Friday, June 30, 2006

In Defense of Repaints

Among Transformers fans, it's popular to hate repaints. For those who aren't familiar with the term, a "repaint" is a toy that uses the exact same mold as an existing toy, with only the colors changed. (Such toys are often called "recolors" for this reason, but "repaint" seem to be the more popular term.) Understandably, many fans prefer to spend their hard-earned dollars on toys that don't too closely resemble something they already own.

However, simple economics dictate that it is far more expensive to produce the engineering and molds required to make completely original toys each time, and repaints are a way of getting more profit out of each mold. This has been true since the very earliest days of the Transformers franchise (and even earlier, but we're not talking about other toy lines or companies).

So, repaints are here to stay. But as long as a little creativity is exercised, a repainted toy can still be a worthwhile purchase. For example, take these two small Dodge Viper toys. The one on the left, Side Burn, was released as part of the "Robots in Disguise" line, painted to resemble the larger Side Burn toy in vehicle mode (the robot modes look nothing alike). A few years later, the mold was used again to resemble one of the classic original Transformers, Jazz (again, only in vehicle mode, as the robot mode of this small repaint is one of the most boring I've ever seen. While they were doing a "repaint," a little MORE "paint" would have been nice...). It's worth noting that this mold itself was originally intended to be used years earlier, as part of the "Generation Two" line, but the mold was put into storage after the abrupt switch to "Beast Wars" we've discussed earlier.

Another example is these two figures. The one on the left is a small figure from the current "Cybertron" line called Starscream (You might even be able to find this one at a toy or drug store near you, although it took me a fair while to find it myself, and I keep track of this stuff!). The one on the right, Skywarp, was an exclusive given away for free to people who attended last year's San Diego Comic-Con. Since the only way to originally get Skywarp was to actually go to San Diego, this figure has been fetching prices on eBay of around $15. There's another version out there that was given away at last year's BotCon: Ramjet, which also can be found on eBay for inflated prices.

Related to the issue of repaints is the "remold" (also sometimes called a "retool"), in which some part of the original mold (usually the head) is modified to make a slightly new toy, in addition to the recoloring. Many Transformers fans, who don't care for repaints, insist that any reuse of a mold should at least involve "remolding," but it should be noted that although creating a "remold" is indeed cheaper than creating a completely original toy, it is still quite expensive to do, and so we will most likely always see a mixture of repaints, remolds, and original toys.

One particularly early and creative example of a "remold" is the toy on the right here, called Pipes. Pipes was created out of the mold of one of the very first Transformers ever produced: Huffer, seen on the left. Note the different styles of smokestacks, and the modified grille on the front of the cab. The back "hitch" area of each truck is different, too, although you may not be able to tell that from the picture.

The differences don't end there, though, for this is a rare case in which a remold was actually created to transform differently than the original toy. In this picture, you can see how Huffer's head was revealed just underneath the cab, and the robot details were molded underneath the toy. On Pipes, the cab moves out of the way to reveal the head molded into the main body of the toy, and the robot torso details are from the top of the toy (not including the cab itself). This also explains why the "elbows" bend differently on Huffer than on Pipes.

There are tons of other repaint and remold examples that I could pull out, some more impressive than others. In some examples, I would even go so far as to say that the "repaint" is a more interesting toy than the original. For example, check out Cannonball, a toy I don't yet have myself, which was repainted from Cybertron Red Alert (which I haven't gotten either). The Hasbro bio (unlocked from a code that comes with the toy) not only indicates that Cannonball is a pirate, but has essentially made Cannonball out to be the Transformer version of the "Dread Pirate Roberts" from The Princess Bride! That bio alone is incentive for me to possibly pick up this toy, although I never bothered with the original version. But, ultimately, the decision of whether or not a repaint is worth buying must be left up to the individual.

3 comments:

  1. I have both Cannonball and Red Alert. Cannonball is much cooler, in my opinion -- of one of the most unique paint jobs in years. The only flaw is that the mold is so obviously meant to be Red Alert, an emergency vehicle. If they'd just removed those ambulance flashers...

    I actually like the upcoming Beast Wars Botcon repaints. And I was extremely pleased with the Cybertron retools Blurr and Longrack.

    My only gripe about repaints is how quickly they follow the original release, not that Hasbro does them. In Energon, for example, there were only a few months between the original release and the "Powerlinx" figures. Had they waited longer, or even released the bulk of the repaints in Cybertron (like Dark Scorponok) I wouldn't be so turned off by it.

    A recent example: I passed on Cybertron Megatron because I knew Galvatron was only a few months behind him and had a much cooler paint job. I did the same with Energon Megatron.

    While we're on the subject -- what's with the "waves" of figures? When did Hasbro adopt this? When I was a kid, I remember nearly all of that year's toyline (for TFs and G.I. Joe, the two lines I collected the most) being released at the same time. One day you go to the toystore and BANG! -- there's the 1986 Transformers line, pretty much in its entirety, and it stayed available for a year or so (many times figures were available for two years, which was great for cash strapped kids!)

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  2. Most of your criticisms are valid, and in many cases I share them. Here, it seemed more important just to briefly give attention to the more positive aspects.

    A couple of further comments, though:

    Your mention of Cybertron Galvatron reminds me of the problems Hasbro has been creating with Energon Megatron/Galvatron and Cybertron Starscream. I was VERY upset that we only got the larger Energon Megatron mold in the US. (well, at least in a way we could buy it alone. By the time you added the smaller Prime that the small Megatron was sold with at TRU, it was STILL too expensive) And we NEVER got the smaller mold as Galvatron. I'd have bought that readily, but $40 was too much to drop on even that amazing homage. (Assuming you could even FIND Energon Galvatron!) Likewise, Cybertron Starscream is just TOO big. Why can't Hasbro release the regular-sized Starscream toy (again, on its own, as opposed to packaged with another toy that, in this case, I already had)?

    As to your comment on "waves," I'm pretty sure that this has always been the way Hasbro did things. We just didn't percieve it that way in G1 1) because we were so much younger, and without the internet to give us information, and 2) because Hasbro still had the practice of showing off a whole year's worth of toys in a single "annual" TF catalog, which they haven't done recently (when they HAVE included catalogs, they've not been for a whole year's worth of stuff).

    In any event, I can verify from actual personal memory that Hasbro has released stuff in waves since G2.

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  3. You had trouble finding Energon Galvatron? The Value City stores around here had loads of him for $15.00 just a year ago. Finally got my "Voltron Prime" for that price as well.

    Sadly, I missed the Prime/Megs TRU 2 pack as well as the Starscream/Vector Prime 2 pack. Kept telling myself they'd make bunches, but they didn't. Won't repeat that mistake with the BW pack this fall.

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