Thundercats Classics
SDCC Lion-O Review

I wasn’t planning on getting into Thundercats Classics. I have no connection with the original property other than a vague awareness, but two things happened. First, I kept seeing folks insist they were awesome. Then came the e-mails, tweets, etc. asking if I was planning on reviewing them. Well, alrighty then…

I don’t really know why, but I never cared much about Thundercats as a kid. I’ve thought about why that might be, and I just don’t remember encountering the franchise that often. I tried to refresh my memory by watching some old episodes, but not even the intro song really felt familiar. Pictures of the old toys in package didn’t stir any memories either. The only thing I could vaguely remember was a Thundercats book. I’ve long since forgotten specifics, but I recall that Lion-O was being forced to ‘walk the plank’ – which was weird, because he was on a spaceship at the time. Anyway, what all that means is there’s no nostalgia in this review. This isn’t just my first Lion-O figure, it’s really my first Thundercats toy… ever. Have I been missing out?

There are three figures in the Thundercats Classics line so far. Bandai has released a regular Lion-O & Tygra to retail, and a special edition Lion-O exclusive to SDCC/TRU.Com. The latter, exclusive one is featured here. I opted to buy that version primarily because of his accessories (which I’ll cover on the next page). SDCC Lion-O is currently still available at ToysRUs.Com, but be warned, he’s a steep $39.99. I purchased him with a 20% off coupon and some Rewards dollars, so I ended up getting him closer to ‘normal’ price. He’s been a blast to own, but I don’t know if I would’ve bought him for $40 outright. At retail, I’ve seen the regular figures at TRU for $20 and Walmart for $16. Not big on TRU’s markup, but the Walmart price looks pretty nice in comparison.

After getting Lion-O out of the box, the first thing you can’t help but notice is his staggering height. I didn’t have any Thundercats toys as a kid, but I’ve seen the pics – this guy towered over most of his 80s brethren. Now, nearly thirty years later, he does so again. Thundercats toys are just destined to be bigger, I guess? I don’t really know why Bandai opted to go for an 8″ line on the Classics. Were they seeking to replicate the 80s scale issues? Did they want to keep the Classics line and the Modern line incompatible? Do they think bigger is just better? I really have no idea. In any case, he’s a stark reminder that even though the collector market would pretty much universally appreciate inter-line compatibility, it’s either not registering with toy companies or simply of no interest to them.

After you’ve sorted out if you’ve gotten smaller or your action figures have gotten bigger, the next thing you notice about Lion-O is that he’s a sturdy fella. There shouldn’t be many warped limbs in this line with this kind of construction. There’s still some softer plastic, like the middle part of the knee joint, but the overall figure feels sturdier than a lot of Mattel’s offerings.

When it comes to how much detail should be present on an action figure, I’m feeling particularly vexed of late. Does every toy need to be a mini-masterpiece in the sculpt department? I know some collectors look at the Four Horsemen’s Scarabus and judge lesser figures against it. I don’t think I can do that. While I spent a week lavishing deserved praise on Scarabus & crew, I also like the great, but not-as-detailed sculpts found on many of my beloved superhero-based figures. That said, the Thundercats add an interesting aspect to that debate. Other than basic anatomy and the appropriate costume details, there’s not much detail to be found. You won’t find fur (Thundercats are supposed to be covered in fur, right?), striations, veins, or other little imperfections. And, unlike MOTUC, where the Four Horsemen add some realism into ye olde 2D designs, this Thundercats line looks more like the figure walked off the cartoon and on to our shelves. I think that’s going to be a love it or hate it aspect to this particular line. I’ve come to appreciate it.

As it is, I’m a pretty satisfied with Lion-O’s sculpt. While the figure is all-new, there are some parts like the upper arms and legs that appear to be generic for the line (we can already see them re-used on Tygra). Specific to Lion-O are the pieces that comprise his costume and his head sculpt. The costume details are nicely done with a more defined, armored look to them along with some ribbing and rivets where needed. I like the head sculpt, though I’m not a fan of the hair. I know why it’s been done this way, but it looked weird then and it still does now.

