So, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. After releasing only two Classic Thundercats figures in the 8-inch scale, Ban Dai decided to go back to the drawing board and start over with a 6-inch line. I don’t have any inside information as to why they would do this, particularly since the 8-inch Lion was easily my favorite figure released in 2011, but it might have had something to do with the fact that a lot of collectors were bitching that the 8-inch format was an oddball scale and you couldn’t swing a cyber-cat around most toy forums without hearing the lament that they didn’t fit into scale with the Masters of the Universe Classics line.
As some of you may know the Walmarts in my town are pretty sucky for toy hunting. Unless you’re looking for Star Wars, Transformers or toys from whatever the Marvel or DC movie of the week is, they really don’t carry anything else worthwhile in the Boys Action aisles. In fact, in the last couple of years the Boys Action aisles have gone from three down to two and now it’s one and a half as one of them shares with Nerf and all three of the ones in the city where I live are the same way. So imagine my surprise today when I actually found Thundercats on the pegs. There were no 4-inch cats, but two flexed pegs of the 6-inchers, along with the newly released Cheetara. I happily grabbed up Lion-O, Panthro and Cheetara. Sadly no Tygra or Mumm-Ra. Today, we’ll kick it off with Lion-O.
It was a long struggle to finally get this figure. I had it pre-ordered, had to cancel the pre-order because I bought way too much other stuff that month. Re pre-ordered it at another site. Canceled that pre-order because the figures turned up at another site first. Had to pass on them at TRU because my order already shipped and now I finally have him. So, don’t take it lightly when I say that after finally getting this figure in hand, he was worth every spot of bother and frustration along the way. I’d like to think its rare that I completely lose my shit and gush like crazy over a figure, but put on your hip boots, folks, because it’s about to get deep in here. Lion-O is freaking awesome.
No doubt, the coolest thing about the 4-inch line of Thundercats figures is the potential for vehicles, and so far Ban Dai has been delivering. I’ve already looked at the Thundertank and now it’s time to check out two of the Deluxe scale vehicles: The ThunderRacers. Besides offering up some great vehicle action for your figures, these kitty bikes are also designed to combine with the Thundertank to make it a more formidable fighting machine. Let’s check them out…
The Racers are each packaged and sold separately, one with Lion-O and one with Tygra. I’ve decided to look at them together, since they are basically the same toy, only each one comes with a different figure and weapon pod. The packaging is pretty large and hefty for a toy in this price class. You get a HUGE bubble on a cardback that is flush with the bubble making the packaging look like a straight up box. The figure and vehicle are displayed really well and the back panel of the card has photos showing the gimmicks and other toys in the line. All in all, I think this is some great presentation. But the best thing about the packaging? Nothing is tied down. Just tear it open and everything pops out really easy.
The vehicles themselves are basically Thundercat Lightcycles. They have a wheel in front and back and a big canopy that lifts open to allow access to the cockpit where the figure sits. There’s no real detail inside the cockpit, apart from a pair of control sticks that the figures can grab. There seems to be spot intended for a sticker where the controls would be, but it doesn’t come with any stickers. The seat is sculpted with the socket to plug the figures’ ThunderLynx into and the vehicles will work with the regular carded versions of Lion-O and Tygra too. I’m pretty sure Cheetara would fit as well. The sculpt is solid, and I like the blue speckled paint used for the cat heads, but some extra paint apps or stickers for the outside would have helped a lot. Admittedly, there isn’t a whole lot of substance to the Racers themselves, but they do look great and are fun to play around with.
Each Racer comes with one weapon pod, which can be plugged into either side of the vehicle and works in conjunction with the figures’ ThunderLynx. Lion-O’s comes with a drill that shoots like a missile and Tygra’s has an LED that lights up like its firing a laser. The weapons are activated by pressing a fire button near the canopy, but will only work if a figure is plugged into the ThunderLynx port. The weapons themselves are not all that special, but I do like the customization ability, where you can even plug both weapons into a single bike.
