Kibbles and bits and bits and bits...
What happens when a Transforming Mecha
can't hide its Shapeshifter Baggage
Coined by the Transformers
fan community, "kibble
" is the general term for the odd parts of one mode that "hangs around" in the other, unable to be converted into something useful or blend in properly to hide it. In a television show or movie geared more for kids, kibble can be used as disposable "parts" that can be torn or shot off from a character, showing superficial damage
without exposing the kiddies to the true horrors of war.
When the majority
of an alternate mode is this, it's known as a shellformer
, as one mode forms a "shell" around the protein-packed peanutty goodness that is the other. It's basically like a toy hiding within an egg, and the egg becomes a large backpack or cape behind the robot.
If the media product in question is Merchandise-Driven
, kibble can severely hurt the playability of the resultant toys, as the "hanging" pieces can restrict articulation or - if they can be detached and separated from the main robot - become easily lost. On the other hand, the latter case has created a lucrative online trading business for fans in need of a replacement.
Artfully-placed kibble can be visually appealing, not to mention the fact that oftentimes the kibble is necessary for the transformation to work at all, so it's not all bad. Classic characters such as Prowl have the doors of their vehicle mode form door "wings" on the character and are not only perfectly fine for articulation but also gives him a distinctive (and badass looking) silhouette
. And depending on how flexible the design is fans can sometimes create their own appearance for the character, shifting the kibble to become a psuedo-shield, armor or weapon that the original designers did not intend for.
Not to be confused with "bitz", a wargaming hobby term for spare parts originating in the Warhammer40000
- Bulkhead in Transformers Animated shows off the single most awesome use of kibble ever, by converting the "leftover" parts of his vehicle mode into a chair◊. Reportedly, one of his many toys can do the same thing (leader, 2008). This shows the impact kibble has on the fandom, as everyone went crazy with that idea.
- A number of other transformers have the ability to move the wheels on their legs down to their feet, allowing them to skate with them. Bumblebee uses this liberally in Transformers Animated, and Optimus Prime does so at one point as well.
- Hot Shot of Transformers Armada can do it as well. Interestingly, Bumblebee was intended to be a new version of Hot Shot before the live-action film increased Bumblebee's name value. It's been noted even by people who didn't know about this that he acts more like a Hot Shot than a Bumblebee.
- In the Transformers Film Series Michael Bay wanted a "realistic" interpretation of giant alien robots that transform into automobiles. The Autobots in the film series generally lack excessive kibble. For example, the Buster Optimus Prime actually completely averts this trope by having his Ion Gun form from his detachable fuel tanks. The designs in general treat the vehicle parts as being either smoothly integrated into their body or as being a sort of armor plating. This has generally resulted in some of the most slender designs ever made. Although how well they resemble the toy varies.
- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, part of Devastator comes from two wrecking ball cranes. Guess what the kibble is. Just guess. It's a pair of giant steel balls hanging from his crotch. Yes, Michael Bay went for a dick joke.
- Note that none of the vehicles that make up that particular Devastator have a wrecking ball.
- Unlike the aforementioned Transformers above, the Devastator toys lack that particular kibble for reasons that shouldn't need stating considering its nature.
- Rumor has it that at least one of the higher-ups at Industrial Light and Magic was so opposed to the "robot balls" that they made at least one rendered scene without them and submitted them as part of an appeal to omit them. It wasn't to be.
- Though the Third Party 'garage' makers have "come to the rescue" with add-on parts that are these bits of kibble for the Legends class version, and the Supreme version.
- Rampage's toy had an absurdly large kibble backpack that folds out to become "legs" to help him balance. Meanwhile, Soundwave's figure has absurd amounts of kibble that form his wings and shoulders, and Voyager Megatron's very shellformer-esque tank mode top becomes a pair of huge wings.
- A lesser-used definition of 'kibble' (which, however, was the earliest known use of the word as Transformers slang) is the parts that are left over from a toy's transformation. A truly disappointing number of the finer details of older Combining Mecha come from a bag of parts, to the point that the individual vehicles on their own are basically just framework. If you lay out Superion's extra bits as they would be if they were on the final robot, it's more likely to be recognized as Superion than if you assembled the five bots and didn't add the combiner kibble. As toy technology improves, this is less so today, to the point where the most recent designs don't have any at all (although they still have plenty of the other kind of kibble).
- Transformers Energon's combiner teams tried to solve the kibble problem by having the individual TFs' weapons become the hands and feet.
- The set of deluxe figures based on the Combaticons/Bruticus from Transformers: Fall of Cybertron avert the problem by simply having hands built into the figures that can become limbs, and having the feet form from miscellaneous vehicle kibble (the first variety of kibble, that is).
