First reaction… what a ridiculous figure, a shameful custom…? BUT believe it or not for this figure the safe within the Beastformers Dungeons had to be opened because that´s where it´s been stored. Because (maybe) this is not just a RED Eyed Cat Laser Beast, sit tight and enjoy another Beastformers Story!
Let´s return to mid 2018 when the following picture appeared of a lot of Laser Beasts that went up for Auction in Japan;
A nice complete lot of ALL 12, so called Mid end (#89-100), Laser Beasts. It was noted and a couple questions where received about it because within this lot there was one figure that clearly stood out from the rest; The RED Eyed Grencats*
None had ever seen or heard about a variation or custom Grencats like that before so this definitely was an eye catcher that resulted in more questions and discussions behind the scenes. Due to a very limited amount of pictures, there might have been only this one, it simply was impossible to say something about it because detailed pictures would´ve been useful here. But since it´s a Japanese auction and due to a lack of communication possibilities at that time there was no further clarification. Meaning it all had to be decided based on that one picture…
With a trained eye there are quite a lot of things to say about it because overall the quality seems (very) good some colors seemed a bit darker or off but depending on the light source every collector knows that can make a huge difference. So there´s a lot of positive things to say about it considering the fact it´s an instant (good condition) set of the 12 Mid end Laser Beasts. BUT… there´s the RED Eyed Grencats* again the eye catcher of the lot but at the same time the HUGE concern since none was able to tell/define whether the eye color was legit or whether it was just a custom paint job in which case the condition/state of ALL of these figures became doubtful… Within the select group of BB collectors this set has been discussed with at that time there was no general consensus and for the majority the Red eyes only caused alarm bells to ring. There was a bid prepared for it with a calculated risk but it was obvious from the beginning that for the less experienced collector or someone who wouldn´t have been aware of the Red eyes this was a unique opportunity and it´d go for quite a premium price. It did and with that this lot disappeared…
* Back in 2018 Grencats was the name used for Crimson Cat.
LB Missing Stamps?
Had this lot been bought by a Japanese collector we´d probably never heard from it again but it turns out it wasn´t because only a few weeks after the auction had ended someone reached out via the Beastformers Blog asking if anyone had ever seen Laser Beasts with missing date stamps. At that moment it was just a general question and as always pictures were requested to determine what is it about.
Interesting to say the least but it wasn´t until more pictures were received for further clarification because that´s when things really changed because guess who turned out to be part of the lot too…
Needles to say that this was a game changer because not only did the Red Eyed Cat surface again it turned out it had interesting features as well and it now was in the hands of a fellow collector who was able to provide all the pictures needed.
Some communication went back and forth discussing the origin of these figures and more and more pics were shared to find out more about what these figures actually were. During the correspondence it also turned out that the buyer of this lot actually bought the lot to fill in the missing gaps in the collection and that now the figures turned out to be something different than expected it´s clear those where not really considered to be the figures that´d be filling those gaps. Remember that earlier on it was already considered that there´d be a big chance that the buyer of this lot would most likely not have noticed crucial details and bought it thinking to buy a fully complete Mid end LB set of 12? This was exactly what had happened.
Pre-production / Promotion
With a massive amount of pictures to go over and proper in hand descriptions about feel and looks, which not always come out on pictures properly, it more and more became clear that this weird lot with the Red Eyed Cat in it might be rather special. Because it is VERY unusual for any type of not originally released item from the Battle Beasts or Laser Beasts line to surface in Japan. Unlike HASBRO, where some former employees had been able to get original pre-production items and early design models items out eventually making it into the hands of collectors, TAKARA has always been considered secluded fortress with NO prototype or pre-production items making it outside the design office. ALL items were supposed to be destroyed and that´s one of the main reasons why even after 30+ years none had ever heard or seen anything like it. Yes there were early versions of these figures shared with HASBRO for their Catalogue photo shoot resulting in some very rare pieces of LB Chariots that thanks for former HASBRO employees did make it into the hands of fellow collectors. But never had something like that come straight from TAKARA!
A Transformer collector as well as a former HASBRO employee were consulted to confirm some of the thoughts we developed regarding this set and not shortly after sharing the info and pictures a crucial answer followed;
Toys do not get the official licensing stamp or made-in date until they are very close to being finished, it´s the last thing that gets put into the molds.A former HASBRO employee.
This was a closure to the LB missing stamps question and it was shared with the collector who owned the set. Owned… because thankful for the help regarding the question and the presence of the Beastformers Blog the person thought the this unique set would be most in place being part of the Beastformers Collection. An agreement was constructed in which also the initial gaps of the collection, the reason the lot was bought for initially, of the collector were filled in and later in 2018 this set arrived at the Beastformers Dungeons. Needless to say it´s one of the greatest additions to the collection till date.
The RED Eyed Cat
So now we know that the set this Red Eyed Cat belonged to is most likely a pre-production set that´s been used for promotion purposes (more later in this story) by TAKARA there were still questions that remained concerning this figure that stood out since the beginning. Mainly; WHY the RED Eyes!?!
