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Numbat's Review: iGear Bumblebee

Name: Bee 01 (G1 Bumblebee)
Function: Transformers rediscovered cute but deadly cash cow
Subgroup: iGear (3rd party) / Legends Class / Legion Class

After disappearing into obscurity after the G1/G2 lines, Bumblebee made his return as a Deluxe Class figure in the 2006 Classics filler line which was place-saving for the upcoming 2007 live action film (TFTM). Because of his absence from any other line at that stage, Bumblebee has not been subject to the high degree and number of redesigns that other Transformers characters have been subjected to throughout the various toy lines after G1 (well, until TFTM gave him a radical facelift and catapulted the character to stardom!). However, while the Classics release was a fairly faithful modern update of the G1 design, there was one major change – he no longer had the iconic VW Beetle as his alternate mode. Well, that and he grew in size considerably from a G1 Minibot to a modern Deluxe Class figure!

Unfortunately, it was his iconic alternate mode that had in fact prevented Bumblebee’s return to Transformers toylines earlier, during the Binaltech / Alternator (Binalt) series. A fantastic concept design was created, but Takara and Hasbro were unable to secure the rights from Volkswagen to use the VW Beetle as the alternate mode. Volkswagen did not want to be associated with ‘war toys’, which is either wise or ironic, considering they were founded by the German Labour Front (a Nazi trade union), it was a political promise by Hitler that resulted in the VW Beetle which he may also have named, and VW and its engineer Ferdinand Porsche were responsible for many of the tanks used by the Germans in World War II – which also explains why Porsche are another company that won’t be associated with Transformers. Regardless of the reason, this left what looked to be a fantastic Binalt design for Bumblebee and Cliffjumper forever shelved. Given how iconic Bumblebee was to the kids of the ‘80s (undoubtedly the target audience for the Binalt lines where Transformers became highly detailed scale models of real cars), it’s understandable that HasTak may not have wanted to take the risk on such an expensive figure using an alternate mode that might not sell. (Although, after the success of the Movie and shifting the G1 design with Classics, there is of course an Alternity Bumblebee released in 2009, transforming into a Suzuki Swift.)

Of course, Michael Bay’s TFTM completely redesigned many iconic characters, of whom Bumblebee was perhaps one of the least likely to cause upset given how long he had been out of the limelight, and the Classics line, at Deluxe Class, was a sensible point to try out reaction to an updated G1 Bumblebee with a new alternate mode. And it went down very nicely indeed!

G1 Minibot Bumblebee was my first ever Transformer, and he has been my favourite character ever since (well, Optimus Prime does probably come equal…). I was just over the moon that Bumblebee had made his return to the toy line. Now, of course, there is a massive glut of Bumblebees, making up for the lost decade…

We didn’t see a Legends Class (equivalent to G1 Minibot size) G1-style Bumblebee until the 2010 Universe 2.0 filler line (between TFTM and Revenge of the Fallen [ROTF]). Unsurprisingly, this followed the same general design as the Classics Deluxe figure, but sadly did not match the ingenuity and quality of his other updated G1 Legends line-mates such as Beachcomber, Warpath, Cosmos and even (unforgivably) Wheelie!

iGear, who produce various add-ons and now third party figures, decided that there was a gap in the market for a G1 Bumblebee at Legends Class that does transform into a VW Beetle – either to help complete your Classics-style G1 Legends Class Minibots collection (like their upcoming releases of Rager [Legends Huffer] and Spray [Legends Seaspray]) or to satisfy that nostalgia that non-VW official Universe 2.0 Legends Bumblebee may fail to full achieve. For both reasons, even with an inflated price tag, I could not resist… But is it worth the cash? Does it improve on the HasTak Legends Class design? Read on, dear friend, answers will follow.

[PS – Well done for surviving another rambling introduction from me!]

