Category Archives: Film

S.H.Figuarts Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku

That is quite the mouthful, is it not? The Super Saiyan God Super Saiyan Son Goku is the latest action figure from Bandai’s S.H.Figuarts to arrive in Target stores in the US. This form of Goku is what happens when a Saiyan ascends to Super Saiyan God level, and then goes Super Saiyan again. Confused? You probably should be, which is why in-universe Goku proposed just calling the form Super Saiyan Blue because he just looks like his regular Super Saiyan self, but with blue hair instead of blond. And that’s cool! At least I think it is, but blue has always been my favorite color so that is all the explanation you really need for why I like it. And if you’re unfamiliar with it, that might be because you stopped paying attention after the Dragon Ball Z hype dyed-down for this form is from the more recent Dragon Ball Super. And if you liked DBZ back in the day and have slept on Super, I recommend checking it out because it’s pretty fun.

Do you like your Goku stoic?

The SHF line from Bandai and Tamashii Nations has become one of the premiere collector lines for action figure enthusiasts. It’s a super-articulated, 1/12 scale line that is known for its high level of quality. That can also mean a high price tag as well with many releases tagged for $60 or more at release. It wasn’t that long ago that the line was basically an import only affair, but US-based retailers have slowly been adding the line to their stores. Barnes & Noble and Gamestop were among the first places I encountered the line outside of online toy shops, but Bandai has wanted to make this a more accessible line and has partnered with American distributor Blue Fin Brands to make these things even more available. And also more affordable. That’s why you can now find some products at Target, which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago. And in order to appeal to a more casual Target shopper, Bandai has turned to Goku and a rather aggressive pricing strategy. Likely owing to the fact that the company is reusing the same mold over and over, Bandai has been able to price Goku at $35. He doesn’t come with as many accessories as other figures in the line, but he’s hardly bare bones. Bandai started with its standard Goku, then released the Kaioken version, and now it’s released the Super Saiyan Blue version. I suspect the new Full Power Super Saiyan Goku will show up as well.

Or do you prefer him smug? I like smug.

This seems like a pretty good strategy to me, especially because I may have never bought this particular figure otherwise. I’ve somewhat reluctantly begun to expand my Dragon Ball collection to include some of Z and Super, and this figure is the first one I have in hand. As I said above, I like the Super Saiyan Blue look. It’s just Super Saiyan Goku, but with cooler hair. I never had the opportunity to get this figure before and the only other versions I’ve encountered in a physical store have been the model kits or the Dragon Stars edition, and neither really appealed to me. I have wanted to cherry-pick a bit from the Dragon Ball Super, and to some extent Dragon Ball Z, releases so I was happy to see this figure get reissued as it was originally a released timed with the film Dragon Ball Super – Broly.

Of course, there’s also pissed off Goku.

Goku is about as good as any other SHF release I’ve purchased, and that’s a good thing. To the tip of his hair, he’s just shy of 6.5″ which makes him about a half inch taller than the Super Saiyan Vegeta I have from the same line. That looks about right for late era DBZ and DBS as Vegeta was gradually drawn taller than his original appearance (apparently, being good causes you to grow in the world of Dragon Ball), but was always kept shorter than Goku. He sports his traditional organge gi with his own kanji on the front and rear (accurate to the film) and a knotted belt. His undershirt, wrist wraps, belt, and boots are navy and his skin is quite pale, which is often how it’s colored when in one of his super forms. His hair is a dark, pearl, blue which is basically how it’s colored when the character lacks an aura. I was a little surprised Bandai didn’t try to create the illusion of an aura, but this looks good too.

And when Goku gets mad, he starts working on something…

As is the case with most figures in this line, Goku doesn’t possess a ton of paint. The gi is done in orange plastic with a slight wash on the front to add a touch of depth. Basically, the only painted parts are the facial features, blue sleeves, blue wrist wraps, the flesh of his chest, the kanji on his chest and back, and the red stripes and knots on his boots. What little paint there is has been applied in a clean manner. My only gripe is with the opacity. The white on the kanji needs to be thicker as some of the orange bleeds through it. The same is true of the chest which looks like it’s cast in blue plastic to match the undershirt and it shoes through just a little. It’s not too noticable though and I’m genuinely pleased with how well the flesh plastic of his neck matches the painted flesh. In total, the paint is fine, but since this is sort of a “budget” release it’s easy to wonder if that plays a role in the thin paint on the kanji.

Like the good old Kamehameha attack!
In case you prefer a side view of the destruction.

Beyond the paint, the sculpt for this figure is generally really good. Goku is a character than can be tough to get right for some reason as I’ve seen many figures where his head just looks too small. And I kind of felt that way about the standard Goku Bandai did and it’s why I never picked him up. Maybe it’s just the shape of the Super Saiyan hair, but this one looks better to me. His head might be a touch on the small side, but it doesn’t throw off the look of the figure. The gi looks terrific as far as the folds and such are concerned and they really did a great job hiding the articulation when Goku is in a vanilla pose. I’m especially happy with how the face turned out on all of the swap-able pieces. Anime characters like Goku sometimes end up with facial features that are too soft, but Goku does not suffer in that regard. His nose is pronounced whether looking at the figure head-on or from the side. I like the variety of expressions as they all very much scream “Goku.” The musculature of his arms looks “just right” to me. It’s easy to see why Bandai would re-release this base sculpt over and over because there isn’t much they could do to improve upon it.

Since I don’t have a proper Dragon Ball Super villain, King Piccolo is just going to have to take one for the team.

People love the SHF line because of the sculpts, but also because of the articulation. Goku boasts as much articulation as pretty much any other figure in the line, which is to say he packs a lot. He has a single ball peg at the head/neck that lets him look down pretty far and up just a bit. Go too far back and a small gap will appear at the base of the neck. It’s okay, but not as good as some other figures. At the shoulders, we have the usual ball-hinge setup with a butterfly joint. The shoulder cuffs of the gi can be moved around as they’re just pegged into the arms which allows you to position Goku’s arms in almost any position you can think of, though he can’t quite reach across his body. Bringing the arms forward will, of course, create a large gap behind the shoulder, but he can do a decent Kamehameha so you’ll probably get what you want out of it. Unfortunately, the interior of the shoulder is cast in flesh-colored plastic when it should be orange so if you look at the figure from certain angles when in that classic pose it doesn’t look right. At the biceps, he has a swivel and below that a double hinge that does better than 90 degrees. The hands are on ball-hinges and the wrist cuffs hide the ball portion very well. In the torso, we have the SHF ball hinge so you can twist and pivot at the base of the rib cage, but also pull up on the figure to crunch him forward and back. At the waist is a twist, and below that we have what I think are ball pegs at the hips. He can kick forward and back just fine, but out to the side he’s a touch limited with his left leg, but for some reason his right is even more limited. I don’t know if the floating, plastic, “cap” Bandai used just isn’t lining up right on that side or what the deal is, but I don’t want to force it. He’s got a twist in the upper thigh, double-hinge knee, and ball peg at the ankle with a toe hinge. The ankle articulation isn’t great because it’s recessed so far in the boot. They could probably stand to do better there, but I have no issues standing him. The belt also features a peg at the knot so you can reposition it as needed. It’s a floating piece otherwise so it can also slide around.

“Keep you low power, Super Saiyan, stink away from me, Vegeta.”

The articulation is overall pretty good. It’s not the best SHF figure I’ve seen, but it does strike a pretty terrific balance between pleasing the sculpt and offering a wide range of motion. Really, the big negative is that butterfly joint and maybe the sleeves, which peg into the shoulder to move around, but can get kind of ugly in certain poses. They can be manipulated into something pleasing enough, but it feels like a better solution could be found. For $35 though, this figure is a terrific value. I don’t know that much really competes. Maybe the Tokka and Rahzar NECA released last year which averaged out to around 30-35 a piece? And I haven’t even mentioned the accessories. Goku comes with 4 portraits and four and half sets of hands. The facial portraits are stoic, smile, teeth gritting, and yelling. The hands are fists, open palms, martial arts pose, Kamehameha hands, and one double-pointing “Instant Transmission” right hand. Basically, you get everything you need with no extras. It would be awesome to get a stand or energy effect, but given the price I’d say you’re getting a solid assortment. The only facial portrait one could ask for that isn’t here is maybe just a cheerful expression, but that’s definitely not needed for the Super Saiyan Blue form. And when it comes to the hands, there’s none I could want that isn’t here. Goku isn’t a character that needs gripping hands and he can do all of his signature poses with what Bandai provided in the box, save for the ones that need a stand.

Just a couple of cocky Saiyans.

And that’s what this is, a low cost entry point into the SHF Dragon Ball line. It definitely strikes me as a sound strategy as I can see some people seeing this in a place like Target and picking it up on a whim and that leading them down the rabbit hole that is the SHF line. It’s even worked on me to a degree as I now want a villain, or at least someone, to pair with Goku. I definitely would like to get my hands on a Super Saiyan Blue Vegeta and I hope he gets a reissue at some point. I don’t know that I need the Broly to place on a shelf though. This is a line I intend to just cherry pick my favorite looks and characters and it felt right to add at least one Goku to the mix. And I like how he turned out. Could he be better? Yes, especially at that butterfly joint, but overall he looks nice and moves well enough that I think anyone who picks this figure up will be happy with it.

“Bye!”

The Hot Wheels Batman Series

Hot Wheels gave their Batmobiles a makeover.

I’m not much of a car collector, but when I was a kid I went through a Hot Wheels and Matchbox phase. My favorite car was a small, black, one that I only barely remember. I have no idea what make or model the car was, but what I liked about it was that it had something on the rear that reminded me of the turbine on the back of the Batmobile from the Batman television show. As a kid, that was my Batman and I loved watching reruns of the 1966 show even though the cliffhanger endings always bothered me as a kid. I loved that car though, but I’d eventually replace it when the 1989 Batman movie arrived for with it came a ton of merchandise, including a Hot Wheels sized Batmobile. I don’t remember if it was actually a Hot Wheels brand or not, but it worked with the few sets I had and I very much liked having it. I also got out of cars not that long after though, so it would be the only tiny Batmobile I’d ever have.

When my son was around the age of 2, I started buying him Hot Wheels and one of the first priorities I had as a dad was to get him a Batmobile. And I did, getting him a variation of the ’89 Batmobile and later one based on the design from Batman: The Animated Series, but his love affair with small scale cars didn’t last very long. He still has a bunch of them, and also has the giant garage and some track sets, but he’s moved on much like I did when I was his age.

In my numerous trips to Target in search of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and assorted other action figures, I’ve come across a new line from Mattel’s Hot Wheels brand. It’s a line of Batman vehicles, but they’re not at the usual roughly 1:64 scale of a traditional Hot Wheels car. The regular BTAS Batmobile is rougly 3 1/8″ long while this new scale puts it at 4 1/2″. They’re also not the same price since they’re around 9 dollars after tax. I’m not sure what the scale of these cars are. Their construction though is largely the same as they’re a mix of diecast and plastic with Mattel using diecast on the more prominent pieces with the plastic often used for the base. And since they’re bigger, they look better and they stand out.

My childhood affection for the Batmobile is something that’s never really left me. When I bought those Batmobiles for my son, I was tempted to buy an extra for myself. I never did, but when I saw these larger ones it had me thinking these could be daddy’s Batmobile. I still didn’t jump right away, as that price was a turn-off initially, but I just couldn’t keep turning them down. Eventually I caved, repeatedly, and now I have a small assortment of miniature vehicles from Batman. On an individual basis, there isn’t much to talk about, but now that I have a small assortment I figured it made sense to take a look at them in a blog post. I’m going to start with the one that made me jump into this line first.

Mattel went a little too far with this one including things it didn’t need to.

The 1989 Batmobile from the movie Batman might be my favorite. I say might be, because I really have a hard time deciding between it and the next two we’re going to look at. It’s just a cool design though that combines a flashy aesthetic with something that’s actually functional. This thing looks drive-able, even though it would be a bit long and cumbersome to steer. It’s sort of like the car Cruella DeVille drives, but with armor and a bat theme. Seeing the Batmobile self-drive in the movie was a huge thrill for a kid at the time, and when I got a chance to see the real thing at a car show I begged my parents to pay for a photo of us with the Batmobile.

Mmm that backend.

This Hot Wheels version of the Batmobile pretty much nails the likeness. It’s cast all in black and has all of the little details you probably remember from the film like the ribbed rear panels, the ports for the machineguns, and even the little side hatch for that grappling hook it can fire. Mattel did take some liberties with the coloring though as maybe they felt it was just too black as presented on film. They used a metallic silver for portions of the engine on each side of the vehicle, on the gas tank access, and on the hubcaps. From what I can tell based on shots from the film, the gas tank access points weren’t black, but they definitely don’t stand out as much as they do here. I’m guessing their color was closer to a gunmetal finish. The hubcaps though are definitely too shiny and bright. They do have the little bat logo on the center, but they should be black and it does kind of bother me that they are not. It’s still better than the standard Hot Wheels I got for my son, which has a random, red, racing stripe on it for some reason.

Neat, but unnecessary.

What might bother me more though, is the little action feature Mattel included. The hatch on the Batmobile is functional and it slides forward to reveal the innards of the car. It’s not super detailed inside, but it looks pretty neat. What’s not neat is how they engineered it. In order for it to slide forward, Mattel had to cut a track into the vehicle’s hood. It’s an eyesore, and what kind of sucks about it is that the car is packaged with the hatch open so you don’t see this eyesore until you open the box. It looks fine when open, but I bet most people want to display it closed. I don’t really know of a way Mattel could have engineered this without cutting an ugly track somewhere into the car. Tracks on the side would have probably looked worse, and sticking in a hinge instead would be inaccurate. I think I would have just not included the feature if it was up to me, or maybe try to attach the hatch with a magnet. That though would have required the hatch be engineered differently too as it’s plastic, which is also a bit of a bummer as it’s noticeably more shiny than the diecast portion. It doesn’t ruin this toy, but it’s far from perfect.

