25th Anniversary "Transformers: The Movie" Unicron with Kranix Toy Review
Release Date: September 2011
Price Point: $59.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: Amazon.com Exclusive
Accessories: Missiles x 6 (for legs), Chest missile, Kranix Mini-Con figure
Some characters in the history of Transformers become almost myths in their own way. Unicron is one of these Transformers. First introduced in the Generation One "Transformers: The Movie" animated film, Unicron would go from "mysterioius force that devours planets to a critical part of the Transformers mythology where the very origins of the Transformers race were tied to his existence. An action figure of Unicron was planned back in the 80's, but it was never released. What did get released were photos of this unreleased figure, and for years a Unicron toy became the stuff of legend. Did people really see it? Was it just some trick photography or a mock up by a fan? Theories abounded until years later when Unicron's existence was confirmed in toy magazines, but the sheer size and potential cost of the figure all but ensured it would never see the light of day.
Many (many) years later, Unicron continued to be a feature character in the Transformers mythos, appearing in the "Beast Wars Neo" series. He was a major player in that story and for a while, Takara considered putting out a figure of that version of the character. There was a prototype created and shown at a Japanese toy festival, but due to price limitations, that version also did not get released.
Fast forward again and the year 2003 came about, introducing Unicron again as the major threat in a Transformers series: Armada. Would history repeat itself and taunt fans with another toy possibility and not deliver? Nope! That fateful year Armada Unicron was released and fans everywhere rejoiced. As I noted in my review of Unicron several years ago, this version of the character borrowed a ton of elements, but also changed enough to make the character distinct to the Armada series. This opened up the proverbial dam. In the years that followed, Unicron would be released in two more decos and then re-released in his Armada deco. In addition, a "Robot Heroes" version of Unicron was created, a Titanium series Unicron and even a Deluxe Scale Unicron in the "Cybertron" series.
Starting in 2005, Hasbro and Takara began to actively develop updated versions of G1 characters in new forms. Over the years, this has led to updates to characters such as Bumblebee and Megatron. Now and then, figures from other series were given new decos and released as characters from G1 such as Blades and Ratbat. In 2010, Takara Tomy decided to use the Armada Unicron sculpt once again, this time as part of their toy line celebrating G1 characters. Instead of a straight re-release however, they gave Unicron a new head sculpt that bore a greater resemblance to his G1 counterpart. In addition, the figure was given a new deco that again paid homage to the G1 character.
As part of their campaign of exclusives in 2011, Hasbro decided to take this iteration of Unicron and release it in North America. This time, the figure would sport a deco even closer to his G1 animated appearance. Sold as an Amazon.com exclusive, this figure was on the market for only about three days total and wound up selling out in a matter of hours each day. This makes it one of the fastest selling exclusives in recent history. I myself didn't manage to snag it the first time around and hit reload on Amazon's listing for this guy days on end before I managed to order him!
Check out Armada Unicron's review before reading this one as this review will focus on the changes made to the figure for this release.
Unicron is one large figure, a "Supreme" Class figure so no typical box or card will suit him. In the past this figure has generally been placed into large cardboard boxes with a window in the front to show off the figure. This time however, the box design is very different. The base is cardboard and the back is also cardboard with photography of the figure. This cardboard backing is actually a thin box that contains his missiles, wings and instructions. The bottom doesn't explicitely put the toy in the "Generations" toy line, but it uses the red colored "Generations" background and it's a G1 character so I'll fit it into that slot. It also has a "Transformers: The Movie" logo, indicating it is a "25th Anniversary" toy. Like many past Unicron figure releases, he is aligned with the Decepticon faction as evidenced by a gigantic Decepticon symbol in front. On top of this cardboard is a huge plastic bubble with the word Unicron down the side. This type of packaging shows off the figure very well, allowing you to see it from the front, top and sides. It's ironic that this is an online exclusive because if this was in stores, it would probably sell out partly just due to the packaging alone!
Kranix is a character whose history in the Transformers universe is closely tied to Unicron. When Unicron was first introduced in "Transformers: The Movie", he devoured a planet called "Lithone". Among the inhabitants of this world who tried to escape the planet eater was Kranix, a robotic alien who escaped Unicron (only to meet a different fate later on). In the film he had to use a shuttle, but in the Marvel Comics adaptation of the movie, Kranix actually transformed into a spaceship.