Alternate Mode:

I think we’ve pretty well established that iGear’s Legends Class Bumblebee transforms into his iconic VW Beetle car alternate mode – the first time since 1993 (excluding World’s Smallest Transformers version and random Japanese exclusives). Measuring 2 ” (6.5cm), he’s perfectly scaled for display alongside your other Legends Class figures. He is also quite an update from the G1 Minibot, with near-perfect proportions and a good level of moulded detail.

Bumblebee is largely yellow in his Beetle mode, cast in a slightly darker plastic than either the G1 Minibot or the Universe 2.0 Legends Class toys, and this suits him well. All of the VW Beetle windows are painted bright blue, while silver picks out the headlights and bumpers. The wheels are black (and plastic, without rubber tyres – the G1 Minibot still has the edge there!), and roll nicely – although be careful! Although it looks as if the Beetle mode has plenty of ground clearance, the robot mode’s hips do actually hang close to the ground in the very centre of the car’s underbelly. While not visible from any angle on display, you’re apt to scrape them if rolling the Beetle over an uneven and hard surface. One improvement over the Hasbro Universe 2.0 figure is that all of the pieces are cast in yellow in car mode – the small squares of the lower legs that make up part of the bonnet stood out like a sore thumb cast in black in the official version of Classics-style Legends Bumblebee.

There’s not a lot more to say about this mode, other than the fact that, as a third party figure, Bumblebee does not come with any Autobot symbols. I added Autobot logos to mine using Reprolabels stickers. The small Autobot insignias fit perfectly on the small square of the lower leg on the car’s bonnet, exactly where it was to be seen in the original G1 cartoon. This location is totally perfect, as the insignia then vanishes in robot mode. I then also used a larger Autobot insignia for the chest. Unfortunately, this is always visible on the roof in car mode. A rub sticker would work here as well, but I wanted my robot mode to look as cartoon accurate as possible.

However you choose to decorate iGear Bumblebee, I’m sure Reprolabels will have the solution for you!

Robot Mode:

iGear Legends Bumblebee shares exactly the same transformation as the Hasbro Universe 2.0 Legends Bumblebee. It’s simple, but effective. The only difference between the two is that the iGear figure’s back does not lock into place, meaning the rear of the car mode is free to flop around in robot mode – although the hinge is thankfully quite stiff, so this is not a major issue. I should say – and now seems as good a time as any – all of the plastic seems of a high quality, and the joints are all tight (on mine at least). iGear Bumblebee does seem to be rather well made.

Standing 3” (7.5cm) tall, iGear Bumblebee is exactly the same height as the Hasbro version, and so he fits in perfectly on display with other Legends Class figures.

The bulkier VW Beetle car mode does have an impact on the robot’s appearance, although less-so than with the original G1 Minibot. However, his chest does protrude considerably further than Hasbro version, and is wider as well, which causes his arms to look much thinner than the Hasbro version, although they are largely the same with the exception of the shoulders. Unfortunately, the iGear version simply has the robot arms painted black, without the yellow forearms Bumblebee had in the cartoon (and which are present in the Hasbro version), which accentuates the appearance of gangly limbs… The shoulders themselves are slimmer on iGear Legends Bumblebee simply due to the slighter backend of the Beetle compared with the chunkier rear to Hasbro’s Legends Bumblebee car mode. The rear of the car, similarly, also protrudes further back and is wider than on the Hasbro version, simply because he transforms into a Beetle, and this does give the iGear Bumblebee a larger backpack, although this does not interfere with poseability or display.

In contrast, iGear Bumblebee’s feet are much more in proportion when compared with the massive blocks Hasbro’s version has. The head sculpt is also better proportioned, and more detailed.

Sadly, iGear Bumblebee shares the oddly shaped legs of the Hasbro version – namely bend backwards at the knee, giving the impression that some Decepticon has kicked his knees and broken them… Or that he’s a chicken in a Bumblebee outfit. Whichever.

