[Editor’s Note: This is a republication of an article that was written on August 24, 2014 and posted to the official Twilight Foundry website. It has been proofread and formatted for this website.]
So far I’ve been on track talking about some of my favorite least-good BattleBots and obscure BattleBots toys that I wished I owned a complete set of. This is another such article in this truly groundbreaking Internet series. In 2002, during the heyday of the BattleBots event and television show, they managed to secure a McDonald’s Happy Meal deal. No, I can’t believe that either; BattleBots was able to reach the same esteemed ranks of Disney, Beanie Babies, and Hot Wheels. That might sound ridiculous — and maybe I am putting that pedestal up a little too high — but at the very least it’s definitely a sign you’re doing something right when an international fast food chain is giving away plastic versions of your licenses with cheap food. Unfortunately, this would end up being the highest point in BattleBots’ existence as the event pretty much died the following year.
This article isn’t about the decline of BattleBots however, it’s about McDonald’s toys. There were eight robots in the BattleBots set, seven of them based upon real-life robots with the last one being a stupid hamburger with saw blades called “Mac Attack”. The more I re-read that sentence the more I want to drop “stupid” from it because objectively a hamburger with saw blades sounds awesome. Mac Attack sucked, though. The word stays. Plenty of people have reviewed these toys over the course of the past decade including a rando I found on YouTube who, despite his overtly ambivalent camera presence, couldn’t be bothered to learn the names of any of the robots but still considered the final product “good enough” for a professional-looking video review. Such effort. I want to throw my hat in the review ring too, but you’ve had to have realized by now that I don’t exactly do things by the book here. Instead I want to take a closer look at the toys and while I intend to talk about each of the eight robots I also want to look at what makes them work.
In short, I’m going to disassemble each of the bots and include pictures of their guts in this article. When’s the last time you saw that done? Exactly. Before we get to the robots though, let’s first take a look at the Happy Meal bag from the BattleBots promotion. Because Hoarders.
There was a period of time where Happy Meals temporarily ended their memorable cardboard box containers and shifted over to paper bags made of recycled material. Unfortunately, BattleBots’ promotion happened during this time so not only are the bags difficult to track down they’re also incredibly flimsy, feature shitty printing, and don’t have much in the way of pop-out pieces or puzzles or anything else for that matter. I guess the point I am trying to make here is that in most aspects the Happy Meal box was kind of like a “second toy” because it had stuff to keep kids busy a little longer but these bags are shit and there aren’t any such games on it to review.
No wait, I lied. There is one whole game on the bag and it’s a real stretch of the definition of “game”. It involves cutting out half of Ginsu, flattening the bag, and driving your robot into the Ginsu pop-up. There’s even a helpful diagram on the bottom of the bag if you’re too incomprehensibly stupid to figure this out and needed an “answer on bottom of bag” solution to basic instructions. I’m not going to shred this bag up so I can run over a poorly printed out Ginsu model, not because of “collector’s value” or anything like that but because I have an actual Ginsu toy from the promotion so I don’t need to run over the fake one printed on recycled toilet paper. Also, my prediction is that the pullback toy would just push the bag out of the way instead of drive over it anyways.
The reverse side of the bag doesn’t have a game on it, just two more robots with the dubious tagline “THE BIGGER THE BATTLE THE BETTER” which is a load of shit; BattleBots’ original slogan was “When sparks fly robots die” but I guess since this is a Happy Meal you can’t have the word “die” printed on it anywhere even when the toys are of robots that literally fight to the death. WHATEVER, HAMBURGERS. The sides of the bag, however, list out the eight robots in the promotion — without their names — and the whole ordeal is somehow made more infuriating than the “run over Ginsu” game by means of the inclusion of a bunch of wacky faux arena introductions written for each of the bots… again, without naming them at all.
