And now, Scary-Crayon reviews...
QUICK CHANGE DINOBOTS
STEGO-BOT & BRONTO-BOT
by: Wes

Among all of the Transformers characters across the various incarnations and continuities of the franchise, few are as beloved as the Dinobots of Generations 1 and 2. Even with their decidedly negative traits -- they were exceedingly stupid, resented the leadership of the noble Optimus Prime, and so despised their fellow Autobots that their tech specs largely designate them as the disruptive assholes of the team -- Grimlock, Slag, Sludge, Snarl, and Swoop remain fan favorites even to this day. Their figures don't command nearly as much as some of the others, but I suspect that's because they were produced en masse: judging from the sheer abundance of these guys on eBay, almost every child of the 80s owned at least one Dinobot.

I write almost, however, because despite my being well within the age range designated by the safety warnings by the time of G2, I never heard of the Dinobots as a kid. I don't even know how that happened -- I was totally into dinosaurs -- but I suspect that it actually has to do with the coolest thing about them: that they're robotic dinosaurs that transform into robots. Considering that I had tons of dinosaur toys due to the popularity of Dino-Riders and The Land Before Time and the fact that one could (and still can) find an abundance of dinosaurs in dollar store bins, I likely found it easy to overlook the comparatively expensive Dinobots while I hunted for the latest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles figures. Given my total ignorance regarding Transformers, I probably didn't even realize that these shiny prehistoric beasts even had alternate forms.

Dinobots rule.

Of course, I know how cool the G1/G2 Dinobots are now, but I'm at least fifteen years too late to find them in stores. There's eBay, but even then the loose figures commonly go for $30+ apiece. In one auction, I even saw Swoop's box go for $35. The freakin' box, with no toy in it. Apparently that's a mere drop in the bucket for many of the well-to-do collectors with whom I've been interacting on Transformers forums -- the TF fandom is the only one I've encountered yet in which members will criticize figures that cost less than $40 as having been manufactured exclusively for "poor kids" -- but it's a bit steep for my liking.

As such, my recent interest in Transformers and the high prices of figures on the secondary market have also heightened my interest in knockoff Transformers. Why pay between $40 and $90 plus shipping for the Japanese Lio Convoy when you can swing by your local Big Lots and pick up a knockoff version for $5? Sure, the plastic is of a much cheaper quality and the colors are all wrong, but it's still a functional toy that transforms from a lion to a robot and back -- perfect if all you want to do is pick a cool pose and display it amidst your other Beast Wars figures. If you're so inclined, you could even try painting it to match the original toy's colors yourself! In my zeal to increase my transforming robot factions, I've probably spent well over $100 on knockoff Transformers this summer -- but whereas that sum might net a more discerning collector a small handful of figures, I've now got enough robotic warriors on hand to reenact scenes from 300.

Quick Change Dinobots!

The four Dinobots pictured above aren't strictly Transformers knockoffs, though. As far as I've been able to discover, the Quick Change Transforming System Dino Robots -- or the Quick Change (QC) Dinobots for short -- are knockoffs of the Dino Squad figures that, according to the eBay auction page on which I found this image, were released by the Boley toy company in 1994. I'm not even sure that these are the originals, as the members of the Dino Squad have been released at least one other time by another company. Despite not being proper G1 Dinobot clones, however, the fact that they are transforming dinosaur robots was enough to compel me to plunk down the $6 for the set in the hopes of painting them to look more like their official G1 counterparts. I strongly doubt that I'll end up doing that, but at least reviewing them -- and eventually all of the 70+ knockoff Transformers that I've acquired this summer, whether those reviews take the form of full articles, blog blurbs, or even haiku -- will provide me with some justification for the purchases outside of my uncontrollable need to collect transforming robots. I finally know how it feels to be a Pokémon trainer.

Whereas the G1 Dinobot team consisted of five members -- a tyrannosaurus, a triceratops, a brontosaurus, a stegosaurus, and a pteranodon -- the QC Dinobots only have four of these. It's sort of unfortunate that the QC team lacks a pteranodon, but it's also oddly fitting when one considers that this set is cheap and relatively easy to find and that Swoop is the rarest and most expensive member of the G1 Dinobots. I had originally planned on reviewing all four of the existing members in a single one-page article, but that was before I discovered quite how much I had to say about each of them. I've even taken the liberty of renaming them to bring them more in line with their G1 cousins! (I didn't go as far as drawing up original artwork and giving them their own profiles and tech specs, though -- I'll leave that to folks like Tresob Yr of SWAFT. ;)) Therefore, I've instead decided to discuss the merits and failings of the QC Dinobots in a two-part feature, each part of which will contain reviews of two of the team members. At the end of the second, I'll also include my thoughts concerning how this lot compares to other transforming robotic dinosaurs -- namely the G1/G2 Dinobot figures and Classics Grimlock. And that said, here are today's subjects: Stego-Bot and Bronto-Bot.

