REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS TRU IMPORT EXCLUSIVE WHEELIE
I have made no secret of the fact that really, my favorite incarnation of Transformers in recent years has been what is currently known as the Generations line. I've always preferred the "Generation One" universe to all other incarnations of Transformers (with Beast Wars being a close second), but the one down side to this is that most of the original toys simply weren't that well articulated in their humanoid robotic forms.
To a degree, this was understandable. The main feature of the Transformers was not their action figure appearance, but that they could be transformed from some other form -- a car, a plane, a tape player, whatever -- to a humanoid robot. The degree to which that humanoid robot could move once the transformation was completed was decidedly a secondary consideration, and design and engineering capabilities being what they were at the time, there just wasn't much that could be done.
Still, it was something of a disappointment to see these amazing characters walking, running, flying, whatever, in the animated series, in the comic book, even on the package illustrations, and all the toy could really do was stand there and move its arms.
This disappointment, in my opinion, was compounded by succeeding generations of Transformers, starting with Beast Wars but continuing with many other concepts, that were fully articulated in their robotic forms. This was no doubt a result of design and manufacturing improvements, aided I am sure by computer design assistance, and as cool as many of these robots were -- they still weren't the originals.
Finally, a line called Transformers Classics emerged, and here were new, but still entirely recognizable, incarnations of the best-known, Generation One Transformers, who were finally given the articulation levels in their robotic forms that these legendary characters deserved.
Transformers Classics eventually became Transformers Generations, and then -- the line sort of got deprioritized in favor of three movie-based lines and a couple of animated series. I can understand the need to emphasize the Transformers currently being presented in the other forms of media. But there was still a lot of potential in a Generation One-based Classics/Generations line. Still, it seemed as though it just wasn't going to happen.
There has been an interesting development, however. It seems that the Generations line has continued -- just not in the United States. Transformers got their start in Japan, and have proven just as popular throughout the Asian market as they have in the United States and elsewhere. And in one of these markets, and I believe it is the Philippines from what I have been told, the Generations line, with characters distinctly from Generation One, including recognizable packaging, Hasbro logo and all, has continued.
And Toys "R" Us has decided to bring quite a few of them to the United States! This review will take a look at none other than WHEELIE!
Let's consider some of the history of the character of Wheelie, and then have a look at his Generations-style figure.
Wheelie first appeared in the animated Transformers movie in 1986. He is a young Autobot who turns into a futuristic car. He has a distinctive style of speech, in which he rhymes his sentences while speaking in a high pitched voice, making him sound like a child. He befriended Grimlock, and went on to assist the Autobots in their battle against the Decepticons, the Quintessons, and Unicron.
A young Autobot, Wheelie's function is listed as "survivalist". He despises the Quintessons and their Sharkticon minions, but only fights when he has no alternative.
The character never appeared in the Marvel Comics in the United States, but did turn up in the UK comics, where adventures were inserted in-between the stories sourced in the US. He aids Wreck-Gar in escaping from the Quintessons, whose homeworld was dying due to a rift in space-time. The two then transmit the Quintessons' plan for colonization throughout the galaxy, making the Quintessons' targets aware of their plans. Wheelie retains his distinctive style of speech in his comic appearance.
Wheelie was the central character in IDW Comics' "Transformers Spotlight: Wheelie" where he had confronted the Decepticons Spectro, Viewfinder and Spyglass.
While I'll admit I found the character a bit annoying myself, I did have the original Wheelie toy, and still do -- even if it didn't look much like the animated incarnation of the character. The original toy was a very small car, and when transformed, didn't especially resemble the animated Wheelie, as it had a rather nondescript red-orange face, as opposed to the animated character's more expressive silver face.
Before I get too far into the toy, I want to share a few words about the packaging. The overall design is identical to the Generations packaging as it was in the United States. The card is mostly red, highlighted with these mech-tech details, with an illustration of the character to the left side of the card, the Transformers logo in silver, and the toy packed in vehicle mode on a large bubble below. The back of the card is mostly black, with photos of the toy in both vehicle and robot mode, and some biographical information about the character as well as his power rankings. Entirely recognizable to anyone who ever collected the Generations Transformers.
However -- there's some additional text on the package, and it's in one of the Asian languages that uses symbols rather than letters. I have no wish to offend, but I don't read these, and I'm honestly not certain which one it is, except I'm reasonably certain it's not Japanese, if only because if this was a Transformer from Japan, the packaging would be entirely different, and it wouldn't have the Hasbro logo on it. This does. It would have the Takara-Tomy logo instead. It would appear that Toys "R" Us has brought these over to the states from whichever part of the world they were originally offered in, package and all. That's not a complaint. I'm just glad they've done this. But it is interesting.
