Sunday, 29 January 2017

REVIEW: FansToys FT-08 Grinder



INTRODUCTION
To many, including myself, the FansToys Iron Dibots represent one of the highlights of third party Transformers collecting so far. Despite only being a few years ago, the scale & ambition of producing an entire team of massive high-end figures like this was relatively unheard of outside of combiner teams when Scoria was first revealed, and it’s insane to think that it’s only just coming to an end now. Or is it?

I only ask as of course, we’ve been here before, haven’t we? Many of us thought we were done with our Dinobot-collecting after Stomp arrived last year (to a significantly warm reception, it must be stated!), as FansToys had already provided a solution for Masterpiece MP-8 Grimlock’s comparatively diminutive height with a set of platform shoe-type lifts as an accessory with Scoria. I think if we’re being honest though, this was never really a definitive solution, even if I will say that I was certainly happier with it than most.

Then many fans turned to alternative solutions for their mini-Grimlock problem, with the oversized MP-8 KO “Reximus Prime” being a common remedy in lots of collections. I have Reximus myself, and he’s absolutely tons of fun, but still didn’t quite fill the void for me when it comes to having a Masterpiece-styled Grimlock who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Iron Dibots. I say that literally of course, as Reximus is quite noticeably bigger than the FansToys-produced figures, so does tend to stand out a bit! Add to that he’s covered in silver paint, a far cry from the rest of the team’s aesthetics, and he’s a good placeholder and a fun figure, but perhaps not quite there in terms of fitting with the rest of the group.

So, we’ve had one option that’s too small, one that’s too big, and now, like Goldilocks, we’re looking for one that’s just right. Have FansToys finally answered the call with Grinder? And will this be the final time we “complete” our Iron Dibots collection? Let’s find out.

Last note before we begin - this is a test shot. There will no doubt be differences to the retail version, including things like tolerances etc.

PACKAGING & ACCESSORIES
This being a test shot, I didn’t receive all of the final packaging and instructions, but I’m sure we all know what we can expect from FansToys these days. I am pleased to report though that Grinder comes with a plethora of interesting accessories, including some rather unexpected bits & bobs. Amongst the more obvious inclusions is Grinder’s gun and sword, both heavily reminiscent of Grimlock’s weapons from the G1 cartoon, and both featuring light-up parts by the use of a simple switch. He also comes with a spare robot mode head, featuring a comic book-accurate red visor instead of the stock blue, as well as a diecast gold crown, which is again another comic book homage from his time leading the Autobots. Additionally, there’s an alternative forehead piece and a set of red eyes for his dino’ mode, too.


But wait, there’s more! Eager fans will already know that Grinder also comes packaged with a few pieces for other figures, which is very exciting indeed. There are new faces for both Scoria and Soar (technically two for the latter, as it still features a swivel round option), and an entirely new head for Sever, which is perhaps the part that most people will be elated about!

FansToys Scoria (new face)

FansToys Soar (new face)

FansToys Soar (alternate new face)

FansToys Sever (new head)

I like the new faces a lot, though I have to admit that I personally prefer the old ones for both Scoria & Soar; I never had a problem with either of these to begin with, and I like the cartoon-accurate all-red face option for Scoria that is included with the original figure. Sever’s new head is an absolute revelation though! Very few were at all satisfied with the original figure’s head as it was, with many detractors often using it as one of the main examples of how they believe that FansToys “cannot do faces”. Personally, I don’t believe that sentiment to be true, but there’s no denying that this particular replacement is a very welcome correction on a black mark in their run of previous releases. So much better. The only question still unresolved is how fans who prefer their Iron Dibots with red eyes will be catered for, as this doesn’t appear to be included.


There is also a new set of hinges to go on Soar's legs, this time made out of sturdy diecast instead of the previous plastic.


ROBOT MODE
So, let’s kick off by looking at Grinder’s robot mode. Now I, like many collectors, was not too impressed with the initial line-art reveal of this design, as it looked to be an all-too-stylised, overly bulky interpretation of Grimlock’s G1 cartoon appearance. Fortunately, a few tweaks through the design process have honestly worked wonders, as Grinder appears in finalised form looking nothing short of incredible. In fact, I’ll hasten to add that he’s just about everything I would want in a Masterpiece-styled Grimlock.




But wait, we already have an MP Grimlock, no? Well, yes, and I’m a big fan of that figure too, but I will reserve comparisons for a little later on. For now, let me say that I am super impressed with what FansToys have cooked up here. Grinder is a very stylish design indeed – big, bulky & beautiful. He looks like an absolute brute!





No doubt your first impressions will be what you would expect from a FansToys figure by now, as Grinder is both solid and sturdy in hand, with plenty of diecast to give him that premium feel. He’s also remarkably poseable, and I immediately found lots of fun in cranking him through various stances whilst taking photo after photo. He’s good looking, playable and remarkably expressive. For a ‘bot with no eyes and no mouth, I find it’s amazing just how much emotion he’s seemingly able to convey!




