Category Archives: Film

Super7 Disney Ultimates! Robin Hood

Robin Hood is after you and he’s not in a joking mood!

When Super7 announced it was taking Disney into its world of Ultimates! line of action figures, they really seemed to confuse the Disney fans unfamiliar with their business model when the first wave consisted of Sorcerer Mickey, Pinocchio, and Prince John from Robin Hood. Where was Robin Hood?! Well, he was coming, just in Wave 2. The company was apparently going to slow burn the movies in Disney’s very famous film library, but persistent confusion and outcry (which Super7 felt was coming from the Disney collector, and not necessarily the Super7 collector) caused them to change lanes. Wave 4 of Disney Ultimates! was solicited a couple of months ago and all three figures are based on The Nightmare Before Christmas. That will apparently be the model going forward, but given that there’s a significant lag between solicitation and delivery, we’re still talking about Wave 2 which just dropped in the past month and included that much sought after Robin Hood.

Robin and PJ together at last!

Robin Hood is the lone figure from the film of the same name in Super7’s Wave Two. He comes in the standard window box with slipcover and I got mine direct from Super7 for the not so lovely price of $55. Back when the figure first went up, I really wanted to support Super7 in their journey into Disney so I placed my order direct with them. I also thought that meant I’d get it before other retailers, but Big Bad Toy Store has been shipping these for about a month now so that obviously didn’t work. And after being all-in on Wave One largely on principle, I just couldn’t do it for Wave Two which also featured Alice from Alice in Wonderland, the Mad Hatter from the same, and Hyacinth Hippo from Fantasia. I just could not muster up any appetite for those three figures as I don’t really like either movie. The hippo looked the most impressive out of all four figures in the wave, but since I had Prince John I did want to pair him with someone. And Robin Hood was a film I liked a lot as a kid and it holds up pretty well today.

So what do we think? Accurate enough for you?

When the solicitation did go up, I wasn’t that impressed, but I also wasn’t for Wave One and those were refined along the way and turned out better than the render. Unfortunately, the same isn’t true of Wave Two. Robin Hood looks as solicited which is to say he’s a bit off-model. The head shape seems all wrong to me, the proportions are off, and there’s nothing in the paint or sculpt that attempts to capture that scratchy look of the lines from the film. It’s like they had someone sculpt the character from memory, or maybe there’s some modern, licensing, art out there designed to make the character look cuter? There could also be another factor contributing to the aesthetic that we’ll get to. First glance though is that he doesn’t look right. There’s clearly no commitment to make the character look like he just jumped out of the film which is the approach I want to see, but maybe that’s not what Super7 wants?

Who has two thumbs and an arrow through the head?

It doesn’t get much better with the figure in hand. Robin Hood is very plain looking. There’s almost no paint on this figure past the neck. It’s a very “plastic” looking release similar to Prince John. Unlike Prince John, there are no soft goods present on the base figure. And I should talk about this like it’s two figures. I’m fine with that though as a soft goods tunic would probably look terrible. Unfortunately, the figure just looks cheap and it feels just as cheap. The tail in particular looks too soft and feels worse because it’s hollow. I don’t disagree with making it hollow as a heavier tail affects balance (and he already balances poorly), but there’s nothing really on it. No attempt to make it appear furry. It’s just not good.

This pose is easy enough to pull off, once you heat the hand to fit the bow anyway.

Accessories can help liven up a dull experience, but with this figure, your mileage may vary. Robin Hood has gipping hands in the box and a second set of hands with a tighter grip and a thumb up. They appear to be intended for use with the bow and arrow. The bow looks fine and has a real string, but it doesn’t fit either hand well. The standard gripping hand is too loose and the secondary one is too tight. At least with the too tight option some heat can make it pliable to get the bow in there. The included arrow fits fine into the other tighter hand as it slides between the index and middle finger so he can string it. There’s also a quiver and to get that onto the figure you will want to remove the head because there’s almost no give in the strap. The quiver is also solid plastic and the arrows don’t come out which is a bit of a bummer, but not the end of the world as long as you don’t lose the one, lone, arrow. His other accessory is a second head which features a startled expression and an arrow through his hat. The arrow is warped and looks ridiculous and I doubt I ever would use this head anyway. There’s also an unsightly seem line on the lower jaw that takes away from the presentation. All of the other accessories are for the stork disguise, which we’ll discuss separately, which really makes the base offering feel light. The default gripping hands are essentially useless as they don’t work with the bow and arrow and he has nothing else to hold. No sword, really? And how about a legitimate second head that maybe has a cocky grin or a more determined face instead of this gag head? You basically can pose with the bow and arrow or with nothing which is pretty poor for options.

