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by yo go re

When I found the new Thundercats toys piled in a cart at Toys Я Us, I had to make the same choice your girlfriend did when she dumped you for that taller, more athletic guy: did I want 4" or 6"? Unlike your ex, Denise, I went with the smaller size, partially because the entire cast was available on day one, and partially because the smaller scale meant the ability to get vehicles.

In the old show, the ThunderTank was built out of the wreckage of the Thundercats' spaceship. In the new show, it doesn't seem to have a specific origin: Panthro just shows up driving it, like it ain't no thang. Of course, the people of Thundera think technology is a myth, so you do have to wonder where he found it.

The modern ThunderTank is a fearsome-looking vehicle. Rather than a smooth, rounded chassis, it's blocky and angular. The back end has large air intakes and exhaust pipes or maybe rocket boosters on the top. The front end comes to a sharp point (not sharp enough to injure a child, but in-universe it could probably slice through any obstacles with ease).

There are still parallels to the old tank, however. The cockpit is shaped like a head, it's flanked by wheeled outriggers and the rear section is mounted on treads. The "face" is more organic than before, with triangular headlight eyes, indentations placed like nostrils and even a hint of teeth inside the mouth. It really does look like a mechanical creature, sort of like Voltron's lions, rather than like a machine with an animal design. The sculpt isn't overly detailed, but there are a few spots on the inside and underneath where the machinery can be seen.

The toy isn't an exact replica of what we see on the cartoon, however. Though it's large enough to accommodate the 4" figures, it's still a ton smaller than its animated counterpart. If you look at screenshots from the show, you'll see that one "finger" on the front paws is about the size of a single cat, and that the cockpit is a two-seater. It's almost like this is sized for 2" figures, not 4". Plus, the toy is blue. Very blue. Overwhelmingly blue. A light blue, but blue nonetheless - to be accurate, it should be closer to gray.

As we said, the cockpit can hold a figure (Panthro). The "face" lifts so you can sit somebody (Panthro) in the driver's seat. There's a clip on the back of the seat designed to fit around the magnetic blocks all the figures have (including Panthro), so whoever you decide to have drive this thing (Panthro) won't be flopping around inside when they take a sharp turn. Panthro really fills up the space, since he's the largest figure in the line, but the clip will hold anyone else in place firmly. Yes, even Mumm-Ra, if you want.

The rear end of the tank opens with a magnet-activated latch. On the "real" tank that's a hatch to the passenger compartment, but on this scaled-down version you can't really fit anyone in there. It does make a handy place to store all the figures' weapons, though. And you can have the Thunderkittens hide back there, if you want, but it's certainly not a comfortable place to travel.

The paws on the front of the tank are articulated. There are three hinge joints in each one: a ratcheted joint at the "shoulder," a hinge at the "wrist" and another for the fingers. The arm can be extended about half an inch, and curved claws fold out from under the fingers. Overall they're decently poseable, and they look good in a variety of positions.

One of the new features of this Thundertank that wasn't on the old one are small one-man bikes detatch from the "arms" on the front for times when a tank is too unwieldy to maneuver. While you can buy deluxe versions of Lion-O and Tygra that come with bikes scaled for their use (ThunderRacers), the tank comes with ThunderRacers sized appropriately for it. They plug into the sides of the tank, and launch off with the press of a button (a button concealed way up on the top of the tank). The ThunderRacers are silver and blue, with a larger tire in the back than in the front, and a solid canopy with a cat's head design on the tip. When you remember that the Thundercats are supposed to be able to ride inside the racers, it really brings home how out-of-scale the tank truly is. You can replace the included ThunderRacers with the ones sold separately, but then the paws can't fold down properly.

The ThunderTank takes advantage of the toys' "Thunder Lynx" system - aka, "magnets in their backs that make things happen." Honestly, the only Thunder Lynx feature is the opening rear door: everything else is done mechanically. There are electronic features, if you bother to find two AAA batteries, and they change based on whether or not a figure is in the driver's seat.

As we discovered when the toy lineups were first revealed, the ThunderTank comes with Snarf. In the old cartoon, Snarf was nothing but an annoying bastard, but he's such a hallmark of the series that the new show couldn't very well ignore him. So instead of an actual character, the new Snarf is just a glorified housecat - he's just a neat, colorful design that doesn't get in the way of the plot.

The figure is even more out-of-scale than the ThunderTank itself. He's 2½" tall, which means he's closer to being in scale with the 8" figures than the 4" ones. He's articulated at the hips and shoulders, but can't really get too far out of his prescribed "sitting up" pose.

The ThunderTank isn't a perfect toy. It's smaller than it should be, the color isn't quite right, and though it's touted as the star of the ThunderLynx system, it really doesn't do anything special with it. Plus, Snarf isn't in scale with anything. That said, the tank has a great design, and this is the only way to get Snarf (you know, after he got into the grow-berries or something). I certainly wouldn't pay full price for this set, but not being as good as it could be doesn't mean it's not still good.

-- 12/25/11

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