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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS SEA SPRAY
By Thomas Wheeler

The Transformers line, as it currently exists, seems to be segmented into two major groups. There is the GENERATIONS line, which has brought back the Transformers Classics concept as well as adding some other, reasonably traditional-looking robots to its inventory, and there is a second line calling itself just "TRANSFORMERS", although the packages have a sticker on them advertising "HUNT FOR THE DECEPTICONS", which has become something of an unofficial suffix for this particular segment of the Transformers.

This segment, it could be stated, is something of an outgrowth of the live-action-movie-based Transformers, and yet in quite a number of cases, the robots are not quite as alien-looking as their movie counterparts who have actually appeared in cinematic form.

I'll be direct here -- I'm truly pleased we've finally got live-action Transformers movies. I'm impressed that the technology exists to produce them as effectively as they have been. Certainly they are visually stunning films. However, while acknowledging first of all that Transformers based precisely on, let us say, their 1980's animated likenesses, would not have been especially workable in the movie, given modern movie-goers expectations, I do believe that many of the designs looked both too alien, and too over-mechanized. This was, of course, reflected in the toys, and I've only purchased a limited number of them myself.

But some of the Transformers in this extended line are not quite as peculiar. Arguably, they could work very well alongside most conventional Transformers. And a couple of them have certainly caught my attention. One of them is an Autobot named SEA SPRAY.

Now, that name, as a single word, Seaspray, represents one of the earliest Transformers from the original Generations One line. Seaspray was a small hovercraft, in the same size range as Bumblebee, Gears, Cliffjumper, Brawn, and a number of others known as the "Mini-Bots", released in the second year of the original Transformers toys, 1985. His original toy was blue, white, and yellow, with some black details.

Years later, in 1993, Seaspray made it into the Generations 2 line, part of a smaller Mini-Bots detachment, this time given a chrome blue finish. He seemed like a slightly odd choice for the group, but a Hasbro representative that I spoke to at a BotCon right around this time explained to me that many of the Mini-Con molds (and doubtless others) had deteriorated beyond use, and that Seaspray was one of the few survivors. Indeed, Hasbro considered it extremely fortunate that Bumblebee, certainly the best known Mini-Bot, had also survived (he was done in chrome yellow).

I looked up some background on the character of Seaspray from an online source. As one would expect, there is information that relates to the Marvel comic, and information that relates to the animated series.

Seaspray's bio on the toy product painted him as even more at home on Earth than any of the other Autobots. Earth's natural oceans are a far cry from anything on Cybertron, and Seaspray's job is to explore as much of it as possible. He loves the thrill of naval battles, despite the risks involved, and hates having to assume his robot mode on land.

In the Marvel comic, Seaspray was originally part of an Autobot group in the "Dead End" region of Cybertron. He was part of the group that went to save the captive scientist Spanner.

Accompanying the others to destroy the Decepticon base, they were horrified to discover that the Decepticons had reconstructed Spanner into the Space Bridge itself. Destroying the Space Bridge as a mercy-killing, Seaspray and his companions -- Beachcomber, Blaster, Warpath, Perceptor, Cosmos, and Powerglide, with no chance of escaping to Cybertron, crossed the bridge to Earth.

It's worth noting that with the exception of Blaster and Perceptor, all of the names mentioned here were various Mini-Bots. In fact, Beachcomber, a dune buggy, was also a toy survivor into Generation 2.

After an attack by Megatron, the group was then captured by the human robot hunter Curcuit Breaker and her team, taken to their lab, and dissected. After also capturing the Aerialbots, Circuit Breaker was forced to construct a giant Autobot under her control to combat several Decepticons who were causing mayhem across America, ending in a battle at the Statue of Liberty. After defeating the Decepticons, the Autobots were released.

Accepting a little possible sideways continuity here, Seaspray next turned up in the UK Marvel comics, in which they encountered the future Decepticon known as Galvatron. After this, they linked up with the main Autobots, only to learn of the apparent death of Optimus Prime. From then on, Seaspray would be seen less, as new characters were introduced. Poor guy never seemed to catch a break.

In the animated series, Seaspray first appeared in the episode "Dinobot Island, Part 2." He is notable for having a rather gurgling voice, more than a little reminiscent of another aquatic character from a completely unrelated concept -- Mer-Man from Masters of the Universe.

His most prominent appearance here was in the episode "Sea Change", when he was sent alongside Bumblebee, Perceptor, and Cosmos to the planet Traal in response to a distress signal. A Decepticon tyrant named Deceptitran had enslaved the planet, and the arrival of Megatron's forces only worsened the situation. Seaspray then fell in love with Alana, one of the leaders of the resistance. After the two performed a daring rescue of the captured Bumblebee, Seaspray learned of the Well of Transformation, an energy source that transformed living beings into whatever they desired. Seaspray entered, and emerged a Traal male (I honestly don't recall the episode well enough to know if he still sounded like he was gargling when he spoke...). However, an attack by Rumble convinced him that he would be more use to the people of Traal as an Autobot, and so he entered the pool once again. Incredibly, Alana entered the pool, and also emerged as a robot. The two defeated Deceptitran and forced Megatron's forces to flee. The two then departed into the sunset.

