M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Saturday, March 28, 2009  

More Than Meets the Eye

I got my first Transformer in 1985. It was also my last. It was a semi-gag gift from my ever-waggish friends for my fifteenth birthday. Even then, parents were complaining about how modern toys were cheap plastic gewgaws compared to the indestructible heirlooms of oak and cast iron that the pre-Coca Cola Santa Claus used to deliver with their annual Christmas orange. Fine, then where are those toys now? Yeah, I thought so.

Because here's the thing: I've still got that Transformer. Or, more accurately, M. Edium does.

To be fair, my large "Jetfire" figure was above contemporary durability standards. I could tell that even at the time. There's a surprisingly high proportion of metal in there, and all the joints and hinges still operate and lock as smoothly as they did 25 Januarys ago. And, also to be fair, it languished in my parents' basement from the time I moved out until they moved into their new house several years ago and decided my kid might have more use for my old Legos and toys than they did.

I didn't expect Transformers to come back the way they have, and I certainly wouldn't have predicted that when my son was four and a half, he'd be going through a Transformers stage. It's nowhere near the passion of his WALL-E stage at its peak, but he's been pretty excited about wearing his TF PJs to bed at night. I think he's half-hoping that he'll wake up in the morning in the form of a Big Wheel.

Over the last year, he's accumulated a few miniature Transformer toys of his own. Of course, they're cheap plastic gewgaws compared to my oak-and-cast iron Jetfire heirloom, but he enjoys them. One of them is like a Mitsubishi version of Optimus Prime that stands maybe five inches tall in robot form. He's been playing with that for a few days (by which I mean bringing it to me and saying, "Dad, can you transform this please?"). Then yesterday, he suddenly asked, "Where's my Decepticon?"

"You own a Decepticon?" we asked him. We didn't remember him owning a Decepticon, but he's usually right about these kind of things. So we let him empty one of his toy bins all the way to the bottom until, sure enough, he located an angry-looking steel-gray robot with pointy bits sticking out all over it. He handed it to me and said, "See what this transforms into."

Ten minutes later, I had managed to transform it into the same robot doing yoga.

Transformers are trickier than you think. They don't just crouch down into a fetal position to become whatever vehicle they're supposed to be. Shit twists and rotates and folds in ways that, if a human were to try it, would transform that human into an organ harvest.

It's more difficult when you don't have the instructions, or even any memory of what the robot is supposed to transform into. It's all very counterintuitive, especially if you've seen them transform instantly by themselves like in the movie trailer. Why are there wheels on the elbows? Shouldn't the head be tucked away somewhere? Does it count if I just snap it off?

But my persistence was rewarded, and after a half hour or so, I presented my son with some kind of Decepticon airplane with the arms, head, and torso of a robot sticking out the back. No wonder the robot looked so angry.

After Trash stopped laughing, approximately five minutes later, she gave it a try herself, also using her mad librarian skillz to try to find instructions for this model online, which was tricky with only the number 82121 printed on its pelvis/central fuselage. But she didn't have any better luck than I did.

"You're the boy!" she protested. "You're supposed to be able to do this!"

Well, we've got a new boy now. And if he ever wants his third transformer, a red SUV, to turn into anything more than a stunted dwarf-bot with scoliosis, he's going to have to figure it out on his own.

posted by M. Giant 10:55 PM 3 comments


Have you tried the Transformers wiki? http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Main_Page

I only know about it through reading Shortpacked (http://shortpacked.com/), but that guy could probably give you all the Transformers knowledge you need.

By Blogger MsMolly, at March 29, 2009 at 9:02 AM  

You know, I read this and somewhere my transformers-hoarding husband just broke out into a cold sweat and doesn't know why. He does that every time somebody admits to letting their child play with the generation 1 toys.

Also, countdown to him offering you our next month's rent for your die-cast, G1 Jetfire in three, two...

By Blogger Unknown, at March 29, 2009 at 2:55 PM  

Correction, a quick google search reveals that it would only be about half a month's rent, and then only if new in box. Those TF collectors are nutbars...

By Blogger Unknown, at March 29, 2009 at 2:57 PM  

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