The Lion-O and Tygra figures are a little perplexing to me. I expected them to be simple space holders much like the unarticulated figures Spin Master put in with their Tron vehicles. As it turns out, these are actually great looking figures and loads of fun. On the downside, they aren’t as detailed or as articulated as the single carded versions of these characters, nor do they come with any accessories. They’re also just a smidge smaller than the carded figures, but still passable in the same scale. Even if you get these versions first, you’re still going to want to pick up the regular releases at which point these figures become rather redundant. Each pack-in figure has the same body sculpt and basic outfit, but the arms and legs have unique paintwork. The head sculpts are every bit as good as the regular carded releases in terms of sculpt and paintwork. Articulation consists of seven points: The heads rotate, the arms rotate at the shoulders, the legs rotate at the hips and have hinged elbows. So, the articulation is not bad, but nowhere near as good as the regular versions.
The ThunderRacers plug into the Thundertank in the same way as the little drone bikes that came with it. They add a lot of bulk to the tank and triple its occupancy. I absolutely love the look of this combined mode, although the Thundertanks paws can’t go down all the way with the Racers attached, so be prepared to fold out the claws and put them in attack mode. Also, the combined mode is pretty unstable because of the added weight on the sides. It holds together great if you leave the tank on a flat surface, but if you go to pick it up, you have to be pretty careful in order to keep it form falling apart. The ThunderRacers work with the same launching gimmick as the drone bikes too.
The ThunderRacers retail for fifteen bucks each, which on its own seems like a decent price, but the sense of value really skyrockets when compared to the Deluxe 4-inch figures at the same price point. The vehicles and figures are plenty of fun on their own, but I think the real draw here for most collectors will be to be able to complete the buffed out Thundertank. Again, I really like the figures, and I suppose its good to have extra figures to display in the tank, but as I said earlier, they’re really redundant and I may wind up just giving them to my Nephew.
If you read my look at the Thundertank then you know I’ve already recounted the tortured trials of pre-orders, failures, and victories that surrounded my efforts to get the new Thundercats figures. When the dust had settled, I wound up with five out of the seven Basic Assortment figures, right now I’m missing only Cheetara and Panthro, and two of the Deluxe Assortment figures. Today we’re going to start checking these guys out with a look at the leading cat himself, Lion-O.
Our first look at the new Thundercats packaging and I’m really digging it. The card is fairly compact with the Thundercats logo across the top. It’s so nice to see that logo on a cardback again, especially since just about every other 80s action figure property has gotten more than their due over the past three decades. The card features some nice artwork of Lion-O in the upper corner, and as we’ll see in upcoming features, the cards have character-specific art, so Lion-O’s mug isn’t on every card. The bubble is fairly roomy and shows off the figure and his accessories very nicely. The back panel has a shot of the figure and some of the other toys and figures in the line. There’s a one sentence bio-type thingy on the back, but its so short and meaningless that it might as well not be there at all. And yes, the cards are tri-lingual, which sucks. Or maybe it doesn’t. The packaging is nice enough that I could see myself buying extras to keep MOC, IF only they weren’t tri-lingual. So in the long run it saved me some money. Ok, let’s tear this pussy open and check him out.
Out of the package, Lion-O is one fun and great looking little figure. The sculpt is fairly simple, as you would expect from a figure based on an animated design and it captures Lion-O’s on screen counterpart to a tee. The shoulder armor is made of soft plastic, but it does restrict Lion-O’s head movement a bit. It’s pegged into his shoulder, and it’s not meant to be removed. I’m going to wait until I get a second Lion-O before I try to forcibly excise it. It’s the one aspect of Lion-O’s new design that I don’t like all that much. The hip armor is cast in very soft plastic, so as not to impede the hip articulation at all. As part of this line’s ThunderLynx gimmick, Lion-O does feature a square hump on his back that contains the magnet. It’s not that unsightly, although as a Basic Assortment figure, it doesn’t do anything unless you have some of the Deluxe bases or vehicles for him to interact with.
