Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Images & First Impressions: Transformers Animated Bumblebee

Since the very first Transformers toys hit over 20 years ago, Bumblebee was a popular featured player in the war on educational toys. He hangs out with the humans, was small and cheap, and transformed into a very friendly yellow car. How can you go wrong with a guy like this? Since the the entire Transformers brand got the Beast reboot, Bumblebee has been all but completely ignored-- save for a few collectible figures, there was nothing between 1995 and 2006, as Hot Shot took the place of the kid-identified character. After the movie, it's all about Bumblebee yet again.

"Enough talk, it's time for action!" (Quote from back of packaging.)

While Blackarachnia seems to be a robot first, the emphasis on Bumblebee was clearly the vehicle mode. The car looks exactly like the cartoon, right down to the black stripe and the little red siren. In order to keep the vehicle in line with the cartoon, some shortcuts were taken, including a fake "roof" chest on the robot mode since the actual vehicle roof doesn't form the torso on this particular release. It's weird, but it basically works. Our yellow hero has a lot of articulation in each arm and leg, but the various panels and pieces prevent him from moving around in any way that might impress, say, a Marvel Legends fan. The robot is cute, clunky, and mostly solid-- I didn't experience any pieces falling off, and much like Armada Hot Shot, kids should dig this one.

His weapons include a pair of snap-on rocket thrusters which peg on his back or the rear area of his vehicle mode, plus he has flip-out "stingers" in his forearms. These clear blue weapons fit together to form one of the frequently seen weapons on the show, although it does look a little wonky on the toy.

As a very kid-friendly toy, the standard "great gift" tag applies. If you want to buy a youngster his or her first Transformers toy, this is a good one. Unfortunately, older collectors will likely be put off by the big panels on the outside of his arms, as well as the fairly awkward feet. If you take into consideration that the show was designed to be streamlined and sleek, it's pretty unfortunate that the toys only sort of manage to replicate this new look and feel.

If you buy the figure, take note that the figure on the packaging does not match the figure in the packaging. The yellow is much more uniform on the box, and there are a few additional paint applications that simply do not appear on the toy.

PROS: Good robot head, bright colors, basically looks like the cartoon. Stinger accessories fit together nicely. Transformation is both simple and complicated, which should make it fun for kids.

CONS: Yellow paint and yellow plastic do not match. Lots of panel kibble hangs off the figure.

VALUE: As a roughly $10 toy, it's hard to find too much fault here. He doesn't do too much, but he looks neat and the character alone will likely drive sales. You won't feel like you got a steal, but for $10, it seems like a reasonable toy.

If Hasbro wants to make this one better, there will some day be a "premium" animated Bumblebee with a better paint job. The toy is pretty shoddy when it comes to its overall appearance, which is unfortunate as we got some pretty great Bumblebee toys in Classics (2006) and for the Movie line (2007, 2008). What went wrong, Hasbro?

Oh, and I got this at a Wal-Mart in Los Angeles too. As that is the way of things.