Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Astrotrain (1985)

A few weeks ago, Hasbro conducted the latest of their Transformers fan polls. This time, the purpose was to determine which of four Generation One molds would be reissued in the Spring of 2020. The winner of that poll was Astrotrain, and since I've somehow yet to feature the original Astrotrain mold here, it seemed a good opportunity to do so now.

Astrotrain was one of the first Transformers to feature more than two distinct modes. These toys were, unsurprisingly, called "Triple Changers." Like many Transformers from 1984 or 1985, the "Triple Changer" concept originated with the Diaclone line, but apparently the Astrotrain mold was designed late enough that it went straight to the Transformers line without an earlier Diaclone release.

Astrotrain transforms from robot to either a steam locomotive or a space shuttle, and in my opinion, is reasonably convincing in both modes, color notwithstanding (more on that in a moment). This is worth mentioning, because the more modes that a Transformer has (and this includes "extra" modes such as limbs for combiners), the more compromises have to be made to one or more modes to make the others work. In the case of Astrotrain, it seems that the robot mode is where most of those compromises had to be made. The head is a touch too small for the toy's height, his arms are laughably tiny, and they can't really extend forward without running into the chest panel (which is why a lot of people don't even bother unfolding that panel out from Astrotrain's chest, preferring instead to tuck it in the slot where it goes for steam locomotive mode).

Astrotrain is also one of a handful of Transformers that were given differently-colored toys in Japan than those made for the United States. The version seen here is the version the United States got in 1985. Japan got a white-and-black version, which admittedly did look more realistic in both space shuttle and steam locomotive modes. Neither of these color schemes match the package art that appeared on the US release (seen here at the top of the page). This grey-and-purple color scheme was used for the prototypes with appeared in the Hasbro toy catalog prior to release, and which was subsequently used as the color scheme for Astrotrain's cartoon appearances, and thus served as the inspiration for an "anime release" version of the toy released in Japan in 2004 (although they didn't get the colors quite the same as the prototype/cartoon colors). Japan also re-released their white-and-black version in 2004, which was carried over for a Hasbro release the following year. While Hasbro also did a "Platinum" version of Astrotrain (alongside fellow Triple Changer Blitzwing) in 2015, they gave the toy a bizarre orange, white, and blue color scheme (seen alongside the original Astrotrain below) for reasons still unknown. Thus, Astrotrain has never to this day been reissued in its original Hasbro colors. One can only hope that these are the colors Hasbro uses with the upcoming 2020 release. Time will tell.

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