In 1984 a little film called Gremlins came along and made a splash in American pop culture. The film largely starred little puppets, and while many did take to the villainous, evil, gremlins like Stripe, many also walked away from that film wanting more of Gizmo. Gizmo is an adorable little creature of mostly white and brown fuzz with big, giant, ears. I had a Gizmo doll when I was a little kid, well before I even saw the film since it was pretty intense for wee ones. Try as the humans of the cast did, Gizmo was the star and he still is today.
Back in the 80s, Gizmo attracted quite a bit of attention for himself at retail in the style of the plush. He was a natural for that, which may be why no one really thought to do proper action figures based on Gremlins. Toy company NECA has once again stepped in to fill a void in the fandom of another feature. NECA has been producing Gremlins related action figures for a few years now, and the company has finally roped me in with its Ultimate Gizmo action figure.
Now, I like Gremlins just fine. It’s a great Christmas movie for adults and older kids, not so much for younger kids. And not because of the violence and frightful scenes, but because it does feature a character confess that there is no Santa Claus. And as you may be aware, I am a bit of a Christmas junkie so whenever I see a toy or knick-knack that I can work into my Christmas decorating I often jump in. And that’s what sucked me into this Gizmo since he comes with some festive attire. I should say, it’s what sealed the deal as I was already smitten with the adorable little guy and even tried to talk my kids into wanting the plush version NECA released, but I have not had any luck on that front yet.
Gizmo comes in a larger outer box that looks just the like the VHS release of Gremlins. The rear features photography of the toy in action while the front flap opens to reveal the figure inside along with some more images. This is the standard Ultimates packaging NECA goes for and it really is a nice display piece for mint-in-box collectors, but no disrespect to NECA’s packaging designers, I am opening this sucker!
Gizmo stands at about 3.5″ tall. He’s a little guy. I assume he’s in-scale with the evil gremlins NECA has released, but sadly I don’t have any to compare him to. He’s sculpted all in plastic and looks rather cute out of the box. There’s a nice wash applied to his face and hands to bring out the details of the sculpt and there’s lots of sculpting done to make the fur look like fur. From a distance, one might even think he is covered in actual fur. I’m curious if NECA toyed with the idea of doing actual fur with this figure as that might have made him look really neat, but it probably would have added considerable cost. The paint is clean, though if you go over it really close you’ll notice some overlap here and there where the brown meets the white. The ears are thin and feature sculpt work such as veins. The paint is a bit muted in that respect as they didn’t try to bring out those veins, which is probably good from an aesthetic point of view as if one were to make Gizmo appear too realistic he may loose some of that cuteness.
For articulation, we don’t have a lot to talk about. Gizmo’s head is on a ball joint and rotates just fine, but he has little to no up and down movement because of the shape of his rather large melon. The ears are on ball joints which is a nice touch as it affords him more expression. Turn them down and he looks sad or tired while rotating just one can make him look almost inquisitive. The arms can forward a bit, but they can’t really go back or out. There’s another cut joint past the brown fur of the shoulder that may actually be a ball-joint, but it only can rotate so functionally it’s more like a bicep swivel. The hands are in the same boat as they only really are able to swivel. There’s no waist articulation, and while the legs are on pegs they really can’t do anything. He’s pretty much a statue once you move past the arms.
Gizmo, being a puppet in the films, didn’t really move much and is not a figure crying out for a ton of articulation. It’s clear NECA’s goal was to make something aesthetically pleasing and true to the films as opposed to something ultra-poseable. As such, it’s more important for Gizmo to be expressive which is why he has some unusual eye articulation. A trackball on the back of Gizmo’s head can actually rotate the eyes in his skull. It’s a bit finicky as the mechanism is really loose. Patience is needed to get the eyes just the way you want them, but sometimes you’ll probably have to just pop his face off to work them with your thumbs. The eyes have a tendency to sometimes go crooked giving the impression that Gizmo has a lazy eye. They also kind of float in there so there’s some play in the eye depth, and when one eye moves forward the other will sink in which can look kind of silly. They easiest way to remedy that is to just push the other eye in with the face removed to get them balanced. It’s a system that works, but given that Gizmo does have a removable face it probably would have made more sense to just ditch the trackball and have the eyes be adjusted manually.
To make those eyes offer as much expression as possible, Gizmo does come with four interchangeable face-plates. The default, in-package, face is Gizmo with a subtle smile. A good neutral expression for the little guy. He has one with a bigger, toothy, smile to go along with a sad or frown face and, what I assume will be the favorite face for many consumers, a Rambo face. The Rambo face is a callback to Gremlins 2 and even has the bandanna included. It’s glued to Gizmo’s left eye and half of it just kind of lays flat on Gizmo’s head. I wish it were an actual fabric material as the soft plastic NECA used never wants to lay flat on my figure’s head. The face itself through is great and he has a narrow eyed glare for maximum intimidation. The faces pop off and on really easily, but not so effortlessly that they’ll fall off.
Gizmo also comes with a few additional accessories to complete a display. He has a trumpet like the one he was playing with in the first film and he also has a Santa Claus hat and candy cane. And since he has the Rambo face, he also has his makeshift bow and arrow, which is a pencil crammed into a bottle with a feather sticking out. He also has his rope belt to complete that ensemble which is knotted and can easily slide off and on. The Santa hat basically just rests on his head as there are no pegs or magnets to hold it in place. The sculpt and paint looks great on most of the accessories, though the candy cane is a little sloppy in places.
The drawback to the accessories for Gizmo has little to do with the accessories themselves, but actually Gizmo. Unlike many of NECA’s Ultimates, Gizmo comes with just one set of hands. They’re both open palms, kind of neutral, hands and they’re not fit for holding much of anything. Basically, the only way to get him to hold anything is to turn his palms up and try to balance them on his hand that way. It’s odd that he doesn’t have a gripping hand or two to properly grasp anything. I’m not surprised he can’t properly draw his bow, but I would have expected him to be able to hold the trumpet. As a result, I suspect most will just position items at Gizmo’s feet or leaning on him. You can sling the bow over his shoulder at least since it’s a very rubbery plastic, but he can’t hold it or even act like he’s about to draw it.
NECA’s Ultimate Gizmo is a fine looking figure, though it doesn’t quite feel “ultimate” due to the lack of extra hands and positioning power. And even though he’s a mere 3.5″ tall, Gizmo still retails for the standard Ultimates price point of $30. He’s a bit of a tough recommend at that price, but I’m also not regretting my purchase either. He’s a fun addition to my knick-knacks shelf and I look forward to dressing him up for the holidays when the time comes. Worse, I’m also tempted to add some more Gremlins, especially the holiday two-pack of carolers, and I really don’t need to get sucked into another line. We’ll see what comes of that. Gizmo does at least look the part, even if he doesn’t exactly put the “action” in action figure.