Toy Wizards Contributor: Steve B. Chu
“I have summoned you here for a purpose!”
With those fateful words, the Chaos-Bringer, Unicron, summoned Megatron to became his new herald in the 1986 Transformers Animated Movie. 33 years later, Hasbro summoned people to attend an event showcasing their newest crowd-funded project: a new Unicron toy.
During the Thursday evening of San Diego Comic-Con, Hasbro invited a small group of people to an intimate gathering at a location well away from downtown San Diego to take a closer look at a prototype of Unicron. To promote the product, Hasbro turned to Transformers celebrities both past and present. Making an appearance were Flint Dille and Ron Friedman, two of the creators behind the 1986 Transformers movie and the 1980’s GI Joe show. Voice actors such as Greg Berger (Grimlock), and Paul Eiding (Perceptor) also attended. Moving ahead from the G1 days, creators from the current Transformers comic were introduced, as were members of the Hasbro team, and members of the design team from Japan.
While the design team made preparations, Filnt Dille and Ron Friedman both regaled the crowd with stories of Orson Welles and the creation of the 1986 Transformers movie, while Gregg Berger told tales of the G1 recording sessions. But for many, the largest star of the gathering was the impressive unpainted prototype of Unicron. A painted Unicron prototype is currently on display in the Hasbro booth at San Diego Comic-Con. A second prototype, an unpainted version, was shown at this small gathering.
Up close, Unicron is a marvel of toy engineering. Creating a Transformer that is capable of converting between a sphere and a robot is not an easy feat, but the designers have achieved that goal here. A quick history: Unicron was never made into a mass-produced toy following the 1986 movie. It is a subject of Transformers legend that a prototype toy for Unicron was created in the 1980’s, but never put into production. The prototype of this toy is widely considered within the fandom to be among the “Transformers Holy Grails” of collecting. Fast forward to 2003, and Hasbro released the first toy version of Unicron as part of its Armada toyline. That Unicron design has proven successful enough to merit multiple releases, and in different colors. While the 2003 Unicron design has been generally praised, it is not without room for improvement. Enter the current design for Unicron, which would be the largest and most impressive undertaking to date.
Fresh off the success of the HasLab Star Wars Sail Barge, Hasbro has now turned its sights to two other brands: Sesame Street with its Cookie Monster project, and Transformers with the Transformers War For Cybertron: Unicron. If funded, Unicron would stand 27 inches tall, a new record in the Transformers line, surpassing even the Titan Returns Metroplex and Fortress Maximus toys.
As discussed among those in attendance, funding Unicron will not be without challenges. Priced at $499.99, the Sail Barge required a minimum of 5,000 orders before it would be put into production. After a lengthy plateau, a powerful late push drove the order numbers for the sail barge to 8,810, far surpassing the 5,000 unit minimum order requirement. By comparison, Unicron is priced at $574.99, and requires a minimum of 8,000 orders. The higher cost, and order count is likely due to the amount of new tooling required to make such a large toy with a new design. Some event attendees noted that Star Wars collectors have a proven track record of paying high prices for quality items, whereas the Transformers fandom is relatively unproven. The Transformers fandom is younger, and believed to be less willing to spend money on a high price point item. This crowd-funded Unicron will test the Transformers fandom. Will the fandom like Unicron enough to meet the minimum goal of 8,000 orders to send Unicron into production? Or will this project miss its target? Time will tell. It is likely, however, that the success or failure to fund the Unicron project will affect whether and how future Hasbro crowd-funded projects see the light of day. As of this writing there are 1,617 backers out of the 8,000 required for Unicron.
And remember, let us hope that Unicron has not “misjudged” us. Many Transformers fans have asked for an improved Unicron design. That design has now arrived. Whether the Transformers fandom will successfully fund this project is another question, to which no one knows the answer. This much is certain, this Unicron is very impressive in person, and many fans hope that the project will follow the Sail Barge as a successful Hasbro crowd-funded toy.
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