I know just got done talking about how I don’t mind the lack of little details missing, but there is one exception: the eyes. The face looks good, but the eyes appear to be completely handled by the paint and it creates an odd effect. I’d like to see an unpainted version of this head sculpt and see if it’s as freaky as I think it’d be.

The paint is the primary feature that differentiates Lion-O from his retail counterpart. Some of the changes were for the better (this figure doesn’t have as much of a plastic/toy look), but others weren’t. I love the metallic paint on the tunic and the extra detailing in the crevices for depth. Looking at pics of the regular release, I really appreciate the wash in his hair too (there’s a joke in there, isn’t there?). I’m not so keen on the other changes though. Like the armor, the muscles are similarly defined by a wash and some extra stripes of paint, but it just doesn’t work as well. I did end up with a rather dirty version of Lion-O, so the effect might be better lighter. Also, his hands, having received no wash at all, look out of place.

That said, I’m not exactly keen on the lack of any washes on the regular version of Lion-O either. I’ve been wavering about picking one up for $16 at Walmart. There are some problems endemic to both versions – the thin paint around the collar and the incorrectly colored joints. The insert molded pieces are all pre-produced in the same color. The color matches the biceps (great), but that also causes the wrist and ankle joints to be colored incorrectly. Just in case you were might forget these were figures were made by Bandai, those orange ankles will be a constant reminder. Continue to Page 2…

64 thoughts on “Thundercats Classics
SDCC Lion-O Review

  1. that last photo… man, if i were truly the cold hearted old bastard i claim to be, there’s no way that picture could tug at my nostalgia strings that way… one of these days, you guys should consider a “then and now” article on the second generation of all our favorite childhood properties… cuz let’s face it, the only guys you’re missing in that shot are the turtles, and there’s the 2nd gen of all the powerhouse nostalgia properties for guys in their mid 30s. makes me old black heart smile. 🙂

    1. TMNT! Yeah, I sometimes feel like that’s a 90s line more than an 80s, but you’re right. I was thinking I should’ve popped She-Ra in there and something from the Vintage Star Wars collection (though I’ve only got one of those).

      I wasn’t sure how you felt about the Thundercats stuff and if you were looking to pick any of it up. I was actually thinking about you during the review – wondering how Lion-O here would hold up to your kids play. He feels sturdier than a lot of the other figures I’ve been buying lately.

      1. I definitely feel like TMNT is a 90s property.

        Good call on COPS–it’s one of my most wanted toy lines–but MASK is the big one missing in today’s market. I want Hasbro to pick up right where they left off with 25th Matt Trakker.

        1. On TMNT, I think I’m assigning generational values. TMNT feels ‘after’ everything else. It’s like Micronauts – I’m sure that lasted into the 80s and should rank as a great 80s line, but generationally it came before.

          Mask is a big thing to be missing, but I’m with you – Cops is the toy line I want back most.

          1. TNMT is the 90’s fo sho, but COPS both toys and cartoon made it under the radar for me. Two that I loved that nobody else seems to love as much as I did was Bravstarr and Silverhawks. Or Captian Power kind of lame but also a little magical…there were a lot of lines standing on both sides of the line.

      2. i hope i get to find out… i’m interested in the big lug, and the modern stuff from the toon, but damned if i can find them in spfd… which vexes me to no end.

        anyways, yes, turtles was definitely late 80’s/early 90’s, but for my circle of peeps at least, it was the last line that got the attention of the general toy buyers. and they’re definitely gotten the ‘modern era upgrade” w/ that NECA set, like MP prime and 25 anni duke upgraded their classic counterparts.

        that said, i’m not saying those are the only properties w/ merits, just the big boys that are pretty “public consciousness” level popular. like, if i mentioned gi joe or transformers to my dad, he totally knows those properties, and remembers the vintage toys coming into our home… whereas if i said C.O.P.S. or mentioned BP Vess, he’d look at me like i was stroking out.

        but yeah, totally, mask could due to come back, as could COPS, thanks to crafty cross marketing, bandai secured tigersharks and silverhawks along w/ t-cats (and yet, mattel didn’t secure blackstar… jackholes), and i refuse to gloss over bravestarr… i NEED a modern take on handlebar and sandstorm at the very least.