RAWR (STEGO-BOT)

In the G1 Dinobot team, Snarl was the name of the member who transformed into a stegosaurus -- so in keeping with the general idea that the QC Dinobots represent "different" versions of their Hasbro cousins, I've named this guy Rawr. However, while his dark red and gold coloring and stickers with mechanical detailing bring G2 Snarl to mind, in all other respects he's a pretty poor successor to the stegosaurus crown. Real stegosaurs sported two rows of diamond-shaped plates along their backs and four imposing spikes on their tails, but Rawr's back plates look more like uneven squares drawn by a really impatient kid (the word "trapezoid" would be too good to describe them). He doesn't even have spikes on his embarrassingly short tail -- instead he's got three smaller versions of these lame plates running down the center of it. One imagines that the dual blaster in the center of Rawr's back would be a bit more effective in repelling enemy attacks, though the gun makes the plates seem even more useless since it forms a canopy that completely covers them. Also, the original Dinobot Snarl used his plates to take in solar energy -- so if one wanted to suggest that Rawr's serve this function as well, the fact that they are perpetually in the blaster's shadow would mute their effectiveness. Even Rawr's head is problematic, as it looks more like that of a mole than of a dinosaur.

Granted, Rawr doesn't look terrible in his stegosaurus form -- and it's far superior to his robot mode -- but his design still could've been a lot better. The articulation is acceptable, though, if simplistic: the legs rotate at their connection points to the body, and Rawr's low center of gravity means that he can hold walking and running poses fairly well. The blaster turns on its axis for 360 degrees of imaginary shooting. The tail is hinged at the base, but this point primarily serves to keep the tail out of the way when Rawr is in robot mode. Changing its position in when he's is in dinosaur mode just makes him look really awkward.

Rawr: stegosaurus modeRawr: robot mode

Transformation to robot mode is simple enough. The hollow front legs pull out to the sides to reveal the robot arms. Rawr's robot legs comprise the lower half of the stegosaur's underside -- they extend down to increase the length and expose the robot thighs. The dinosaur head and tail flip back to fully reveal the robot head and allow the robot boots to touch the ground. A few adjustments to the dinosaur legs such that they are pointing away from the robot's front and Rawr's transformation is complete. Articulation is limited to a rotating neck, rotating shoulders, and hinged elbows -- but, if you retract the robot legs, Rawr can assume an alternate "little person" form. Incidentally, this is how he is depicted in the "transformed" image on the back of the package.

To put it bluntly, Rawr sucks. Even when he's not doing his best Hornswoggle impression, the robot mode just looks stumpy and nonthreatening. In keeping with the wrestling reference, the platform boots and their gaudy stickers would look more appropriate on a luchador than an alien death machine. Whereas the gold paint apps on the stegosaurus mode help to make it more attractive, here they just look dull and uninspired. The transformation is criminally simple -- it more or less entails simply sitting the stegosaurus on his ass -- yet transforming Rawr from one mode to the other is also frustratingly difficult due to the tightness of the connectors between the front dinosaur legs and the robot arms. Given the amount of force that I've used on stupid Rawr, I'm seriously surprised that I haven't broken him completely in half yet. I also have no idea why he's sporting a tilak in the center of his chest or what the hell the "Z" on his shoulders means.

If Rawr has one single merit in robot mode, it's that removing that single screw over his belly button and lifting his chestplate will reveal the complete inner-workings of the robot, which is kind of cool if you like seeing how toys are put together. Or you could just remove his limbs and heap his various parts in a pile and display him amidst your other figures as scrap metal or a nameless victim of the Cybertronian Wars.

ULTRA GUNK (BRONTO-BOT)

Since the original long-necked Dinobot went by the name of Sludge, I have christened the QC counterpart Ultra Gunk. In dinosaur mode, Gunk is a dark blue-green robotic brontosaurus (or brachiosaurus, since the crest atop his head is reminiscent of the blowhole that that dinosaur sported) with gold highlights and, thanks to the robot parts underneath, a yellow underbelly. The yellow is a bit loud given the otherwise subdued color scheme, but it works well enough. The garish primary colors of the three (horribly misaligned) stickers on Gunk's sides and tail are a little more problematic, though -- he'd probably look better without them.

