Sunday 15 May 2016

Fanstoys FT15 Willis Review

fanstoys ft15 willis masterpiece hound review

Truck, F1 car, Police car, Porsche, Jeep.

Ask any 80's kid to reel off Transformers vehicle modes they remember and each of those will be right at the top of the list. Originally planned to fulfil the role Bumblebee ultimately did, Hound's alt mode is iconic where his character is not. In fiction he's never really done a great deal or been deeply fleshed out, despite being one of the most popular characters. Sad really.

Despite being in the full sway of the Masterpiece carnival, Takara have yet to give us an official Hound. Of course it was only a matter of time before a third party would step in with the tonic for our impatience, and here we have Willis, Fanstoys first step into the Masterpiece style carbot arena that everyone seems to want to be in.

He comes loaded with stuff, so much stuff, and as a Hound fan I have high hopes. Very high hopes. Unreasonably high hopes.

Continue after the jump to see the full review of Fanstoys Willis, and please keep in mind that this is a test shot.

fanstoys ft15 willis jeep

You will notice in the pictures that one of the mirrors is conspicuously absent which is due to a breakage before it reached my hands (blu tak is holding it on in the other picture).

Usual caveat of "this is a test shot, things are more breakable" applies, but I don't believe it's an issue that will be exclusive to the prototype. Problem is, it's a thin fragile piece that sticks as you move it, rendering it tough to avoid breaking. Fanstoys really should have put more time into addressing this flaw.

Maybe the wing mirrors will be altered for the retail release - fingers crossed because if not then there are going to be a lot of disappointed owners of this figures.

fanstoys ft15 willis jeep grill

An icon of mid 20th century warfare, and 80's kids TV shows, Fanstoys have recreated the dark green Willy's Jeep with wonderful reverence. This thing appeared everywhere from flipping over in the A-Team to WWF being ridden by DX towards a cowering WCW. It's a classic and immediately recognisable as one of the most famous vehicles in the world. If I had a large model of the A-Team van, there's no way this review would not have been littered with pictures of Willis pursuing it.

There are a few interesting details along the gorgeous sculpt, more so than your regular Masterpiece car. For a start he's got the signature silver winch with the big "W" sculpted right up front, which stands for "Willy's", not winch...or Wimpy. Sitting behind the winch are other signature jeep features like the grill and circular lamps.  Separate indicator pieces sit on the mud guards along with the poseable wing mirrors that I mentioned in memoriam at the top of the review.

So there are a lot of extra pieces coming off of the car that aren't just marked out with paint.

fanstoys willis gas can spare wheel

Detail is pretty sweet across the whole beautiful alt mode (you gotta be able to tell I am a fan). A fuel cap is sculpted and painted in silver on one side, whilst the interior has a steering wheel (that loves to pop off) and tiny little details that are supposed to represent foot peddles- unless someone wanted to put a bar chart there.

A gas can and spare wheel cover clip on to the back, with the cover lacking the silver star that was present on the corresponding piece with G1 Hounds toy. Fanstoys have left this blank I assume to match the cartoon or original car, leaving it plain, boring and crying out for that dash of panache the star bought the original toy.

Paint is used all over the toy and is applied very cleanly from the small features to the larger areas of the Jeeps body . Nowhere has it started chipping away which suggests it should at least be robust as this guy has been through a lot of hands at this point. Fanstoys have a reputation for putting a great finish on thier figures and Willis is another shining example of that.

fanstoys willis rubber tyres

Fanstoys Willis comes with more accessories than he can carry - literally.

The vintage toy came with a gun that only mounted in this mode and Fanstoys have taken to homaging that for better or worse. His traditional silver rifle and thin black machine gun peg into two holes on the Jeeps bed, with the latter having an interesting hinged piston system that someone added because they felt like this toy needed a bit of flash. Like that was the thing that needed the extra care.

A silver star on the back would have sorted that.....not letting it go.

Hound always has a shoulder cannon, and here it is quite wonderfully realised even if the way it attaches to the Jeep is not. In order to connect it, you need to plug it into a separate black peg adaptor. Hang on...what year is this?

You might be saying "come on Liam, you could just leave them in the box, transformers always come with superfluous bits that don't work in all modes" and I can't argue with that. Doesn't change it feeling like such a half hearted, lazy solution. Would it really have taken too much extra work to integrate that piece into the launcher? Or the jeep itself?

fanstoys masterpiece hound jeep

Rubber tyres are provided for the discerning collector (raises bourbon glass) and it feels like a very Fanstoys addition. Personally, I'm of the "prefer plastic tyres" persuasion, owing to some (not all) G1 toys I've had in the past where the rubber tyres cracked as if by magic. Not cool magic like Paul Daniels turning an egg into an orange, but annoying magic like David Blaine standing in a box.