“Get a grip,” the bag says about super heavyweight champion Diesector, “this Bot grabs others in its jaws!” Bot. That’s what all of the toys are referred to, including the goddamned hamburger one. In fact, Mac Attack’s ad copy makes me want to kill someone: “Fast food! Spinning burger action knocks other Bots out!”
“Spinning burger action.” Nobody in the history of time itself has ever said those words in that order before and to prove my point here’s a screenshot of Google telling me to go fuck myself when I searched for it.
Coming up as a close second for “worst ‘BattleBots Bio’ ever” is Ankle Biter’s which reads: “Watch out! Here comes the wedge!”
Said no one ever in BattleBots.
As mentioned earlier, for some inexplicable reason none of the robots are referred to by their actual names anywhere in the promotion. I’m assuming this is due to licensing issues or something pertaining to that because the BattleBots company was quite generous with royalties in regards to their competitors. All of the plastic toy bags read “Pullback Action Toy” in place of the robot’s name, though it’s pretty obvious who’s who. Despite the obvious correlations to actual competitors I can’t pass up on the official names assigned to the robots in the promotion; look at these beauties:
No, I am not shitting you here. Rather than have Ginsu named “Ginsu”, it was officially titled “Pullback Action Toy shaped like an X with four wheels on each side” and Mechadon somehow became “Windup Action Toy shaped similar to a crab”. What. There are an infinite number of things wrong with those descriptions. Firstly, Ginsu doesn’t have “four wheels on each side”; by my count it has four wheels on exactly two sides. Also, Mechadon looks nothing like a crab; I suppose now “crab” can join the ranks of things like “spider” on the list of shit that people say looks like Mechadon but actually looks nothing like Mechadon at all whatsoever. I can’t believe McDonald’s was willing to tiptoe around a potential lawsuit over toy likenesses from Little Tykes, whose ladybug sandbox was used to build Tentomushi, but apparently had some kind of licensing disagreement over naming the fucking toy “Tentomushi”.
My favorite description here is the one used for
Biohazard sorry, HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: “Pullback Action Toy shaped like metallic box”. Congratulations, McDonald’s, you just named all eight of them in one fell swoop. Ba da da da DAAAAA.
What’s really fantastic about all of these toys is that they each came with a little slip of paper demonstrating what all of the robots do and how to get them to do those things. (Hint: You pull the toy back and let go.) Yes, you read that correctly, the pullback toys came with instructions. Look, I don’t want to be a piece of shit here but the instructions are kind of in the toy’s name. If you can’t figure that out maybe it’s because you’ve eaten the toy. You know what kinds of toys need instructions? The K’Nex Big Ball Factory. That’s a fucking ordeal to put together; these toys are literally “push it in the direction it isn’t supposed to go and then take your hand off of it”.
For what it’s worth the instructions are actually very carefully drawn. For something that was thrown away immediately there was a lot of attention put into these diagrams, a complete collection of them is below. Rivets, blade teeth, wheel treads, and even exposed internals were all drawn with geometrical accuracy. It’s really something else.
And now, since the bag and preceding commentary have effectively spoiled the list of robots, here’s my insight on our eight contenders for this article’s Grand Rumble arranged loosely in order from least favorite to mostest favoritest:
I hate this stupid fucking robot. There is nothing about Mac Attack that I like. I get that it’s supposed to be a joke robot and it’s not to be taken seriously because it is literally a hamburger with saw blades and I accept that, what I’m more upset about is McDonald’s sticking their dick into a franchise’s toy line when they have no business acting as such. Allow me to make an analogy here; if McDonald’s did a “Mac Attack” type thing with every toy line they’ve run then we’d have had a motorized Ronald McDonald shitting french fries into Grimace’s mouth as one of the links in that Disney toy train of classic movies or Mayor McFuckingCheese shooting you the finger from a Mario Kart go-kart. We don’t have either of those, so why BattleBots? I’m pretty sure more than seven people competed in BattleBots so it’s not like there was a shortage of robots to make a toy out of.
