It was Christmas ’95 or ’96 and I was tearing the paper off a present from my great grandmother. Somewhat surprisingly I wasn’t overly enthusiastic when I pulled the last bit of wrapping away and I was holding this.
Obviously with hindsight I can see that I was a fucking idiot. If I could slip back then to that moment, I would smack my younger self around the head and inform him just how awesome this toy was. The problem was that I had not watched any of the mature movies that Kenner had toylines based upon.
It really makes my mind boggle that the suits in a boardroom meeting thought “Yes. This movie is suitable for a child, let’s make toys for this movie” when the first movie has supposedly 84 deaths in it (thank you internet), some of which are pretty gruesome as the predator likes to skin it’s victims as trophies. Obviously Kenner figured that some kids had parents who were a lot more lenient than mine (lucky bastards) and would be allowed to watch stuff like that, and over the course of a few years released toys based on Aliens, Predator, Robocop and Terminator, and probably more that have escaped my notice. Other companies made toys from mature licenses as well, Matchbox did some ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and I think there were some Rambo figures from someone at one point. Kenner probably churned out the most anyway, and they were really really awesome toys that did kind of try to expand the stories and characters beyond just what we see in the movies.
But as a 5 year old, I was just confused. This Lava Predator figure just looked like a bad guy and I didn’t have any of the good guys to fight him. I don’t think I opened that figure for a week or so as there just wasn’t any inclination when I was surrounded with Lego and toy cars and whatever else I was into back then. But when eventually I did tear it off from its plastic prison, I realised I had obviously made a grave misjudgement. This toy was the coolest thing ever. Though I had never seen a Predator movie, there was no denying that this fucker was awesome.
Just look at him! There aren’t many things that can look threatening whilst being the colour of cherryade but this guy carries it off. Maybe it’s the robotic looking crab mask he has on his face or the claw that is sculpted onto his right hand, but he does look like a nasty bastard.
Under the mask he looks like ‘one ugly motherfucker’ with yellow eyes painted onto his head, and his mouth open with a snarl, so the peg on mask just pops into his open mouth. I like how he looks a bit different by having a chipped mandible on the left side.
So aside from his strange mask, his other accessory is the shoulder pauldron with a cannon rotating attached to it. I took this figure to school and ended up accidentally shooting the missile off somewhere and couldn’t find it, and was whiny bitch until enough people knew about it and a girl found it and came looking for me. I really loved that toy and didn’t want him lacking his primary weapon. The cannon had a swivel kind of feature so it could fold up and be less protruding and tucked away on his back. Nothing like the Predator in the movies, but then this Predator is a lava Predator! Nothing like the one in the movies!
When I was about 14 I finally watched the Predator and it was only towards the end that I realised that this toy I had years before was obviously the same species as the one in the movie. Even though the packaging said ‘Predator’ on it, I didn’t remember that. Just the mandibles and the cannon on the shoulder.
If you are anything like me and you like toys with weird masks and have the red translucency of cherry soda, you will love this figure.
More recently, the toy company NECA (which caters to a more adult market) released a Predator figure that is a homage to the classic Kenner figure. They made it look a little more streamlined but you can really see the resemblance. They even made the packaging a similar colour to the original Kenner toy. I don’t collect many modern toys, but if I ever see one of these in person, I don’t think I could not pick it up. After telling it to take a seat… Oh dear I did a terrible joke that probably only a few of you will even get.