The wheels themselves do roll, sort of.  The front wheels roll freely and are loosey goosey, where the back are pretty tight and won't roll freely by simply pushing along a table top.

I'd hope that's just an issue on the test shot as there's nothing that requires it to be this way.

fanstoys masterpiece hound willis

As an 80's kid I of course have an affection for military vehicles and this is a great puller of those heart strings. There's loads of detail and if a Takara Masterpiece Hound looks like this I will be thrilled. I don't care much for scale, so his size bothers me as much as an ant walking across my garden does when a toy looks as stunningly good as this.

I'd be tempted to just have it sat like this for all time if someone would make me little scale Hannibal Smith and BA Baracus figures that can sit in the drive seat (I'm more of a Howling Mad Murdock kinda guy though).

fanstoys ft15 willis masterpiece hound

Let me get this out of the way, this is not hard - it's just frustrating. The actual transformation steps are straightforward in terms of what you have to do, but the process of doing them will make you grind your teeth.

His arms, oh his arms. Objectively all you have to do is rotate them into position but in order to get clearance, a few parts have to be moved into specific, non final, positions at the same time to allow the arms to fold. Once you've folded them out into place you recognise how clever it is for the arms to tuck in as they do under the bonnet in the first place - it's just maddening getting them there and getting them back.

A thin rail connects his upper and lower body and you have to use a modicum of force to slide it into place. It feels strong but at the same time it's an easy thing to identify as a potential breakage point - so go easy.

Some clever tricks do emerge, it's not all teeth grinding, such as the mud guards sliding up to sit higher and the rear wheels folding in to the legs with a satisfying click. Willis hands detente into his wrists slightly and popping them out for transformation is an oddly cathartic process that eases the disappointment of the car seats just sitting there on the ankles.

We have come to expect a "Masterpiece Moment" during the transformation of any Masterpiece or Masterpiece-a-like figure, which isn't something Fanstoys Willis manages to produce sadly.

The moments here are mainly aggravating.
fanstoys willis extra face

Willis does an amiable job of replicating Sunbow G1 Hound. All the show accurate details are there to an obsessive level of detail. Honestly, take a look at the animation model then run a mental check list whilst looking at FT-15 Willis - is anything missing?

Two heads are included, one the original white faced version that caused the fans to pick up their pitchforks, and the other a much nicer silver version which came about when Fanstoys conceded the other was not a looker.

Originally the white face was intended to be the default, but early pictures weren't flattering. In hand it is nowhere near as bad and it demonstrates that often a photo can be deceiving. Still it's not perfect, and faces have long been Fanstoys Achilles heel (Tesla!), so a replacement face was welcomed and the new silver version is a far more Hound's soul capturing beast.

Boxy heads are unmistakeably Hound  like, even if the faces are still a mixed bag.

fanstoys ft15 alt head

Articulation is hit and miss as he has all of the points you would expect - but so much is hindered in some form or another.

His shoulders sit behind the mud guards, which prevents his arms extending fully in front, but that's always going to be an issue for any Hound figure based on the vintage Jeep. Care has to be taken when moving the arms as the edges of the wing mirrors sit against them and it would be very easy to catch them by mistake which will have you rummaging through the toolbox looking for the super glue.

"It's all in the hips", said ghost Carl Weathers, but sadly not in Willis case. His waist section is a solid piece, with no flaps to allow his legs full forward movement. I'm making that sound like he is static, he isn't, there is a decent movement there but look at the photo above, specifically his right leg, and that is as far as it can bend due to being blocked by the hip skirt which is a solid, flap less piece.

Willis has a huge ankle tilt but as it leaves an enormous gap owing to the connection being at the very edge of his leg. If you are looking for something exciting, well he does have a small amount of toe movement which makes for fun walking poses.

The poor lads head can look up and down but as it's on a hinge it can't look at you disappointed, and there is an unsightly gap left in his neck.

Blimey, a lot of needless griping there right? After all Willis is going to spend most of his life stood on our shelves in a fairly bog standard stance. But it's a buildup of  design choices that feel half hearted in execution and designed just to work rather than with that element of flair and style we've come to expect from Fanstoys.

fanstoys hound back

With so many accessories included it is no surprise that they don't all go somewhere in both modes even if in 2016 it feels like they should. His spare wheel cover and fuel tank can slide onto the folded wind screen - but they don't feel like they should. Heck, they even block the shoulder cannons articulation if you do pop them there.

