Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Transformers: The Movie - Studio Series 86 Hot Rod (2021)

In just a couple of weeks, on August 8th, the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie will be celebrating its 35th anniversary. Having already celebrated the 25th anniversary and the 30th anniversary with reflections, I'm not sure how much new there is to say about the movie itself (at least, not within the limited amount of space I allow myself on this simple blog!), but a series of toys released this year as part of the Studio Series subline (previously dedicated exclusively to the live-action movies, and thus essentially ignored by me) gives me an opportunity to celebrate the occasion with a reflection on the main character (IMHO) of the movie: Hot Rod (who of course later became Rodimus Prime, the new leader of the Autobots... until Optimus Prime came back from the inconvenience of being dead...).

As is well-known by now, the original Hot Rod toy differed from most other Transformers of its era (although not from most other toys created to represent characters from Transformers: The Movie) in that its animation model was designed first, with the toy designed afterward. This kind of thing is perhaps less unusual these days, and it's certainly the truth that toys created to resemble well-known characters are designed to resemble those existing representations, rather than starting from the "ground up," so to speak. Thus, we've seen quite a few Hot Rod toys over the years, some attempting to recreate the same essential look of the original, with others looking to do something quite different (while still being recognizable as the same character). Before this Studio Series toy came out, the Masterpiece line released two distinct attempts at "the ultimate Hot Rod." I have the first Masterpiece toy, which also allowed for a distinct Rodimus Prime robot mode, but the reason I've never featured it here on the blog is that it had some serious quality control issues (the arm of my specimen literally jumped off the rest of the toy while it was standing on my shelf shortly after I got it. I was able to reassemble the toy so that it looks okay standing on the shelf, but I've barely touched it since... I'll certainly never attempt to transform it again!). I didn't bother with the second Masterpiece toy, having been burned by the first one, but while it doesn't attempt a distinct Rodimus Prime mode, I'm told it's a very respectable toy.

The Studio Series version of Hot Rod no doubt owes much to lessons learned in creating the two Masterpiece toys over the past decade or so, but of course it comes out at a much lower price point (and doesn't have to be imported from Japan!). As such, I'm not sure it can make quite the same claim to be the ultimate Hot Rod toy, but it's not at all bad. My main complaint with it is that I think it tries to do far too much (even without attempting a distinct Rodimus Prime robot mode!). I find the transformation unnecessarily complicated. Perhaps this yields a somewhat more cartoon-accurate Hot Rod (compared to the version from 1986), but give me a toy I can transform from one mode to the other without having to pull out the instructions any day of the week (the instructions aren't that much help, anyway, and my aging eyes need reading glasses to interpret them these days, which definitely takes some of the joy out of the enterprise).

But, again, this toy really isn't at all bad, and if the definitely-dated original mold (or any of its other successors in the decades since) doesn't do it for you, perhaps this one does. Besides the intricate transformation, Hasbro definitely included some extras with this toy (perhaps to make up for the fact that it is essentially the same size as a Deluxe toy, if a bit more involved, while being sold at the Voyager price point). These extras include a miniature Matrix of Leadership, two rifles, a buzzsaw (great for attacking Sharkticons!), some blast effects, and even a larger blast effect-like piece intended to represent energy coming from the Matrix as Hot Rod opens it up. That said, I don't have a lot of use for most of these tidbits, and they've mostly remained in the package (as seen here).

One "extra" that I'm a bit more appreciative of is the fact that some of the packaging material is intended to be used as a display stand, which gives me a chance not only to show off Hot Rod holding the Matrix of Leadership, but to use the robot mode's "visor" flipped over his eyes (never mind that these two elements were never actually used in the same scene!). I confess to feeling like the sides of this stand ought to attach more firmly to the base, rather than simply hanging off of the sides, but I can't complain too much. It's a nice addition that I wish more toys included in their packaging, especially as prices rise overall.

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