Today I’m looking at a figure of a very familiar animal–from a rather obscure line! It’s the famous (infamous?) wolverine, Gulo gulo (Linnaeus, 1758). If we want to be really sub-specific, it’s meant to be Gulo gulo gulo, the Eurasian wolverine, if the differences between Eurasian and North American populations are different enough. Not sure if it would be possible to tell the two subspecies apart in toy form, but the source of the figure actually make it clear!
Wolverines are a fairly well-known animal (broadly speaking), famous for their tenacity and ferociousness, as well as their appetites (hence, another popular name glutton). They are a large member of the family Mustelidae, the weasels and otters, within the Carnivora. They are most closely related to the tayra, fishers and martens; other than the wolverine, a clade that is often arboreal at least some of the time. Wolverines are a mostly terrestrial predator and scavenger with a Holarctic distribution. Their populations and densities are variable and while ostensibly listed as Least Concern, their habitat is at risk given current climate issues, and some populations may be more at risk as well. On top of this, studying them can be difficult since they tend to be reclusive (not always though–one was filmed in my city wandering a neighborhood!)
This wolverine figure was produced by Toy Major in 1996 for a giveaway promotion from Dairy Queen, in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation. There were 7 figures, representing each continent; each figure then had a plastic base in roughly the shape of that continent. In a way, reminiscent of what the hyena from Rocolino did, except the continents didn’t fit together. The wolverine represented Europe (a brown bear represented North America…I suppose it could have gone the other way but didn’t) which is how I know the subspecies, if the distinction is valid. If you’re curious, the TAI has a full list of this and a second, 1999 series. But this wolverine, my figure specifically, is the only one represented in the 1996 series on the site.
I am lucky to have this figure–I picked it up at a garage sale of all things (didn’t see any other animal figures on the table) in a little Saskatchewan city (AKA a Saskatchewan city. They aren’t exactly huge metropolises). I knew it was a wolverine, but otherwise had no ideas about it. At the time, the only one out there was a Bullyland figure that is…remarkably similar. And of course better. This also explains the paint scuffs–whoever it was I bought this from, it had clearly been loved. This would have been around 2008 or 2009–so more than a decade from when it was released.
So what can we say about the figure? Well, at first look, it is very obviously and clearly a wolverine. So that’s a plus. And for a giveaway figure, the quality of the sculpt is quite strong (compare it to the photos of the 1999 figures on the TAI site, which are much lower quality). There is a great deal of attention and care in the design of the figure. In terms of body shape, the figure appears a bit too hefty, especially in the rear (I’ve seen live ones, they are more slender). The model is sculpted with a fully furred body, from neck to tail. The details are also in the face with wrinkles and creases. The head, though, is a bit rounded in the snout, when it should be more square. And while wolverines are not particularly tall, the legs should probably be a bit longer and thinner, while the body should be rounder or less expanded outward (there is a bit of badger-ness going on, is my thinking). One sore point, the feet appear to have only four toes each though, when it should be five (or maybe it’s not obvious, it is hard to tell). The colour scheme is a pretty good match for the typical wolverine pattern, though, with the dark brown back and underside-and-legs, separated by a buff or dark yellow ring. The one miss is that the crown of the head should be a separated lighter yellow from that ring, with the neck dark brown, bridging between the back and the forelegs.
The figure is 11cm long. As a large wolverine can get to almost 110 cm, the figure is nearly 1:10 scale. Interestingly, it is very close in size to the others that have since appeared from the major companies. Bullyland, Schleich and Safari have all made their own, although I think only the Safari is still available. Overall, this is a really interesting figure to have; it’s fortunate that there are other easier to find wolverine options though, since obtaining this particular figure seems like it would be a frustrating quest. But as a fast food chain giveaway figure? It’s an interesting piece of history both as merchandise and as an animal figure. It would be nice if more restaurants would do promotions like this!