Sunday, 8 August 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Wheelie

Wheelie is a name long associated with fan loathing. In the animated movie, Wheelie was a kind of 'kid appeal' character in a cast made up almost exclusively of kid appeal characters. He spoke in irritating rhymes, and wielded a slingshot capable of pacifying the mighty Grimlock. The toy was a hunchbacked disaster which looked nothing like the character in the movie, and was probably one of the ugliest TransFormers ever to see the light of day. Surprisingly, a fan-made version actually makes G1 Wheelie look pretty decent and manages to be very poseable, while retaining the look of the vehicle mode perfectly. The only question would be why a fan-made G1 Wheelie model exists in the first place.

Fast forward to Revenge of the Fallen, and the name Wheelie is applied to a cowardly yet lascivious little spybot - not quite the equivalent of Frenzy, but certainly the same kind of character. Whereas Frenzy referenced G1 by turning into a portable stereo (which, yes, got picked up and left somewhere convenient by a stupid human), Wheelie does something unexpected: he transforms into a toy.

Vehicle Mode:
Wheelie is bizarrely well-designed and makes a very effective radio controlled monster truck toy. Most of the seams are in sensible places, so they don't intrude too much. The few visible robot parts (mostly on the underside of the truck) are molded to look like R/C car parts. The tyres are nice and large but - like most TransFormers these days - they're solid plastic rather than rubber. There's not a great deal of paintwork - certainly nothing like the kind of details Wheelie had in the movie - but what's there is used reasonably well for effect - silver on the whubcaps and external petrol tanks, and a touch of metallic blue on the lights. The windows of the cab are molded in translucent plastic but it's so dark, they might as well not be.

It's actually a very cute vehicle mode, even if it's not proportionally accurate to a real R/C truck, and all fits together very well, creating an authentically sturdy vehicle.
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Robot Mode:
The movie toys are well known for innovative transformations, and creating some very tall robots from very small vehicle modes. Wheelie is a prime example of this - from a compact vehicle mode comes one of the tallest Deluxes in the range - perhaps a little daft, considering he's one of the smallest robots in the movie.

Similarities to WALL-E are probably coincidental - he looks equally similar to Johnny 5 from Short Circuit: great big bug eyes on an otherwise tiny head, long stalk-like neck and spindly arms. He even has kind-of wheel feet, but with the addition of claws for stability - walking on wheels may work for a computer-generated robot in the movies, but never works well on a toy.

There are obvious discrepancies between this toy and the movie model, but overall it's a decent interpretation of the character. He has a strange gimmick - his faction symbol can switch between Autobot and Decepticon, reflecting Wheelie's flexible allegiances from the movie. The strangest part about this gimmick is the piece of clear plastic on the end of the rotating barrel - it almost looks as though it was meant to act as light-piping, but this piece is entirely covered by opaque plastic in vehicle mode. I wonder if there were plans to make this on a larger scale, with the inevitable lights and sounds... I can imagine the lewd soundbites now...

Like vehicle mode, Wheelie's robot mode is rather plain, albeit with the blue broken up with more grey/silver plastic. It's strange that the eyes are painted the way they are - a vaguely translucent orange - when they might have been better painted red... or one red, one blacked-out blue, to mimmick his burnt out eye.
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Transformation is actually quite complicated, thanks to the annoying profusion of panels and spindly parts that make up this model, and which have to fold around each other to get from one mode to the other. Typically, with such spindly legs, the joints are quite weak, making posing a very frustrating experience. Still, he is very poseable, and even expressive, thanks to tilting eye pieces and well-jointed arms and hands.

All things considered, despite the obvious issue of comparative scale, Wheelie is easily one of the most successful Deluxes from the RotF line.

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