What is this? Another Run the Set already!? Exciting! This is a bit of a weird departure. I don’t often discuss fantasy or mythical animals here, as I don’t generally collect them much now–but I would take advantage of unique sets when they appear. For example, as you can see from the photo of the box, it was super discounted! And it has some interesting models–plus a book and a game. A very simple, lame game.
What are these figures? For a brief period in the mid-2000s, Innovative Kids released a variety of unique sets in a variety of themes. Each one included a book, a game (with simple paper boards and pieces) and a set of 15 figures. The figures were among the animals/characters described in the book, and at least some of them were incorporated as game pieces. The sets ranged from the (to me) mundane, like domestic animals and generic bugs, through more innovative (!) attempts like their Extinct and Reptiles sets, to ones like this (a full list of the sets can be found here). There were three sets that featured imaginary themes or beings–mythology, monsters and fantasy. This one is the Mythology set, including elements from the myths and legends of a variety of different cultures (but, honestly, mostly Greco-Roman).
Any story about these? A minor one at best. I had found a few of the ‘natural history’ sets at a local bookstore; they were already at clearance prices, and some of the other sets were available online from the same retailer–I had found the Reptiles and Arctic animals sets, for example. When I went looking for others, I noticed these imaginary sets–and we were heading on a trip with the extended family, lots of young kids, and thought that they might be good to keep them busy, play the ridiculous games, that sort of thing. So I ended up with a variety of figures which are unique but not really ‘on brand’ for my particular collecting.
The Figures! Enough preamble…I will picture them alphabetically because it’s easiest. Clearly scale is kind of meaningless since these figures are mythical or otherwise made up.
So to start, it Ahuizotl. A creature of Aztec myth–apparently some kind of dog-like beast that liked to catch and eat people (well, parts of them). The way it did that–grab them with the hand on its tail, and drown them. How whimsical!
Next a Basilisk from European legends and bestiaries. This is of course a more traditional take, similar to a cockatrice, and less snake-like than some recent interpretations featuring boy wizards went with. But it has the crest, so there’s that.
Here we have their version of Cerberus, from Greek myths. It’s honestly less than intimidating–kind of a lightly built dog for three heads. Much less hefty than most Cerberus figures. I do enjoy that they made sure to include the serpent tail, and it stands out a lot being the only green on the figure.
Here we have the Greek Chimaera, famous for its two monstrous heads and (sometimes) a serpent for a tail. Innovative Kids went with the very traditional description when they modeled this (how is a goat head in the middle of the back good for…anything?) but made the serpent tail sufficiently scary. And unlike the preceding Cerberus, they put some thought into the paint job…except, again, that goat head.
Here, stretching the definition of ‘mythology’ but included anyway, is a Chupacabra. Though it is painted and styled as the reptilian, kangaroo-hopping description, they seemed to try to balance that with other descriptions of Chupacabra as being weird, spiky dog- or bear-like things. They aren’t really mythical, what with first being described in the mid-1990s, but I suppose it’s one of those things that will exist in imaginations in some form for some time.
So here is the Cyclops. Another being from Greek mythology. And unlike most depictions, which make Cyclops look more Greek, with beards and such, they went with…big fat bald guy. This does not look like a master craftsman, a shepherd or a wall builder. Just a one-eyed brute. Anyway, it’s always looked kind of silly to my eye (both of them, actually!)
While this figure would first make someone say ‘Medusa’ the set actually refers to it only as Gorgon, one of three-snake haired sisters in Greek mythology (two of which were immortal, while the mortal one is the most famous). The snake hair is a little simplistic, but at least they tried.
Another figure from Greek mythology, a Harpy. First off, those are some huge feet. Second, it seems to fall between depictions of ugly and not-ugly woman’s face. But it’s suitably bird-woman like to be a Harpy.
Yet another Greek creature of myth, a nine-headed hydra. They did a decent job of making each head serpent-like, and did use the established 9 heads. That said, it is an awkward appearance. Which makes one think that these creatures wouldn’t really exist very well in the real world (shocking!)
Now, from the annals of Scandinavian folklore (and, oddly, movies based on Greek myths because sometimes nothing makes sense, like Cetus wasn’t cool enough or something) is their take on the Kraken. Rather than going with the usual octopus or giant squid look, they appear to have gone with the look of a prehistoric nautiloid or something. In particular, the ‘bottom dwelling’ depiction, with the shell up and head down. There are some weird spikes along the surface, but maybe it can kind of work as one. Otherwise, it’s an unusual depiction of a Kraken.
And then from Biblical mythology we have a…unexpected…version of a Leviathan. Given that descriptions are usually either serpents or dragon-like. So in this instance they…turned it into a 6-paddled mosasaur? Kind of stumpy, and even for a tube sized figure, it doesn’t really have a whole lot of presence to it.
And now, back to Greek myths, with a…kind of goofy take on the Minotaur (maybe it’s something to do with their humanoid models?). It’s a bit light but, interestingly, the bull part is very white, in keeping with it’s father’s appearance (that myth gets weird). It does not, however, have a tail. And that axe seems…odd and small.
This one comes from Arabic mythology, a Roc, the elephant-carrying-away giant bird. It is a very weird depiction of a bird, never mind a giant eagle-like bird that inspired myths. It honestly makes me think of the comical/terrifying creature in the movie The Giant Claw (this is not complimentary). For something that is supposedly inspired by the real (and extinct) Malagasy Crowned eagle this doesn’t do it justice.
A figure that could come from Greek or Egyptian mythology, we have a kind of weird Sphinx. The wings (supposedly from an eagle) would indicate that this one is based on the Greek tradition (sadly, there are no Egyptian figures in the set…seems like an oversight). I can’t recall many toys of Sphinx being made (except in replica of the Egyptian statues) so this one is unique, but quite ugly.
The final figure is from Western European legend, the classic dragon. They specified Western dragon as the book also mentions the east Asian dragons (another region left out of the figures, sadly). It’s a fairly standard depiction, with wings and four legs (instead of the front legs as wings). Probably one of the few figures from the set that would frequently show up in about this size in other collections.
So that everything in the set. I will give applaud Innovative Kids for trying something different. The books aren’t terrible, and each figure produced is discussed within; this is a standard template of the books. Overall, Innovative Kids created some really interesting sets with their Groovy Tubes line; the ‘Tube” comes from how the figures were packaged, in an acetate tube on the side of the box. Maybe the name Groovy Tube made it hard to take seriously? Because this seems like it should have been a winning combination with kids and people buying for kids alike. Go out there, see if you can find some. Hopefully my random system will pull up other sets soon. Like I said, the Extinct and Reptiles sets are especially interesting.