Monday, February 11, 2013

Cliff Notes

I’ve always believed that a main reason why the Transformers as a brand/franchise survived all these years is that from the very beginning they established good characters with distict and memorable personalities. Through every iteration you always had the heroic Prime and ruthless Megatron, but you also had in many cases more interesting secondary characters like the traitorous Starscream, the emotionless Soundwave, the underdog Bumblebee and the rough and gruff veteran Ironhide, the list goes on and on…..but one of my favorites will always be the delusional Cliffjumper.

OK so maybe calling him delusional is a bit harsh but really, how else would you describe a robot only slightly bigger than the smallest (and weakest) Autobot Bumblebee (I’m referring of course to the original Bumblebee….pre movie/camaro days) who would rush straight up to Megatron on his own and threaten to beat him down.

Prime! go get Starscream! Leave Megatron to ME!
In another instance, during a scouting/spying mission, against direct orders from Prime he fancied himself an expert marksman and decided that he could take down Megatron with a single head shot from quite a distance. And despite protests from his co-spy Hound, he went through with it, took the shot and…..missed, effectively blowing their cover and getting Hound injured as they ran away pursued by the enemy. Yeah, from the start he was established as a bot who doesn’t really make the best decisions….much to the detriment of his team mates.

Maybe a site scope would've helped....
From a unique sculpt...
But it’s this brash cockiness that basically endeared me to the character..he’s like the little bot, with big balls…and unfortunately little brains….I’m sure we’ve come across people like that and if you can get passed being irritated by them or snickering behind their backs, they somehow in a way might end up impressing you with their somewhat dilusional self confidence. Plus, his character was voiced by the very recognizable Casey Kasem of America’s Top 40 fame, so that made him even more memorable. a lazy repaint
Anyway through the years, Cliffjumper didn’t catch on as much as his fellow minibot Bumblebee, who at this point has become one of the iconic faces of the brand. On the flipside, Cliffjumper has become sort of his under-appreciated and often forgotten “sibling”. Although his original toy was similar to Bumblebee, they were totally different molds and transformed into 2 different cars. But through the years, in Hasbro’s attempt to save a buck, most of the succeeding Cliffjumper toys have been simple straight up red Bumblebee repaints with if we were lucky, a different head.

New & Improved!
This all changed in 2010 when Hasbro announced their latest Transformers cartoon, Transformers:Prime and Cliffjumper was announced to be part of the main Autobot cast. When the first character concepts came online, fans were pleasantly surprised to see that finally Cliffjumper got his own unique design and it was a really good one. He was a suped up version of his original character, transforming into an old style muscle car complete with steer horns on the hood. And to make things even sweeter for old Cliffy…news broke out that he would be voiced by another famous celebrity, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson! So for awhile things were looking quite good for ‘ol Cliffy and that he would finally be getting some recognition.

Can you smeeeeeeellllll.....Stunt Casting???
Unfortunately, it all turned out too good to be true. I guess it should have been a warning sign that they DID cast the Rock as Cliffy’s voice….I mean why would a major movie star sign up to do a voice in a cartoon? Well it would have to be that he was a huge fan of the show (or his kids made him do it) or it was just a case of stunt casting. And unfortunately, it was the later.

Dead Cliffy...
Barely five minutes into the first episode, Cliffy encouters an energon stockpile and true to his character decides to check it out without waiting for any backup. As a result, he’s ambushed by Decepticons and basically outnumbered and as one would predict it doesn’t end well for poor Cliffy. He’s defeated and take prisoner and brought before Starscream. Only this time, he isn’t so lucky. In what can only be seen as an attempt by the writers to show that this cartoon “means business”, Starscream punctures Cliffy’s chest with his bare hand and kills him. And that would’ve been the end of him….except the writers weren’t quite done!

Arise Cliffjumper....Arise!
Later on in the same episode, as part of one of Megatron’s gruesome experiments, Cliffjumper’s corpse is revived using “dark energon”, unfortunately (I seem to be writing “unfortunately” a lot in this entry) what we get isn’t the Cliffy we all know and love, but ZOMBIE Cliffy!!!! Who then proceeds to mindlessly attack the nearest Decepticon to him and continues on his rampage until Megatron slices him in half. And that SHOULD have been the end of him….but no!

All sliced up....
Even later on, the Autobots attempt to rescue Cliffy who they think is still alive only to find his still “living” zombiefied top half. Realizing that his rescue is a lost cause they evacuate the Decepticon base which is basically blowing up all around them, leaving the half zombie Cliffjumper to FINALLY be blown to bits! Whew! Talk about kicking a guy when he’s down…REALLY down!

Give me your braiiiinzzzzz.....
No cheap re-paints here....
FORTUNATELY for us, Hasbro didn’t let a minor fact like being dead get in the way of us fans getting a new toy! When the first wave of Transformers Prime toys were revealed, there was a new and UNIQUE Cliffjumper toy in all his plastic glory! And as if trying to placate us even further for killing off Cliff in such an over-the-top manner, they even gave us a ZOMBIE Cliffy as well!

So although his time in the new Prime cartoon was short, we can recreate his death, resurection and ultimate destruction time and time again…..until the next iteration of the Transformers, where if they do give Cliffy another chance, he hopefully won’t blow it!