Tools of the Imagination

Tools of the Imagination — Grimlock (Gen-1)

Transformers toyline, by Hasbro, released 1984

Him No Bozo, Him King

Given the uproar that’s been kicked off by the release of the first official trailer for Transformers 4, much of which is centered around the dinosaur-like figure that appears at the later-half of the trailer, it seems like now might be a good time to study up on our resident dino-leader, the King of the Dinobots, the incomparable Grimlock!


Quick question: what’s more awesome than robots that turn into cars and planes? If you said robots that turn into dinosaurs, you’d be right. Such was the thinking when it came to the first sub-class of Transformers, the Dinobots. With a wide variety of origins ranging throughout the different variations of the story, everybody seems to have their own spin on the Dinobots. But one thing that is never questioned is who is in charge: Grimlock.

Grimlock, who transforms into a Tyrannosaurus Rex, is always the leader of the Dinobots and is often jockeying for leadership of the Autobots themselves, typically leading to friction and even out-right confrontation with Optimus Prime. While he is the brains (sometimes a dubious claim) of the Dinobot operation, he’s often the most physically powerful as well.

Oh, did I mention he breathes fire? Because he’s an alien robotic T-rex. Why wouldn’t he?
Appearance – 3 out of 5
This is a pretty average toy. The character looks pleasantly similar to the character from the cartoon and is nicely proportioned. Screws and joints can be seen but they’re not garish and tend to be worked into the overall look and feel of the toy. There are some nice textures but nothing that truly stands out.

Construction – 2 out of 5
Once again, we have to confront an unpleasant truth about the Gen-1 Transformers toys which is that they were not the perfect toys overall. This toy is considerably top-heavy in robot mode and you find you have to extend his arms fully forward just to keep him from falling over. This lack of balance, coupled with some weak joints (principally the knees and the flaps of his dinosaur-mode torso), makes this toy a little unlikely to survive years and years of play.

Movement – 2 out of 5
Grimlock is deceptively disappointing when it comes to movement. At first, it appears like this toy has some pretty decent mobility. But upon inspection, most of the mobility is more due to the transformation process than to simulate movement in robot mode. The hips and knees move only in line with their transformation process, the arms have no elbows, and there are no hip or neck rotators.

Fortunately, in Dinosaur mode, things improve. The tail doesn’t move and the head has a range of motion of maybe 15 degrees, but the legs (the arms in robot mode) sprout knee joints (that go both ways for some reason) that can simulate some varieties of walking and running. This is keeping with the Gen-1 nature of more accurately representing the transformed mode rather than the robot mode.

Extras – 2 out of 5
Grimlock comes with two weapons: a gun and a sword. The weapons aren’t terribly well-made or uniquely designed which, when you consider that there’s nowhere for them to go when he’s in dinosaur mode, makes them feel sort of slapped onto the toy. The gun is pretty standard for Transformers (and most toys) of the era, but the sword is really kind of poor and is little more than a shard of plastic. Add these passingly adequate weapons to his lack of elbow or wrist joints and one almost asks ‘why bother’.

Packaging – 4 out of 5
Transformers packaging was the yardstick back in the day and many toy makers can (or at least should) still learn a lot from them. The ID card with a personal quote, character description, and stats was frickin’ brilliant. The beautiful artwork was just that; art. And the proof-of-purchase points that could (in theory) be redeemed to buy Reflector just added to the near-mythical nature of the packaging.

Overall – 3 out of 5
Like my Devastator review, I’m sure this will cause some controversy. Lord knows, I feel a little ashamed. But this toy, when viewed objectively, has its faults. Mostly in the form of its mobility, there’s a lot left wanting. My single biggest complaint might actually be a little surprising but it’s the lack of size. The Dinobots are supposed to be huge, even compared to the other giant robots they are surrounded by. And they turn into dinosaurs, with their leader being the king of the giants, the Tyrannosaur Rex. Grimlock doesn’t convey that sense of size here. True, most of the Transformers toys were originally fairly uniform in height, but I figure this should have been the first toy to break with that. Optimus Prime might be the beloved child of the Transformers franchise, but this is Grimlock we’re talking about here. This is the King. And the king should’ve been bigger, dammit.

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