Amusingly, the wheel and fuel cannon both have clips that fold away which is severe commitment to aesthetics or a sign that they are supposed to do something else.

fanstoys willis guns

Three different guns are included - only two of which he can wield in robot mode. Familiar MP hand slot/tab system is in play to hold either the small silver pistol (from the cartoon) or the larger silver rifle (vintage toy). Only the pistol looks good in his hands being perfectly scaled and clearly the weapon FT put the most work into realising. The rifle suffers from looking undersized and awkward which isn't helped by the alt mode mount hanging off the bottom, apologetically folding up under the wrist.

We are all used to the Masterpiece Datsun/Lamborghini molds rifles and this feels like it matches those in looks but is much punier. The reason for this only became clear whilst I was mowing the grass earlier, and musing on this topic whilst trying to avoid crushing innocent snails - the gun is sized for alt mode. Stuck on the back of the Jeep it looks fantastic and that is because they sized it for that specifically. This goes back to what I was getting at earlier with the half hearted approach of just making things work, and not putting in that extra bit of work to make them perfect. 

One last accessory is included, but was MIA before Willis arrived at casa del Liam, and that is a scuba mask which is based on one of the episodes of the cartoons where Hound used it underwater. Did he need to breathe!?

80's cartoon logic.

fanstoys willis masterpiece size

When talking about Willis qc, there is not a great deal wrong with this test shot. Most of the joints are tight, some super tight, and its myriad problems stem from actual design choices over quality control. 

A piece of the sole of his foot loves to fall off, but I'd hope that's just  down to it not being glued properly. Everything else, like the fragile wing mirrors, feels like it is working as intended - you just have to be very careful. If you don't mind that responsibility being put on your shoulders you will be fine and an argument can be made that these are collector figures and we know going in to handle them gently.

I say that, but then the joints are all rock solid, the die cast adds some serious heft and everything else about him feels robust and designed to throw at a wall and do more damage to the wall - so it feels a little schizophrenic that such a solid toy has a couple of moments that you have to dance around. For the price these figures cost, and the idea that they are designed specifically for the fans, then issues like the fragile wing mirrors are not something we should expect.

Hopefully it will be fixed for retail, though I'd suspect that would take more extra work than Fanstoys are likely to put in at such a late stage.

The only other thing to mention is that the mud guard with the yellow star hangs loosely off the side and doesn't lock into place as snugly as the other side. Again that is something that should be corrected or may just be a result of wear on this test shot.

fanstoys ft15 willis gun

If you are looking for a Hound to slot into your Masterpiece shelf then this will do the job perfectly well. All of the elements you are looking for are present and stick him in between Prowl and Sideswipe and he'll blend in like Solid Snake under a cardboard box.

It checks all of the boxes and is an excellent figure when you look at everything it offers up. Fantastic joints, strong articulation, accuracy, a stunning finish and an overdose of accessories ranging from the expected to the most obscure. All of the fine details are painstakingly recreated, but in a sort of sterile way that is missing a touch of personality. With the fragile wing mirrors, and accessories designed with only half a job in mind, Fanstoys Willis feels designed just to fill a gap rather than to truly stand as it's own entity in spite of potential official competition down the round.

Clearly if you are buying it then it is to fill in as Hound anyway, but perhaps that is the key point, despite being a good figure brimming with positives - it never truly shakes that feeling of being a stand in.

Please do remember that this figure is a test shot so may not be reflective of the final product. 

You can order Fanstoys FT15 Willis, and many other transforming robot toys from TFS Express who kindly provided this sample for review.

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Currently listening to: ACDC - Back in Black


  1. Dude, you crack me up!

    The BBC gave Hound a camera and mating tortoises to whisper at.

    The CW deluxe has the most Houndlike face since '84 just look at it and you know he's your grandad as a young man and you automatically trust him. Which is what Hound should be like.

    The frog chorus is vibrating the window blinds like bad techno or a faraway fire alarm. I have a dim memory I'm meant to do something tomorrow...

  2. got mine in today and was missing the gas can

  3. got mine in today and was missing the gas can

    1. Sorry to hear that. Hopefully you can get a replacement

  4. Great review! I have willis and gundog, and I gotta say, I love gundog and hate the other. He looks very nice, but I hate the transformation, vowed to never do it again. And the feet on mine are really wobbly, he can barely stand. Gundog, on the other hand is a joy to transform, and is rock solid on both modes. I became a fan of maketoys after despotron, and gundog made even more so!