If I had to pick a favorite Batmobile this might be the one.

The Batmobile from Batman: The Animated Series was my second purchase from this line, and unlike the 89 Batmobile, it’s pretty damn near perfect. It feels a bit more weighty than the 89 one as I think there’s more diecast in use here. It gives it a wonderful feel with a lovely matte finish. The hatch doesn’t function and instead it has a blue piece of plastic serving as the windshield. It’s a little odd, but it contrasts nicely with the all black exterior. And that’s basically the only nitpick I have with this one. The Batmobile from BTAS wasn’t black, but dark blue. Most of the toys though cast it in black, which always annoyed me. It’s similar to how many Batman action figures make Batman’s cape and cowl black instead of blue. The best solution is probably to make it black with blue highlights to make it look like it was pulled right from an animation cel, but if a company isn’t going to invest that much in the paint application, then just make it blue. The standard sized one my son has was given a dark blue, sparkly, paint job. It’s pretty cool, though the sparkles might have detracted at this scale, but at least they tried to capture that color-changing aspect of the source material.

A more exciting paint-job and this thing would be perfect.

Aside from that, I really can’t find anything to complain about. The “ribbed” portion of the hood looks great, the front-end is accurate, the hubcaps are the right color, and even the headlight placement looks good. I do think Mattel probably had to dull the points on the back of the car to adhere to safety standards, but it doesn’t harm the look of the car. There are no treads on the tires, which is a little odd, but you can’t really see the tires unless you flip it over so it’s not really an issue. Of some interest to me is the 2017 copyright on the bottom of this one so I guess this thing isn’t new, but it’s new to me.

I can’t look at this and not hear the theme song.

The first Batmobile I fell in love with was indeed that 1966 one from the television show Batman. This Batmobile, based on a Ford concept vehicle, is definitely more of a style over substance vehicle. The previous Batmobiles we looked at are like luxury tanks or something, but this one is just a slick car. Except for that siren in the middle, that’s a little dorky. It’s all black though with logos on the doors and hubcaps. The open top design meant that Batman and Robin could just jump right in, rarely utilizing the doors, though it also meant that Batman might have been slow to respond to distress calls from Commissioner Gordon if it was raining out. The dual, bubble dome, windshield is such an “of its era” design that remains charming. By far though, my favorite feature of this Batmobile when I was a kid was that turbine on the rear of the car in which flames would burst when Batman hit the gas. That feature is so awesome and stylish that future versions of the Batmobile made sure to keep it.

Nice car, but what is up with this?!

The Hot Wheels version does a good job of replicating the car from the show. The proportions and front end look great, and they even sculpted a Batphone in-between the two seats. What hurts it a little is that this is a design that calls for finer details, and even though this is bigger than a typical Hot Wheels car, it’s not really big enough to capture those finer details. Some of the interior comes across as a red-orange blob because of paint limitations, and they chose to paint the siren the same color rather than use translucent plastic. There’s also a blemish on the passenger windshield on mine that’s disappointing, but not truly detracting. What really confounded me though was the presence of a trailer hitch. It’s weird to look at the rear of the car for that iconic shot from the show where the flames burst forth, only to see it obstructed by a trailer hitch, something that definitely wasn’t present on the actual vehicle from the show. If Batman wants to tow something he should probably just get a Bat Truck.

When the streets just won’t do.

This line isn’t just Batmobiles though. There’s actually a bunch of other vehicles, like Penguin’s duck and the Batcopter, but I didn’t want any of those things. What did catch my eye though is the Batwing from Batman: The Animated Series. The Batwing from that show is heavily influenced by the same vehicle from the film. Its proportions are altered slightly, but the general design of replicating the classic Batman logo is preserved. It’s definitely a cool vehicle, and I had the Kenner version of the movie Batwing as a kid and loved it. When I saw this at the store, which is from the second series of vehicles, it was an easy buy.

The stand is simple, but pretty cool.

This Batwing is basically just a solid piece of black metal. It’s extremely satisfying to hold and I instinctively started flying it around my head and making soaring noises when I pulled it out of the package. Like the BTAS Batmobile, Mattel utilized translucent blue plastic for the windshield which looks pretty cool. The subtle, sculpted, details on the top of the plane look nice and sharp, and this thing is just all-together a little slice of cool. The points on it are dulled to a degree, but it’s not something that truly takes away from the toy. It doesn’t have any additional features, but Mattel did include a little flight stand. It’s just a ball peg that snaps into the underside which lifts the Batwing about 2″ off of the surface it’s on. The ball-peg connection means it can pivot a bit to either side or up and down to give you some display options. This one just simply gets the job done, and it might be my favorite of the bunch as a result, though that BTAS Batmobile is right there with it.

Batman, the maritime warrior!

That 66 Batmobile is pretty cool too, but that trailer hitch is confounding. Or at least it was until I saw my latest purchase from this line: the Bat Boat! The Bat Boat from the 1966 television show is part of series 2 and with it comes a trailer. Now, I remember the boat from the show and the movie, but I don’t remember ever seeing Batman tow the thing with the Batmobile. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to hitch a trailer right where flames fire out of a car, but that era was definitely style over substance. It’s definitely a humorous image to conjure up of Batman waiting in line at a public boat launch towing his Bat Boat with the Batmobile, then struggling to launch or pull it out, getting his boots wet or his cape hung up.

Even Batman’s trailer is tricked out.

The Bat Boat certainly looks the part though at it’s a metallic blue with white underside. This one is mostly plastic and it has a very light feel in the hand. It’s definitely not as cool as the Batmobile as it has these dorky flame decals on the side, but it does have that giant engine on the back so it was capable of shooting out flames as well. I do like the metallic blue finish it has though as the glossy look works well for the source material. The trailer is just all plastic, but it does have bat fins over the tires and the big, orange, bat logo on the hubcaps. The details around the hitch are actually pretty well done and it looks like a real boat trailer and the boat itself rests on it well enough. The actual connection to the Batmobile is a bit odd as Mattel basically put a ring at the end instead of an actual hitch design which is cupped and rests on top of the ball on the back of the vehicle. The ring design makes it look like the Batmobile hitch should snap into this ring, but it doesn’t really work with mine. Just resting it works okay and the Batmobile can actually pull this thing. Was it worth it to ugly the design of the Batmobile with that trailer hitch? I don’t know, but I guess I would have displayed the two connected if given the chance. I just wish the hitch was easily removed from the Batmobile. It is a separate piece so maybe I could work it out if I was determined. At any rate, if I never wanted the boat and hated that hitch I could definitely remove it, but I might destroy it in the process. Since I do have the boat, I’m not willing to take that risk.

So that’s why we have a trailer hitch on the Batmobile.

That’s it for now though. As mentioned earlier, there are other vehicles in this line that are mostly different versions of the Batmobile or one of Batman’s other flying vehicles. I don’t really like any of the Batmobiles that followed BTAS, so I’m good. The only tempting one is the Super Friends Batmobile which looks a lot like the 66 version, but it’s blue and has softer features since it came from a cartoon. As for future vehicles, I’d probably be interested in the 89 Batwing, but I’m not into the 66 Batcopter or the Bat Ski Boat from Batman Returns. Maybe there are other Bat vehicles I’m spacing on, but for now, this is a fun little assortment of Batman vehicles and if it never grows beyond this then I’ll be perfectly content.

Bat cars! Assemble!

Lego 71030 Looney Tunes Minifigures

Finally, some Looney Tunes toys!

When it comes to classic cartoons, few would argue against the merits of Warner Bros Studios’ Looney Tunes. Pretty much all of the major studios were invested in cartoon shorts in the 1930s into the 1960s and Warner was a gold mine for hilarious content. The Leon Schlesinger produced Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes churned out characters like Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig like a well-oiled machine. Visionaries such as Tex Avery, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson, and many more helped shape these characters and define cartoon comedy for generations. Everything that followed in animated comedy owes something to the Looney Tunes and the influence of those shorts cannot be overstated.

Despite their popularity, the characters of Looney Tunes have teetered on the brink of obscurity for years now. In the 80s and 90s, it was easy to find these characters and shorts on many networks in various packages. I would watch Nickelodeon’s Looney Tunes almost every night when I was a little kid as it was the last piece of programming on the network before Nick at Nite kicked in. And I loved pretty much all of the characters featured, yes, even Bosko, though I was always partial to the Road Runner shorts. The characters remained in the public eye through other shows and a fairly popular apparel line with the franchise probably peaking with 1996’s Space Jam, a bad movie with some decent jokes sprinkled throughout, but one that is definitely a source for millennial nostalgia. Following that, there was a bit of a decline. Networks like Nick and Cartoon Network invested more of their resources into original programming and stopped licensing the shorts from Warner, while that company also sank money into new properties and kind of left Bugs and his pals behind. There was a movie in 2003 titled Looney Tunes: Back in Action and attempts to create new cartoons and rehabilitate old ones, but nothing really made much of an impact or had much staying power.

Now, the Looney Tunes are primed for a resurgence. New shorts are airing as part of HBO Maxx and they at least look good. I have yet to watch any since I’m not a subscriber, and I think that has hurt the property’s growth as I really don’t encounter much chatter online about these new shorts. There’s a new Space Jam film starring LeBron James set for release this year, and that could certainly help catapult these characters into the public conscious as nostalgia seekers who enjoyed the original movie as kids might use it as a vehicle to introduce their own children to these characters.

Perhaps we owe the new Space Jam for the Looney Tunes merchandise that is on the way. We certainly do for the line of Space Jam themed action figures now popping up at retail, but perhaps we also owe Space Jam a thanks for this new line of Minifigures from Lego featuring the Looney Tunes. There definitely is a shortage of Looney Tunes toys in the market. Before 2021, there wasn’t much to speak of at all in both the kid demographic and the collector market. With Disney now getting love from the likes of Super7 and Beast Kingdom, it would be nice to see the Looney Tunes experience the same. For now, we’ll have to take what Lego is providing and be happy that at least someone is making Looney Tunes toys in 2021.

The wave of 12 figures features some heavy hitters, and some not-so-heavy hitters. As far as I know, this wave of figures is the only Looney Tunes product Lego has unveiled, so if you were hoping they arrived with an actual set you may be disappointed. That could partly be due to the fact that there are no obvious locales to spotlight in a set. Bugs Bunny lives in a hole and many cartoons just take place in a forest. The Tweety cartoons take place in a generic house, while Porky is a bit more of an everyman who can be featured everywhere. Maybe Lego will get creative and do something like Duck Amuck! as a set, or the abstract Wacky Land. There are possibilities, for sure, just nothing obvious. Well, aside from Space Jam sets which may or may not be coming.

Like other waves of Minifigures, these all come in blind bags and are sold pretty much anywhere Lego is sold. They’re 5 dollars a bag and you can take a chance and just grab some off the rack or spend some time feeling them out. This set is not particularly hard to discern for those determined not to get doubles as, like the Disney and Simpsons waves, these characters feature unique head-sculpts which goes a long way in determining who is who. The only characters who really have a similar head-shape are Tweety and Porky, but both feature additional pieces that are a dead give-away like Tweety’s circular bricks for building his mallet and Porky’s rectangular sign. Overall, this is a small release though as the last Disney wave contained 18 figures to just 12 here. Some of that 18 may have been due to parts reuse (Huey, Dewey, and Louie were essentially the same figure 3 times), but I was still surprised at how small this wave was. Especially considering the characters left out, but maybe that’s a good sign that Lego is planning more? Or maybe Lego deemed some of the remaining characters too risqué for the company’s liking. Oh well, at least it’s easier on the wallet this way.

We’ll go in the order Lego displays the figures in on the included checklist, so first up is Lola Bunny. Lola was created for the original Space Jam and she is likely present in this line because of the new movie and because there are so few female characters from Looney Tunes to represent. This version of Lola sports a yellow tank top and purple shorts which really draws attention to the fact that she’s basically just adult Babs from Tiny Toons. She has a scrunchie in her ears which makes them look like a ponytail and it’s those ears you want to be on the look-out for when searching for this character. She also has a basketball, but it’s just an orange sphere with no printing with a hole on one end so that she can actually hold it. She looks fine, though I find it a little odd her mouth is basically just printed and not sculpted at all. I don’t know if anyone collecting this line really wanted Lola, but she turned out all right at least.

Bunny butts from Lego don’t get the same attention to detail as duck butts.

Next up is the iconic Bugs Bunny. He has his own unique head sculpt from Lola, though he does feature the same printed on mouth as her. His ears are the dead give-away when looking for him and he comes with a carrot, because he’s Bugs Bunny. This is the standard, licensing art, Bugs most are familiar with. He has white hands and the fur around his mouth is tufted as opposed to smooth. His tail, to my surprise, is just printed on his back. I was expecting a separate piece that went in-between his legs and torso. He looks pretty great though and is basically what one would expect of a Bugs Bunny Lego.

Aww, they’re so cute and tiny!

