In my former collecting life I had a lot of nice prototypes and test shots. They were from Generation 1, Generation 2, Alternators and reissues, pretty fantastic stuff and some of it completely unseen before and unreleased. I gave that up happily and concentrated on Diaclone. Now that I am buying modern lines again, I have slipped into old habits and decided to pay tribute to the best line of sub-deluxe Transformers I've seen for ages, the Animated Activators, by grabbing as many unpainted test shots as I can find. In this post you'll see Starscream, Bulkhead, Ratchet and Bumblebee. Of course I didn't find Lockdown, no, that would have been too convenient. But sod worrying about what I don't have, time to celebrate what I do!
These test shots hail directly from China where the manufacturing of these toys took place. They are completely unpainted and are moulded in the main colour of each respective figure. The spring mechanisms are all intact and work great, they are virtually production ready just missing paint application and detailing.
One thing that works in favour of these being actual samples instead of lunchtime specials is that the faces are horribly disfigured, and this is common Hasbro practice now, or at least it was around the time of these toys. I recall in 2007 during the BotCon tour of Hasbro's Rhode Island facility seeing a Movie Ratchet with a similarly damaged face. All four of these samples have gashes across their faces. It was either to mark them out as coming from a particular source or route, or to make them less desirable. I hope it's not the latter, because that would mean they really don't know us collectors very well at all!
Another thing that adds weight to their legitimacy is the product/specimen number scrawled on the plastic, something I remember from my Alternators test shots, especially the early ones. You can see it clearly on Ratchet's roof above but most obviously from a distance on Bulkhead's test shot:
Putting prototypes or production samples in early stages of completion next to final production items is what drums home the appeal of this section of Transformers collecting. Alongside that, we have the sublime line of Animated Activators which at the stage of these test shots was yet to fully get underway - at least that's what you'd imagine of samples such as this. Did they know what a brilliant concept and what superb figures they had on their hands? I hope they did, because I didn't. In 2008 and 2009 I wholesale ignored this range of toys and went straight for deluxes, voyagers and leaders. Now that I appreciate these mini-masterpieces for what they are, having a piece of the history that brought them to production means a lot. They look bloody great too, despite the ruined faces and scrawled codes on them. I guess you just have to like this sort of thing.
All the best