Transmetals 2: Dinobot
Height: 13cm; 29cm (overall beast mode length with tail fully outstretched)
The first of a new breed of Transformer, created from a combination of exotic alien technology, half of a mutant spark, a blank protoform, and genetic samples of the fallen Dinobot. The new Dinobot is everything Megatron could have wanted of the original - cunning, fearless, powerful, and unwaveringly loyal. The original Dinobot may have died while denying Megatron his greatest victory, but Megatron would not be satisfied to leave it at that. This perversion of the very image of the Predacon hero is Megatron's true, final revenge on his former subordinate. But as the new Dinobot watches, learns, and comes in to his own, could he begin to see things the way his predecessor did...?
Dinobot II was actually the first Transformer I picked up after discovery of the online Transformers fandom resparked my interest in collecting the toys following a few years of hiatus just after the start of the Beast Wars line. Though unlike RAC, I enjoyed Beast Wars from start to end and only moved away from the toys while I explored other interests for a while. I remember there were comic books. And Pokemon. Lots of Pokemon...
The most distinctive and appealing element of the toy is that it's a walking cyborg dinosaur skeleton. There are patches that give suggestion of some soft tissue, but if anything, it just reinforces the idea of this being a reanimated corpse. And while this Dinobot was never intended to be the original Dinobot, it's thematically appropriate to portray it like this. At a bare minimum, it becomes one of the most visually striking of the Deluxe Transmetals 2. This is sadly tempered by having less paint coverage than would be ideal. The majority of the toy keeps the basic plastic color (in this specific instance a bone-like tan, but later it would become a bleached white) and it makes it difficult to distinguish the sculpted details. The accents of dark purple as well as the much redder purple chrome help delineate the bigger chunks, but overall the bone color desperately needs something even along the line of a wash to make it all stand out better. One of the best design accomplishments is the tail. Longer than the entire main body, it has the build and pose to look like a useful appendage versus the stiff cone of the original Dinobot. Most of the tail is flexible soft plastic to enable a tail whip action feature, but it's very stable and natural looking when that function is left alone. Considerable detail went in to the tail, highlighted by several vertebrae before tapering to a bladed end and seemingly a gun barrel for the tip.
Dinobot has some working joints in beast mode, but not a lot for real poseability. The legs can move freely at the knees and ankles, but the hips are largely locked in place, so the only effect you can get is changing how crouched the toy looks. but those hips are very free to move about to the sides, which can let the toy crumple to one side or the other. I'm pretty sure that's not how it's supposed to work. The forelimbs have several joints, but because the arms don't secure to the body at all and the limited movement of the joints, this too has little practical benefit. It's especially disappointing since there's really no way to make use of the gun barrels between the forward two digits; a stop in the wrist hinge prevents the claws from coming anywhere even near closing, and there's no evident reason for it to be made like that. I guess it could have been out of concern for the tube connected between the wrist and upper arm, but I don't even think that would have been at any sort of risk otherwise. The neck can swivel at its base, but not turn right or left. The law is hinged, and as a result of a transformation joint, the head can tilt up. But raising it too far will have the Alien-style inner mouth leave the head.
There are major conceptual improvements over the original Dinobot toy here, perhaps most significant is not having the robot legs hanging off the body as some kind of freakish exposed double ribcage. But even so, most of the technical advances prove largely useless because of both accidental and seemingly intentional hampering. It's thankful that Dinobot II's beast mode has such a fantastic sculpted appearance, since its play value is so minimal that it's almost like a throwback to much earlier Beast Wars designs.
There's nothing really tricky to it. The dinosaur head will sometimes resist sliding exactly where it needs to end up, but otherwise it's a kind of neat process of rotating and folding things so that between modes the places where layers are doubled over each other fully switches sides.
Thanks to some folding panels, you have a solid looking robot mode despite most of the torso being empty space. Dinobot still suffers some from the color layout, but it feels better balanced in robot at least. One place desperately in need of paint help is the head. While there is paint for the face and some helmet details, the bone color plastic strikes again, obscuring a lot of the finer sculpted details on the unpainted portions. Meanwhile most of the dark purple paint is applied to areas without much surface detailing, and it all comes together so as to look like the figure is wearing a mask and has no mouth unless you examine it really closely. Just based on the detailing present this was obviously not anybody's original intent, and I'd say it's the biggest visual detraction in the robot mode.
Contrary to how the CGI model portrayed it, I don't think the design meant for the hand to be made of just the beast mode toes. The way the arm joints end up, it seems like the hand is much larger, using those toes as the fingers and the ankle spur as the thumb. Arranging it that way puts the robot mode's elbow in a more traditional position and letting it be useful. The Mainframe version turns the dinosaur ankle in to a really low elbow with a really useless second elbow higher up the arm. It's really academic anyway, since the hands cannot directly hold anything no matter how you lay them out. The left hand has a peg molded on so Dinobot's tail can be used as a weapon. Except it really can't. The peg can't seat deeply or tightly enough on the tail socket to stay attached. Even if it could, the position would be very awkward and the weight of the tail would wreck the balance. Ultimately, it's just better to leave the tail attached as a tail in robot mode. It helps to leave it like that so it can act as a third leg. All those years ago, my Dinobot came with really weak hip joints, so while it can carry its own weight, it's hard to get any active poses with the legs. The tail can catch some of the weight and help support a bit, though. It's really a shame the hips are so flimsy, the knee joints have extensive range for single hinges, and are only finally obstructed by the cabling, but only after moving well-past the 90 degree mark. Working with the hip joint, it easily gets the bottom of one foot above the other leg's knee. Certainly beyond the norm for a Transformer of its time, and still impressive today! And if the hips were tightened a little it'd be a great benefit to posing the toy. Dinobot can even kneel fairly well - something almost unheard of from that period.
Dinobot's spark crystal can be accessed by lifting the chromed panel in the chest, although I wish it was done more like in the show where just a small inset panel opened rather than the entire dinosaur's skull cap. Meanwhile, I just wish those shoulderpads could, if not be smaller, at least be down closer to the shoulders. They've always looked really ridiculous hovering so far above the body as they do. On the bright side, Dinobot never seemed to become a common victim of chrome failure like some others ultimately would. For instance, it were possible to get a pristine example anymore, I'd have put Transmetal 2 Scourge on my review schedule for this week, but good luck finding one that hasn't shed all it's vacuum metalized surfaces - sometimes even still sealed in package!
Buying Loose: The tail is kind of important. While its absence is not a deathblow for the robot, the beast mode has a hard time working without it. Dinobot is not taken to chrome flaking the way some contemporaries were, but it never hurts to double check on that count when dealing with Transmetal anything.
Benefiting from Mainframe's more solid adherence to the toys through the second and third seasons, Dinobot looks a lot like the design you might remember in the cartoon (remember, in Beast Wars the toys always came first!) and aside from that it just has some really great stylistic choices. Unfortunately, a lot of things did not bear out for the toy, a problem common of the earlier Transmetals 2. It's a great display piece, especially in beast mode, but it really has trouble doing much. But hey, it's no Transmetal 2 Cheetor at least, so I'd definitely call that Good.
Dinobot was one of the first toys to get a running change redeco, going for a generally brighter coloring of a stark white and light blue replacing the dark purple. Ultimately neither exactly follows the TV appearance, which generally had the bright white, but accented with the dark purple. I suspect the brighter version may be a little less common. And personally I really prefer the first version anyway.
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