I’m not even going to review Mac Attack. Fuck Mac Attack. You know what, as of right now the McDonald’s BattleBots set only has seven toys in it.
Because I said so.Officially starting off this list at the bottom is Ankle Biter. Ankle Biter is not a robot I “dislike” by any means; I just don’t think it translated well into a Happy Meal toy. It’s a fairly simplistic robot so I can see why it was an attractive option for mass production, however all of the other toys in this line including Mac Attack have some sort of additional feature powered by their internal mechanics. Ankle Biter’s saw blade is instead unpowered and lazily spins while it acts as a third wheel. Overall the toy is a solid replica of the robot and stands to be the one that I’d say is closest to the real deal but its distinct lack of “oomph” when compared to the other toys just leaves something to be desired. At least it’s fast, though. Really fast, like the real Ankle Biter. Excuse me while I go get it wedged under a wall somewhere now.
The “saw blades” on Ankle Biter and Mac Attack might look a little odd and that’s because they were rounded down and turned into gear-like abominations for the sake of safety. When you’re serving lowest common denominator food you have to anticipate that the people eating it are essentially human trash that can’t tell their asses from a hole in the ground nor are they capable of understanding that coffee being hot is a universal standard and isn’t a key point in court cases. That was a 1994 joke in case you were wondering. I forget what I was getting at; oh, Overkill’s giant blade is now somehow a contoured rectangle because dumb people can burn themselves with it. No, wait, that wasn’t right either.
Overkill’s “action” is fairly anemic overall; it’s chopping blade only gets in about two or three whacks before the windup motor gives way and the robot just drives off the table. It’s a decent-looking replica, borrowing Ankle Biter’s overall chassis and tire layout, but its squared weapon just looks terrible.
Out of all of the BattleBots toys this one isn’t a pullback one. Those of you know who who Mechadon is will understand why since you can’t exactly pull back a walking robot and then let it go. Mechadon features a little windup piece and two oblong wheels underneath it to completely negate everything I just said about it being a walking robot. The robot’s legs twitch and move but it doesn’t actually walk, it rolls around on some not-quite-circular wheels to give it the illusion that it’s hobbling around like it does in real life. It’s kind of a cop-out and I guess that’s why I’m fairly nonplussed about the toy. It’s not hard to make a shuffling/walking toy; McDonald’s had done it years prior with Sebastian from The Little Mermaid.
Mechadon is also made from two different kids of plastic, the top kind significantly shinier and more sparkly than the bottom. This difference in plastic also causes the toy to age strangely, post-out-of-bag versions of this toy have a nasty yellowed underside not unlike the top shell of an NES that belonged to someone who clearly had no business owning an NES in the first place. Yuck.
I rag on Tentomushi a lot because it’s a stupid design but at the same time I really have to give the Robot Action League credit for coming up with a robot that was never really duplicated by anyone else. Whether that speaks greatly or poorly about the design itself is something I’ll leave for you to consider but the fact of the matter is that Tentomushi is a robot whose appearance was quite memorable and seems like it would have lent itself really well to toys but this McDonald’s thing was Tentomushi’s only official merchandise. The reason for that is probably because Tentomushi’s capture dome was literally a kids’ sandbox manufactured by Little Tykes so there was probably some level of copyright over the stupid face those things had. Apparently the ramifications of putting said ladybug’s dopey face on a McDonald’s toy was too expensive so McTentomushi rides into action sporting a somehow even dumber one.
The ladybug shell itself is not motorized and is fastened to the chassis by a simple hinge at the back; this is the BattleBots toy that was most often broken by excessively rough handling. Tentomushi’s dome flaps up and down because there’s a little plastic tab under it that rests inside of a ridiculously large gearbox. When the parts inside turn and spin there’s a little plastic wing that brushes against the dome’s tab and pushes it up. It’s a novel workaround but at the same time it kind of makes the whole “capture dome” thing a bit moot since it takes up so much space.
