Transformers: Prime Bumblebee

It’s sad that the programming you hear about online doesn’t always make it to Philippine network television. If it does, it’s usually several years after they series aired in the country of origin. Not only is this bad from fans of the big franchises, but it means that the chance that distributors will import merchandise based on these properties is just about nil. The G.I. Joe Resolute figures didn’t even see retail shelves and the new Thundercats figures can only be had through online stores.

Even though the newest Transformers show, Transformers: Prime, debuted more than a year ago on The Hub in the States, it still hasn’t seen local airwaves. It’s no surprise that the distributor’s orders for Wave 1 of the new toy line based on this series weren’t as large as they were for the Dark of the Moon movie line. Most stores are only getting two or three boxes of the figures, and they’re quickly selling out.

This first wave, or the “First Edition” set of toys consists of the main characters during the first season of the show. Since the November 12 launch of the line, Toy Kingdom and Toys ‘R’ Us have been shelving the Deluxe toys, including singles Arcee, Bumbleebee, with Starscream representing the Decepticons. There’s also an “Entertainment Pack” which includes Optimus Prime and Megatron (both Deluxe Class) and non-poseable figurines of the 3 human children.

At first I was going to pass on these until after the holidays, but hearing how Cliffjumper (Wave 2) was already disappearing from stores, I figured it was better now than never. Since Bumblebee came 4 to a case (with 2 each of the others), let’s start with him.

Hasbro solicitation photo of case assortment, Wave 1
The packaging of these First Editions is some of the best on the shelf today. Primarily blue, each one is emblazoned with large character portrait on the face of the card, above the blister, a large faction symbol next to that, and “first edition” stamped in silver foil down the right side. The brand identity is represented by a nice “Transformers: Prime” card insert inside the blister, across the bottom of the package, with “Bumblebee” right under that.

The back of the card is dominated a big product photo of the toy in robot mode. It’s a nice enough hero shot that shows off the figure nicely. The “also available” shots are a smidgen shorter than the main one, but still give you a good view of what your collection is still missing. There’s also a nice team portrait at the bottom. They’ve done away with the blurb that every line seems to have, which leaves a lot of space to play around with the layout. It’s a welcome change, though I doubt it will last.

Most of the toys I saw had circular purple stickers over round “Watch Transformers on TV!” badge on the back. I guess it’s because these were for international distribution and The Hub isn’t a channel we get out here in the boondocks.

Inside the blister are the figure, one weapon, instructions, and the “display stand”. That last one is little more than a paperboard box with a rounded front which has the logo printed on it. It’s not really that deep, so one side of Bee’s car mode hangs off the side. It really only works if the toy is in robot mode. Each one of the Deluxe figures comes with an identical stand.

Bumblebee’s car mode has closer ties to his movie iteration than it does to the War for Cybertron. Instead of the goofy little Volkswagen, he’s a bright yellow muscle car with racing stripes. I always found it nicer when he was the little guy since it gave a more rounded picture of the Autobot team. It was great that he was small because he could sneak in and out without anyone seeing him (or such was the theory). Now, he’s just kind of a generic soldier bot with a speech impediment.

But I’ll put my fan boy issues aside for now and concentrate on the toy as it stands alone. And let me tell you, it stands very well!

The car mode is great looking, all hard lines and low-riding meanness. I like the look of it since it reminds me so much of the Lockdown figure. He’s even got the exposed engine on his hood (though I do wish that bit was a little more pronounced). I love the fact that all his parts peg together so well here. I’ve transformed him several times now and it’s not as hard to do as the various movie figures of the characters. Though you can see the seams, there’s not a lot of gapping here.

The figure is cast in color and the black racing stripes are just tampo-graphed on. There’s no real elaborate paint applications on the body of the car at all, so that’s a minus for it. I don’t really like the way the stripes are laid out either, since they don’t scream ZOOM! to me like they do with the older figures. The angles kind of give him a circuitry vibe that doesn’t jibe with the muscle car feel. I’m still hoping to find the NYCC set of this figure with the pink Arcee and compare the two.

Two things you’ll notice with the new figure. One, it looks cheaper than some of the older ones. The plastic suffers from the lighter yellow color and looks a lot like the cheap plastic I get when I buy a knock off. Two, he’s a lot smaller than the Deluxe toys from a year ago. As I’m not a stickler for scale, I’m not going to dwell on it, but if you are, it might be a deal breaker.

The beautiful thing about the Prime toys is how satisfying each of their transformations are. Of the 5 I bought, I was only disappointed with Optimus’ change since neither the vehicle nor the resulting robot look as impressive as any of the other figures. The rest of the crew’s transformations are involved, logical, and just the right amount of complicated, leaving behind very little in the way of kibble in either form.

There are commonalities among the figures. One is that a lot of their joints are ball and socket. That gives them a good range of articulation and allows the extremities to fold up smaller. The figures in vehicle mode are unbelievable compact and if you turn one over, you can see how the designers used every inch of space under the chassis to store robot parts.

Two, they are to a certain degree, shell-formers. In order to look bigger once they change into robots, the engineers designed them to have parts that lock together to form their bodies. Both Bumblebee’s and Cliffjumper’s chests are hollow, and I hear that so is the Bulkhead’s. I know I’ve said that shell-formers aren’t that great, but in this case, it works. That’s largely because the designers have cut the pieces of armor down to small overlapping parts that don’t look like the side of a panel truck. It’s an elegant solution and they’ve executed it well.

Another striking feature is the light piping on this sucker. It is AMAZING. Even in the most indirect light, his eyes shine like he’s possessed! That, coupled with the animated, friendly face that the sculptors have given him, really make this toy a joy to photograph.

Articulation on Bumblebee is great as well. All those ball joints I mentioned really give him spectacular range. I was afraid that his huge boots might be a problem, but it turns out that you can still bend his knees, and because of all those extra joints from his transformation design, he gets a little extra mileage.

His upper body is just as great in the joints department, where again, the extra articulation he gains from his design really kick in. His shoulders, in particular, have an amazing reach. About the only joint I miss here is a wrist swivel, and even that is not so important since his weapon isn’t held in his hand.

In the show, Bumblebee has a pair of twin blaster cannons that pop out of his forearms. Since the toy’s forearms aren’t that big, Hasbro has included an accessory that plugs into a hole on his gauntlets. It’s a nice piece, and proportional, but I do feel gyped a bit at not getting two. I’ve read that they’ll be releasing another version next year with a pair of guns, but I haven’t seen any confirmation of that. So far Wave 3 is a re-tooled Cliffjumper and the generic Decepticon Vehicon. Other announced toys are Soundwave, Knock Out, Wheeljack, and Skyquake. Starscream gets an upgrade, but no Bumblebee.

I’m sorely tempted to get a second figure and keep the accessory just to complete the look. Idiotic, I know, especially considering that these are Php 700.00 ($15.50 US) a pop, but that’s the life of a toy collector.

I am really glad I took the time to hunt these figures down. Seeing how fast they’ve been flying from shelves, I doubt I would have been able to get them at retail if I’d waited until after the holidays. If they do get re-stocks, well and good, but I’ve learned it’s better to get them while they’re hot or risk having to visit Greenhills and pay double.

Though, after my assessment of this figure, it might still have been worth it.

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