Sunday, 24 July 2011

TransFormers (Movie) Bumblebee ('76 Camaro)

When it was first revealed that Bumblebee in the live action movies would be a Camaro, the fans were in uproar. Everyone knew Bumblebee was a VW Beetle - the underdog both in vehicle mode and in robot mode - not an American muscle car. The character's introduction in the movie attempted to mitigate this faux pas by including a yellow Beetle in the same scene, and starting him out as a banged up 1976 Camaro.

Vehicle Mode:
I have to say, this version of Bumblebee looks pretty good in vehicle mode. The 1976 Camara is bold and angular, wide and low to the ground. The front end is a mess of very visible seams due to its rather overambitious, spring-loaded Automorph gimmick (which actually loosens up over time, making the seams even worse), but the remaining seams only stand out where the paint applications don't continue from one adjoining panel to the next.

Compared to the later Camaro Concept version, it's obvious that Hasbro were aiming for a washed-out, desaturated yellow for this, to match the faded look of the movie car's paint job, but yellow is a very difficult colour to wash out and desaturate, and the result is a plastic colour that's pale, but still quite vibrantly yellow. The stripes are a very solid black, too, with no simulated scratches, scuffs or faded parts. There's a fair bit of other paintwork, though, from the lights, bumpers and hubcaps, to the patches of rust and, unfortunately, all of the car's windows. The Japanese version of '76 Camara Bumblebee used transparent blue plastic painted over with yellow where necessary, but the Hasbro release uses the same yellow plastic as the rest of the car body, and has the windows picked out in a strangely metallic blue paint.

The two spring-loaded missile launchers stow quite well on the underside, though it's a very tight fit and can cause even more panel-alignment issues. The missiles can be left in place, and you can sort of pretend that they're exhaust pipes to explain the two odd protrusions from Bumblebee's rear.
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Robot Mode:
When I first saw this model, before the film hit the screens and long before the Camaro Concept version appeared, I thought it was a pretty good attempt at turning the CGI model into a toy. In retrospect, I think I was being too generous, and applying my opinions of old-school TransFormers engineering to this new line of toys.

While the upper body is pretty reasonable (though I always felt that the front wings of the car should have been able to rotate up, like the Concept version), the legs - and particularly the feet - are extremely poorly handled. Whereas the later models made some (distinctly variable) attempts to recreate the feet of the CGI model, this first iteration of Movie Bumblebee just has massive duck feet that don't look right from any angle.

It's also a little bizarre that his door/wings are broken in half, with the bottom halves attached to his wrists. Then again, this model has Bumblebee's distinctive shoulder panels replaced by the back halves of the front wheelarches, so it looks as though almost no effort was made to match the toy's robot mode to the movie's CGI model. Virtually none of the transformation seams match up to the vehicle's natural seams, either...

Weirder still, a closer examination of the vehicle parts reveals some unpainted areas that are textured to represent rust patches.

The fact that the head is virtually nothing like the CGI model - and, in fact, remained so until the Revenge of the Fallen toyline - is blamed on the fact that pre-production artwork was used to design the toys. I can believe this to a certain extent, but there's an awful lot of molded detail revealed in robot mode that's clearly derived from something like final artwork, so it seems as though including an Automorph gimmick was a higher priority than making the toy look like the character in the movie.

Paintwork was also a bit sparse on the toy straight from the package - all the photos below show extensive additional yellow paint just to make him look tidy.

One cool feature is that the spring-loaded missile launchers can be held in either fist or mounted on Bumblebee's shoulders - G1 Deluxe-style - by plugging them into the tyres that are clipped in place there.
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Transformation is quite simple, but actually hampered by the Automorph gimmick that flips the bonnet round to the robot's chest. The arms have to be in a particular position for this to function uninterrupted, but the bonnet has to be in robot mode position to allow the shoulders to move into place. It all leaves the robot looking very little like the CGI model because the chest is positioned wrongly. The legs aren't exactly intuitive, either, and it's all too easy to get the feet caught in the wrong position. Also, getting him back into car mode securely becomes quite tiresome, because the Automorph gimmick doesn't like clipping back in place.

As one of the earliest movie toys, it is perhaps understandable that the '76 Camaro version of Bumblebee is actually pretty terrible. It's a combination of a poorly executed gimmick and virtually no likeness to the character in the movie. It's only saving grace is that, with the spring-loaded launchers mounted on the shoulders, this is the only time a Deluxe Bumblebee has had his shoulder launchers before 2009's Cannon Bumblebee, and the only time the shoulder launchers have been in any way active.

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