This is not, though it’s hardly convincing anyway. If I let this figure rest like this either the bow or the arrow would eventually give out and go flinging off somewhere. The arrow should be able to peg into the bow, or knock, for added stability.

Which brings us to articulation. Never the strong suit for Super7, I’m afraid it’s worse than usual here. Super7 went with a ball-hinge for the head, which is different from the usual big ball peg for this line and also different from the double-ball I see in the TMNT line. The only thing the hinge does is let the figure look down, but not really any more than the previous setup. There’s no up rotation and no nuance posing. He can rotate, but that’s basically it. The hinge just gets in the way when swapping heads making for a frustrating experience. The shoulders can raise out to the side and rotate all around while the elbows are single-hinged with a swivel. The biceps also swivel at the sleeve. The arms are very thin and gummy feeling, but at least the elbows bend past 90 degrees. The wrists also swivel and hinge and all of the hinges are horizontal hinges which is not optimal for the bow and arrow. There’s a diaphragm joint that does almost nothing. No forward, no back, just a little rotation. The waist also can rotate. At the hips, we just go forward and back. There’s no out to the side and the knees are a single hinge and swivel point. The swivel does more harm than good as it’s hard to figure out what the neutral position is supposed to be. The hinge does very little and I think his knees are supposed to always be pointing out from his body, but it’s frustrating to pose. Worse are the ankles which, like the knees, just swivel and hinge. There’s no ankle rocker. And what’s more annoying is trying to get the hinge pointed where you want it is a pain because it swivels above and below the hinge so if you grip the foot to rotate that piece it will just spin with the shoe. It’s maddening. Thankfully, he does have that ugly tail because it makes getting him to stand much easier than it would be without and that thing swivels and has a hinge. No ankle rocker is an awful choice. It’s usually the one joint Super7 does well and here they declined to try it for some reason (probably for the disguise). The only saving grace for this figure, articulation wise, is he can do a bow stringing pose, but that’s pretty much it.

Hey! It’s some stork guy!

And now that takes us to basically the other figure: Stork Robin Hood. During the film, Robin Hood disguises himself as a stork to enter an archery contest and Super7 decided to make that a focus for this release. I don’t know that I agree with the call, but it’s what they decided. Personally, I consider his beggar persona more iconic, but admit the stork has a fun look in the film. To do that, the figure separates at the waist and Super7 included a second lower half. It’s just the legs in a squat pose and the only articulation is found at the ankles which is the same hinge piece the other lower half possesses. Basically, we’re just cutting out the knee joints. For the that, there are new “feet” which are Robin’s feet on stilts that peg into the ankle joints. They feature no additional articulation, not even a swivel at the boot. I’m guessing this is why they abandoned the ankle rocker to make the connection point simpler, but why not just make the stilts peg into the standard feet? Were the knees that much of a problem? And if they were, just make the stilts already attached to the second torso – why separate them? The left leg also isn’t straight and I don’t know if that is by design or not. There are three sets of winged hands that peg into the arms where the hands go plus there’s a quiver, bow, and arrow to match the ones he used in the film plus the golden arrow trophy on a pillow. Lastly, we have a new head to complete the ensemble.

Robin is considerably taller in this getup. Note how I picked he wrong bow and failed to secure the quiver before putting on the head.

Assembling the figure isn’t what I would describe as a fun experience. The hands are tight, but they came off without damage and the winged ones go on fine. Before doing that though, you will want to slip the soft goods tunic over the torso. The head is a bit of a pain to get off and on, but doable. The torso pegs together easy enough as do the feet and once assembled Robin stands over 8″ tall. It’s once the whole thing is together that the frustration sets in. The hinges where the feet peg in are way too loose. It makes his legs want to go all over the place when trying to stand him. And since there’s no articulation at the boots on the stilts, you have few tools to work with when trying to balance the guy. I watched it fall over and over before finally getting him to stand still in a semi decent arrow-knocking pose. And once I did, I realized I forgot to put the quiver on. That thing has no give in the strap so getting it on is way harder than it should be. And then once it’s on, trying to get the head without disturbing it is even harder. My quiver now has purple paint on it from it riding up under the hat while trying to get the head on. Plus at some point he fell and one of the false arrows in the quiver snapped off. And if you need to do anything to this guy once posed, expect it to all fall apart. The waist isn’t held on by much, though I suppose it’s better that it separate easily than not. Having him actually draw the bow is pretty tough too as the arrow doesn’t have a notch in it. I hooked the string onto a finger and then just tried to balance the arrow in a convincing manner, but it doesn’t work too well.

