Friday, December 15, 2006

Cliffjumper's Identity Crisis

Back when I was a kid, I would often hear someone claim that there was no difference between Cliffjumper and Bumblebee other than their color. Although the molds are indeed very similar, any serious examination of the two figures reveals that the molds are by no means identical. Different head, different chest, different feet.

However, the myth persisted. Ironically, this problem seemed to be made more difficult (rather than improved) by the fact that Hasbro also released a yellow version of Cliffjumper and a red version of Bumblebee. I've never quite figured this out. If one couldn't tell that the original Cliffjumper and Bumblebee weren't the same (other than their color) before, then surely looking at a yellow Cliffjumper next to a yellow Bumblebee would clear up all doubt! But, no....

Sadly, this problem has only gotten worse over the years. When Joe Toscano of decided to create a Cliffjumper Action Master, he naturally used Bumblebee as the basis, since no official Action Master Cliffjumper has ever existed. And, as the cartoon image on that link demonstrates, the final result is indeed fairly accurate, at least in regard to the head-shot we can see. Part of the problem here is that, although the original Bumblebee toy had a shield for a face, the cartoon always depicted him with a mouth, and the Action Master Bumblebee figure followed the cartoon's lead. So when AM Bumblebee was painted red, there wasn't too much different between the faces anymore. In fact, the only thing left (so far as I can tell) is that Bumblebee's head still follows a roughly round shape, while Cliffjumper's head is more triangular. But this difference is admittedly subtle, especially in the animation. The figure's feet are still Bumblebee's, but who's looking at them? This kind of thing is not only completely acceptable for a custom, but is in fact a pretty amazing job.

Recent versions continue this trend less excusably. Although Cliffjumper's name has been used a couple of times in recent years (in Armada and Energon), neither of these represents the classic character, so we can safely ignore them. But when Palisades put out a Cliffjumper statue, it was just a straight-up repaint of their Bumblebee statue: roundish head and VW Beetle feet. Unmistakably a "red Bumblebee." And this was no production mistake or custom figure. This was an official product, licensed by Hasbro! And now, there are a couple of new "Cliffjumper" toys on the horizon: one small figure in the Titaniums line, and one in the "Classics" line. These are also just red repaints of Bumblebee figures.

Although it seems that the original versions of both Cliffjumper and Bumblebee will be re-released as keychains (for the second time!) in the near future, given the trend toward saving money by doing repaints, I doubt we'll see a new version of the "classic" Cliffjumper character that's not a straight repaint of Bumblebee ever again. It seems that my old classmates were right. Just 20 years too early!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, I'm not thrilled with Classics Cliffjumper. As if being a straight up repaint isn't bad enough, it's got one of the *worst* paint jobs I've seen in a long time. He looks rusty...

    I'll pass, thank you.


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