Diesector this far up the list simply because of the number of moving parts the robot has. The proportions are all wrong, but I am impressed with the amount of action this toy has. Diesector’s jaws and hammers are a mystery to me because as I sit here playing with the damn thing trying to figure out just which sets of wheels turn what the jaws seem to take turns working and not working. The hammers twitch and spasm when the toy drives around so I guess it’s the closest replica in terms of function in the whole set. When you pull the robot back and let it go everything clacks and hisses like a box of snakes and chattering joke teeth; everything about the robot is fucking scary.
Diesector is also the fastest toy in the set by a huge gap. It’s actually about as fast as Mac Attack but since we don’t talk about Mac Attack that means there isn’t a tie and Diesector wins.
Biohazard is one of the most ubiquitous robots in the sport. With something like eleventy thousand wins under its belt I believe the robot ended up having the most televised fights and the most wins out of any other competitor in any weight class in BattleBots history. Yes, this robot was going to get merchandising, a lot of it.
Biohazard is also unique in that it is the only BattleBot to literally be anonymous in toy versions. For some reason after the first line of toys came out Biohazard’s name was redacted into “Heavyweight Champion” (in case you didn’t get that reference when it was made earlier in this article). Supposedly this was done due to alleged copyright infringement but I don’t know from who or what, the “biohazard” symbol as I understand is a common graphic and as far as I know it’s not owned or regulated by anyone; it’s just an impossible to draw symbol that you put on things that you shouldn’t ingest or play with, all McDonald’s toys falling into both of those categories.
The toy features a little flipping arm that fires off way too fast for the robot it’s modeled after, but the real doozy is the little plastic bit on the bottom that causes Biohazard to flail wildly after you set it off. The robot will drive forward and then pull a 90 degree (or a 1080 in all the times I tried it out) turn, drive some more, turn again, and repeat until it runs out of juice. It’s neat but considering these toys were meant to be battled it kind of renders the whole “battle” thing useless since it drives like someone playing Marble Madness during an earthquake.
Ginsu is my favorite robot so if you have a problem with it being number one on this list then you can just fuck right off. Since the robot was more or less an exhibition robot built by the BattleBots organizers and didn’t officially compete after the show’s first season Ginsu missed out on a lot of merchandising. Much like I said in the MiniBots article I wrote, Ginsu’s appearance is more threatening than the actual robot itself; great on paper, horrible in action. Saw blade wheels look menacing but in the grand scheme of things they aren’t doing much damage. The robot’s wheels are the same (or similar) saws as the ones used in the arena hazards and while they were great for show I really don’t think anyone specifically lost because of damage done to them by the Killsaws.
The McDonald’s Ginsu is great if you can get over the weird cog treatment they gave to the saw wheels. What I’m most impressed about is that despite rounding off the saw blades they still got the coloration and style correct; Ginsu’s top front saws are red and the teeth on them are larger and further apart than the silver ones. There are some additional decorative saws and the extended axles missing but overall it’s a nice replica. One set of saws have some rubber banding around them for traction but what really wowed me was that the red saws are actually powered too. Like its real-life counterpart this toy can drive on any side. Sure, the traction sucks when Ginsu’s red blades are being used to drive it around but I could argue that just adds to its replica integrity because the real Ginsu had zero control or traction period because using saw blades for tires is a bad idea.
Since we are an embarrassingly long 3,800 words into this article I think it’s finally time that we take a look under the hoods of all of these robots and see just what makes them tick. For the purposes of this article I actually had to track down and purchase an entirely new set of toys (because there’s not a chance I’d be disassembling mine) and ironically it was cheaper for me to buy a complete set of “mint in package” toys for this project… with the intent to take them apart. Somewhere out there a McDonald’s toy enthusiast weeps and I’m laughing because his hobby is “McDonald’s toy enthusiast”.
