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By Thomas Wheeler

Out of all the major summer blockbuster movies that had some measure of toy licensing tie-ins, the clear winner was Transformers. Granted, it also had the longest and most extensive track record in the toy aisles, so this was only logical.

Jazz was one of the first Autobots among those to arrive on Earth. Voiced in the animated series by the legendary Scatman Crothers, Jazz loved Earth culture, adding contemporary Earth catch-phrases to his speech pattern. He was a serious warrior, though. Jazz was one of Optimus Prime's top lieutentants, and was certainly one of the most popular characters in the series.

There were numerous versions of Jazz over the years in the toy line, including among the Pretenders and Action Masters. One Jazz of particular note would have to be the Alternator version. Technically, it's not named Jazz. It's named Meister, which is Jazz's original Japanese name. Apparently Hasbro had a little trouble using the Jazz name. Even the movie toy's official designation is "Autobot Jazz". But in the Alternator's case, this is more a matter of "nod, nod, wink, wink, Meister, yeah, sure, right up until I get him home and debox him, and then he's Jazz."

Jazz, like many of the original Autobots, hasn't been seen in quite some time. With the exception of Optimus Prime, most of the names of the most prominent original Autobots have not seen use in the more recent Transformers concepts, such as Energon, Armada, or Cybertron. Nor has Jazz made it into the Classics line -- yet, anyway. With that line eventually returning as "Transformers Universe", I'd like to think that he might be added to it at some point along the way.

Jazz has always been shown to be a very sporty car, generally presented as white with racing stripes and other decorations on him. When he transforms, his head is rather dark colored, and some other dark trim, most often black or very dark blue, appears.

Which is why I have to say that as far as Jazz in the live-action movie is concerned -- this Autobot got stiffed. Don't misunderstand -- he had a sporty enough car mode. Officially, Jazz is a Pontiac Solstice, officially licensed from GM and all that, complete with the GM logo on the package for Jazz. But as he appeared in the movie, Jazz was a solid silver. Period. No racing stripes, no fancy trim. Even in his robot mode he was pretty much just straight silver.

My reaction? If they hadn't introduced him AS Jazz in the movie, I never would've known it. *SPOILER ALERT* - - - He also got trashed by Megatron in the final battle, literally torn in half, and supposedly killed. Dull as Jazz may have looked in the movie, I still thought that was infortunate. Jazz has always been a major player in the Transformers universe, and he deserved better than that.

Target, has managed to solve two problems at the same time. How to bring back Jazz, and make him look better. Apparently somebody in all of this realized that an all-silver Jazz just didn't quite make the grade for those with a long enough memory for these characters. So a special version of the Jazz movie toy was produced. It's still the movie Jazz -- but it has a color scheme more in keeping with the original Generation One Jazz. That's why most fans are calling him "G1 Colors Movie Jazz", or words to that effect.

There's also a Starscream out there, another Target exclusive, with the same gimmick. The movie character in Generation One colors.

In car mode, Jazz is about 5-1/2" in length. I'm not a real follower of cars, so I don't know that much about the real-world Pontiac Solstice, but clearly this is a very sporty vehicle. And it looks darn cool in Jazz's original color scheme. It works so well on this toy that somebody needs to get some of these in the hands of the movie's producers before they get too far into the sequel.

Jazz has been molded in white, of course. Running from the top of his hood over the top of the car and to the very rear is a series of stripes, dark blue on the outside, two light blue on either side, and then a red center stripe. There's a prominent number "4" on the hood and sides, and a sytlized "JAZZ" logo on the doors.

Transforming Jazz isn't too difficult, but it is interesting. The first step, as they say, is a doozy. The entire body of the car past the hood, except for the roof, has to be lowered and folded around and under the front of the car, and then the majority of that section folded down. This ultimately comprises the legs. Make sure you snap what is now the lower torso and legs into the underside of the front of the car.

