[Editor’s Note: This is a republication of an article that was written on July 23, 2014 and posted to the official Twilight Foundry website. It has been proofread and formatted for this website.]
Since I have the freedom to do whatever here I’d like to continue my track record of paying too much attention to BattleBots by writing an article about some unsung heroes of their merchandising and toy lines: MiniBots. The BattleBots “MiniBots” toys, according to our old friends at the BattleBots Wiki, were a series of miniature 1-inch replica figurines created by Interactive Toy and were based off of the Season 2.0 designs of the competitors featured in the set. There were 50 to collect (plus eight “chrome” editions of season finalists) and each pack came with three robots each. Essentially these were BattleBots blind bags before the stupid blind bag craze we’re currently in the middle of was even a thing. The series lasted only one “edition” unfortunately, and here is what they looked like:
The MiniBots line seemed to show up and vanish relatively quickly as I distinctly remember buying several dozen packages of them at a Target when they were clearanced out to a dollar or so each. I feel that they’ve never been given proper attention since there were admittedly bigger and better toys out there by Hasbro and Jakks Pacific that actually did things and featured moving parts and all that so this line was overshadowed and forgotten. Hopefully I can do the MiniBots justice by showcasing some of my favorites from my own personal collection.
By no means is my collection complete. Even though I bought a stupidly high number of these things I don’t have a whole set. In fact, the combined resources of the BattleBots Wiki doesn’t even have a complete catalog of images either; out of the eight finalists from BattleBots’ second season they have a staggering zero pictures of their corresponding MiniBots figurines. Each of the finalists also had an aforementioned “chrome” edition and the Wiki is also missing those. To this day I’ve never seen what one looks like. The MiniBots line as a whole are also fairly rare collectibles as they do not show up on eBay very often so the task of trying to complete my collection is pretty much impossible by this point. Anyways, here’s what a pile of these little things looks like:
Of the 50 total robots in the collection I have 28 of them which I would say is pretty damned good considering that’s more than half of them and neither myself nor anyone I know owns any of the eight finalist robots which you could argue pretty much knocks the total down to 42. I’ll admit, it would be nice to at least see what they looked like but I’ll always keep an eye out for them when I troll open air and flea markets in the future.
I’d like to start this article on a higher note than my others where I pretty much just make fun of bad robots or one-sided fights so here’s a quick smattering of MiniBots figurines whose aesthetics I actually enjoy for once.
I’ve written a lot about Ginsu in the past and that’s largely because even though it’s an admittedly terrible design I like it and I’ll find any excuse to write about it. I think the concept of Ginsu, while blatantly obvious, is a fun gimmick and a robot with actual fucking saw blade tires encapsulates the sport in literal terms. Also I’ve spoken to Trey Roski (owner of BattleBots and builder of Ginsu) before and he’s a good sport about the fact that Ginsu and its lineage have never won a single battle not just in BattleBots but in the history of every single event and demonstration it’s been brought to. But I digress, look at this little figurine. For being only about one cubic inch the creators managed to include all eight of Ginsu’s wheels and they even got the coloring, shape, and axles correct. Ginsu’s figurine is easily my favorite one from the MiniBots series and from what I’ve collected it is the rarest one I
own. (Owned, because I’ve somehow lost mine so the image above is from the BattleBots Wiki.)
(2022 UPDATE: I now have another Ginsu in my collection thanks to a fan who sent me one of theirs!)
Objectively, I don’t like Super Chiabot. In the past I’ve written about its poor design and glaring shortcomings but truth be told in the back of my mind I was always curious about how someone would pull off a Super Chiabot toy since as far as I know it was the only BattleBots competitor covered in fake plants. The resulting figurine isn’t grand by any stretch of the term but it has a certain kind of endearing quality to it showing that more creativity was put into making an honest replica of the robot than there was thought put into designing the actual robot the figurine is based from in the first place. Super Chiabot’s MiniBot looks like a gummy mess of leaves with a saw blade sticking out of its front and honestly that’s pretty much correct. Bravo.
