Review and images by callmejoe3; edited by bmathison1972
Today I am reviewing a figure of my favorite animal, the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). Its common name is derived from the discovery of an organ in its head that contained a white, waxy substance that was confused for its semen. The spermaceti oil and ambergris made sperm whales highly coveted animals that were hunted extensively in both the 19th and 20th century for clean-burning oil, medicine, and women’s perfume. This led to sperm whales gaining a legendary status among whalers with the sinking of the whaleship Essex in 1820 and Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick. In total, over 1 million whales were caught during these two centuries. At an estimate of 360,000 individuals, the current global population rests at about one-third of their pre-whaling numbers of 1.1 million. While very abundant compared to the other great whales, their population’s recovery appears to be stagnant. Their IUCN status as of 2008 is “Vulnerable” with the Mediterranean population declared “Endangered” in 2006. Unlike other globally distributed whale species, sperm whales remain monotypic. Even though maternal lineages are highly differentiated across the world’s oceans, the global dispersal of males during mating season caused a low degree of overall genetic differentiation across the various populations. Sperm whales are the largest of the odontocetes and most sexually dimorphic of all cetaceans with mature females typically ranging from 10.5-12 meters in length and 10-20 tons in mass while males average 14-16.5 meters and 35-55 tons with a typical maximum of 19.2 meters and 70 tons. The largest recorded individual to be scientifically verified was 20.7 meters in length and disputable whaling records suggest individuals even larger. Sperm whales hold records for being the largest living toothed animal, the loudest animal with clicks reaching 230 decibels, and possessing the largest brain, weighing in at 7.8 kg/17 lbs. on average with the heaviest recorded one at 9.2 kg/20lbs. They are also known as deep divers, with the longest recorded dive being over 2 kilometers, but investigations of stomach contents suggest they can dive beyond 3 kilometers. They primarily feed on various species of medium to large-sized fish and cephalopods, including giant squid.
In 2000, Schleich released a sperm whale model from a sculpt made by the Portuguese company, Maia & Borges. Schleich retired the figure in 2012 and the sculpt was then subsequently re-released by Papo in 2016 and Mojo in 2018.
When employing the scientific standard of measuring a whale from the tip of its snout to the notch within the fluke, rather than the tips, the figure measures in at 325 mm (this accounts for the arched pose). It almost appears to be precisely the same length as the Monterey Bay Aquarium female sperm whale when measuring to just the tips of the flukes. Measuring at the notch, the MBA figure is just shorter at 285 mm. If we interpret the Maia & Borges and MBA figures as 1:40 scale models, they come out at 43 feet and 37 feet, respectively. The Maia & Borges sculpt lacks the appropriate genital slits for sex-identification, but when treating this as a male, the typical extreme of the sexual dimorphism is not met. When paired with the MBA figure, the Maia & Borges model works better as a physically-immature bachelor male or an especially large female.
The pectoral fins are appropriately broad with the underlying phalanges visible, a lacking detail on the MBA figure. Past the eye, the figure picks up a wrinkled texture that extends toward the posterior of the whale. However, the pattern is not as fine as on the MBA figure. The blowhole is appropriately positioned on the left side of the head; however, the tip is a bit raised. Consequently, the top of the head has a noticeable concave curve along its profile. An inaccurate detail, but not a visually unpleasing one. The head is otherwise very well sculpted.
The sculpt of the jaw is accurate and the flukes are mostly the correct shape; however, the tips are a bit too pointed compared to real sperm whales. The more rounded-off shape of the tips on the MBA figure is more accurate. With some relatively minor inaccuracies aside, this is an overall rather impressive sculpt from Maia & Borges. It is very detailed with very small wrinkles and scratches throughout and offers a very pleasing look for the Physeter, although it is lacking in areas that would allow it to totally surpass the Monterey Bay Aquarium figure as the most anatomically detailed, such as the head shape and lack of ventral body slits. This sculpt is preserved across all three figures. They only vary in their paint jobs.
The Mojo Fun figure is the one on display in the above photos. It uses light gray as a base, with white accents across the mouth, forehead, and the urogenital portion of the underbelly. This is fairly accurate to the pigmentation of actual sperm whales. It is overall more organic looking than the MBA figure.
The five figures above represent the original figure released by Schleich. The paint-job here contrasts greatly with the Mojo figure with a much darker gray as the base color that is close to pure black. The lighter gray accents are even darker than the base gray on the Mojo figure and are more subtle. Other differences include the presence of additional accents along the lateral sides of the trunks and the dorsal sides of the flukes. There is also a near-white accent that surrounds the eyes. Now I will add that the figure on display is sporting a light restoration of the original paint-job. I owned the Schleich model for a very long time and it was chipped in a lot of places, so I recently patched most of them. I took careful measures in the mixing and application of the paint to stick awfully close to the original scheme in most of the areas I worked on. Most of the figure still has original paint, but the face, flukes, dorsal ridge of the tail, and the urogenital region have been partially painted over. I have made a thread with before and after comparisons in the custom figures section of the Animal Toy forum.
The only details that are missing are the lighter gray accents that surrounded the blowhole and these dots along the bottom of the jaw, though I have found versions of the Schleich figure where the former detail is not present. On the linked thread, I also include photos of a rarer recolor of the Schleich figure that very closely resembles the 2016 Papo figure.
The 2016 Papo figure’s paint-job (above four photos) can adequately be described as an intermediate of the Schleich and Mojo figures, which is appropriate because this was the intermediate release. The base color is a gray that is darker than the Mojo figure, but lighter than the Schleich one. I would say this color most closely resembles a real sperm whale. Light accents on the face and urogenital region are applied just the same as on the Mojo figure. One big detail of note is the dark yellow color used for the keel. I am not exactly sure why that is there, but it is not too distracting.
Each these paint-jobs are great, but I will have to give the edge to the Schleich and Papo figures. Schleich’s is the most detailed and attractive in my opinion while the Papo figure is the most accurate to an actual sperm whale.
Overall, I consider the Maia & Borges figures to be easily some of the best sperm whale figures out there. At this scale, they rival the MBA figure. The sculpt is not as anatomically accurate to the animal, but it has plenty of rich detail to the skin in addition to each version having the superior paint job. The Maia & Borges figures come with a high recommendation as a viable alternative to trying to track down the MBA sperm whale. The Mojo one is the only one still in production while the Papo release can still be found by second-hand sellers on Amazon. Schleich is currently the hardest to track down. You are going to be at the mercy of the sparse secondhand sellers available on eBay, especially if you are outside of Germany.