Although Wheelie may not resemble his former automotive form in shape, he most certainly does in color, which is a good way to detach him from looking too much like Jazz. Jazz was a mostly white car with a certain amount of dark blue trim. Those colors are entirely absent on Wheelie, who is mostly a couple of shades of orange with a bit of light blue trim on his hood, nicely in keeping with the color scheme of his original incarnation. In fact, the color scheme is pretty much a dead-on match, maybe toned down just a tad.
Now, let's consider Wheelie's transformation. Transformers instructions these days are entirely graphic, with no written instructions. This works well enough, but I do think it helps to spell things out a bit. I've also found it helpful to keep the package on hand, since comparing the results to the final robot mode can be helpful, as well as seeing how something is supposed to look along the way.
First, open the doors, and flip back the legs. This is accomplished by sort of stretching the rear of the car back. They're on a sort of double joint, and move fairly readily.
Now, flip out the feet. This is a little easier said than done, as I found it just a little tricky to get a good grip on them. One of those times where you're reminded that Transformers are still a toy line, with kids in mind, and something like this would doubtless be easier for smaller fingers.
Finally, make sure the legs are at full extension, and separate the legs from each other.
Next, rotate the arms outward. This is a step that may leave you briefly wondering "How?", and it is a little odd. They actually take part of the hood with them. What you should have at this point is two arms pointed out to the sides, with the open doors angled open below them.
Now, bring down the front of the car. This also causes the robot head to raise up, and it will emerge through the "hole" in the hood left by extending the arms. The design specifications for this little trick must've been interesting. As far as I can tell, the front of the car doesn't actually snap or lock into place. Just bring it down as far as it will readily go and leave it at that.
Finally, rotate his arms around so that they'll lower properly, bring them down, and tuck the former windshield against the back of the robot, and Wheelie is now fully in Autobot mode!
In robot mode, Wheelie stands roughly 5-3/4" in height. This is a fairly standard height for most of the automotive Classics/Generations Transformers, but it also means that Wheelie stands a little taller than his former self would have been relative to the others. However, scale has never been a major consideration in the Transformers line, or even in the Transformers Classics line. Consider that the Decepticon Seeker planes -- Starscream and his gang -- are somewhat smaller than most of the Classics/Generations Transformers. And indeed, even in the original line, they weren't exactly to scale as fighter planes would have been to automobiles. Time to apply some of that "willing suspension of disbelief"
In robot mode, Wheelie is still mostly orange, but there's also a fair amount of light gray and dark gray trim on his body. The light gray, especially, is in keeping with the original color scheme, as Wheelie's original windshield and wheels were a light shade of gray. So it works well on the new version.
Most notably is Wheelie's head. Here, we finally have a match with the animated incarnation of the character. The head is a superb likeness of Wheelie as he appeared in the cartoon, with a silver face with a sort of innocent smile on it, large blue eyes, and the sort of "cap brim" on the top of his head. The headsculpt is really a superb piece of work.
Of course, what really sets these robots apart from their originals is the superb high level of articulation. Wheelie is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. There are also swivels for the upper arms and upper legs.
Wheelie comes with an interesting weapon. In fact, it's a high-tech slingshot, just like what the character used in the cartoon. The first time he used it, he zapped Grimlock right on the nose. Interestingly, there's a second handle on one side of the slingshot, which indicates to me that it can double as a blaster pistol, albeit a rather unconventional one. You'd figure a Transformer would think of something like that.
Paintwork on Wheelie is somewhat limited, but where it does appear, it's excellent. This includes the detailing on Wheelie's head, as well as the light blue trim and yellow headlights on his hood. The Autobot emblem has been very neatly imprinted within the blue trim.
Wheelie's character profile in his package reads as follows: Though very young, and possibly suffering from some kind of processor damage from his extended time stranded and alone on an alien world, Wheelie is a fierce warrior. His rhyming speech can sometimes annoy the other Autobots, but when push comes to shove, they appreciate his unerring aim.
His various power rankings are as follows: Wheelie gets a "9" in Speed and Endurance, "8" in Courage and Skill; "7" in Fireblast -- obviously that slingshot packs a wallop -- "6" in Intelligence, and "5" in Rank and Strength.
So, what's my final word? I'm truly pleased to see the Generation One-based Transformers Generations return, even as Toys "R" Us imported exclusives. I hope it's the start of a trend, or maybe even a full return of these original Transformers in these new modern forms. There's still plenty of characters that can -- and should -- be done. In the meantime, I'm pleased we have these. Wheelie, although perhaps not the most beloved character in the Transformers universe, is certainly a well-known one, and certainly this is an excellent modern incarnation of him. I'm glad to have him, and I sincerely believe that any longtime Transformers fan will feel the same way.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of WHEELIE, part of the import series offered by Toys "R" Us, definitely has my highest recommendation!