- However, the Japanese-only Transformers line "Operation Combination" had three combiners named Sixbuilder, Sixwing, and Sixturbo whose extra parts are put to good use: they could combine into small jets, able to be piloted by any of the individual team members. (Maybe they should have called him Sevenwing.) The same line also slightly modified the previous year's Sixliner to make Sixtrain; both used the kibble as extra cars to be pulled by the train-bots. After all five were reissued well over ten years later, four of them (Sixliner was omitted) were finally released in America, renamed (and in Sixbuilder's and Sixwing's cases, repainted) as new versions of Devastator, Superion, Defensor, and Rail Racer. Sadly, outside of a cameo, none of them have appeared in any cartoons or comics... yet.
- The Beast Wars Neo toys were notorious for being "shellformers" with much kibble that doesn't integrate at all into the robot form. Forget "becomes a backpack or a cape," the animal parts, mostly intact, just hung off wherever they happened to be. Break basically has a giant penguin for shoulders - beak, feet, and all. Nothing folds away or attempts to look more attractive. Similar can be said of the entire line.
- The Transformers Animorphs toys had similar problems with animal parts hanging off. No, they weren't tied into the Transformers universe, but apparently the similarity in transforming led to a line of Transformer/Animorphs toys being released. The 'Visser Three to Hork Bajir' one is an especially huge mess because it was a triple changer. Tobias's body still looks very hawk-like in his human form, with the hawk head visible hanging down in the back.
- Parodied in Project A-Ko. B-Ko designed a huge transforming mecha, and after giving a list of features worthy of a car dealership, she orders the pilot to kill. The pilot, however, has been twisted up due to kibble pushing into the cockpit and rearranging things very painfully. What's worse, in the process, the start button is put into a position that cannot be reached with human anatomy.
- Played straight in Code Geass with Gino's Knightmare Frame, the Tristan. In its first appearance, you can clearly see its hands right next to the giant 'Anchors.'
- The Gundam franchise tends to be all over the spectrum with regards to this trope but special mention has to go to the Union and AEU mecha from Gundam 00. This can probably be pinned to the fact that they aren't fully transformable and can only change between forms in the hangars (though in the first season, The Rival pulls off the first-ever on-the-fly transformation).
- The Go-Bots seemed generally more willing to make use of their kibble than Transformers were. A Guardian with a cockpit in his chest might allow a human to ride around in it; or a Renegade might forcibly shove a human into his cockpit to hold him prisoner. And they would frequently pop their heads up out of their vehicle modes to emphasize a point when speaking, particularly Cy-Kill. Scooter pretty much always left his face visible when transformed.
- The Go-Bots had a Combiner pack called the Puzzlers that consisted of 6 normally transforming figures that also combined into a single robot, and despite being made back in the eighties, there was no detachable kibble of any kind - absolutely everything was built in.
- The various Super Sentai and Power Rangers Humongous Mecha have different combined forms that may either be fairly slender or cumbersome to the point that they shouldn't have any real range of motion. Generally, the technology-based series have fairly smooth looking Megazords while the animal-themed series usually have a giant animal head or five sticking out of the chest and/or sides.
- Sadly, Kanzen Gokaioh was semi-spoiled in Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger because Machalcon has very obvious hands sticking out of his back from day one. At the very least, you knew he had a formation other than "gets ridden like a skateboard."
- A consistent problem with Digimon toys; some (Greymon -> MetalGreymon) do it significantly better than others (Patamon -> Angemon, which had a particularly bad case of the shell problem). It was particularly bad with the Jogress Evolution toys around Digimon Adventure 02, and it didn't help that they simply did not design Omegamon in a way at all friendly to an adequate combining toy. The Digimon Xros Wars line mostly cleaned up its act in regard to this trope, but still had a small problem with Shoutmon's head still being somewhat visible when it's being used to form the V crest on the chest of Shoutmon X3 and higher.
- War Greymon and Metal Garurumon were the first digimon to be modeled after their toys instead of vice versa. This lead to creative use of kibble, such as Agumon's head and claws becoming the Brave Shield and Dramon Killers or Gabumon's feet, horn and tail becoming his shoulder mounted missile launchers, tail and wings respectively. However, this caused them to fit in poorly with their other forms due to clashing themes.
- Kamen Rider Den-O: Den-O's armor consists of two pieces which swap around depending on which form is active: Sword Form's chestplate opens up vertically for Gun Form, and it becomes the backplate for Rod and Ax Form. Meanwhile, Ax Form's chestplate splits horizontally for Rod Form's chest and shoulders, and it is (of course) Sword and Gun's back. Wing Form is a recolored and modified Sword Form, while Climax and Liner Forms are completely original.