        1. I’ll ask some of the Spfd Fwooshers if they have a bead on which Wally has them there, if any. Here, it’s just one and far from the closest one.

          I definitely here ya on Turtles. If I’d had a NECA one (I always meant to, but never did…), I would’ve tossed him in. Between that, She-Ra, Matt Trakker, and some vintage Star Wars – I might have to redo that picture. 😀

          Bravestarr & Blackstar were two more that popped into my head. I saved that Wanted poster graphic separately for future use… 😉

    2. That reminds me… Vault did pick up all the turtles at one point… the newer ones. I don’t think he ever reviewed them… Maybe you should nag him. 🙂

      1. hey, vault… whattaya? too good for the turtles? the turtles are too low brow fo you? who you gotta be, to look down on the turtles? whaddaya, donald trump ova here? review da damned turtles!
        there, consider him nagged ‘neko. 🙂

        1. I concur. I bet some old Turtle reviews would get some hits. Bring ’em over. I’ll do ’em!

          Disclaimer: I can not guarantee the safe return of said turtles.

          1. …. I take it back. I take it all back. There are in “the dead room”. I can’t find crap in there (that I’m actually looking for…) On another note, I found the Xevoz today. I missed my werecritters. 🙂 And some cat and dog in cars pepper shakers. (lolwut?) And some Spirit minimates… No turtles. And no Escaflowne Music box either, which was what prompted the whole expedition.
            So, yeah.
            Anyone need some Spirit minimates MIB? Or an Afro Ken? 🙂

  2. Coincidentally, earlier today I won an eBay auction for a retail Lion-O that came with the SDCC accessories.

    So apparently I was a big ThunderCats fan when I was little? My mom has a cassette recording of me running around my grandma’s house shouting, “Thunder! Thunder! Thunder!” I do remember playing with my older cousin’s Lion-O figure (as well as his old Evil-Lyn and Soundwave), so there’s that. I do know that for the longest time, I’ve loved Lion-O’s weapon setup–the way the Claw Shield acts as both a sheath for the Sword of Omens and is a weapon in its own right.

    As far as articulation goes, I realized what a lot of action figures are missing–the ability to raise their legs higher. Most of the time, the way the legs plug into the hip only allows them to rotate up 90-degrees, which makes it difficult to pose them in a convincing cat-like (or Spider-man-like) crouch.

    1. LOL If I buy the regular Lion-O and do end up liking it better like I expect too, I was thinking of selling this one with the regular accessories. Perhaps I have a diametrically opposed buddy out there…

      I wasn’t oblivious to Thundercats, but it had to be close. Still, it wasn’t like Sectaurs or Centurions which I didn’t learn about until I was all growed up.

      The hips I really hate are the ones that can’t even do that! I know we’ve lost the playset (& most of the vehicles) as an important component of any great toy line, but figures should still be able to sit down! It annoys me when they can’t sit. I’m happy to report that Lion-O can not only do the 90-degrees and take up a sitting position, he can actually exceed it, maybe 100 or 110.

      1. I take it geometry wasn’t your strongest subject.

        100 – 110 degrees (obtuse angles) means he can’t get a right angle (90 degrees) at the knees, and can’t sit a chair normally.

        70-80 degrees (acute angles) means he can not only sit in a chair but squat a bit below parallel.

        1. I don’t get it. 😛 Why would you measure the angle remaining between the chest and thigh instead of the angle the thigh travelled?

          Is there a rule that says I have to start from the head as 0? Rules and I… well… 😉

  3. When I brought the regular classics and the cartoon 6″ home, my 5-year-old snapped them up and started playing with them like anybody’s business. He has no connection to the property but I did explain a bit about each character.

    They stood up to play very well. I’ve given the kid some of my DCUC extras and they don’t last long.

