Captain Toy/Michael's Review of the Week

Captain Toy Picks...
The Top Ten Animal Action Figures

Date Published: 2017-05-17
Written By: Michael Crawford

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Hot Toys Rocket

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When I did my Captain Toy Picks... of the Top Ten Vehicles, I ruled out any animals. I wanted them to be their own list, rather than lumping them in with all the terrific non-organic modes of action figure transportation.

This week I'm circling back to those beasts of burden, those sidekicks, those best friends that are not quite human. As always, some ground rules were needed, and it was more complicated than I originally expected.

First, I didn't want to just include animals that were 'vehicles'. That was too narrow for me, although you will see many animal figures on this list that were intended to carry their human counterparts.

I excluded any animals that were not actual, real, animals. The animals can be cybernetically enhanced, they can talk, they can be bigger or smaller than they are supposed to be, but they can't be fantasy creatures or non-real monsters. They have to be an actual Earth creature, at least to start. That means no dragons, no Skeksis, no Dewbacks. I know, but perhaps I'll do a fantasy beast list - there's a huge number to choose from.

I also ruled out any creature too heavily anthropomorphized. As I said, they can talk, they can be animated, they can even get up and walk on two legs occasionally, as long as they still have the overall anatomy of the original animal. But when their physical form is altered to push them to far toward human, I ruled them out. That means no Bugs Bunny, no Realm of the Claw (remember them?), Realm of the Rodent (bet you don't remember them!), K-9 Klan (I know you don't remember them!) or any of the excellent Seventh Kingdom lines from the Four Horsemen. And yes, Rocket (pictured above) falls into that category as well. I almost put him on this list...but the design of the body and arms is too human for me to do it.

Using those two main rules - has to be a real animal, can't be too 'human' - was a pretty easy test, and still left lots of great choices. There were really only two lines or characters were it was right on the line, and I ended up ruling one out and left the other one in. I'll point out which one I left in the mix when I get to them on the list - they made the top ten - but the one I left out which could go either way was...Kermit. Hey, I love him as much as you do, and you can certainly say he's a 'real' animal. He's not so anthropomorphized as say...Miss Piggy, who clearly is hitting human standards with her body design. But something about him seems to me to cross the line in a way that some of my picks don't. I'll discuss more when we get to specifics.

Now let's get to those specifics!

10 - Thunderbolt, Best of the West, Marx, 1967
I'm coming out of the gate with a animal that was a vehicle - technically. He's also the only animal in my entire list that isn't some sort of character in a movie, cartoon, or television show. Comanche was the articulated horse released as part of the Best of the West series, and perhaps the fanciest of the horses. But my favorite was the simplest - Thunderbolt. Straight legs with a perfect pose, there were versions that came with wheels in the feet you could use to roll him. That was ideal, since Comanche would get weak and floppy joints, and was always an effort to keep standing with a rider. There were a ton of different horses in the line (as well as a colts, a dog, and even a buffalo), but Thunderbolt was by far the most fun. I still have several of mine from when I was a kid, complete with melt marks from the rubber saddles.

Best of the West Thunderbolt horse

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9 - Ace the Bathound, Fischer-Price 2005
Did you really think I was going to get through any list without picking at least one Batman related character? Even when it comes to animals, there's always something great in the this case, it's the Fischer-Price release of Ace. This was part of the short lived Krypto the Superdog cartoon and toy series back in the mid-aughts. The cartoon was decent enough, and FP did a nice job recreating the character in plastic, compete with a vehicle and the best part - Bud and Louie, the Joker's Hyenas!

Ace the Bathound figure

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8 - Evil Monkey, Family Guy, Mezco, 2006
Another cartoon animal, but one that is clearly still a monkey, the Evil Monkey was a great running gag on Family Guy. When Mezco did their series of smaller action figures based on the show, they produced this mega scale (12" tall!) flocked version of the monkey himself. I had him in my office for years, pointing down from a high shelf at anyone sitting across from me.

Mezco Family Guy Evil Monkey

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7 - Camilla, Muppets, Palisades, 2004
I might think Kermiet is a tad too human to make the cut, but there is one Muppet that's still all animal - Camilla. She's Gonzo's true love, and while most chickens don't have long, seductive eyelashes, everything else is where it should be, chicken-wise.

Like the aforementioned Evil Monkey, Camilla is a 'mega' scale figure, larger than the normal Palisades action figures, coming in at 9" or so as I recall. I might not love her as much as Gonzo does, but I love her as much as a man can love a chicken and not go to jail.

