Getting the Voltron lion set was the kid equivalent of getting a brand new Ferrari. The implications and rise in your social status afterwards were nothing short of amazing. This was the toy to have. The thing that a lot of people don't remember or don't want to admit is that Voltron was never that big of a genre. I'm not saying it was small - it was huge and pretty damn popular - but in the years it was originally out there, there were several lines that were much larger. But this toy transcended any worries about how many of your friends watched the cartoon. It didn't make a difference if you even knew who Voltron was, much less the white-suited heroes who jumped into mechanical lions and flew threw tunnels. Why? Because it was huge, made of metal, and looked cool. That's all it really needed.
I got my Voltron one Christmas season back when I was too small to get sexually excited by Princess Allura. My godmother, who really shafted me in terms of gifts over the course of my lifetime, came over our house in the first week of January. By then, Christmas was already out of my system. Half the toys I got were broken, and I had already deemed any Nintendo game I received 'boring' while making the crucial wishlist for my upcoming birthday in February. Luckily, Fairy Godmother hadn't lost her holiday spirit that quickly, and arrived bearing belated gifts. Sneakily, she put mine in a Macy's box. Under most circumstances, I never opened those gifts in protest. I was a bastard like that. Even if you gave me a shitty toy or video game, I'd be nothing but grateful. But if you gave me a box that suggested clothes or a basketball were underneath, fuck you.
However, this Fairy Godmother of mine was a tricky devil, and she sought to absolutely destroy my senses before sending me down that spiral of euphoria I wouldn't feel until about 15 years later when my friend convinced me the pills wouldn't kill me. After much encouragement, I opened the box. What I saw wasn't a sweater. Wasn't socks. Wasn't even one of those cheetah print handbags which for some reason I was pining for that year. No, what was inside that suspicious Macy's box? One of the greatest toys I'd ever receive. Voltron.
Majesty. Absolute and total majesty. Voltron was better than sex. Voltron was better than anything. Usually, toys this big were shitty. Giant plastic pieces of crap that'd break if you looked at them the wrong way. No Voltron. This giant molded masterpiece was more durable than a Volvo. I've still got some of the lionbots around here - some of the only toys that've survived my 21 years.
This version, the one I got, was the lion version. There was also Voltrons out there with cars and helicopters, but in my opinion, this is the best one. It's classic! It's official name, or the title that would make it cost more money for you to get nowadays, is the Matchbox Ultra Deluxe Lion Voltron III diecast metal set. But we'll just call him Voltron.
Five lions who, when separately, were still very cool. But when you put them together, you got a toy that could collectively kick all your other toys' asses with one foul swoop. How many toys out there have feet that can bite? Or that can get dismembered and still attack? Very few, and Voltron leads that elite pack.
Here's the good guys, the Voltron Force. Their job was to control the lionbots while remaining completely and totally color coordinated. The red one was the leader of this vicious gang of ruthless justice pushers, named Keith. Even though he wore red, he controlled the black lion. I know, it's confusing. Just write in on your hand or something. The run down of the rest of the cast, in really short form, went like this:
* Lance - Red Lion - The cartoon's necessary sarcastic hero who couldn't get through a sentence without saying something snide.
* Sven - Blue Lion - In cartoons, it's common knowledge that if someone is of Norwegian descent, they have to be named Sven. Either Sven got contracted for some episodes of Inhumanoids, or the animators decided he was too annoying to keep drawing again and again, since he seemed to just disappear in mid-series. (he was injured. That's how they snuck Allura on there..)
* Hunk - Yellow Lion - Hunk's the tough guy who likes a good brawl. That's why he's the fattest hero with the biggest nose.
* Pidge - Green Lion - The geek with the glasses who got stuck being one of Voltron's arms because he couldn't break 4'.
* Princess Allura - Pink...uh...Pilot - After Sven took a powder, Princess Allura worked her democratic magic and wormed her way into the position of Blue Lion controller. She was pretty hot, not to mention the princess of Arus.
There were some other good guys, including a Nanny and some space mice, but they're altogether too inconsequential to talk about until I do an episode review down the line which'll give me all the time I need to thoroughly make fun of them.
Of course, no show is complete without a bunch of bad guys running around and causing trouble for the good guys. It's important to understand that you'll be thinking the wrong way if you hate the bad guys. If they weren't around, the good guys would have virtually nothing to do. Why would they ever need to merge to form Voltron? Save cats that are stuck in especially high trees? Grab frisbees off roofs? No way. Without the bad guys, this show would've been shit. Here's some of those villains we all know and love...
The first picture features Zarkon, who looks suspiciously like those fish guys from the N64 Zelda game. If Voltron wasn't around, this guy might've completed his evil quest for universal domination. But since Voltron is around, Zarkon wears a pretty crown and likes to pretend he's somebody more important.