Starting in the order that I initially ran through them, here’s the disassembly and postmortem of all eight robots:
Disregarding the fact that I hate this robot and initially wanted to disassemble it with a hammer I instead opted to open traditionally because I’ll admit I was interested how the SPINNING BURGER ACTION advertised on the bag worked. The truth? Mac Attack actually has the most moving parts out of any of the BattleBots toys. The chassis comes apart in three pieces with each of the two saw blades acting as a spacer with the bottom and center pieces containing a set of gears that stretches up and around the inside of the bottom uh, patty. I knew going into this article that Mac Attack’s internals would probably be the most interesting out of the eight, perhaps rivaled maybe by Diesector, but I just didn’t want to admit that. The orange gear on the pullback motor turns the bottom of the green gear on the center piece which in turn rotates the bottom patty; on the other side of the center chassis piece is a brown gear that rotates a smaller white gear that finally spins the top patty in the direction opposite of the bottom. After writing this paragraph I now have autism so if you’ll excuse me I am going to go watch Sonic X, stop this article, and when we come back this feature will change gears into The Top 10 Most Yiffable Characters in Sonic X.
To discredit Mac Attack I’d just like to point out that out of the eight toys this was the only one with the screw holes so far up the robot’s ass that the $8 screwdriver I bought to take these things apart couldn’t fucking reach anything. It’s a miracle I didn’t just smash this damn thing in the first place.
If Ankle Biter looks a bit worse for wear in this picture that’s because it doesn’t come apart very well and I unintentionally broke this toy while taking it apart. See, one of Ankle Biter’s wheels is covering up a screw hole so I assumed that you’d have to remove the wheel to get to the screw, because logic. Apparently that wasn’t the case because as I tried to pop the wheel off with a screwdriver there was a loud cracking sound and the robot’s wheel flew across my room leaving a jagged plastic stump on the axle it was once connected to. Oops. To make matters worse once I removed the hidden screw the two halves would not come apart at all. This too was pried apart with the sounds of plastic shattering and I noticed this was because the pegs and slots that the halves fit together with were so tightly interconnected that they sheared off at the slot.
Since I accidentally went all Moebius on Ankle Biter I couldn’t actually pull the motor out or completely disassemble the robot for a proper photo, however since the toy’s weapon was literally just an unpowered cog I guess there wasn’t much in the way of juicy internals to look at anyway.
Oh, the same thing also happened to Overkill.
Overkill’s weapon sits on an unpowered hinge and has a little wing that brushes against one of two little knobs on a gear powered by the pullback motor. Other than that the internals are identical to Ankle Biter and taking the toy apart required me to break it. Whoops.
Of all the toys featured in this set this is probably the one I was most curious about opening up (again, Mac Attack doesn’t exist). I was a little bit pissy over the fact that Mechadon’s mighty stomping claws were underwritten by a motor with wheels on it, but the claws still moved and I wanted to know how they got that working. Upon popping the lid off of the SIMILAR TO A CRAB robot I saw that the legs were essentially two separate pieces of a tripod gait hinged at the center. Under that was the heart of Mechadon, a wind-up motor shooting the double bird. The wings on these extensions fit into slots on the bottoms of the claws and made them flex and articulate as the robot puttered about. The pieces that Mechadon’s legs were made from are probably my favorite molds in the entire set simply because of their intricacy and how they fit together in only one specific way. The claws themselves, when assembled, are actually neat enough on their own to make a desk decoration.
I’m not implying that I have them at my desk right now though.
For all the plastic that Tentomushi eats up its internals are incredibly simple. As mentioned earlier the ladybug dome is actually not powered by anything directly and is attached by a hinge at the back of the chassis. Under that is a pointy silver chassis with what looks like the top of a lawnmower covering up the smallest pullback motor of any of the toys. Removing the top exposes the motor and two tiny plastic gears; that’s all that runs Tentomushi. The ladybug lid flaps up and down because there’s a long plastic tab under it that connects with the little knob on the white gear. For some reason, and I can’t figure out why, the simplicity behind Tentomushi’s inner workings is something I find peaceful. Maybe it’s because all of these toys have weird mismatched and miscolored gears and I subconsciously think the translucent blue one is pretty. Who knows.
