There have been few figures in MOTUC so far that have been as divisive as Chief Carnivus. When the figure was revealed at Wizard World Philadelphia in June, vintage fans groaned, 200X fans cheered, and casual fans said, “Who the hell is Chief Carnivus?”
MOTUC has reached the point where if you’re only into the line for the nostalgia of the figures you remember from the early-to-mid 1980s, you should probably skip the subscription. With Count Marzo in July, Carnivus in September and the Faceless One coming in May 2011, 200X characters are going to be a part of this line.
Anyway, to answer the casual fans’ question, Chief Carnivus was a minor character in the 200X Mike Young Productions He-Man cartoon. Part of Randor‘s Eternian Council of allies, Carnivus appeared in several episodes but never played a large role; something makes me think he might have in a future episode, though, given his increasing appearances as the show progressed. During the 200X era there were a good number of Carnivus customs, probably owing to his recurring role (however minor) and the fact that, as a feline humanoid, he represented an obvious but unrepresented type of design that–in my opinion, at least–fit in perfectly with MOTU.
That said, I think Michael Crawford said it best in his review last night:
If you’re a fan of the original MOTU, you probably don’t care a whole lot about this character. If you’re a fan of the 200x series, you’re finally getting the character – but not in the style you really want. The only fan completely happy is someone like me, with no particular connection to either show, and let’s face it – how many other goofballs like me can there possibly be?
I suppose I fall into Crawford’s first category–I’m more of a vintage fan, and admittedly I wasn’t all that excited about Carnivus. But I think the reason I wasn’t excited is because his character was never developed on the show, so I never created a connection to the character. That doesn’t mean he isn’t a cool action figure. So is he? Let’s find out together.
Packaging: At first, I really liked the fact that the packaging riffed off the vintage box art from the vehicles and playsets–lots of big stone bricks and lightning. I’m really starting to miss the bright colors of the vintage single-figure packaging, though, especially the red volcanic burst. I wonder if they could start working that in to the background, behind the figure…but I suppose they’ll never do that. At this point, consistency is necessary for those crazy MOC’ers.
Also: that real name is ridiculous. But we’ll get to that some other time…
Design & Sculpt: As expected, there’s been a lot of discussion as to whether Carnivus is too stylized and detailed compared to other figures in the line. The idea, of course, is that the Horsemen are supposed to imagine how Carnivus would have looked in the 1980s line, then update him with modern production values–that is, more articulation and slightly better detailing. Some fans have said that Carnivus’s head looks too “anime” and too detailed; the same for his shield.
Here’s my take: next to MOTUC He-Man, yes, Carnivus (and, say, Marzo) look very detailed and even a little stylized. But go grab your vintage He-Man and place him next to one of the later figures of the same line, like Rio Blast or Snout Spout–even the vintage figures became more detailed as time went on. Hordak featured more detail than Skeletor, and Rio Blast was 100% new parts! And any of the Snake Men have a lot more detailed and uniquely sculpted parts than Zodac or Tri-Klops. We haven’t even seen MOTUC versions of Rio Blast or the Snake Men yet, because of all the new tooling they’ll require. If you imagine Carnivus as having been one of the later figures in the line, I think his amount of detail makes perfect sense.
As to that sculpting itself: Carnivus’s thighs, arms, biceps & shoulders, and torso come from Beast Man; his greaves come from He-Ro. His head, left hand, upper calves, belt/loincloth, armor, cape, and feet are new (the feet have an arch to them wholly unlike Beast Man’s). The head closely resembles the 200X look, right down to the earring. While I’m not sure why they didn’t just use Stratos‘s open left hand, it does appear to be a new sculpt.
The armor looks great, and works quite well: the cape is separate, and after it’s removed, you can pull off the armor. The pauldrons attach via small strips of plastic at the top, but they look almost like separate pieces–a great effect. They also don’t inhibit the articulation at all.
As with Marzo, I think there’s a degree to which the “cartoon-ish” or “anime” look of Carnivus is owing to the fact that the only place we’ve ever seen him is on a cartoon. To break that connection, you really have to do a mind experiment and imagine a vintage Carnivus, or a Filmation Carnivus. I think if you can do that, Carnivus will suddenly seem to fit MOTUC a bit better. On a side note, I think the claims of an “anime” look are due almost entirely to the two bits of hair that angle up and then down in front of the ears; remove those, and the “anime” effect vanishes.
Plastic & Paint: Carnivus’s paint work is on par with what we’ve come to expect from MOTUC, and, at least in the case of my figure, it’s on the better side of that expectation.
The most intricate work is on the head, with a nice wash around the “beard” area. I like the rich shade of gold used for the armor, belt and greaves, which contrasts nicely with the purple highlights.
There are a few scratches here and there, particularly on the gold paint, but nothing that bothered me much.
Articulation: Carnivus has the standard MOTUC articulation: a ball-and-socket head (easily removed), ball-and-hinge shoulders and hips, hinged elbows, knees, ankles and abdomen, swivels at the biceps, wrists, waist, top of the greaves, and top of the thighs, and “rocker” ankles. Thankfully, Carnivus’s ankles are nice and tight on both axes.
Accessories: Carnivus comes with a shield and the Sword of Saz (as it was referred to in a ToyFare ad). The shield is fantastic; as many have noted, it’s sculpted to resemble the central tower of the immense vintage Eternia playset. What this means, and whether Carnivus and his race have any connection to the Three Towers, has yet to be revealed; however, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out there was a connection, particularly given the arrival of Preternia He-Man next year.
I love the sword–or rather scimitar. A curved sword was a great choice for Carnivus, as it’s distinctive from all the straight swords we’ve seen in MOTUC thus far. It does look a little familiar, though…
Quality Control: No problems.
Overall: I don’t think there were many fans who would have checked off “Very Excited” on a survey when asked, “How excited are you for Chief Carnivus?” He took just over a day to sell out. That would be an unqualified success for many companies, but given Mattel’s comments regarding previous sellouts that took more than a few hours, I wouldn’t be surprised if this caused them to re-evaluate offering other minor 200X characters. The Faceless One is already lined up, but others might get pushed back. And here’s why: despite what many, many fans seem to believe, I think Mattel wants to keep subscribers happy. The longer sell-out time for Carnivus suggests a lesser interest in the character, and it’s fair to say a good portion of the subscribers share the lack of enthusiasm of the non-subscribers who took so long to buy him off Mattycollector.
But however you feel about the character, Chief Carnivus is another great MOTUC action figure. I’d have bought him even without the subscription and without my general completionist tendencies, because I think he’s just a neat figure. Moreover, I think it’s fun to get brand-new MOTU figures nearly thirty years after my first He-Man. But as they say, your mileage may vary.