  4. Got to get me a Whatever the Thundercats call a Man-Child… oh yeah! their Lord…
    Regular Lion-O will get a visit of Cap’N Paintbrush if he looks too toylike…

    1. and OAFE has some great pics of the regular version from this weekend and ActionFigurePics did a photoshoot about two weeks back. I’m on my phone, so I don’t have the exact links handy.

      Anyway, I don’t mind it too much. Which is good cause I’m not that clever with a brush. 🙂

  5. I got Lion-O and had to go back the next day for Tigra. I wasn’t even that big of a Thundercats fan as a kid (though the new show is awesome), and I’m hooked.

    The only concern I have with the Classics figures is that, at two figures per wave, there seems to be a good possibility that Ban Dai will drop the line before they get through the ‘Cats roster (to say nothing of the bad guys). And I really wonder how (and if, for that matter) they’re planning to do WilyKit, WilyKat and Snarf.

    I have similar roster concerns about the modern-look 6″ line (which is also good).

    1. I thought I read the kids would be packaged together. The good thing is that Bandai isn’t likely to draw things out like Mattel is with Young Justice, but the bad thing is that it always seems like Bandai shows you stuff that you’re never able to get.

  6. First off…that last photo is now my computer desktop background. Also, let’s not forget Hasbro teased us with Matt Trakker from MASK in the GI Joe Line (not sure why the are not trying to bring this line back, it could be HUUUUGE). It is pretty much Transformers meets GI Joe. Have you heard if they will ever make this a reality. Maybe you can start a BRING MASK back campaign similar to what you did for the DC sub…Just saying….

    Second, I am really contemplating trying to buy the the SDCC version just for those accessories. I have heard the retail version is pretty awesome except for the floppy sword. It also sounds like Bandai is planning on getting is the whole original team in about 2 or 3 more waves! That is very exciting! I doubt we will see any vehicles since they wou8ld have to be huge, but one can dream right…

    1. I love that Matt Trakker!! I’d start a MASK site, but I already am in deadlock with exhaustion. 😀

      Prolly no vehicles, yeah, but I do like the idea of Bandai rushing through the team!

  7. Noisy, we keep talking about how the new SHOW is awesome, not the figures! Sheesh! 🙂

    But it’s a good review. I remember the vintage figures and I recall always feeling let down by them, they seemed like lumps of plastic that kinda looked like the characters on the cartoon, they seemed oddly proportioned. This Lion-O is how they should have looked.

    Price is frankly insane however. Not just the exclusive (because it’s EXCLUSIVE! Buy it, BUY IT IT’S RAAAAREEE!) but the regular line. I still might break down and buy that Tnundertank. And the large role-play toy Sword of Omens is fun.

    Also, regarding the wall, it’s not the toys but Captain Power IS finally coming to DVD.

    I’m pretty happy about that. 🙂

  8. the scale is the ONLY reason i won’t be purchasing any of these. i hate that they’re incompatible with everything.

    1. They are huge! I haven’t put them with much else other than the pics here. And they’re still on my desk, so I haven’t had to hunt down a spot on the shelves.

  9. Scale almost put me off of these too, but they just look too cool and the colors are very much like the original toys. The SDCC one with shading just looks off to me maybe because it was sloppily done. I always remember the original toys were not very well done and we got a lot of the characters made, but so little articulation. But they had that cool ring that made their eyes light up which i loved.

      1. There was a ring that you put a AAA battery into and then push it into a spot on either Lion-O or Mumm-Ra’s back and then their eyes would light up.
        Here is a commercial that shows it off:

  10. Great last photo! (Do you have the 25th Matt Trakker? That would’ve been a cool inclusion. 😉 )

    But gotta love the C.O.P.S. and Captain Power love!!!

    Also woefully shows how bad we are in need of “Classic” Joe figures in the 6″ scale.

    On the TC figs, I saw ’em at TRU, and yeah for me they’re just . . . lacking.
    Little things here and there that don’t add up to a solid whole IMO.

