I read a post by my friend at Pax Cybertron that got me thinking about third party transforming toys, and I thought I would lay out some definitions, and some thoughts of my own
Why are third party toys "Third Party"? Well, they are third party because Transformers as a registered trademark are made by two Companies, in partnership: Takara/Tomy in Japan, and Hasbro in the good old USA. Anything else is a Transforming Toy, but not a "Transformer". Third Party companies make toys based upon their own designs, or sometimes based upon original Transformer Designs with some alterations, but usually make characters based upon the fictional universe (cartoons, comics, books, movies) of Hasbro and Takaras creation.
Why do Third Party Companies make toys based on Has/Tak characters? On this I can merely Speculate. There seems to be a lot of thinking that it's a cynical attempt to steal the thunder and the money from Has/Tak, and yes I'm sure profit is a motivation for these 3P companies, but I can't buy that it's the whole thing. I can't believe that because you have Knock-Offs, and then you have Original Designs
Gee Mr Wizard, what is the difference? A knock-off uses an existing figure and recreates it in the same or different colors, or slightly alters it, usually to make it simpler or cheaper. Examples would be KO Masterpieces, and Igears Faith Leader(in essence a scaled down copy of MP01). I'm also including the Art Feather Bumblebee in this because he uses the exact same engineering/internal frame as Classics Bumblebee.
An Original Design (my definition) is an homage to an existing character with completely unique and sometimes highly innovative engineering- good examples of this would be ToyWorlds Orion or their Trace, or Igears Weapons and Medical Specialists.
So Why do I differentiate one from the other??? In my Considered opinion, companies that design a new Transforming figure from the ground up, to represent a character from Transformers Fiction, do so as a labor of love, to create a character they want to have in their hands. I believe they are fans too, trying to create what they love and Has/Tak either hasn't gotten to or dropped the ball on- for further on this, my post on PP05W. he just makes classics Ironhide look sad and tired, and not ready to bust decepti-chops.
And all this is leading up to...? Why do I collect what I collect? I love Transformers. I love that fictional universe. I have an autobot emblem on my Honda, and occasionally torment my mechanic by asking him when he is getting the T-cog in for it. I love the characters, and when I collect, I want the best representation of what that character is to me. Sometimes that best figure comes from a third party company. Sometimes I even think that a third party company making something makes Has/Tak want to make it better, such as in the Curious Case of Warbot Springer. Maybe I am ascribing my emotions to the parties at play here, Has/Tak, and 3p companies alike
But I don't think so. I think the brand is a labor of love for all who create, and all who collect
for more on my Feelings about Transformers