Originally this Mini-Con figure was known as "Dead End", but now it has been given a new paint job and identity as Kranix. I find it ironic and a bit twisted to have "a" Kranix serving as Unicron's Mini-Con/minion, and that appeals to my own sense of irony and dark humor.
Kranix's Planetoid Mode is basically moon sized compared to Unicron's planet mode. The Mini-Con has not had any mold changes from its "Dead End" release. The primary plastic colors on this figure are a metallic, dark brown and metallic red. The brown is the main color, with red making up smaller parts. Kranix has a cannon built into his body that can be swung out, making him a flying weapon. The cannon is painted a dark, yellowish color that can also be found on Unicron himself. A metallic brown color was found on the Marvel "Transformers Universe" listing for the Kranix character (albeit in a different shade), and in the animated film he had some brown coloring on him as well. Overall, these colors do a good job of paying some homage to the Kranix seen in "Transformers: The Movie" while also having a visual identity all its own.
In this mode Kranix can be connected to Mini-Con pegs including the one on Unicron. Truth be told, I'm really pleased to see how well this Mini-Con Powerlinx point still works after so many iterations of this sculpt have been released (two of which were without Unicron in special sets of Mini-Cons in Japan). The cannon hinge joint is also still tight.
Transformation to Robot Mode:
- Hold the toy so the Powerlinx point is facing you. Swing down the sides and then rotate the yellow pieces around to form the robot legs and feet.
- Swing the cannon out.
- Rotate the section of the arm with the cannon on it around, and swing the arm down.
- Swing the other arm down and rotate the lower arm section around.
No resculpting was done to this figure so in no way does this figure actually resemble Kranix from "Transformers: The Movie". Instead, I like to think that Kranix was "reformatted" a la Galvatron and his warriors to suit Unicron's planet based theme. Kranix is still mostly metallic brown in this form, but several parts of his body are red including his thighs and feet. His head and cannon are painted dark yellow. He isn't striking looking, but he does look good. All of Kranix's joints are tight including his arm/elbow joints which could be loose on some of the iterations of Dead End.
The goal of this Unicron redeco was to create a version that was as faithful to the character's appearance in Generation One as possible. Now, this isn't entirely possible since several elements of this figure's design were specific to the Armada version of the character. Among the "Armada Specific" features of the character are the horns/claws on either side of the robot head and the semi-circular missile launchers attached to his lower legs. However, a majority of the design is in fact based on Generation One Unicron. Let's review the parts that carried over from the original figure:
- Arms: Each of the arms have sevral spikes on them along with large, blocky forearms and shoulders, design elements found on the original Unicron animation model.
- Chest: The chest has panels that stick out from the lower body, each of which has several circular details sculpted into it. While there are extra details on the chest panels specific to Armada Unicron, the larger circles are inspired by G1 Unicron.
- Mid-body: The middle of the body has a panel with several rectangles sculpted into it that resemble windows. This design comes directly from the original G1 Unicron model.
- Waist: Unicron's waist has a raised central panel with two panels on the sides. These panels have circular designs on them reminscent of the ones found on G1 Unicron's waist area.
- Legs: Each of Unicron's legs has a very distinct design, with thighs that lead to knee sections that protrude forward with a rectangular pattern at the front, then that leads to lower legs attached to feet with points at the ends, continuing the claw and spike theme found throughout the figure's design.
- Wings: The rings of the planet mode become Unicron's "wings", which resemble a gargoyle's wings with bone-like columns. G1 Unicron had the same type of "wings" on his back.
One of the elements on Armada Unicron that differed quite a bit from his G1 counterpart was the head design. The Armada head design was a bit more angular than the G1 version and he had details like an oval shaped design on the center of his head. Due in part to his association in the storyline with the Mini-Cons, the edges of his helmet around the face actually make up a letter "M". For the Tomy release of the figure that preceded this one, the head was replaced with a whole new sculpt. This time, the sculpt is purely based on G1 Unicron, with no Armada based designs. Like the Generation One head design, this one is more round than angular. The helmet is rounded at the top and flares out at the sides. On either side are horns that curve upward. His eyebrow area is angled in the middle meeting sharp, oval shaped eyes. His mouth area has a beard and mustache design around his mouth. It's a fantastic sculpt and it blends right in with the body, as if this was the head sculpt the figure was always meant to have!
