12/6/08

A Tail of Two Kitties

I never owned He-Man's trusted feline steed when I was a child. The first Battle Cat I ever acquired was from a garage sale about ten years ago. He was sans armor, but in great shape and finally satisfied my childhood green-cat jones. I knew that I would eventually find some armor, or break down and buy a set on eBay or something. For a quarter, he was mine!

Then, this last summer, I finally acquired a complete Battle Cat with helmet and saddle! Woohoo!

My "first" Battle Cat is stamped "Mattel Inc. 1976 Taiwan." I've known for a long time that Battle Cat's origin was from a mold first used to make a regular tiger for Mattel's Big Jim toyline, so the date stamp that pre-dates Masters of the Universe isn't all that odd, but a cool novelty and conversation piece for those three people I know who pretend not to doze off when I ramble on about toys.

So when I found the armored Battle Cat this past summer the first thing I did was check the date: "Mattel Inc. 1982 Taiwan." I didn't think much of it after that, and placed my naked Battle Cat in a box and displayed my armored Battle Cat with He-Man on his back. I'm cool that way.

I decided to thin my collection a bit this weekend, and the redundant Battle Cat was on my "out" list. But I figured I'd place the armor on the 1976 cat and get rid of the 1982 cat. This lead to the discovery of even more, and rather pronounced differences than the date stamps.

If you're still with me, check out the pics. We'll start at the end.

1982 - no stripes on tail:



1976 - striped tail:



The first thing I noticed were the tails - the older cat had stripes. And that was just the beginning - now that I had the two naked pussies together (settle down) the differences were everywhere!

For starters, 1982 is cast in a darker green plastic.



Next, 1976 has more stripes, they are a darker orange, they are crisper, and some span all the way across his back. 1982's stripes have a clear delineation between the left and right side of the cat.



1982 (left) has pointier teeth, and the paint is only applied on the front. 1976 has paint all around the teeth, has orange lips, and a white highlight in each eye.

1976:



1982:


In the following photos you can really see the plastic/stripes color difference as well as more/crisper stripes on the older cat.

1976:


1982:



1976:



1982:


Lastly, and you can't see it in these pics, but 1976 Battle Cat has vertical lines across his entire body, like a record or something. The 1982 Battle Cat does not have this effect.

My guess is that the original mold started wearing out, and so a new mold was cast in 1982.

A non exhaustive search of Battle Cats on eBay and Google reveals that the majority of cats available are more like my 1982 cat. It makes sense, since MOTU came out in 1981/1982. The 1976 cat must have only been used for a short time (as Battle Cat,) and all cats made since 1982 were stamped by the "new" mold cast. But I wonder why they started scrimping on the stripes!

If anyone has more Battle Cat historical info, or has ever noticed these differences and can enlighten me as to the whens whys and hows, please leave a comment!




"We love tuna, we love liver, we love Meow Mix, please deliver!"

13 comments:

  1. This is the first I'm hearing of this. I wish I had some information to give you. But still, I am impressed by your detective work!

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  2. I have to say I was never a MOTU fan, sure I bought the re imaged Skeletor, but that aside, never got into it. Still I love reading about and actually look forward to MOTU posts on Toyriffic, weird huh?

    Very interesting story indeed, I hope you come across some more info.

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  3. Thanks Reis. I have a follow up theory that involves Panthor, but I'll save that one for when I have more evidence.

    CB - I feel the same way when I read about GI Joe at Eclectorama. :)

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  4. Read your story and gotta say it's very interesting. It made me check out my BC just for fun,and I think I found another variation for ya. My cat is one with a date of "MATTEL INC 1978",is the brighter green but has the stripes of the 1982 cat;also it does have the white dots on its eyes.Just thought I would share,and hope this helps.

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  5. Very cool, Brian! I'm surprised there isn't a variant guide somewhere online for Battle Cats, with all the fandom there is out there.

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  6. I think what you have there is a first edition French Battle Cat, the orange lips are the easiest indication. The first edition Usa Battle Cat doesn't have stripes on the tail, but does have the 1976 copyright.

    I also think there is a French variant that doesn't have tail stripes.

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    1. That's very interesting Romer! Thanks for the info on my Chat Bataille (because he's French - get it?)

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  7. Eric, what's your Panthor/Battle Cat theory? I may have something to add to that.

    David - TheToyProfessor@gmail.com

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    1. Wow, I haven't thought about it in ages - I really should bust out my Panthor and do an actual post, but in a nutshell: I believe Mattel, in an effort to maximize profits, continued to manufacture with the old worn-out tiger molds, but by flocking them in order to cover the flaws, they packaged it up and marketed it as villainous panther steed Panthor! Basically, Panthor was not born of creative minds that set out to give us a fresh villain variant, but of the frugal minds looking for a way to make more money off the continued use of decade old worn out molds.

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  8. Hi, I just found one of these 1st issue Battle Cat's with the orange gums and striped tail and was wondering if you can share with me the production numbers of each accessory. I'd like to compare the numbers to another collectors. I'm missing the helmet and saddle strap for mine and would like to find them using production numbers of the few existing cats. Thank you! Cheers! - John

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    1. Nice score! Yeah I found this one armorless, but I've read elsewhere that there is a '1' on the armor he came with. Not positive, so do a little more research online, but the info is out there!

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    2. Thanks Eric, and thank you for the reply. Yes, the collector Tokyonever has one that he acquired from a family member of a past Mattel employee. All three parts of the accessories have the number 1 which would make sense. I have a 1978 BC with a number 1 on both the saddle and strap but the helmet is marked with a 2. Plastic is a dead match. The saddle my new striped tail BC comes with is marked with a number 1 as well. I think I'll just try and locate matching markings for my missing parts. I want to display him complete with the original parts. Cheers!

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  9. My apologies, your armor is from the later cat that you swapped.

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