Wile E. Coyote is next up. Since I did so love the Road Runner cartoons when I was a kid I was really looking forward to getting that duo. Wile E. looks terrific. His head features probably the best sculpting in this wave as he has the tall ears, the snout that sticks way out with a slight droop, and the cheeks that puff out. There’s even a little sculpting on his eyebrows. He features a tail add-on that’s a bit odd. It’s a long, bushy, tail that looks like it belongs to a fox or raccoon. In the shorts, Wile E. always featured a rather diminutive tail, but Lego likely recycled this from a past figure. I do prefer it to a printed tail, at least. You can position it in either an up position or a down one. His accessory is an anvil that has to be assembled. It’s a bit odd looking for an anvil, but it gets the job done. Mostly, I just love how the face turned out so I’m happy.

Coyotes are known for having a bushy tail, I just don’t know that Wile E. Coyote necessarily is.

Next up is Road Runner himself. This figure could have turned out really bizarre, but I’m happy to say he actually looks pretty good. The character is basically all legs with a small, but long, body. He’s essentially the opposite of a blocky Lego, but with a little effort they got him looking great. His head features the expression one would expect and it also has separate plumage that pegs into the top. At the waist is a tail piece that was possibly created just for this figure, while the arms are wings likely recycled from last year’s Big Bird. The legs are a bit plain as Lego declined to give him bird feet, but the overall aesthetic works well enough. His accessory is a bowl of bird seed, perfect for the coyote to lay down as a trap that will inevitably backfire in some way.

Do you root for Tweety or Sylvester? I’m honestly not sure who I rooted for as a kid.

Tweety is our next figure and he’s a bit of an odd choice. He’s certainly popular enough to be featured in this inaugural wave, he’s just way out of scale with everyone else. Lego used their child legs for Tweety, which are non-articulated, to make him as small as possible, but he still looks pretty ridiculous next to any of the other characters. He might have made more sense as a small, non-articulated, figurine. His paint scheme is simple, so Lego could probably make him look fine. They took that approach with the Simpson pets. They didn’t though, and even though he’s out of scale, he at least looks okay. The head-sculpt is nice and he comes with a big mallet to smash Sylvester with that at least helps to make him look a little smaller. He’s still odd though because the cartoon character is almost all head with a tiny body and huge feet. He also has a printed tail like Bugs and Lola. Definitely not my favorite of the line, but not a total swing and a miss.

Just a printed tail for Tweety, but Sylvester gets the good stuff.

If you have Tweety, well then you need Sylvester too. Sylvester might be the most authentic looking of the line. His proportions look pretty good even adapted for this blocky Lego style, and Lego opted to give him a nice tail too. His head-sculpt looks terrific and his included accessory is the always useful baseball bat. Maybe he would have looked better with a frown, but otherwise I have no complaints. His likeness is almost so spot on that it makes him boring.

It’s between Daffy and Wile E. as far as which figure from this set is my favorite.

The always jealous Daffy Duck is another obvious inclusion in this wave of figures. Daffy is based on his later appearances which align with the licensing art for the character as opposed to his rounder, wackier, version. I love his head-sculpt and Lego made sure to attach a small, white, neck to it so he would have his trademarked ringed neck look. He also recycles the “duck butt” that Lego utilized with Donald and Daisy Duck to give him a touch more depth. His accessory is a “Rabbit Season” sign which makes about as much sense as anything for Daffy. Like Sylvester, one could argue it would have been more appropriate to give him an angry expression, but I like what we have here and as someone who loves Daffy Duck I am quite pleased.

There’s something off-putting about that tail Speedy has.

Speedy Gonzales is next up, and like Tweety, he suffers from the same scale problems. Unlike Tweety, he doesn’t really make up for it with a nice head-sculpt. Speedy is one of those characters that was rarely shown head-on, and his head just doesn’t translate well to 3D. At least not at this size. His sombrero is molded to his head while Lego tossed in a mouse tail accessory. It’s a bit weird because it’s molded in the same color as his fur so he has a strip of fur between his shorts and shirt. If he was a character with an exposed belly all of the time this would be fine, but he really isn’t such a character. He uses the kid legs again, which is unfortunate because he can’t even be placed in a running pose as a result. His accessories are four cheese wedges, which is fine, though maybe a can-opener to torment Daffy would have been more fun. I think overall, he looks better than the sum of his parts when placed among the others, but he is one of the lesser figures in the wave. He also seems to be short-packed as he was the hardest for me to find when he really should be one of the easiest when feeling out bags because of his unique head shape.

“Taz like pie!”

The Tasmanian Devil is next up and he’s an interesting figure. First of all, he uses these short, stubby, legs like Tweety and Speedy, but his are actually articulated. Why doesn’t Lego just do this for all of their shorter characters? His head is rather massive and fits over much of his torso reminding me of a theme park mascot. It looks great though and helps to preserve the character’s stocky physique. Lego also included a whirling disc for him to stand on, in addition to the usual black stand. It doesn’t really work well as something to spin, but it’s a nice touch. He also has a turkey leg and a pie, since he sure did like to eat in the old shorts. He also features the same tail as Wile E. Coyote, and like that character, I question its suitability here. The Tasmanian Devil always had a stubby tail and I think over the years it’s a tail he’s mostly lost as the character’s design has been tweaked. I suppose if I really am bothered by it I could just remove it.

I’m even less certain about that tail on Taz as I was with Wile E.

Marvin the Martian is our most conventional figure in this bunch. That’s because his head is just the usual small, round, peg done-up in black with two large eyes printed on it. For his helmet, Lego actually made it and the brush (?) on top of it all one piece rather than have it peg in. He also has a skirt piece, the only soft goods in the wave, and his little, green, blaster. He looks the part, though I wish they could have given his sneakers a bit more love, but Lego seems to prefer the square aesthetic of the feet. He looks good though and I quite like his little gun.

Closing things out with a pair of pigs.

Petunia is the character in the line many might struggle to remember. She wasn’t featured a lot in the Porky shorts, and may be best-remembered as being one of the included toys in the McDonald’s Super Looney Tunes Happy Meals where she was Wonder Woman. Prior to Lola, Petunia got extra work since she was one of the few female characters featured in Looney Tunes, and she’s probably included here for that reason. Her head is actually different from Porky’s as her braids are part of the sculpt so this isn’t a case where she’s included to save money. I don’t really know if the outfit she’s wearing is what she featured in the old shorts the most. My guess is this is just the licensing art being used as a reference. She comes with a tea kettle and two tea cups so I guess her character is one that enjoys tea? She’s definitely not a character I would have requested so I find it hard to get excited over her figure. It’s fine though.

Mmm…pork butt.

And rounding out the set is the always last Porky Pig. I don’t deny Porky’s popularity, but he’s never been a favorite of mine. He’s got his licensing art attire here which is what he often sported at the end of shorts: a blue jacket, red bowtie, and white gloves. He looks like Porky though and his accessory is the obvious “That’s all Folks!” sign that most definitely belongs in a Looney Tunes display.

Overall, I do quite like this line of Minifigures from Lego. While I prefer some characters to others, the only one that feels like a “dud” to me is Speedy, and even he’s really not that bad. I actually like him more than Lola and Petunia, but objectively speaking his likeness isn’t as good as theirs. Really, the biggest negative I can come up with is the character selection, and that could have been addressed easily by making the wave 15 or 18 figures instead of 12. My hope is that Lego is just holding back some popular characters for a second wave as Looney Tunes doesn’t feature a cast as deep as Disney, or even The Simpsons. It’s still hard to get over the fact that we have a Bugs though, without an Elmer! He’s definitely the biggest omission. Some may feel the need to point that Lego may not be too keen on giving us an Elmer with a shotgun, but he has other looks too. His more domesticated, bowler derby wearing, version doesn’t need a gun, or they could just go straight to What’s Opera, Doc? Elmer. Yosemite Sam is another one with gun concerns, but Lego has loads of pirate figures with musket-styled revolvers that would work fine for Sam.

Hopefully a wave two is in the works, because there are other characters to include like Foghorn Leghorn, Grannie, and Pepé Le Pew. There are also plenty of opportunities for variants of some of the characters present in this wave and I would not be at all surprised to see Toon Squad versions mixed-in, even if I’m not asking for them. Time will tell what Lego and the toy world has in store for the Looney Tunes, but it’s at least great to see these characters finally getting some more merch and a chance to shine.

Now read the sign and get out!

The Batman/Superman Movie – “World’s Finest”

Original Air Date: October 4, 1997

Directed by: Toshihiko Matsuda

Written by: Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz, Alan Burnett, Rich Fogel, Steve Gerber

Animation: TMS – Kyuokoichi Corporation

Running Time: 61 minutes

Also Known As: Superman: The Animated Series episodes 39, 40, 41 “World’s Finest: Parts 1, 2, and 3”

When Warner Bros. launched its own network, The WB, in 1995 it had a bit of a conundrum on its hands. Warner had been in the business of producing hours upon hours of content, but it was all aired somewhere else and would be tied down by licensing agreements for yet a while longer. And in the 90s, most of those properties were airing as part of the Fox Kids Network and included the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Batman: The Animated Series. Warner needed to focus on parts of its portfolio that hadn’t already been licensed to Fox and it sure is nice to have a character like Superman to utilize as a fallback. While Fox held the broadcast rights to Batman, Warner essentially ceased taking episode orders for that show and instead tasked the team of Bruce Timm and Paul Dini that had done so well with Batman to do the same for Superman. Superman: The Animated Series was born, and unlike Batman, it was a brightly lit, modern styled, depiction of the classic hero. It was not quite as successful as Batman, but for a generation of comic book fans, this depiction of the man of steel is about as definitive as it gets replacing for many the character we saw on the big screen played by Christopher Reeve.

Following the successful first season of Superman, Warner once again had the broadcast rights to Batman and commissioned a new season. Re-titled, The New Batman Adventures, the caped crusader and his comrades would receive a makeover to bring it in-line with Superman while also accomplishing the goal of simplifying the models for overseas animation. The WB, which had launched its own children’s programming block called Kids’ WB, would air these new episodes of Batman alongside Superman creating The New Batman/Superman Adventures, an hour and a half block typically consisting of one Superman, one classic BTAS, and one New Adventures of Batman. To commemorate the union of these two titans of comics, a three-part episode was created for Superman called “World’s Finest” that would take-up the whole Batman/Superman block on October 4, 1997. These episodes would then be collected and released on VHS and DVD as The Batman/Superman Movie.

Fans had to wait a long time to see these two pair-up, it would seem Batman was not looking forward to it though.

Given how long these two heroes have been around and in Warner’s portfolio, it’s actually rather incredible the two weren’t paired-up for a movie until 1997. This one is a bit of a cheat since it’s three episodes of an animated series, and Batman and Superman have shared space on the small screen for decades. They have since shared time on the big screen as well in one of the most love it or hate it film universes imaginable. In 1997, and even today, there is still a neat “geek” factor to the two teaming up, though I personally wish it could have happened sooner as come 97 I wasn’t watching much network television. I can recall catching bits and pieces of this story, but I don’t think I ever sat down and actually digested it. Since concluding the years long look-back at Batman: The Animated Series, the cross-overs with Superman were basically the few remaining missing links I had yet to look at, so I figured I would rectify that with a look at this pseudo movie.

“World’s Finest” is anchored by a pretty simple premise: How would Batman and Superman work together when their arch enemies team-up? It’s the type of thing any young, comic book, fan probably would have dreamed up as a starting point for a team-up as we have Joker (Mark Hamill) offering his services to Lex Luthor (Clancy Brown) to kill Superman (Tim Daly) for the not unreasonable sum of one billion dollars and it’s Batman (Kevin Conroy) who first sniffs out the scheme. It’s an interesting premise to see Joker turn himself into a hitman-for-hire, and especially interesting that he would be so arrogant that he would think he can take out Superman when he’s failed to do the same with Batman for years. Perhaps it owes to him not viewing Superman as his great rival as many have wondered if Joker really ever aimed to kill Batman, instead preferring to play with him like a cat and a ball of yarn, only in this case the ball of yarn always comes out definitively on top. There’s also a bit of shock factor to see Joker so nakedly offering to kill someone for money, but it is a nice callback, intentional or not, to Joker’s roots in this universe as a mob hitman as seen in Mask of the Phantasm.

Joker has a very big reason for his overconfidence.

Why is Joker offering to kill Superman for Luthor? For the simple fact that he needs money on account of Batman always foiling his plans and because he’s come across a rather large sum of kryptonite. Early in the film, Joker pulls off a heist in which he and Harley (Arleen Sorkin) snatch a dragon idol thought to be made of jade, but Batman knows otherwise and makes the move to Metropolis. It’s there he masquarades as Bruce Wayne, who has a business venture underway with Luthor, and makes acquaintances with both Lois Lane (Dana Delany) and Clark Kent. Lane is quite smitten with Wayne right out of the gate and the two start seeing quite a lot of each other, much to Clark’s disappointment.

The film wastes little time in establishing that Batman and Superman are going to be uneasy allies. Batman is setup to be Superman’s opposite. When we first see Batman inspecting the crime scene following Joker’s theft, Detective Bullock (Robert Costanzo) puts up a minor protest when Batman takes a piece of kryptonite left behind as tampering with a crime scene, but Commissioner Gordon (Bob Hastings) somewhat jokingly laughs it off suggesting to Bullock he be the one to stop Batman from doing what he wants. It’s played for laughs, but it’s kind of scary that Gordon essentially revealed he feels helpless when it comes to telling Batman what to do. Of course, we know he welcomes Batman’s aid in an unofficial capacity, but this scene seems to exist to remind the viewer that Batman operates outside the law. When he eventually crosses paths with Superman for the first time, Superman refers to him as a vigilante and that there’s no place for such in his town. Superman is our goody-two-shoes, the one who operates within the confines of the law, while Batman happily exists outside it. He’s also played as a jerk, as Batman introduces himself to Superman by arm-tossing him over his shoulder. It’s definitely beyond what we’re used to seeing out of the character previously in BTAS, that very patient detective working alongside Ra’s al Ghul and tolerating his subordinates slights is long gone. It’s somewhat in-line with the character we’ll see more of in The New Batman Adventures, but it’s definitely a change.

