Thursday, 29 August 2013

TransFormers Animated Prowl

If ever there was a TV series that reinvented TransFormers, it was TransFormers Animated. Whereas every preceding series had taken the toys and adapted them into simplified, animation-friendly forms, or just reproduced them (almost) authentically in cel-shaded CGI, TF Animated took a completely different approach, designing robots which seemed impossible to translate into three-dimensional, transforming plastic.

Hasbro/Takara Tomy's designers rose to the challenge, though, and produced some quite phenomenal models which mostly retained the look of the cartoon's character models, and Prowl is a particularly good example of this.

Vehicle Mode:
Reinventing TransFormers, Step 1: Take a well-known, much loved character and turn them into something completely different... Dangerous territory, perhaps, but they pulled it off with Prowl. Rather than being a police car with all the usual (re-purposed Japanese police) livery, Prowl became a motorbike. It's a bold and interesting move, considering how homage-focussed the series was in every other respect... and particularly since Animated Arcee was turned into a car... of sorts.

Something I quite like about this bike is its asymmetry: the front wheel is connected to the body on the left hand side at the front, and the right hand side at the back. It's a neat effect and, while it may not be entirely true to the animation model, it does lend the toy a very futuristic look.

While Prowl is supposed to be a police bike (as evidenced by his holographic rider in the TV show), there's little sign of that in his alternate mode. Black and gold aren't exactly common police colours, and the dinky light bar at the back doesn't really stand out. Other than this, and ignoring a few odd gaps in the middle of the bike, he looks pretty good from most angles. One of his most outstanding features, however, is that he's a very well-proportioned bike... to the point where one wouldn't need to be inhumanly flexible to ride him. Hell, action figures of approximately the right scale can ride him quite comfortably... Considering how fat most other TransFormers bikes are - even more recent models - that's a pretty awesome achievement.

Since there is essentially only one paint colour on this model, gold is used very extensively, and complements the matte black finish of the model very well. Strangely, it looks as though two slightly different shades of gold have been used - one for the front section of the bike, the hubcaps, the chevrons at the back and the front part of the petrol tank, and another for the main bulk of the petrol tank. Other than this, the only noticeable paint is a dab of grey for the tank's lid and, of course, the colouring for the transparent plastic of his lightbar.

Robot Mode:
Just like his cartoon counterpart, Prowl is tall and lanky... at least, he appears to be, when by himself. He's actually not much taller than Deluxe Bumblebee (though, granted, that may be a freakishly large toy within its size class), making him look rather tiny by comparison. Size aside, he's remarkably true to the animation model... just with rather more obvious seams and joints - the legs in particular are far less elegant.

Colourwise, he's not much different from his vehicle mode - predominantly black and gold, but now with a pale beige for his fingers, thighs and miniscule waist/groin piece. He also has goldish plastic attachments on the outsides of his thighs, and the grey and gold parts of his wheels break up the largely undecorated black of his lower legs.

Prowl comes armed with two of his throwing star weapons - disguised as the hubcaps on the outsides of his legs - and, bizarrely, a traffic signal on a cord. The throwing stars are very impressive - the blades transform out as the face is turned - and fit reasonably well into his hands... though I do live in fear of the thumbs breaking whenever I try to make him hold a star. The traffic signal is rather bizarre... I don't remember him ever using such a weapon in the TV series (please correct me if I'm wrong - I haven't seen all of it, and the UK DVD releases stopped when TF: Prime was announced!). It's a fairly huge grey brick featuring translucent green, yellow and red 'lights', attached by a piece of nylon string to a small plastic post which can be inserted into either hand. Seems a bit heavy for him to wield.

He also has something approaching police batons on his wrists - the lightbar halves can rotate round to form short energy tonfa... though they barely extend beyond his open hands, so they don't seem very useful.

The head sculpt is about par for the course with TF Animated: quite small, with a very elongated chin... it seems to take up about half the height of the head! I quite like the way the head is attached to the body as it gives him two points of articulation in his neck - his head can swing forward and back at the base of the neck, then there's a ball joint about halfway up, behind his prodigious chin. Unlike most of the other TF Animated figures, his visor isn't light piped - it's painted pale metallic blue. The retooled version of Prowl, with the sidecar/samurai armour attachments, does have light piping.

Prowl's transformation is unique, but seems to have served as inspiration for later models like Reveal the Shield Wreck-Gar and the amazing Perfect Effect Motobots. While it looks as though the legs can be arranged either way round in vehicle mode, they have to be arranged in a particular way because he only has a kickstand on one of them. Nevertheless, actually getting him into motorbike mode can be a real pest. He looks solid enough, but that's because the arms and the side panels of the bike cover up the weird, frustrating half-connections inside. What I particularly like is that the bike's handlebars fold in over the top of the chest - it's a small detail, but it keeps robot mode tidy.

With an awful lot of ball joints, Prowl should be very poseable... but with a combination of poorly articulated feet (the toes are ball jointed, though probably only for the sake of transformation rather than for the robot) which don't sit very flat, and the two large panels sticking out of his back, he does have a habit of falling over backward. Additionally, straight out of the packaging, the gold-ish panels on his thighs hinder his knee articulation - you may notice in the above photos that they've been shaved back slightly. With this minor modifications, Prowl can adopt all manner of interesting and impressive kung-fu poses.

Considering the lithe appearance of the Autobots' resident ninja in the TV series, this toy is pretty miraculous. It was never going to be perfect, because the TV show cheats everything - you almost never see any transformation detail, just a swirl of movement between vehicle and robot modes. His proportions are nigh-on perfect and, aside from the perilously tight fit of his weapons in his hands, and the tendency of his shoulders and hips to pop off their ball joints during transformation, he's a pretty solid model. It's a bit of a shame the scale between toys was so wonky in Animated - moreso that other series, I'm sure - but Prowl is pretty cool.


  1. The traffic light is meant to be his 'using any object as a weapon' talent. However he never used a traffic light in the show. It would have made more sense if they had included a light pole, which he used a couple of times. They could have gotten away with one piece of plastic for it too, but there ya go. Hasbro making good decisions once again.

    Prowl is a pretty good little toy though. I'll have to check on the shaving of the legs to get some more out of mine! :D

    1. Hiya Tets! Thanks for the information. It really was a strange object to include if Prowl never used a traffic light as a weapon.

      I guess they might have objected to including a light pole on the grounds of it being too easily breakable, since TFA was before the days of Hasbro using rubber for any and all long/thin or pointy parts.