Lion-O is painted with a mixed matte and glossy finish, although most of the figure has a nice glossy toyish sheen, which I find very appealing for animated figures. The paintwork is excellent: Very clean, sharp and crisp, especially on the eyes, overall face, and the Thundercats emblem on his belt. It’s a shame that the pins and hinges in the joints in the arms aren’t painted, but rather left black. If this were one of the larger, collector grade figures, I would be a lot more critical of this oversight, but on these little 4-inchers, I can be more forgiving, because the figure really does still look great. Just compare the overall paint quality on this guy to some of the travesties we’ve been seeing out of Hasbro lately in the same scale.
Lion-O sports some very good articulation for a 4-inch figure. He has a ball jointed neck. His arms feature universal movement in the shoulders, hinged elbows, and swivels near the wrists. His legs have universal movement in the hips, as well as hinged knees and ankles. He can also swivel at the waist. Granted, it’s not the most points of articulation we’ve seen in a 4-inch figure. Hasbro has these guys beat with their modern GI Joe and Marvel Universal bodies, but Lion-O’s articulation is a lot more sturdy, solid, and certainly no less playable. Lion-O is an extremely well built figure that should survive the rigors of play pretty well. I suppose my only real gripe with Lion-O’s articulation is you just can’t quite get him to look into the crossguard of the Sword of Omens for a little Sight Beyond Sight action.
And speaking of the Sword of Omens, you get three accessories with Lion-O. There’s the Sword of Omens in both it’s short, dorment stage and it’s long awakened version, and you get the Claw Shield. The Claw Shield is a pretty simple sculpt. It’s cast in gold matte plastic and fits on snugly over Lion-O’s left hand. You can also sheathe the small Sword of Omens in it and Lion-O can wear both accessories on his arm. The extended Sword of Omens is also a very simple sculpt, and unfortunately cast in very soft rubbery plastic. It’s tough to get the blade completely straight, which is somewhat disappointing for such an iconic accessory.
As a Basic Assortment figure, Lion-O retails at $7.99, which is pretty friggin great if you ask me. Ban Dai has put out a great looking and high quality figure with a good range of accessories, while still managing to put him out at $1 or $2 less than most other figures hanging on the pegs in this scale. His design is different enough from the original series that he may not immediately appeal to diehard fans of the old cartoon, but if you dig the new cartoon (and I think it’s fantastic), this figure should be right up your ally.
In case you haven’t heard, Thundercats are loose! Or at least they will be very shortly. The new cartoon is set to premier this month and from what I’ve seen I think it stands to be something special. With the new cartoon comes a lot of new toys, from both the now “Classic” and the new series with Ban Dai holding the license. Hopefully you’ll be seeing a lot of new Thundercats toys featured hear on FFZ throughout the month of August. So what’s up with today’s figure coming from Mezco? I honestly have no idea, especially since Ban Dai will be releasing a Classic Lion-O within about a month after this figure. I’m no expert in the legalities of licencing, so I can only guess that Mezco’s license allows them to produce the figure so long as its larger than a certain scale and doesn’t interfere with Ban Dai’s market share. On the other hand, despite multiple points of articulation, this piece is more a statue than a figure, but than I’m getting ahead of myself.
The packaging is unbelievably gorgeous. Sure, its just a standard, albeit HUGE window-style box, but the artwork and logo are ripped right from the animated series and rendered in jaw dropping vibrant colors. Honestly, I don’t know if its the beauty of the colors or the fact that its so nice to see the Thundercats logo on a toy package again, but I just about flipped out when I took the package out of the mailing box. The figure comes attached to the tray with twist-ties and the accessories are mounted to the cardboard backer. A little patience can get everything out without damaging the package and everything can be returned for a nice in-box display, which is exactly how I would plan on keeping mine most of the time. The only downside to that is the Sword of Omens can only barely be seen over Lion’s shoulder, so I may have to just put the box into storage and display the figure loose.
