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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE 25th ANNIVERSARY DINOBOT
By Thomas Wheeler

As part of the 25th Anniversary celebration of Transformers, Hasbro has expanded the Transformers Universe Classics line to stretch beyond its (very welcome) Generation 1 roots, and present a number of characters from other Transformers concepts.

It's no great surprise that a couple of these characters hail from TRANSFORMERS BEAST WARS. Introduced in 1996, the concept was considered controversial at times. Transformers that turned into animals rather than vehicles and other machinery? Even Transformers that had somewhat animalistic forms, such as the original Dinobots, looked like robotic animals, not regular animals.

And they weren't called Autobots and Decepticons this time around, either. They were known as Maximals and Predacons. There was a character named Megatron, but he seemed to have no great relation to the original, and Optimus Prime was also a different character named Optimus Primal. Could this concept work?

Well, thanks to a CGI animated series from Mainframe Productions, with a writing level that was equal (or superior) to a lot of science-fiction shows that weren't even directed at kids, Beast Wars worked like you wouldn't believe. For the next several years, Beast Wars presented some of the most amazing adventures and astounding characters in Transformers history, ultimately linking themselves to the original Transformers, while the toys flew off the shelves as fast as Takara and Hasbro could make them.

Certainly, Beast Wars deserves to be part of the 25th Anniversary of Transformers. And to no great surprise, the two characters chosen to represent Beast Wars in the Transformers Universe line were Cheetor (see separate review), and this guy -- DINOBOT!

Dinobot, as far as I was concerned, was the "Worf" on Transformers Beast Wars. For those who might not get that, Worf was the Klingon officer on board the U.S.S. Enterprise in Star Trek The Next Generation. He later served as tactical officer on the Federation-Bajoran space station Deep Space Nine, in that Star Trek series. He was a Klingon, a former enemy of the Federation, in a Starfleet uniform, an honorable warrior, working alongside humans who barely understood his culture and even less understood his enjoyment of combat.

Dinobot was much the same -- an honorable warrior, initially serving the Predacons, but driven from their ranks in part because of an honorable nature, ultimately finding a home of sorts among the Maximals, with whom he didn't fit terribly well, and who didn't always entirely trust him, and who certainly didn't agree with his warlike ways, but -- he had nowhere else to go.

In the show, Dinobot could transform into a velociraptor, a particularly dangerous breed of predatory dinosaur popularized in all three of the Jurassic Park movies. Smaller than average, but smart, fast, and nasty, they were notable for rows of sharp teeth, a huge claw on each foot that was the equal of any knife blade, and unexpectedly high intelligence.

Dinobot originally debuted in the series' premiere as a subordinate of Megatron, leader of the villainous Predacons. However, Dinobot challenges Megatron's leadership, and is shortly expelled from his crew. He eventually joins the ranks of Optimus Primal and the Maximals. Although he greatly enjoyed combat, he was driven by his code of honor, inspired by the samurai bushido code, and would sometimes give speeches inspired by William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. He fights alongside with the Maximals before ultimately sacrificing himself to save a group of primates from a Predacon onslaught.

In season one, Dinobot originally arrives on prehistoric Earth with Megatron and the rest of the Predacons aboard the Darkside. When the Predacons scan the planet for local beings, in order to create beast modes for themselves, Dinobot receives the form of a velociraptor. After their arrival, Dinobot believes that Megatron has led the Predacons to the wrong planet and attempts to usurp him in a duel. However, Scorponok, one of Megatron's loyal crew members, blasts Dinobot away. Determined to find the abundant amounts of energon, he confronts the Maximals outside their base, and challenges Optimus Primal's leadership in a duel. The engagement is interrupted by a surprise attack from the Predacons. Optimus saves Dinbot's life during the attack, prompting the two to come to terms. From then on, Dinobot serves alongside the Maximals during the Beast Wars, and proves to be a valuable ally in both strength and cunning, as well as in his knowledge of his former Predacon comrades, which helps him anticipate what each one of them would do. However, Dinobot frequently clashes with Optimus over the Maximals' morals, and has a rocky relationship with Rattrap, who normally refers to him as "Chopperface," to which Dinobot replies by calling him "Vermin."

