Knock Offs: Part 4 – Beast Machines Optimus Primal!
By Alex Thatcher
I will be the first to admit it; Beast Wars spoiled me and set my expectations too high. I think it did that with many people. By the end of that series, what we saw on the TV was almost exactly the same as the toy we got. People expected that, it was hard to accept new ideas and different approaches, especially when we were expecting a continuation. I cannot put it in words, but as a kid and now as a collector there is something about owning a collectible that is a visual abstract realized into three dimensions. The best way I can describe it is you had a dream and then later that day you find out that what you dreamt is coming true. The closer reality is to that image you have, the more appealing it becomes, while Beast Wars did this in spades, Beast Machines did not, and because of that, Beast Machines left the door wide open for some of the most fan desired KO's ever to be created.
Beast Wars is probably, still to this day, the most beloved of all the Transformer storylines, conversely, its continuation, Beast Machines is perhaps the most disliked (well, until that whole Armada, Energon, and Cybertron trilogy came along and gave people something new to argue about). So why the dichotomy? We could argue about the story, the change in character personalities, or the change in animation, but I think, when it comes down to it, the toys may have had a lot to do with it - particularly Optimus Primal.
I love the first Beast Machines Optimus Primal. Visually, it has some of the most amazing details of any Optimus toy. That said, it also drives me a little nuts that it does not have the Optimus "battle helmet". I've actually gone through the thought process of trying to figure out how to make either a removable helmet or an alternate head with a helmet just to deal with it, not just on the first Beast Machines Primal, but all of them. It wasn't just that Optimus no longer looked like Optimus though, it was that this Optimus was not the Optimus Primal that was in the Beast Machines series. And this was only the beginning of a series of frustrating figures that, by themselves, were excellent, but weren't what the weekly half hour commercial was selling.
When it comes to toys, in my opinion, you must always present the customer with what you are advertising. After the toy or character is established then you begin the variants (repaints, off screen versions, etc…). This, I think, is the primary reason for such disappointment with Beast Machines and the reason that bootlegs seemed to become very common. The most popular seem to fix issues people may have had with the main toy line. The KO's for Beast Machines worth mentioning are a color corrected Cheetor with swords, a size corrected Rattrap (smaller), the ultra rare size corrected Nightscream, and last but not least a completely new and original Optimus Primal, the focus of this article. This Primal is yet another type of KO; in this case, it is classified as a KO because it is using the likeness of a copyrighted character. Someday, I will cover Nightscream (Mean ain't I? I'll give you that teaser pic though) in another article, as for Cheetor I did not see much point in getting him, as a fan site made the swords in an accessory set, and Rattrap, well I just can't find that guy anywhere (if you know where it can be found feel free to e-mail me). On to Optimus Primal…
Why make an all new Optimus Primal KO mold? Blast Punch Optimus Primal's mold is perfect, why then would anyone create a completely new KO? Look at the comparison picture and you will see. Aside from the unnecessary and barely functional "Blast Punch" feature this is almost an exact duplicate of the Optimus Primal from Beast Machines, except for the gauntlets oh and the completely wrong color scheme and um, yeah the common Beast Machines problem, the size. KO Optimus Primal stands a good 9 ½" tall, much more comparable to previous Primes.
Okay, Blast Punch Optimus Primal, Beast Machines Optimus Primal, they were weak in the ways just mentioned but Air Attack Optimus Primal, it trumps them all, including the KO right? It would have if it was released with Beast Machines, but it was canceled and then, as stated before, released as part of RID. Still, in all its awesomeness, Air Attack Optimus Primal does not quite match up with the animated models, his shoulder armor is completely different and he is more in scale with Supreme Cheetor. The KO Optimus Primal is simple in comparison and yet despite missing the odd shin guards primal had he looks like a dead ringer. Even the monkey-mode, although goofy, looks much more show accurate.
The simplicity of the Optimus Primal KO makes it laughable. Not in a bad way, just in the fact that all the other Optimus Primals are far more complicated and yet do not pull off such a simple thing as being like the show version. Literally all you do to transform it is split it open pull in or out the head (depending on mode), rotate the waist, pop open the wrists and switch hands (once again depending on mode). Then you apply either the arm gauntlets if it's the gorilla or the shoulder pads if it's robot mode. That is it, nothing more.
Because of the simplicity, this KO's biggest flaw is that it has kibble (extra parts sticking out with no place to go), but you only notice if you look at it from the back. If you didn't notice, he's sporting a gorilla head back pack, that would be the kibble in question. This kibble is easy enough to forgive, because of the simplicity, it's not obtrusive. There are legitimate Transformers with much, much worse kibble. The best reason to forgive? Air Attack Optimus Prime has kibble on his back too only it's his rear end.
This toy is so well designed for an original KO...I almost have to wonder if this was some sort of prototype that was stolen from Takara or Hasbro and then made into a KO. Every other figure from the lines that this KO appears in is a KO. The extra effort - why? In this case, I do not have any answers, aside from the guess I just made. I would really like to know the truth about the origins of this KO someday. If anyone knows send me an e-mail and I will try and do some sort of update for the rest of the readers out there.
The propagation of this toy in the United States is prolific. It seems like this particular toy has been a mainstay in the KO world for at least five years now. Under several different names, the most common being Animism Defender, this toy will usually be found around Christmas time in most discount stores. It can usually be found in an assortment with Optimal Optimus, Burning Leo Convoy, a giant Transmetal Rattrap, Transmetal 2 Megatron (Red and Gray), and Heinlad.
If Hasbro repainted Blast punch Optimus Primal to match the show I would buy it in a minute, strangely though, this is one of the few molds to be repainted. When it was released, it was almost impossible to find. This figure could easily work its way into the Universe line, if done right, and be a good seller. The irony is that even when Beast Wars Returns in Japan re-released most of the Beast Machines with cartoon color updates (Silverbolt being the best example, although they should have upsized him). Blast Punch Optimus Primal's (BR-01 Convoy in Japan) colors weren't changed.
Within the last couple of years, Hasbro released a new Beast Machines Cheetor with his dual swords in the now defunct Titanium line. There is hope. Until then there is this KO Optimus Primal or a bunch of paint for your Blast Punch Optimus Primal, neither of which is really the best solution, considering, in this case, I'd be more than happy to give my money to Hasbro for something official and correct, instead of some unknown bootlegger with a dubious factory mailing address!