Batman is such a dick to Superman that I half-expected him to torture the guy for fun here.

The Batman/Superman dynamic is the main anchor of the feature, but also entering the fray is the Lois Lane situation in which it’s clearly spelled out she’s attracted to Superman and Bruce Wayne, but turned off by Clark Kent and Batman. There’s also multiple scenes in which Joker and Luthor are pitted against each other, mostly via tense negotiations or dealing with the fallout of a Batman or Superman encounter. They’re actually quite entertaining and this is the best Joker we’ve seen in awhile. It would seem the time off between the end of the second season of BTAS and this feature did Dini and his crew well as this Joker feels fresh and exciting. As does his main squeeze Harley and the two actually work quite well together in this one with less signs of abuse on the part of Mr. J. It does mean the story basically ignores how we left off with the pair and we’re just left to assume that Harley eventually came crawling back. It’s a pretty entertaining story, albeit one that only runs a mere 61 minutes. It does follow a predictable arc, and I dislike that the ending basically has zero consequences long-term, but I definitely had a good time following along. There were some segments that were a bit too liberal with the notion that every bad guy in these shows is a terrible shot. Batman should have probably died ten times in this thing, but it’s just accepted that our hero is never going to get shot no matter how improbable the situation.

Being that this movie exists within the Superman show, it follows the same visual style as that show and The New Batman Adventures. There are no additional effects applied like we saw with a true feature in Mask of the Phantasm, but that doesn’t mean this one doesn’t look nice. Warner at least opened up its wallet for TMS to handle the animation. TMS was once upon a time a semi-regular in Warner animation, but come the mid-90s the studio’s reputation was beyond reproach and their services were essentially beyond Warner’s television budget. The studio wasn’t even called upon to handle the second BTAS feature, SubZero, so it was a bit surprising to see them utilized here. It certainly pays off as “World’s Finest” looks terrific. The animation is so smooth and so consistent frame by frame and it pays off as there’s plenty of action. There’s even a classic “Superman saves an airplane” segment probably just so they could have TMS animate such a sequence, because it’s otherwise a scene that’s completely unneeded for the plot. It’s certainly fun though, so I’m not complaining! The only drawback the film possesses from a visual perspective rests with the character designs. I really don’t like the redesign on Joker, and it’s so apparent in the scenes he shares with Luthor. Luthor looks like a person, while Joker looks like he belongs in a different series, something far more toony. That’s a problem I have with The New Batman Adventures as a whole though, not one unique or born from this arc.

I think the writers want us to think Bruce has legitimate feelings for Lois, but it’s not convincing and you may exit this movie with a new opinion on the guy.

The Batman/Superman Movie is probably not the spectacle the pairing deserves, but if I’m being honest, I’d rather watch this than the live-action one that would follow years later. Despite the short duration, it doesn’t cry out for additional material. If it had been a true feature we probably would have just been treated to more of Wayne and Lane’s romance which does move quite fast in this one (she appears poised to move to Gotham at one point) so that’s probably not realistic, but billionaires certainly have a knack for getting their own way despite logic and reason. I suspect some might not like the portrayal of Batman in this one as he really is just an asshole towards Superman. One has to wonder if he’s only interested in Lois to stick it to Superman. And given that their relationship progressed far enough for Lois to talk about moving, I’m going to make the assumption that she and Bruce slept together and if Bruce slept with her just to make Superman jealous or angry then that’s some pretty lowlife behavior on his part. Even without that piece of head-canon on my part, I felt pretty bad for Lane at times in this one as she’s just being used left and right. Bruce uses her to get info on Superman, Joker uses her as Superman bait, and all the while she thinks she’s met someone she’s ready to run away with. It’s quite a ride for Lois, and I wonder if Dini contemplated tossing Barbara Gordon into this whole mess, but thought better of it.

“World’s Finest” was just the first cross-over event between Superman and The New Batman Adventures, and not the last. There were two more in Superman, “Knight Time” and “The Demon Reborn.” There was only one in Batman, “Girl’s Night Out,” which I covered some time ago. Since I’ve covered so much of Batman: The Animated Series here, I would like to some day talk about those additional crossovers, but I also have no plans to at this time since I don’t own Superman: The Animated Series. Perhaps that will change one day, but the availability of this movie is what made this possible. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can do so either via Superman which is available on DVD and streaming on HBO Max, or you could buy the stand-alone movie which is quite affordable. I picked up a copy at a secondhand media store for a mere $2.97. For less than 3 bucks, this is a rather nice piece of entertainment.


The Secret of NIMH (1982)

The 1970s was a transition period for the world of feature length animation. Walt Disney’s death had left a leadership void at Disney which was exacerbated by the passing of Roy Disney in 1971. With the Disney brothers no longer at the head of operations, the company turned to Donn Tatum, the first non-Disney family member to head the company. It was during this era that the animators on staff started to feel like the company no longer prioritized the art of animation the way it had under the Disney brothers. It probably didn’t help that the decade began with the release of The Aristocats, one of the least celebrated Disney animated features to date. Because of a sense of stifled creativity, a group of animators staged a walk out lead by Don Bluth. He along with animators Gary Goldman, John Pomeroy, and several others left the company during production on The Fox and the Hound and Don Bluth Productions was born. Seeking to emulate the classic style of early Disney works, Bluth and his associates set out to making features as quickly as possible. They found a partner in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and a story in Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O’Brien. They knew what they wanted to do, but the hard part would be making it all happen.

The tale of Mrs. Frisby had been brought to Bluth’s attention by fellow animator Ken Anderson while working at Disney. Try as he might though, he just couldn’t get Disney to bite on it. And there was some solid reasoning behind that as animation director Wolfgang Reitherman cited the recent release of The Rescuers as being too similar to the tale of Mrs. Frisby and her fantastic rat friends. When Bluth left Disney, the story went with him and it was the book he turned to first when it came time to prove that feature length animation could flourish outside the House of Mouse. Working outside of Disney though meant a lower budget and a shorter schedule which necessitated Bluth and staff to work ungodly hours on the feature. And a certain company that popularized a flying disc necessitated a name change of the titular character of Mrs. Frisby to Mrs. Brisby.

Bluth wanted to prove to Disney that others were capable of outperforming them and The Secret of NIMH certainly packs the visuals.

I was in the fifth grade when the story of Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was introduced to me. I was a kid who liked to take shortcuts when it came to academics. I was fortunate that most subjects came easily to me, but it did stifle my intellectual curiosity as a result. When it came to independent reading, I just recycled junk I had been reading for years that my new teachers wouldn’t necessarily be aware of. Eventually, my teacher, Mrs. Roy (who remains my favorite teacher ever), wrote a note in my report card that I needed to read more challenging books. I really had no desire to honor the request, but also had little choice in the matter so I simply asked one of my friends if he got the same edict. When he confirmed he did not, I asked what he had been reading that she seemed to approve of and he directed me to the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. I read it and thought it was good enough to read the sequel when I was finished. Better yet, my teacher left me alone when it came to my independent reading assignments. At the time I read it, it was the early 90s and I had no idea a film had been made out of the story a decade earlier. I think I just happened upon it one night at the local video rental store and asked my mom if we could rent it, so we did!

Ever since seeing The Secret of NIMH I have thought of it very little. I think I liked it, but it clearly didn’t leave a mark. The book really didn’t leave a lasting impression either, though I can say it did stick in my head far better than the sequel of which I remember nothing but the title. In my house though, Saturday is movie night and we alternate who picks the movie each week among the members of my family and when the choice falls to me I like to find things that my kids haven’t seen and will hopefully enjoy. That’s how this film popped up on my radar recently, so out I went (safely) to a nearby media store and found a used DVD release of the film for a mere five dollars. It’s certainly not a great DVD release as it only has a full screen option, but it was an opportunity to see this film again and show it to my kids for the first time and I’m still not willing to digitally rent things. I’m just weird like that.

Mrs. Brisby is out to save little Timmy. I feel like it’s always a “little Timmy.”

The Secret of NIMH tells the tale of the widow Mrs. Brisby (Elizabeth Hartman), a field mouse, and her quest to save her ailing son Timothy (Ian Fried) from a bout of pneumonia. The illness itself isn’t necessarily the threat, it’s the fact that the harvest season has arrived and Mrs. Brisby and her family need to vacate their current home for the farmer’s tractor will soon level it. Unfortunately, Timothy is too sick to be moved so Mrs. Brisby is forced to turn to the Rats of NIMH for help. The rats are a colony that lives in a nearby rose bush and they possess intelligence seemingly beyond that of man. It’s all the result of once being lab rats. Throughout the film viewers are introduced to a small portion of their various members and their wonderous home while also learning about their past and their relationship with Brisby’s deceased husband. Internal strife also exists within the ranks of the rats which will pose a problem for Mrs. Brisby and her family.

The story is quite brisk and uncomplex as it moves along during its 82 minute runtime. Mrs. Brisby basically has a problem and receives advice from one source to go to another, who then sends her to another, and so on. It’s easy for a child to follow and Brisby is a likeable and empathetic lead. She is joined, at times, by the crow Jeremy (Dom Deluise) who provides comic relief, while the seemingly ancient leader of the rats, Nicodemus (Derek Jacobi), adds a little wonder to her supporting cast. The danger of the situation is illustrated clearly, and other dangers arise throughout the film. Since we’re largely dealing with a cast of mice and rats, expect a cat to play a role.

Jeremy is the character we’re supposed to laugh at, but I didn’t hear much laughing in my home.

The story is cohesive, but what isn’t is the world created by O’Brien and added to by Bluth. The rats are said to possess human level intelligence, and perhaps more as their home is quite elaborate for something that exists in a bush. However, seemingly all of the animals (except the cat) possess incredible intelligence anyway making the rats seem less remarkable. Mrs. Brisby and her children all wear clothes and live in a home full of human comforts. They even use utensils and boil water for tea and such. A Bluth addition is the inclusion of magic. Bluth seems to think animated tales should contain elements of the fantastic like magic, so Nicodemus is now a wizard of some kind. He’s the first character we meet as he views Brisby through a magic looking glass and remarks how he has a talisman for her. No explanation is provided by the film for this magic or how Nicodemus and the Rats of NIMH came to possess it, but the talisman does at least serve a practical purpose of putting the power to save her family in Mrs. Brisby’s hands, quite literally. Movies don’t have to explain everything, of course. People seem willing to happily accept that Cinderella can communicate with animals and such in her Disney film, but this is also the type of film that does try to provide explanations for everything else, and hand-waving the concept of magic feels off as a result. It also forces a lot into the final five to ten minutes of the film. Animation is expensive and hard, so it’s no surprise to see this one clock in under 90 minutes, but it’s a film that would have benefited from more time. We barely get to know the rats and their inner conflict so the climax that conflict leads to doesn’t land like it should. Everything just sort of happens and as a viewer I was left feeling, “That was it? Huh.” My kids, on the other hand, fell asleep.

The film’s decision to shoehorn some magical elements into it doesn’t really satisfy from a plot perspective, but it’s at least visually interesting.

The Secret of NIMH isn’t as captivating or as enchanting as it probably would like to be, but what can’t be denied is the visual fidelity. The Secret of NIMH looked terrific in 1982, and by any standard it still does. I wish I had tracked down a Blu Ray version, but beggars can’t be choosers. Bluth and his fellow animators set out to emulate the early Disney style and they absolutely nailed it. Show this to someone who is just a casual animation viewer and they’ll probably mistake it as a forgotten Disney feature. The designs of the mice and rats are very reminiscent of The Rescuers and Cinderella, but absent those tell-tale Xerox lines from the Disney films of the 1970s. It’s gorgeous, and the more fantastic elements are captured with simple, effective, animation techniques. I may not have been fully engaged with the film’s plot, but the visuals definitely held my attention for the duration of the film.

Less celebrated is the soundtrack of Jerry Goldsmith. It is certainly capable, but not quite memorable. The same can be said for most of the Disney features from that era, so in that respect this one feels quite similar to what Bluth’s old place of work was outputting. The voice cast is plenty capable though and I very much enjoyed the late Elizabeth Hartman in her role as Mrs. Brisby. She brings a gentle confidence to the character and I imagine it’s quite similar to the voice I heard in my head when reading the book back in fifth grade. Dom DeLuise is good in his role as Jeremy, though I think the film thinks he’s funnier than he really is making him more of a distraction than true comic foil. The Rats of NIMH are all given rather regal and distinguished voices while Nicodemus is treated as an elderly wizard, a departure from the source material. It’s a cast that doesn’t contain many big names from the era, but it’s a professional cast more than capable of bringing these characters to life.

The Secret of NIMH is a triumph of animation with a somewhat forgettable story. That adds up to a solid viewing experience that provided movie-goers in 1982 with a glimpse of where Don Bluth was heading. He and his team of animators would go on to make better films, and worse ones, leaving The Secret of NIMH to serve as the appetizer of the Don Bluth feast. The film did eventually receive a sequel, but without any contribution from Bluth, which makes it similar to the book sequel which was not written by Robert O’Brien. I have never seen it, but it received a near universal negative reception upon release in 1998 as a direct-to-video feature. Which is fine, as this isn’t a film that cries out for a sequel. It’s quick, fairly tidy, and mostly beautiful and a perfect way to kill an hour and a half on a Saturday night.