As far as play value goes, Ultra Gunk has about as much as your average four-legged toy dinosaur with minimal articulation. The standard rotating legs don't add too much in the way of poseability, but the hinge at the base of the neck at least means that you could display Gunk as if he were drinking from a pond or preparing to ram an enemy. He also theoretically has two hinges on the tail, but only the second of them can really be used -- at least on mine, trying to move the other causes the tail to pop out. That said, depending upon how you position the remaining hinge, the tail can help to make Gunk look more alert or relaxed. He has a water tank triple blaster mounted on his back that appears to be aiming behind him, but it can swivel on its connection point to aim in any direction. (For it to look natural aiming forward, you have to have Gunk duck downward -- otherwise he'd fire into the back of his dino neck.) The only really significant problem here is the fact that the upper part of his dinosaur hide is connected to the body by a single hinge, such that, if you try to lift him via his back, his entire body gapes open. It's a non-issue for folks who simply want to display Gunk in either mode, but kids actually playing with him might find it incredibly annoying.

Ultra Gunk: brontosaurus modeUltra Gunk: robot mode

Gunk's transformation to robot mode is almost the reverse of Rawr's. The hind legs pull out and angle back to become shoulder armor on the robot arms, with the tail folding to accommodate the robot head. It doesn't move out of sight, however -- with Gunk, it becomes a canopy that protects him from aerial attacks (possibly from Swoop, who's pissed that he didn't get a cheap counterpart in the set). The knees, which are bent into the dinosaur body in the alt mode, unfold so that Gunk can stand up straight. Aside from the repositioning of the front dinosaur legs accordingly, that's all it takes to transform Gunk into robot mode. Like the others, his articulation here is pretty negligible: rotating neck (which may not be intended to move, given the difficulty of turning it and that doing so creates gaps in the plastic seams on the torso), rotating shoulders, hinged elbows, bending knees that aren't terribly useful because of the cumbersome backpack (which here includes the fairly long brontosaurus neck and head) and dinosaur legs hanging off of his robot ones. Gunk does have the distinction of being the only QC Dinobot with a rotating waist, but the usefulness of this is also mostly offset by the sheer amount of kibble hanging off of the guy. Gunk easily has the most kibble of all of his brethren.

That said, Gunk has my favorite robot mode of all of the QC Dinobots. Unlike the others, whose colors are pretty dull and barely help to distinguish them from their dinosaur modes -- especially considering that their dino parts are still largely visible -- Gunk's prevailing yellow here really makes it seem like he's gone through a transformation. Also, given the brightness of the yellow, the few silver and red paint apps on the robot really stand out. I'm not a fan of the two (loose) stickers on his shins, and as with all of the QC Dinobots the head kinda sucks, but otherwise he earns high marks from me for his appearance. Even cooler, though, are the intriguing possibilities that Gunk's robot mode suggest -- hence my addition of "Ultra" to his name. See, if you fold his dinosaur head between his legs while he's in robot mode, the robot parts almost begin to look like a battle station (the effect is enhanced when the upper dinosaur legs are aligned parallel to the body). With an additional hinge and a swivel in the dinosaur neck -- and either an opening mouth or some mounted blasters for the dinosaur head -- the look would pretty much be perfect, as the head would make an excellent turret for Gunk to use. So while this is really more reminiscent of the way that the G1 Optimus Prime figure could use his trailer as a battle station, that the figure's two forms combine to create one single, unified mode puts me in mind of Ultra Magnus. If the yellow robot could be removed from the interior of the dinosaur hide and perhaps transformed into something on his own (and if the dinosaur legs were attached to the hide rather than the robot), Ultra Gunk would truly be spectacular. As it is, he still provides great inspiration for those of us who like to think about potential toy designs -- which is why I've dubbed him the leader of my QC Dinobot faction.

That does it for the first part of Scary-Crayon's Quick Change Dinobots review. Despite my fondness for Ultra Gunk's robot mode, he and Rawr really are the weakest of the bunch -- as you'll see next time, the others have slightly more interesting (and less frustrating!) transformations and more play value than these two. For the $1.50 that each of them essentially costs, however, even Rawr isn't an unacceptable figure. Think about it: $1 would get you a fairly attractive stegosaurus figure or a crappy-looking robot with minimal articulation, but Rawr fills both of those roles. Your standard dollar store dino doesn't even have articulation, let alone GUNS, but Rawr has those features too! So all things considered, the QC Dinobots showcased here aren't bad purchases at all -- not that I really expect readers to run out and pick them up anyway. ;)

''ME GRIMLOCK KING!''

"ME GRIMLOCK SAY SEE
YOU IN PART TWO OF QUICK CHANGE
DINOBOT REVIEW!"

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