This figure is the first (and so far only) release of Art Asylum/Diamond Select Toys' Battle Beasts line, and it's quite slick. The figure is just a basic Minimates body except the hands and feet are uniquely sculpted, the "head" is actually just a hat over a normal Minimates head, and the body is just a piece that fits over a standard torso. This is pretty brilliant toy engineering on the cheap, but remember, it's a Minimates figure so it will come apart if you touch it funny.
At press time (just following Toy Fair 2010) Diamond Select Toys made no plans known for the Battle Beasts brand beyond this figure and a previously announced redeco of this figure that was to be packaged with a Minimates lab playset (which, at press time, is not yet available and delayed indefinitely.) In other words, if you have this figure, congratulations. You may now own the entire line.
Sculpt and Deco
Despite being built over a standardized body, the figure itself is surprisingly robust and detailed. Just like the original, there's a ton of detailing on the armor and character skin, but unlike the original there are more than two colors of paint on the thing.
Described by many as a cross between RoboCop and an alligator and by none as a refugee from a futuristic sequel to the classic Fox film The Alligator People, this swell figure manages to spin your average expectations for a Minimates figure. For starters, it isn't a flat surface with a face painted on it-- there's an actual sculpted head here (more on that below) with quite a bit of paint detail. The interior of the mouth is painted red, the teeth are painted white, and the skin and eyes are also uniquely decorated. Diamond Select didn't cheap out here, although it is worth noting that the articulation isn't as robust as a standard Minimates figure. The feet are "boots" over the standard legs, so you can't rotate the ankles. It's quite similar to some of the Iron Man figures, and a huge improvement over vintage Battle Beasts.
Due to the "body" sculpting clamping over the Minimates body, the figure effectively has no waist joint. His sword is a nicely sculpted single-piece weapon with a hole in the blade. I was not able to figure out why it has a hole in it as the figure has no pegs which would plug into this. Perhaps all will be revealed down the road.
Comparisons to and Compatibility With Vintage Toys
Surprisingly, the figure is about the same size as the originals. This new one is just slightly larger than the original "Gruesome Gator" figure, and sized just right to be largely compatible with the original vehicles and playsets. Despite having a huge tail, this 2010 Battle Beasts Gator can actually fit in the original Shocking Shark playset's jail cell. Odds are this was in no way intentional, but it's certainly nice.
While most of you probably don't have the original playsets to use with the new figures, it seems they're basically compatible, which is delightful.
The most fascinating thing about this figure is how it illustrates just what you can build off of a simple "block" figure. For years we've been seeing variations on the LEGO and Playmobil buck, with Medicom's Kubricks, Shocker Toys' Shockinis, Palisades' Palz, and so on and so forth. The Minimates brand seems to have done the best in North America, and now they figured out how to literally build on to it to make something even more remarkable.
Left: basic body stripped of parts except right hand. Right: basic body stripped of body element and left hand.
The alligator head is actually a "hat" for the head. There's a peg inside the alligator noggin, and it plugs into a hole in the cylinder head to complete the figure's construction. I should also note that the feet have LEGO-peg holes on the bottom, but the feet are so big that you won't be able to get to plug him straight onto a typical brick or plate. If you have him standing on a 1x1 peg, though, it should work just fine.
Since I did not initially plan on reviewing this piece, I did not keep the plastic baggie in which it came. The bag is essentially the same thing as all promotional Minimates from these shows-- clear bag, printed black ink label-- and no name was given for the character. Also, no mention of Takara, Tomy, or Hasbro, meaning either Diamond just bought the brand outright or the brand name lapsed and they wisely snagged it up.
This figure had an issue price of free-- which was, of course, totally worth it. We'd take several more at that price. I like this figure enough to buy more if they ever get made, but I'm also very predisposed to digging these since I loved the originals. If it ends up that the Gator is the only one that ever gets produced, be sure to buy one. If there's a repaint in the line down the road, odds are it's no better or worse than this one so buy whatever you feel like. I'd say it's better than your average Battle Beast but a rung or two below your average Minimates figure in terms of playability.
I will also point out that this is my favorite thing to come out of Toy Fair 2010 that I was not in any way involved with producing. As such, right now, it's quite frustrating to think this might be the only entry in the line.
Text and photos by Adam Pawlus
Review posted on February 23, 2010
Sample obtained in February 2010