Pretty intense stuff for a half-hour animated series...!

Like many other Transformers from the early years, Seaspray's appearances declined as newer characters were introduced. His last appearance was in the episode "Thief in the Night", although he was the spokesbot for an unreleased Transformers "Knowing is Half The Battle"-style public service announcement, akin to the same type that G.I. Joe was known for, where he taught kids to always wear a life jacket on a boat.

He appeared during Dreamwave's run of the comics, and although he did not appear in the live-action movie, he is referenced in the video game from Activision, in the form of a billboard for "Seaspray's Fish 'n' Chips" -- although whether or not he's any kind of cook I have no idea.

So, how's the toy? Well, this certainly is no Mini-Bot. It sort of begs the question -- how closely tied to the original Seaspray is this new Sea Spray? Let's set aside the space in the name as a legal necessity and not worry over it. There are quite a few structural similarities. At the same time, this is not the Generations line, with its continuation of the Classics. I think it would be fair to say that this new Sea Spray is certainly intended as a modern, semi-movie-based incarnation of the original character, taking quite a few cues from the original in both vehicular and robot mode -- size and detail notwithstanding -- but unlike the Classics, it's not necessarily supposed to be the same individual.

The colors are similar. The original Seaspray was blue, white, and yellow. The new Seaspray is white, a sort of steel blue, and a deep ochre gold, with some black. His head is mostly black with a gold visor and blue eyes. His upper body and upper arms are mostly white. His lower arms are mostly blue and gold. His legs start out a pale gray, transition to blue, then gold, and end in white and blue. The hovercraft engines perched on his back are also gold.

In robot mode, Sea Spray stands about 6-1/2" tall to the top of his head. That height is increased slightly if you count the hovercraft engines rising up from either side of his back. He has a silver Autobot emblem on the front of his chest, and letters that read "SEA-S.P. RAY", with the word "RAY" in a different type font. This also appears on his lower arms, and they are all part of his hovercraft form, as well. Precisely what "Sea-S.P." might actually mean is undetermined, but it's an interesting way of placing his name on the toy. Sort of like the ones that transform into cars that have their names on their license plates...

Sea Spray's head is an interesting design, and it's here where Sea Spray can best transition from something fairly movie-based into a more general Transformer that can fit into a number of concepts. It almost looks as though Sea Spray is wearing a diving mask and breathing equipment. One would assume that technically, he wouldn't require either one, but the end result is a face that looks distinctly less "mechanized" than those featured in the movies. The back of Sea Spray's head has a clear reflective area, as do many Transformers, which allows Sea Spray's eyes to appear to glow blue when hit by light from the back.

Sea Spray is a fairly bulky robot, which also sets him apart from many of the movie Transformers. He has a wide torso, thick arms, and fairly thick legs. The legs are a rather curious design, almost resembling the legs of a dog or cat, or some other animal where there's that sort of "backwards knee" appearance. Sea Spray has a normal knee joint, if a rather highly placed one, but he has powerful mid-legs that seem to swing back. This is necessitated by his hovercraft form, and it's not too extreme, and certainly the figure stands and poses well, but from a side view, at least, it's a little odd-looking.

Of course, for interesting leg features, we need to check out the feet. Although not apparently all that dramatic at first glance -- although how one might make that determination of one pair of robot feet over another I have no real idea -- if you look at the underside of Sea Spray's feet you'll discover an extra little added feature that certainly aids in Sea Spray's preferred environment -- flip-out swim fins!

The paint detail, although relatively minimal, is excellent. It appears mostly on the head and central torso, as well as the silver insignias. Of course, in robot mode, Sea Spray is superbly well articulated, something that I certainly appreciate about modern Transformers, and is certainly a testament to the current designers, and their (I assume) computer-aided drafting tools -- although I can only guess at what sort of program takes a hovercraft and a fully poseable humanoid robot and puts them together this well -- or any of the other Transformers, for that matter.

Anyway, Sea Spray is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, double-jointed elbows (about the only toy line that can do this and look good doing so), wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles -- not counting the swim fins.

Let's consider Sea Spray's transformation. Interestingly enough, Sea Spray comes packaged in his robot form. This is slightly unusual. And I almost hate to transform him into vehicle mode, since I tend to prefer to display my Transformers in their robotic mode. But, for the sake of the review, I'll just have to transform him into his vehicle mode, and then back.

The first step is technically done for you, out of the package. You flip up the backs of Sea Spray's feet. Then you rotate the lower legs around 180 degrees at a diagonal joint that I should stress is NOT the figure's actual knee joints. Following this, you fold down the figure's back, including the hovercraft jets, and then fold the entire back assembly up and over Sea Spray's head.

Now rotate the upper arms back, and swing open the panels on the lower arms. This is one of those cases where the two-dimensional visual instructions are of only limited help on a three-dimensional toy, and it's been years since written instructions have been provided on Transformers (which is one of the reasons why I try to do my best to provide them in these reviews).