    1. I do have Trakker! You’re right… I’m going to have to retake that photo… LOL

      I can understand where you’re coming from – I really wasn’t even interested, but the e-mails and tweets put me over. I can’t do that all the time, but I’m glad I did in this instance!

  11. That’s the worst wash I’ve ever seen.

    Totally go with the retail version, although that sword is much better than the floppy one that comes with the regular release.

    1. I’ve seen some cleaner SDCC Lion-O’s in other reviews, so yeah. I’m leaning towards picking up a retail version, but I’ll really want to swap the heads or put a wash into the hair myself. 🙂

  12. the last thing i will say, on the nostalgia properties of yesteryear, is that every time i read the roster (or suggest them) of 80’s or 90’s properties that need proper re-visitation, i mourn the remarkable 70’s properties that seem already lost to popular memory… i want the inhumanoids back so bad it almost makes me cry. i want the damned manglors back too, though that’s one property that i hope they don’t ditch the vintage play feature on, cuz those were friggin’ crazy cool!! and i’d love to see a return to power of microman, partially because what micro spawned is a toy concept that’s seen what, a half a dozen permutations on currently? plus, it was VERY accessory/playset heavy, and yet modular, the one combination of traits that i think would still be viable economically in the more expensive modern climate… i mean, yes, while the modern joe line is making accessories sexy again, it’s not done jack squat yet for playsets… and playsets are EPIC!! playsets, when done correctly, were like giant characters all their own. i promise, if you had a hip enough kindergarten teacher to stock a classroom w/ the USS flagg and snake mountain, no one other toy would get play. hell, when i re-bought snake mountain in college, my college chaps and i launched a snake mountain karaoke party that was hellafied fun… nothing rocks more when your socially lubricated than badly wailing “tuesday’s gone” into snake mountain’s microphone. you give a classroom of kids an afternoon on “snake mountain idol” and their lives are changed FOREVER!

    1. I was talking to someone about vehicles and playsets not too long ago and they were telling me that the costs back then were kept under control because they produced tons of ’em. A whole case of just 1 or 2 vehicles (as opposed to cases of figures with multiple characters) got the playset out in mass numbers. It was hard for me to wrap my mind around at first.

      I wonder if the lack of push for the 70s properties has something to do with how the different generations takes to the ‘net. I know that nearly all of the popular sites have webmasters my age or near to it. We have our man Tek that ensures we keep Microman and the 70s lines in mind, but I wonder if the timing of the internet and such didn’t do that generation any favors.

  13. I like new ThunderCats Classics but this SDCC 2011 version paint job is really BAD! Now the other classic version that I brought from Wal-Mart that costs $16 is way betterlooking. Since we only have Lion-O & Tygra right now I hope that Bandai will continue too release all of them sooner than later.

  14. But DR, the problem is play sets and vehicles are just not cost effective anymore, given the realities of the toy retail market in the current age.

    For GI Joe, take the USS Flagg or my personal ‘lost chance grail’ the Space Shuttle Complex. Both were INSANELY expensive by 1980s standards, I think the Flagg was around $120 or so MSRP and I know the Shuttle was about $100. That’s with a marketplace that consisted of 4 major national toy chains, three major national department stores and a number of regional ‘catalog’ stores (Witmark, Service Merchandise et al) all carrying the product.

    Now to replicate the USS Flagg I suspect you’d be looking at a MSRP of around $400. Add that to the fact the box it came in was just insane huge. Who is there that would even try to sell it? TrU is IT, baby. Target won’t, Wal*mart won’t, KMart won’t.

    Can you imagine the SHIPPING for that?

    Let’s talk Masters. Where did the tooling for the 200x Castle Grayskull go? For that matter, the vintage play sets?

    I don’t disagree, playsets are fun. I bought every Star Wars play set that I could back in the vintage days (which, um, I guess means mom bought, right? 🙂 ) no matter how lame, such as the Sears Cantina set (It’s cardboard and a couple of figures! CHEAP ASS) and I had them all put together and lined up on my shelves.

