email thomas
















By Thomas Wheeler

Easily my favorite Transformers line in recent years has been Transformers Classics. This line has taken the best-known Transformers from the best-known and most highly-regarded Transformers concept, Generation One, and given them all-new yet familiar forms, which have served the primary purpose of giving them much more articulated robotic forms.

As popular as the original Transformers were, my one complaint about them was they in their robot modes, they weren't especially well-articulated. They could generally move their arms and that was about it. Some were better off than others, but mostly they were pretty limited. There is a degree to which this is understandable. The main purpose of the Transformers was to create toys that shifted from a vehicular mode -- or some sort of non-humanoid-robotic item -- to a reasonably humanoid robot. Articulation wasn't the major factor, and given design capabilities of the time, might not have even been possible.

It was still a little disappointing to see a superb illustration of the character on the toy package, in a dramatic action pose, only to soon realize that the toy itself was utterly incapable of similar movement. Similarly, watching the animated series or reading the comic book could produce the same sort of reaction. Here the robots were in constant movement and action, far beyond the capabilities of their plastic counterparts.

Apparently it wasn't that much of an issue for most fans, given the massive success of the Transformers. But it did bother me. Which is why I became such a fan of the Classics. Here were Transformers of the popular Generation One characters, that COULD move the way they should.

The thing about the Classics line, however, is that it's been somewhat -- sporadic -- in its presence on the toy shelves. The first Classics line, along with some other Transformers (I still miss the Alternators...) disappeared to make room for the toys from the first live-action movie. Once those had largely run their course, the Classics reappeared, worked into a general Transformers line that celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the concept. They were dubbed the "Classics Series".

Then those disappeared to make way for the toys from the second live-action movie. Now, we have a new Transformers line, called TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS, which has brought the Classics back once again. I really hope that the Classics -- whatever they're being called this time around -- are back to stay. Because there's still a lot that can be done with this line, and I'd very much like to see it happen.

One of the recent additions to this line is a classic Generation One character by the name of RED ALERT, who in my opinion has seen a rather surprising upswing in his overall popularity in recent years, given his rather less than prominent start among the Transformers. Let's have a look at Red Alert's background.

The character, like many of the Transformers, has several identities, emanating from various Transformers concepts. In Generation One, he is considered the Autobot Security Director, and is usually depicted as a friend of Inferno. No great surprise there, since Inferno transforms into a fire engine, and Red Alert has customarily been depicted as a fire department car.

Red Alert, interestingly enough, did not appear in the Marvel comic, in the United States, but he did make occasional appearances in the Marvel UK stories. He appeared in a story entitled "The Enemy Within", working alongside Ratchet to disable the demented Brawn and stop his rampage, which was threatening human life.

Red Alert appeared over two hundred issues later (and I hasten to add that the UK Transformers comic book was a weekly), serving in the "Time Wars" where he was one of the future Autobots under the command of Rodimus Prime. Their group traveled back to 1989 to stop a space-time rift caused by the presence of future Decepticon Galvatron. After Galvatron was eventually torn apart by the time-storm created by his repeated interference in the time stream, Red Alert and the other future Autobots returned to find their own time-stream changed to a different and far darker future in which Galvatron was alive and ruling much of Cybertron.

In the animated series, Red Alert first appeared in the episode "Dinobot Island, Part 1".

His most prominent appearance came in "Auto-Berserk" alongside Inferno, After a battle with the Decepticons ended with Red Alert being damaged by one of Rumble's missiles, the Autobot became paranoid that Inferno and other others were out to get him. Red Alert deserted and teamed up with Starscream (who had been abandoned on the battlefield and decided to take revenge against Megatron), to steal an Autobot device called the Negavator. The conspirators succeeded in sneaking into the secret bunker where the device was located, but then the alarm system activated, and the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, appeared in the bunker just as the two were trying to move the weapon away. The Decepticons, led by Megatron, also appeared, and Megatron demanded that Starscream turn the device over to him. Starscream agreed, but Red Alert refused to surrender the weapon, and the two robots began to fight. After a blast by Starscream's Null Ray cured Red Alert of his paranoia glitch, the Autobot realized what he had done and destroyed the Negavator, setting fire to the cavern they were in. Red Alert was rescued by Inferno, and realized who his true friends were.

Red Alert last appeared in the animated movie, where he and several other Autobots battled Devastator. Unfortunately, Red Alert did not survive. It's possible that he was rebuilt at some point, however, since he did appear in the Japanese exclusive series "Transformers: The Headmasters", which did largely pick up where the animated series left off.

Red Alert appeared in the Dreamwave comic book based on the Generation One characters. When war broke out on Cybertron between the Autobots and the Decepticons, Red Alert joined the Autobot cause, and acted as an advisor to Optimus Ptime when he became the new Autobot leader. Later, Red Alert was one of the tutors training the so-called Mini-Bots, and was last seen among those Autobots who worked on the construction of the Autobot City, Metroplex. Dreamwave ceased production before this story could be continued.

The original Generation One Red Alert toy was a redeco of Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. Honestly, I never knew this, As such, in his original form, his alternate mode was based on a 1977 Lambourghini Countach LP500S.

So, how's the new toy? The new Generations Red Alert, like his predecessor, is a recoloration of the same molds used for Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, although the car model is less specific. It's still a very sporty-looking car, though, with a spoiler in the back, and additional engine components mounted on the top of the car at the back of the roof. Unlike Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, Red Alert, as a legitimate emergency vehicle, has a light bar affixed to his roof. This is molded in transparent red, and rather angular in design.

