Wednesday, 13 July 2011

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2011 Exclusive (Timelines) Cheetor

Another year, another couple of Collectors' Club exclusives. This time round, they offered Animated TransTech Cheetor, with a new head designed by TF:Animated supremo Derrick J. Wyatt, and Classics Generation 2 Ramjet. Personally, I can't stand G2's lurid colourschemes, and I already have Classics Ramjet... the Classics Seeker mold is getting seriously overused. Thankfully, that just means I get to save money this year, and only get one (seriously cool) exclusive.

As usual, the Collectors' Club supply this exclusive in one of their heavy-duty, glossy-printed display boxes but, just for a change, it's pretty much exactly the size it needs to be (except perhaps depth-wise), rather than massively oversized. Actually, to be fair, the only one that was massively oversized was Nightbeat, from 2008, and I guess that was only to accommodate the comic. No Club fiction accompanies Cheetor, he just has has G1-style Tech Specs card and the instruction leaflet. The Tech Specs card is slightly larger than the box, and has to be inserted diagonally, but even that bends the corners!

The box is styled after the TF: Animated packaging, with a photo of the model in vehicle mode accompanied by character artwork, behind which is a faded illustration of Cheetor's CPDC (Cybertron Police Defence Command, apparently) identification. Cheetor's name is picked out in a metallic-effect flash, typeset in the approximation of the Beast Wars font. It's all bright and vibrantly colourful, but steadfastly squared-off-box-shaped, rather than following the mass release tradition of strangely shaped boxed with odd angles and sticky-out-bits. Inside is the traditional foam insert, which holds the model very firmly, though mine seems to have an alignment issue - the righthand 'nose' of the car actually sticks out of the foam, and has tried to push the side of the box out.

I'm a little surprised that, after so many years, and so many different boxes, the note on the box still reads "join the Hasbro TrasFormers Collectors' Club"... Though they could get away with claiming it's not a typo, it's a reference to one of the foreign versions of the brand name... But, seriously, if I'd ever missed a typo like that two weeks running, let alone four years running (assuming Airazor/Astrotrain's boxes to be the first instance of this error), my former manager would have crucified me.

Vehicle Mode:
Make no mistake, I absolutely love this vehicle mode, both as Blurr and as Cheetor, and it works perfectly for both. This model is rather more monochromatic - molded almost entirely in yellow plastic, as far as this mode goes, with black spots (asymmetrical on the bonnet and roof, but looks symmetrical on the sides) and red detailing on the rear 'lights' and all four wheels. There's also transparent green plastic for the headlights and a touch of slightly copperish orange toward the back of the cockpit.

Cheetor's tail end doesn't have as prominent a crest as Blurr did, and it's molded in solid plastic rather than rubber. It doesn't fit the slot cut in the back of the roof quite so well, either, and the completely open, head-revealing rear is just as glaring on this model as it was on Blurr.

It doesn't look a great deal like the sketches for TransTech Cheetor, but that's probably a good thing. This vehicle would fit in with just about any branch of the TransFormers family, as it's one of the least cartoony looking alternate modes from Animated.

Robot Mode:
Seeing this mold used as Cheetor, I suddenly find it harder to appreciate Animated Blurr. Sure, that was the first use of the mold, and it's intended use... but Cheetor is leagues better. The legs may not be double-jointed a-la Beast Machines Cheetor, but there's something about the sculpting that suggests it, and they can be posed in such a way as to emphasise that. The arms, with their wheels and the high, pointed shoulder crests certainly manage to evoke the TransTech design and spirit.

The colourscheme gets a bit more varied in this mode - more of that copperish orange, more black, and even more of that lurid, almost fluorescent green hinted at by the car's headlights. What's really impressive is that the spot patterns remain in evidence in robot mode - it's not just decoration for the vehicle mode. They are far more regular and entirely symmetrical the chest, forearms and thighs. It does seem a little odd that, in this mode, they could be mistaken for mechanical detail, while the spots on the alternate mode are so organic... but, supposedly, it was all intended to be regular and mechanical-looking, until it was decided that it just didn't look right on a test model.

The big deal here is the head sculpt, of course, based on Wyatt's animation design. Looking at early photos, I thought they'd done a fantastic job, not only in creating an cool look for 'Animated Cheetor' but in turning that design into a three-dimensional reality. The final product is missing some of the paint application (most notably the black outlining which I, personally, believe would have improved it and helped the eyes stand out), but the face still manages to look excellent. My one and only gripe is in the positioning of the socket for the neck's ball joint - it's right behind the chin! In all the artwork, Animated Cheetor follows the Wyatt trend of massively jutting chins, but the final model looks very flat-faced because the joint is too far forward. It doesn't affect articulation (though the head is rather prone to popping off) so I can only assume the choice was made to ensure the crest could plug into the appropriate slot in vehicle mode... Even though it very nearly doesn't...

His weapon is the same combination sheild/saw blade thing that Blurr had, naturally, though the BotCon 2011 comic, The Stunti-Con Job, depicts it has some kind of blaster, somewhat like Animated Bumblebee's stingers. The 'blade' is molded in the same transparent green as the headlights, and the mechanism is just as weak on this model as it was on Blurr.

It seems to me that the best Club exclusives so far have been tied to Beast Wars - the pre-Earth version of Airazor is still my absolute favourite (and I should really get round to writing that up sometime soon...) and now this is a very worthy second place in my affections. It's a combination of the perfect mold for the job, an excellent new head sculpt (marred only by lack of detail-emphasising outlining - which, let's face it, was true of almost the entire Animated line - and a poorly positioned neck joint), and a perfectly-judged colourscheme, taking cues from every version of Cheetor from the original Beast Wars model right up to Beast Machines and beyond.

Seriously, forget the lurid G2 Seeker - it's going to get ridiculously expensive on the secondary market. If you're on the fence about joining the Club, and have any affection for Beast Wars and/or Animated, this is the perfect excuse to sign up, and it's still available as of the time of writing.

I would like to note that I wasn't even stung on Customs charges for this... but this year's BotCon set was another story entirely...

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