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Transformers Toy Review Archive (older series, 1984 to date)
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The Reverend's review of: Beastbox and Squawktalk / Squawkbox

Faction: Decepticon
Function: Gestalt (Cassette) Warrior?
Generation: One
Sub-Group: Decepticon Cassettes

Sometimes its just easy to tell when the minds at Takara/Hasbro were running out of steam. You know that at every corporate meeting, there was some dork in an ill-fitting suit jumping up and down like a third-grader waving his hand and whining "The Go-Bot line has a motorcycle as an evil leader. We don't have ANY motorcycles! We must have motorcycles!" Hence the reasons atrocities like Groove and Wreck-Gar got into distribution.

Now, when Transformers first hit the US market, that first Christmas was Soundwave-Mania. Parents were getting into shoving matches in the stores over the last Soundwave (thanks, mom), kids were duly unimpressed by the racks and racks of every other Transformer on the shelves and stomped out of the stores moaning "I WANT SOUNDWAVE" with appropriate snot output, and well, the few kids (like me) whose parental units won the shoving matches and actually got Soundwave as a result smirked a lot. Sue me. We were kids. Of course, once you HAD Soundwave, having Buzzsaw to pop in and out of his chest wasn't enough. Why? Because, being the crass consumers we kids usually were, having a character like Buzzsaw (who didn't appear on the TV show for at least another season) was not enough when Rumble, Ravage and Laserbeak were putting in prime, spotlighted appearances on EVERY episode.

(Well, some of us pretended Buzzsaw WAS Laserbeak. Some still are, considering the number of traders trying to pass him off as Laserbeak. But regardless...)

Anyway, Hasbro executives never forgot the success of the cassettes, and well after Soundwave had disappeared from circulation, they were still putting them out. Ratbat. Overkill. Slugfest. And of course the Autobots had their own cassettes in post-movie eps, all of which (due to poor promotion) never quite seemed to take off in the same way. But I digress. As the G1 line began to reach the end of its rope, some desparate board members finally paid attention to the nerd in the back row (the same one insisting on motorcycles, most likely), and asked "So, we gave you motorcycles. Do you have anything else to contribute?"

The whiny, squirmy, original-but-not idea... Kids loved the cassettes. And they loved the gestalts. We need... GESTALT CASSETTES!!!!!!!

Well, it might have been laughed out of the boardroom, but the Terrorcons and Technobots were enjoying sub-par ratings as the kind of Transformers you bought your ugly cousin just to keep from getting the "Big Trouble" look at family reunions, so the idea came to fruition.... SQUAWKBOX, THE GESTALT CASSETTE WARRIOR!

Squawkbox was composed of two Decepticon cassettes - Beastbox, the apelike interrogator, and Squawktalk, Buzzsaw & Laserbeak's ugly bird cousin who happened to know a lot of languages. Like the other U.S. released cassettes, they were sold together as a pair. And, it would seem, this was one pair you didn't buy for one bot and give the other away...

BEASTBOX
FUNCTION: INTERROGATOR
"Speak now if you intend to ever speak at all."

"His violent temper often overcomes his natural curiosity. More willing to whittle down his captives with his fists than with his words. Few survive his interrogations long enough to reveal anything useful. Can record up to 6000 hours of testimony. Equipped with two compression cannons, which crush a target with tons of compressed air pressure. Combines with Squawktalk to form robot Squawkbox."

"Robot" Mode:
Originally, Laserbeak was the Decepticons' interrogator according to his tech specs. And this kind of made sense. After all, he carried two hefty laser cannons on his back. One could just imagine him burning little lackadaisical patterns into the wall to frighten his helpless captives while he glared down in his evil condor-ness. Something about Beastbox, though, makes that mildly harder to believe. For example, Beastbox is not only some kind of ape (gorilla or orangutan, take your pick), his corresponding artwork on the card is... pink. That's right. The poor boy is almost as pink as that one-time 80's rage, "pink ice" (ask your girlfriend). I guess this is why he had a violent temper. You would too if everyone called you "Pinky" (that scene in Reservoir Dogs comes to mind). Thankfully, the actual toy is closer to purple.

