Friday, March 11, 2022

Dead and Buried - 3rd Party Rundown 2022 Part 1

In one of my favorite toy discussion podcasts, the hosts were so frequently asked by their listeners “where they saw the Transformers 3rd party scene going in the next five years” that it soon became a running joke that they would constantly ask each other. Ironically, almost exactly five years ago, I wrote about all the numerous 3rd party companies that I had first hand experience with regards to their products. It turned out to be quite an extensive piece as one post turned into five. Anyway, here we really are, five years later since those posts and the 3rd party landscape, while still alive and kicking, really has changed quite a bit. A number of the companies I previously wrote about, have gone the way of the dodo bird while others have popped out of the woodwork to take their place.

OK before I get started, It’s also worth keeping in mind that just like the robots that these companies make, there is definitely “more than meets the eye” when it comes to the 3rd party scene itself. It’s pretty much a given that there is a lot of connective tissue between many of these companies. Multiple companies share the same production factories. Many toy designers are also more like free agents, selling their designs to the highest bidder. And it is also quite possible that many supposedly defunct companies are actually carrying on under a new name. So yeah, it’s not really quite cut and dried as we would think.

Again to be clear that I am no way an expert in the day to day operations and connections if any between all these 3rd party companies. For the most part, I will just be writing my thoughts based on my actual experience with their toys. And when it comes to their current status on whether they are still in operation or not, well, that will be purely speculative on my part and mostly based on information or gossip that I’ve heard about or read online. If I did get some information wrong, I am definitely open to being enlightened and corrected.

Since once again there will be quite a lot to cover, I decided to tackle this new rundown in at least four main parts. The first part will cover companies that are most likely no longer around. The second part will touch on companies that are missing in action. The third will be about all the companies that I previously covered that are still alive and kicking. And in the final part, we’ll go over all the newer companies that have since sprung up and come into existence since the last time I wrote.

So let’s get started with companies that most likely are no longer around as far as I know.


At their peak, iGear was best known for producing 3rd party Transformers that weren’t quite CHUG or Masterpiece, but somewhere in between. Aside from this confusion though, the actual designs of their toys were mostly average at best. When I wrote about these guys five years ago, they already had one foot out the door. And I myself was done with them. I’ve since sold off every single iGear toy in my collection. Their last official release was a recolor of a previous Huffer mold called Shafter back in 2014. And now all they are is another footnote in the history of 3rd party Transformers.

Mech Ideas Workshop

These guys were one of the smaller 3rd party companies back in the day. In my opinion, they have two fairly memorable releases. Their first notable release was their take on a modern CHUG Jusmpstarters set called the Demolition Crew. I actually had these guys and they were pretty good for what they were. I eventually sold them off when Hasbro released their version of Topspin and Twintwist as part of their Titans Returns line 2016-17.

The second release was a Transformers Animated styled Huffer and Pipes called Bluster and Trench. They were based off some unused concept art for the show which reimagined the two minibots as a pair of mustachioed Cybertonians, who looked suspiciously a lot like two plumber brothers from a popular Nintendo game. As cool as these guys were, I passed on the set since it supposedly had a number of QC issues. I believe they did one more unique mold and a few repaints after that, but by that point, I had pretty much moved on from them. By 2015, they were done.

Ace Collectables

Ace Collectables tried to make a big splash with their first release in 2016, that being a much needed masterpiece version of Cliffjumper and his obligatory retool/repaint, Hubcap. Unfortunately They focused more on the accessories and packaging of their release rather than the actual toy itself. Ace and Tumbler came with a high end box with flashy original artwork. They even came with their own stands and acrylic cases! Unfortunately, the toys themselves were floppy messes. While I initially got these guys, they were immediately sold off when the X-Transbots gave us slightly better versions of Cliffjumper and Hubcap a few months later.

Their next release was supposed to be their take on the minibot Seaspray called Trident. It got as far as the prototype stage which was actually reviewed by some online sites. But the official release never saw the light of day. And since then, there has been nothing but silence from Ace Collectables.

Open And Play

One of the more memorable 3rd party “events'' of 2017 was what many collectors refer to as the “Springer Wars”. In a span of a few months, numerous 3rd Party companies all announced their own masterpiece version of the triple changer Springer. While most of these companies already had proven track records, another brand new player called Open and Play threw their hat in the ring as well. To many’s surprise, they actually ended up releasing their “Big Spring” way ahead of most of the other companies. And he turned out to be quite good!. I like to lump these guys and Ace Collectables together as polar opposites. While Ace Collectables released a lousy toy in some beautiful packaging, Open and Play basically released their impressive Big Spring in a shoebox. It didn’t even come with instructions!

I took a chance with Big Spring and was very happy with my purchase. While many would argue that his lack of paint and softer plastic didn’t make him look or feel “masterpiece-y” enough, I still thought that it was a fairly successful debut for an unknown company.

Anyway, they followed up Big Spring with the Big Cannon, their take on an MP Galvatron. Unfortunately this one didn’t impress as much as it was basically a slightly modified and upsized Titans Return Galvatron from Hasbro. It also didn’t help that this guy literally came in a plastic bag. And that was the last release that I know of from this company. There were rumblings of an incoming Arcee that I would have been happy to check out…but they never amounted to anything.

In a surprising twist, Big Spring sort of made a return in 2021, with another unheard of company called Robot Hero re-releasing an improved version of the toy under the name Airwolf. It’s basically the same toy with supposedly more paint and a much better face (which was the biggest criticism of Big Spring). The most likely scenario is that whoever was behind Open And Play, having made their money on the mold, just sold it off to another company to reproduce.


Oh how the mighty have fallen. At one point, Fansproject was the king of 3rd Party companies. They definitely made a name for themselves as pioneers of the 3rd Party scene from their humble beginnings of creating accessories and add-on kits for official Hasbro Transformers to producing the first completely original 3rd party Transformer. 

Unfortunately, their chosen niche of highly stylized CHUG Transformers was soon passed over when the focus of most 3rd party collectors shifted to masterpiece scaled Transformers. For a few years Fansproject stuck to their guns, but eventually, they died a natural death. Their last unique release was a take on the Snarl called “Pinchar” to complete their Dinobot subline Lost Exo Realm. This was in 2018. Since then, it’s widely accepted that Fansproject is no more with a number of people behind this once great company having been linked to newer players like Maketoys and Fans Hobby.

And that would be it for the companies that I previously wrote about that are no longer around. While stranger things have happened, I think that it’s safe to say that we won’t be seeing anything new from these companies any time soon.