A head sculpt alone won't do the trick to make this a successful figure. The deco is a huge deal on this figure. It's what makes the final connection to this being a true representation of G1 Unicron. Whereas the Armada Unicron heavily favored bright colors such as a bright yellow and white colors, this figure darkens the spectrum of colors considerably. The colors are meant to align with the colors of the G1 character while filling in some extra details where they are needed. Here's a rough breakdown of the plastic color swaps on this figure from the Armada version:
- The wings on Unicron's back have gone from being grey in color to a gold color, matching the color the wings were in Generation One.
- Most of the yellow parts on Armada Unicron including his arms, the horns on either side of his head and his thighs have been replaced with the same gold color used on the wings.
- Several of the translucent sections on Armada Unicron including the chest and waist panels are now cast in silver plastic.
- Other parts that are grey on Armada Unicron such as his fists and elbow joints are now cast in silver with the exception of the right hand fist. That hand looks silver but is in fact translucent silver, allowing the light inside to show through when you activate that feature.
- The dark grey sections of the legs from Armada Unicron are now a dark grey-blue color, which aligns more with the colors used on G1 Unicron's animation model.
Overall these colors represent G1 Unicron very well. The use of metallic shades of the silver and gold look fantastic and really draw the eye in. As strong as they are, these plastic colors need a tiny bit more help - from paint decos. There are quite a few colors used on this figure, all of which are inspired in some way by G1 Unicron. The colors used include: blue-grey, gold, red, silver and gunmetal.
The blue-grey paint is used in several spots including the circle designs on his arms, chest and waist. There are also some blue-grey patterns on his head, bringing his deco more in line with his appearance in the G1 animated movie. The gold paint is used on two main sections: the chest and the mid-body. The really awesome part of the use of the gold on the chest panels is, for lack of a better term, painted on there to greater resemble the G1 version of the character. On G1 Unicron, his chest panels were divided by a section in the middle that was yellow in color. While there is no depression in the center of the chest on this sculpt, the part that is painted gold here matches up with where that gap would be. I love the way the deco is used to try to replicate a design element from the G1 character. Red paint is used on various sections including the rows of circles on his shoulders, the "windows" on his mid-section and circles on his lower legs. The inside of his chest is also painted red. Now, this is a lot more red than Unicron had in Generation One. In the movie, he only had red in the mid-section (specifically it was more of a cauldron showing through windows in that section). However, the extra bit of red helps fill in a lot of details that would otherwise be very plain. Silver is found throughout the figure. It's used for the robot face and quite a bit on his legs. These aren't really "G1" details per se, but they do keep the figure from just having plain blue-grey legs. You'll also find it on the sides of his hips and the planet sections on his back. The gunmetal color is used to enhance some of the sculpted details including the curved sections of his shoulder armor and the circle details on the sides of his elbow hinges.
When I first saw this figure in person at Botcon, I was already sold. The figure looks amazing in this mode. The colors work brilliantly and in concert with the new head sculpt, I have to say this is the most perfect representation of the character in toy form thus far. Sure the future may bring one that is even more accurate to the G1 animation model, but as of right now this is the best game in town and it's awesome.
All of Unicron's joints are still tight, which is great to see considering the figure is technically in its sixth release with this version. In addition all his gimmicks still work. Press the button on the top of his head and his eyes light up red (the same color as the Armada Unicron figure). Press his right fist into the wrist and it also lights up red. Unicron also has projectile play in the form of missiles in his lower legs and his chest. The ones on the legs are activated by plugging in a Mini-Con to the peg on the sides and then pushing it forward. On his back is another peg. Plug in a Mini-Con there and his chest panel opens up slowly until the giant missile inside launches and makes quite a loud noise (thanks to the gears inside moving). At the same time his eyes light up, blinking red. In concert with his thirty eight points of articulation, Unicron has a lot of play value!