    For me Vehicles are more fun. I envied the ’80s Joes and the INSANE number of cool vehicles. There seemed to be an odd rule that COBRA got the bleeding edge tech stuff while the Joes got fairly standard things.

    1. The Defiant Space Shuttle Complex. I lost that in the great flood… the insurance check brought the Crusader home with me a few months later, but it was never quite the same…


      1. I am very sorry for your loss. I really am.

        I remember perfectly the day the box rolled off the truck. It wasn’t even one per case, they just put a slipsleeve shipper over the box. The damn thing was larger than the door to my 1985 Chevy Nova. There was intense griping by the guy stocking Boys Toys because the planogram didn’t reflect the monster box and thought they could put two to a shelf. HAW.

        I swear, you could smuggle children into the country in that box.

        1. That small? It seemed much bigger to me at the time. 😀 I still have my Crusader (though it could use some repairs) and I’ve always wanted to have the two together. Maybe someday.

          On this subject, I also have the deck of the Flagg in my toy cellar. It’s ridicul-huge.

  15. here’s the deal steve-arino… ordinarily, i wold agree, but microman/micronauts tendered to release small scale playsets that were modular pieces and could combine to form larger and more complex sets. that is a model that i think still bears out, since the individual pieces aren’t not that huge.

    now, on the vehicle front, hells yes, i loved a good vehicle too, and i think gi joe and mask pretty much carried the standard there. there were a couple really cool ones in motu, but i think they’d be too big to be viable now. i myself LOVED spydor back in the day, it drove my dog crazy and come on, it’s a giant spider… jon peters would approve.

    but yes, if you tried to do the flagg today, it would be surreally expensive… at least as much as some of the designer vinyl figs, maybe even a little more.

    1. I liked the idea of Grayskull room by room, but seams in the YJ Hall of Justice give me pause. We need folks like Matt & Mel, or to unleash Bill & Terry from Mattel’s beancounters, to figure out a good way to make that work.

      1. Ya know, they could do it, the secret is, DESIGN IT ALL AT ONCE. Design it as if they were making a huge toy, do the tooling in one big payout of development and just release the rooms one at a time.

        Naaaaa, that makes too much sense. Let’s sculpt the rooms one at a time, use different sculptors, not document or pass on any changes to dimensions and NEVER test fit the connections before locking down the tool.

        DR, you’re right about Micronauts, I’ve still got mine (except the rocket tubes. I never even saw the rocket tubes) and it was fun stuff. But nowadways, no sale if they don’t have at least a comic accurate sub-line because the Michael Golden art rocked. 🙂

          1. all this talk about vehicles and playsets is giving me a toy chubby. you guys gotta quit, or i’m gonna need a towel and some private time.

            1. I have to give props to Hasbro because they have managed to keep popping out crazy expensive vehicles for Star Wars. The Falcon, the AT-AT, a reasonably accurate and in-scale X-Wing and so on.

              I want them all. *sob*

              1. totally, those vehicles were killer… but you almost need a ranch to house them. i just don’t have the physical home needed to have space for all those… but one day, i hope to, and you better believe, the AT-AT and the falcon are coming home.

                1. On reflection, there IS a toy line that’s been great on playsets and vehicles, maybe two depending on how you count it.

                  Imaginext. Is that spelled right? some killer playsets. I love the airplanes they’ve been doing, I really should buy them.

                  And then, don’t hit me, Lego.

  16. you should check out the new thundercats series on cartoon network, it’s amazing! the toy line for the new series is pretty good too. like the classics line it’s not perfect but there’s a lot more good than bad. i’d like to see your take on the 6 inch lion-o figure.

  17. I’m loving this resurgence of ThunderCats… both the Classic and neo lines are fantastic! Other than the visible peg holes and the very soft, pliable material the swords are made of, I can’t think of anything to say bad about the figure. I’m fine with him being taller than He-Man. It sure would have been cool if they were in “scale” but I can easily look past that. The wash on the SDCC exclusive version looks awful… it looks like someone drew on the figure with a Sharpie marker.

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