The figure has been studied up close, based on pictures first (the picture above is one of the best close ups captured) and later in hand and a few conclusions where made. The Red paint used is identical to the Red pain used for the detail on the armor. (Notice how you can actually see the paint layers on the figure in the picture above) A design choice that´s also made for Dragon Seahorn and Strong Hurricane for instance. And a crucial detail that really took a good eye and a magnifying glass to determine is the fact that the RED does not cover a Blue colored eye. In detail and in person it looks actually a bit sloppy so without all the background information that´s surrounding this figure there´s a big chance based on the eye pictures alone it´d not have been acknowledged as a special figure but more like the initial thought some might´ve had; what a shameful custom.
Looking at some of the other figures with Red Eyes from this lot, as the photo above shows, they all have rather ¨sloppy¨ if you compare it to the rest of the very well executed paint job. It almost looks like the Red paint that was used wasn´t meeting the quality standards.
But the answer to that one question remains. And it might remain unanswered because was it a mistake by the artist selecting the wrong color for the eye or was the Red Eye intended for the Cat initially at the stage in which these figures were used? Considering the amount extra attention to detail that went into hand painting these figures (more later info on that later in this story) a mistake is rather unlikely to say the least.
In 2020 the Beastformers Archaeology (BA) Team looked into the translations from Japanese to English and made some crucial changes of which the change from Grencats into Crimson Cat was probably one of the most drastically. At that time the presence of this figure was still only known by a very select group of people and the moment we were stuck and kept getting back to the color of Crimson (Red) it was time to share the image of this figure with the BA Team. Some already knew about it from the initial discussion back in 2018 while for others this was an eyeopener and a complete surprise. Was is a coincidence that this Crimson (Red) color kept getting back during translating and that there is a pre-production version of the Cat around with Red eyes? Maybe… maybe not…
More remarkable details
Of course with the absence of the missing stamps at the bottom of the feet al figures are different and distinct from their released versions but there were a few more remarkable details found on some of them. Even some of which have been overlooked earlier, so even for those who have been informed about these there might be a little reveal as well.
The image above is not photoshopped and as some of you might know a Laser Beasts without it´s Orb doesn´t leave such a hole. A few of the figures in this set including this Brown Lion had blank Orbs which might be another clue that these were floating around during the design and final production stage.
Another remarkable thing, which has been addressed earlier, is the fact that the attention for painting the details on correctly has been very high. Of course the general quality of the line itself is of a high standard already knowing these are all hand painted figures. But on the released versions and with a good eye you can sometimes see some sloppy details or little blow outs. With all figures in the Beastformers Collection being selected and upgraded over time it might be less noticeable but we´ll try to explain according to a few pictures.
On the picture above the Dragon Seahorn on the Left is from this pre-production set and although the original figure on the Right. And although the Right one coming from the Beastformers collection is in pretty good condition as well simply look at the painted details of the Red button parts and the transition from the Brown head paint into the Green armor parts. The Left one is done way more subtle like you would expect of a piece that´s still part of a design stage.
In a similar way this goes for the Scope Cougars above in which case the Left one is the original figure from the Beastformers Collection while the one on the Right is from this pre-production set. Just look at the way how the painted area around the mouth has been done. Finding a Scope Cougar without any issues to that area of the face is already tough on it´s own but compared to the pre-production one even the one in very good condition almost looks poor. it is this attention to detail and the paint used that gives another extra touch of historical importance to each figure within this set.
A final one regarding this attention for detail, now it´s up to you to tell;
It´s a tough one because all 4 of these Fennecs are in pretty good condition but one of them is from the pre-production set, can you tell? And there is even more than only the paint detail that gives it away…
Answer can be found at the end of this Story**
Let´s not forget this set did not only exist out of figures and even though at first sight there´s not a lot to tell from the weapons and sleds that came with this set also these show some interesting details.
For the weapons, the 12 Laserguns, goes that each of them is highly detailed and the details are very sharp. Which, considering the fact these come from fresh new molds maybe used for one of the first times, is not so strange. Here are some pictures;
As you can see in both examples with the Scope Cougar and Mantle Frenzy laserguns the top weapon is part of this pre-production lot. It clearly shows the details better, just look at the number, and compared to the actual released versions which both are in very good condition they still make a huge difference.
Than there were also the two Sleds that came with this lot and honestly for a long period these have been overlooked and were considered to be normal versions of Sleds. But it can´t be a very big surprise that also these turned out to be holding a secret.
Looking at if from the side like this one of the details is immediately clear from this perspective because it is clear that the wheel design of the Maroon sled that came with the pre-production set is less advanced and still in another design phase. But also this detail was overlooked initially which is no wonder considering all the other details discovered and revealed in this set and the sleds didn´t really have a high priority initially.
Another subtle design change has something to do with the PEG, the little cylinder shaped part that sticks out, which fits into the hole found in the bottom of the left feet of the Laser Beasts.