NECA Ultimate Flasher Gremlin

Here we go!

I’ve had NECA’s Ultimate Flasher Gremlin on my “want” list for awhile now. I grabbed the Ultimate Gizmo last summer, and while he’s fairly limited as an action figure, he is fun to have on display in my home. He has occupied a little section of my knick-knack shelf in the living room area of my house, a spot normally reserved for more “tasteful” decorations. I’ve changed his look up with the seasons and for Christmas he was joined by the Santa Stripe figure that came out last fall. When Christmas came and went though, so did Stripe leaving Gizmo all alone on the shelf. I wanted to pair him with another Gremlin, and it was the Flasher Gremlin that spoke to me the most. He’s ludicrous and comes with a bunch of stuff that makes posing plentiful, I was just hesitant to actually make the purchase. I figured, for once, I’d let it be known that I wanted this thing, but not actually buy it for myself. Christmas came and went, and so did Valentine’s Day, and when the wife decided not to indulge my passion for toys I finally caved. I added the Flasher Gremlin to my display one weekend in February, and I do not regret it one bit.

Both the figure and the packaging should be pretty familiar to collectors at this point.

The Ultimate Flasher Gremlin is based on the many background characters in the film Gremlins. He’s a gremlin in an oversized coat who wants to show the world what he’s packing (which isn’t much, so maybe he should be more bashful). For fans of NECA’s line of figures based on the film, he’s a very familiar release. He comes in the same five-panel window box all of NECA’s ultimate releases come packaged in complete with numerous product shots. All of NECA’s gremlins are basically re-releases of the same figure, but with new accessories. Perhaps that sounds cheap, but in the film most of the gremlins looked the same. There were a few unique ones, like Stripe, but the rest are indistinguishable. And to make the consumer feel like they’re getting their bang for their buck, NECA overloads each release with accessories. There’s basically more stuff here than could be handled by one gremlin, so the point is really to buy a bunch of figures to create your own gremlin horde. I don’t have the space to dedicate to a large Gremlins display, but I certainly see the appeal as this release is basically parts of a flasher, card player, and bar fly.

This guy comes with a lot of stuff.

The actual figure is basically the same as Stripe, but with the standard gremlin head. He’s a little over six inches tall and has plentiful, if not entirely functional, articulation. The sculpt is very impressive which is an especially good thing for a figure that gets re-released over and over. The texture, paint, and personality present in the face are just spot-on to the film. The paint is all clean and the darkness of the figure helps hide a lot of the articulation. The jaw is articulated, and yet you wouldn’t even know at first look because NECA engineered it so well. I’ve seen the prop replicas of the gremlin puppets from the film and honestly they don’t even look as good as what NECA has done. I have to hand it to sculptor Jason Frailey because this guy is awesome and it makes me want to buy more.

He’s so happy to be out of that box!

The gremlin is articulated just like Stripe, but I’ll give you a run-down here if you don’t want to read about the Christmas figure. The head is on a ball joint and can rotate, and independent articulation in the neck allows him to look up, down, and to the side. The ears and jaw are also articulated and it works well to have the ears articulated because it helps with positioning his hat. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but the way the shoulders are sculpted means he can’t lift his arms up all the way, but they rotate fine. There’s a swivel at the single-jointed elbow and rotation at the hands with a hinge. There’s a diaphragm joint that provides for tilt and an ab crunch. The legs have extra articulation to give the gremlin that insect like positioning. There’s a knee hinge, a hinge at the dewclaw, and a hinge at the ankle. Because he’s designed to be in a semi-crouch, it’s not terribly functional, but it looks good and that’s clearly what NECA prioritizes. The feet are rather small and the figure is top heavy given the size of the head and neck relative to the body, so he can be tricky to stand. There are peg holes on the bottoms of the feet if you want to use a simple stand, and there are more robust stands available from NECA and other companies if that’s your preference. I find the articulation does enough to allow the figure to mimic the actual puppets in the film. They were limited as well by the technology of the time and there’s a stiffness to their movements, especially with the excessively long arms.

Smoking is a terrible habit, but damn does he look cool.
Trench 4 life.

With the articulation out of the way, we can talk about what makes this guy fun: the stuff! He comes packaged in a trench coat and that’s the key piece here that makes him a flasher. The coat is similar to the one we saw released with Raphael in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie line, but it’s not the same coat. This one lacks pockets and the liner inside the coat is quite glossy, a necessity for someone trying to get attention. It has an actual belt and if you want to complete the whole flasher gimmick you will need to pull the belt strap out of the buckle to free the beast, so to speak. It’s pretty cool to see every day engineering like a belted coat on such a small scale, though I’m left wishing NECA cheated and made it Velcro for ease of use. He also has a plastic fedora that’s intentionally oversized for his head and just rests on the top of his noggin. There are some grooves in the opening of the hat for his eyebrows and they do a good enough job of keeping the hat in place that you can tilt the head up or down in your pose.

He’s setup for a good night.

Joining the hat are some additional accessories that may or may not complete the look for you. He’s got some black sunglasses that I believe have been released with other Ultimate Gremlin releases. They slip onto his face quite easily and are pretty snug once in place. He also has four, little, cigarettes that you can either wedge between some fingers or stick between his teeth. They’re white, though one of mine is almost translucent and I don’t know if that’s intentional or not, with painted filters and a long bit of ash at the end. It would have been neat if one had less ash and a red tip, but I suppose it wouldn’t be hard to modify one if I wanted to. There’s something extra sleezy about the long tail of ash that suits the character. I am not a smoker, and I find the habit disgusting, but these little cigarettes are really entertaining to me just for the novelty factor and it has me wondering what other figures in my collection I could pair them with. How many figures come with such a thing? Even though this is an adult collectible, it’s still almost shocking in this day and age to find evidence of smoking in a toy. And if smoking wasn’t enough, he also has a mug of beer. The beer is removable and is just a piece of thin plastic filled with air. The foam on the top though is highly detailed to an impressive degree. The only downside to that is it draws attention to the fact that the actual beer is just a flat color as opposed to a translucent, bubbly, form. It’s another re-released accessory from, I want to say the Ultimate Gremlin, but it works well to have extra so you can have empty mugs and full mugs in a larger display.

This is what you cam here for, right?

Pivoting from the flasher persona, there’s also some extra stuff that allows you to create a gambling gremlin or dealer gremlin. There’s a red visor that, like the fedora, just kind of sits on the gremlin’s head. It doesn’t really hook on, that I can see, so it just sits there and looks okay. There’s a hand of playing cards he can hold and a pile of poker chips and cards to plop on a table or something. Intermingled with the chips and cards is popcorn, which naturally makes this guy pair well with any of the gremlins that come with popcorn. If you want your gremlin to be a little more classy there’s a bowtie. It’s a solid ring of black plastic with the tie on it so in order to put it on the figure you need to pop its head off and loop it around the neck. Mine didn’t seem to want to come off so I didn’t push the issue since I have no plans to utilize the bowtie. The neck is pretty substantial on this figure so I don’t think I’d break the figure if I was more determined, but I’ve had some bad luck with figures breaking lately so pardon my reluctance.

It’s his dream to be a world famous ventriloquist.

In the realm of the goofy, this guy also comes with a hand puppet. It appears to be of a bee and I recall it from the film as it’s almost painful to watch the gremlin playing with it amongst spilled beer and soda and the like. That poor puppet probably got all gross. The texture and paint work on it is way better than it needs to be and it really looks like a grimy plush some gremlin has been dragging around all night. To actually use it with the figure, just pop one of the hands off and the puppet pegs in. Also included is a giant mallet, because a mischievous gremlin can always use such a thing. To best utilize the mallet, there’s an extra, gripping, right hand included. I actually couldn’t get the hand to peg into my figure, but I suspect if I were to heat it up then I could get it to go. The hand does get a nice grip on it, so if you want your gremlin to be less flasher and more Itchy and Scratchy, there you go. The gripping hand also works well with the beer mug, though the more relaxed hands the figure comes with work fine too.

I guess Gizmo doesn’t like what he sees.
Or does he?!

That’s a lot of stuff, but ultimately, I’m amused by the flasher gimmick so that’s how he’s going on my shelf complete with hat, beer, sunglasses, and a cigarette dangling from his mouth. And the gimmick works all right. It’s tough to actually get him to grip the edges of his coat, but it can be finagled. Had NECA run a wire though the coat it might have worked a little better, or if belt loops could have been strategically placed to hook onto figure’s fingers. There’s at least enough substance to the coat that it will hang open all by itself, so I think it accomplishes what it set out to do well enough. I love how this guy looks with my Gizmo and he’s a fun figure to have around. I haven’t decided if he gets to occupy the shelf 11 months out of the year, or if I should make him my winter gremlin and swap him out with another for the summer, or whatever. That would require a new purchase though, and while some of the other Gremlins releases are intriguing, none have pushed me to purchase any just yet. For now, this is good enough.

The display, for now.

And now, lets end this review with a series of tasteless pictures featuring characters smoking that should not be!

He wants to be Keith Richards, but Richards wouldn’t be caught dead in ankle warmers.
Maybe not that off-brand for Max.
You’re looking a little green there, buddy. Might be time to cut back.
After a long day fighting monsters, Tommy just needs a minute to unwind.
The mutagen probably already did a number on his life expectancy, so how much can a cigarette really hurt?

Hero Cross HMF Donald Duck #006R

Oh boy, oh boy, oh boy!

I have coveted the Donald Duck figure from Hero Cross for a few years now. If you’re not familiar with the company, Hero Cross is a toy manufacturer based in Hong Kong that specializes in hybrid figures that utilize both plastic and metal. Their main line is called the Hybrid Metal Figuration series, or HMF for short. They have managed to accumulate a few different licenses for this line of figure, and one of those licenses happens to be Disney. For Disney, Hero Cross has mostly stuck with classic characters, but has also branched out to include Pixar. My main interest though lies in the ducks, and in particular, Donald.

Donald Duck, for as prolific a cartoon character as he is, doesn’t have a ton of action figures to turn to. The best ones are based on his appearance in Kingdom Hearts, but that’s not a franchise I have a ton of affection for. It’s fine, but my Donald is not a wizard. Phat Mojo did a Donald in its line of DuckTales action figures based on the relaunch of that series, but it was a short-lived line of figures and the company never got a chance to improve upon its initial offering. There is one in that Disney Infinity relic of a toyline that the Disney Store sells, but it’s not great. There was also a Donald action figures based on his appearance in Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but that was quite a long time ago now and that thing is lone gone. If you want a collector grade Donald Duck action figure right now, it’s basically Hero Cross or bust.

The size of the box relative to the size of the figure makes the toy seem huge!

Hero Cross first released a Donald Duck action figure in either 2016 or 2017. Being that it’s a Hong Kong import, a licensed product, and it includes metal components, it wasn’t cheap. I kind of found out about it late when my options were sketchy eBay listings or ordering direct from Hero Cross, but shipping was going to make the figure cost well over $100 at the time. I reluctantly passed, and that didn’t help matters as the figure was eventually retired from production and it only grew more expensive. Then last summer I was sitting on my couch watching TV late at night when a Twitter post from the podcast DuckTalks alerted me to the fact that Hero Cross was taking pre-orders for a new version of its Donald figure. Dubbed a V2.0, this Donald Duck was going to largely be the same as the one previously released, only now it was going to come with three unique heads and rather than sculpt his hat onto them, the hat would be removable and attach via a magnet. I kind of didn’t care about the changes, I was just psyched to have another chance at this figure and I pounced on it. The cost was around $60 for the figure, plus around $30 to ship it from Hong Kong, so it wasn’t much cheaper than what I had passed on previously, but this time I had buyer’s remorse. I had to pay upfront, and then wait.

The somewhat generic licensing art gets the most attention, but check out the comic art in the background!
The product shot on the side panel reveals a pose I’ll likely never achieve with my figure. Read on to find out why…

My Donald finally arrived in January of this year. The production cycle was a long one, but the shipping ended up being lightning quick since it was via FedEx Air. It left Hong Kong on a Thursday and was at my house in Massachusetts on the following Monday which is pretty incredible. Donald comes packaged in a simple, but effective, window box. It’s a royal blue with a Donald Duck logo done in orange. On the side of the packaging are product shots, one of which showcases Donald’s fancy new hat, and some licensing artwork on the back. It’s a no frills, but striking, box though it’s so small relative to the figure’s size that I don’t know how well it would display for a mint-in-box collector, but like most packaging these days, it’s pretty easy to reseal.

Check out the duck butt!

Donald Duck stands a little over 5 1/2″ tall. I was pretty surprised by how big he is. I kind of new how tall he was, but I also had avoided reviews and such because this line was completely new to me and I wanted the whole experience to reflect that. Not only is he a bit taller than I thought, he’s also just more substantial. I expected weight due to the metal, but he’s a thick duck. The metal parts appear to consist of the arms and legs. The head, hands, body, and feet are vinyl. It mixes pretty well, though the legs are definitely a lot shinier than the plastic feet. And with the metal there’s always a concern that paint will scratch or flake off and there is a tiny scratch in the knee joint on my figure’s left leg, but largely the paint looks pretty nice. Donald has a very round, smooth, head which is the biggest different from his initial release which featured an angry head that had some ruffled feathers. I obviously don’t have that figure, but based on images I’ve seen, that angry head is probably better than the rest so I kind of wish I had it, but it’s fine. This Donald does have an angry head too, but it’s smooth like the other two heads.

