A character model is a stylistic guide created to help animators and licensee artists depict the Transformers in a consistent and recognizable way. Most of the Generation One character designs were done by Floro Dery. The widely distributed model sheets of those characters may have been redrawn from his designs, or they might be his direct work.
If the same toy is used for multiple characters, they may be depicted with very different character models—for example, Sideswipe and Red Alert. These two toys are essentially identical, but while the first design conceived, Sideswipe's, is tall and athletic, the second, Red Alert's, is short and stocky.
This pattern of artistically differentiating two very similar toys in order to make distinct characterization easier was particularly common with the 1984/1985 toys, many of which were redecos or recolors of other toys. Examples include Trailbreaker/Hoist, Prowl/Smokescreen, the Seekers/the Coneheads, and others. In general, the 1984 toys were vastly simplified for the screen, while the 1985 character models resembled their toys much more closely, resulting in a stockier group of robots.
Character models may vary wildly from the toy itself, leading to greater or lesser degrees of "show-accuracy". Perhaps the most conspicuous examples are Ironhide and Ratchet. In those instances, droid-like and "alien" toys were heavily anthropomorphized in the character models, adding humanoid proportions, heads, and faces.
Perhaps the best representation of both of the above factors—character models differing from the toys, and later character models differing from earlier ones based on the same toys—is shown by Tarantulas and Blackarachnia.
The first three years' worth of Generation One character models formed the basis for the artwork of Marvel's Transformers Universe profile books. Additional profiles were later published in the back of the main comic book, showing character models for some of the 1987 and 1988 characters.
A few exceptions, such as Whirl and Roadbuster, who only appear in the Marvel UK comics, appear to have no character models at all, and their art based on their toys. Regardless, even in the later years of the Generation One franchise, the creation of character models persisted. One example is the 1989 Pretenders, whose character models are replicated faithfully by Jose Delbo. Even though artistic interpretations of Bludgeon, Stranglehold, and Octopunch diversified with later artists, elements taken from the character models continued, such as their individualized melee weapons. (These weapons were not included with the toy.)
A vast collection of Generation One character models are available in the books The Ark: A Complete Compendium of Character Designs and The Ark II — A Compendium of Japanese Character Designs. Many of the same designs are also available in Transformers Generations, though its pictures are quite small and typically feature only the front of the robot and the alt mode.
- Occasionally, AKOM actually used the character models of certain characters in the episodes themselves in order to spare themselves from having to draw new poses. Examples are the Predacons when they first appear in "Five Faces of Darkness, Part 5", various scenes with Devastator, Broadside and Galvatron in "Carnage in C-Minor", and at least one shot from "City of Steel".
- ↑ Answer: Neither. While Ratchet's character model clearly can't transform into anything, Ratchet's toy transforms into a Onebox minivan pretending to be an ambulance.