You know those racks of random farm animals and dinosaurs in every toy department from Wal-Mart to Toys R Us to educational places on up? Betcha didn’t know that there’s a turf war going on! The German Schleich, French Papo, and American Safari fight for space in the realm of Real-Life Replicas. Papo has Wal-Mart, and is trying to edge Schleich out of Toys R Us. Safari has taken over the museums. Scleich used to have Target, but then vanished one day. Each company has their own pros and cons – for example, Schleich’s dinosaurs are available at Toys R Us but look terrible Papo’s dinos look amazing but are expensive, and Safari actually makes obscure prehistoric animals. Some day I’ll talk more about dinosaurs, but this is not that day.
Aside from farm animals and dinosaurs, the companies also occasionally branch out into science fiction and fantasy. Safari has some of the best dragons imaginable, for example. Papo has several virtually identical dragons, as well as a line of fairies. Safari has a whole mob of mythological monsters. More to the point, Papo has a sub-line of “Animal Mutants,” animal-man warriors with kind of a gladiator theme. And that line has a sub-line of mutant pirates, which also crosses over with their regular pirates line. The normal mutants and pirate mutants come at slightly different price points and overall levels of quality, but they really do cross over pretty well. These figures have been available for several years now, but they have also been continuously available – you can find any given figure at a Toys R Us, for example. So, why not review them?
Firstly, each figure has the following things in common:
-No articulation (there is one exception). These are produced in the same style as other European replica toys. They do not move.
-No packaging. WHen you find these figures on the shelf, they will literally be on the shelf. If you want to buy one, inspect it to make sure it hasn’t been manhandled or broken.
-Accessories are not removable. Sort of. The weapons are designed to remain firmly in each mutant’s hands, but in many cases you can safely remove and swap them if you are careful. But you aren’t necessarily meant to. Sometimes when you find these toys in a store, the employees will have removed the weapons, or glued them in place. My Lion’s weapons were glued in, for example.
-Each figure is between three and four inches tall. They will get along pretty well with your GI Joes.
-Animal Mutants cost about $15, and Mutant Pirates cost about $5. The trade-off is that the regular mutants have insanely complex sculpts and paint jobs, whereas the pirates are much more simplistic.
-You can find these figures pretty much anywhere. I used Amazon.
Well, let’s have a look at them now!
The Crocodile is the first figure I picked up, and my personal favorite of the lot. Like the other Mutants, his armor has a vaguely gladitorial theme, though it is also reimniscent of a European knight. His weapons are a hammer and sword, and they can be swapped, but the weapons and armor aren’t the main point of this figure Instead, it’s his amazing texturing and paint job. He really looks like a croc. Nothing seems under-detailed or exaggerrated, and the associated paint job is so complex that you’d think he walked right out of the swamp! Papo’s claim to fame is in their sculpting and paint, and they really nailed this. He looks real. This figure looks just as good as something really high end. I cannot emphasize this enough.
My dad has been nicknamed “The Rhino” because of how he stubbornly charges forward for the truth. Also, he’s kind of big and leathery. So rhinos hold a special place in my heart. Now, as for this figure, he really fits in well with the Croc – his blue armor offsets the other guy’s red, and is even in the same basic style! He has a long pole axe and a vicious spiked sword on his belt. The sword can be removed, but the axe cannot, so the sword is really something that you can hand over to other mutants. It helps prop him up when he stands, though, so maybe it should stay in. Now, as for the rest of him, again, he’s photorealistic. This isn’t Rocksteady, its an actual rhino that stood up on two feet. I simply cannot get over how he looks. His pose is pretty specific to holding a poleaxe, though, so keep that in mind. But even though he’s half the size, this rhino beats out the new Rocksteady in the sculpting department, easily.