See how the PEG moved from the back of the sled to the center to ensure that the figure would look as if it is actually standing on the center of the standing platform other than just barely touching it with the tip of its toes. Again a subtle change it design but with a crucial outcome.
While from the beginning the Red Eyed Cat has been the most remarkable figure in this lot there might actually be one that´s even more remarkable because unlike the Red Eyes of the Cat which are basically ¨just¨ a paint difference there´s a much more crucial detail found on one of the other figures.
Can you tell what´s different about this Strong Hurricane?
Maybe this will help;
At this ¨nearly done¨ stage in the design process for the Mid 12 LB they must have discovered this design flaw because this initial design of the Strong Hurricane made that the figure tumbled over once it was holding its lasergun. A simple detail which you could easily be overlooked considering the fact that the figure and lasergun were designed separately and joined together at a later moment (like during a promotion photoshoot).
As you can see on the image above the issue of the tumbling figure, caused by an imbalance of the figure once equipped with its accessory, has been solved by designing an extra point of stability in the feet by giving Strong Hurricane pointed shoes. And with this redesign in the feet area also another subtle detail has been removed from this phase of the pre-production figure.
On the image showing the 2 Strong Hurricanes the left figure, the pre-production Strong Hurricane, shows an actual bird leg design that goes into the armor booth while this detail has disappeared on the eventual released version which is shown on the right. The other picture shows a more detailed view of this subtle bird leg design.
It was also this figure which has led to the idea that this design stage, or figures closely related this pre-production set have been used and where distributed for promotion purposes.
To understand this a little bit more it is important to realize that the period in which all Battle Beasts and Laser Beasts have been promoted worldwide by HASBRO in cooperation with the TAKARA design team in Japan has been relatively short. These 12 Mid-end, as well as the 12 High-end, Laser Beasts were scheduled (initially) to be sold in the US and Europe during 1988 which is why they made it into HASBRO´s Pre-Toyfair Catalogue for 1988. The page below comes from that catalogue and it might be a little hard to tell but look at the armor booth of Strong Hurricane.
For the HASBRO photoshoot a similar set of figures, or at least one that´s very close to the design stage of the pre-production set that is shared in this story has been used. It is not showing the Red Eyed Cat (Crimson Cat) so that change in the design might´ve already taken place which would mean the figures used during the photoshoot were a later more perfected version already and it might have been during the photoshoot that the tumbling of the Strong Hurricane become obvious. But it is also still possible that the Red Eyes for Crimson Cat were a mistake… Also here there is no final answer but with this connection and the actual evidence of similar figures appearing in the photoshoot it does show that it is more and more likely that the Red Eyed Cat did indeed escape from TAKARA preventing itself and the rest of this pre-production lot from a trip through the shredder.
And it is speculation but based on the inconsistency of the figures and Laser Beasts chariots shown in the 1988 pre-toyfair catalogue compared to the actual models released there are quite a few changes it is plausible that this is were things got stuck between TAKARA and HASBRO because let´s face it;
- Shields are Yellow/Gold
- Strong Hurricane design is tumbling over and needed a redesign
- It looks like the figures are standing more on the backside of the sleds meaning those weren´t the final versions either.
- LB Chariots didn´t have the final colors yet
- Laserguns for the High-end 12 LB are colored differently
- And so on…
IF, like HASBRO at that time, you´re working on a Pre-ToyFair catalogue and there are a lot of concerns/doubts regarding items being finished on time the choice might´ve been an easy one. This is guessing but you can imagine that for a company like HASBRO for who the Battle Beasts and Laser Beasts (Shadow Warriors) never were a primary line that it was unacceptable or the time frame became too short to wait for the final production versions of these figures and they never made it into the actual HASBRO Toy Catalogue of 1988 for the US, and the end is history…
A few European countries were lucky enough to have the Mid-end 12 LB with the Shields as shown on the promotion image (although not the Yellow shields) but the High-end 12 LB never made it outside of Japan.
Without this Red Eyed Cat this whole story might´ve never been uncovered and it is thanks to this pre-production version that in 2020 the name Grencats was changed into Crimson Cat. A drastic name change but one that after reading this Beastformers Story might be more understandable.
It is not said that with this story ALL of the mysteries and subtle design changes concerning this set have been revealed because every time this set is handled new things seem to appear. IF based on the pictures in this story you think you see something that might´ve been overlooked let us know because who knows what new puzzle piece that might provide.
** The Fennec on the Bottom Left was from the pre-production set.
How could you tell? Best painted details with no blow-outs, turquoise paint is slightly different, detail at the bottom of the orb (it is missing the closure/connecting piece of the circle).
This episode in the Beastformers Stories series showed that you can be fooled and that even a figure that at first sight might look ridiculous or weird has to be seriously investigated because it might be a crucial piece of history. Even after 30+ years this toy line continues to surprise us and new finds, information and insights can still be found. None would have ever expected we´d be confronted with actual physical pre-release figures in whatever stage or phase from TAKARA but it happened… What´ll be next?