The next step is a little trickier. You have to split the hood. I was a little concerned about this, as I didn't want to scratch the stripe. But it does work, although the two rotating hinges under the hood are not easily moved. These two half-hoods ultimately transform into Jazz's arms, although this is pretty much the trickiest part of the transformation.

The top of the car is then folded together and pushed into the what is now the back of the robot. This serves to activate one little bit of the so-called "Automorph Technology", which in this case raises Jazz's head. And with that, Jazz is now in robot form.

So, how does he stack up? Well -- Jazz is a little more of a stretch, visually, than Bumblebee or Optimus Prime who, within the particulars of the alien robot design, stuck relatively close to their original counterparts to a fair degree. Probably the closest resemblance is the head, which has the broad blue visor for eyes, and the two protrusions on the top of the head. The back of Jazz's head has been made out of transparent blue plastic, a fairly bright blue, too, so that when light shines near the back of Jazz's head, it makes it look like the visor-eyes are glowing. It's a cool effect.

But I have to admit, I have a little trouble getting around the strange, rather tiny, claw-like hands, and some of the more alien elements of the design. In robot mode, Jazz stands about 5-5/8" in height, actually making him a little shorter than Bumblebee. But this may simply be a reflection of the needs of toy production and keeping them within a certain size range. The Autobots as seen in the movie -- for that matter, the Decepticons as well -- were all over the map sizewise, and it would've been impossible to produce them all to scale with each other in that regard with any sort of common price points.

One thing Jazz has is a good amount of articulation. I've said this on many occasions, but one of the things that was always just a bit of a turnoff with the original Generation One Transformers was how limited their articulation was in robot mode. That particular matter is long in the past, thankfully. Jazz is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, legs, knees, and feet. He's a fairly stocky robot, at least compared to Bumblebee and a few others, so some of these articulation points are a little limited, but not severely.

And I have to say that the color scheme is certainly an improvement even in robot form. This Jazz's structural resemblance to his ancestor may be more limited than some, but the G1 color scheme is certainly preferable to the "all silver" look of the original version of this movie character.

One thing I especially liked was the character profile on the back of the package. More than just a simple repack of the original jazz, they went the extra length to create a new package, as well as a new character profile that basically saves Jazz from the doom he faced in the movie, and explains his new color scheme, as well! It reads as follows:

"During the long process of being rebuilt by Autobot Ratchet, there was a lot of time to think. Autobot Jazz digs his Earth vehicle form, but the silver paint job got scratched too easily, and dust stuck to it like cyberflies on old oil. Also, it wasn't nearly eye-catching enough. Just because he's supposed to be in disguise doesn't mean he can't be noticed. With help from Bumblebee and Autobot Ratchet, he picked this color scheme as the one most likely to get him appreciative looks from all the humans he passes on the freeway."

Now, that sounds more like Jazz! Or, if you prefer, "Autobot Jazz". That designation gets tossed in front of a number of names (Ratchet, too, obviously) the way some G.I. Joes get "Sgt." or "Agent" put in front of their "legal" names every so often. Anyway, it's a great profile, justifies Jazz's return to the group, and explains his new color scheme. Somebody send a copy of this to the movie studio and tell them to use it in the next movie, okay?

Although the Transformers toys -- at least those most closely based on the movie characters, have been in such scarce supply that the only way you know they even exist is because most stores are at least allocating shelf space to them, this special edition of Jazz has been a little easier to find. He's a Target exclusive, which one would think would make him harder to find, but if you're packed in an assortment all by yourself, which I believe Jazz was, then you're going to be a little easier to find than those in a general shipment bix that might have two of one character, two of another, one of a third, whatever. I've actually seen this Jazz fairly readily.

And I am very impressed with him. This is Jazz as he SHOULD have appeared in the movie. So, if you're a longtime fan of Transformers, who always liked Jazz and knows darn well what he ought to look like, or even if you're a more recent fan of Transformers -- whatever the case, the "G1 COLORS" TARGET EXCLUSIVE JAZZ from the TRANSFORMERS MOVIE Collection definitely has my recommendation!