I am really surprised that the line does not include wolves or bears, but it has a lion and a tiger! The Lion’s armor is different from the previous two characters – skimpier, more ornamental and less protective, and it has half a loincloth. Weapons-wise, he has a jewelled axe and a sabre. My figure came with the weapons glud in (thanks to the staff at Toys R Us), but I believe that they could be removable. His stance is more defensive than the others, like he’s attempting to block an attack before parrying with one of his own. His fur texturing is great, even though he has some very human musculature underneath it. Likewise, his head looks like a real lion, not a cartoon character, though mine has uneven paint in his eyes. It might be that they all have one paint and one dark gold one, like a metal eye or something, but I will need to check if I see any others on the shelf.
This fellow is the runt of the set. Not in scale, as he is the same size as everybody else, nor in sculpt, as he is quite good, but in paint. The Tiger isn’t properly orange. He is a light beige, and his stripes are kind of sloppy. He jut isn’t as well-painted as his buddies. His face looks surprised, too, like he had just seen something shocking. He wears leather armor with an ornate loincloth, and comes with a broad sword and axe. The weapons are easily removable, and look great when swapped in his hands, too. His pose also works well with the lion, as he is attacking while the other defends. His paint job really is a pity, because his sculpt is excellent – he’s even got tiny earrings! Of course, he also has one shoe and one bare foot, which makes me wonder if he is as poor as Zoidberg.
Ha ha, it’s Ram-Man! The Ram Mutant is the most heavily-armed of the group, with a broad sword, axe, and a pole axe on his back. Neither axe is easily removable, but the sword can be worked free with care. Lots of care. His armor is pretty distinct, and also ram themed – he has a small ram skull on his belt (from a kid? Or is he huge?), and horn designs on his breast plate. His face carries the type of sorta-dopey serenity shared by most rams and goats, though this guy clearly means business. Even though he isn’t a lion or tiger or crocodile, the Ram looks really great, and is distinct among his buddies on the shelf. Interestingly, the head of his pole axe is very similar to the Lion’s axe, though they are different weapons.
He isn’t my personal favorite, but the Gorilla Mutant is easily one of the best in this lot. Firstly, he is the most sci-fi-ish of them all, with a cyborg arm and leg, and even a sneaker! His sculpt is, of course, fantastic, with very little modifications needed because apes are already humanoid. His pose has him in a ready stance, weapon held out… and this is the best part. For once, this figure is meant to swap his weapons. He has a holster on his back with slots for both of them, and there is nothing blocking them from his hand. He comes with a katana and a huge, scavenged cleaver/axe. The katana is pretty standard, like something stolen from a ninja turtle. The axe is a gigantic cleaver, and looks like it was cobbled together from scavenged parts. I like having him hold them both, though he looks better in photos with the cleaver. With this guy, you get the impression that he is peaceful and calm, but quite capable of busting out a berserker rage and cleaving enemies in half.
Last but certainly not least is the Dragon Mutant, the only figure not based on a real animal. Now, Papo has another Dragon Man, too, but that one is part of the standard fantasy line, while this guy is absolutely one of the Mutant Warriors. The Dragon barely wears any armor, really with just the bare minimum needed to hold his weapons and keep his modesty. He is also in an extremely dynamic pose, kneeling with one hand on the ground (just like Iron Man?). Weapons-wise, he has a curved, hooked katana, and a really complex dragon-themed pole axe. Both weapons are removable, though he cannot hold the axe, The sword also might bend or break pretty easily, especially around that hook, so be careful. But his sculpt is just exquisite, the detail easily on par with the Crocodile Mutant. His paint job is even more complex, with a level of detail not seen on normal, mass-market figures. He has one of the best sculpting and paint jobs that I have ever seen, but there is also something else – articulation! The Dragon’s jaw opens and closes! He looks great either way, and the inside of his mouth is painted just fine. He is weirdly off-theme, but overall a good addition to the line.
