Wednesday, 20 September 2017

RID 2015 - In Retrospect

- Ben Watson

If you're reading this, the chances are you're a seasoned enough Transformers fan to not have taken much notice of Robots in Disguise. It's just the latest iteration of the franchise, it's just the newest flash in a pan right? It'll only last five minutes then something new will come along that'll be just as short lived....Oh wait, it's actually lasted three years. Whoops. Yes, today I'll be breaking down a bit of a broader stroke look at the latest in the long line of cartoon tie-in toylines.

Having technically started around the Christmas of 2014, RID 2015 is indeed now in its third year of occupying supermarket shelves across the globe. It doesn't seem that long? I feel ya buddy. But it's a point worth thinking about. This kind of longevity hasn't been seen in a general kid-centric main line in... I don't know how long. What was the last media married toyline that lasted more than two years? Beast Wars? Dude, that's two decades ago. As such - while it really didn't feel it in 2015 - RID is now something noteworthy. But you probably don't care for the line at all, so why's that a good thing? 

A lot of long form consistency on Hasbro's part can be traced back to the end of 2014. The Age of Extinction line ushered in brand wide design unification that we're still going to be seeing at least into the next year. All the packaging is similar, the logo hasn't changed, Transformers are currently sat at a comfortable plateau that has existed since the last movie. In terms of a child's timeframe, that's forever. There are kids knee-deep in their first helping of love for Transformers that won't have known anything but what is still on shelves today. To them RID is Transformers. Anything Generations they might have seen will similarly have been consistent over the years stretching back to Combiner Wars. Right now - to the kids of the world - Transformers today is one thing and they can expect it to still be tomorrow. 

You can probably tell I'm struggling to get my point across here. That's because I haven't lived in a time when these concepts could apply. I'm talking about the G1 days when Transformers was just "Transformers" not "Beast Wars" or "Energon" or "Prime". RID represents a kind of clean sweep for the franchise. Yes, it's still a distinct line, because us matured goofs need to know where it fits in our overarching histories. However it's been the singular form the franchise has taken from a core media merchandising standpoint for as many years as the entire Unicron Trilogy lasted. Stop and think about that. Feel it. In the playground consciousness, RID must simply be "Transformers".

Of course this year's brief supplement to the regular assortments we have been getting - The Last Knight - has probably shaken that status quo. These kids probably only know of movie stuff from what's been left hanging around from AOE. And (especially considering the content of the film - of any of the films) it isn't for them. They don't know it. They seem to not want it if the state of the TF sections in my local stores is anything to go by. And herein lies a possible issue. If kids really are loving RID (and it must have lasted this long for a good reason) will they be happy to move on to the not-even-in-production-yet Cyberverse series or drop the franchise completely? 

This is where the same long term consistency Hasbro have been working with will need to continue, to allow those kids who really want to carry on loving TFs to seamlessly get on track with the next big thing. While all of us veterans are itching to get there and know what the designs and core concepts and most importantly toys are going to be like, there are kids out there who are growing up with RID. Remember when your first line ended? How did that feel? And here's where such extraordinary longevity also shows its nature as a double edged sword. Heck, even I'm used to RID now and truth be told, I don't really want to see it go anywhere just yet. I'm settled in and my adult perception of time tells me I've not really been for very long. 

"What?!" you decry, "But it's all cheap baby crap!" Yeah, well it isn't. While the greater volume of the line as a whole is One Step Changers and whatever other simplified gimmick guff you can pull off a Tesco's shelf, it has a rock solid core set to appeal to all TF fans. Age of Extinction was generally a huge letdown because of its lack of one thing (at wider retail): regular plain Transformers. A purest vein of mid price-point Deluxe goodness was brought back in RID with the Warriors assortment (along with Legions too). And as the kind of fan I am, this is where I found something worth enjoying in the series. 

Larger size classes seemed to be missing at first, "No Voyager Grimlock or Optimus?" but after these years of this being the norm, I can't help but feel there's something wholesome about just having a host of deluxes. It's consistency again. To me, RID means a box full of fun colourful deluxe guys. No need to worry about expensive boxsets or more massive figures, RID is at its core, the most important TF price-point and nothing more. And even in this limited range, it offers imaginative new design. If Generations mines the beginnings of the brand, RID is pushing its frontier into the future.

At first the animalistic Decepticons were a bit of an annoyance to me. I'll still take overblown military vehicle villains over anything else, but this represented a new direction that proved a source of really unique new character design. For me, where the line really started to come into its own was (admittedly oxymoronically) where it put out more G1 feeling pieces like gold Grimlock and Starscream. Then it ran with the ball of more "classical" TF designs and scored with brand new hits like Blastwave and Stormshot. 

The line will always play second fiddle to Generations as long as it continues but RID has for the last few years.been a dependable source of easily obtained fun (unless you want Ratchet...). There's a comfort in that. There's a security in that. Chances are if you want to wander into a shop and pick up a TF on a whim and your timing is right, RID has your back with something not necessarily a must-have but not totally throwaway either. It's not the greatest, but for an almost unequalled span of time it's provided a steady stream of figures pushing what's seen as "the average" just a little but higher. For that, it's worth a note in the annals of TF history and maybe before it leaves us, a little of your time. If you've left it this late, that is. 

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23

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