They don’t call him Mega-Scale for nothing! Lion-O is as big as you may have heard. He tops out at about 14-inches. Raise the Sword of Omens above his head and you’re looking more like 20-inches. For a proper sense of scale you can skip to the end where I have him beside Ban Dai’s 4-inch Lion-O. He’ll certainly dominate any display shelf you can manage to fit him into. The sculpt is admittedly a little soft in some parts, but that’s not to say it isn’t a really beautiful looking figure. There’s a wee bit of bleeding to be found here and there on the figure’s body, but you have to really be looking to find it. I really dig the way the muscles are sculpted to suggest that there might be some kind of short fur on his skin. I always wondered about that.
The head sculpt really captures the animated Lion-O and the paint apps on his eyes are razor sharp. He has a bit of a determined expression perhaps hinting at a slight smirk. I was a little afraid of how Lion-O’s majestic hair would look in sculpted form (it’s one of the few things I don’t like about the look of Ban Dai’s figure), but I think the end result is quite excellent. Let’s face it, it’s not always easy to capture a 2D cartoon character in a 3D sculpt, but Mezco did a really fine job on this guy.
So how about them accessories? For starters you get The Sword of Omens in it’s collapsed form with the hibernating Eye. This is a gorgeous accessory with a brilliant silver paint job and some really intricate sculpting. One of the nice things about doing a figure in this scale is you have a lot more room for detail in the accessories. Of course, you also have to invest the time and care in taking advantage of that fact. It’s something that Mezco certainly did here. What’s more, the entire piece is cast in very nice ridged plastic. Take that, child safety laws!
Of course next up is the Sword of Omens when it’s fully… aroused? Is that the right word? Everything I said about the smaller version applies to this piece ten fold. Hell, as great as the figure is, I’d be happy to own this sword all by itself. The paintwork on the Eye of Thundera is superb. It’s a stunning piece and again cast in very firm plastic so there’s no worries about the blade warping. Just make sure the kiddies don’t stick it in each other’s eyes.
Finally you get the Claw Shield, which is actually a replacement hand. You just do an easy pop-and-swap. Even the jewels on the knuckles look as though they could fire out the grapples like on the cartoon. In fact, my only complaint about this figure is that there’s no way to attach the claw shield to his hip and store the smaller Sword of Omens in it. I know, I’m asking for a lot based on how they designed it, but I feel like it’s worth pointing out.
So what about articulation? Oh boy, here comes the whole Action Figure Vs Statue debate that I love to hate so much. Mezco’s original press release stated this figure would have seven points of articulation, whereas the actual product wound up with eight. You get a ball jointed head, ball jointed shoulders, swivels in the wrists and a ball jointed waist that swivels and allows for some slight forward and backward leaning. You also get swivels in the calves, but these are only good for balancing out the figure/statue’s stance. In truth, it’s only from the waist up where we get any useful points of articulation, but you can get some nice different poses out of him, depending on which accessories you display him with. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I can’t get him to look through the cross guard to achieve the Eye of Thundera’s sight beyond sight.
When this figure was first revealed with the MSRP of $35, a lot of people, myself included, thought it too good to be true. Now that I have him in my hands, I’m still pretty amazed by the reasonable nature of the price. Mine cost $46 shipped and I think he’s a heck of a lot nicer than that pricier Lion-O”staction” that other company was putting out. If you want a true action figure, you’re still better off waiting for Ban Dai’s Classic Lion-O in the 8-inch scale, but if you want to really profess your love for Lion-O and maybe have an accent table in the corner that needs something to put on it you cannot go wrong with this great looking figure. For the record, Mezco is also releasing an SDCC exclusive version of this figure at the Con this year. It will have a different head sculpt with light up eyes, and I believe a voice chip. Naturally it’ll cost a lot more, but it’s worth looking out for if you want something even more special.