Repurposing — where a new toy not meant as an update is turned into one after the fact — is a thing that happens often here in Transformers toyland. However, very few are as delightfuly odd and set up as well as this one. Even fewer are done in any official capacity; it’s usually the fans that repurpose a toy in this manner. (Please see my pseudo-rant on personal canon.)
Beast Wars had done a lot of the animals that one would think a robot built for battle would turn into. The Japan-only series Beast Wars Second was created to fill in the gap after Beast Wars season 1 while seasons 2 and 3 were being translated. The line was comprised almost entirely of repaints and remolds of currently existing toys. Beast Wars Neo followed right afterwards but instead the cartoon introduced a new crew with mostly brand-new toy molds. The story followed a crew of new recruits being trained by the wizened old commander, Big Convoy. To this end, we weren’t being given dangerous cheetahs and rhinos; these new “kids” were a snake, a rabbit, a penguin, a tanuki, and a giraffe.
Longrack, the giraffe, is your garden-variety teacher’s pet. A slave to the letter of the law, he’s very serious and ready to crack down on any scofflaws, heedless of the degree of infraction. Which makes the fact that his beast mode is constantly giving you a raspberry all that more entertaining.
Yes, Japan, the only country that would give us a giraffe alt-mode to begin with, is also the only country that would put said giraffe’s tongue constantly on display. Furthermore, pushing the tongue causes his eyes to roll forward to the point where the white pupils go away.
Setting aside creepy mode — this series is full of them, such as Guiledart’s “dead dinosaur” mode (no kidding) — how grand is this alt-mode? I mean, it’s a giraffe!
Of course, it does have some flaws.
None of which matter as a display piece, his backside faces the back of the shelf, his alt-mode’s robotic rear cavity safely hidden away. For his robot mode, I can just hear the conversation now.
Well, we’ve made a very pretty giraffe, now let’s make a robot. First: what do we do with this long, bulky giraffe neck and head?
Heck if I know.
As effectively as the rest of his giraffe parts fold out of the way, there’s just no getting around that neck and head.
Suprisingly, though very present and hard to miss, it doesn’t hinder his arm articulation. He’s actually pretty impressive in his pose-ability. Now, fast forward six years to 2005. The entire Beast Wars era has come and gone. As have the new shows Armada and Energon. The third series in the “Unicron Trilogy” was Transformers: Cybertron or Galaxy Force in Japan. An homage was created to our brave giraffe hero. Cybertron Longrack was a retooling of the Armada Hoist toy. Longrack’s toy removed the minicon port that Hoist had and replaced it with a slot for a Cyber Key (the gimmick for Cybertron). It also featured a brand-new headsculpt perfectly homaging the original Longrack’s. To add to the homage, the mold chosen was an excavator with a large, extending shovel for a right arm. The shovel was even turned red, matching the original Longrack’s extending claw arm.
Stripes were then added to the left arm giving the semblance of giraffe’s spots in both robot and alt-modes.
Up until this point we’re dealing with two different robots, one an homage of the other, in two completely different continuities. Fast forward another two years and IDW has the Transformers comic book license. They print a mini-series based in the Beast Wars universe in which Longrack comes to the rescue as a part of Lio Convoy’s elite team. Not having been anywhere near a giraffe yet, IDW used Cybertron Longrack as the basis for Beast Wars Longrack’s pre-giraffe mode.
This basically meant Cybertron Longrack was now the pre-Beast version of the American comic book depiction of the Japanese Beast Wars Neo character Longrack. Got all that?