Rob's Pile of Transformers: Manic Rambings

Manic Rambling and Delirious Ranting
re: Why I Hate Tankor's Toy
6/18/00

It's been a long time since I did any toy reviews -- and I've *never* done one with the specific purpose of denouncing a particular toy. Usually I'm just *forming* impressions when I review, not reporting them long after the fact. But in Tankor's case, I have to make an exception.

Tankor *could* have been magnificently cool. Instead he's a massive let-down, in spite of having a ton of potential and one of the coolest gimmicks ever.

I will admit it right off the bat: part of my disappointment centers on the vast difference between the character's appearance on the Beast Machines show -- which I love -- and the toy itself. And regardless of "which one came first" (conventional wisdom holds that the toy came first, and it's the *show* that got it wrong), I feel I have every right to be disappointed on that count.

Let me take a moment here to give conventional wisdom the thrashing that, in this case, it richly deserves. The toys may indeed come first, yes. Even so, though, we've seen that it's no longer so cut-and-dried. Toys and show models apparently undergo some degree of simultaneous development these days. The *concept* of Tankor came first, and the toys and show model sprung from that, according to my understanding of how things currently work.

More importantly, Hasbro has control over the *entire process*. They write the checks -- they're in charge. Mainframe veers away from the looks of the toy because *Hasbro allows them to*. Hasbro is therefore ultimately responsible for the existance of two versions of Tankor, the show model and the actual toy, that are considerably different. I'm well within my rights to blame them for it.

And despite the difference, one advertises the other. The show leads me to want a toy that looks like the character of Tankor that I see on the TV screen. Hasbro creates the desire, then fails to fulfill it. It's bordering on false advertising. The show never says "this is the toy!", but really, let's not be pedantic here. The thing on the show is supposed to be the same as the thing in the box. There's no excuse for the difference. Does Hasbro feel its current products are so poor that they won't sell on their own merits? That train of thought certainly didn't prove true in the case of the original Transmetals, who matched their toy-selves perfectly on the show, with only a few exceptions (Rattrap's backpack; Rampage's crab legs.)

So, all that said -- what do I specifically hate about Tankor's toy? Not everything, I admit. Let's tick off the good points first.

The light-up eye gimmick is cool. No, more than cool -- it rules. On the show it seemed like a minor detail. It was mind-blowing to get the toy and realize this "detail" could be replicated on the toy. Something about that roving red eye-light captured the feel of dark technological ominousness that Tankor -- and the entire show -- was supposed to have. And the fact that it works in both modes is icing on the cake.

The tank mode isn't too bad. It falls apart easily, and the cannon fails to impress me the way it does other fans, but generally I don't have any complaints about this mode that don't also apply to the robot form.

Tankor, like any good post-G2 toy, is fully posable. He has working hands, which is another bonus. The spinning sawblades are kind of nice, but not all that attention-getting since we've had similar gimmicks on other toys (TM Scavenger, to name just one.)

So, that's the good. Here's the bad.

First off: the color scheme. In either mode, his dominant colors are black and orange (silver accents as well.) Black and orange. My parents, when they remodeled the basement in 1970 or so, put down carpet that was mottled orange and black. It looked awful then. It looks awful now. And it looks positively hideous on Tankor. The show replaced the orange with cool blue or muted reds, IIRC. Much more appropriate for a cold technological killer.

Second: the proportions. This is my biggest beef. Colors can be painted over. But proportions are fundamental.

Tankor on the show is supposed to be a hulking brute, massive and musclebound. He has a giant, wide, boxy torso, and broad shoulders that convey tremendous strength. His arms are thick and stocky, continuing the appearance of physical might. His head is small and flattened -- an afterthought atop his huge body, reflecting his low-intelligence persona. But, while Tankor may be dumb, he's also dangerous. You stay the hell away from him if you don't want to end up flattened. His canon isn't huge, but it's pointy and claw-like -- not something you want to tangle with. It stores neatly out of the way on his back, the end jutting up over his shoulder like a bit of no-nonsense ornament.

Tankor the toy looks nothing like this. He looks, in short, like a gimp. His head is high, tall, and prominent; instead of the close-mouth, jutting-lip scowl from the show, its gaping, oversized jaw makes Tankor look like a drooling village idiot, instead of the neighborhood bully. His torso is barely wider than his head. His shoulders are pathetically scrawny looking. From them hang forearms that are absurdly huge (to contain the mechanisms for the sawblades.) He looks like he could barely even lift his arms from his sides, let alone use them to smash Maximals. Although, he's got a head-start on lifting them from his sides, since they can't even swing all the way down to a resting position. They're so huge and fat they bump into his legs before they reach the fully-relaxed position (ie, parallel to his body), leaving them to jut out at an uncomfortable-looking angle. Assuming he did manage to hit someone, the impact would only carry weight because of these giant forearms' momentum, not because of any real muscular strength behind them. I can see him swinging, missing, and then spinning comically in circles, carried by the momentum of his arms. His knee joints are hidden behind long plates that, combined with his absurdly tiny feet, make it look like he's wearing trousers. And his canon loses any sense of being *big* because it's so long. It stores by rotating up by a hinge directly behind his shoulder -- meaning it sticks straight up in the air behind him, for almost double his height. It doesn't look any more out-of-the-way than it does in firing position.

There's not much excuse for all this. The block-like shape of a tank (especially a fictional, futuristic tank) readily lends itself to a boxy and powerful-looking robotic tranformation. He could have matched the show *very* well, in appearance at least, if not precise tranformation scheme.

Finally, Tankor should have been a LOT bigger -- an Ultra at least. In the show, he's positively HUGE. It's part of what defines him -- the other characters look like midgets alongside him. A larger size would have given proper room for the spinning sawblades gimmick, and perhaps one or two other gimmicks to boot -- my vote would be for working treads, since his current design would easily allow for it. Perhaps one set could rotate to the bottom of his feet, allowing him to trundle along like he did sometimes on Beast Machines. Or he could have a canon that rotates as it fires.

In light of the fact that, almost a *year* after "The Reformatting" was first previewed, Rattrap's toy still hasn't come out, I retain the slightest hope that maybe we'll eventually be treated to an Ultra-or-larger version of Tankor that captures the essence of the show version, something that the current toy abjectly fails to do. And unlike Jetstorm (another character that bears only passing resemblance to its toy incarnation), Tankor's toy has relatively little to recommend it on its own merits.


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