New for this version of Donald is a removable hat!

I think this Donald looks pretty nice, all things considered. I’m a little surprised with the sculpt of his shirt as the flap on the back of it is molded to the main part of the shirt. I would have expected it to be an actual flap and I think it would have looked better. Instead, it kind of reminds me of a Donald bath toy my kids used to have which was solid vinyl. He is depicted in the current licensing art colors, which as an old school Donald fan, is not my preference. That means he’s got a blue shirt and hat with gold buttons and trim and a red bowtie. I would have preferred a black bowtie, as that is what he usually wore in the classic shorts. I also would not have minded him in his comic black shirt. It’s not a big deal as this is definitely Donald Duck. The metal legs also do not hide the joints at all, so it is something you just have to get used to. It’s hard to argue with the end result though which is that this figure has a really strong base and he is not going to fall off of your shelf. The metal also gives him a high quality feel, which is necessary for a figure that retails for $60.

He can move, but can’t quite nail his classic hopping mad pose.

Being that Donald is a collector grade action figure, he features several points of articulation. Hero Cross totals it at 20 points, and it’s pretty substantial for a character with a unique body shape. Donald’s head sits on a simple ball pegs and it can move around quite well. He can look up, down, tilt, you name it. At least the default head (we’ll get to that). There is a joint at the base of the neck that provides a little more tilt, but it’s negligible. The shoulders are ball-jointed. He can raise his arms out to the side and rotate all around, but be aware of rub with the vinyl body. There’s a biceps swivel and a single hinge at the elbow allowing him to bend his arm 90 degrees. The hands are on pegs affixed to ball joints. There’s a hinge in there and they can rotate all around and tilt a bit in every direction. There’s a waist joint that appears to be a ball joint. It’s under the shirt and pretty generous, but again, I worry a little about the blue shirt rubbing the white vinyl lower body and leaving some smudges behind if manipulated a lot. The legs are a bit odd, since he is a duck, as they’re affixed via ball-joints, but they basically just swivel and tilt a little where the legs meet the body. There are single hinges and the feet are on ball-pegs so they can roll around all over the place. The metal gives him such a strong base that he can easily stand on one foot or simulate a walking pose as long as one foot is flat on a surface. He’s not terribly dynamic in his posing options, but that is more a limitation of the character’s shape than what Hero Cross did.

Donald can be happy, kind of mad, or very mad.

Donald comes with extra parts, but no real accessories aside form his hat. He has three heads: an open mouthed happy expression (default), a frowning expression, and a slight frown with his eyes looking left expression. Of the three, I definitely like the angry one the most as I think of Donald as just a grumpy, angry, character. Sadly, that head is the one that is the hardest to work with as the other two pop on and off with no issue, but the angry is super tight. Once on, it doesn’t really want to move much, but for a figure destined for a shelf it’s not a big deal. As for hands, Donald comes with a relaxed, open, left hand and a stiff, open, right hand (basically a hand wave). In the box are a pair of fists, a relaxed, open, right hand, and a pointing right hand. Missing is any kind of gripping hand, but in order to get those you had to get the box set release of Donald’s nephews. It’s a decent assortment that leaves room for improvement. A company like Bandai has taken to making the eyes swappable on its figures and that would be pretty neat with Donald. A more modular approach that allows eyes, bills, and such to swap is intriguing, but at least he doesn’t have any unsightly seams in his head. And Hero Cross is definitely going for as seamless an aesthetic as possible. The swappable hands make for some decent variety in the available poses, but there is a problem there that detracts from the figure.

Fuck.

And that’s they’re a pain to remove. And they’re such a pain, that mine broke not long after I opened it. I tried to remove the waving right hand he comes packaged with in favor of one of the others and it felt pretty snug. The head was easy to remove, and being that this just sits on a peg, I really wasn’t too concerned with breaking it. I applied consistent force, and tried wiggling it a little and the peg just came right off behind the ball joint of the wrist. The actual peg is really small as it’s basically a half-circle instead of a full one. My guess is they do it this way to make sure it doesn’t interfere with the the ball-joint in the wrist, but it’s pretty odd. Mostly though, I was super bummed, frustrated, angry, you name it, to finally get this figure only to have it break within a half hour. It feels like such a high quality item that it lulls you into a feeling like it couldn’t possibly break with normal interaction. Falling off a shelf is one thing, but trying to take advantage of a basic function? That surprised me. I honestly felt a little sick when it happened because I know how far this had to travel to get to me and how expensive it was just to ship it here, so I wasn’t expecting any help to come from Hero Cross. And if any did, I expected it to come at a cost.

Fuck! Fuck! FUCK!

Upon breaking, I reached out to Hero Cross via email and via a form on their website. No where could I find any information on quality control issues or refunds, so I wasn’t feeling too great about it. I reached out on Twitter and DuckTalks, the same podcast that brought this release to my attention, suggested messaging them on Facebook as that appears to be a place where they interact with their customers the most. Hero Cross did not respond to my initial email, but it did to the form I filled out online. After sending photos the correspondent told me they would check with the factory about a replacement arm. I didn’t hear anything for a couple of weeks and reached out again, and they basically said the same thing as before. Then a day later I got an email saying they had good news: there were spare parts available in the factory and they would send me a new arm! They confirmed which arm I needed, my address, and sent along instructions for swapping it out.

This was the only pose that felt appropriate for the past month.

About two weeks after that, my new arm arrived in the mail via USPS. The arm is connected to the figure at the shoulder and held in place by a screw. It’s an interesting setup, but an easy one to work with without fear of breaking anything. Upon removing the screw, the shoulder comes apart as it’s two pieces of molded, painted, plastic. Once apart, the bicep can pop out and I swapped in the new arm that Hero Cross provided, replaced the plastic piece, and screwed it back together. Hero Cross sent an extra upper arm piece, but it was for a left arm. Maybe they anticipate people scratching or ruining that bit of plastic during the removal process, but I had no issues reusing the same one. They did not send a new hand, so I had to take the old hand and get the peg removed somehow. I basically just grabbed the ball it sits on with some pliers and tugged away. It was in there pretty snug and it was a pain, but I got it off. It helped that I didn’t have to worry about damaging the ball any longer. With Donald reassembled, he basically looks as he’s supposed to. After the reattachment though I’m left with a pretty loose biceps swivel. The screw feels snug so I don’t want to risk stripping it, but it could just be a case of the factory getting that in better than I can. It kind of sucks, but better than a broken hand.

It’s an odd construction as you can see the peg sits way up inside the hand. Worse though, only half the diameter of the peg is fused to the ball joint and that piece is expected to withstand the force of removing the hands many times over. The rear of the ball joint is fused to the peg in the arm in the same fashion. There’s no need for the hands to be so snug on a collectible intended for adults.

With the peg finally extricated from the hand I finally got a look at the thing. It’s long and sits way up inside the hand. It’s honestly a surprise to me that these breaking isn’t a common occurrence, but then again, I don’t know anyone who owns this particular figure so maybe it does break a lot? Even putting another hand on this new peg is a struggle, and you can probably tell in my post surgery photos of the figure that it’s not quite seated all the way. I’m basically afraid that once I get the hand on it won’t come off without breaking again.

Back together, so a reason to smile!

Given all of that, I have had no appetite to test the left hand. Hero Cross was kind enough to replace one defective piece, I don’t really want to test my luck with a second. And it is a credit to them that they stand by their product and are willing to send replacement parts across the Pacific at no cost to the consumer. I was heart-broken when my figure broke, so I’m happy to have that remedied. It doesn’t necessarily fix my confidence in the figure though. If a figure is designed to have a certain feature, that feature should function without a risk of breaking the figure. After my experience with the product out of the box and seeing how this hand joint is constructed, I can’t say I have any confidence in the feature working properly. I am at least happy that the swappable heads work all right, as that is more important to me than the hands. It also helps that this figure does not need to hold anything so the hands do not serve a function other than to change the pose. And while I definitely would like to have the freedom to do so, I can at least accept what I have here.

I can’t quite get that right hand to fully peg-on, but it will stay on, at least. And I don’t know that I want to seat it all the way as then I may never get it off again.
“Come here!”

What my experience with this figure did do for me is make me less likely to purchase more figures in the line. When I ordered this one, I was toying with the idea of adding the nephews and taking advantage of the gripping hand they come with, but now I’m less interested. And playing a role in that are new offerings on the way from other toy companies. Since placing an order for this figure, Super7 has launched a Disney Ultimates! line of figures. Only the first wave has been shown and it includes Mickey Mouse, Prince John, and Pinocchio. Their interest is in underserved characters (as far as collector grade action figures go) from the company’s animated films, so Donald Duck may not be a high priority for them right now, but he’s also insanely popular and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we get a Three Caballeros Donald or something. Beast Kingdom has also unveiled a Donald Duck figure in its Dynamic 8action Heroes line that looks rather promising. It features cloth goods instead of sculpted clothes and is something that is definitely on my radar. It doesn’t have a release date or a price, but the company is taking orders for a Sorcerer’s Apprentice Mickey and the MSRP is about $70, with a deluxe version at $100. Collecting Donald Duck figures isn’t going to get any cheaper any time soon, but it’s nice to have options.

“What are you smiling about?!”

Ultimately, I do not regret my purchase of the Hero Cross Donald Duck. The likeness is good and he certainly looks nice on a shelf. This figure probably won’t scale with any other lines, so that’s kind of a bummer, but also not a standard I think is fair to hold it to. I’m sure it scales fine with other Hero Cross HMF releases like Scrooge McDuck and the nephews. And there may come a day when I decide I do need to place him with some friends on a shelf, or maybe he’ll just be a featured piece in a more robust Donald Duck display (because, lets face it, I’m probably getting the Beast Kingdom figure and would definitely grab a Super7 one). This figure isn’t the ultimate Donald Duck figure that I wanted it to be, but it’s still worth having for a Donald Duck enthusiast like myself.

“I’ll get you, you little devil!”

Superman II (The Richard Donner Cut)

You’ll believe a man can fly…again.

When the original Superman was conceived for a theatrical release, the producers on the project were ambitious. Convincing audiences that a man could fly sure seemed like enough ambition for one film, but not Superman. Alexander and Ilya Salkind decided it would be more prudent to shoot the film and its sequel at the same time. Producer Pierre Spengler was onboard and they were able to find a director in Richard Donner willing to undertake the difficult task. At the time it made some sense since the films would be closely tied together thematically and the mercurial Marlon Brando was onboard to play Superman’s biological father, Jor-El. Brando was hard to secure and the type only willing to attend as little days of shooting as possible so shooting his parts for both films at the same time was basically a necessity. The production could reuse sets, the actors wouldn’t visibly change much, and it also meant Warner Bros. would have a sequel practically at the ready in the event the first film was the success everyone hoped it would be.

Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans. Tensions between the Salkinds and Donner arose during filming as much of the project could be kindly described as disorganized, at best. Production would have to be halted in order for the first film to be properly edited and released, and it sounds like everyone just grew to hate one another. With the film approximately 75% complete, Donner was relieved of his duties and replaced by Richard Lester. By then, the first film had been a success and Brando had started crowing about his share of the box office causing the Salkinds to drop him from the sequel. Lester inherited a mess and set out to re-shooting several scenes, and even changed the ending. Despite all of that, Superman II was warmly received by fans and critics and for a long time it was considered the pinnacle of super hero films with its status really only being called into question when films like Spider-Man 2, X2, and Batman Begins were released in the 2000s.

Lois demands that you hand over the Donner cut!

As a kid, I grew up watching the Superman movies mostly on cable and Superman II was probably my favorite, though I did enjoy the zaniness of Superman III and I don’t think I ever saw the much maligned Superman IV. I wasn’t at all aware of the controversy surrounding the first sequel though and only came to find out about that as an adult. It took me awhile, but I finally got around to viewing the Richard Donner cut of the film recently. Released in 2006, brought along partially by a settlement with Brando’s estate to use his likeness, Donner was brought onboard to recut the film using all of the footage he had overseen which had been discarded by Lester. Editor Michael Thau did a lot of the grunt work of putting the film back together, which Donner would basically give a “yay” or “nay” to finished pieces. This meant Brando’s character could be restored to communicate with Reeve’s Superman and the original ending could be seen for the first time. Every scene Lester had re-shot could also be tossed, with the only stuff kept being the scenes Donner never got to shoot (mostly featuring the villains rampaging through the Midwest). The only truly cumbersome piece is re-assembled from screen test footage and features a confrontation of sorts between Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) and Clark Kent in a hotel room. It’s fair to wonder if some of the more effects heavy shots would have turned out better in post production with a bigger budget than what was available for a restoration, but this is a fairly different film, but also a complete one despite the circumstances.

Hackman’s Lex Luthor is still here, but he’s been usurped by some guys in bad pajamas.

I have not seen the Lester cut in years, so I’m less interested in the comparisons with the Donner cut and more interested in how this holds up as a film. In my return to the original Superman, I found the film quite long and at times humorless. Superman is presented in a very earnest way which plays differently now than it did in 1978. A hero saying he fights for truth, justice, and the American way without a hint of cynicism is just a bit hokey today. If this Superman were featured in a modern film there would be a character snickering at how wholesome he is right after he says his line. These films seek to present Superman as an idealized hero, a myth made man, which might not be for everyone.