In season two, Dinobot is one of the few Transformers who does not become a Transmetal, but he still remains a strong asset to the Maximals. Following the destruction of an artificial moon that hovered around Earth, Dinobot begins to realize that Megatron had in fact landed on the correct planet. He infiltrates the Predacon base, and steals two golden discs which contain information pertaining to the planet's vast supply of Energon, as well as the location of The Ark. The disks also trouble Dinobot, as he believes they can predict the future. Dinobot eventually contemplates rejoining the Predacons after realizing that Megatron was going to triumph over the Maximals. He returns one of the disks to his Megatron, but defies an order to destroy Rattrap.

Consumed with guilt, Dinobot returns to the Maximals. He eventually discovers that the future written on the discs can be altered after witnessing Megatron destroy a mountain, and watching the writings on the disc change. After Megatron also realizes this, he orders the Predacons to eradicate all the primitive ancestors of humankind, on the planet, believing the attack would deny the Autobots an important ally in their future battle against the Decepticons. Alarmed by this, Dinobot single-handedly defeats all of the Predacons. He then proceeds to subdue Megatron himself with a make-shift club and retrieves the golden disc that he had previously given back. However, Dinobot sustains mortal wounds during the conflict, and utilizes the last of his energy to destroy the disc. His fellow Maximals arrive shortly after and stand by his side as he passes away. Out of respect for their fallen comrade, the Maximals give Dinobot a proper funeral, in which his body is placed in a suspended animation pyre that disintegrates him.

The conflict (and name-calling) between Dinobot and Rattrap was absolutely classic, and was far greater character development that one would expect from a "kids show", and is a lot more than you get on some non-kids shows these days.

The death and funeral of Dinobot were just about enough to make you cry if you'd followed the series at all, and was way, way beyond what any sort of television program usually delivers.

If you've never seen Transformers Beast Wars, and feel starved for quality entertainment, it's still available on DVD out there somewhere, even if the initial releases were several years ago. I very highly recommend it.

Dinobot was, basically, gruff, ill-tempered, violent, unfriendly, and dangerous. And he was one of the genuine stars of the show.

A few years back, when Beast Wars celebrated its own 10th Anniversary, a number of the original Beast Wars toys were re-released, in new color schemes that were closer to the actual series. This suited me fine, since the original Dinobot toy had been practically pink! He was more tan on the show. The revised original toy reflected that, giving Dinobot coppery tan coloration, with dark brown stripes.

The Transformers Universe 25th Anniversary Dinobot is an all-new creation, and it alters the basic color scheme once again, but favorably. This Dinobot has greyish tan skin, with dark gold stripes. While perhaps not accurate to either the original toy or the animated series, it works, and it works well.

One of the first things you wonder when you bring the Dinobot toy, which is in its raptor mode, out of its package is -- where's the rest of the tail? It seems rather lopped off. Now, I've seen this happen with actual lizards in this part of the country. If a lizard is threatened, it will drop part of its tail as a distraction. Generally it grows back. But I'm not sure dinosaurs had this capability, and I really wasn't sure that I wanted Dinobot to look like this. Fortunately, the remainder of the tail - a fair length of it, in fact, molded from a rather rubbery plastic, can be found tucked inside the main tail section. It easily extends along a hinge.

Dinobot's full length in dinosaur mode, from head to tail, is nine inches. Standing nicely, he's about 5-1/2" in height, which heightwise, is about right for many of these Universe Classics, although most of them are vehicles, not dinosaurs, so I'm not sure that a comparison in this instance is at all fair.

Dinobot's tail extension isn't the only rubbery part of him. So are his little dinosaur arms, which do move at the shoulder. I point this out, only because it's unusual to see this sort of plastic used on a Transformer.

His eyes are very dinosaur-like in appearance, and he has a jaw full of very sharp teeth -- very neatly painted, I would like to add. Dinobot's dinosaur mode is extremely impressive on the whole, and these carefully designed and painted details add to that overall look.

So what's involved in transforming Dinobot from velociraptor to robot? The first thing you do is turn his feet around. Then you swing the hip plates out and rotate them behind the legs, swing the hidden claws out (also rubbery plastic), and secure them to the lower legs. After this you detach the tail and -- um -- hindquarters (there's just no real polite way to say that...)

