Thundercats are on the loose once again in 2011, with their Cartoon Network reboot holding strong against the competition. Ban Dai has been making the figures from this show, and earlier this year decided to throw their hat into the nostalgic adult-collector world by creating their “Thundercats Classic” series. Sadly, the line has been cut short after only two figures were produced, Lion-O and Tygra, but more on that later.
It truly is depressing since the figure we are reviewing today, Lion-O is probably the best action figure of the year for me! I am not a hardcore Thundercats fan, although I did grow up with the series, but this toy very well might make me a changed person. What makes this action figure so great that I have given it that illustrious award? Read on and find out!
Packaging: Unlike his four-inch counterparts from the rebooted series, the packaging on this classic figures is more like a showcase box. At nine inches tall, it is an impressive looking package and focuses more on verticality rather than stuffing things horizontally so it can better fit on racks in stores. You get a clear view of everything that comes with the figure, as well as the many joints of it as well.
Taking him out of package will require more attention the four-inch figures, since the sides of the box have slits that are taped up in several spots. Once you get through the tape, you will be greeted by more tape holding some of the accessories in place. Keeping the figure itself in the package are five plastic strings (not twisty-ties, but plastic strings). Unlike twisty-ties, you can just cut these out of the plastic, but getting a pair of scissors in that tight space is a bit of a chore. I found the quickest way to get them out was to use the scissors to cut into the case itself, then gently pop the strings out.
Sculpting: This is Lion-O as we all know and love him. His mane caught in that bizarre windstruck pose (that, or he uses more hair gel than everyone on “The Jersey Shore”), his stoic muscular frame, right down to that cleft-chin of his. Lion-O has an iconic look of his own, just like He-Man or a GI Joe character, and this figures sculpt captures that feel to the tee.
It’s not a character that lends itself to much detail to begin with, but Ban Dai has paid attention to every minute aspect of the character to make this the definitive Lion-O figure. The beauty here is in the simplicity, since the character was one that had to be mass-produced back when cartoons were still hand-drawn (remember those times). This figure is exactly the way Lion-O looked in the original show, and just plain feels right.
Paint: Much of the figures good looks comes via the paint job on it. Ban Dai is not known for highly-detailed paint jobs like McFarlane toys, but for doing a very simple look done right. Lion-O does not have much fanciness to him to begin with, but what Ban Dai has done is made this figure feel like it was torn straight off of an animation cel.
There is a little sloppiness around the edges of his hair near his face, but it is nothing earth shattering and nothing else suffers from that issue. The cartoony appearance of Lion-O is dead-on here, and small nuances like painting his belt with a shinier paint add to that feeling. Most of the figure here is molded plastic anyway, so there is not much to paint, but what there is looks fine all-around and screams Lion-O.
Accessories: This classic figure includes a spare set of hands, the fully extended Sword of Omens, and the sword in dagger form. You could also count the Claw Shield as an accessory, so Lion-O is ready for action no matter what the situation. The sculpting on all of these pieces is on par with the rest of the figure, and maintains the style of the retro series completely.
The sword and dagger are made from sturdy plastic, although the blade of the sword can be a bit wonky (easily fixed by just flattening it out for a few minutes). The coolest part about the dagger is that it fits into the Claw Shield, just like in the cartoons.
There is also a handle attached to his belt, which allows you to easily slip the Claw Shield into it for easier carrying if you want to use his plain hands.
Lion-o is loaded with accessories, which includes an additional pair of hands, and the sword of omens in two sizes – dagger form and fully-extended form.
Playability: Lion-O is beyond flexible! I did not get as creative as I could have with my poses in the photos, but this figure can hold just about any pose because of his many joints, and the type of body he possesses. There are many other ball-jointed figures on the market, but due to various reasons (like molded clothes or body types), the figures are not as poseable as they should be. Ban Dai is great at making figures highly articulated without losing the integrity of the character, and Lion-o is a great example of that.
Lion-O has a whopping 25 points of articulation, meaning he can be posed in nearly any stance, no matter how dynamic, and still stay balanced. If you want him to be slashing at Mumm-Ra with one hand while pushing away Skeletor with his other as he climbs up the steps of Castle Greyskull, he can do that. If you want Lion-O to do a German Suplex to one of your pro wrestling figures, he can do that. The only limit is your imagination, and for a kid, that means there are no limits to how much fun they can have with him.
The downside of so many joints, especially the kind that Ban Dai uses, is that they can wear out with use a bit faster than other figures (I know from experience). But, if you keep your posing of him down to a minimum, he will last many years on your shelf. If you buy this for a child, it might get loose over time, but that will probably make things more fun for them anyway.
Final Verdict: I started this review by calling it the potential figure of the year, and I stand by that. As a fan of Mattel’s adult collector lines, such as “Masters of the Universe” and “Ghostbusters,” Lion-O does not reach the level of sculpting prowess that they have attained. However, what Ban Dai has done masterfully is capture the look, feel, and energy of the original series, put it into an action figure, and made the perfect blend of a toy for both adults and collectors. Best of all, their price point matches that, as this figure has a suggested retail price of around $16, and unlike Matty Collector toys, you can find this in brick-and-mortar stores.
It’s sad to see this line discontinued so early on, especially when they only released Tygra to accompany him. Fret not, as Ban Dai is forging ahead in 2012 by reviving this line, but now in six-inch size so that they will be perfectly compatible with Mattel’s MOTUC line and other high-end collector figures. The plus side is, once again, you can find them in stores and for much cheaper than what Mattel charges.
2012 is the the 30th anniversary of MOTU, so the pressure is on for Ban Dai to compete with their nostalgic line of “Thundercats Classics,” and if they can keep this quality up with their new figures, I think Matty is going to have some serious trouble on their hands.
You can buy ThunderCats Lion-O 8″ Collector Figure from Amazon.com at this link here. If you are a fan of the show, nostalgic for your childhood, or just plain like really great figures, this is an absolute must-buy!
Check out the gallery below for more photos of Lion-O!