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Warcry's Review: 10th Anniversary Dinobot

A warrior to his core, Dinobot lived only for honor won in combat. Disgusted by the greed and dishonesty of Megatron, and with a life debt owed to the Maximal leader, he joined Optimus Primal. Though Dinobot was never fully trusted by some Maximals, his strong honor code and philosophical nature led him always to the path of victory. He was one of many to fall in the Beast Wars, sacrificing his life in a heroic battle against overwhelming Predacon attack.

The quintessential Transformer anti-hero, Dinobot is one of the most popular characters to debut in the Beast Wars cartoon. Though it was an ensemble series, the first two seasons of the show often centred on Dinobot's internal conflicts. A Predacon driven to oppose Megatron because of his leader's megalomaniacal, dishonourable and often unsuccessful ways, Dinobot joined the Maximals and opposed his countrymen. But in spite of his allegiance Dinobot was always a Maximal at heard, with a strange sense of honour driving ruthless outlook on life that approached Social Darwinism. His conflicts with the other Maximals, especially Rattrap, made him a fan favourite, and his heroic, Shakespeare-quoting death cemented his place in the Transformers pantheon (indeed, he was voted into Hasbro's Transformers Hall of Fame by the fans before original-generation favourites like Jazz, Soundwave or Grimlock).

Dinobot's toy, however, had some...issues. Moreso than any of the other Beast Wars characters, Dinobot's character model went through some serious changes between it's origins as a toy and what actually wound up on screen. His head, colours and body proportions were all different, meaning that he shared little with his plastic namesake other than his alternate mode. When the 10th Anniversary of Beast Wars rolled around, though, Hasbro reissued Dinobot's toy with a new, more show-accurate colour scheme. Around the same time Takara did the same, releasing Telemocha Dinobot with their own show-accurate tweaks. Both of these were followed a couple years later by an entirely new Dinobot mold, released by Hasbro in the Universe line and Takara in their Henkei series. In spite of all these attempts they've never really gotten Dinobot "right", in my opinion, though each of them are a serious improvement over the looks of the orginal.

Today we'll talk about Hasbro's 10th Anniversary Dinobot. A good-looking figure, I think, but one with issues of it's own.

Alternate Mode: Dinobot transforms into a Velociraptor, allegedly. To be honest, he bears only the vaguest of resemblance to one. A raptor has a long, slender silhouette, especially in the tail, but Dinobot is chunky from front to back. Velociraptors are also known for their vicious-looking sickle-like claw on it's hind feet, but on Dinobot there is nothing of the sort. In fact, his legs and feet are completely wrong and look like they've been grafted on from an entirely different animal. Comparing him to one of the raptor toys that came out of the Jurassic Park line (made by Kenner several years before Hasbro gave them Beast Wars to work on), you see very little resemblance.

(A pedant could also argue that he's missing the feathers that we now know raptors had, and that his arms should have small wings built into them, but neither of those were known for sure in the 90s so it's hard to criticize the designers for that.)

Dinobot is mostly a deep bronze, with a dark chocolate-coloured brown rough stripe running down his back. His arms, hips and belly are brown as well, his eyes are a nice, bright blue and his teeth are (rather inexplicably, since he's an organic beast) a shiny silver. The colours do look nice, and they come pretty close to the ones used on the TV show -- very, very different from the mostly-salmon original Dinobot.

Like most early Beast Wars toys, beast mode articulation is pretty minimal. Dinobot's jaw can open and he can swipe his forelimbs around. His legs are articulated, but very unnaturally -- they're his robot-mode arms, and the joints are placed correctly for that mode, but very, very incorrectly for this one. All in all, that means that poseability is basically nil.

Dinobot also has one more point of articulation, one that he really shouldn't have: his tail spins. Not wags or swishes side to side, but spins around it's long axis. That's because it does double duty as one of his robot mode weapons, and the designers neglected to include a tab to lock it in place when he's in beast mode. Because of that it's almost impossible to get his tail to stay locked in place when he's in dino mode, because the slightest bump will be enough to send it spinning like a top.

All of those issues are pretty minor, though, compared to the big deal-breaker: Dinobot's robot legs are clearly visible hanging from his belly. In and of themselves they're not that obtrusive, since they're molded from a darker plastic. They tend to disappear into the background...or they would, if Hasbro hadn't put pale green paint on them to make them as visible as possible. The easily-seen bronze robot feet awkwardly folded up under his dinosaur neck doesn't do him any favours either, and serves as the cherry on top of a raptor mode that has absolutely nothing going for it.

Robot Mode: Dinobot's colour scheme in robot mode is very similar to the one he's got in beast mode. Bronze and chocolate brown are the dominant colours, and cover almost the entire toy. His shins have pale green details, painted on the front and on the ribbed patterns on the sides. Splashes of blue on his face, knees and waist break up the monotony in his upper body, and a Maximal brand has been tampographed on his left shoulder. Like beast mode, the colours are very different from and in my opinion better than, the original figure. The legs are the biggest area of improvement, in my opinion, since the original's were cast from translucent orange.

