Thursday, 23 June 2011

Beast Wars Reissue Cheetor

Every line of TransFormers needs a headstrong, action-hungry kid-appeal character who starts off completely arrogant, insubordinate and consistently bites off more than he can chew, but grows not only to respect his Prime but the rest of his team as well. Lately, that's been the Bumblebee role... but in the Beast Wars, another yellow character fulfilled the same purpose...

Beast Mode:
If you consider that a Cheetah is a slender, lithe, fast and agile hunter, you might wonder what went wrong with this alternate mode. It's almost as wide as it is tall, and essentially a complete brick. Yes, the back legs are articulated, but their range of motion serves no useful purpose in this mode. They're molded much like Lio Convoy's, in that the only joint in the beast's hind legs is the robot mode's knee, and that's kind of in the wrong place for the beast. It's all far too chunky and would require too much suspension of disbelief for it to look like a Cheetah were it not for the truly incredible paint job on this reissue.

The actual toy is far more orange than these photos suggest, and the white airbrushing isn't really white at all - it's a very pale, muted orange that complements the plastic colour well. Where the beast mode truly excels, though, is in the spot detailing - it's neither symmetrical nor regular and, over the top of the subtly molded fur, manages to look reasonably natural, albeit glossy, rather than matte like the airbrushed 'white'.

Face on, the head sculpt and its painted detailing looks fairly accurate to a Cheetah, albeit with bulging eyes and an exceptionally thick neck. Perhaps this kitty took after Garfield...

If you squint, it almost looks good from the front, but from any other angle it looks clunky and clumsy, and not at all convincing. Were it capable of pulling off a 'dash' pose, the rigid tail wouldn't look quite so out of place, but all this beast mode can do it stand around looking stunned. Or stoned..?
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Robot Mode:
It was models like Cheetor that really put me off Beast Wars back in the day. When they first turned up on UK shelves, I picked up Optimus Primal and Megatron and decided not to get any others because, let's face it, most of them don't really look like robots in robot mode... And Cheetor is a prime example of a truly awful-looking Beast-Former. The Cheetah's forelegs hang useless, yet rigid, from the robot's back, just behind his shoulders, and the beast's head basically obscures the robot's vision of anything that isn't above him to some extent.

Bizarrely, though, the format is somewhat reminscent of all those G1 cars where the front end of the vehicle became the robot's chest, and the doors became 'wings' behind the shoulders... even the proportions are similar!

As with beast mode, Cheetor's robot mode has a vastly upgraded paint job - gold, along with a cold, blueish-grey metallic paint that complements the grey, metallic-flake plastic used on some of the joints, and almost flourescent colours used for both the robot and the 'mutant' eyes. Oddly, their eyes are different colours, and possibly chosen to reference the many different colourschemes of the original '96 Cheetor. Robot mode is the red/orange-eyed variant, while the battle mask is the green-eyed variant.

The paintwork overall is anything but sparse, too - arms, legs, groin-plate and the entire head are lavishly painted up so, even if he still looks nothing like his CGI TV series counterpart, and despite the shortcomings of the figure, he does look pretty impressive based on nothing more than the extent of the paint coverage.

The head sculpt is pretty bland and, again, nothing like the character from the TV series - far simpler, far more human-inna-helmet but, again, the form of the helmet carries with it some G1 references... the central crest with 'horns' either side is quite reminiscent of the likes of Prowl, Bluestreak and Smokescreen.

The 'mutant' head/battle mask, meanwhile, hovers somewhere between cat-like and insectoid, with a dash of bird-like just to make it even more confusing. In fact, looking at it in the wake of the TF3: Dark of the Moon trailers, it almost looks as though Cheetor's battle mask was the inspiration for live-action Laserbeak's head...

One really cool feature, common to most of the Beast Wars figures, is that Cheetor's weapons are stashed internally in beast mode. The tail section detatches to become one handgun, and the belly comes out - molded intestines and all - to become another. This latter weapon, like a select few others in Beast Wars is a functioning water pistol - squeeze the 'guts', immerse the nozzle in water, and release to 'load', then squeeze the back end again to fire off a blast of liquid. I'm not about to try it with this TakaraTomy reissue, but I suspect it would be quite effective, as long as the joint between the rigid plastic of the gun barrel and the softer plastic of the 'guts' held up to the constant squeezing.
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Cheetor offers a reasonable balance between traditional, 'proper' transformation and the 'shell-forming' that seemed prevalent in Beast Wars, but even the parts that fold out or collapse still stick out too far and look both awkward and somewhat ridiculous. On balance, I'd have to say that beast mode looks better than robot mode, despite the awesome improved paintwork of this reissue.

Where this figure wins is its articulation in robot mode - the shoulders are ball-joints leading into swivel joints, the elbows move, the hips are ball-jointed and the knees bend and swivel. With a fairly large and comparatively solid footprint, this makes Cheetor one of the more dynamically poseable - and stable - Beast Wars robots.

Considering it's now a 15 year old mold, it should come as no surprise that it's simplistic and not particularly effective. However, considering how well-regarded Beast Wars is as a TV series, it should be hard for any collector to pass up a reissue like this... and it's not as if the Classics/Universe Cheetor was any better, despite its increased complexity.

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