Thursday, 11 October 2012

TV Review - Thunderbirds 2086

Thunderbirds 2086 was one of my favourite childhood cartoons mainly because being a little bit like Thunderbirds meant Dad tended to watch it with me (though he's more of a Supercar man). I've long been intending to do something on the site about the show but faced with some resources consisting of the 1983 Grandreams annual and about half of the episodes I've never felt particularly confident doing much.

I'm not even sure why the show is set in 2086 when it was broadcast in 1982 (Japan) and 1983 (USA), though it didn't hit the UK until 1986. For one thing I'm not sure of the origins of the series. Oh, I know that it's a dubbed version of Scientific Rescue Team TechnoVoyager (the last often Romanised as TechnoBoyager). But I've heard two completely different origins of the dub. One is that Jin Productions basically ripped off Thunderbirds, which was shown in Japan; indeed, the initial import of diecast Dinky toys to support the thing inspired the Japanese toy industry to eschew tin and vinyl in favour of diecast and ABS, thus leading to basically the entire content of this site in a chaos theory way. The original show itself was probably a considerable influence on the likes of X-Bomber (brought to the UK as Star Fleet). That the vehicles carried 'TB' was a pure coincidence due to the Romanisation thing. Incidentally, diecast wizards Popy did plan to release combining toys of the TB vehicles but unforgivably only got as far as a prototype - a drool-inducing picture of this beautiful unicorn can be seen to the right. 24 episodes were made, though the show was cancelled after only 18 were screened. ITC then found out and presumably by hook or by crook acquired Western rights, did an English dub, slapped the Thunderbirds trademark all over it and broadcast it in the West in 1983 - I'm guessing it was shown elsewhere but it only seems to be in Blighty that it made any sort of impact.

The other option is that it was made completely with the co-operation of ITC (but not Gerry Anderson) as a co-production with being an update of Thunderbirds being planned from the start. To me that would have the advantage of passing Occam's Razor if it wasn't for wondering why Jin didn't use the Thunderbirds brand in Japan. Maybe someone else had already licenced the name and they had to broadcast it, or maybe they wanted to distance themselves from an old show. Could be anything, I'm no scientician.

Anyway, the series itself - beyond the chest-pounding title sequence which used early computer animation and employed the single greatest voice over in the history of anything - isn't actually great shakes. The starring players are pretty off the shelf types, including the head of International Rescue Organisation's nephew Skipper fulfilling the child association role (read as: you'll really hate him) and the usual touchstones for this sort of thing (impossibly good looking hero, crazy black guy, grumpy but fair team commander, spunky girl, space cowboy). Mainly they face the same sort of ecological and man-made disasters as the Tracy family did back in the sixties while there are also some genuine bad guys in Star Crusher and his Shadow Axis. Their arc was cut short with the show's cancellation, however, and in the dub at least there's very little sign of a real over-arching storyline.
The show has never been released on DVD, possibly for copyright reasons or just as likely due to a lack of interest. Various episodes were issued on VHS in the UK during the late 1980s through to about the mid-1990s, though never systematically and often jumbled on budget compilations with pukka Anderson stuff. Thus the episodes below are VHS (or maybe even TV) rips uploaded to YouTube.
As mentioned Grandreams did put out an annual for the Christmas market in 1983. It's pretty cobbled together. The strips were actually made in-house while most of the colour images are clearly grabbed from colour spreads in the same books and often blown up far too much - the incredibly grainy, fuzzy character models being the prime victim. It's main plus point is that it can be found cheaply if you shop around.

So that's about the extent of my knowledge on the show. Here are all the episodes I have. If anyone has a complete set please let me know, though I suspect that's only likely if the whole lot (it seems ITC did dub and broadcast all 24) did get a video release.

Thunderbirds 2086 playlist on YouTube

And here's the annual: -

Thunderbirds 2086 Annual (1983), 35.99MB

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Toy Custom - Transformers: Binaltech Trailbreaker

I've been itching to post this thing for ages but I thought reviewing my own custom would be somewhat pretentious and there didn't seem much point as the only other custom I've ever undertaken is slapping a bit of black paint on RotF Sideways. So I thought I'd just do a write-up here.

I say "my own custom" but this is probably one of the easiest customs since everyone realised turning Universe Sunstreaker's head and legs around to make Tigertrack.

The very simple steps are as follows: -

1: Pick up this Binaltech Hound knock-off. It's generally very good quality with diecast parts and substantial retooling from the original. It's basically a re-shelling to make the thing look more like a Hummer. Obviously the scale of the alternate mode is miles off in reality, being the same basic size as the original Jeep Wrangler (it's actually slightly lower). 

There are only two problems with the KO in itself - firstly it's quite difficult to get the shell of the enclosed cab all tight together, usually taking a couple of tries; secondly, the hip joints are very, very stiff which can cause some problems in terms of balancing the guy. All in all though I'd say the toy justifies its' price of $16 in itself. Incidentally I did order my example from Chimung via his site and it arrived very promptly and in excellent condition.

2: Buy a Hasbro Alternators Swindle or Rollbar. This retooling of the Jeep mould was actually intended to be Trailbreaker until some exciting copyright reason or another intervened. While the toys came out in lousy colours with random names slapped on the head cast is unmistakably based on a blend of cartoon/comic and original toy likenesses of Trailbreaker. Get one as cheap as possible - it probably won't be much because no-one liked either figure and both came out at the time the line was beginning to warm shelves. 

The only bit you'll need is the head so if you find some junker with no legs or something that'll do. The heads simply pop off both figures. There's an easily-accessible screw at the back of the Swindle/Rollbar head that allows you to open it up and remove the visor. You can then either paint it red (toy) or blue (cartoon) according to your preference and just put it back together. The generic head off the KO is all-new, so if you're a prolific customiser it can probably be used for something else.

3: Get the Reprolabels' "Classics" Trailbreaker sticker set. The Autobot symbol, windscreen decal and face aren't much use, but the doors of the Movie Voyager Ironhide toy it's intended for are so close to the Binaltech KO it's unreal. I had to trim some of the clear edges off and use a little improvisation around the rear wheel hubs but generally the fit is so good it's hard to believe they weren't designed for the process.

4: For the final touch I just added the Radar Scanner from the original toy. Well, technically it was the one that came with Encore Hoist. With very slight whittling to the width of the end few millimetres of the post it can fit snugly in the screw hole on the back of the head (if done carefully there's still enough of the post to allow it to connect to Hoist). 

It can't stay in there for transformation but it adds a lot to the robot mode. The other change I made was removing the spare tyre as with the additional roof kibble it makes the legs look a bit too cluttered and it adds a little more variety when displayed alongside Hound.

A more accomplished customiser might want to paint his legs and torso silver - I briefly toyed with transplanting these parts from a spare Hound but wasn't entirely sure it would work, besides which I've got very used to the dark green and don't think it hurts the figure. 

So there we go - if I can do it, you can do it too =)