Fair warning, from here on out most of my “favorites” from this series are going to be robots whose intricate or unusual designs were replicated surprisingly well by the folks at Interactive Toy. Also, since this is the third or fourth time I’ve said that company’s name I feel compelled to point out the irony in a company with “Interactive” in its name selling toys that are literally chunks of painted rubber that don’t do anything, but whatever. Look at Nightmare instead and admire how cool it is. Nightmare’s disc is made from a sparkly metallic type of material and while I’ve never seen one of the mythical “chrome” MiniBots I’m willing to bet whatever this silvery stuff is would probably be the same material that the chromebots were made from.
If I had an Overkill toy to go along with this one there would be a double entry here. Instead we have only Frenzy, known for being one of the oldest competitors in the sport and for belonging to the team whose website shows up when you see what TMZ.com looked like using the Wayback Machine. I mentioned Overkill because the two robots feature long exaggerated weapons that swung around, weapons whose rubber pieces almost always got bent or messed up in their packaging resulting in a squishy mess that looked more like the aftermath of a bad run-in with a spinbot than a proper robot replica. Credit is given for trying, however, and I’m personally impressed with the level of detail that went into Frenzy’s intricate yellow frame.
DooAll is here for the same reason as Nightmare: the frame. While the proportions of the robot are pretty much wrong the overall design of DooAll was essentially spot-on even down to the chassis articulation. It would have been much cheaper and easier to just slap together a version of DooAll with its chassis laying flat and the fact that this wasn’t the case is why it’s a favorite of mine. DooAll is also one of only three MiniBots with tank tracks and since the other two, Atomic Wedgie and El Diablo, were Season 2.0 finalists you’ve surely put it together by now that no one has seen any of the others so DooAll gets to sit pretty as the only tracked robot in the set that anyone owns.
Yeah, I get sentimental about Scrap Daddy’s robots, so what? I am legitimately impressed that there is a licensed toy of a Scrap Daddy robot especially one based off of a robot that never won (HW 210). Scrap Daddy HW 210 was stupidly common in MiniBots blind bags and just to prove this point I’ve lined up all of the ones I own. (You can also add one more mentally because long ago I gave one to a friend.) In the way of painting and detailing there isn’t much to see here like there was with the other robots in this list, I’m more intrigued and impressed with the overall mold of the robot since HW 210 was such a weirdly shaped robot and sported what looked to be a fan blade for a weapon. The older Scrap Daddy robots were absolutely covered with little bits and pieces for fueling their gasoline engines and opening up parts of the chassis and much like with DooAll above the easier route would have been to nix all of this but the mold-makers didn’t and that’s what’s cool about this one. Every nuance of Scrap Daddy HW 210 is represented here (I even bumped it against the Frenzy toy to see if its saw blade would fall off).
The mold for this robot is actually pretty bad but it’s here because I can see what the creators were going for and I applaud them for their efforts. War Machine was not a particularly good robot, it was literally just a 10-wheeled box with a slanted piece of metal slapped on the front of it; I’ve written about War Machine in the past, favorably too if you can believe that, and my guess as to why it was never made into a proper toy is because it had 10 wheels and having that many moving parts would probably cost too much to make. Since the MiniBots line featured no moving parts this worked out nicely for War Machine however only so much because while I own duplicates of this robot all of their plows are on incorrectly and at different angles so the figurine ends up looking more like a lunar rover with a solar panel than a giant bulldozer.
And now since this is supposedly a snarky site here’s a list of MiniBots designs I really did not like for one reason or another along with a disproportionately long dissertation on why my opinions are more important and valid than yours are.
I think I can guess why that little stick thing is where it is on the robot. It’s probably there to differentiate between up and down since Rammstein looks the same either way up but in that case shouldn’t the more decorative front wedge be a better indicator of top and bottom? Instead the addition of the spike serves no other purpose than to intentionally screw up the invertible design of the robot and it just gets in the way. Also, what’s with the lack of “Team Loki” branding? I know Interactive Toy was capable of doing that since Turbo — another Team Loki robot — has it on its mold. Rammstein’s MiniBot just reeks of overall laziness and its little dongle that I had once originally chocked up to a bad rubber injection further ruins the figurine.
