Monday, July 16, 2018

Pretty in Pink

Back in the day, when it came to toys for boys and girls, things were much pretty black and white. Robots, soldiers, superheroes and anything that carried a weapon or sported an action feature were all definitely for boys. And on the flipside, dolls or anything cute and cuddly were for the girls.

When Marvel and Hasbro started fleshing out the Transformers universe and the characters that inhabited it, I think it would be a fair assumption that they only had one target audience in mind, boys. So as a result, for the first few years of the toyline and cartoon there was not a single female robot, Autobot or Decepticon to be found.

Sure, in the second season of the cartoon they introduced Elita One and her band of merry female Autobots who were left in Cybertron to continue the fight on their homefront. But they were mostly all one note characters never to be seen again after their one feature episode. It wasn’t until 1986 that we got our very first real female Transformer who would be a main character moving forward.

Arcee the Autobot was introduced as one of the new lead characters in the 1986 animated Transformers the Movie. According to movie writer Ron Friedman, Hasbro was absolutely against the idea of including a female Transformer, but he insisted because his daughter was a fan. Obviously he got his way, but coming out of the gate, it was pretty clear, that despite Mr. Friedman’s reasoning for her inclusion, Hasbro still wanted her to appeal more to the boys.

With that in mind, Arcee sported a lot of cliche design details similar to many superheroines at the time. Her head seemed to sport two buns similar to a certain iconic princess from a galaxy far far away. And the color placement on her body seemed to suggest she was wearing some sort of bikini or leotard. Oh and for good measure and maybe as a rather weak attempt to appeal to girls, she was predominantly pink and transformed into a convertible car that looked like something Barbie would love to drive around in.

Unfortunately, since her inclusion was due to a writer’s insistence and not as part of an initiative to sell more toys like most of the other new movie characters, fans of Arcee had to several wait years later before we got any official plastic representation of her on our shelves.

But just because there weren’t any Arcee toys for years doesn’t mean that Hasbro, Takara or other toymakers didn’t try. There have been pictures of concepts and prototypes that have surfaced over the years of planned Arcee toys, but based on how they looked I think it was pretty obvious why these never actually saw the light of day.

For the most part, what collectors got were either pink and white repaints of existing robots or completely different Transformers that had nothing really in common with the original movie character except for being female and named Arcee.

In 2010, Hasbro released a fairly accurate but highly stylized Arcee toy for their Transformers Animated line….but this was based of a more updated and reimagined version of the character, not exactly the original movie version.

It was only in 2014, almost 3 decades after her introduction that Hasbro finally gave us an official Generation One representation of Arcee. While it was far from perfect, it was an adequate plastic representation of Arcee that fans welcomed with open arms...and wallets.

On the 3rd party front however, collectors were luckier as we got more unofficial Arcee toys from these companies. Of course the quality of these toys varied and almost all of them were stylized and didn’t quite nail the original G1 aesthetic in my opinion. Most of them were based on a more kick ass version of Arcee created for the IDW comic, something I will cover in another post. Fortunately, if you were looking for a more G1 based Arcee, 3rd party companies also got you covered.

The first “masterpiece” 3rd party Arcee to be released was called “Leia” produced by Toy World. While her robot mode was...OK, her alternate mode was pretty rough...and that’s putting it kindly. It was as if the designers were halfway through with the design and decided they were done. You be the judge. I decided to pass on this one.

Popular company Fans Toys was next to to the table with their version called “Rouge”. This is the Arcee I decided to go with since for me she looked perfect in both modes. Unfortunately getting from one mode to the other was a different story. While most people dubbed her as the worst toy released by Fans Toys, a company usually known for their high quality products, I thought she was good enough. I did find it funny though (and quite unnecessary) how Fans Toys went the extra mile and packed in additional parts to give us the option to display her with either a rounder or more angular….chest, as well as multiple face plates including an excessively…..”happy” one (hey whatever floats your boat).

But for those, not happy with how Rouge turned out, as of this writing, a third option is on the way from company Mastermind Creations. It also looks promising but I’m good with my Rouge.

Anyway, standing next to her bigger and bulkier comrades, it’s easy to dismiss Arcee as simply being the token female member of the cast, made to just look pretty in pink. But that would be quite a disservice to the character. To be fair, she did hold her own in combat and rarely played the typical “damsel in distress” role.

She also displayed a lot of admirable personality traits usually not shown by most of her fellow Autobots like Springer who had “better things to do tonight than die” or Ultra Magnus who simply “couldn’t deal with that right now”. During the Decepticon attack on Autobot City, while everyone else was either fighting or scrambling for cover, she was busy dragging away fallen comrades to safety.

Arcee was constantly looking out for the well being of her fellow Autobots and she was especially protective of their human companion Daniel, whom she eventually binary bonded with to become a headmaster in order to save his life.

She displayed a deeper sense of caring and responsibility for her comrades not typically expressed by others. And that makes her more special and important to us Transformer fans. I for one, welcome her inclusion to the Transformers mythos and I think it’s a safe bet to say most others feel the same way.

*main picture by Casey Coller & JP Bove