Mega Muppets Camilla

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6 - Man Eating Cow, The Tick, Bandai, 1994
I love the Tick, and the animated series of the 90's remains a favorite. One of the more bizarre out of a bundle of bizarre characters was the Man Eating Cow. When Bandai produced the action figure series, I was pretty surprised - and stoked - by his inclusion. He was tough to find back then, although he's a little easier to come by these days. He has the greatest action feature - open his mouth, and there's a human foot inside!

Man Eating Cow Tick action figure

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5 - Bull T-Rex. Jurassic Park Lost World, Kenner, 1997
Kenner did some terrific Jurassic Park dinosaurs for the various films, but my favorite is the large Bull T-Rex. It had the cool 'dino sounds', it has the rubbery skin, and he could even 'eat' another action figure!  How sweet is that! Resaurus did some great non-movie themed dinosaurs as well, but as nice as they were, they just weren't as cool as this bad ass beast. The after market loves him too...

The photo below came from

Jurassic Park Bull T-Rex action figure

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4 - Planet of the Apes, NECA, 2014
Lots of companies have done Planet of the Apes, including Sideshow, Medicom, and Hot Toys. But for the sheer quality at an affordable price, I went with the NECA releases for this list.

Of course, you might argue that these Apes don't belong on the list, because they are too 'human'. This was the license I mentioned at the start of the article, the one I thought about long and hard, but added to the list of potentials. I'd argue that they are still very much ape-like, and rather than being anthropomorphized, they are evolved. Their stance, their gate, their overall physical demeanor is still very much like an ape, and for me, they certainly count.

And while other companies have done them, none have done them quite as well as NECA. Hot Toys might be more realistic, but they only produced three gorilla figures, whereas we got a couple waves plus the Lawgiver statue from NECA.

NECA Planet of the Apes action figures

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3 - Bruce, Jaws, Mark V. Schultz
I'm a little torn on adding this one, because it's *almost* a custom. But unlike most customs, this statue is licensed, and it's considered by many to be the most accurate replica of Bruce on the market. It's handmade in America, and it's not cheap, but it is a beautiful statue. They make them in several sizes, including the 36" beauty shown below in a photo I grabbed from their site. And no, technically he's not an 'action' figure, but most of the animals on this list are almost statues.

Mike Schultz Jaws Bruce statue

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2 - Battlecat, Masters of the Universe Classics, 2010
For fans of the 80's Masters of the Universe line, I'm betting the nostalgic draw will convince them to add the original Battlecat to this list. And yes, he was a terrific figure. But I think Mattel outdid themselves with the updated Classics release, and since I have no nostalgia around this line, that's the version I'm picking.

I love the articulation, he looks great paired with He-Man, and the quality overall was excellent. How can Skeletor not flee in terror from that face! And don't give me no crap about how he's technically a fantasy creature - he's a damn tiger and everyone knows it.

Masters of the Universe Classics Battlecat

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1 - King Kong, Mezco, 2006
We've seen some great King Kong figures over the years, and yes, he most definitely qualifies for this list. He might be huge, but he's still a gorilla. There's been almost as many toys as there has been movies, and that's a lot of movies.  I still love the Movie Maniacs version that McFarlane Toys produced, but it's the huge Mezco version that remains my favorite. He came with a couple different expressions and you had to hunt up the one you wanted, but it was the snarling, mean look that wowed me.

Mezco King Kong

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There's some other great possibilities out there - I thought about Grodd of course, there's always Gromit, and Scooby Doo was high on the list of potentials. You'll notice that there isn't much vintage on my list, and that's because most of the animals from older lines were, how shall I put this, less than stellar. More often than not, they were lower in priority than even secondary characters, and not a lot of effort was expended by the toy companies. We've seen more quality work in the last 20 years, particularly around these not quite human characters.

If you're enjoying this top ten concept of Captain Toy Picks or have a suggestion for a future list, drop me a line and let me know! I've added a section below with links to all the past Captain Toy Picks... features:

Captain Toy Picks...The Top Action Figure Vehicles!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Television (Live Action) Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Movie Based Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Underrated Action Figure Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Action Figure Play Sets!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Smart Purchases!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten McFarlane Lines!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Bad Action Figure Ideas!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Toy Fair 2017 Reveals!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Unproduced Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The People's Picks for Best of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Best/Worst of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Poppies Winners of the Past Ten Years!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten DC Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Christmas Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Joker Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Superman Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Animated Action Figure Series!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Toy Things I'm Thankful For!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Premium Format Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Over $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Under $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Palisades Muppets!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Wanted Licenses in Sixth Scale!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman Black and White Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Masters of the Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Female Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Prop Replicas!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Simpsons World of Springfield action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Grails!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Figures!

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Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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