Cheesy Toy Knockoffs!

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Optimal Knock Offs: Part 3 - The Optimus Prime Lookalikes!
By Alex Thatcher

When most people think of Knock-Offs or Bootlegs, they think of a copy of the actual product…most of the time that is true. These KOs range all over the place in size, color and quality, from almost perfect reproductions to "just look at it wrong and it will disintegrate". They all have one thing in common; they came from a source - a physical toy that was copied. These are the most obvious KOs, but, in my opinion, there is yet another type, the type that takes someone else’s "idea".

Hasbro would seem to be of the same mindset, as they have gone to great lengths to make sure that they unquestionably own every name of every character, which is why you will see “Autobot Ratchet” instead of just “Ratchet”, for example. Many companies have begun to realize that a name or idea that is popular will sell much more than just a single copy of a product. If you liked the original Ratchet, you are very likely to buy all the later versions of the toy as well and maybe other merchandise that features Ratchet. The same would be even more likely for a leader such as Optimus Prime.

Allow me to introduce you to the Form Changers, or Heavy Trolley-Bot, depending on what box you read. Apparently, the name transforms, as well as the robot, depending on where you purchased it. Who knows? One may actually even be a KO of the other even though one claims a patent and the other claims that "Form Changers" is a trademark. The wording may be different but they both advertise each other on the bottom of the packages and the artwork, aside from obviously being a different character. It is also highly reminiscent of Generation 1 packaging, in size, presentation, and artwork.

The Form Changer version is "Fire Rescue Bot". (Note: The Autobot logos were added and are not included with the actual product). Prime has been a fire truck, which is the first similarity. Second, this robot is very much the same red and it even transforms in much the same way as the original Prime. The head even looks Prime-ish, with a hint of Gundam.

As you can see, the robot mode is garish, with kibble all over the place, and a Kenworth front end with nowhere to go. The front-end trouble may be because it really is die cast, and you can almost forgive it for that, until you see the elf shoe feet. Look at the tips of the toes… you will see what I mean. Do not get me started about the pink gun!

The vehicle mode is amazing. There is no denying that, perfect fit and finish obviously made at a decent factory, not a fly by night place like some KOs. Paint aps in either mode are generous and well done. There are no irregularity or weakness problems with the plastic and die cast, they fit together seamlessly. It has very good details and moving water cannon. The wheels are so cool I actually used them on the Korean Prime in Part 2.  All of this is great but it still does not change the reason these robots made it onto the Cheesy List. They made it on the list because of how silly their robot modes and the heavy borrowing from someone else's idea.

The Heavy Trolley-Bot version does not state what its name is, however, the Form Changer box labels has it as "Tow Truck Robot" (Note: As before the Autobot logos were added and are not included with the actual product). I would like to say that the flames are just like the flames Prime had in the Transformers live-action movie, but in this case, this toy came out long before it, so the flames just appear to be a coincidence. This bot's head is blue and it really shows the Prime similarities, however once again looks like a little cross breeding with a Gundam. One extra add on is an extra push bar type grill and a tow rig platform that moves. He really reminds me of Towline and fits in well with real Transformers toys.

I did not get the last robot in this line called "Truck Robot".  Compared to the two I did get it was rather bland as it was just a regular Kenworth, a regular blue Kenworth.  Once again, this appears to be accidental, as the toy's distribution happened long before the live-action Transformers movie. One heck of a coincidence though.

Overall, these are not bad toys; in fact, these are very well made high quality toys Just between the two I showed - they were not straight repaints of each other. Things like shoulders heads and feet were all different tooling, although they look very similar. They just "borrowed" a little too much from the original, and made a cheesy presentation of it. 

Webster's defines a Knock Off as: a copy that sells for less than the original; broadly: a copy or imitation of someone or something popular.  Other KO's are usually copies, what I have showed in part 3, I think, would qualify as imitations - still within the guidelines of the definition.