Last Summer Mattel went sub-crazy and unveiled several new subscriptions for their various collector lines. Among them was a sub for the debuting Voltron toy line featuring the five robotic lions that combine to form the mighty titular robot and their respective pilots. The club exclusive would be Sven, the original Blue Lion pilot who was injured and forced to quit the team and replaced by Princess Allura. I figured, "what the heck?" and signed up.
However, much like the Ghostbusters line's Club Ecto-1 (which I also signed up for), Mattel didn't receive the support they
Mattel/ 3.75" Scale
$45.00 (Matty Collector)
I'll be upfront, I'm not pleased with these toys. Let's start off with the most disappointing element of this set, the pilot, Lance. Lance here controls the Red Lion although he wears a white and BLUE costume (that's not Mattel's fault, though) and comes to us in a new scale for Mattel. Not that they haven't tried their hand at this scale before, but their last attempt at delivering "collector friendly" figures in this size proved to infinitely suck beyond all reason. Although the pilots and lions are sold as a set, they each receive their own packaging and are then lumped together in a large white mailer box, which is then sent to you in a larger brown box. You know, standard operating procedure for Digital River.
Lance's sculpt is decent enough, but there are a couple of things that really end up screwing the figure over. Due to the sculpt his articulation suffers a lot. He has swivel/hinge joints on his shoulders, elbows and knees, but those mid-limb points have very limited range, less than 75 degrees at each of them. It's made doubly frustrating considering the shoulders and hips have excellent range. The knees are the worst bits being able to move about 45 degrees.
Mattel sculpted a holstered blaster on to Lance's belt, apparently for decorative purposes only. Hasbro has several action figure lines in this scale with removable weapons, so it's difficult to understand why Mattel couldn't do the same on a $15 toy. THEY did, however, sculpt an open, pistol-gripping right hand for Lance and it even features a trigger finger! Thanks, Matty!
Mattel will tell you that Lance includes three accessories, but that's not really the case. His only true accessory is an alternate, helmetless head. Each head is nicely detailed and the helmeted version is actually two separate pieces (helmet & head) which should be glued together, but weren't on my copy. That little QC issue actually opens up for some interesting poses. If only his articulation were better...
The real star of the show is the Red Lion! Well... actually, it's Voltron, but we have to do this one step at a time, right?
No, Lance, isn't the only thing disappointing about this set. Red Lion kinda ended up sucking, too. The only real thing RL has going for him (and by default, the completed Voltron figure) is his size. He's just a bit larger than He-Man's trusty steed, Battle Cat, but nowhere near as detailed or articulated. The sculpt on the Red Lion is very simplistic and you could argue that it's an accurate representation of the show model, but that's partially my main gripe with the toy. Where is the "Classics" sensibility we see in the current Masters of the Universe or DC Universe lines? Sure those are sculpted by the Four Horsemen, but look at the work Mattel's in-house team does on the WWE lines. They CAN make highgly-detailed sculpts. If Red Lion was half the size he is, I'd be okay with the level of detailing, but what's the point of blowing these up to such a large size if you don't add in more minute details?
The worst bit of Red Lion is his articulation which is severly hampered by an ill-executed auto-transformation gimmick. The conversion to "arm mode" involves folding each of Red Lion's legs up against the body. It's a simple and straightforward process. When Matty first announced their combining Voltron line, I, along with many fans, were under the impression that the "automatic" feature they described involved converting from lion to arm instantly. After all that would make perfect sense because in the old cartoon they were always in a hurry to combine into Voltron, not separate and get back to their individual lion modes.
Well, that was soon disproven (after the sign-up period for the sub was over, of course) in this video released by Mattel. At that point it became apparent that the auto-transformation was a spring-loaded mechanism that would simply make the legs (and in some cases, the tail) pop out instantly when you pressed the buttons on the Red Lion's chest and, uh... butt. Who they hell wanted that?
Red Lion includes an accessory of his own: a "mouth blade" he can clutch between his four teeth and use as a melee weapon. I can't say I remember seeing the lions use these blades on the show, but I guess it's as cool as you want it to be. It's molded in grey plastic with red and yellow paint apps for the handl- mouthpiece? As is common for Mattel "adult collector" accessories the words "made in China" are molded on the top side of the weapon. How do I know it's the top? The bottom side features two indentations spaced enough for the lower teeth. They want to make sure you know where this toy was manufactured. Personally, I think it looks kind of ridiculous, but at least it's something else in the package.
I hate to pick on someone else's reviews, but prior to receiving Red Lion/Lance (which was delayed, I'll explain later) I read a couple of "earlybird" write-ups and even watched a couple of video reviews and I was surprised to see that they were all overwhelmingly positive. Obviously we each have differing opinions about what's good and what's bad, but I can't help but feel that most of these reviewers were heavily influenced by the free "review samples" and as such lost a lot of credibility with me in the process (some of them didn't have any to begin with). You may have noticed that I didn't bother to critique the color choices, which was a point of contention between fans. Some wanted vac-metal legs, others wanted silver paint. I'm probably in the minority that would have preferred white legs on the lions. But that's more of a personal taste. I'm not bothered by the choice here much.
I can't say I downright hate the figures (well, maybe Lance), but they're just not exciting me the way I initially thought they would. Making matters worse is dealing with Digital River. I signed up for Club Lion Force last Summer, before I moved to my current location. I contacted DR and informed them of this prior to Red Lion shipping. A month before it shipped and found out that you can update your sub payment/shipping info. via the website, so I logged in and made the changes (which should have been done already). When I received my shipping confirmation it had my old address. I contacted DR immediately and was informed that they could not change the delivery address at that point, I would have to wait until after it was delivered, and hopefully returned, in order for them to send out a replacement (WTF?!). Anyway, I was able to contact my former landlord and actually ended up driving by my old address and leaving a note for the new tenants once I learned the item was delivered. They were very nice and contacted me later that day and I was able to claim my Voltron toys the next day.
As alluded to above, I already have the second set of Voltron figures (Yellow Lion & Hunk) and will tell you now that they haven't done much to change my mind on the line, but I'll try to give each set a fair shake.