In car mode, Red Alert is predominantly white with red trim. There is a broad red stripe on his hood, with a fire department badge within it, and the words "FIRE RESCUE" written in stylized white with black highlights. He has broad red stripes along his base on his sides, and again, the words FIRE RESCUE imprinted on his doors, in red with black highlights. You can look through his windshield and see an Autobot logo on the top of his dashboard. His license plate reads "05 ALERT" on the back of the car.

In car mode, Red Alert is almost precisely 5 inches in length, about 2-1/4" wide, and just short of 1-3/4" high at his highest point. All four wheels roll well, allowing Red Alert to travel along any smooth surface. Also of some note is the transparent plastic used for the headlights. Nice touch for something that could have theoretically just been painted onto the toy.

Now let's consider his transformation. On a scale of 0 to 5, Red Alert comes in at "3", which is described as "Intermediate". His instructions fold out to a sheet measuring about 11 x 14. Personally, I've always figured that any Transformers instructions that won't readily fit into my computer printer are going to result in a fair challenge...

The first step, removing Red Alert's weapon for the underside of the vehicle, is completely unnecessary right from the package, since it's packaged separately anyway. By the way, I'd like to commend Hasbro for switching from those accursed plastic-coated wire twist-ties to restrain their toys in package, to some sort of sturdy twine. It works just as well, and it's nowhere near as big a pain in the exhaust system. They use it on G.I. Joe, as well. I hope it's a trend that other companies pick up on.

Next, remove the engine from the back of the vehicle. This was when I realized that I might have a slight problem with my Red Alert. The roof popped off. I could see where it was supposed to be attached in place, but I couldn't get it to secure itself. It's part of the overall transformation, so hopefully I'll be able to deal with it over the course of this. I have no idea how widespread this problem might be. I do not recall it happening with Sideswipe and Sunstreaker.

Now, swing the rear halves of the car around to the rear sides of the vehicle, and pop the doors open and slide them forward a bit. Next, rotate the rear of the car around 180 degrees. This starts to form the legs.

Next, rotate the lower legs around and extend the feet. This is one of those times where you'll have to use a combination of the illustrated instructions, some deductive reasoning, and particularly, the color photograph of Red Alert on his robotic form on the back of the package. Once you can get the legs to look like they do in the photo, you know you've got it right. It also helps to keep Sideswipe and Sunstreaker on hand if you're fortunate enough to own them.

Now, extend the front of the car forward, swing the arms out -- easier said than done, believe me -- and then lower the front of the car and snap it into place. You're probably going to have to work with the arms a bit to properly orient and secure them, and this is a point at which it's very helpful to have one of Red Alert's structural counterparts on hand, although it's easier if it's Sideswipe, since Sunstreaker's upper torso is sort of a reversal of the other two.

Finally, rotate the back panel, raising the head, and then snap the roof back into place if that was something you had trouble with. I was greatly relieved to find that mine snapped into place very agreeably.

One thing is left -- the engine block, which transforms into a hand-held weapon for Red Alert. On Sideswipe and Sunstreaker, it is possible to attach this to the back of the figure. It's really not in Red Alert, because of the siren lights. So he either has to carry it, or you'll have to put it in storage. I recommend a Ziploc bag with his name on it.

Red Alert is structurally identical, especially to Sideswipe, even including the head. The information I researched about Red Alert made reference to a few differences between the Japanese version of this toy, and the American. Most notably, in Japan, this toy's head is red. The Generations version has a black head, with a silver face, of course. I was under the distinct impression that the original Red Alert's head was red, and when I checked into it, I was correct. Now, okay, it's not all that big of a deal in the long run, but it would've differentiated him just a little more from Sideswipe.

Red Alert's head also has transparent blue eyes, and a little light-reflective area on the back of his head, that allows his eyes to glow blue a bit when hit by light from behind. This is a cool effect that quite a few of the Classics/Generations Transformers have, and it works to varying degrees depending on the figure's design to begin with. To date, I have yet to see anybody surpass Cyclonus. His eyes light up rather brightly with the most minimal reflective light. It's really very impressive.

In robot mode, Red Alert stands about 6 inches in height. He has superb articulation, which as I said earlier is one of the main "selling points" of these robots for me. They may look slightly different than their predecessors, but they're still supposed to be the same characters, and they're finally capable of the movement and poseability that they showed in the comic, cartoon, and package illustrations. Red Alert is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Additionally, his former car doors become shields on his lower arms, that rotate around very nicely.

The engine block combines with a second accessory in his package to become a weapon described on his card back as a "Pulse Pistol".

Red Alert's character profile on his package reads as follows: As security director for the Autobots, Red Alert tries to keep his eye on everyone and everything. All the time. He installs hidden cameras and security sensors everywhere, and keeps detailed records of the known movements of enemies and allies alike. Nothing escapes his attention, and - to him - everything is significant. His paranoia keeps him constantly on edge, but it's paid off more than once by stopping Decepticon plots before they did any damage.

His various power levels are as follows. He gets an "8" in Speed and Rank; "7" in Intelligence and Skill; "6" in Strength and Endurance; and "5" in Courage and Fireblast. Overall, very decent midrange numbers across the board.

So, what's my final word here? I'm truly delighted to see Classics-style Transformers available once again, and this time, I seriously hope they're here to stay. Red Alert was probably an easy enough choice for Hasbro and Tomy, since the molds for him had already been used for two previous Transformers, and Red Alert is the legitimate third of the group, carrying over from the same Generation One practice. And, he looks sufficiently different from either of his "cousins" to be a cool Transformer on his own. Although the character may not be quite as significant as some, he's still an interesting and reasonably prominent member of the Autobots, and certainly this new toy is well made and highly impressive.

The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of RED ALERT definitely has my highest recommendation!