Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Not-Transformers Feature: Spray from iGear

My experience with third-party "not-quite Transformers" (that is, toys not made by either Hasbro nor Takara — nor by anyone licensed by them — which nonetheless clearly attempt to represent actual characters from the Transformers franchise*) is admittedly fairly limited. I have some toys created by Justitoys (including the "WST Dinorobots" and a miniature version of Shockwave), and I've taken advantage of the occasional product to add to an official product (such as the Renderform "Gold Scout" kit for the Classics Bumblebee mold), but that's nearly the extent of it. Indeed, this "Spray" figure from iGear may be currently unique in my collection as being a fully-transforming toy that uses an all-new design (as opposed to merely tweaked and/or scaled down, as with the Dinorobots) to evoke a classic Transformers character (in case you can't tell, here's the link to when I featured the original Seaspray).

The timing of this toy is quite interesting, as it comes only a short time after Hasbro did their own official update of Seaspray (which I haven't featured yet, but probably should at some point in the not-so-distant future). That toy, however, is a huge toy, whereas the original was a "Mini-Vehicle," and thus struck many fans as a bit of a disconnect. "Spray" from iGear is much closer to the original Mini-Vehicle's size (a touch larger), but incorporates modern articulation that was pretty much unheard of on a toy of Seaspray's size in 1985 (including separate feet!).

Transformation is very reminiscent of the original Seaspray's transformation, as well, although way that the legs fold up in hovercraft mode doesn't really lock into place as I'd prefer. Instead, there's a bit of play between the white "torso," the yellow "legs," and the blue "feet" that one simply has to live with in this toy. The price of robot-mode articulation? I'm not sure. It just is what it is.

As I'm sure I've mentioned in the past, there is a long-standing debate about both the legality and the ethics of these figures. There is little question that the companies involved are both attempting to make money off of Transformers concepts, and are doing so without explicit permission from the companies that own the Transformers rights. If either Hasbro or Takaratomy wanted to make an issue of it (and spent lots of money to do so), toys like Spray could be forced into non-existence. As it is, the companies that produce (most of) these toys do make an effort to avoid any glaring violations (such as, for example, any actual Autobot faction symbols. The symbols you see in the pictures here are not part of the toy as it is sold, but were rather added via Reprolabels). Hence the close-but-not-quite name of "Spray" for this Seaspray wannabe. This is a legal gray area, rather than a gross violation, and it really is in everyone's best interests not to blatantly do something that forces Hasbro/Takaratomy's hands. Hasbro doesn't want to waste time and money tracking down every potential violator out there. They want to keep making Transformers toys. But to do this, they do have to protect their rights when it's clear that third-parties have gone too far.

*Further muddying the waters is the fact that I'm specifically not talking about knock-off toys, which attempt to replicate toys previously sold by either Hasbro or Takaratomy (either by creating a new mold from the existing toy, or by using original molds that are somehow no longer in the possession of the original companies).

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