Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Rattrap

Since I joined the ranks of true Beast Wars fans quite late in the game, I had to do quite a lot of searching to find some of the figures from the TV show. Characters like Optimus Primal and Megatron got reissued several times over (not least on a smaller scale in the Robot Masters line), and the likes of the original Cheetor, Tigatron and Rhinox received more show-accurate reissues only a few years ago. The smaller, simpler figures that weren't reissued, like Rattrap and Airazor, required constant vigilance and frequent searching of Ebay before I got my hands on them.

The original Rattrap uses one of the earliest 'Automorph' features, where springs and gears handled most of the (very basic) transformation, leaving an inner robot made almost entirely of ball joints. For several reasons, it didn't look much like the CGI in the TV show, so when a Deluxe class Generations remake was revealed, I made ready to pounce at the earliest opportunity...


Beast Mode:
The original Rattrap toy was, to be honest, a fairly crappy shellformer. The rat shell was made of three or four large pieces that simply split open to reveal the robot which had been hanging on its undercarriage all the time. It also didn't look much like rat, and had no articulation unless you count the vaguely mobile ball jointed feet. All things considered, Hasbro didn't have to do much to improve on the original... but, looking at their redesigned Classics Cheetor and Dinobot, there was plenty of room for them to go horribly wrong.

Thankfully, what we have here is pretty decent. It still doesn't quite look like a rat - not even the CGI rat of the TV series - but it seems at least to be something vaguely similar. It still has a visible robot undercarriage (which is, if anything, slightly more intrusive this time), but the sculpted detail and articulation do wonders to distract the eye.

And, yes, this rat mode actually has some articulation. It's not really enough to get a decent walking pose - mainly it seems to have been included to allow Rattrap to sit up, as he did in the TV series - but it's a welcome inclusion nonetheless. The back feet are hinged, while the front feet have a rotation joint at the wrist. The tail has a hinge at the root, but it's made of soft, rubbery plastic and has some kind of wire core to make it poseable. The head tips up and down, too, and the mouth opens up.

The problem with this 'sitting on his haunches' gimmick is that it exposes his robot arm underbelly and the rather unfortunate stowing of his main weapon. While the original Rattrap's weapon split in two and stowed in the beast shell's sides, Generations Rattrap seems to have a large, translucent techno-phallus.

The paint job on this model is basic and functional - the grey plastic is supplemented by a tan patch on the backside, the ears have some pink inside, the eyes and nose are black, and the top row of teeth are painted. He has rather more seams than the original, but they're signs of the more complex transformation to come. A slightly darker grey plastic might have worked better for the rat shell, and would have gone some way to concealing the seams.


Robot Mode:
Just like Rhinox and Waspinator, this Generations remake isn't a perfect rendition of the CGI character, but it's pretty damned close, and almost certainly the best we're likely to get for the time being. While the rat shell backpack and protruding legs are part of the CGI design, they're necessarily larger on the real-life model... but whenever I see the front paws sticking out over the robot's shoulders, I can't help thinking "jazz hands!"

The colourscheme is about as good as one could expect from a current Hasbro figure and, in all honesty, there is quite a lot of silver paint on Rattrap, as well as some metallic orange on his face and thighs. I quite like that they kept the gear details on the shoulders, as it's one of the features that connected the original toy to the character on the TV show. The orange plastic isn't quite so bright as my photos suggest, but nor does it closely match the metallic orange paint. There appears to be a subtle metallic flake/marbling component to it, but that doesn't add a great deal to his look.

The rat's ears seem way too large on this figure and, angling back the way they do, they stick up almost as high as the top of the head. It may not be quite as bad as the original Cheetor's massive cat head chest in terms of obscuring his vision, but I don't see why the ears are either that large or oriented that way. Sticking them on ball joints might have been useful as they could then be repositioned in robot mode.

This version of Rattrap also features a two part weapon but, unlike the original, the two parts function independently as handguns as well as combining to form one larger gun. Bizarrely, both parts are molded in colourless translucent plastic, with no real explanation for that choice. Translucent weapons were a staple of the Energon series, here they just look weird.

