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Those Wonderful, Wacky Dinobots!
Matt - 10/06/00

It's time to talk Dinobots. I haven't done a Transformers post for a full month, and for me, that's kind of like skipping church for six weeks while your grandmother's getting tested for cancer. There's something unsettling about it. As penance, I'd like to discuss the only Autobots with artificial intelligence that didn't seem to work...the Dinobots.

It all started innocently enough. The Autobots were pretty much limited to cars, while the Decepticons had everything from seeker jets to guns to cameras. The power of diversity was obviously on the side of evil. Something had to be done. For whatever reason, those cooky season one Autobots absolutely refused to believe they too could fly, so making some jet Autobots wouldn't happen for a long time. And they weren't going to be labelled as 'those unoriginal robot idiots' by making their own camera...they caught enough flak after Blaster hit the scene. So where did the Autobots turn? Earth's prehistoric past.

The Dinobots were born.

It wasn't a bed of roses from the getgo though, no sir. Most of the Autobots' personalities were based on clam shells and cans of paint. But the Dinobots? They had personality...maybe even a little too much personality. So much so that their naive stupidity allowed Megatron to trick them into fighting the Autobots! Defy Prime? Are you insane? The last Autobot who defied Prime was a little-known guy called 'Arsoo', who'd we later know as the female Autobot, Arcee. Do the math. You don't fuck with Optimus Prime.

Luckily, cooler heads prevailed, and the Dinobots became a mainstay in Autobot battles. Grimlock, the leader of the crew, won the heart of millions of children across the globe due to his gratuitious use of the word 'butt'. There were other Dinobots too, but they weren't nearly as cool or anywhere near as interesting as Grimlock. If you need proof that these 'other' Dinobots were disposable, just take a look at Transformers: The Movie.

It's pretty hard to care about a character when the animators themselves forget him. Such is the case with Snarl, the Stegosaurus Dinobot. Snarl's part of the battle against the Decepticon gestalt Devastator...that is, until the animators forget who he is and leave him out. Not for a few minutes...for the entire duration of the movie.

What happened to Snarl? Well, anyone's who's anyone who's spent some teatime in the old Transformers newsgroups can tell you - nobody knows. Unfortunately, the mystery is so profound that no self-repsecting Transfan will even talk about it. It's one of the three ultimate taboos of Transformers fandom, and these are three taboos you need to learn if you ever hope to be accepted into the inner-circle of geeks who contemplate getting a Decepticon insignia tattoo...someday.

Now, here's the three taboo questions and topics to avoid when dealing with these so-called Transfans....

1) Never pose the question: 'Who would win? Unicron or the Death Star?' This pisses off Transfans to no end. If you want a real life equivalent of this situation, walk into a gay bar and start pointing out the plot holes in Spartacus. It's not quite the same effect, but you'll get the idea. Steer cleer of the Unicron/Death Star issue.

2) Never ask anyone why Rumble and Frenzy were blue and red on the show, but red and blue in the toys. Don't ask me why this causes such a stir, but it's the easiest way to immediately outcast yourself in the TF community. You've got to understand, these Transfans have heard this question so many times, hearing it drills a hole through their collective brain. The idea that there'd be some deep, philosophical meaning over what's obviously a slight lack of attention given to two minor characters while making the toys is something that's beyond me - but the point is...just don't talk about it, mmmkay?

3) Never ask what happened to Snarl! The Transfans have debated it for years...endlessly trying to conjure up some justification for his mysterious dissapearance. After a ton of bouncing back and forth between plausible reasons, eventually, they all agreed: nobody really cared. It's not like fucking Snarl was the heir to the Matrix or anything. Prime still would've died is Snarl was around. Megatron still would've been transformed into Galvatron. And yes, despite all your fantasies, the movie would've still included some pretty inappropriate scores by Stan Bush. Give it up already.

Now that all that's out of the way, let's get back to the topic at hand: Dinobots. Christmas morning, some year that escapes me. Presents addressed to me, signed from Optimus Prime. My brother was one cool guy. Inside? The Dinobots action figures. You know how when you were young, sometimes you'd get a toy, and for some unknown reason, it'd strike you as particularly valuable? I likened these Dinobots figures to sheer gold. If I ever have children, they won't get treated with half the care I gave ol' Swoop and Grimlock.

My friends and I idolized the Dinobots. They were our heroes. And it worked out so perfectly, since they were so non-threatening. Let's face it. He-Man may have been cool, but there's something unsettling about worshipping a oily guy in his underwear. That's why I tore all my Randy Savage posters down in the 4th grade. I didn't really like any of the good guys on G.I. Joe, and it probably wasn't in my best interests to consider Cobra Commander, a guy whose greatest talents are trying to kill innocents and kidnapping scientists, a role model. Then there was the endless stream of secondary toon heroes...Sectaurs? Model yourself after an insect? I think not! Food Fighters? C'mon. The Dinobots may have been stupid, crude Autobots with a penchant for Kup's war stories, but at least they were respectable.

