The face of the Transformers franchise is easily Optimus Prime, but there's another character who's right up there with him: everybody's still got a soft spot for Bumblebee, even though he hasn't reared his head since the original series went away.
Small compared to most other Transformers, Bumblebee more than makes up for through his incredible bravery and willingness to go places larger robots won't. Capable of aerial and underwater missions, he is more versatile than many other Autobots. His eagerness to do his part leads him to above and beyond the call of duty, often placing him in grave danger. It is a testament to his skill that he has never been captured.
Bumblebee often gets picked on, since he was G1's kid-friendly character, but he's always remained popular. His role - that of the eager young robot with a yellow color scheme - has been filled by other robots over the years (Cheetor, Hot Shot), but there's only been one Bumblebee until now. See, "Bumblebee" was one of the trademarks that Hasbro lost the rights to over the years, so unlike a lot of other names, it never got re-used for unrelated characters.
They recently resecured the trademark, though, so Bumblebee's back in the Classics line.
When Hasbro and Takara approached Volkswagen about licensing the new Beetle for the Alternators line, VW refused them, not wanting to be associated with "war machines" - an understandably touchy subject for a German company. Classics Bumblebee is a melange of car styles, but he's still a little coupe. Much more "sporty" than "utilitarian," of course. He looks like a Peuegot with a few subtle VW elements mixed in. The car is yellow, of course, but has white sections painted on the hood, roof and rear panels.
Viewed from behind, there's no way you'd recognize this as Bumblebee.
The car is 4½" long, and features rolling plastic wheels. In keeping with Bumblebee's youthful character, the car is towing a white and orange jet ski - called a Wave Crusher - on a silver trailer. Outdoorsy! Comparing the Wave Crusher to the seats inside the car, it looks like a one-seater. The plastic wheels on the trailer, which actually have a different hubcap pattern than the ones on the car, rotate freely, though they tend to get stuck when you're just rolling the toy around.
Transformation is surprisingly complex, especially when you consider how simple G1 Bumblebee was. Back then you just folded up the feet, pulled out the arms and flipped down the head, and you were done. The Classics version is a lot more involved, especially when you get to the arms
- there's a lot of back-and-forth swapping to get everything in place.
There's a lot of "Alternators flavor" in Bumblebee's robot mode. The Classics line tries to split the difference between the original toys and the cartoon, and BB leans more toward the animated look, which is nice - that's what most fans think of. The car's roof is still the robot's chest, and his feet are the car's hood. There's also a bit of Goldbug (Bumblebee's "upgraded" form) in there, as well, as he ends up with a big shell hanging off his shoulders.
One of the major differences between the cartoon and the toy was Bumblebee's head - the two looked nothing alike. In fact, one of the cool little easter eggs in The War Within comics was Bumblebee pulling off a "face mask" to bridge the two looks. This one is straight from the animation model sheets, though. He doesn't have any tires hanging off his arms, but in their place are the car's doors. Bumblebee is 4¾" tall, and moves at the ankles, knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and neck.
The Wave Crusher transforms, as well: the trailer splits and the jet ski spins around. Of course, at the point, it doesn't look like anything. But it very cleverly drops into place in Bumblebee's back, becoming a fairly impressive jetpack. You don't have to put the pack in place, but it does blend nicely with the robot - it never looks like an afterthought or a last-minute accessory.
It's worth mentioning the Classics packaging,
which was nominated for a 2006 ToY Award. It's red and silver, with a strong angular profile. The blister has raised patterns on it, and there's a flip-up panel that shows the Transformer in both vehicle and robot modes. The logo is taken from G1, and the whole thing shows off the figure well. Interestingly, the word "classic" only appears in one place on the packaging - where they list the size class. So much like ToyBiz's "_____ Classics" lines, the modifier is mostly unofficial.
The Transformers have undergone a lot of changes in the past two decades, but Bumblebee has remained fairly pure, since his name was locked up. This isn't a complete G1 homage, but if the Volkswagen people are going to be dicks, then this is very good. It's easily the best Bumblebee toy we've ever had - just think of it as a more mature version of the character you know and love.
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