RED-FOOTED OPTIMUS PRIME
It started as a rumour, then more started to surface accompanied by childhood anecdotes, then they started to pop up on eBay, at conventions, in collections...and finally it became fact. This is the G1 Optimus Prime with red feet released in Europe. This piece was released mainly (if not exclusively) in France and the United Kingdom.
You would think it would be an easy variant to categorise and pigeonhole but it's not that simple. This is not just a regular Optimus Prime in regular G1 packaging which happens to have its feet painted red instead of blue, even though it REALLY does seem that that is all Redfoot Prime is. The box front picture above also does nothing to make the casual observer believe there's something that runs deeper. Hasbro logo, English text, very very standard box layout, design and presentation. No give-aways or tell-tale differences. Just. Red. Feet.
The back of the box is a different matter altogether...
In fact, I may have billed it too highly because looking at the whole of the box back picture, again, nothing seems to be amiss. It just looks like a standard UK or US box. It's when you look under the techspec that the truth begins to emerge. "Made in Strasbourg, France by Ceji Revel. Under licence from Takara Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan". This is not all that regular after all. The toy and package were produced in France. But didn't the mainland European Transformers come in Milton Bradley (MB) boxes? Now, what you CAN'T see in the above picture is the copyright text just to the left of the Made in France bit. It says "1984 Hasbro Bradley Inc.". In mainland Europe, Hasbro didn't complete the takeover of MB until mid-to-late 1985 and up until that point they were still using MB boxes because items were being produced in MB factories. Also, European TF boxes even AFTER the MB takeover had the enlarged multilingual techspecs and the text that said "Transforms from Sandwich Toaster to Robot and back again" was always missing from European box fronts. You can see from the above pictures that this Redfoot Prime box shares non of those common Euro TF box characteristics.
The art on the back of the box is 1984 art and also the front of the box doesn't have the black box that says "TRANSFORMERS" just above the main yellow name/function bar. That points to this being a very late 1984 release or an extremely early 1985 release. My guess is 1985 because the toy comes with a rubsign! It was probably released around the time of the very start of wave 2 hitting the shelves.
You can start to see how the true nature of this toy doesn't really fit comfortably anywhere. Mainland European production origin, but US-style packaging from immediate post pre-rub era with no large techspecs or typical European packaging traits. Time to take a look inside...
There's not really much else to say about the packaging so onto the toy itself. The white of the styrofoam insert really brings the major variation here to your attention. The red feet, in my own opinion, look good on Optimus Prime. That opinion is not shared by all collectors but whether they like it or not, it's a major Optimus Prime variation, and Prime is THE most popular and recogniseable Transformers toy and character, so it's hard to ignore this release.
I was lucky enough to get this toy in very good condition complete with all parts. The accessories which are not seen in the above picture are hidden away inside the trailer. Here is the toy out of package:
There really is nothing quite like a mint undamaged complete original Optimus Prime in vehicle mode. A truly beautiful toy. It is so easy on the eye and the colours contrast fantstically. The unworn shiny chrome and unchipped diecast cab can really make this figure. As much as I like the red feet though, I have to admit that the above pictures do not sit perfectly well with me due to the glaring difference between this and other Primes. It's not BAD, it's just different. I had been told that the red paint on the cab is slightly different to the red on the cabs of other regular Optimus Primes. More on that later.
Here are some close-up pictures of the cab:
Here's the inside of the trailer:
Nothing out of the ordinary here. The Roller appears to be a dark blue long-tabbed version and the accessories are not bloated for those who are interested. The missiles are standard and the gun is the thin version, so it is again pretty close to a rubsign 1985 Optimus Prime with the exception of the red feet and a few other small details.
Once again, tremendously recogniseable and absolutely beautiful, especially in this condition. Red feet or not, this is still 100% Optimus Prime. Obviously now with the new paint job, a lot more of the attention is drawn towards the bottom half of the robot mode. I still think the feet look good, but as you can see, the feet are not ALL red but mostly red; the front, half of the back and outer-side sections of the diecast. To me personally, the red colour of the feet seems a little darker than the red used on the cab sections. Here are some close up pictures of the red feet, and a pic from the back to show some leg details for the Prime moulding experts:
I mentioned before that I thought the head that comes with this Redfoot Optimus Prime is the wrong one. If you do not know much about this particular variation, by looking at the above pictures you may not realise why I came to that conclusion. Luckily, I had another loose Redfoot Prime cab handy with which to make comparisons in order to illustrate my reasons for believing the head has been swapped...
Yes the other 'Redfoot' is kinda trashed and worn, but can you see why I thought the nice one had the wrong head? Still no? Here's a close-up of the nice one's head, followed by the trashed one's head:
You must be able to see it now. Look at the grill on Prime's forehead. The nice Redfoot has the same grill as all the regular Optimus Primes have; silver outlines and silver-filled trapeziums/squares/whatever on the inside. The lame Redfoot however ONLY has the silver outlines. The inner shapes are not filled in and are the same blue as the rest of Prime's head. Now, ALL the Redfoot Primes I have seen to date have the latter lame Redfoot head with the grill variation. This one had the rubsign as well (also trashed). Even the yellow eyes look a tiny bit different to me but that's beside the point for the moment. The grill is why I believed the head to have been swapped on this Prime, also because I was surprised that such a mint specimen had such a wrecked rubsign. So what did I do? Yes, I swapped the heads!
