Saturday, March 27, 2010

Battle Beasts: Hasbro Prototypes

When I first saw the character art that adorned the Japanese Beastformers cards and the collectors poster (by mail away or included with the Burstsun Special set) I wondered why some of the art was so drastically different than the toys. Why was Minor Mole orange and black? He already had two other versions released, what's the deal with this drawing? Just an artist's mistake? Nope, it turns out it was in fact the original Hasbro color design for that character. And he wasn't the only one who would get changed before the toy was released. Thanks to a Toy Fair catalog I found a great 2 page spread showing the entire figure assortment of the Battle Beasts in their earliest form. Sadly, only 5 were really any different, and one of those, Cobrander was just a minor color highlight. But four were very different, and quite cool.

First up, Miner Mole, who seems to carry the most drastic change. Not only is his fur black where it is now purple, but here he has orange armor, which is nothing at all like the black and purple his toy featured. The Mole is my favorite of these proto-beasts. Next is Tanglin' Pangolin who is kind of a boring one. His armor was changed from the early black to that awful peach the toy has. And his skin was really darkened up. Maybe sporting the simplest change, we have Torrential Tapir. Instead of being white skinned, the original had him with a black skin color. Either way I think he looks cool. This version would have made a cooler villain choice. Pew-trid Skunk rounds out the the batch with a very interesting switch. His colors were reversed before production. I like the prototype much better the the final toy.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

G.I.Joe : Takara Japanese Code Name Changes

When Takara released the G.I.Joe line in Japan they didn't make too many changes in the designs. Aside from a minor change in Duke's arms, the construction mimics the U.S. toy line. The package was unique to Japan and with those some of the code names printed on it. The changes in names were present in the animated series broadcast in Japan as well. Here's a rundown of the code name changes:

Changed Joes:
Duke = Grunt
Snake Eyes = Snake Eye
Rock 'N Roll = Mic
Gung Ho = Gun Ho
Mutt = Found
Lady Jaye = Lady J
Spirit = Grey
Doc = Medic

Assault Copter Dragonfly = Flying Dragon
Sky Hawk = Little Harry
R.A.M. Rapid Fire Motorcycle = Rapid Fire Bike
S.H.A.R.C. = Flying Sub
Aircraft Carrier U.S.S. Flagg = (Aircraft Carrier) Kohkuh Bakan Flagg

Changed Cobras:
Buzzer = Boozer

Cobra F.A.N.G. = Cobra Gyro
Cobra A.S.P. assault System Pod = Cobra Assault Pod
Cobra Night Attack 4WD Stinger = Night Attacker

Friday, March 19, 2010

Action Force: Red Shadows Hyena & Red Jackal

When Hasbro's re-invented G.I.Joe line was looking for capable hands of distribution for the U.K. it found itself Palitoy. Palitoy had also been the licensee of Hasbro's original G.I.Joe 12" toys and were introducing a 3 & 3/4" line of figures based on those toys just as Hasbro was. Palitoy's line was called Action Force and maintained the same Star Wars style of construction they had been used to while issuing Kenner's toys. They slowly integrated Hasbro's G.I.Joe designs into their own line until the company ceased operations and was bought out by Hasbro entirely.

Many of the Palitoy branded G.I.Joe releases featured some minor paint changes, and some changes were quite extreme. The enemy Red Shadows Hyena tank set offered both. The set consisted of the Hyena tank, and it's driver Red Jackal.

The Hyena as you can guess, was an original color release of Hasbro's Cobra H.I.S.S. tank. It featured a vivid red color, and all new sticker decoration in its early release. The number of decals really needs to be noted too. The entire cockpit is lined, and panel outside feature 3 to 4 times the number of decals the Hasbro release originally had. The addition of all these stickers did not detract from its look though, in fact it made it very unique and interesting.