Now swing the upper arms around on their swivel until they align with the shoulders. Then move the arms outward, and swing the hovercraft jets inward until they look like they're pointing at each other.

What follows next is one of the major transformation steps of Sea Spray. Bring the arms up, and link them to what is now the back of the hovercraft. Everything SHOULD snap into place. It's not the easiest thing in the world to do, and alignment can be a bit of a hassle, but between the instructions and some visual cues on the toy itself, you should be able to figure it out. Then raise the back plate and swing the hovercraft engines around.

At this point, Sea Spray should look more like a hovercraft, and less like a robot. What he'll likely look like is a hovercraft with a strange pair of robotic legs hanging off of his front. Don't worry, we'll be dealing with that now.

Swing and pivot the legs around as shown in the instructions. Done properly, this should mean that the sides of the upper legs that have the visible screws in them should be pointing upwards. Then swing the entire former lower torso underneath the front of the hovercraft, and tuck in what is now the flotation cushion. It should align nicely with the rest of the flotation cushion that was formerly Sea Spray's arms.

Reattach the missile launchers to the sides of the hovercraft, and you have successfully converted Sea Spray into hovercraft form! The instructions for converting him back into a robot are shown on the back, and they're pretty much just a reversal of the vehicle conversion.

In hovercraft mode, Sea Spray is about seven inches in length. He looks very much like a realistic hovercraft, and according to online research, he greatly resembles an RNLI hovercraft lifeboat. I decided to look this up to see what I could learn about these vessels.

RNLI stands for Royal National Lifeboat Institution, a charity that saves lives at sea around the coasts of the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, as well as on selected inland waterways.

The RNLI was founded on March 4, 1824 as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck, adopting the present name in 1854 - probably after realizing that by the time they announced to shipwreck victims that "The National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck is here to save you," they'd probably lost a few victims to drowning. It now operates as an international service to the peoples of the UK and Ireland and has official charity status in each nation.

The RNLI operates 444 lifeboats from 235 lifeboat stations around the coasts of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. RNLI lifeboats rescued 8,235 people in 2009. The RNLI's lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved more than 139,000 lives since 1824.

Their hovercraft serve the shores of the UK as a part of the RNLI inshore fleet. The class are of a modified Type 470TD design built by Griffon Hovercraft.

The hovercraft was developed to operate in tidal areas such as Morecambe Bay where strandings by incoming tides can have fatal consequences and where normal craft are unable to operate, for example due to mud flats.

Hovercraft also operate out of Hunstanton, New Brighton, and Southend-on-Sea stations. There are presently half a dozen in operation. They measure about eight meters long and have a top speed of 35 miles per hour.

Based on the picture provided in the online article, comparing Sea Spray to an RNLI hovercraft is -- a bit of a stretch. There's a very basic structural resemblance, but Sea Spray has an enclosed cockpit, and looks far larger and more sophisticated. Heck, even the original Seaspray looked a little fancier than this. No disrespect intended to the RNLI, it's obvious they do good work. And admittedly there may be a certain standardized design to hovercraft. It's not that far removed from the G.I. Joe WHALE if you want to talk about basic shape from the most basic level.

Whatever else, Sea Spray is clearly designed as a transport hovercraft, something his original Generation One mode would have been totally incapable of. There's a ramp in the rear that actually lowers, and according to the online details, Sea Spray is capable of carrying several Legends or Scout-class Transformers in his large, recessed cargo area. As much as anything, he comes across looking like a futuristic, floating pickup truck.

I should note that the fans in his hovercraft engines do turn. There's not much way to do it manually, but much like a pinwheel, an incoming breeze or exhalation will do the trick.

Sea Spray has a character profile on the side of his package, which reads as follows: Many Decepticons believe that while the Autobots rule the land, the sea is safe. Those Decepticons have never met Sea Spray. Crankstart thinks he's safe hidden on a remote African short, but he's about to get the shock of his life. Sea Spray will come screaming out of the surf, turning the beach into a blasted wasteland with nowhere to hide.

His various Power Levels give him a "9" in Strength, a full house of "8"s in Intelligence, Endurance, Rank, Courage, and Fireblast, a "6" in Speed, and a "5" in Skill, which maybe makes sense if he has to blast an entire beach to smithereens to deal with one lousy Decepticon. There's no ranking on here for "Temper", but sheesh...

So what's my final word here? The number of actual seagoing Transformers over the years has been fairly limited. Sea Spray is one of the most notable. And regardless of whether this is an "actual" descendant of the original, the spirit of the character is certainly there, as is much of the form, and it would be hard to argue that this new, distinctly larger and more detailed size is anything other than an impressive upgrade.

He probably doesn't quite qualify as a "Classics" version of the original Seaspray, but he's reminiscent enough, and he's certainly extremely cool and very impressive.

The TRANSFORMERS: HUNT FOR THE DECEPTICONS edition of SEA SPRAY definitely has my highest recommendation!