Playmobil 71010 Wiltopia Boat Trip to the Manatees Set Playmobil, 2022
Day #2,538: March 30, 2023
Boat Trip to the Manatees A dream toy for me and maybe two other people
Wiltopia Animal Set?
Item No.: No. 71010 Manufacturer:Playmobil Includes:2 humans, medical stuff, computer stuff, adult manatee, two baby manatees, red crate, jars, foam lily pad, life preserver, frog, snake, lily pads Action Feature:Pad, manatees, boat all float Retail:$44.99 Availability: 2022 Other: At last, the toy you wanted when you were six
Playmobil as a company is pretty smart. When they make a really cool creature or animal, it frequently winds up bundled with a playset or vehicle so the average customer who doesn't do their direct service parts program will pay a lot more for something. The Boat Trip to the Manatees is one of few all-new animals in the Wiltopia range, so they of course bundled the little floaty potatoes with a boat - a motorboat, which anyone who grew up as a manatee fanatic knows is the worst thing in the world for manatees - and lots of other gear. Do you need it? No. You probably just want the manatees. But that's how they get higher-priced items out there, because a manatee on its own is probably twelve bucks tops. It's the same basic size and complexity as their dolphin.
This is a toy set that goes well beyond its mandate, and is clearly there for the kind of weird kid who just adores a manatee toy. I could be proven wrong, but I assume this is the last manatee toy I'll ever buy. I had plush ones as a little kid, there's a stoneware one somewhere in a box, and short of them appearing in a sci-fi context I am going to believe this is as good as it will ever get. For $45 I would recommend these only to the kind of person who heard "Playmobil Manatee" and said "shut up and take my money." They're cute, they're well-made, and they're fun little guys to have around. They don't do much, and come bogged down in accessories that are kind of a waste of plastic if you just want the animals. And if you do, who could blame you?
The main reason to buy these are the sea cows. Don't kid yourself otherwise. The box talks a big game about "made with sustainable materials" and "play + learn" business, but it's still about 60% empty packaging and there's nothing about this product that's going to be teaching you anything. Playmobil toys are notable in design in how they're in conflict with themselves - they were originally designed to look like kid drawings, but some are also incredibly detailed. The old horses were basically stick figures, but now they have hooves and nostrils and distinct manes. The manatees fall on the realism scope.
I don't even have to go to Wikipedia to tell you this is most likely a West Indian Manatee, like what you find in Florida, with four nails on each flipper. The adult has an articulated jaw and an opening in the mouth that's about the same size as an accessory. You can fit a plant in there if you like. The flippers and tail are also jointed on the adult, and the babies only have a jointed tail. While old Playmobil toy animals were frequently molded in color, this one is only mostly molded in color. The eyes are painted, and they're not as sharp as some other toys'. The underbelly is a barely lighter gray color with a hole in it, so you can have it "floating" on some coral, if you have some hanging around.
If you have a lot of older Playmobil toys, these should feel familiar. They're hollow so they can float, there's a light texture on the back, and you can see little winkles around the head and tail. Their mouths don't seem to have any sign of sculpted whiskers, and the flippers can only swivel. I was hoping for ball-and-socket joints, but it's not like the Sperm Whale had anything that could move other than the jaw. We're lucky to get this.
If you're a new or an old fan, you'll probably like these. The quality is consistent with the classic seals and sea lions, and dolphins and sharks and whales. You can even have them nibble on the greens in the set. But, there are also other creatures. A nicely painted snake is included, as is a little red frog. But these are old molds, and I'm patronizing them. Who cares about snakes? You can get all the snakes you want in the cowboy sets. We're here for the gray lumps.
The boat is new - or new to me. It's long and has seating for two, plus a lot of places to clip on accessories. I'm more than a little irate at the motorboat, but it does provide some moving parts on a set where the action is effectively "watch the large floaty things graze." There's a side net/workspace thing on the boat too, but it doesn't fit in tightly. Neither do the weights on the boat. Things are kind of loose, and I dare say there are too many parts to misplace here. You get sponges, medical supplies, and a map. It's a lot for your kids to lose, but at least it isn't boring. It's also probably what's driving the cost of the set up a few bucks.
Back in the day I'd pick up any Playmobil set that meets the qualification of ($2 x Number of Figures) = Yes. This isn't that. I'd also go as far as to say I don't like the figure redesign very much - they've been doing more painted faces over the years, which means they don't quite fit in with the dozens/hundreds/thousands of figures you've already bought. The eyes are bigger and brighter, with more detailed shirts and pants, and some pretty nice gear can be seen on the box like clip-on vests with accessories like watches. Wait, watches? I think I only got one in my box. (This is where you imagine me rummaging through baggies.) Well, there it is, it got stuck in the baggie. That's why you check all instructions and packaging for missing parts, kids.
While I am not crazy about the faces, they're fine. The rubbery hair bow is an interesting piece, and the various cleaning gear, bandage stickers, and other things might be fun for the kids. I think it's kind of a waste - it certainly drives up the piece count, when I'd probably be a lot happier with another figure or a random bird or tree to build out the environment. But this is what the toy business trended to - when I was a kid, LEGO faces were incredibly simple. Now they're incredibly detailed, and Playmobil (years later) followed suit and seems to be expanding fancy faces more on a lot of their lines. Curiously, not the licensed ones.
Playmobil will sometimes sell creatures individually if you call them on the phone, but the prices aren't low and shipping isn't free. They also frequently reuse animal molds for years to come, but not always. Their mammoths came and went fast, and I never saw them in my home state. The Ankylosaurus from 2004 still hasn't made an encore appearance and I don't believe was ever sold as an add-on part, either. Playmobil will often reuse molds forever, but not always.
It's a very expensive set if you just want the manatees, but it's not too outlandish compared to other (increasingly expensive) Playmobil toy sets. By current pricing standards, baby animals are about $5 each, a similar adult animal is about $12 each, and a pretty good boat of a similar size with similar piece count and only one figure is about $20. With the frogs, snakes, floating lily pad, and accessories, you're probably getting a decent chunk of parts for the money, but if you're just here for the manatees you probably don't want all the other stuff. I should also warn you, I've been actively pining for Playmobil manatees, mammoths, otters, Ghostbusters, and dinosaurs since I was a grade schooler - so the last few years have been pretty good for me, with Star Trek and Scooby Doo as a victory lap. Short of Star Wars or really, really good monster sets like Dracula's Castle with some armadillos running around, I don't know what else is left. This is really one of those "well, I think I'm done, they probably did everything I want" products. But I still have a lot here to review, so don't worry there.
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