He can at least handle the bow in a slightly more convincing fashion than the base figure.

Once standing it’s the type of figure that you don’t dare mess with. Or at least, I wouldn’t if I intended for him to stay this way. I will say, the stork head looks great. It’s easily the best sculpted part of the set and also the best painted. One of the legs features some chipped paint which stinks though. The whole costume really looks much better than the base figure, provided you can stand him. I just don’t know why so much of the budget was put into making this costume the way it is. He has a set of open hands, a set of gripping hands, and a set of bow and arrow hands. Why so many when the regular Robin Hood gets just two? What purpose do the regular gripping hands serve that the arrow hands can’t do? The direction and decision making on this one is just baffling and to top it off there are no peg holes in the feet. For a figure that struggles to stand, why not at least put some holes in there? He really should just come with a stand, or a second torso. Or the damn legs should just be static so he stays standing. It’s not like they can do anything. They could have included a second, unarticulated, torso then at least you would get a second display piece out of this. The money spent to tool more hands would have been better served on that. They wouldn’t even have to paint it or anything since it’s hidden by the soft goods. Instead, it feels like an inordinate amount of the budget went towards this disguise that most people will never use. I’m slightly tempted to display it by virtue of the fact that it looks better than the standard Robin Hood, but I have zero confidence in it staying upright on my shelf and I’m not sinking more money into this thing to add a stand. I think the proportions and articulation of the base figure were compromised to make this stork version look more on-model and that makes no sense. Someone just fell in love with the concept of making Robin Hood “transform” into this stork persona and never stopped to question if it was really a good idea to move forward with.

PJ seems to think he smells. He’s not wrong.

The final verdict is that Super7 delivered an off-model and compromised figure of Robin Hood that can pull off a convincing stork disguise in theory, though in practice the results are far more mixed. Is that what people wanted? I know I didn’t. To make matters worse, the figure looks and feels cheap, the articulation is poor, and the display options boil down to two, three if you’re in love with the arrow through the hat expression. And it costs 55 bucks! This thing is way overpriced relative to what you’re getting. At this price point, this thing needs to “wow.” It needs to feel like a premium collector item, but it looks like a toy from the 90s. The look of it really reminds me of the Lion King action figures from when that film came out. The plastic look of the figure makes me think of Happy Meal toys. That’s not a good thing for a $55 action figure. This is the worst Super7 figure I own and I’m out. No way am I paying upfront for any of the figures in this line again. Had I ordered this from another retailer I would have cancelled it. It’s that bad. If it were 25 bucks and didn’t feature the stork I still don’t think I’d buy it because it just doesn’t look that good. Why spend money on something that doesn’t look good whether its 10, 20, or 50 bucks? And I didn’t even mention the shipping so I’m actually in for closer to $70 on this thing. That’s pretty bad. I’m also really second guessing the preorder I have for Wave 3’s Big Bad Wolf. I want to see Super7 go into the classic shorts for this line so I preordered that partly as a show of support for that move, but after getting this and looking at the anatomy of the character in the solicitations I’m left feeling the experience will be similar. Unlike with Robin Hood, there’s still time for me to cancel that one and I’m thinking that’s probably a good idea.

We’ll end on a shelf shot, since that’s probably what matters most for many would-be buyers.

It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway, that I do not recommend this figure at all. If you love the stork version or are not bothered by how Robin Hood looks then maybe take a swing when it inevitably hits clearance. This thing will not stay at $55 and I bet it’s around $38 before long. Hold out even longer and you may do better. Seriously, Entertainment Earth has had some wild sales on Super7 stuff of late so at this time next year it wouldn’t shock me to see this sold for less than $30. I still wouldn’t buy it at that price, but it’s a lot better than $55.

Looking for more from Disney and Super7?

