed, look at their bare-bones Website and you’ll see that Transformers nomenclature like “energon” and “Kremzeek” aren’t even spelled correctly! Still, since no legitimate toys of these characters were ever produced back in the day, I welcome the work of anyone with the resources to mass-produce their custom figures for collectors like myself, especially when they’re done with this level of sophistication and quality. Note the transparent plastic stands are designed to light up, representing the beams of light these creatures travel around on.

They may not be licensed Transformers product, but they suffer from the same problems that plague all legitimate Transformer toys — they’re not to scale with each other. While the Quintesson Judge character seems designed in scale with the classic movie toy line (most notably the Sharkticon), the Scientist was clearly produced at a much larger scale, making it appear about three times larger than it should next to the Judge. Note the relative scales of Quintesson (Judge), human (Spike), and Autobot (Ultra Magnus) as depicted in the original Transformers TV series:

The Quintesson Scientist, by comparison, is not much taller than the human it captures.

Thus, despite all the myriad scales that Transformers toys have been released in to date, the Quintesson Scientist is to scale with… none whatsoever. I guess I’ll have to display him with my Star Wars figures or something.

Toy companies make mistakes like this all the time; dedicated fans, however, ought to know better.

Moving on…

In 1987, the first Bubblegum Crisis animated video was released, depicting a quartet of female vigilantes-for-hire fighting sophisticated androids in a dark future Tokyo.

In a market overwhelmingly dominated by male action heroes and robots as big as buildings, the women protagonists and their form-fitting armored “hardsuits” left a lasting impression on the anime scene. Of particular note were the transformable motorcycles, called “Motoslaves.”

Despite numerous sequels, spin-offs, and a TV series remake, very little Bubblegum Crisis merchandise was ever released, much less transformable toys. (Fan-produced garage kits and unpainted soft-vinyl figures were as close as we got.) Now, however — over two decades later — we finally have a Motoslave toy.

Not only does it make an imposing robot, but it transforms into a kick-ass motorcycle for the figure to ride, too!

Note how closely the sculpt reproduces the animation models designed way back in the ’80s, both in motorcycle and robot modes:

And of course, just as it appears in the animated series, the Motoslave robot also acts as an exoskeleton for the pilot.

See the Priss figure inside?

The animation never really did justice to the brilliance of Shinji Aramaki’s mecha design, and (like the “movie color” Macross SDF-1 I reviewed earlier) it takes a really accurate toy to illustrate the sophistication and elegance of the Motoslave.

An extremely well-illustrated Japanese review of the toy can be found here.

The real question, of course, is why did we have to wait over twenty years for all these wonderful toys to come out?!