So anyhow, once you have this beauteous little minicassette in your hands, transformation is easy. His arms make the ends of the tape, so roll them forwards toward the label-less side of the tape. Flip out the little white blocks on the arms that pass for hands, then swing down the two little grey things that make his short, stumpy legs and adjust the feet at the end. By the way, stop to admire the feet, as the only parts of his body (along with his head) that aren't blocky and squared. Finally, his head will be upside down and facing backwards, so use a fingernail and roll that into position. Oh yeah, and fit his fat guns on his back. It keeps him from looking like... well, a purple pancake with limbs. Beasty's not too articulate. He can wave his arms up and down, move his visored head up and down, and that's about it. Still, real monkeys on a rampage do pretty much the same thing (any Johnny Weissmuller movie will do for a reference). He's a little shorter than Ravage in this mode, which is a bit delightful as its easy to imagine him bounding around behind Autobot lines creating chaos. You can even imagine him somersaulting backwards to fire his cannons. Just ignore the fact that Squawkbox's face is passing for his rump. Hoo-ha, monkey madness!!

Alternate mode:
Cassette mode would be almost pointless to mention, except that Beastbox seems just a tad too large to fit into Soundwave's chest cavity. He carried the standard cassette-mock-up labelling common to all Decepticon cassettes, rendered in a glowing orange. As long as you're viewing him from the false-cassette angle, very little kibble is visible, with the exception of the bottom half of Squawkbox's face peeking out. Actually, since its the lower half of the face, I guess he's not peeking. He's leering. Now we know how one leers with a masked face. However, the entire cassette being a molded purplesque color, one wonders just what he's carrying on his internal tape. Something tells me that if Beastbox were to fit into a working cassette player, pressing "play" would give you the strains of Culture Club. And yes, I do really want to hurt him, in a sense, because I've just got to point out that where previous Decepticon cassettes had molded "teeth" around the two holes in their cassette modes (touch of realism and all), Beastbox has simple thin black rings as part of his sticker. Nothing more.

SQUAWKTALK
FUNCTION: TRANSLATOR
"If you have nothing interesting to say, say it anyway."

"Never stops talking except to refill his fuel tank. Knows over 250 Earth and 6300 alien languages, but never has anything important to say in any of them. Other Decepticons often threaten to rip out his vocal circuitry and wrap it around his beak to shut him up. Carries two deafening high-decibel sonic boomers. Combines with Beastbox to form robot Squawkbox."

One of the immediate problems that Squawktalk likely faced as far as "getting over" with the kiddie crowd in those days was that we already had two Decepticon cassette birdies, neither of whom seemed able to talk as per the cartoon. Ravage, Ratbat, and even the Autobots' Steeljaw and Ramhorn were also confined to making bad impressions of animal noises. So as a result, trying to claim this birdy boy is some kind of translator is well... hard to fathom. Then again, as per issue #1 of the comic, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw were occasionally prone to making strange, long lectures along the lines of "its great to be a bird", and Ravage had a tendency to walk around making quasi-ninja soliloquies about loving the night and all that. So maybe Squawktalk isn't that out of line per say, except that, well... the Decepticons liked birds.

"Robot" Mode:
Continuing the "maybe girls will like this too" concept begun by Beastbox, Squawktalk is a pastel green in both cassette and animal mode. Transformation, again, is simple, and not unlike the other birdies - bring out his wings, fold down the feet, pull out his head. However, he has two white "extenders" on his wings (just to avoid too much comparison, I guess), and rear toes (well, white blocks pretending to be rear toes) that fold out on his feet. You can imagine this talking birdie at it already - "Hahahaha, Laserbeak, I have REAR TOES!!!" The perching contests on Charr, or wherever the Decepticons were holed up at this point, must have been pretty irritating. Oh yeah, and he also has a well-sculpted, fan-like set of white tail feather that hinges out to his beeee-hind. Anyway. Unlike his condor comrades, Squawktalk's head just extends straight out, the neck does not rise into a right angle - and probably couldn't anyway, because of his guns. His wings also don't sweep back in quite the same way - as they're going to double as Squawkbox's legs, they're somewhat blocky and only have joints at the front. The white extenders have a little bit of texturing on them, though. Hey, he's another Decepticon birdie, and there's no reason he can't take the place of the outmoded condors in performing dazzling (if limited) aerial attacks and the like. The problem is, he looks and feels like a retread no matter what, so poor Squawktalk is probably going to collect more dust than Beastbox.

Alternate Mode:
Squawktalk's cassette mode is really a bit dull, being the aforementioned green color and labeled with a blue decal only slightly darker. However, when viewed from his cassette side, there's no kibble visible except for the seams between his parts. Also, unlike Beastbox, Squawktalk at least tries to look like his cassette reels have teeth. True, they're not molded either, but they are represented on the label fairly accurately.

But anyway, here's what you came for:

SQUAWKBOX

Squawkbox didn't have a tech spec, although Furman gave him a nice writeup in "The Ultimate Guide to Transformers", stating that both Beastbox and Squawktalk extract taped confessions, then "Squawkbox reports any salient information directly to Soundwave, while also acting as Soundwave's personal bodyguard and enforcer." The implication is that Squawkbox is the highest ranking of the cassettes. Okay, fair enough. As a gestalt of sorts, he should be taller than the others, right?

On with the show! Swing Squawktalk's wings forward and rotate them 90 degrees, flipping in the wing extenders. Fold in his tail feather fan as well. This creates obvious feet and legs. (Stop the Voltron chant, please.) Push Squawkys head into its normal cassette-mode place, and do the same with his feet. This time, though, make sure the blocky rear toes are pointing "up", away from the feet. Pick up Beastbox, giggle again at his pinkness, and have him do a headstand. Flip his head back into its cassette-mode position, keep his legs pointing out as in ape mode (to expose Squawkbox's face/Beastbox's rump), and pull out on his forearms, causing the arms to be a bit longer. There are a couple of slots in Beastbox's shoulders to receive the tabs of Squawktalk's rear toes. Now you have a large bipedal robot with a very elongated trunk, and a pile of four silver guns. Each gun has appropriate posts and tabs to stack them together, so if you like, Squawkbox can carry any combination clipped to his arms (1 only, 1 on each arm, 2 on each arm, etc). And he has a fan of tailfeathers embedded in his gut. Also, because of the orientation of Beastbox vs. Squawktalk in this mode, Squawkbox bears Beastbox's cassette label on the upper half of his body. Okay, so its not exactly an emblem or logo to remember, but what did you expect, a Superman logo borne on his chest? Come now.

Okay, now what? Aside from the ridiculously oversized body versus his thin limbs, Squawkbox is nice and tall for a cassette. You might even be able to imagine Rumble gleefully carrying out his orders. Okay, maybe not, as he really looks just like two cassettes stuck together with pieces sticking out here and there, and its hard to imagine anybody taking him too seriously. Go figure. But having the possibilities of all four guns, he commands a respectable amount of firepower, and its fun to imagine him beating the snot out of someone about his size... say, Wheelie. His arms rotate at the shoulders. Overall, though, he looks disproportionate, and his gestalt nature is seriously betrayed by his clashing, toothpaste-like color scheme of orange, purple & green. He's also hard to stand sometimes, especially with his weapons offsetting his balance. (The poor guy looks almost anorexic, being so tall and yet thin enough to be near-flat.) He also appears to have two ponytails (thank Beastbox's legs) sticking out the back of his head. Since we had no tech spec for him per se, you can take this as an expression of savagery if you like. Rumble probably had something smart to say about it, though.

Still. Very few people will argue that the Autobot cassettes had something the Decepticons didn't, unless its uselessness. If you like to display your cassettes in their robot-and-etc modes, Squawkbox is great to have, as he stands head-and-shoulders (literally) above the rest.

Mom, will you fight an Ebay trader for me now?

Transformation: 5 - You really dont need to save the card. This is by no means difficult.
Durability: 7 - Beastbox is pretty sturdy. Squawktalk has more extended parts and might conceivably suffer broken wings, head, or feet. Its not that likely to happen, though. As with most of the cassette Transformers, overly loose joints are probably going to be the real issue.
Fun: 5 - The combining gimmick is fun. But the actual possibilities of either the cassettes or the gestalt will probably wear off quickly, as Squawktalk is no more interesting than Buzzsaw/Laserbeak and Beastbox is just a tiny little guy interested in limited-poseability monkey business. Still, the four-gun combinations available to Squawkbox can be made to spell doom for the occasional Autobot...
Price: Paid $27 on Ebay. Somewhat hard to find, but never have seen over $45. I hear a knockoff is beginning to circulate, but haven't seen it yet.
Overall: 5 - Hey, if you just love the Decepticon cassettes, you need Squawkbox to complete your set. Really. He's cooler than Overkill & Slugfest. But otherwise, I can't imagine him being anyone's first choice. The earlier cassettes command more ardor from fans, deservedly, and to have this anorexic upstart come in and suddenly claim to be "Soundwave's personal bodyguard and enforcer" is probably a disturbing concept to many.
 
 
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