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Remember When Toys Were Fun? Hasbro's $575 Unicron Figure Takes Almost an Entire Hour to Transform

Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.

A year ago, Hasbro revealed a massive 27-inch tall Unicron figure that, despite an equally gigantic $575 price tag, still managed to find 8,000 backers to help officially put it into production. The figure is impressively detailed, but in a recent blog post sharing the progress on Unicron’s development, it was revealed the figure takes almost an hour to completely transform.

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The post, which can be found over on the Hasbro Pulse website, reveals the enormous packaging the figure will eventually ship in, but it also shares a handful of questions and answers with Mark, a Senior Graphic Designer at Hasbro, who explains the process of creating the instruction manual for the toy—which in this case turned out to be a 32-page instruction book. Compare that to a standard figure’s more typical double sided little sheet of paper, and you might get an imagining of just how bonkers that is.

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When asked how long it actually takes to transform Unicron, Mark reveals it’s going to be an arduous process. “If I follow the instructions I can convert Unicron in about 50 minutes to an hour. If I try to freestyle I can get a good ways there and inevitably run into something that slows me down or have to undo a bunch of steps because I forgot to rotate something. And it usually ends up taking me longer.” That sounds more like a part-time job to me.

As a child of the ‘80s, I grew up with the original Transformers G1 toy line. In the accompanying animated series, the Autobots and Decepticons could go from robots to their alternate modes in less than a second, but the toys took a little longer, maybe a minute or two, if you were really playing it safe. (Busted arms and lost legs weren’t uncommon if you were in a rush.) It was still a process, but re-arranging limbs, flipping wings around, and rotating torsos (while quietly making that “CHK CHR CHA CHK CHEE” sound effect to yourself) was a big part of the fun, and rarely did the transformation process require you to glance at the included manual—those were included to assist your parents or that cool uncle who wanted to join in on the fun.

Hasbro’s original Transformers G1 Optimus Prime figure (re-issue) (Left) compared to its Transformers Studio Series Voyager Class Optimus Prime figure. (Right)
Hasbro’s original Transformers G1 Optimus Prime figure (re-issue) (Left) compared to its Transformers Studio Series Voyager Class Optimus Prime figure. (Right)
Image: Hasbro

Today’s Transformers toys are a completely different story. Thanks to over three decades of improvements made to the manufacturing process, the figures can be pumped out with infinitely more detail than their ‘80s predecessors, and I’ll be the first to admit they look fantastic as a result. The toys no longer awkwardly stand like rigid toy soldiers but can be posed to match their characters’ lifelike appearances in the movies, comic books, and animated series. They’re far more durable too, allowing very small details to be repositioned or rotated during the transformation process without easily snapping off so that vehicle and other alternate modes look just as fantastic. However, you’re all but guaranteeing yourself a mountain of unneeded stress if you don’t follow the included instructions step by step, scrutinizing every illustration to ensure you don’t miss the smallest step.

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I understand that the added detail equals added value, and today’s Transformers collectors, many of whom are former ‘80s kids like myself, are more interested with perching their nostalgic childhood tchotchkes on a shelf, often left in the original packaging, and only enjoying them from a distance. (It’s also what’s led Hasbro to create its new six-inch R.E.D. Series with figures based on the original animated series that forego transforming altogether.) Most of my recent Transformers purchases are sitting on a shelf too, but it’s mostly because I no longer get any joy from the transforming process. It’s now long and complicated, and I’m sure part of the problem is that I’m suffering from “old man yells at cloud” syndrome, but the name of the toy is the whole point of the toy, and transforming a figure shouldn’t feel like something you need to add your already lengthy to-do list and make time for.

Even though I’m still mostly stuck at home for the time being, I don’t think I can carve out an entire hour to solely dedicate to transforming a figure like Hasbro’s new Unicron unless I was being paid to do so for work. Sure, at $575, most collectors who backed the toy are probably planning to treat Unicron with more care than their own children, and may never actually transform it at all, similar to Lego collectors who never open the box or build the sets, which is equally confusing to me. But Unicron represents the extreme of what Transformers toys have become. I respect the talent and craftsmanship that goes into their design, but I will always want my toys to be toys first and foremost. If I want to find myself raging over a confusing instruction manual, I’ll buy something from IKEA instead.

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DISCUSSION

Question: If you purchased a $575 planet-sized figure that is basically a puzzle toy for hardcore collectors, would you want it to be easy to transform? Personally, I think the complexity is part of the appeal of any puzzle. If this was intended as an everyday-toy, I’d totally agree it is a hassle, but that’s not the intent, or at least I think it isn’t. Opinions may vary of course, as the article demonstrates.