With Superman II, most of that earnestness is still preserved, but the film is more willing to explore Superman’s weakness. And I don’t mean Kryptonite. His weakness is Lois Lane and his infatuation with her which naturally leads to a yearning for a normal life. That is on display in this film with Superman literally giving up his powers, and starting a trend for super hero sequels, in order to live life as an ordinary citizen of Earth. His timing proves terrible though as three criminals cast out from Krypton at the beginning of the first film, General Zod (Terence Stamp), Ursa (Sarah Douglas), and Non (Jack O’Halloran), just so happen to find their way to Earth. Being fellow citizens of Krypton, they too are enhanced beyond normal men by Earth’s yellow sun and are essentially three supermen themselves. Three against one are daunting odds to begin with, but a powerless Superman obviously stands no match and apparently neither do the militaries of the world. Lex Luthor (Gene Hackman) is still a presence as he seeks to benefit from the chaos created by these new beings, but strangely he keeps the information about the effects of Kryptonite to himself never once attempting to use it against these new enemies.

Here comes the romance!

Superman II is a far brisker film since it doesn’t need to tell the origins of its hero and its villains are about as direct as villains get. It has a bit more action to it since Superman is pitted against villains that can actually match him blow for blow, and some of his powers were also held in reserve for the sequel. We get to see Superman utilize his laser eyes and his super breath in addition to his super speed and ability to fly. He doesn’t get to do anything as impressive as land an airplane, but there’s plenty of heroic feats for him to accomplish. The film is still at its best when Superman is doing more mundane things like saving a falling child while onlookers “oo” and “ahh.” The battle of Metropolis, which makes no attempts to disguise the fact that its New York, is not nearly as impressive to modern viewers as it would have been in 1980 which probably detracts from the spectacle some.

Fans of the eye beams had to wait until the sequel just to get a peek!

The film also spends a lot of time exploring just what it is that distinguishes Clark Kent from Superman. Some of the best comedy involves Lois trying to figure out if the two are one and the same and she goes to some incredible lengths to confirm her suspicions. Reeve and Kidder seem to possess better chemistry this time around though it can still be hard to see just what it is about Lois that makes Clark willing to give up everything just to be with her. There’s also no way to shake the feeling of deja vu the ending brings about, which was originally changed for that very reason. The ending Lester settled on was arguably dumber and was just different for the sake of being different. Both achieve the same end result, but neither is particularly satisfying.

Screen test footage had to be used to complete Richard Donner’s vision. It’s a little jarring, but not something that should impact one’s viewing pleasure.

One also cannot mention that with the loss of Donner originally came the loss of what was perhaps my favorite part of the first film: John Williams. His main Superman theme was present, but that’s all as creative differences with Richard Lester caused Williams to quit. Ken Thorne was brought on to score Superman II, but when Donner was asked to put his name on this new cut he wanted Williams back as well. Williams, unfortunately, was not able to score the film so Donner did the next best thing and simply reused much of the first film’s score and even some music that had not been used. Some of Thorne’s score is still present in the Richard Donner cut, but the presence of Williams really helps make the sequel feel like an extension of the first film.

He’s watching. Always watching…

The Richard Donner Cut of Superman II restores the sense of continuity the film shared with its predecessor. There’s no one who would watch these two films back to back and come away surprised they were mostly shot simultaneously. There’s a real, cohesive, feeling to both to the point where watching one and not the other almost feels silly. And yet, there’s no denying that Superman II is no longer a contender for the best super hero movie brought to cinema. While it’s probably still the best Superman film, I don’t find it as entertaining today as I once did. The villains are one-note and the film is quite eager to rely on the deus ex machina device to push its plot along. Superman has powers, then he doesn’t, then he does again despite being warned it was irreversible, and so on. Lex Luthor makes a proverbial deal with the devil, gets double-crossed by said devil, then makes yet another deal only to be double-crossed yet again! Some criminal genius. It’s a bit messy, but there are moments of fun and the more digestible run time means the film doesn’t overstay its welcome. Mostly, I’m left feeling happy for Richard Donner and fans of Superman that the original vision of the film was finally realized, even if it took more than 25 years for that to happen.


Superman (1978)

It might be hard to convince younger people today that superhero movies were once huge financial risks for production companies. It might further surprise them to learn that only one comic book company seemed to figure the whole thing out, and it wasn’t Marvel. While Marvel struggled to get Hollywood interested in its characters, Detective Comics did not. That’s because DC held what were easily the two most identifiable superheroes in existence: Superman and Batman. Both had successful runs in theaters as serials or theatrical animation. Both also made the jump to television and in the 1970s the most recent to find success on both the small and big screen was Batman by way of the Adam West starring show and film. That Batman, created in the 60s, was the definition of camp. It was pretty delightful, but come the 70s audiences seemed to want something else. The comics pivoted back more towards a serious tone, though it would take Hollywood awhile to do the same. In the 70s though, one hero was available to take comics to new heights on the big screen and his name was Superman.

I don’t think it’s a great stretch to say Superman is the most recognizable superhero in the world. He’s the first thing that comes to mind for me when I hear the term “superhero” and he can do all of the things I think of when I hear the term “super.” He can fly, he’s incredibly strong, invulnerable, absurdly fast, and to top it all off he can do other things like shoot lasers from his eyes and has super…blowing…power. There’s no way to phrase that without sounding awkward. Throughout the years, Superman also has been known to possess what is basically a super constitution as he fights for truth, justice, and the American way all without ever telling a lie (except for those that protect his secret identity). He’s so pure a character, that it’s hard not to take a cynical approach sometimes when interacting with him. And depending on the current temperature of society, it can make the timing difficult. Maybe that’s why Superman has mostly spun his tires in the world of modern cinema, but apparently 1978 was the perfect moment for him to hit the big screen because the film, Superman, was a massive hit.

This is a long movie, partly because we apparently need to see every decision made before this baby was sent rocketing through space.

Directed by Richard Donner, Superman is a film that had a long development cycle. There were numerous script rewrites and it took a long time to develop the proper techniques to convince an audience that what they’re seeing was plausible. Making a man fly is almost ho-hum in this modern world full of computer-generated imagery, but in the 70s it had yet to be perfected. On a technical level, Superman was extremely ambitious, but apparently that wasn’t enough. The visionaries behind it, Alexander and Ilya Salkind, together with producer Pierre Spengler, decided it wasn’t enough to make one movie and settled on filming two at the same time. It was a laborious process that was always behind schedule and over budget leading to constant conflict between Donner and the Salkinds eventually leading to the director’s firing before the sequel could be completed.

Jeff East plays young Clark and they try to make him look like Reeve, but it’s not very convincing.

The film also assembled a pretty large cast of actors, some of which were heavy hitters and others were virtual unknowns. Christopher Reeve was cast in the lead role of adult Clark Kent and Superman after a lengthy search. Looking over the list of actors offered or asked to audition is pretty entertaining as Donner and the producers tried to find someone who could both act and look good in spandex. To give the film star power, the Salkinds brought in Marlon Brando to play Superman’s father, Jor-El, and paid him a princely sum to do so. Fellow Oscar winner Gene Hackman was cast as antagonist Lex Luthor while Margot Kidder played Lois Lane.

The film makes no attempt to hide the fact that Metropolis is just New York City.

Superman as a film is designed to introduce the audience to the character as if it were the first time. This necessitates a rather laborious beginning where we see the events that lead to planet Krypton’s demise while Brando chews up screen time looking rather disinterested the whole time. Following that, the setting shifts to Earth where we need to see John and Martha Kent (Glenn Ford and Phyllis Thaxter) happen upon the young boy who spent years traveling to their planet in an odd-shaped pod. The film is forced to fast-forward to Clark’s teenaged years (where he’s awkwardly played by Jeff East with Reeve dubbed over) before we can finally get to Clark’s adult years when he officially dawns the cape and blue tights. It’s a long process to get to our hero, and it’s awkwardly paced. Donner clearly had some bullet points he wanted to hit, but the speed at which he hits them reduces their impact. When Clark’s adoptive father suffers a heart attack at the farm, we’ve only just met him and it’s hard for the actors to get the audience to feel the dread and fear of the moment the way their characters do.

Kidder is a lot of fun as Lois Lane, especially when paired with Clark Kent, even though that pairing feels nonsensical at times.

At least when we finally get to Metropolis and the main meat of the film, it starts to soar. Kidder’s Lois Lane, who embodies a manic, hyper, persona as a go-go-reporter livens the film up and she plays off of Reeve’s bumbling Kent very well. Their first scenes together are movie magic and I wish we could spend more time with them, but the film is well over an hour at this point and needs to bring in its hero. Superman and Lane’s scenes together are far less interesting. There’s a romantic angle imbued into them that’s forced, and made painfully obvious during the infamous flying sequence where Lane recites a poem in her mind via voice over directed at her new super beau.

The Daily Planet just making it easy for Lex.

It’s also at this point the film’s main antagonist, Lex Luthor, is introduced. Hackman is charismatic in the role and he plays off of his bumbling sidekick Otis (Ned Beatty) and the dashing Eve Teschmacher (Valerie Perrine) in an entertaining fashion, but he doesn’t get enough time to convince us of his evil genius. The film just basically gives him kryptonite, and his scheme to create some expensive real estate for himself comes together quite rapidly. He’s at least wise enough, and I give the film credit for this, to know that Superman will be his enemy and that he needs to have a plan in place to deal with him before Superman is even aware of his existence. And his plan, at least as it pertains to Superman, is a good one. His overall plan though comes across as a bit camp, which is something this movie sort of struggles with. For much of the picture it plays things pretty straight, only slipping in a corny little line from the comics here and there, but Luthor’s plan feels like full camp to me. Some of Superman’s scenes are similar and it’s hard to know how the movie wants them to be interpreted. I think in most cases they’re playing it straight, but years of Superman parodies have left me damaged.

Kryptonite is not his only weakness.

I don’t want to spoil the ending of the film, even though it’s over 40 years old at this point, but it is a problem with the film. The only aspect of the ending that I like is it asks Superman to make a decision that is essentially the character choosing to take the advice of his adoptive father over that of his biological one. Brando’s Jor-El hangs over the film as he’s able to pass on knowledge to his son via some crystals he packed in his space pod. The two even appear to have actual conversations which is rather confusing and feels like an unnecessary cheat. It’s hard not to make a biblical connection here as well as Jor-El gifts his only son to humanity for he sees potential in mankind and that child is Superman. The only thing missing is a resurrection angle. At any rate, the ending is setup early via a quote from Jor-El to his son, but it still feels kind of cheap and like a deus ex machina.

Show off.

When Superman soars though, it’s pretty damn fun. The special effects have obviously aged quite a bit since 1978. You know you’re looking at an old movie when you watch it, but it’s not so aged that it takes the viewer out of the fantasy. The flying stuff looks fine, the only aspects of the effects that really stand out are the miniatures used for much of the climax. In fairness to them, no one ever envisioned these scenes being viewed in HD when they were shot and I suspect that’s a major part of the problem. Possibly the best part of the film occurs when Superman outs himself and is just soaring around Metropolis knocking off conventional crooks. There’s also a more extravagant scene where he saves Air Force One from a crash landing. It probably didn’t need the added drama of having the airplane be Air Force One, but it’s a great scene. It was so good that nearly 30 years later Superman Returns went back to that well to reintroduce the audience to Superman. The only issue with the film is it takes so long to get to that point, and it’s a relatively small portion of the film, but the moments are at least captivating enough to enrapture even the youngest viewer.

The score for this film is fantastic, except for maybe this scene. Though there it’s not really the score’s fault.

A part of the film that has not aged at all is the score. Composed by the renowned John Williams, Superman has what I consider a perfect score. There has never been a character or franchise more perfectly suited for its theme than Superman and the Williams composition. It’s triumphant, wonderous, and jubilant. Is it controversial to say this is the best main theme John Williams has come up with? I love the main theme from Star Wars, and Jaws is an all-timer, but Superman takes it to another level. I have to assume Williams had the old Superman theme, from the Fleischer cartoons, in the back of his head so a hat tip to those classics should be granted.

The film probably makes you wait too long to get to these moments, but at least when it does it pays off.

I had not seen Superman since I was a kid before re-watching it for this film. It was my choice for family movie night, and in that role is probably miscast. It was tough sledding for a five and a four-year-old to sit through for two and a half hours, even with an intermission. Thankfully, I didn’t go with the three hour cut. Yes, this film has multiple cuts at this point, but the original theatrical cut is probably still the best. The scenes Donner added back in years ago aren’t memorable and just increase the film’s already generous running time. The film also suffers for being shot with its sequel. There’s a sense one gets when viewing this that a lot is being intentionally held back to introduce in the sequel. It just feels like a setup for Superman II, a far more confident and direct film that many prefer to the original. It’s also a film I have not seen in decades so I’m not certain it’s the superior film, but I’m fairly certain it is.

Superman is the type of hero who can save the world from a super villain like Lex Luthor, but also finds time to help a little girl get her cat out of a tree.

Superman is still a worthwhile watch in 2021 and it’s better than any of the films starring the hero to come since the year 2000. Superman is a pretty simple character with a simple premise, but modern filmmakers struggle with him when they become fearful of how powerful he is or fail to see the character’s appeal. To make a moody, timid, Superman is to totally miss what’s appealing about him. He’s the ultimate hero who is nearly infallible. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he’s a character that is always striving to be perfect. And even though I was probably more let down by this re-watch than I was rewarded, whenever that familiar John Williams score kicked up and the character came into view, I was a kid again and I was completely enthralled in what was playing before my eyes.


NECA TMNT Secret of the Ooze Tokka and Rahzar

They’re here!

Merry Boxing Day every one! I hope you enjoyed the Christmas content this year, but it’s time to go back to our usual programming. Which in 2020 means toys. And I just could not wait any longer to talk about what was probably my most anticipated release of 2020: NECA’s Tokka and Rahzar based on their appearance in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze.

