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Studio Series

Transformers – Studio Series – Bumblebee (VW)

The latest Transformers Movie, Bumblebee, takes things back more to the original roots of Transformers.  It features G1 versions of a lot of the characters and the main character, Bumblebee, takes the form of a Volkswagen Beetle like he had in the original 80s cartoon.  The movie isn’t getting it’s own toyline but is instead being looped in with the Studio Series line.  The first figure from the new films is Bumblebee himself though in many cases, Dropkick from the followup wave is also showing up with him.

The new Bee reminds me a lot of Studio Series Jazz in that he is really tiny in both modes.  This feels a lot more appropriate given it’s Bumblebee, who was one of the smallest Autobots in the original G1 series.  It does make the $20 price point for deluxe Transformers a little hard to swallow but he has a few little parts that help make it feel more worthwhile.  The robot is pretty nice, though he has a huge backpack that feels like it should collapse on itself a bit more, but doesn’t really seem to without pushing the plastic beyond what feels comfortable.  The legs also are a little funny in that they feel like they should peg together better but don’t seem to. 

The design itself is very reminiscent of the old Camero Bumblebee design from the last few Michael Bay Transformers movies.  The way the layered chest lays and the panels fall on his legs and the door wings sit on his back, these elements are all very Movie Bumblebee.  The Door wings aren’t very accurate to the film though, where the doors seem to do some mass shifting and point downward instead of becoming wings. 

I mentioned he comes with some extras to help offset his cost.  Specifically, he has an alternative face plate for his “Battle Mask” look and a swap-able arm piece for his arm cannon.  There’s also a blade weapon which can attach to the side of any of the three forearm pieces.  These sort of swap out parts aren’t a real common things for Transformers.  Having them, it’s kind of clear why.  The canon arm falls off a lot more easily than the standard hand arm and the Mask face falls off if you look at it funny.  These are definitely parts which will become lost over time by some.

The transformation is pretty straightforward in it’s execution, though fairly complex.  Its a pain to get everything to massage together properly, partially I think because it’s such a small figure.  The legs and back piece are particularly problematic and I can’t see anything obviously out of place like the hidden peg on the underside of Jazz’s roof that just made everything sit right in place once engaged.

The VW Beetle looks alright aside from things not quite sitting together properly.  The vehicle does feel a little funny because the G1 Bumblebee, was very much a stylized chibified VW.  This Bee feels too long, though I’m sure he’s not for a real Beetle.

Cutting to the chase here, I think that Studio Series Bumblebee is alright, but I kind of wonder what the wider audience is for him.  He’s too complex and finicky for kids, and there are plenty of simpler options out there.  He doesn’t really mesh well for collectors.  I don’t have it but I suspect the pricier Masterpiece Movie Bee does everything slightly better and he probably looks better.  I suppose if you’re in the middle like me and don’t really need a super classy Bee but don’t want something overly simplified this version does the job, but if you want a perfect VW Movie Bee, you’re probably better off looking elsewhere.


Review – Transformers – Studio Series Black Out

As sort of a last hurrah for the Michal Bay Transformers series, which is effectively done, Hasbro has been doing a sort of “greatest hits” line themed around the movies called Studio Series.  It’s not a bunch of re-releases though, it’s new molds of most of the figures, with an emphasis on Robot Mode Scale.  It’s also a way for Hasbro to give us better versions of a lot of characters who aren’t named Bumblebee or Optimus Prime.  Often in the case of movie toys, for the sake of spoilers, toy companies end up working from pre production art and general descriptions or stills.  They need to have the toys out when the movie releases, so they are working on the toys before the final movie vision is in place.  So in the end, things don’t always end up being a perfect representation.  Studio Series goes back to fix some of these issues.

The original Black Out toy from the first movie way back in 2007, isn’t really a bad toy, or a bad iteration of the character.  His main offense is that he’s kind of too small.  Black Out is one of the largest characters across all of the movies, and his Voyager toy isn’t awful, but it doesn’t really give off the proper huge vibes he deserves.  For Studio Series, Blackout gets a Leader sized toy.  The only other Leader Class figure so far is Grimlock from Age of Extinction.

He is definitely a nice size for Studio series at this scale, though he is actually quite a bit smaller than Leader figures from the Generations lines (Currently Power of the Primes) and even previous movie figures.  Leader Class Blackout is noticeably smaller than Leader Class Starscream from the previous movie lines, for example.  If you’re a real stickler for scale, Blackout is still going to be too small to go with a lot of the previous movie Transformers.

Blackout is still a pretty nice looking Transformer though.  He is full of the little greebley bits that really made the live action style what it was during the Bay era.  There are a surprising amount of little tab places on the fold over parts as well, particularly in his arms and shoulders.  The whole robot doesn’t really look solid, but it is.  I have had a little bit of trouble with one leg popping off the mushroom peg joint when turning it, it goes back on, but it’s kind of an issue.  All of the little bits hanging off everywhere also tend to hinder articulation a lot.  He has plenty of joints, but he can’t really use all of them.  He also is pretty back heavy due to his backpack, which doesn’t help when trying to balance any poses.  Probably the last major gripe about his little claw hands, which have no way or rotating them to do anything besides look like little flippers hanging off his arms.  He has thumbs and everything, but the greebles and lack of wrists just makes them useless.

One final note of worry on the robot mode, the flat part of the feet are made up of two panels that later make up the sides of the helicopter tail.  I seriously worry that these panels will end up scraped up and nasty looking after being used as feet, over time.

Transformation leans back into the complexity of the early movie lines as well, which will be a turn off for some people, and probably most kids.  There is a lot of “do this in this order” and “position this just right” going on with panels and whatnot that need to properly mush together.  It’s not a real hard transformation, it just can be tricky in getting everything massaged into place.  Also, I found the joint holding the pelvis and back together on mine to be extremely tight.  I knew it needed to separate and flip up, but it required enough force to free it that it made me uncomfortable pulling on it and I was worried it might break.

The helicopter itself is very nice, it’s appropriately large as well, almost 12 inches long.  Like his 2007 version, Blackout includes a small Scorponok figure and like the 2007 figure, the Scorponok can be inserted into the tail area of Blackout’s vehicle.  There isn’t really much else to the helicopter, there isn’t any spring loaded helicopter gimmick or missile launchers, it’s just a nice looking military chopper.

Ultimately, I feel like Blackout is a pretty cool sort of display piece, maybe not a super great toy.  He looks really good in both modes, but the joint issues and complex transformation make his playability kind of weak.  Also, the price tag of Leader class figures at $50 USD frankly.  This is more of a personal complaint with the latest trends of Transformers pricing though.