Not to sound like a broken record, but I have to say how relieved I am with how much I think FansToys have nailed Grimlock’s look in this mode. As well as the initial line-art, there were some early sample pics posted on-line that gave many people pause for concern, appearing to show that Grinder had some odd proportions and an awkward silhouette. In fact, the reality couldn’t be further from this. He’s very sleek and expressive, and I think does a great job of representing the intended character as we know him from the G1 cartoon. As much as I do love MP-8, there’s no doubt that his overly hulking shoulders were not exactly indicative of the somewhat sleeker form seen in the animation. Here though, I think FansToys have found a really good way of translating the cartoon look & proportions, whilst still allowing the bulk required for transformation into dino’ mode. The general look is cartoon-accurate enough for my liking, and, in keeping with the rest of the Iron Dibots suitably echoes the Masterpiece “look” as set out by the likes of MP-10 (even if more recent official Masterpieces have evolved to a more extreme cartoon-stylised look).



That’s not to say that there aren’t some elements of Grinder which don’t deviate a little from what we might have expected. Fortunately, the wrist claws are just about the most obvious example here, with many of the more stylised elements being evident in dino’ mode. Perhaps my only other real grumble of note with this mode is the robot’s neck – it’s a little frustrating how it sort of sticks out a little when the figure is looking up, and it has a habit of not quite appearing completely natural in certain poses. Still, a nitpick really.



As much fun as Grinder is to pose, this is of course multiplied tenfold once you introduce his trademark sword and blaster into the mix; I challenge any collector to not enjoy posing this figure with its weapons.






Of course, there is the alternate head with the red visor for those of you who prefer a toy accurate look, though this also works exceedingly well with the crown accessory for you comic fans. Both options look nothing short of incredible.





So, an awesome robot mode, no doubt, but how does it stack up against some of the obvious comparisons? Well, for my money there’s two main alternatives to this figure right now in the Masterpiece arena, so let’s compare him up to both MP-8 and “Reximus Prime”, the oversized KO of that figure. As I said, I’m a massive fan of MP-8 and still think it’s a great figure. Yes, it’s too small, but that’s a retrospective problem as it was released before the current MP scale was introduced. Still, there is no doubt whatsoever that Grinder is a much better fit, scale-wise, with a modern MP collection, and as I say I definitely think he apes the cartoon look better as well. As for Reximus, I’m sure that some will prefer his tremendous size, but I still feel that Grinder is the better fit, personally. I guess it ultimately comes down to which design you like the look of more.

With MP-8 Grimlock (with Scoria's 'boots' accessory)


With KO "Reximus Prime"

As for comparisons with other MP-styled figures, judge for yourselves. I think that Grinder fits in tremendously well in this mode, myself.

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

With MP-22 Ultra Magnus

With MP-21 Bumblebee, MP-20 Wheeljack, MP-30 Ratchet & MP-18 Bluestreak

With FansToys Tesla

With FansToys Sovereign

Of course, the main comparison here should be with the rest of the Iron Dibots crew, in order to judge what kind of job Grinder does at finishing this team. Well, let’s just say that it’s an absolute delight to see them lined up together like this, and I have no doubt that the FansToys-faithful who have been collecting this line from the beginning will be more than happy with the end result. Again, Grinder is arguably a little bit of a departure in some ways, design-wise, and I believe may have even been designed by a different person to the other four, but the overall look is there and the five figures are an absolute joy to behold as a team.

With FansToys Soar, Stomp, Sever & Scoria





TRANSFORMATION
I’m going to keep this section unusually brief, as Grinder’s transformation is really very simple. I was asked on social media how it compares to MP-8’s, which is itself an absolute doddle, and I confidently reported that I think this is even easier! There’s a couple of bits that make it so, including the way the chest wings and dino’ head fold together, and the way in which the robot mode legs more confidently snap together and tab tightly. The overall scheme feels really quite fluid and slick. Even better, it can be done within mere minutes, which I think really adds to Grinder’s play value. And that’s it! Simple & effective.

DINOSAUR MODE
Even MP-8’s detractors would generally tell you that they think the look of the dino’ mode is pretty spot on, and so it was always going to be a challenge for FansToys to cook up something that better captured everyone’s imagination of the cartoon look whilst still feeling different to the original figure. The initial reveal of the Grinder prototype gave us a T. Rex mode that was altogether more stylised and arguably more anatomically correct to what we had before, and it’s perhaps not what everyone was hoping for. Still, now that Grinder is here, how does he look? Pretty awesome, as it turns out!




The dino' mode is very sleek, and looks good from all angles. It also works well in both a traditional '80s Grimlock stance, and a more modern upright pose.



So, here’s the thing. This is no doubt a bit of a departure from Grimlock’s cartoon look in dino’ mode. The head in particular is styled very differently from the animation model, even if the overall result is still unmistakably meant to be the Dinobot leader himself.