Guns aren't Rattrap's only weapon - concealed in his left arm is one of the demolition charges he used in the TV series, also molded in the translucent plastic. You might almost think his weapons were meant to be cloaked... but that never happened in the TV series.

Rattrap was one of very few characters whose original toy head sculpt was represented reasonably well in the TV series, though it was the wrong colour. This new model corrects that flaw and, for the most part, gives us an enhanced sculpt, even truer to the CGI... except for one small point: for no obvious reason, his buck teeth have been omitted. Perhaps this is just another symptom of the American obsession with perfect teeth but, if there was one Beast Wars character that really didn't need beautifying, it was Rattrap. The other odd thing about the head sculpt is that there's a vast amount of translucent plastic to enable light piping in the eyes (though not the mouth), but it's the same colourless plastic, so the eyes are painted over in red.


I'd really like to say Generations Rattrap's transformation is better than that of the original Beast Wars character but, in reality, it's just more complicated and fiddly and, to be perfectly honest, I find it more than a little frustrating. The way the legs explode when transforming back to beast mode is fairly impressive, but getting everything back into place inside the rat shell is a pain because so many very mobile pieces have to be positioned just so before the shell can be folded out and down to plug into the forearms. The piece of beast mode shell that covers the robot's head when Rattrap sits up on his haunches is very difficult to pull out from the head, and I normally end up squeezing a finger in behind the jaw to push it out from there.

While, like Waspinator, this model replaces lots of the original's ball joints with pinned joints, Rattrap remains very mobile and dynamic for the most part, but his elbows don't bend a full 90° and the rotation joint just above the elbow is made of the same soft plastic as the rat's feet. On mine, one of them moves quite freely, but the other tends to be stiff in one direction and it does feel like it might just twist itself apart eventually. The legs are nicely mobile, but the feet are fixed as they have to accommodate the beast mode's feet behind the robot mode's toes. It's an interesting and clever arrangement, and allow's the rat foot to act as just enough of a heel spur to keep Rattrap upright in a variety of poses, where the original's feet basically encouraged him to fall over backwards. Another cool feature of this version is that, should you find a pose that's a bit too extreme for him to be stable, you can simply extend his tail and use that as another point of balance. Beast mode isn't the most extensively articulated thing out there, but it's leaps and bounds ahead of the original, very expressive in its own way, and it's not as if Hasbro were obliged to improve beast mode to that degree..

When I bought this fella in the Burbank branch of Toys'R'Us, the guy at the checkout said this was his favourite model from this wave of Generations toys, and it's easy to see why - it's an excellent, albeit somewhat flawed homage to the CGI of the Beast Wars TV series, giving us Rattrap as he deserves to be - solid, stable, fully tooled up to sabotage any Predacon plot, and packed with enough clever features to outweigh some of the shortcomings. Like everything Hasbro does lately, it could have used a bit more paint, but what he has is just about sufficient.

2 comments:

  1. I know this version of the character isn't perfect, but man I love the upgrade. Rhinox still has received the best upgrade (specifically the Takara version) to date of the show cast, but Rattrap is a welcome addition.

    I understand your points and frustrations with parts of the figure, but this turned out so much better than I thought it may. I've got the Henkei! upgrade of Cheetor and I'm looking for the same version of Dinobot...however his prices were already high and have gone higher as more and more collectors are now trying to assemble a new, upgraded Beast Wars show cast w/ these new toys.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment, Colbey. Rattrap and Rhinox are definite highlights of the 30th Anniversary line... somewhat unexpectedly, too, considering the lukewarm reaction (at the time) to those two earlier Classics/Beast Wars toys. I'd certainly agree that Rattrap is far better than he could have been, and it's good that Hasbro/Takara Tomy are reimagining some of the best-loved characters from that continuity, finally giving them the toy they deserved. Interesting to hear that the upgraded Dinobot is in demand now!

      I wonder how many more Beast Wars characters are on the way... if not for the TransFormers 30th Anniversary, then perhaps for the next anniversary of BW.

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