Review and images by callmejoe3; edited by bmathison1972
The blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) is among the most famous of all cetaceans, as it is recognized as the largest known animal currently living, and likely to have ever lived, on Earth. This whale is alternatively referred to as the ‘’sulfur-bottom’’ due to the growth of diatoms creating a yellowish pigmentation on the ventral body. The blue whale is the largest of the rorqual mysticetes, the family known as ‘’Balaenopteridae’’. Scottish naturalist, Robert Sibbald, was the first to scientifically describe this species in 1694. The blue whale is currently divided into five subspecies: the Northern hemisphere blue whale (B. m. musculus), the Antarctic blue whale (B. m. intermedia), northern Indian Ocean blue whale (B. m. indica), the pygmy blue whale (B. m. brevicauda), and the scientifically-unnamed Chilean blue whale. While most blue whale populations migrate to productive-high latitudes in the summer and low-latitude breeding waters in the winter, blue whales differ from other mysticetes in that they feed year-round. Their yearly distributions and seasonal movements are poorly understood, though are thought to be influenced by food availability. The B. m. indica subspecies are unique in that they are largely residents of the northern Indian Ocean. Most blue whales average between 20-27 meters and length and 70-150 tons in mass, though this varies between subspecies, with the Northern Hemisphere and Antarctic ones being the two largest. The largest individuals reported by whalers were 33.58 meters in length, though scientifically verified individuals max out at 30 meters and 190 metric tons. At these measurements, the only animals speculated to challenge the blue whale in mass are the very most generous estimates for certain sauropods and quite possibly the recently evaluated ichthyosaur specimens. As of 2018, the IUCN has declared the blue whale to be endangered with the Antarctic population to be critically endangered. Before commercial whaling, the global blue whale population is estimated to have been 300,000 with 239,000 in the Antarctic. Between 1955-1966, whaling protections were made across all oceans, though countries like Denmark, Iceland, and Russia have continued hunts for years after these protections were in place. Today, only 5,000-15,000 mature individuals thrive with approximately 2,280 in the Antarctic. The eastern North Pacific, eastern North Atlantic, and the Antarctic have shown signs of recovery. Reports of blue whales hybridizing with fin whales (B. physalus) have been observed since the late 1800s and were caught as recently as 2018; they are capable of bearing fertile offspring. Blue whales prey primarily on krill and other crustaceans while very occasionally feeding on small schooling fish and cephalopods. Blue whales are among the loudest animals, producing low-frequency calls of up to 189 decibels.
In 2018, Papo released three species of great whales: blue whale, sperm whale, and humpback whale. Each animal sports an articulated jaw.
At 380 millimeters, Papo’s blue whale stands as the largest toy blue whale on the market, only surpassed by the Kaiyodo Mega Sofubi and PNSO models. This length dwarfs any blue whale previously released by Papo, Safari Ltd, Schleich, or CollectA. At the 1:70 scale, this figure represents an 87 foot individual. While this will not scale that well with the Maia & Borges or Monterey Bay Aquarium whales, this will scale well with the following whale figures or others that fit well at the 1:70 scale.
- Humpback whale
- Sperm Whale
- Bowhead whale
- Grey whale
- 2012 Humpback whale
- 1998 and 2020 Sperm whales
- Sei whale
- Bowhead Whale
The size is one of the figure’s most compelling qualities, as most blue whale figures tend to fall below 300 millimeters in length, preventing them from scaling well with other whale figures. Without dropping several hundred dollars on the PNSO and Kaiyodo models, Papo offers and a reasonably-priced option for those who are scale-conscious.
Now along the appropriately generous size offered to us, this figure also surpasses all other blue whale toys released by major brands in the quality of its sculpt. Here, everything appears well-proportioned, with the thick tailstock and the head and throat looking flat. A lot of blue whale toys make the throat look a bit too curved as if the whale is in the middle of feeding. Some figures also do not emphasize the thick lips on the lower jaw that separates the mouth and the throat pleats. Compared to other toys released by Schleich and CollectA, this sculpt felt the most ‘’on-point’’.
Looking along the dorsal/ventral perspective is where the sculpt can be more fully appreciated. The shape of the rostrum perfectly captures the blunt ‘’U’’ shape that distinguishes the blue whale from fin whales and sei whales. Other blue whales I felt have not captured this aspect of the blue whale’s face this well before.
The next and somewhat controversial feature about this figure is the articulated jaw. The mouth opens and shuts through the manual moving of the lower jaw. After a while, the jaw remains stable, but becomes and little loose and tends to prefer to stay open unless placed completely shut. The mouth is well painted, with the gum line, tongue, and baleen well sculpted. The color of the baleen is fair enough for the blue whale. I’ve seen individuals with notable darker baleen, but also lighter ones very close to this figure. Overall, I didn’t need an articulated mouth, but I tolerate it.
Now there is one big issue with this figure, the paint job. As you can see, the paint job is a dark solid blue with a white underside. This palette is not accurate to a blue whale’s coloration at all. Blue whales are generally a bluish-gray with mottling (either dark or light spots) along most of the body except the head, pectoral fins, and flukes. Papo’s cheap paint job ends up causing dissonance with the sculpt and hides much of the figure’s realism. To prove my point, I have done a thread where I did a custom paint job on this figure, where I changed the entire base color and added mottling. I am not an experienced painter of models, but with proper mixing and patience, I was able to bring out the figure’s resemblance to the real animal. The figure is fine as it is, but a better paint job would have allowed Papo to boast the best reasonably-priced blue whale available on the market. It could have been the general consumer’s answer to the Kaiyodo and PNSO models, but at the 1:70 scale. It had the best size, the best sculpt, but the overly simple paint job leave it above average.
Overall, this figure has a lot going for it, but one negative prevented this figure from reaching its full potential. On the bright side, the paint job is ultimately easy to resolve. On the thread I’ve posted, I left a recipe for mixing the paints to get a more accurate pigment out of the whale and how to handle the paint application for those inexperienced. I was able to substantially improve the quality of my figure with minimal painting experience, so customizing this figure would be viable for most people. If you’re willing to go out of your way to re-paint this figure, you’ll end up with a better blue whale than what most brands can currently offer you.