Monday, March 28, 2011

Feel The Magic, Hear The Roar...

About four months ago the North American toy collecting community awaited the first images of the BanDai Thundercats 'Classics' line with nervous trepidation. Bandai? Really?

After the enormous and unprecedented success of the Masters of the Universe Classics line over at Mattel, easily the best toy line currently in production hands down, collectors alike were salivating, imagining what Mattel and more specifically The Four Horsemen could do with everything from Blackstar to Sectaurs if they could get their hands on these licenses.

Thundercats holds a special place in the hearts of most  who grew up in the Golden Age of toy collecting, the 1980's where toy aisles were stuffed with more product based cartoon and movie tie ins than any other decade previous or since. The Thundercats cartoon, was one of the longest running of this generation where it as not uncommon to many a show disappear within a few months, if it aired in your market at all and their battered unsold carded toy counterparts warm pegs for years. While the show, especially the infectious theme, action packed opening and iconic logo are revered, the toys were a different story. They were pretty disappointing to myself who was a tad older than their demo of 9-12 year olds, but even the kids that were targeted were left cold by their simplicity, lack of articulation and general pre schoolishness, it was as if they were made by Fisher Price. LJN did make improvements in subsequent waves, but it was too little too late and the line petered out and became a distant memory.

Most collectors I know don't think too much of Bandai, in America at least. Sure they manufacture some of the most thorough, high quality, and complex line of Super Robot toys on the planet sold under the Soul of Chogokin moniker, they hold the master license and produce endless toys for the popular Ultraman and Kamen Rider properties not to mention a little something called Gundam, which is like the World of Warcraft of the hobby world. Known mostly for the omnipresent Power Rangers toys on this side of the world and the perplexing longevity and success of the Ben 10 family of toys, the collective toy buying populace let out a resounding 'Hunh?' when it was announced that Bandai acquired the license and would be producing toys based not only on a new, re-imagined cartoon but a 'classics' aimed squarely at older collectors.

Needless to say, we were all a little worried. Power Ranger toys while well designed and functional are extremely primitive even by today's standards. Bandai found a formula in the 80's that worked in Japan, imported it over here and with the exception of the Jungle Fury line and the Super Classics chase figures made very few tweaks over the years to innovate their base buck. The Super Classics for me were the first indication that they could do something right if they wanted to. Gone were the gigantic over sized feet, head and hands we were accustomed to, creating something they had never done before, a realistically proportioned action figure with nicely integrated joints and unprecedented costume details they were great collector pieces any discerning action figure fan could proudly display while still managing to be kid friendly toys, maybe, just maybe they could pull this off...

And then just days before the New York Toy Fair, official images appeared online that answered collectors and fans prayers and it looks like we'll finally be getting the toys we've always wanted. A completely new buck, highly detailed, great accessories and most importantly in scale with MOTUC. The only small complaint I could make is that when compared to the Masters, they are a bit shiny, a Bandai NA constant, but hopefully that will be toned down a touch for release. But these look absolutely fantastic and I cannot wait to wander into a TRU and find these on the shelves. Bandai have not set an official release date other than 'late 2011'and have been rather hush hush concerning other figures in this line, but I'm sure fan enthusiasm and anticipation will translate into sales brisk enough to ensure a full Classics line for collectors.

Toy Fair Bandai Lion-O and Official Bandai Stock image, via Elkkthunder's Toy Room
Power Rangers image via LoganToys
LJN Lion-O via Figure Realm

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