Monday 15 March 2021

Toybox REVIEW: Transformers Studio Series 86 Jazz

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Release Date: December 2020
RRP: $19.99/£19.99

Arguably Transformers: The Movie’s biggest claim to fame is how it killed off the majority of the existing cast (aka toys no longer on the shelves) in order for Hasbro to bring in a whole new one (aka toys that were on the shelves), but there were a handful of the classic 1984-85 cast that did manage to survive the kind of cull that other toy-advertising cartoon franchises could only aspire to. One of lucky survivors was Optimus’ culture-loving right hand man Jazz, so it’s only fitting that this particular member of the original Autobot crew found his way out of the War for Cybertron trilogy range and into Studio Series 86 instead. Between these two toy lines Transformers fans have been spoilt for choice when it comes to classic G1 characters, and Studio Series 86 Jazz was an important release in completing that classic Autobot line up.

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The deluxe series Jazz comes in standard black/red/light blue Studio Series packaging, which features both the Transformers: The Movie logo and a nice big “86” on the front and spine to let you know that this is a special offshoot of the line. Jazz has also been marked as the first release in this initial range of Studio Series 86 figures (fitting as he was the first of these characters to appear in the franchise as well), so there are also a few “01”s dotted about to let you know exactly that. The packaging features some phenomenal new artwork of Jazz too, featuring a perfect grin that honestly I wish the toy had as well. On the back you’ll find the usual Hasbro renders of the figure in both modes, as well as some text telling you that this release represents the “Moonbase One Destruction” and a one-sentence bio describing that particular scene. Inside the box you’ll find Jazz and his sole accessory neatly stored on a plastic tray, held in place with a few elastic ties. Just behind the inner tray you’ll also find the instruction leaflet.

It’s worth noting that Jazz comes packaged with the car doors on his back unfolded, however these are meant to be folded up when in robot mode. This is pointed out on the instructions, but you might be like me and not actually look at those until it comes to trying to transform the figure.

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Jazz’s inner tray/backdrop diorama depicts Moonbase One, which is where the Autobot is stationed alongside Cliffjumper until Unicron comes along and destroys it. The moon base pictured is prior to Unicron’s arrival, so is both clean and and features a nice view of Cybertron from a window in the background. Though the scene itself isn’t quite as prominent as some of the other ones chosen for these Studio Series figures, this is easily one of the most detailed and well-designed backdrops. As usual I wish there was a version that could fit more figures on, but I suppose if both Jazz and Cliffjumper can fit on there comfortably then that’s enough. Like the rest of the releases, the base section is solid red with a blacked out area at the front sporting the Transformers: The Movie logo.

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There have been a lot of Jazz figures over the years, but I feel that this is the one many fans have been waiting for (outside of a Masterpiece offering of course). No gimmick of the year, no modified design, no door wings - just a solid and most importantly cartoon accurate G1 Jazz figure. There are some differences to the deco which I’ll talk about further down along with alt mode as well as some added moulding to make it pop a little more than the flat cartoon model, but otherwise it’s a pretty incredible representation of the Jazz we saw battle Decepticons between 84 and 85 before being guzzled by Unicron a year later. Jazz would pop up now and again in season three, but with his iconic voice actor Scatman Crothers passing away following the movie’s release those were just silent cameos. Despite being part of the Studio Series line the figure has been designed with the current War for Cybertron figures in mind as well, so should scale perfectly with his main crew that have been released over in that line.

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The other benefit you’re getting from a classic-styled Jazz figure in 2021 is all that fantastic articulation that figures in 1984 probably couldn’t even dream of having. Altogether this includes; 
- Ball jointed head
- Swivel hinge (outer) shoulders
- Hinged (inner) shoulders, elbows, knees, ankles and "feet"
- Bicep, waist and thigh swivels
On top of all that the wrists are hinged so that they can flick inwards, but that's by product of the transformation rather than an actual point of articulation.Since Jazz’s design is considerably blockier than any of the movie-debuting guys the articulation feels a little different on this one, but there's still some surprises packed into here. The hinged wheel sections on the torso acting as additional shoulder joints (on top of simply flipping around to reveal the wheels in alt mode) are a really nice touch. As are the knee joints, which the lower leg can unclip from to create a pseudo-double hinged knee. It doesn't add a lot to overall poseabilty, but it's a fun bit of engineering nonetheless. The sheer number of swivels Hasbro have packed into this body are fantastic for getting a wide number of action poses out of this guy with ease, and the continued use of ankle rockers (as well as Jazz's own hinged foot pieces) so a great job of keeping the balance. I don't think I'm ever going to tire of the ankle joints on these figures, because combined with Transformers' generally large feet they make posing an absolute joy. 

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Jazz’s sole accessory is his photon rifle, which is a great likeness to how it looks in the cartoon - so much so that they even painted the thing silver to match the colour! Technically the gun doesn’t actually appear in the movie itself, but Jazz’s appearance is so fleeting that there isn’t really anything movie-specific this figure could have come with anyway. Honestly the fact such a prominent member of the 1984 crew was in it and survived all the way to the end is an achievement in itself.

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Jazz has a 20-step transformation, which is relatively straightforward but has a few little fiddly bits that require a bit of caution. The majority of the transformation is fine and simply involves moving different pieces one at at time before collapsing Jazz into that car shape (the waist-turning step is particularly interesting), but the end of it mainly involves clipping all the different pieces together like one giant puzzle. As if lining up fixing pieces together via tiny clips wasn’t stressful enough, Jazz’s entire roof section is made of clear plastic - including both the hinges that hold it together and the clips that fix it to the back. One little bit of misplaced tension and one of those areas will almost certainly snap. With caution it’s not too bad, but when you’re turning it back to robot mode and unclipping the back the worry of those clips snapping straight off is always there. There are also clearance issues when it comes to moving the bonnet pieces around that could easily result in paint chipping. It’s not a terrible transformation by any measure, but it isn’t quite as seamless as the other Studio Series 86 figures. In vehicle mode, Jazz has a peg hole in his roof to fix his weapon as a mounted gun turret, which can rotate a full 360 degrees. It looks a bit silly, but then so does pretty much all the weapons storage these figures have.

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Jazz transforms into a Martini Racing Porsche 935 - or at least as close as Hasbro can get to that these days. Naturally any sort of Martini branding was immediately off the table, but sadly so is the “4” numbering on his doors for the exact same reason. Instead this has been replaced with a “14”, which is a clever reference to Porsche 935 Turbo being the 14th release in the original Diaclone toy line. You can’t get exact cartoon accuracy with a figure then this is exactly the kind of cool homages I love to see on figures, but I understand that’s not for everyone. Ultimately that’s the issue with these older Transformers that were based on real-life Earth vehicles - you never know when likeness rights are going to come into play. The later characters aren’t really based on anything, so their alt modes tend to get more accurate over time. But despite the branding all changing (and if you really care about that there are third party sticker kits out there that can sort that out), the colours and striping are all in the right place - to a Transformers fan it’s undeniably Jazz. It’s a nice little alt mode with free rolling wheels, and while it might not seem quite as out there as the 86 characters it definitely scratches that classic Transformers itch.

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It’s been a good few years since the last Jazz toy, and as easily the most cartoon-accurate one there has ever been Studio Series 86 Jazz is bound to please a lot of Transformers fans. With his blockier design Jazz stands out amongst the currently available Studio Series 86 figures, and though the fiddliness (and possible fragility) of his transformation makes him fall a little short of the others this is still a great figure and brilliant update to this classic G1 character.

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