Fish Mutant Pirate
The Mutant Pirates are cheaper than regular mutants. They cost you less ($5, really surprising in this day and age), but also have less-complex sculpts and paint schemes. First up is the fish! I can’t identify exactly what kind of fish he is, but that’s fine. He is skinny, lanky, and dressed up like a pirate instead of a gladiator. He’s got an octopus on his shoulder, and a flintlock pistol sculpted to his hip, but his two removable weapons are a blue trident (so tall that I had a choice between showing off him or the trident in this pic. Lok for it in the group shot) and a shark tooth knife. He is not remotely up to the same standards as the regular mutants, but the Fish Pirate has some charms of his own. I especially love the terrified expression on his face, or how one of his shoes really needs to be replaced.
Shark Mutant Pirate
The Shark Pirate is probably the star of the set, because hey… who doesn’t want to become a wereshark? For one thing, a shark’s skin texture fits the less-sharp details of the Pirates line. And true to form, he’s got a realistic shark face! His clothing is also in good condition, meaning that he just might be the pirate captain! The Shark is armed with the same toothy knife as the Fish, but he also has a shark-themed cutlass. Really, it’s painted like a shark, and shaped like a shark even with gills and an eye. He holds it in kind of an awkward pose, though, which was really difficult to photograph well. The sword is not that overwhelmingly huge in real life.
Walrus Mutant Pirate
I am the Walrus, Goo Goo Gajoob! The Walrus is actually on par with the regular Mutant Pirates, more or less. Or at least, his face is textured really well, and his paint job is more than adequate. He’s got a hook hand and peg leg, as well as a cool longcoat fluttering dramatically in the breeze. His weapon is a pretty big knife, held out in front in yet another awkward pose. It’s also really removable, though, if you want to swap it for something else.
Octopus Mutant Pirate
To be honest, the Octopus is probably the best-sculpted and painted of the Pirates. He has a very odd face – instead of the animal faces of everybody else, his has some distinctly human characteristics, particularly that nose. It’s kind of quirky, but it works for him. He also has a very ornate pirate outfit, complete with a tricorn hat and plume! His tentacles go every which way, with four ornate little knives in his “hands.” Now, one of his free tentacles looks sculpted to hold a weapon, but I got mine fresh (in the plastic wrapping it comes in before stores unwrap them), so either it’s defective, or he simply does not have a fifth weapon. It looks fine, though. The Octopus Pirate is dynamic and cool, with a great paint job that really sells the octopus skin texturing.
Turtle Mutant Pirate
This guy is kind of confusing. Whereas the Octopus Pirate had some human features on his face, the Turtle just has a cartoonish human head. This is weirdly out of place, as the rest of his body is pretty clearly that of a turtle, but there you have it. He is skinny and spindly, and wielding a pistol and cutlass. There is also a small axe embedded in his shell, but he clearly does not care. That face is the problem, though. It is just so out of place. His shell looks great, but then there’s this cartoon mustache staring you in the eyes, clashing with everything else about him. He almost does not seem to be in the same toy line as the others.
Crab Mutant Pirate
We end this overview with the weirdest and most humanoid of the bunch, the Crab Pirate. More than the turtle, he honestly looks like a man in a crab suit. His face is absolutely human, his left arm is human, and his legs and feet are human. I get that he is meant to be some sort of mutant hybrid, but this is the least animalistic of the whole group. That weirdness aside, he’s really well-armed, with a coral sword, a knife strapped to his big claw, and a musket at his hip. The back of his shell also has a silver jolly roger sculpted and painted on is, jut in case anybody missed the fact that he is a pirate. I can’t help but feel for the missed opportunity to give him a crab face, though. Stand him up next to somebody like the Crocodile or Gorilla or even his fellow Shark, and you’ll see what I mean.
So, overall? These are really great toys, although some of the pirates just do not fit. The Turtle and Crab are very much out of place with everybody else, though they aren’t too terrible in their own right. But some of the others, like the Croc or Gorilla or Dragon, are just absolutely fantastic. If you found yourself liking these toys at all, then go ahead and hunt them down. You shouldn’t be disappointed!