I guess you either like the new look or you don’t – I can’t make that decision for you. However, I will say that it works a lot better in hand that I thought it might, and you very quickly get used to the more animalistic T. Rex look. It's certainly very expressive!




Oh, and if you’re still not happy then FansToys have already confirmed that they will produce an alternative head for this mode at some point, so hopefully that’s most people’s worries put to bed. For my money, this is already a cracking dino’ mode, and with a new head has the potential to be the definitive Grimlock; it’s that good.



The bulk, the detail, the proportions… they all work so well here. Grinder look and feels absolutely brilliant, and I’m amazed again at just how expressive he can be with a few simple movements. The teeth are very prominent on this figure, and they certainly add to making Grinder look quite terrifying. I had great fun posing him with his jaws wide open ready to attack! I also really like the little cannon inside his mouth.



As with robot mode, there are options to be had here, including red eyes and the (even) more dinosaur-accurate forehead. It’s a very simple swap-out, and does leave Grinder feeling quite expressive, though I must confess I prefer the standard look myself.




So, a really nice dino’ mode overall, but how does he compare with the other options we examined earlier? Well, there’s no doubt that the MP-8 mould has the better head, in my opinion, though I’m intrigued to see what FT produce in the alternative head option that’s coming. Other than that though, it’s a pretty close call. I would say that if FT can nail the new head then I will very likely prefer Grinder overall. It probably helps that the whole mode also holds together better, free from some of the gimmicks that forced a lack of tabbing on MP-8. Reximus Prime may also be impressive for his sheer size, but the abundance of silver paint is a turn off for me with that figure, and stops him feeling more at home with some of the rest of my collection.

With MP-8 Grimlock




With KO "Reximus Prime"

Speaking of the rest of my collection, Grinder does an admirable job of lining up nicely with various other MP-styled figures, as you can see.

With MP-10 Spike

With MP-21 Bumblebee, X-Transbots Glider & FansToys Stomp

With FansToys Scoria, MP-20 Wheeljack & FansToys Stomp

With Hasbro Masterpiece Optimus Prime

With MP-9 Rodimus Prime

Season 3 group shot

And now for the main event. Grinder was always going to be sold on how successfully he lined up next to the other Iron Dibots, and I’m pleased to report that I think he works excellently! It’s a genuine thrill to see the five dinosaur modes standing side-by-side; in fact it’s almost like the end of an era! There’s no doubt for me that the Dibots have been one of the best 3P collecting experiences so far, and I’m just absolutely thrilled to see how it’s all turned out.

With FansToys Scoria, Soar, Sever & Stomp



CONCLUSION
So, the Iron Dibots are done. FansToys have finally brought us the figure that concludes this epic collecting journey, and by no means does it disappoint. The robot mode is an absolute corker, and the dino’ mode, whilst stylised, is perhaps not as much of a departure as we might have first imagined. Also, he blends exceedingly well with his Iron Dibot comrades.

I’m still very interested in the new dino’ head that FansToys have said they will produce, especially as I can’t help feeling that it will turn this figure from highly worthy purchase into something absolutely essential. If the new head turns out to be a success, I will likely revise my final rating to a 5, put it that way…

No more FansToys Dinobots then, eh? It truly is the end of an era… Wait a minute, PerfectFusion who?

What's HOT?
Lots! The robot mode is brilliant, and the dino’ mode (whilst highly stylised) is also great. He’s lot of fun, sturdy and very poseable. Oh, and he fits brilliantly with the other Iron Dibots.

What's NOT?
Some will be turned off by the stylised dino’ mode, no doubt, even though there’s a new head on the way. The robot mode neck is a little annoying.


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10 comments:

  1. What decals do you use for your FT dinobots?

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    1. Mostly I use Ocean Decals. They're dry rub transfers as opposed to stickers.

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  2. As someone who prefers the toy look for Grimlock's dino mode, Grinder just looks near-perfect, especially with the head. Never liked how slender and goofy the cartoon model looks in comparison. Love that it still comes with the crown and red eyes too. I never had much interest in MP-8 since comics Grimlock is "my" Grimlock, but this is extremely tempting.... it's going on the wishlist for sure. Thanks for the review, your photos are beautiful and informative as always! :)

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    1. Thanks for the comment! That's great to know that the review was useful. :)

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    2. Agreed. I was most disappointed with takara's effort because the T rex head didn't look like the toy. Can't wait to get Grinder in hand.

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    3. Hope you will enjoy him when he arrives! Shouldn't be long now...

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  3. great review and awesome photography!

    how would one put the autobot symbol onto grinder's chest? it looks like that smoked plastic piece is held on by screws from the inside?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you very much! I think the only real way to apply it is by putting it on the outside of the clear plastic piece itself. I haven't tried it yet, but can't see how else to do it really.

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  4. Ha I like more robot dinosaurs too! Don't blame you for keeping both. Loved the review. Thanks!

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