Dinobot has a fair bit of articulation for a figure of his age. His hips and knees are ball-jointed and he's got some range of motion in his ankles too. His shoulders combine two swivels to give him fairly good mobility, and he's got bicep and elbow joints as well. His hands are also capable of opening and closing, a rarity on a figure this size. His head is mounted on a ball-joint too, but because of where it's mounted it can barely move in any direction. Unfortunately, he's also got two points of articulation that he shouldn't. His flanks swing around 180 degrees when he transforms to robot mode, and the joints that allow that are down around his hips. Unfortunately, one of his shoulder joints are a lot tighter than the transformation joint. When I try to move his right arm, his entire side usually moves along with it.

Dinobot has a few gimmicks in robot mode to spice things up, too. Like a lot of first-wave Beast Wars toys he's got a mutant head, in his case a mask that hangs off of either side of his face and can hinge closed to give him a different look. Unfortunately I can't provide a picture of that -- I'll touch on why a little later. I'm not a big fan of mutant heads, and the gimmick didn't last long so I get the impression my opinion is in the majority. But even by those standards, Dinobot's head is really poor. It's just a lumpy, vaguely dino-shaped helmet with no defined facial features, cast from a single piece of plastic with no paint to be found anywhere. It also just sort of hangs there in the way when not in use, so most fans remove it from the figure entirely.

Dinobot also comes with his "rotate blade", a spinning weapon-thing made out of his split-open raptor tail. In the show it was used as some sort of shield most of the time, I think, though it doesn't really look like anything but a split-open raptor tail. It's so wacky and out-there that I can't help but like it anyway, though. It's paired off with his sword, a stylized rapier or foil of some sort. It's one of the neatest swords to be found with any Transformers toy, and among the best accessories full-stop in the Beast Wars line, but paired with Dinobot it suffers a bit because he can't hold it properly. The hole that it pegs into is on the palm of his hand, which makes him look very, very awkward when he's using it.

As far as show-accuracy goes, Dinobot is middling at best. The colours are definitely improved, though not perfect -- a more dedicated fanboy could list off all the things that are wrong in minute detail, but I can only pick out big discrepancies like the greenish-yellow on his legs and the blue paint on the inside of his rotate blade (these should be light grey and red respectively if memory serves). In general, though, the mold just doesn't look much like the TV character. On the show Dinobot was tall and lanky, but his figure is stocky and powerfully-built. Hasbro did a fairly good job of bridging the gap between the two, but it's pretty much impossible to make the figure look "right".

Durability Warning: Normally I cover durability in a small paragraph along with the ratings, but Dinobot has so many issues that I need an entire section to cover it properly. My Dinobot has broken in several places, thankfully not irreparably, but enough to prompt me to do some research online. It turns out that I'm not alone, and that Hasbro's 10th Anniversary Dinobot has some serious durability issues reminiscent of what the fandom calls Gold Plastic Syndrome (wherein metallic-coloured plastic tends to age poorly, decompose and crumble). If you look closely, you'll see that both the bronze and chocolate-coloured plastics have a bit of a metallic sparkle to them -- not nearly as much as your average GPS-afflicted 80s or 90s figure, but apparently enough to destabilize the plastic compound over time.

My Dinobot has broken in numerous places over the years. His battle mask was the first to go, when one half of it snapped into a million pieces after having a little weight put on it. More recently, his left hand, the ball joint socket for his left dino arm, the socket that connects his left robot leg to his torso in beast mode and one half of his rotate blade have all cracked or had pieces chip off. More worryingly, his left flank transformation joint is so tight that I can hear the plastic inside it cracking and stressing whenever I try to move it -- which means that this review is probably going to be the last time the toy is going to ever be in beast mode.

GPS is unpredictable, and the time frame for when (or even if) a particular example of a figure will start to fall apart is impossible to predict, but there are so many other, non-self-destructing versions of Dinobot out there that it really calls into question the value of this particular one.

Transformation Design: Very clunky and primitive, like a lot of early Beast Wars examples. Several newer Dinobot and Grimlock molds use a similar transformation scheme to much, much greater effect. 3/10

Durability: This toy would be less fragile if it were made of glass. 1/10

Fun: Dinobot's rotate blade is more fun than it has any right to be. Beyond that, honestly, he doesn't have anything special going for him. He isn't boring, but he's pretty average. 6/10

Aesthetics: This figure embellishes the colour scheme of the original, and to great effect. Takara's similarly-timed Telemocha release is slightly better, which deflates this guy's score a little, but he's still a lovely shelf piece in robot mode. 7/10

Articulation: About what you'd expect from a toy of this vintage. He gets points for being able to do anything but stand at attention in beast mode, even if the articulation he's got isn't really all that useful. 7/10

Price: There are more versions of this mold floating around than you can shake a stick at, and finding a complete figure in good quality shouldn't cost you more than $30 or so. This particular Dinobot is relatively new though, so a good chunk of the ones you'll see are MISB. People tend to pay around $50 for it, which in my opinion is way more than a figure with such serious durability issues is worth. Unfortunately, I think in this case the Transmutate build-a-figure part is driving the price as much as Dinobot himself is. 2/10

Overall: Even at it's best, this mold is pretty mediocre. And this toy isn't Dinobot at his best. I do think it's worth owning one version of Dinobot or another, but the original, Fox Kids or Telemocha figures would all be safer choices. The durability issues just kill the 10th Anniversary toy. 3/10
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