A tribute to a legendary truck
If I had to hazard a guess about the popularity of this topic based on the results of a Google search, I'd have to conclude that no one even remembers this badass little truck.
I believe the Animal was released in 1984 amidst a miriad of other monster truck toys. There were Bigfoot trucks, Stompers and Rough Riders all vying for the majority of our childish interest. None of these however could hold a candle to THE ANIMAL. I remember the first time I saw the commercial and being utterly impressed that this truck was not only an impressive "monster" but that it took the meaning of "monster truck" to even loftier heights. It had claws, and what's better, these claws somehow knew just when they were needed the most. The chant of the commercial was the final nail in the coffin. I needed to get one of these and I need to get it yesterday!
For those of you who are still a bit confused and are perhaps sitting there scratching your heads wondering "What the heck is an animal?!" allow me to explain. The Animal was a battery operated (not radio controlled) monster truck by Galoob (the same people who brought us MicroMachines). The original Animal came in three flavors, POWER PICKUP, ANGRY ATV and FIERCE FIREBIRD. All of these were essentially identical save for different body stylings. the Power Pickup was of course a black pick up truck complete with a realistic bug guard, bright yellow rollbar and grey exhaust pipes sticking out from under the front fenders. The Angry ATV was identical except it was bright red and had the body of an SUV. Fierce Firebird was of course a bright yellow firebird with no bug guard or exhaust pipes.
Of course, all of these shared the all important gimmick. They had freakin claws in their freakin wheels! and these weren't just any claws, these things were reactive. It was like some sort of mutant traction control. The truck would be rolling along all la dee da, when suddenly it would encounter a rock (or other deliberately placed obstacle) and "Oh no! The truck is stuck!" then BAM! CLAWS!
These trucks were actually quite sophisticated. You see the claws themselves had three settings that could be changed by turning the hubcaps. Setting 1 was "claws in" mode which rendered The Animal identical to any other basic monster truck. No matter what it ran into, the claws would stay in. Setting 2 was by far the best setting. This was the "reactive" mode. In this mode, the claws stayed in until the truck hit an obstacle then paws were a flailin'. Setting 3 I suspect was just there because it was possible. This was the "claws out" setting. In this mode the claws were just always out, all the time. Pretty much useless since it slowed the truck down tremendously and put a huge strain on the motor.
But wait! The Animal had still more settings! The people at Galoob realised that many kids, despite purchasing a motorized toy, often attempted to treat them as though they were the non-motorized "push" variety. This often led to the damage of gears and motors. So, to facilitate this, Galoob designed The Animal with the feature of "free wheeling" mode. When The Animal was switched off (by way of a large red switch in the front) the wheels were separated from the drive train. This meant that if the Animal was off, you could push it around as easily as if it were a Tonka dump truck. Genius!
My only complaint about the toy, would be the fact that the 4 "C" sized batteries barely had enough power for such a robust creature. Generally, the batteries would die in a single play session forcing you to make use of the "free wheeling" mode. Additionally, the little latch on the lid of the battery compartment (that kept it closed) was somewhat flimsy invariably breaking and causing the need for various creative means of keeping the batteries in
Sadly, my Power Pickup was destroyed by my cousin (who I very nearly murdered as a result) and is no more. However, for any of you who have a hankerin for the same type of backyard "go anywhere" bashing type of fun, I point you to a little Hobby R/C known as the Tamiya Rockbuster TLT-1.
It's roughly the same size and look but radio controlled and at least 100 times more powerful. No claws unfortunately, but it's more than capable of really doing what The Animal does in it's carefully staged and choreographed commercial.