The second picture shows Hagar. First, a short story. Two friends and I were playing in the backyard when we were kids. Unwittingly, we stepped into a hornet nest and ended up getting stung no less than 15 times each. Opportunistically, we plead for toys to 'ease the wounds'. My mother sent the friend's mother to Toys R Us to pick us up some of that special medicine. There were three of us, so she returned with three toys. One of the victims and I got those cool little cars that had the ripcord that made them shoot 20 miles per hour down the kitchen floor. But for some reason, she decided to buy the other kid the Voltron Hagar action figure. He cried. He cried endlessly. What kid wants the female figure from Voltron - much less the ugly female figure? Especially when his friends were playing with cool cars! I'll always remember Hagar because of this. Watching my friend cry for hours because he got the Hagar figure still ranks as one of the top ten favorite moments in my lifetime. On the show, Hagar came up with a lot of the evil plots, and also created many of the Robeast monsters to fight Voltron. She's every woman.
The third picture features Zarkon's son, Prince Lotor. All you really need to know about this guy is that he masturbated to Princess Allura and spent most of his time on the show trying to get her in bed.
We'll get into the cartoon in a later article. Tonight I want to show you how Matchbox persuaded us to buy the toys. Now, walking down the toy aisle, just seeing this thing would've been enough. As I said, you didn't have to like Voltron to appreciate the fact that owning this toy would grant you the envy of all who surrounded you. Yes, the Voltron commercial.
The festivities kick off as any old toy commercial would...with an overlook of an ominously smoke-filled table covered in plastic rocks and sand. It's a necessary element to make us believe what we're about to see isn't just real...it's important. Who knows what kind of wild adventures we're in for in the next 25 seconds? I'll tell you who. Da bad guys.
Yep, they're here. And they're up to no good! The greatest thing about these kinds of commercials was that there wasn't a background story to help us understand who's good and who's evil. It's all up to the kids. At that leaves the door wide open for some really hysterical scenes of children pulling the bad guy figures' arms up and down while yelling 'come on, let's take over this mountain!' or 'come on, let's steal the gold!' or 'come on, let's do bad stuff!'. I guess the element is pretty imperative...I know I'd be hardpressed to determine the bad guys with a lineup of 5 smiling human and three blue monster figures.
Fortunately, before the baddies have a chance to commit any sins or follies, Voltron Force emerges! If you were on this team, wouldn't you feel pretty ripped off if you were, let's say, the right leg? I mean, even the arms at least got to hold the sword once in a while. You've got to imagine than Sven and Hunk pleaded with the rest of the team for a semi-annual review to see if any positions need to be changed. I know I'd be doing everything in my power to get a hold of that black lion.
Uh oh, the odds have just tipped in the favor of evil - it's Hagar! Now, despite the good guys outnumbering the bad guys, and despite them having giant robot lions at there side - this isn't the time to just look at the factual odds and hope for the best. God knows, Hagar might've been working out for the past two weeks. Or maybe she's concealing a gun. The good guys don't take chances - it's time to form Voltron....
...thus reminding us of the age-old problem with shows featuring a group of mechanical monstrosities that form into a much larger, much more powerful creature. Why'd the fuckers always wait till the end? If Voltron was the answer to all of life's little problems, why not turn into the guy in the first five minutes, and spend the rest of the show relaxing and having little dance competitions at the base? It's like the poor schmos would consistently test themselves to find out if they could get the job done without the aid of God-Bot. Obviously, they never could. We've run into this problem on a lot of shows. Voltron, Captain Planet, hell even the Constructicons were dumb enough to try battling with the Dinobots on their own without calling on the mighty power of Devastator. It's time for these guys to wake up. Tarkin didn't build the Death Star so he could have TIE Fighters do a little jig outside of it. Follow his lead.
The Voltron series also featured a number of other battle vehicles. The vehicles that the bad guys used served a purpose, but the ones for the good guys were pretty much overkill. I don't care how fancy your car looks, if you're running down the street with Voltron, you're useless. But then again, the action figures couldn't actually fit into the Voltron lions. They were completely out of scale, unless Hunk is about 5 times larger than the toon suggests. These things were pretty cool though...definitely some of the better toys of the 80s.
Ah, now we see what's going on. The three bad guys through no fault of their own thought they were capable of overtaking the Voltron Force fortress. Had they remembered that a bunch of guys, vehicles, and 200' tall robot not to mention giant lazers on the fortress itself were around, they might've rethought their flawed method of conquest. Unfortunately, my bedroom was never graced with the addition of this fortress as a child, but that's only because with Castle Greyskull, Snake Mountain, the Robo-Fortress, and the Ewok Village, apartment rental prices would've went way down with the excess rooms for rent, and none of my figures would be able to afford half those useless accessory packs they loved so much.
The bad guys finally boost their forces by adding more useless hunchback monsters that can be defeated as simply as Voltron stepping on 'em. Who will win this battle? Who will come out on top at this, the war to end all wars, atop the mystical sandy table? Nobody knows for sure. The Voltron Force was pretty confident that good would triumph over evil, but that's certainly not always the case, otherwise Nickelodeon wouldn't have been able to give us 8 hours of Facts of Life every night for a week straight a short while back.
And before I go, take a look at the picture above to check out all the variations on the lionbot Voltron. These are the 'official' variations. There's also bootlegged Voltrons out there which get much more esoteric and ridiculous, with his arms being everything from musclebound human arms to giant squids. While the numbers on the lions of the show made sense, the bootlegs got a little too creative. I had one where the black lion was referred to as #3, but it got even more interesting when they referred to the blue lion as #17 and the green lion as #Q.