Having the action figures was a way for us kids to remind ourselves of who we wanted to be. We weren't buying them because they looked badass, that was just a bonus. We were sold on convictions alone! But Hasbro can't make their project sales estimated based on convictions. They needed to really reel us in. They needed...a commercial.

So let's take a look at the killer ad Hasbro threw at us. If you thought you could resist the Dinobots before, this would definitely kill your spirit. Hasbro spares no mercy with the almighty Autobot shill!

Resisting Grimlock was hard enough. Resisting Grimlock in his raunchy heroic pose was even harder. Resisting Grimlock in his raunchy herois pose with the classic Transformers logo brandished over him? Impossible.

Things started off in the usual way, a short cartoon clip. It was a necessary deal, because let's face it, the toys didn't always exactly match the cartoon, and it's important for kids to know which action figures they're going to break ten minutes after buying them. But don't misjudge this as some lame identification-only drill, the cartoon clip features Soundwave, quite possibly the coolest Decepticon ever. You know, if you exclude those other two. I always say Cyclonus is my fave Transformer, but that's sort of like a hardcore Dave Matthews fan saying their favorite band is Phish. It's all for the underground effect. Soundwave was my fave. A guy who actually did his job right and could shoot four more cool Transformers from his chest? But hey, Soundwave will get his credit another day. We're here for the Dinobots.

Grimlock has a special feature aside from the ability to transform from robot dinosaur to robot...robot. He also had chomping jaw action! Articulated teeth were almost as big as neon and dogs in clothes back in the 80s - so calling Grimlock hip would've been an understatement. They also reeled us in by painting certain parts of his body shiny gold. Oh, you remember shiny gold. We just talked about it in the previous article here about The Legend of Zelda. Shiny gold equals cash dollaz, my friends.

Seeing is believing, and boy, can those jaws chomp or what? Our Decepticon sacrificial lamb this time I *believe* is Dirge. It might be Thundercracker. Oh I don't know. They all end up as Sweeps anyway, don't they? Shit, I think that's the 4th taboo topic. Anyway, Grimlock finds immense success in biting on the jet's wing, thus proving his worth as a top warrior in the Autobot ranks.

Little James is proud of his Grimlock toy. James wears red, his power color, to feel confident. But with Grimlock at his side, he could be wearing pastel pink. It really wouldn't make a difference - that Dinobot is all anyone needs. James would find future success trying to convince us that we needed the Nintendo Power Glove in a later commercial. And since he did that, it's pretty clear that the guy's one hell of an actor.

Ergh. Jealous. I've said it before, and I'll probably say it six dozen more times by the time someone hacks my site and deletes my dream. These commercial kids had it made. When I played with toys, the battlefield was a carpet. If I was lucky, it was a black towel on top of the carpet. But these lousy commercial kids got a true-to-scale mountain to play on. It's no wonder they got so into it. It really heightened the whole animism aspect. Seriously, it's pretty hard to get into the 'toy mindset' when the bad guys are instituting an all out war on top of your Charlie Brown bedsheets. These kids had the perfect setting - and they got paid for it! Lousy fucks.

If Hasbro can't woo you into buying their toys, they'll flat out scare you into buying their toys. The commercial closes out with an image that haunts me to this very day. An image no sane person was ever meant to see...

AUGH! Evil morphing Transformers kid with the devil eyes and the satanic voice NOOOOOO! This kid was at the end of pretty much every Transformers commercial. The pic here is actually pretty lightweight compared to the others, where he does the full-fledged transformation into an evil Decepticon. I guess all the Children of the Damned liked Transformers toys, I don't know. In any event, I'm pretty sure this was Hasbro's way of getting you away from the television set and into the toy store. God knows I wasn't going to sit in front of the tube if that thing was gonna be on it again.

And now the Dinobot circle was complete. They were popular on the show. They were popular toys. They had kids quoting them. They had kids trying to be them. Think about that. Such high honors usually only go to pop stars who get Barbie figures modeled after them. What's that mean? The Dinobots top the charts, yes sir. And, like that guy from Spaceballs said, it's all about merchandising. The Dinobots' reign continued...

Books, videos...hell the guys were even immortalized on those switch plates you bought but never installed. They did it all. And it wasn't all due to the well-oiled Hasbro marketing machine. And it wasn't just because they were Autobots and Autobots were univerally cool. It's because these Dinobots...they were something special. So today, which I'm pretty sure is some kind of dinosaur landmark anniversary but I'm too lazy to check...we pay tribute to the only Autobots who didn't need to be voiced by Judd Nelson or Leonard Nimoy to get over...those wacky, wonderful Dinobots!

- Matt
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