With the 20th anniversary of Beast Wars happening as we speak, it's a good time to look back at the series and toyline that revitalized Transformers and helped make the franchise what it is today. And where else to start but with the yellow kid-appeal character? Thanks to a donation of toys from BaCon, RAC takes his first look at the original Deluxe Cheetor, one of the first four figures in the Deluxe size class that persists to this day!
Click on any photo to go to the gallery!
Cheetor's Beast Mode is naturally dated... but I can't help but think of Titans Return Alpha Trion when I look at it. Both share traits like minimal poseability in Beast Mode - though even with his limits, Trion takes this one by a hair. Cheetor simply can't move as a kitty. Maybe the back legs, just a little, but that's it.
He's also the least sleek cheetah you've ever seen. He looks a good bit better if you remove the gun from his underbelly - which also gets rid of the barrel/nozzle sticking out on his chest - but the shapes of the remaining figure aren't terribly streamlined. Also it leaves the robot head exposed. So I'd say it's best to live with the chunky cheetah.
He's also best seen from the sides or front, as there's a little bit of Robot Mode spilling over into the back of the hindlegs. But there's also a lot of sculpted surface detail in the form of fur texture, and while the face might not look precisely like a real cheetah, it's an appealing generic big cat.
Pretty simple, though getting some parts locked in properly going back to Beast Mode may take some light alignment. Also, the hinges for the shoulders are stiff enough that trying to move the piece by the arms is liable to pop them off the ball joint. Nothing you haven't seen before, because much of this engineering is still in use today.
But what to do with the cat head on the chest? All the original art & promotional photos show the head pointing downwards, but that leaves a big gap in the chest and overlaps the skirt plate. You can leave it pointing forwards, which puts it in the geographic neighborhood of where it wound up on the CGI model, but it makes him super-thick front to back and gives a kind of Wade Duck
vibe. It's also not that stable on this original run of the mold. My compromise, like I'm sure a great many people before me, is to point it about 3/4 of the way down where it wedges in nicely and fills in the chest from a few more angles.
It's kind of startling when you look at how smooth Cheetor's Robot Mode parts look. That makes for a nice contrast compared to the intricate fur sculpting on the Beast Mode, but with what came before and what has been done since, he looks very light on detail. (Which, if you want to justify it in-story, does make him look far more steamlined than what came before!) But really, so much of everything before and since has been so much more detailed that Cheetor stands out. Which is probably not really a bad thing, especially for the mascot character of a new direction for Transformers. The metallic blue plastic this mode introduces is really attractive, and the gold paint looks good as well. And I really like his headsculpt. It's very basic, but undeniably Transformers in appearance.
It's also worth noting: by modern Deluxe standards - themselves representing shrinkage from the high point around 2010 - dude is short
. This is what $10 bought you in 1996... which compared to 2016 dollars is roughly $15 accounting for inflation, so price point-wise that's about right! And while he's short, he's also dense. He feels heavy for his size. Excepting some small hollows in the inner thigh, everything is solid plastic and that's just not done anymore. You're probably getting more plastic than you do now at an equivalent price point.
Articulation is good with some structural limitations. The head swivels. The arms would pretty much work as they are today, with good mobile ball joints, an upper-arm swivel, and hinge elbows that have the maximum possible range due to transformation. The waist does swivel a bit, with some fudging of the skirt armor needed beyond a certain point. But the hips are not great. The bulky thighs hit the surrounding areas and you can't move his legs very far forward. Outward, yes. Backwards, for miles! But not forward. But they're ball-jointed and balance is no problem. The swivels above the knee and the knee itself work pretty well as well. He's not super-poseable, but nor is he a G1-style brick.
Cheetor has two accessories. The backside and tail of the cheetah come off to form a gun for the robot, as does the part on the underside I mentioned before.
While the tailgun is just a standard rifle, the infamous "gut gun" earns its nickname not just because it forms the belly of the cat, but also because it has a carefully sculpted digestive tract on top in gun mode. Something about that is just so `90s. I don't know if the guts on the gun have a bladder (never took robot cat anatomy in school), but they are
one: the gut gun is a water squirter. I'm... kind of not going to test that feature on a 20 year-old toy that's probably been in somebody's basement for a long time!
There's one last feature here: Cheetor's head flips down to become a Mutant Mask, giving him a monstrous, insectoid face with nice creepy eyes. The pronounced fins on his robot head become mandibles for the mutant head! These were never used in the series and were phased out after the initial round of toys, but even so I kind of like it.
Variants & Stuff To Look Out For
There's three variations of this specific Cheetor. This is the original release, with blue cat eyes and gold robot eyes. The next release, also from 1996, had red cat eyes but was otherwise identical to this. The 1997 release had green cat eyes with painted pupils, but changed the robot mode eyes to green which actually makes the figure otherwise less
accurate to Cheetor's onscreen appearance.
Takara released the red-eyed version as well, but then made a running change that gave Cheetor green cat eyes like the US version but also a reddish-orange set of optics in Robot Mode as well as a gold forehead crest. They also introduced a small molding change that lets the cat head face forward more readily in robot mode.
So that's, what, five versions of Cheetor? And we're not done! In 1999 a new version of Cheetor was released to tie in to Beast Wars' airing on Fox Kids, sporting lighter-colored spots, a revised deco, and metallic plastics. And then, ten years ago, both Hasbro and Takara put out 10th anniversary versions of the figure, with Takara's "Telemocha" version being the most show-accurate of all the possible paint jobs. So that's eight variations of this mold not counting Tigatron or Ravage. Whew!
Odds are very good you're going to end up with a loose Cheetor if you go hunting. Good news is that as long as he's got his two guns, there's not much else he can be missing that won't be very conspicuous, like arms and legs.
If you're not choosy about which particular version of Cheetor you get, you can get a loose and complete one for less than $20 shipped in the US on eBay. Sometimes significantly less than that, even! The Fox, 10th and Telemocha versions seem to be the most expensive, but as frequently as this toy was issued there's no shortage of supply. Be patient and you'll get a good deal. But, should you? In my opinion, yes: if you want a Deluxe-sized Cheetor it's this or the Universe 2008 version, which is a much nicer cheetah but a terrible
robot. Outside of the impending Masterpiece, this remains the best version of this Cheetor design.
Cheetor is one of the first figures from the modern Transformers price point structure, one of the first wave of the first figures to be called Deluxe class. And while there's some things here and there that date the figure, like the detail levels on the robot parts, it's still a pretty nice toy with articulation that you'll easily recognize from modern figures. And it has some fun features that would rarely be replicated, like intestines on a watergun and a creepy alternate face. Considering this is a figure from the days when Transformers were nothing but
fun toys for kids, I think it has a respectable amount to offer adult fans too.
Deluxe Cheetor Gallery Image Gallery