Transformation to Planet Mode:
- Detach the "planet shell halves" from Unicron's back.
- Turn the horns on Unicron's head forward, and then swing back the head.
- Flip open the panels on the lower arms and flip the fists into them and close the panel doors.
- Rotate the lower arms so the spikes point out to the sides.
- Push down the shoulder pieces.
- Swing the arms up.
- Swing the arms down at the black piece that connects the arms to the main body. The wings will move with that piece.
- Rotate the lower arms again so the spikes point to the left and right side.
- Connect the two lower arms together using the pegs on the right arm and holes on the left.
- Swing the waist plat down.
- Rotate the missile launcher sections on the legs so that the missiles face down.
- Rotate the front "toe" section around and then swing it up so it rests against the lower leg.
- Swing up the rear section of the leg so it rests on top of the front "toe" section.
- Swing the robot legs back so they rest on the robot back. The robot feet have holes and pegs that connect to stabilize the hemisphere.
- Expand the wings to form the rings. Each end of the rings bend on a hinge to allow you to connect it to the other wing. Note that each side is different. The wing ends with the pegs on them go on the lower part of the planet (where the robot feet are) and those pegs connect to holes on the robot feet.
- Have Unicron's robot chest piece facing forward, and point the pegs on his ring forward.
- Attach the planet/wing pieces to the pegs, and then swing them in to complete the planet mode.
Unicron's planet mode always borrowed key elements from the animated design introduced in 1986. This includes the following parts:
- Unicron's "mouth" is a round section in the middle of the planet, right in the front. Around the edges are teeth shaped designs and in the middle is a maw with vertical "teeth" for crunching planets.
- On either side of the aforementioned maw are giant claws used to grab planets.
- Unicron's robot "wings" become a large ring that surrounds his entire body.
- The top half of the planet mode (in the front half) is designed with details similar to those on the original Unicron consisting of a series of sculpted details that are overlaped by curved sections that end in blade like designs.
- Though their location is different than the original Unicron, the spikes on the top of the planet resemble those found on the sides of the 1986 animation model.
Other details on this figure were specific to the Armada version of the character. This includes the missile launchers build into the bottom of the planet as well as the more angular sections on the bottom and back of the planet. The angular sections are a bit of a necesity in the design since creating a completely round planet would have led to many more rounded parts in robot mode. This strikes a good balance and looks very much like Unicron's planet mode in its many incarnations.
The color scheme of this mode is critical to its appeal. All the colors we saw in the robot mode are featured here, except now the blue color seriously dominates. Most of the rounded parts are painted blue, and the key word is "painted". Many of Armada Unicron's parts were translucent plastic, and they were largely left so as part of his color scheme. For a G1 oriented Unicron however, these parts need to be opaque so a lot of blue paint basically got layered onto these sections. They are complemented by the gold color on his ring as well as paint around the middle section and the maw. Adding a bit of bright colors to the mix are red on his missiles and inside the maw and silver on the raised, "blade shaped" parts on the curved sections of the planet. The result of all this is a very G1 styled Unicron figure in planet mode - something fans have wanted for a couple decades now. The designers did a great job using the colors to create a G1 styled Unicron within the constraints of the sculpt.
All of Unicron's functionality is intact, however I did notice interestingly enough that Kranix does not attach as tightly to the peg above his maw as Dead End attaches to Armada Unicron. Other than that, everything else works just fine including the firing missiles when you attach a Mini-Con to the sides (or an Energon weapon).
When I first saw Tomy's version of the Unicron sculpt with a new, G1 styled head I was definitely excited, but not completely sold due to the color scheme they used (close though). When I saw this figure in person at Botcon I was instantly sold. The designers did a fantastic job of taking the old and the new elements of this character and combining them. The color scheme is amazing and he looks awesome. The fact that he was so hard to get on Amazon when he came out also says a lot. I highly recommend picking this figure out, though at this point it's most likely going to be an aftermarket item. I do highly recommend this figure, but what you think it's worth will largely depend on your personal finances and love of the Unicron character.