Voltron: Lance (Red Lion Pilot) by Mattel

[Disclaimer: This is my token rant against Matty Collector. If you don’t want to partake in my venting, just skip down a couple paragraphs where the feature actually begins. And, here we go… 

                           
One would think that selling a subscription more than six months before the release date of the first product would give a company as big as Mattel enough lead time to iron things out and get it right. Unless of course you’re one of the people who have been dealing with the delightful Matty Collector/Digital River partnership and then you would surely know better. Because February 2012, the start date for the new Voltron Subscription, came around and seemed to catch Matty completely with their pants down. They were supposed to bill subscribers on the 10th, ship out the product on the 13th and neither of those things happened. In fact, most subscribers, including myself, went to bed the night before the sale with no billing notification, no shipping notification, and generally having no idea whether or not their subs had been royally fucked up.
                               
I was lucky enough to get a shipping notification waiting for me when I woke up on the 15th, but many people didn’t even get that, leaving them to wonder whether or not they should just try to buy a Red Lion off the website and run the risk of buying it and then having the Sub go through afterwards. It’s particularly vexing because Matty themselves have a sea of fine print about how subscribing is a contract and that you are obligated to follow through on the commitment and all that jazz, when Matty themselves clearly can’t hold up their end of the contract from step one. Now, I know if you were part of the Star Sisters debacle of last month where Matty just switched products on you and wound up billing you for a lot more than you thought, this Voltron snafu may seem like small potatoes, but this is the first time I’ve subscribed to anything on Matty and I just thought it interesting that they managed to screw it up from the get-go. Ok, that’s enough… on to the toys… -FF]
The first installment of Matty Collector’s Voltron set has finally arrived and holy shit am I excited! Matty shipped the figure and the Lion together in one white shipper box, but they are still packaged as two different products. I’m going to be looking at both the Lance figure and Red Lion today, but I’m still breaking it up into two parts. The second part covering the Red Lion should be up later on today. I don’t have a big preamble planned because… well, I really am that excited, so let’s just dive in and take a look at what we got.
Matty cooked up some pretty cool and unique packaging for the pilot figures. Instead of going with a standard card and bubble, you get nice red box with some cool artwork of the character set beside a window that shows off the figure. The back of the box has some photos of the figure interacting with the Red Lion and you get a picture of the completed Collect & Connect style Blazing Sword. The box is perfectly collector friendly. You can open it at the top or bottom and slide the tray out to reveal the contents. Inside you get the 3 3/4″ Lance figure, a swappable helmeted head, the Red Lion Key that doubles as a figure stand, and the hilt piece for the Blazing Sword. I love this packaging and I’ll likely use it to store the figure as I’m waiting to complete my Voltron set.
And there’s Lance. Matty went with a clean, simple sculpt that makes this figure pretty faithful to his animated counterpart. I’m very happy with how Lance’s head sculpt turned out, especially the hair, which gives him a lot of character. Most of the details in his uniform are sculpted rather than just painted on, including his shoulder armor, belt buckle, boots and gauntlets. His laser pistol is sculpted into his holster, which is easilly my biggest disappointment with this figure. At $15 for a 3 3/4″ figure, I really think Mattel should have pulled off a removable pistol and a working holster. Hasbro can do it with figures at half the price. At the very least Mattel should have included an extra pistol for him to hold.
The paintwork on Lance is pretty good, although the white parts of the uniform are a tad bit smudgy in a few areas. Its nothing critical, but worth mentioning. The blue and yellow accents on the uniform, however, are nice and bright and very clean. The paintwork on the head is also nicely executed, although I’m pretty sure Lance’s hair was black in the cartoon and here its brown. Its not a big deal for me, but I would imagine big fans of the character will be rather perturbed. How a mistake like that happens, I’m not sure.
The spare head depicts Lance wearing his helmet and visor. It looks fantastic, especially with the translucent blue visor. I would have preferred a removable helmet, particularly to display Lance holding his helmet in the crook of his arm, but with the sculpted hair, I can see why Mattel decided to go this route and I’m perfectly fine with it.
How about articulation? Well, Lance isn’t going to set any new records for a 3 3/4″ scale figure, but he still has some decent poseability. He features a ball jointed neck, which allows for the head to be easily popped off and swapped. The arms feature universal movement in the shoulders and ball joints in the elbows. The legs feature universal movement at the hips and have ball joints in the knees. There’s definite room for improvement here, but honestly for a figure designed to sit in a Lion that forms Voltron, I’m not complaining. The ball jointed elbows and knees go a long way to make up for the lack of swivels elsewhere. I will note that the hip joints feel a little fragile, but I don’t plan on rough housing with him.
Lance comes with two more accessories. First, you get the Red Lion Key, which is not only a life size replica of the keys used in the cartoon, but actually interacts with the Red Lion and has a peg in order to double as a figure stand. Its very cool, but honestly, Mattel, couldn’t you put the sticker on both sides of the key? Remember the price point is $15? Slap a second sticker on that key! Secondly, each of the five pilot figures will come with a piece of the Blazing Sword and Lance comes with the hilt. If you only had the figure and not the Red Lion, you really get a sense of Voltron’s size by the hilt piece. Its almost big enough to be the hilt of a life sized dagger!

Overall, I’m pretty happy with this figure. Lance looks cool and has decent articulation. For a figure that is designed to sit in a Lion that in turn forms Voltron, Lance is certainly impressive and even as a stand alone figure he’s a pretty solid effort. But if you noticed a recurring theme in this feature, its the price point. Yes, Lance is a collectible figure based on an old cartoon, but at $15, there were little points here and there where improvements could (and should) have been made. A working holster with a removable gun, stickers on both sides of the Key, and maybe an extra helmet for him to hold. All these simple little things would have justified the price point. Just saying, is all.
I’ll be back in a little bit with a look at Lance’s Red Lion.

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