Mattel revealed the extent of its partnership with DC Comics parent TimeWarner at SDCC '03, when they unveiled their line of Looney Tunes figures and offered an exclusive Tweety Bird figure. Tweety was taken from the line of figures for the new Looney Tunes: Back in Action film, and the rest of his animated brothers are reaching shelves now.
One of my favorite members of the Warner Brothers' cartoon cast has always been that drooling, spitting, sub-literate devouring dirvish known as the Tazmanian Devil. Long before he became a t-shirt icon, Taz was just another character out to get Bugs Bunny. His wild ways set him apart from Bugs' human adversaries, and even from the (relatively) brainy animals like Daffy Duck. Taz was a unique character, a force of nature who actually posed a real threat.
There haven't been very many Looney Tunes figures over the years, so Taz's big popularity boom never really won him an action figure of his own. Fortunately, Mattel has made up for lost time.
Standing 4" tall, Taz is a bit shorter than the other Back in Action figures, which makes sense: he always was a hunched little guy. The sculpt looks like Taz's modern incarnation, which is distinctly different than the way Robert McKimson started him . Taz moves at the hips and shoulders, and his big pink tongue is made from soft, flexible rubber that you can stretch, flick or otherwise play with.
Taz has one of the best action features I've seen:
the figure includes a bright blue ripcord that can be run through his waist; pulling the cord causes a small circle on Taz's brown butt to spin wildly. Okay, so that seems kinda pointless, right? Well, simply raise Taz's legs up out of the way and put him on any smooth surface - the spinning causes Taz to whirl around like a top, perfectly duplicating the tiny tornado of arms and legs seen in his cartoon appearances. It really is tremendously clever and works beautifully.
Fans of the old Looney Tunes show will remember that Taz often got introduced from inside a shipping crate. He'd spin his way out, sending broken boards flying everywhere as he growled and sputtered like a first-time message boarder. To re-create this, Mattel included a break-apart crate, detailed nicely with wood grain, planks, a barred window and a few warning stickers.
The halves of the box are held together at the top by two small magnets, and the instructions indicate that you can start Taz spinning and he'd burst free of his bonds. This seems to work best if you load him into the crate, pull the ripcord, then drop the figure from a short height: an inch or two will suffice, letting the box break apart as it should and setting the Tasmanian Devil free.
For only appearing in five cartoons (and after barely surviving his first), Taz has proved ragingly popular. He is the Looney Tunes id, greatly destructive but not actually malicious. He's fearsome, but not really harmless, a safe brush with unevolved wildness, and it's about time we got a cool toy of him.
Now that Mattel has the Warner Brothers license, it's great that they're doing such a good job with the Looney Tunes. But now let's see them expand that world a bit - give us Pinky and the Brain, the Animaniacs or Warner's other great, under-marketed licenses.
What Looney Tunes character do you want to see Mattel make real? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.