The Commish Online                                                                                
Transformers: Truly More Than Meets the Eye
January 23, 2009

Christmas.  The jolly holiday where kids are inundated with toys and parents are inundated with requests to get the toy out of the box, put batteries in the toy, make the toy work, explain why “yes, that’s all it does,” pick up the broken toy thrown across the room, and explain why “no, you may NOT get a new one young man.”  Deep breath.

Exaggerations aside, holidays with kids always means frustration at every level, but usually it’s worth it to see their smiling faces.  Usually.  Not always, as in the case with my new arch-nemesis, Transformers.  At the risk of sounding old, BACK IN MY DAY, Transformers were well-made toys that would easily transform from something like a car to a robot.  In other cases, some would transform from a robot to the much less intimidating cassette tape.  I’m not too familiar with the history of Transformers (Autobots and Decepticons come to mind), but I’m guessing the cassette tapes could secretly hide in the boom boxes of bad guys everywhere until the time came to unleash their crazy robotic skills on a surprised group of dancing fools.  Older readers, please take a 2-minute break so anyone under the age of 20 can Google “cassette tape” and “boom box.”

As confirmed over the holidays courtesy of my relatives and an old toy bin, some Transformers were even made of metal – you know, that stuff they used to make cars out of in the ‘70s.  Now, the Transformers are made out of plastic even a Chinese factory would be embarrassed to admit producing.  I checked to make sure that Santa didn’t give my child the “shrapnel” Transformer, but that didn’t stop the thing from launching plastic pieces in violent fashion with every twist and turn: an arm here, a jet plane wing there.  It’s as if the toy had seen enough in its life and couldn’t be manhandled another day so it fought back the only way it knew how: self-destruction.  Yes, today’s Transformers suffer from a lack of quality, but it’s the complexities that create the most frustration for parents like me.

Targeted at children barely old enough to put a spoon to their mouths without ending up with a lapful of milk-soaked Cheerios, some of these new Transformers require advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and robotics.  High test scoring in spatial reasoning and problem solving is a must.  If you can’t solve a Rubik’s Cube in less than 36 moves, you are never going to change the robot with 65 moving parts into a pickup truck with instructions detailing about 6 movements when 73 are actually required.  Oh, and if you are working with a Transformer that becomes a car or truck, a couple of years experience in a Detroit auto factory can’t hurt.

Notice I said “working” instead of playing?  Thanks to production advancement, these so-called toys have evolved more into real-life replicas and less into playthings.  Yes, it looks exactly like a Ford F150, but you need two adults to disengage the arms so that playing may commence.  Somewhere there’s a level where a child can be entertained with his toys and still think they look and act realistic without requiring constant adult help.  Until the maker of Transformers finds that level, I’ll be hiding in my room listening to some old tapes on my boom box.