Monday, 3 November 2014

Universal Studios Evac

To kick off what I'm hoping will be a week of examining my Holiday Haul, I shall start with the odd one out - the only new and entirely unique character, since he was created for TransFormers: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood (and Florida, I gather). All things considered, it's a very clever move to create a toy based on such a character, but it has to be something pretty special to justify a premium price point ($24.95), even in the gift shop attached to the ride.

Vehicle Mode:
Based upon the 'vehicle' that seats eight people in the Universal Studios ride, this is a strange, four-seater buggy-thing that looks halfway between 'concept Smart car' and the weaponised, partially transformed vehicle modes of the Wreckers in Dark of the Moon. From the front, it looks weird, albeit mostly believeable... from every other angle, it looks unfinished... as though there are bits missing.

The car shell is cast in blue plastic, darker than the photos below would suggest (I'm trying out a new photography location, electric light - because it tends to get dark quickly at this time of year - and different camera settings, so things will be a bit weird till I get the hang of it!), but some grey parts - quite obviously bits of robot mode - are visible on the undercarriage and at the rear. While there's a nice bit of metallic greenish-yellow paint on the sides, and an Autobot logo stamped just behind the front wheels on each side, the only paint at the front is on the row of small lights protruding from the bonnet, and the only paint at the back is some silver inside what appears to be an afterburner. On the upside, the hubcaps are painted silver... but I'd be deeply unimpressed if such a detail was omitted on what is basically a premium model. That said, the main headlights are unpainted, which is a rather jarring oversight. The rear wheel arches/mudflaps feature some molded detail which could be indicator lights, but they're also unpainted, so it's difficult to know what they're meant to be.

While Evac isn't packaged with any weapons, he does have several c-clip points for those weapons that Hasbro experimented with during the Reveal the Shield segment of the Classics and Movie toylines and the early part of one phase of Generations (see Darkmount and Scourge). Four are on the back of the vehicle, two behind the pseudo-spoilers, two just inside the rear wheels, while the other two are on either side of the exposed undercarriage. The impression of a weaponised vehicle mode is aided by a pair of things that could be guns, partially concealed in the open sections below the headlights.

Interestingly, the side panels open out and up much the same way as the vehicle in the ride, though it becomes quickly apparent that this movement is an aspect of transformation more than it is an intentional feature of the toy, as the cockpit remains entirely enclosed even when the doors are up.

Robot Mode:
I'm really not sure where to start with this... Evac looks very much like one of the DotM Wreckers (mostly Roadbuster) due to the design of... well... pretty much everything. The legs, in particular, feature almost identical crossing 'pipes' on the shins, though his weird protruding car panels are on the outside of the shins rather than the inside. The car's front wheels can be accommodated on this hips just as comfortably as at the knees, without any noticeable effect on his movement. The central part of the torso features similar details to Roadbuster, and the only significant difference in the chest is that it's one piece spanning the full width of the chest, rather than two separate pieces. All he's missing is the extreme weaponisation - he has no missile pods dangling over his shoulders.

Unfortunately, sticking out of his back is virtually all the vehicle mode shell - the cockpit, seats and all, dangles down like a large cape, while the doors/side panels sweep out like wings. It's not a particularly good look for such a skinny 'bot, and I rather wish the designers had come up with a better way of dealing with all that redundant mass. On the upside, there's a fair amount of tech detail molded onto the insides.

Robot mode delivers a bit more colour but, unfortunately, virtually all of it is grey. The arms are fairly well-designed, with lots of mechanical detail and armour panels in the blue plastic, while the legs have small panels of blue paint from the knee down, as well as streaks of silver down the shins (bringing out the detail behind the 'pipes' but, rather lazily, going over small sections of them as well) and onto the feet, and the bulk of the thighs have a coating of silver as well. The torso features strips of silver paint at the groin and a part in the centre of the chest that may represent the vehicle mode's afterburner is also painted silver.

While vehicle mode was technically unarmed, Evac comes equipped with a pair of machine guns, one mounted on each wrist. They seems pretty weedy, but they're very much in keeping with the aesthetic of the Wreckers. There are also guns at his waist, though it's unclear whether these are meant to be available in robot mode. The CGI artwork on his card shows a gun mounted on one of the small protrusions from his shoulders, but these are c-clip mounting points on the toy. He can also hold the standard 5mm peg weapons that come with just about any other TransFormers toy these days.

The head sculpt is perhaps a little bland... it's kind of halfway between RotF Sideswipe and Hunt for the Decepticons Breacher. What's really weird is that it seems to have been designed with light piping in mind, but the relevant piece was painted opaque yellow.

Evac is pretty easy to transform, but the way the body concertinas and rearranges itself is interesting and satisfying. Some parts don't peg in very well - notably the arms in either mode - and the backpack is ridiculously large and intrusive, but the biggest problem is that the vehicle mode just isn't convincing - it looks neither terrestrial nor convincingly Cybertronian.

All his joints have a good range of motion, meaning Evac is very poseable. The tilting ankle joints may not seem very useful at first glance, but they're good enough for most purposes, and ball joints would have been impractical due to transformation. Evac is one of a very few TransFormers toys where the ball joint which services the head is at the bottom of the neck rather than the top. This gives the head rather more freedom of movement, but also makes the shoulder area look rather weird - the tops of the arms seem high because of the wheels mounted on the outsides, then the shoulder area is comparatively low and flat.

Having bought Evac, I have to say he's rather difficult to recommend, not least due to the premium pricing. The paint job may be slightly better than an average contemporary Deluxe, but not by much, and some of the paintwork is distinctly uninspired. Considering this model is only available at Universal Studios theme parks, it's not something anyone can just pop to the shops to buy, so there's a certain prestige in owning it, but it's hardly a limited edition. It's also interesting to see how this figure, created in 2011 according to the molded date stamp, seems to have either been derived from or the inspiration for a character in Dark of the Moon.

It's a real shame he doesn't come with a separate weapon of any kind, as he ends up looking rather tiny inside his packaging. Considering the content of the ride, an Allspark shard accessory would have been an alternative, appropriate and rather cool addition. As it stands, Evac is a toy that doesn't fit comfortably with any of the movie toylines, but doesn't fit well anywhere else.

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