It’s taken me a long while to figure this out, but I think the reason why I don’t like Deadblow’s MiniBot representation is because of the clashing colors it was made from. First and foremost, Deadblow has never been dark gray so from the start the figurine is already questionable. This is made worse by the fact that the accents and details are done in pretty much the stark opposite color as the chassis resulting in the horrible mess seen here. The kicker is that this isn’t a bad mold at all and the little chassis accents are raised up much like the texture implied by the actual robot, it’s entirely the color that ruins it. Deadblow ended up having a shitload more (and better) merchandise made of it so I guess Grant Imahara can’t complain. He also hosts a TV show so I guess there’s that too.
I was hoping I could go this whole article without insulting a robot directly, but Berzerker 2000 is just an ugly robot. It’s a mess, and even though it too suffers from the same weird miscoloration as Deadblow in this case that’s just one of a number of things wrong with this figurine. I’ll ignore the fact that Berzerker 2000 forfeited its only fight (and because of this is the only robot in BattleBots history to have lost every match by forfeit and still have a toy made out of it) and instead point out how gaudy the black tire part of the robot looks compared to the weird blue shit used on the bottom. They could have gotten away with using the same silver shown on the robot’s upper half but I’m guessing that would have clashed with the base? Does it really matter?
Now that you’ve seen a whole bunch of neat custom molds, here’s something pretty goddamned offensive: two robots using nearly the same mold. Both The Crusher and Shish-ka-bot use an almost identical mold and if that’s not bad enough the mold just so happens to have a giant glaring flaw: the tops of the robots show only two wheels yet, when you flip them over, there’s clearly four. By far this is the laziest mold in the MiniBots line and I remember how let down and pissed off I felt when I started comparing my figurines and noticed that not only was this the same robot with a different paint job but that the mold itself was also completely incorrect. In defense of Interactive Toy both The Crusher and Shish-ka-bot were pretty much identical robots but why recycle a mold when by this point you’ve already gone through the trouble of making 48 different ones?
If laziness in creating molds was the thing that pissed me off in the last entry, laziness in paint is going to be the bane of my existence here. All of the figurines in the header image above featured no paint and were pretty much just hunks of gray rubber including Red Scorpion whose name literally declares what color it was. Look, I get that M.U.S.C.L.E. was a thing in the 80’s and a grand total of zero of their figurines were painted but this isn’t that franchise and Interactive Toy has already proven that they are more than capable of churning out some solid detail work on their figurines; it’s almost like toward the end of this they adopted a “fuck it we’re almost there just get some plain ones” mentality and called it a day. The worst offender by far is the treatment given to Mauler 51-50, a robot with a hellacious fire pit paintjob that was abbreviated to nothing more than a shitty gray road dot. You cannot release a Mauler figurine and not paint the fucking thing, not when you painted a shitty yellow ring on Blendo and considered that one done.
Also just as a sidenote you may have noticed that Shish-ka-bot has made the list twice because it’s also one of the handful of MiniBots that this umbrella entry applies to. I hate the Shish-ka-bot figurine.
Every pack of MiniBots also came with a small 1″ x 1″ sticker featuring the official BattleBots photo of the robots you received. The stickers themselves seem to be even more rare than the figurines and the only one I’ve been able to find online is a scan of Mauler’s sticker that demonstrates an incorrect photo of the robot (the one on the sticker was from Season 1.0, and was allegedly taken by Team Nightmare’s Jim Smentowski). Since the MiniBots stickers are so rare, below is a mosaic of every sticker I have in my collection for the purposes of showing off just how cool these figurine blind bags were:
Also since I don’t know how to end this article I guess I’ll just toss up this image of Shish-ka-bot’s real-life counterpart being destroyed by the arena Pulverizers because even though it’s not the team’s fault their robot’s toy sucked I feel justified in proclaiming someone had to take the heat for this and justice was eventually served.