Smilodon with Neanderthal (ANIA by Takara Tomy)

4.6 (20 votes)

The majority of items in my prehistoric collection are purchased online. Schleich abounds at several brick and mortar stores in my neck of the woods, but I’m not a huge consumer of their wares. Safari Ltd. products are sold at Michael’s and the local natural history museum, but the assortment is always woefully limited. As for CollectA, Eofauna, and PNSO, forget it. But once in a blue moon, I’ve managed to come across something I didn’t think would ever pop up in Ottawa. That was the case about a year ago when I was at Dollarama, a discount variety chain. Lo and behold, there was the ANIA Smilodon (the packaging calls it a “Saber Tooth Tiger,” but I’m sure not going to) and Neanderthal set at under $10. Couldn’t pass up a deal like that!

Let’s begin with the weaker half of the duo, the Neanderthal. He is sculpted with his left foot forward and planted while his right foot is extended back and balancing on the toes.  This pose makes it impossible to stand up on his own, so the designer(s) included a large rock with a slot to stick his right heel into. But not only does this look silly, it doesn’t help at all in keeping our prehistoric cousin on his feet! I had to turn to my trusty bucket of clear LEGO bricks instead. 

The Neanderthal stands about 7 cm tall. His skin is light brown with dark wash to accentuate his physique and simulate body hair. The hair on his head is dark brown and his eyes are black with white pupils, which is rather bizarre and slightly unsettling. He wears a thick fur loincloth coloured beige and dark brown with darker wash. And in case you were wondering, no, there’s nothing visibly sculpted between his legs. 

The stout, barrel-like chest, enlarged brow ridge, and large nose leave no doubt as to this chap’s Neanderthal status. His limbs are well-muscled, but not beefy, as you would expect from living a hardscrabble lifestyle. His articulation consists of arms that rotate at the shoulders. Gripped tightly in his right fist is a length of wood that is much thicker at the top end, so I guess you could call it a club. Contrary to stereotypical depictions, there’s no evidence of Neanderthals using clubs. A stone-tipped spear or a hand axe would have been more appropriate. But given that the Neanderthal’s left hand is also clenched in a fist, it’s possible that he just grabbed whatever piece of wood lay handy in order to defend himself from the marauding Smilodon

But here arises a glaring inaccuracy. Neanderthals are only known from Eurasia whereas Smilodon is only known from the Americas. Packaging these two together is like packaging a figure of an Oghuz Turk or a Hittite with a jaguar or a puma!

With the Safari Ltd. woolly mammoth. This pairing would have been accurate.

Anyway, let’s move on to the Smilodon. It’s posed dynamically with the head facing slightly to the right, right front limb extended forward and left one extended back, right hind limb extended back and left one extended forward, and tail curled slightly upward. The muscles in all the limbs are taut and the big cat looks like it’s either stalking or confronting some prey. The lower jaw can open to about a 90 degree angle or close all the way shut with only the upper canines protruding. Some good engineering there, although the large peg holes on the cheeks are rather unsightly. 

The Smilodon measures about 11 cm long from its nose to the back of its right hind foot. Its fur is mostly light orange with white on the underbelly and small medium brown markings on the head, neck, flanks, and limbs. The tail tip and the backs of the ears are black. Black is also used for the claws, the foot padding, and around the nose and mouth. The eyes are gold, the teeth are white, and the nose and the inside of the mouth are dark pink. Quite an impressive paint job for a relatively small figure, I must say. There are even some black whiskers neatly painted on the front of the muzzle. 

The fur has minimal sculpting detail for the most part, which gives it the appearance of being short and sleek. Thicker, shaggier fur, however, can be seen on the throat and the belly. There are no visible external genitals, which suggests that this individual is a female. 

Most of the Smilodon toys that have come out over the years have suffered from inaccuracies with the proportions of various body parts. This one, however, rates surprisingly and pleasingly high! The head is not oversized and the fangs appear to be the right length. The neck is long, there is a noticeable hump over the shoulders, the body is neither too skinny nor too chunky, and the limbs are neither too long nor too short. Indeed, this may well be the most scientifically accurate toy of Smilodon released to date! 

With the Safari Ltd. Macrauchenia and Megatherium. The latter is too small, but the former scales perfectly with the Smilodon!
With the Safari Ltd. and Mojo Fun versions. Note the differences in the proportions of the heads!

Despite the fact that the instability of the Neanderthal figure greatly reduces its play value, and the fact that these two organisms never encountered each other in real life, the excellent quality of the Smilodon more than makes up for these shortcomings. Other toy companies ought to look to this one if they ever elect to replace their own Smilodon figures in the future. This set is available at various online stores such as AliExpress and HobbyLink Japan. 

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