Now swing the legs down so at this point you've got what looks like half robot, half dinosaur that's looking upwards. Swing open the two plates on the sides, Fold the arms out, and stretch them out to the sides, as well.

Now swing the head down into the open space created by the arms being moved out. I have found that it is not a good idea to push the head too far in. This tends to dislodge it, and it's not the easiest thing in the world to reattach. Ultimately, it's going to protrude from the torso a fair bit and you're simply going to have to accept this. This step also reveals his robotic head.

Now press the legs together. This will also bring the side panels further in and conceal the head a little bit more.

Finally, fold the arms down and rotate them at the upper arm swivel. The instructions show an additional step of flipping some claws around, but this doesn't appear to be necessary. The toy was set with the hands in their proper place. It looks like you could work the claws around to give Dinobot a sort of "claw hand" if you wanted to, which would be in keeping with the original animated series, but you can also have him with more ordinary robotic hands, as well.

The two small "raptor arms" are shown as popping up from his shoulders, but they can just as easily be folded behind his back. I tend to think this looks a little better, and it gives Dinobot the unusual ability of being able to scratch his own back without difficulty.

Dinobot's tail becomes his weapon, folding out into a three-bladed fan-like contrivance, the center part of which fires a spring-loaded missile which is included with the toy.

In robot mode, Dinobit stands about 5-1/2 inches in height. A good size for a Universe Classics figure. Although the dinosaur head is fairly evident as his chest, it's not as distracting as the half-a-cheetah that Cheetor is lugging on his back, and is in keeping with the original toy design quite nicely. Dinobot, overall, has made an excellent transition into the Universe line.

Colorwise, much of the greyish-tan remains, but is now accented by a lot of metallic yellow-gold, especially visible on the legs and head, and a bit of metallic purple. This is a little unusual, especially since it also the color of Dinobot's face. However, I'm not complaining. In the animated series, Dinobot's robot face was a metallic blue, which I always thought was rather strange looking given the rest of his color scheme as being more subdued. Odd as it sounds, the purple is an improvement. Somehow, it blends a little better. Some purists may be upset over this, but I can live with it.

Dinobot has the feature that quite a number of these Universe Transformers have, and that's that the back of his head is molded from a transparent colored plastic -- in this case red -- which is designed to make it look like his eyes are glowing, if lit from behind. In Dinobot's case, it works reasonably well, although is slightly hindered by a high neck. I have yet to see Cyclonus matched as far as this effect is concerned, as well.

Clearly, this Dinobot figure is intended to represent Dinobot as he's making up his mind whether to be a hero or a villain. The insignias on the package are Decepticon, and his allegiance is listed as Predacon. His character profile also presents this particular stage of his development, as it reads:

Within the chassis of Dinobot beats the Spark of a warrior. Victory won with honor is the highest aim to which he has ever aspired. It is an aim that seems more and more remote, the longer he spends under the command of Megatron. Duplicity is not the warrior's way. As the battle on this strange, primitive world rages, it seems to Dinobot that true honor may come only through the Maximal way.

The degree to which you can help Dinobot make up his mind is remarkable. There's a little triangular block on the top of the head of the dinosaur, which is the center of his chest in robot mode. It rotates, and can either be blank, or have the insignia of either the Maximals or the Predacons. Very nice touch on this toy! I'm impressed!

Dinobot's various power levels are as follows: He gets a 9 in Speed and Courage, an 8 in Strength, 6 in Rank, Fireblast, and Skill, and 5 in Intelligence and Endurance. Personally, I find two of those a little insulting. I think he's more skilled than that, and he's certainly smarter. If it were up to me, I'd move both of those up a couple of notches.

So what's my final word here? I'm very impressed with this toy. Fortunately for me, he's not an especially difficult transformation, and he looks very cool in both dinosaur and robot modes. He's a superb representative for Beast Wars within this Universe 25th Anniversary line, as he represents one of the most popular and distinctive characters from that series. Any longtime Transformers fan will be very pleased to have this new incarnation of this popular individual.

The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE 25th ANNIVERSARY figure of DINOBOT definitely has my highest recommendation!