Red Jackal was a slightly re-touched Destro figure. The tweaks in decoration came by covering Destro's open chest with a red shirt with Red Shadows skull emblem, and trimming the collar in white instead of red. Unlike the Hyena, these changes didn't make him stand out or look very original. He still looks like Destro first and foremost. A cool and fun figure nonetheless. In the U.K. Action Force story, Red Jackal would eventually end up turning into Destro anyhow, so the lack of a truly unique look didn't really matter.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Transformers: 1985 Cliffjumper Happy Meal toy

In 1996 I was wasting time in a Barnes & Noble store, checking out their Collectibles book section. I had picked up the Losonsky guide to Happy Meal toys in order to see if they had some Stompers Happy Meal toys I loved as a kid featured. Much to my surprise, they had Transformers listed! Transformers I had never seen before. At this time in my Transformers collecting I was more focused on rare Japanese novelties, Diaclone, and Microman stuff. Having a really good grasp on all things made for Transformers both in and out of the U.S., this find of Happy Meal toys was a big deal for me. I quickly gotted down all the info listed and took the list home to share it with friends online, only to get distracted and slip the pieces of paper in a folder. The knowledge of these Happy Meal Transformers was still scarse, and when telling friends it got them excited. One friend made it a mission to start tracking down the toys, something I never actually did until years later. I recall he got a massive lot from either an old McDonalds manager or distributor and managed to nearly complete a set. It was an envious accomplishment to say the least.

Here is a look at one of those Happy Meal Transformers toys released as a regional testing in St. Louis circa 1985:

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Air Raiders: Hasbro Series 1 Prototypes

Hasbro branched out with their toy lines in 1986 and '87, supporting several new brands by cross promoting with their other ones. I was big into G.I.Joe and Transformers at the time, and when I got a new catalog in a Joe vehicle I got a little memorized by it. The catalog wasn't for G.I.Joe, but for a new line Hasbro was bringing out called Air Raiders. When the toys began to trickle into the market, I was able to get the figure packs and a few small vehicles. I wouldn't be able to get any of the bigger stuff until it went on clearance some time later. But even with the few things I had, and the toys my brothers got, we played the hell out of those Air Raiders for the remainder of '87.

I have sadly never gotten back into fully collecting Air Raiders. I pick up random things here and there, but nothing major. I have never really felt like tracking down the rarer prototype bits from the 2nd series or anything. I was however surprised to see Hasbro's prototype photos for the 1st series, and the figures and elements of the vehicles were all different.

I think the protos are interesting, but much prefer the final production designs.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Rockman 8 / Mega Man 8: Candy Toys (Duo)

Capcom partnered with various companies to help celebrate Rockman's 10th Anniversary. The candy toys that were released by Bandai in 1996 were some of the coolest of the items released that year. My favorite assortment is the Power Buster Rockman set. It featured 4 characters, one per box, with a small packet of candy. The great thing about this series was that the figures were not blind-packed, you could pick who you wanted. I didn't want Rockman or Zero, and having their names printed on the box allowed me to bypass them. Part of the charm of these is that they were cheap to buy. Each candy toy is only about $1 to $4 retail. This original low price also makes the after market prices so much harder to swallow. Seeing a toy that retailed at $2 go to $200 in a few years can be a huge turn off to collecting.

Now back to the two figures I did buy, Duo and Forte. Both were really cool looking, and were new. The first I opened was Duo. He was a bit larger than Forte and most likely the other two. The figure had several points of articulation, not the norm for candy toys. His neck, waist, and both shoulders turned, and he had ball socket elbows. The figures fall under 4 inches in height, and are made of plastic. The figure also featured a pretty nice paint job. I was immediately happy to have gotten the figures I did.

Tranformers: G1 Protectobots (prototypes)

In the process of toy making, sometimes companies use existing parts to create mock-ups of proposed designs. This combinations of old parts and new designs are often looked back on as pretty interesting. The more odd a choice in parts use is, the more excited fans of a toy seem to get. When Hasbro licensed the toys to create Transformers from Takara, plans had already been underway to develop the combiner team format. The toys themselves however had not all been finalized. In these photos you can see what was used in creating the look of the Protectobots team.

Protectobot leader Hot Spot sporting Perceptor's head.

Streetwise was fitted with a head from Tracks.

First Aid appears to have the most original parts, but is still lacking a lot of his final colors.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

G.I.Joe: B.A.T.S. 1986 (prototype)

Many times companies use prototypes for marketing and catalog shots. This figure was used in several promotional pieces in 1986. I was actually disappointed when I first saw the B.A.T.S. in stores cause they were so different than the one you see below. The disappointment quickly faded when I did finally get the toy, cause it remains one of the coolest G.I.Joe figure created to this day.

The prototype features a smaller, more rounded head. The limbs are bulkier, with less muscle definition. The hand made chest graphic is clearly just a substitute for the lenticular motion card that would be added later. I like this proto. I'm torn as to whether I would have prefered to see this model in a finished form, or just kept the figure as it was produced.