Now that is the complete article...or at least I THINK so. There have been lots of Redfoots appear over the years that have had slightly different characteristics. The lame one used in this article actually had bloated parts but I think many of the parts from that one had been swapped. Some people even thought the Redfoot was supposed to have a metal-plated trailer, grey Roller etc but you can't put so much stock in rumours and assumptions. I am pretty sure the nice Prime in this article comes mostly untouched because of the box copyright and the copyright on the trailer that says "Made in France". Speaking of which...
It's an awful picture, I know, but you can make out the essentials. The section where it would have stated the country of manufacture as Japan has been blocked out by a raised plastic bar and underneath it clearly says "MADE IN FRANCE". It matches the box copyright and the many sightings of this toy in France. Enough said. The "T2" in the lynch-pin hole indicates a very early trailer mould so again it supports the late 1984/early 1985 release date theory.
I also found a strange little company logo on the inner box flap that may be of interest although I don't recognise the company name or its significance. Maybe it's just linked to Ceji Revel in France. Cajofe anyone?
Since I first wrote this article, Daniel 'Devvi' Vink found out the significance of Cajofe with some classic Devvi-style TF research:
Devvi went on to find even more information that detailed how Cajofe went bankrupt and the related court rulings that were described as 'scandalous' to the work of so many employees in a region (Fegersheim) where unemployment was high. The company re-emerged as A&R Paperboard Sweden apparently.
Now comes the point in this article where we take a sidestep and try to put this Redfoot Prime in context a little, but it is still related to the article. I was lucky enough at the time to have had in my possession three of the very rarest variations of G1 Optimus Prime that you can find; this nice Redfoot, the light-blue (ala Diaclone) very early pre rub Prime (possibly the first ever Optimus Prime toy released under the Transformers banner) and the Prime from the Japanese Exclusive Goodbye Convoy giftset with the blue cab windows and blue window on the command centre in the trailer. Here are the three together in vehicle mode, left-to-right we have Redfoot, Early Pre-rub and Goodbye Convoy:
The above pictures don't show it, but the Redfoot cab does indeed have a different coloured red cab to the other 'regular' Primes. The red is lighter on the Redfoot cab. You can just see the lighter blue parts through the trailer hole on the prerub Prime (middle) and the blue translucent cab windows on the GBC Prime (right). The prerub also appears to have a slightly lighter coloured trailer. Speaking of trailers...
The above pictures show how much lighter the blue is on the middle early pre-rub Optimus Prime. It's the same blue used on the Diaclone Battle Convoy and it does make it stand out a mile. That is a very hard-to-find Prime in complete condition which is why there hasn't been so much documented information about its moulding or accessories. The accessories for that prerub Prime, early as it is, are in fact NOT bloated. Missiles are dark blue and Roller is light blue with long tabs.
The top picture shows that the sticker on the trailer for the Goodbye Convoy Prime (right) uses a much lighter blue than the other two. You can see it clearly towards the top of the picture, the colours at the bottom of the picture are a little distorted by the flash. There are other moulding differences between the Primes, but I don't want to go into so much minute detail. Here are the three Primes in figure mode:
The difference in the head-grill is very noticeable here and the Redfoot's head and feet really do stand out. It's a shame the difference in cab colour hasn't made it to the pictures but it is noticeable in the flesh and is another genuine variant trait of the redfoot compared to 'standard' Primes...if there even is such a thing!
So there you have it. Yet another genuine G1 Optimus Prime variation which makes this character and figure all the more difficult to timeline and correctly and fully classify. It doesn't matter though because almost every single G1 Optimus Prime variant is unique and very cool in its own way. The Goodbye Prime has the excellent blue windows on the cab and the command centre cockpit (NY Prime was based on this obviously), the early pre-rub Prime has the eye-catching standout light blue parts (and no circles on the front bumper chrome section you might have noticed!), the Grey pre-rub Primes have metal trailer plates, bloated fists and gun, grey parts and grey Roller, the Mexican Prime has the bloody (literally) awful red eyes and this Redfoot has the striking red feet and a cool variant on the head which really does make it stand out in a crowd of G1 Primes.
It holds its own, it has a distinct identity of its own, and like a lot of Primes, the exact details of its release and context are still shrouded in a bit of mystery. Yes there are quite a few around, especially in the UK, but nice complete and boxed ones are very hard to pin down. With all that taken into consideration, this Redfoot Prime in my opinion is worthy of recognition as a solid G1 variant with enough personality and mystery to be called 'special'. No Optimus Prime enthusiast, collector or completist should even THINK about leaving this one out.
For the sake of completeness, the Redfoot Prime was made in France, probably released very late 1984 or very early 1985 and was available mostly in France and the UK. The main variations are the red feet, the partially-coloured head grill and the lighter red used on the cab. The box has a French copyright but shows no other Euro G1 TF characteristics such as large techs or multilingual text. Here are some parting shots of this figure that above all else show that this is still unmistakeably, Optimus Prime, leader of the Autobots:
All the best