In the early '80s, Vince McMahon decided the WWF should have a caveman character. Rather than bring in somebody new to fill the role, he just got George Steele - whom the fans had nicknamed "The Animal" - to change his interview style to grunts and simple monosyllabic words.
The wrestling world was turned on its side when this unruly character debuted. His menacing green tongue, hairy body and wild behavior terrified woman, man and child, but audiences were captivated by him and part of his allure was, "The Animal," would not be tamed in the ring. Outside the ring was a different story. In 1986, the makings
of a Beauty and the Beast tale were unfolding between "The Animal" and Miss Elizabeth, manager of Randy "Macho Man" Savage. While Steele was intent on Miss Elizabeth taming his heart and seemed to prefer her love over championship gold, Savage, on the other hand, didn't want Steele anywhere near his manager and an ongoing feud between Steele and Savage continued. Although Steele never won a match over Savage or the heart of Miss Elizabeth, this beast, a true underdog, did manage to win the love of legions of fans.
This figure was supposed to be part WWE Hall of Fame Series Series 4, alongside Edge, King Booker, and Rowdy Roddy Piper. Well, for whatever reason, George and Roddy were bumped back to Series 5, and their slots were given to Sting and Jerry Lawler. So, months of waiting, and finally here we are!
Jakks made a George "The Animal" Steele in their Classic Superstars line, but yet again, Mattel has made the better toy. As an example, both figures had the bright green tongue that was The Animal's trademark, but the likeness on this figure actually looks like the man, rather than just a vague male face - Mattel even got the rolls on the back of his head!
While the body on this toy is not as muscular as the one Jakks used, it's still not right; even in his prime, The Animal was never
this defined. He wasn't Earthquake/Typhoon fat, but he was close. This body is too thin side-to-side, and it's too thin front-to back. Really, the only way they could have done him justice would have been to mold an entirely new torso, and that was probably never even in consideration. Though in a perfect world, it would have been, because a new mold would have solved a second problem, as well: the hair.
Even before being asked to play dumb, George was a hairy,
hairy guy. He had a full shag carpet on his chest, back and arms, so he looked like a beast to begin with. Mattel didn't opt to flock their figure, like Jakks did with theirs (in a running change), instead just painting the hair on in a very complex series of tampographs. And yes, it does look like hair, if you're looking at it as hair, but more often it just looks like the figure is dirty, and there are some spots that seem to have been missed. Long ago, when LJN was making their big rubber toys in the '80s, they made a George "The Animal" Steele, and they depicted his hair by molding little bumps all over his body. And honestly, it works better than any of the modern attempts. Maybe a combo of molding like that and tampos like this would have been the best?
Another issue that could have been corrected with a new torso is the posture. George played up his neanderthal nature by maintaining a stooped, hunched posture, and while you can mostly duplicate it thanks
to the plentiful articulation - head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, chest, waist, hips, thighs, knees, boots and ankles - but when you do, his head doesn't raise up high enough to let him look straight ahead; he's constantly staring down at the mat. (And if you want to really get into it, his head should sit down closer to the torso: he was "no neck" fat, while this toy has a distinct separatation between head and body that really shouldn't be there.) Making a new torso, with sculpted body hair, and a repositioned neck that would have allowed the head to be closer to the body and to look forward/up would have suited him perfectly. He'd even have been able to pull of his finisher, the Flying Hammerlock (a very technical move for a guy whose repertoire was a lot of simple punches, kicks, and stomps)! Unfortunately, while that theoretical body would have suited George perfectly, it also would have suited no one else ever, and thus would have been expensive to produce with no way to recoup the costs.
George comes with a few accessories, beginning with a bouquet of yellow roses - after all, if the bio is going to talk about his obsession with Miss Elizabeth, then it might as well include a gift for him to give her. One of the roses is separate from the bunch, and can be removed; it's normally held in place by a cleverly positioned leaf.
He also comes with "Mine,"
the cute little primate thing that he carried with him to the ring in the late '80s. WWF actually manufactured and sold Mine dolls - $17.95 plus shiping and handling - and I'll confess I always kind of wanted one. This version is all sculpted, not plush, but it has the tufted grey fur, the bald head and belly (and butt), and the green tongue pokes out of its mouth. The arms have peg joints in the shoulder, but even raised completely overhead, the hands don't come close enough together to hang on a figure's arm, let alone on a ring rope.
Back when Mattel was doing the WWE Legends figures, before those got folded into the Elite Collection line, they made a George "The Animal" Steele in Series 4. The only difference between that release and this one is that it came with a softgoods sweatshirt instead of the flowers. This figure is pretty difficult to find, possibly because all the Animal lovers are snapping him up.