As you’d expect, iGear Legends Bumblebee is largely yellow in robot mode. However, black is also a major colour, for the waist, arms and legs. His face is painted silver, with his eyes picked out in the same blue as the VW Beetle windows.

iGear Bumblebee shares the same articulation with the Hasbro version – shoulders, hips and feet (due to the transformation). This was poor for a Legends Class figure, and seems even worse for a more expensive third party Transformer. To make matters worse, the added bulk of the VW Beetle chest and backpack further limits the range of motion possible for the arms.

While the iGear Bumblebee is a nice homage to the G1 Minibot in modern Legends Class style, he is still eclipsed in quality by other Universe 2.0 and Reveal the Shield (RTS) G1 Legends Class homages. While not the worst G1 tribute Legends Class figure (undoubtedly Rodimus / Hot Rod wins that honour), he still looks poor next to all of the official mainstream Hasbro and Takara Legends Class G1 Minibots. While he does, perhaps, look more at home on the shelf than the Hasbro version, iGear Legends Bumblebee remains on the lower end of mediocre and is overshadowed by other figures in this scale.

Objectively I would not recommend buying iGear Legends Bumblebee at the high retail price. However, I am sure a number of you will go out and get him anyway, for the same reasons I did. And I do not regret the purchase. Still, he is very much a niche figure, bordering on expensive novelty.

It does look as if the upcoming iGear Legends Huffer and Seaspray figures are of a higher design quality, with far more articulation and detail, and are completely original moulds, unhampered by using an already fairly lacklustre Hasbro design as the basis. They may well be worth checking out, although they do not have the draw of character Bumblebee brings.

Marks out of ten for the following:

Transformation Design: 5 – The transformation design is simple and effective, but entirely borrowed from the Hasbro design.
Durability: 9 – iGear Bumblebee seems to be made of high quality plastic, well painted, and has tight joints so is about as sturdy as a Legends Class toy can be.
Fun: 6 – Bumblebee is fun simply because he is G1 Bumblebee updated for your Legends Class collection. He turns into a VW Beetle again for the first time since 1993. But, his articulation is poor, and he has far more limited play value than many other Legends Class figures. He’d be a ‘5’ if he weren’t a VW Beetle…
Aesthetics: 6 – He looks like a Legends Class G1 Bumblebee, and is completely at home with other Legends Class figures. That said, he is poorer than most of his contemporaries in detail, poseability and general design, so… He’d be a ‘5’ if he weren’t Bumblebee, put it that way, and could have climbed a point if he had the yellow forearms, instead of the dull black.
Articulation: 4 – No way to gloss over this – even for a mainstream Legends Class figure, iGear Bumblebee is poorly endowed in this category. This may simply be because he’s based so firmly on the Hasbro mould, but that, frankly, is no excuse at this price bracket. Plus, the added bulk of the VW Beetle in robot mode compared with the Hasbro version hinders movement.
Value/Price: 3 – Mainstream Legends Class figures will set you back between 4 and 5 these days, which is steep for what you get. While a limited release third party figure simply can’t compete with such prices, the 15 to 20 you will have to part with for iGear Legends Bumblebee seems over the top for the overly simple design and poor articulation. You would have expected a little more for the money, frankly. For example, the Justitoys WST Dinobots cost around 15 each, and are for more intricate, include die cast parts and much more colour (although after my awful experience with WST Shockwave and WST Blaster, I won’t be buying from Justitoys again!), and iGear Legends Bumblebee does not compare with these at all. I’d say 10 is about right at most.
Overall: 5 – iGear Bumblebee is an update of Hasbro’s Universe 2.0 Legends Class Bumblebee, reuniting the character with his original VW Beetle alternate mode for this first time since 1993. However, the Hasbro mould was mediocre at 4, let alone at 15. iGear Legends Bumblebee is nice to have if you’re a Bumblebee, Minibot and Legends Class fan, but he’s nothing spectacular.
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