Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Toy Review – Masters of the Universe Classics Varies the Griffin By Mattel

I was totally stoked about a griffin in the Masters of the Universe Classics line. As I have stated before, I am not the most knowledgeable Masters fan in the world.
I watched the old cartoon and the 2002 update. And of course the Dolph Lundgren adaptation. But I don’t know anything about the mini comics or any other media. I had no idea there were griffins on Eternia. They might have even been in the Filmation cartoon. I don’t have the best recall of those. We’re going through them right now on Netflix and I only recognize one every so often.
But I am a huge mythology nerd. When I was a kid I would go to the libraries – both public and school – and check out every mythology book I could get my hands on – Greek, Roman, Norse, Celtic; whatever. If there was a detailed, articulated line of figures devoted to mythology I would be all over it. I’ve even been tempted by those static little PVCs they sell at Target.
So to have a toy of a griffin – especially one this large – was pretty thrilling.
Of course, I’m still waiting for a damn owlbear.
First Glance: I wasn’t too sure about the griffin’s colors when I was looking at the initial production photos. In person they look great. As is usually the case this figure looks much more impressive in person.
Sculpt: We have here yet another case of the Four Horsemen masterfully utilizing a bunch of farmed parts. And there are just enough new parts for the figure to feel fresh.
The basic body is the Battle Cat/Panthor buck. The head is on a ball joint, the neck pivots up and down, there is a sort of rocker at the lower abdomen, and the tail is on a swivel/pivot joint so it can move up and down as well as side to side. The forelegs are connected to the torso with swivels and have pivots at the knee and pivot/swivels on the ankle. The rear legs are on swivel/rocker joints and have bending pivots at the knee and upper ankle. The feet are on swivel/pivots under that. Like Panthor, the griffin does not have the problem holding its head up that Battle Cat had.
The portions that are from Battle Cat still look great and work for the griffin. The sculpted fur looks amazingly good and lifelike. The joints are all a little unsightly, but that’s just how it is. I can’t think of a better way this toy could have been made.
The new head and neck are absolutely fantastic. The beak is huge, vicious, and scarred. There is so much personality in just this one part that you almost can’t even acknowledge the farmed parts behind it. The lower jaw is hinged and has a very wide range of motion. You could fit any of the Masters’ heads in there quite easily. They wouldn’t get them back. I love the dual pairs of eyes and how narrow and bestial they look. The way the feathers blend back into the furred body is very cool and the design of the feathers themselves looks very natural – the way they increase in size as they move back and are erratic and not evenly spaced. I hate it when toys that are supposed to be part of nature look too clean and even, you know? The neck is mostly the same as the previous cats’, except it has a mane on top. It looks really good and will probably be reused for Battle Lion if they ever get around to him.
The new tail is a nice touch and one I hadn’t noticed until I opened my figure. It’s basically the same as the previous tails, but with a fork at the end. Simple, but one of those nice touches that Mattel could have gotten away with skipping and didn’t.
The new rear feet look awesome. They’re just these mean-looking raptor feet. I love the way that the fur that originally covered the paw joints on the cats hangs down over the narrower talons.
The wings are the same ones Swiftwind had and that’s just fine. The feathers are very natural and distinctive. They plug into hexagonal swivel joints just behind Varies’ shoulders and stay put much better than Swiftwind’s. They pose fairly well, but if you put a rider on the griffin it does interfere with the wings a bit. No way around that, really.
Design: Like I said, I wasn’t too sure about the colors going in. They didn’t seem to match up very well in the production photos. But in person the griffin has a great paint job. The blending of the fur and feathers is very well done and not as jarring as it looked initially. The talons and beak are that yellow that just looks like the corresponding avian parts and have darker washes to emphasize the wear and detailing.
Simply by virtue of the colors used, the griffin’s wings look better to me than Swiftwind’s. Swiftwind looks like a girl’s toy, Varies looks like a monster.
The metallic turquoise used for the eyes is striking. It’s much more interesting than the red or black you might expect from such a creature, but it still looks bestial and menacing.
Accessories: The griffin comes with a saddle that is very similar to Battle Cat’s. It's new and different - suited to the griffin's form. I didn't want to take it off because the material is pretty soft. I wasn't sure how sturdy the little tab that fastens it would be.
Packaging: The Griffin comes in the standard beast packaging. I say it every time, but I just can’t get enough of this packaging. One of these days I’ll end up with a figure that I like enough to keep but don’t want or need to open just so I can have a sample hanging on the wall.
Overall: I am absolutely thrilled by the griffin. It’s a great addition to my collection and yet another example of just how crafty and brilliant the Four Horsemen are as designers.
5 out of 5
This should be in any toy collection. It doesn’t particularly scream “Masters of the Universe”, so you could easily buy one and take the saddle off. Just hang it from the ceiling or perch it on your desk. The griffin is one of those toys that transcends its brand. Buy one.
Side Note: This is a fine example of farmed parts seeming fresh, but at the same time it makes me wonder if we have any real chance of ever seeing Tyrantosaurus or Bionotops. Time and again Matty has displayed a reluctance to produce any character that cannot be reused in some way. I’d hate to think we wouldn’t get my favorite beasts in this line, but Scott Nietlich has as much as said the end is very much visible for MOTUC thanks to the rising cost of toys. Not in the next year, two, or possibly even five. But it is coming and what we have between now and then may not support 100% tooled creatures that cannot be reused. I think any hopes for more vehicles have been dashed, and that is a damn shame. That Battle Ram at SDCC a couple of years ago was amazing. And just think about a Horsemen-designed Attak Trak, (rotor thing), or even those crazy stilts.
And now…
Toy Reviews With Mrs. Troublemaker
“Oh, wow. That must be for me. That looks really cool. I’ll give you that horse. She-Ra needs to be riding that.”

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