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By Thomas Wheeler

Hasbro really can't make Transformers toys fast enough these days. Of all the summer movies, from a toy standpoint, Transformers has fared the best of all. This isn't especially surprising. The toys have remained consistently popular even before the movie came out, and this during a time when the toy world, especially action figures -- well, let's say that the halcyon days of the 1980's are indeed long in the past.

But the major retailers -- not to mention the kids, the fans, the collectors -- can't seem to get enough of Transformers right now. Wal-Mart seems to have told Hasbro to send them everything they've got sitting around. I've been seeing Transformers there that I haven't seen in a couple of years. Wal-Mart has also commissioned a number of exclusive toys and packagings.

Target, as well, has been seeking exclusives, and has been getting them. One of the recent additions to the Transformers movie line with that oval-shaped "ONLY AT..." with the Target bullseye logo on it actually has a history dating well back to before the movie, all the way back to the Generation One animated series.

What's interesting about this character is that it's a female Autobot... and it's NOT Arcee.

Before Arcee, there were other female Autobots. They didn't turn up all that often, however. In one notable episode in the early run of Transformers, a group of female Autobots still stationed on Cybertron were making life difficult for the Decepticons, working undercover and trying to keep their existence hidden. In fact, Starscream was surprised to discover that they even still existed. Somewhat remarkably, there were never any female Decepticons presented. We didn't get a female villain in Transformers until we were introduced to Blackarachnia during the days of Beast Wars. And given how nasty she was at the outset, that's probably just as well...

The only other occasion where even one of these female Autobots would appear was in an episode where the Aerialbots, newly created, found themselves transported back in time to Cybertron's past, before the War started, before Optimus Prime, when Megatron was just gathering his forces. That female future Autobot had the beginnings of a relationship with the robot who would become Optimus Prime.

And her name would be ELITA-ONE.

Now, it's understandable that any female characters in a series that is based on a boys' toys line would be particularly notable, if only because of their scarcity. In G.I. Joe, everybody knows Scarlett, the Baroness, Lady Jaye... In Masters of the Universe, Teela was the only one who could get away with bossing Prince Adam around, while Evil-Lyn was easily Skeletor's second in command. But what we have here is a character who appeared in all of TWO episodes, and in one of those, she hadn't even yet BECOME Elita-One.

That this character was nevertheless notable enough for Hasbro and apparently Target to consider it worthwhile to make a toy of her, and that a sufficient percentage of the fan base would recall her (although I'm sure that they realized that the toy would likely sell regardless of whether a lot of people recalled her), is certainly testament to how popular the ever-scarce female characters can be.

In fairness, the toy doesn't look all that much like Elita-One did in the animated series. On the other hand, neither do a lot of the movie-based Transformers. The vehicle used for Elite-One is the same motorcycle that was used to create an Arcee figure for one of the Transformers lines several years ago, and was also used to create a Target-exclusive movie Arcee in an entirely different color scheme before the all-new (and non-exclusive) Arcee toy, based on a proposed design for an Arcee that would have appeared in the movie, came out.

For that matter, this motorcycle mold was also used a couple of years back by the Official Transformers Club to make figures of some of the OTHER female Autobots that appeared in that one animated episode. That BotCon series of figures did NOT include Elita-One, so it's pretty cool to finally have her in toy form.

As one might expect from a toy tied into the movie, the color scheme is somewhat muted compared to the brighter colors used in toy lines from years past, but it also manages to be entirely appropriate for Elita-One. Compared to Arcee's very obvious pink color scheme, Elita-One was darker in overall colors, a sort of dark pink almost heading into the red range.

Appropriately enough, the Elita-One toy has a color scheme that I would best describe as "light brick red". It's a sort of brick-red-orange that's not quite as dark as a typical brick red would be, and it also has a nice metallic finish molded in ther plastic. Her trim colors, well in keeping with the movie, are silver and black.

In motorcycle form, Elita-One has two huge exhaust systems that are attached to her sides. This is an enhancement that the original Arcee toy didn't have, and I don't recall that the BotCon versions of this vehicle had them either. These are detachable, and need to be before you can properly transform the toy. They can be assembled into a nasty- looking weapon that includes a spring-loaded missile launcher. A missile is also included with the toy, of course.

Elita-One is not a very large motorcycle. She's only about four inches in length, which even makes her too small for 3-3/4" action figures such as G.I. Joe or some Star Wars figures to ride. At least not without looking pretty darned silly.

Elita-One is not too difficult to transform. Remove the "Energon Chip" -- a holdover from her original form, this time molded in black, but removing it does reveal the Autobot insignia underneath it. Lower the front wheel and stretch the legs out. About the only mildly absurd part of this toy is the fact that the lower legs are designed to look like high heeled boots. I suppose this was the best way Hasbro and Takara could figure out how to make sure this robot was regarded as a female character.

Split the rear wheel in half, swing the arms down, and raise the head. The end result is a figure that seems a little back-heavy, because of the two halves of the wheel, but the figure does stand very well on its own, so there's no balance problems or anything. The Energon Chip can be put back in place at this point if so desired. There's a printed Autobot symbol on the chest.

The head is a non-metallic greyish in color, with a silver face. The upper boots and the small hands are also this color. The head, as one would expect, looks very much like Arcee and not especially like Elita- One, but let's accept this as the movie version of Elita-One as such.

In robot mode, Elita-One stands about 3-7/8" in height, to the top of her head. The split wheel can increase her overall height to about 4-1/2", but the two halves are moveable, and can be lowered to beneath her head if so desired.

The character profile on the back of her package does make reference to the fact that Elita-One preceded Arcee, which is a superb reference to the original storyline that I would not have expected. Someone at Hasbro did their homework, and it's sincerely appreciated. The character profile reads as follows:

ELITA-ONE - As the first of the female Transformers robots, Elita-One gets a lot of attention and loves every minute of it. It isn't just her incredible handling, or her fast idle that her the attention, either. She's a cunning fighter, and one of the best marksmen among the Autobots, able to blast scraplets off a Decepticon at more than four miles. At short range, she's just as effective, generating an attraction field that can cause unshielded robots to overheat almost immediately.

Her rankings in various capabilities are considerable, with a "9" in Speed and Courage, an "8" in Intelligence and Fireblast, and a "10" in Skill. Add to that the fact that she carries a really -- big -- gun... and I wouldn't be very inclined to make too many bad jokes about that character profile.

One additional note, not at all intended to put down the movie Transformers toys. However, since Elita-One's molds were brought in from a previous Transformers line, she will fit in a little more easily with other pre-movie Transformers lines than the more distinctive movie-based Transformers will. That's a "plus" in my book.

I was truly surprised and pleased to see this toy within the Transformers display at Target recently. As long as it took Hasbro and Takara to actually get around to producing an official Arcee toy several years ago, after the character had first appeared in 1986, I never would have expected to see any toy carry the name of Elita-One! There's a distinct bit of Transformers history right there.

Whether you saw or enjoyed the live-action Transformers movie or not, if you're any sort of longtime Transformers fan, I would highly recommend heading to your nearest Target and seeing if they have this remarkably- named Transformers toy available.

ELITA-ONE definitely gets my highest enthusiastic recommendation!