Okay, full disclosure first. Diesector is a goddamned mess. Once I took the top of the robot’s chassis off I could not keep this thing from falling apart immediately. I knew where the pieces went but they wouldn’t stay in place so the pictures here are probably going to look awful. You might be wondering “if the pieces don’t stay together maybe you’re assembling them wrong” and to that, first just let the record show that you’re an asshole, but also you don’t know exactly how many Diesector toys I’ve taken apart, do you? Shut up.
See that little gray fork off to the left side of the picture above? That thing is the brain of this robot. From what I could put together, everything that moves on this robot is powered by that single piece. Here’s a shot of Diesector’s internals still assembled but with the fork removed. Diesector’s front wheels are unpowered but feature the robot’s trademark yellow jaws; the side jaws hook into the two fang-like protrusions on the fork while the center jaw hooks into a little plastic loop between the prongs. It is insanely complicated and it only goes deeper from here. The fork jerks back and forth to open and close the jaws however as it does this yet another tab on the fork pushes against a wing on the brown piece that the hammers are connected to causing them to swing back and forth in time with the jaws. No, I do not know how McDonald’s was able to get this thing put on an assembly line; I am just as confused as you are.
Biohazard was a lot of fun to take apart, the process of which led to me obtaining what is my favorite piece in the whole set: Biohazard’s arm. The arm articulates because of the brown extender seen in the picture above; the extender connects to a center point on the arm and also rests against a gear with tabs on it similar to Overkill’s blade and Tentomushi’s dome. When the gear spins, the wings push up against the extender which in turn raises Biohazard’s arm in quick flapping successions. You can get a better idea of what I mean by checking out this picture that shows the toy assembled but without its shell.
But that’s not all, remember Biohazard is the only robot that also does that weird little spin maneuver when you let it go. It achieves this by means of a small plastic tab that gently lifts one of the toy’s wheels up so it twists around. This is achieved ingeniously by the same gear that powers the arm serving a second purpose. The little plastic bump that pokes out from the bottom of the robot is actually just a tab mounted on an axle inside of the toy, however the same winged gear that raises the arm actually pushes down on this tab simultaneously. This in turn causes the small bump to push out from under Biohazard, lift it up, and spin it around since only one wheel makes contact with the ground. It makes for a toy that sucks to battle with but one with some internal features that are pretty cool.
Also, Biohazard’s arm is awesome.
Looking at Ginsu’s chassis I knew that taking it apart was going to be a strange process because there are only two halves but four total axles. I assumed that the unpowered saw blades would just be free-spinning axles with their wheels pressed on, and I was correct on that front, but there was still a bit of wonder regarding how both the banded silver saws and the red ones could spin at the same time. I had concocted in my head some crazy idea where there was a pulley inside that had a rubber band around it; as it turns out the actual solution was far more simpler: a driveshaft. The red saws have a little gear on their axle and connecting this axle to the one on the pullback motor is a long third axle with a forward facing gear on each end. This arrangement is perhaps better shown than explained, so there’s an image of it HERE.
Suffice to say, my curiosity is quelled. I now know how all of the BattleBots toys work and while I can’t say it’s helped me from an engineering standpoint on my ongoing quest to pursue the hobby of robot combat it’s at least given me the privilege of sharing this useless information with you for the past 5,000 words. There are still some additional pictures from this project of mine that I could not find a place for in this article but I still feel they are neat enough to warrant their inclusion at the bottom. Sans Overkill and Ankle Biter, since they broke, here’s a shot of all of the robot shells and a separate image showing the variety between the motors that powered their internals (their placements are not respective). My favorite picture from this article, though, is this one which shows an assembly of all of the weapons from the robots in the line-up.
Also, just because I wanted to know if it were possible, I took some of the random parts from robots that I could fit together and made a brand new competitor. Behold, Ginmechasector: