At the Hasbro panel at Comic-Con, they mentioned a new, transforming Battle Droid with "more articulation", but didn't elaborate. Folks thought this was finally the end-all, be-all BD we had been waiting for, especially with Sideshow showing off a billion of their new 12" version. However, they didn't have the figure in their booth's displays, so that's all we knew...

However, while talking with Hasbro chief figure sculptor Dave Vennemeyer, I noticed in his bag of prototypes and test-shots a non-Clone Wars Battle Droid. He confirmed it was a first-shot of the upcoming TVC figure, so I asked to check it out. It hadn't occurred to me to take photos, and Steve wasn't in the booth unfortunately, or I'd have photos for you instead of just words.

The new BD starts out with amazing accuracy in its sculpt, even the underside of the head has sculpting that previous BDs hadn't tried, everything looks really good in the sculpt. And that's a first-shot, which means the factory shot this piece from the mold to make sure everything was on the up-and-up. The figure has 2 holes in its back, one for the regular backpack, and one higher and smaller which possibly is going to be the commander-style antennae (the panel mentioned it came with 2 backpacks, but the accessories weren't included in this test-shot so it was figure only).

The new BD does indeed the cut-aways in the lower legs for the full transformation there. However, the neck telescopes in like the original OOM-9 figure rather than the fold-down of the movie. I asked Dave why, he said when they went to examine how that all worked, that ILM had cheated, there's a panel below the neck proper which folds in, but in order to fold in enough for transformation, ILMers had that panel essentially disappear through the back, there's no physical way to accomplish what they did. Hasbro's answer explains why Sideshow also went that route, although I think Sideshow copped out since they had more material to try a hinge joint the way the Hasbro 12" figure has.

The last thing I noted about the new BD is that it really has no significant new articulation to speak of. The chest is still 1 piece, the wrists and forearms still don't rotate. The only "new" articulation was an ankle hinge joint, which we've seen on the CW Battle Droid figure but not on a movie version, and I seem to remember small ball joints at the shoulders and hips the way the CW fig has, but I'm not entirely sure - I didn't want to force the first-shot to check and end up breaking Dave Vennemeyer's work piece. The idea that the new BD can hold the blaster 2-handed the way it did in the movie, that's just not accurate from what I had seen. Maybe Hasbro has something else in mind, or isn't done with the mold, but I doubt that. As to the question of material, it felt like it'd hold up, but most I've owned have felt similar and wilted over time, so at this point I can't speak to that issue.

So what should you take away from this post? Well, the new Battle Droid has superior fine sculpting, it can basically fold up into the collapsed version (the forearms can't wrap around, but that's a very small detail), and it seems to be pre-planned for a commander version down the road. There aren't a ton of new joints, and it still doesn't have the forearm articulation it should, but it is taking a few new joints from the Clone Wars figure. Were you to ask me if I thought you should army-build it, I'd say at $9 a pop it's probably worth buying 1 or 2 first to see if it's your type of figure before going whole-hog on it, but that those 1 or 2 figures you buy will definitely end up at the front of any existing Battle Droid squads you have set up.