One of the last, big, events of 2020 was New York Toy Fair. The show, occurring annually in February, is ostensibly a trade show, but over the years it has become much more. Like E3, coverage of the event has basically turned it into a full blown consumer event, only the general public is still largely kept away in the case of Toy Fair. The event was originally a time for producers to show their wares and solicit orders from retail partners and other vendors. Now, most of that stuff is handled throughout the year since communication is so much easier these days than it was 30 years ago and for the big toy producers the event is almost more like a chance to show off and get the consumer excited for what’s to come later in the year.

This is one big box!

For last year’s event, I was pretty excited to see what NECA had cooking in the oven when it came to its Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license. I’ve definitely been more interested in the cartoon line, and I certainly was heading into Toy Fair 2020, but what ended up stealing the show for me was a two-pack from a movie I don’t even really care for. Tokka and Rahzar were the new mutants introduced for the sequel film The Secret of the Ooze in 1991. The movie is pretty hokey and kind of dumb, but the creature designs for Tokka and Rahzar (handled by the talented folks at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop) were off the charts. They’re imposing, and while NECA originally said it wasn’t that interested in producing toys based on the sequel, it basically had to give in to fan demands where these guys were concerned.

NECA’s Chris Raimo did a bang-up job on the packaging.

This year, NECA started distributing all movie-related product for TMNT at Walmart. It has not gone well. NECA had to endure a lot of fan backslash, some of it justified, some of it not, throughout the summer when product was scarce. Sort of as a mea culpa, the company decided to do something different with the planned Tokka and Rahzar two-pack. Rather than send it to Walmart like it did with the other figures, the company decided to do a manufacture-on-demand run via its website. For one week in July, anyone who wanted a set (or multiples) could place an order on NECA’s website and expect delivery later in the year. The only catch was you had to pay upfront, but you were guaranteed a set of figures in the fall. I don’t know if Walmart showed little interest in the set (it was more expensive than a standard two-pack, retailing for around $70) or if NECA just never offered it to the retailer, but either way, this method of delivery was a god-send. Sure, the wait was a long one given how much excitement I personally had invested in the set, but all-in-all, going from an ordering window to delivery in less than 4 months is a pretty short wait and it looks like the company pulled it off.

Sorry fellas, but your replacements have arrived.

My set arrived in mid-December, so I’ve had some time to enjoy these “babies” before making this post. First of all, the box for these guys is huge! It’s the standard window box we’re used to, only it had to be increased in size to accommodate these guys. This sucker is 5 1/2″ deep, 9 3/4″ tall, and nearly 14 1/4″ long. The box is decorated with numerous product shots and the image of the turtles huddling over a broken canister of ooze from the theatrical poster. If you’re a mint-in-box collector then you’ll have to clear some space to display this thing. It’s appreciated since NECA could have skimped on the presentation considering this isn’t going to appear on store shelves, but then again, this sort of distribution is fairly common these days and NECA knows that a lot of collectors were going to buy two sets: one to open and one to preserve.

Jason Frailey handled the sculpt-work on these figures and to sum up my reaction simply, it would be: holy shit!
Check out those gnarly spikes!
You think a dog’s breath is bad, imagine what Rahzar’s must smell like!

The figures themselves are a sight to behold. They’re depicted as they were later in the film when they do battle with the turtles at the junkyard. Tokka has little on his body aside from elbow and knee pads, while Rahzar is decked out in all kinds of stuff. As in the film, Tokka is the smaller of the two coming in at right around 7″ at the top of his head, with his shell protruding a bit higher. Rahzar stands a tick under 8″ and both figures have tremendous presence on a shelf. They’re very much in scale with each other, though some collectors may be a little disappointed that the scale isn’t perfect when it comes to the turtles. They are shorter, as you’ll see in pictures, but it’s not as drastic as it looked in the film. Granted, the film usually utilized a low angle when filming the two together. I think it’s good enough, but considering the scale on Super Shredder was basically perfect it might surprise people slightly that these two aren’t bigger.

They’re big boys, but the super version of their “Mama” is still able to stand taller.

The scale may very well be the last of any criticisms I have for these two. I certainly have little or no quibbles when it comes to the sculpt and overall look of these boys. Tokka is done in a slightly more olive skintone when compared with the turtles and it looks fantastic. He has a real dingy look to him, and it’s enhanced by the wash on his wrist tape which is quite dirty looking. His eyes are really expressive and I’m just waiting for him to bark at me that he wants a donut. What’s really going to impress though, are the various spikes on his shell. They have a springy quality to them, but don’t confuse that for me saying they aren’t sharp. You know when you’re holding this guy. Rahzar looks every bit as good as his box-mate. Well, I should say he doesn’t look quite as perfect as Tokka, but that’s only because he had fur in the film, but here it’s sculpted plastic. That said, it looks pretty damn good and I’m not suggesting NECA should have gone with faux fur as that might not have come out well. His eyes are super expressive as well and his mouth has that permanent grin he possessed in the film. The claws on his hands and feet look amazing with the amount of yellow and a dark, brown, wash to really bring them out. The texture on the black, rubber, armor pieces is also perfect and it’s great to get a good look at the detail on them since it’s hard to see in the actual film. I never even noticed before now that the pieces on his thigh appear to be torn from rubber tires with nails jutting through them. The grill on his abdomen is secured with actual chain links and swings around freely, not distractingly so. There’s a lot of soft plastic utilized for things like his loincloth or the little tassels on his shoulder and knee pads that not only look great, but seem to be durable enough. It’s hard to imagine someone else better nailing the aesthetics of these guys, even if done at a quarter scale, that’s how impressive they are.

The neck on this guy is impressive.
Angry Tokka.
Not angry Tokka.

Let’s talk articulation. These figures look good enough to be statues, but they aren’t and I’m glad for that. It’s also fun to talk about them because unlike a lot of NECA two-packs, these are two very different figures. And as far as I can tell, they don’t share parts with any other figures that NECA has done. Let’s talk about Tokka first. Unlike the good guy turtles, this guy has quite the neck on him. He can look up, down, and all around. The neck is jointed at the base which enhances his range of motion and it’s all quite impressive. On his head itself, the end of his beak can tilt in and out and his jaw can open very wide. He’s got some ugly teeth and a big, purple, tongue in there as well. Better yet, his eyebrows articulate! This is quite possibly the coolest feature of the set as it allows you to recreate basically any expression Tokka wore in the film. Want him to be angry? No problem. Confused? Check! It’s tremendous! At the shoulder we have the typicall ball and hinge that’s hindered a bit by the spikes on his shoulders. He can still raise and lower his arms and do what is largely expected of him. At the elbow he has a double joint plus a swivel above and below the elbow. The pad really hides everything too. His wrist rotates and he’s got a hinge as well. Inside the shell, there’s a ball-joint that allows for some pivot, but not much. At the legs he’s got ball-joints and hinges with an upper thigh swivel, pretty standard for NECA figure. He can kick back probably farther than you think given the giant shell on his back, and his legs can come out to the side. His knees are double-jointed and swivel above and below the knee, and like the elbows, the pad hides everything. His feet possess a hinge, though the hinge is either super tight or limited by the sculpt as it doesn’t move a whole lot. His feet can rock side-to-side and given how large they are you should have little issue getting him to stand safely on a shelf, even on one foot!

My what big eyes you have!
My, what big teeth you have!
My, what a big…stick you have!

Rahzar, being that he is not a turtle, is articulated quite differently though I’d say the range of motion is pretty similar. His head sits on a ball-joint, and even though he has no articulation in his neck, he’s able to look up and down pretty well and tilt his head side to side. There’s no facial articulation beyond the jaw, which works great. He can open real wide and close his mouth up pretty tight, possibly even better than the actual costume could considering all of the teeth and his extreme underbite. The shoulders are ball-jointed and hinged and the big shoulder pads definitely prevent some movement. He can still raise his arms up to the side, he just can’t raise them over his head real well. He has the same double-jointed elbows that swivel above and below the joint, and even though he doesn’t have elbow pads to hide the articulation, the sculpt is impeccable and does a great job even without such an aid. The wrists rotate and have hinges like basically all NECA figures. The abdomen features a ball-joint in the diaphragm that allows for full rotation (careful with the chains) as well as some tilt, though there’s no ab crunch. The legs are on ball pegs and sit a bit higher than Tokka’s. They can twist a bit above the thigh, but not all the way. The knees are single-jointed and the only other swivel is below the knee. The feet are hinged and can rock side-to-side. I’m a little surprised at the lack of double joints in the knees, but like Tokka, Rahzar can move around pretty well. He’s not a ninja, so he doesn’t really need a ton of articulation and what he has is probably more than enough for whatever pose you want to go for. He stands well, and I was even able to get him to stand on one foot as well even though his feet aren’t nearly as wide as Tokka’s.

Some extra hands, if you desire.
And stuff too!

NECA gave us two figures sculpted to perfection with a great deal of articulation, but you know they also had to throw in some accessories too. These two guys weren’t known for wielding weapons or anything, but there are certainly some items they’re associated with. First off, we have extra hands. Both figures come packaged with what I consider relaxed, open, hands. Both have two extra sets. Tokka has two fists, though the fingers aren’t fused together so they’re kind of like really, tight, gripping hands, but they’re not needed for any gripping. He also has a pair of dedicated gripping hands with his left hand being more relaxed. Rahzar has a really tight gripping, right hand that’s more of a fist. He also has a looser gripping, right hand. He also has two gripping left hands that are very similar, but one is definitely more open than the other. Rahzar’s claws, being what they are, basically makes his stock hands function as gripping hands as well so you’re choice of hands will likely depend more on aesthetics than use. Swapping them is rather painless, assuming you don’t accidentally grip Tokka’s shell, though I should point out the only paint issues with these figures reside with Tokka’s hands. It’s a problem that has plagued NECA’s other figures, but the hinge is painted black to match the tape around his palms and it will flake off almost immediately leaving behind the olive plastic. NECA really needs to cast the hinge in the dominant color of the hand to prevent this. At least with Tokka, the wraps on his wrist can hide the hinge better than most, but it’s the lone eyesore with this set.

He seems awfully angry at that pipe for some reason.
He thinks he’s a beaver.

In addition to hands, they’ve got some stuff to either hold or admire. Tokka comes with his big, lead, pipe which is bendy so he can demonstrate his strength, should you please. Rahzar can also hold it just fine, so it’s not just Tokka’s. There’s also a big chunk of a utility pole from when they wreak havoc on New York’s streets that can be wielded like a club. It’s textured really well and it can also fit in Tokka’s mouth. Rahzar also has his shield he wore on his forearm briefly in the film. The paintjob on it is terrific, and the straps just slide loosely over his forearm so there’s no fuss with it. There’s also a can of ooze, the same one that came with Super Shredder. There’s a fire extinguisher for when the turtles need to speed up the reverse mutation process. And speaking of which, in order to reverse their mutation you need a box of traditional, pre-fight, donuts! And we have one! By far, the best accessory is a little pink, cardboard, box that has the Simply Donuts graphic on it. There’s a stack of seven donuts molded together to fit into it, plus an eighth donut that has been smooshed exposing the mutagen cube inside. Your turtles can hold the box, and one of the baddies can hold the squished donut to recreate one of the better scenes from the film. You can also shove that donut in one of their mouths too, if you prefer your mutant babies be ignorant.

Is this the most quotable scene from the movie? If not, it’s close.
Scarf it down!
And to finish him off!

The accessories are appreciated, but honestly, these guys would be awesome if they arrived with nothing. NECA has positioned itself in “toy of the year” talk with these babies, as these are two incredible action figures. The only negative to add is that these guys are basically unattainable now at retail pricing. NECA set them up as made-to-order and it sounds like if you didn’t order a set you’re out of luck. NECA apparently didn’t even order extra for quality control as the only other downside is that I’ve talked to a few people who had issues, either a misassembled figure or missing accessory, and NECA couldn’t help them. NECA is also sensitive to the fact that they are a collector brand so they do not want to devalue their products, but they’re also a company out to make money so if there is tremendous demand for these figures after this release then maybe something will happen in the future. Never say never. They could do a limited box set release, a single card release, or maybe re-release them re-tooled with pixel art to mimic their appearance in Turtles in Time. That probably won’t satisfy people who want the screen accurate version, but I suppose it would be better than nothing. All I’m saying, is NECA has said stuff is one and done before only to re-release it later. If you missed out, you’re going to have to go to eBay for the time being or hope someone ordered two that was forward thinking and assumed a collector would have missed out. These guys are awesome and if I had missed the pre-order window I honestly don’t know how high I’d go in terms of price to get a set, but I know I would not want this set missing from my collection so I think I’d do whatever it took to fill that void.

Faces only a “Mama” could love!

Tokka and Rahzar all but complete my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film collection. NECA is prepping an April from the first film that will be released in the same fashion as this set, made-to-order, and there’s a good chance I’ll grab that. Otherwise, I think I’m good. I don’t need Secret of the Ooze Shredder or turtles and I definitely don’t need a Keno. If they can ever get the likeness rights for Tatsu then maybe I’ll give that a whirl, but NECA has been unable to get ahold of him and even put out a plea to anyone who knows him to speak with him on their behalf. The only other announced products are a Secret of the Ooze Shredder (I should say teased, never shown) and a two-pack featuring Oroku Saki and Hamato Yoshi, and as tempting as a little Splinter in his cage is, I don’t feel like I need that set. If this is the final movie set for me though, then what a way to go out!

Remember, stupid babies need the most attention.

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