Super7 Disney Ultimates! Prince John

Our third and final figure of the inaugural wave of Disney Ultimates! from Super7 is the most surprising of the bunch: Prince John, the phony King of England! Super7 often surprises with its deep cuts, and Prince John certainly fits the bill. While it’s hard to argue much from Disney could be considered a true…

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Super7 Disney Ultimates! Mickey Mouse as The Sorcerer’s Apprentice

The first figure from this line of Super7 action figures based on characters from Disney’s treasure trove of animated characters was Pinocchio. In that review, I mentioned how Disney wanted to outdo itself with Pinocchio and sunk a lot of money into that film’s production. Well, the only other film from that era that might…

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Super7 Disney Ultimates! Pinocchio

It seems I keep setting personal records this year for longest duration of a preorder and the new champion is Super7’s first wave of Disney Ultimates! These figures went up for preorder in August of 2020 likely closing sometime in September. At the time, the expected release was somewhere around June 2021, but a lot…

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NECA TMNT Secret of the Ooze 4-Pack and Accessory Set

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II – Let’s Get Silly!

It’s that time of year when a lot of folks are reflecting on the past year and all of the things that happened. This usually coincides with list-making for favorites and worst of the year in basically every category you can dream of. And for action figure enthusiasts, there’s definitely a lot of list making. And here to blow it all up is NECA who managed to sneak this set out before the end of the year even though it wasn’t expected until Q1 2023. When the set went up for preorder in April, I think most hoped that by Christmas we’d have it hand. And when a few months ago two-packs of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from The Secret of the Ooze started showing up at Walmart that seemed to encourage fans to dream of an early arrival. It also predictably annoyed some since the stuff that was prepaid for in the spring was still outstanding while Walmart was getting basically the same thing, but that’s a whole other thing.

NECA has eased into the second film in the TMNT franchise. After first indicating it wasn’t that interested in any of the films beyond the first, we started to see the villains. Tokka and Rahzar, multiple versions of Super Shredder, and a standard Shredder all arrived before the actual turtles. Those first film turtles are some of my all-time favorite action figures. They began life as quarter scale figures and the very first one I got was Donatello. It was a Christmas gift in 2016 so it’s fitting that I’m still talking movie turtles now six Christmases removed. Despite my love for those figures, I wasn’t really feeling that excited about these ones. I ordered the set largely out of convenience. I had no desire to stalk Walmart in search for them and my Secret of the Ooze collection had grown large enough that it needed the turtles. I don’t even particularly like the movie, but I did as a kid, and I’m still at least fond of the costumes from it. I also expected these figures to be very similar to the previous ones so there wasn’t a lot to be excited about. Then I got them in hand and I felt rather stupid for ever overlooking a NECA TMNT release.

There she is, in all her glory!

This set is the NECA store exclusive VHS four-pack. Just like NECA did with the first film, this set of four turtles comes housed in a pretty substantial box which is designed to resemble the original VHS release of the film. Only the turtles on the box have been substituted for images of the actual figures. It’s pretty cool, though this set made it a lot harder on photographer Stephen Mazurek. The front cover looks fantastic, but the image on the rear is pretty goofy looking because these figures really aren’t articulated enough to replicate the poses from the back of the VHS box. As a result, Mikey and Donnie both look like they’re riding an invisible horse or something. The box is huge though as it’s nearly 17″ in height and 10″ across. The lettering on it is raised, like a VHS, and it will look nice next to the same box from the first movie set. And like that, it’s a slipcover and the inner box features a tray with the figures and accessories inside secured behind a plastic cover with more photography all over the place. Considering that nothing in the box is exclusive to this set, you’re basically paying a premium for the fancy box and at least it delivers. Well, there is one thing that’s exclusive and it’s a backdrop. It’s a thick cardboard and it’s of the club from the film’s climax, the exterior wall. Could we one day see the interior stage setup? Only time will tell.

These may be the only turtles I choose not to display with their weapons.

I’m as charmed as anyone by a fancy box, but what I really care about are the figures inside. The turtles are all on the same body, but it does differ from the body of the first film turtles. They each stand at around 6.25″ in height, and considering it’s a 7″ scale line, that seems pretty good. The only thing that stinks about that is all four turtles are the same height when at least Michelangelo should be shorter, but that was something we had to overlook with the other figures too. The stuff that’s reused are the arms and legs and maybe whatever is inside the shell. The plastron, shell, pads, belts, and heads are all new. Even though the thighs appear to be the same between releases, these figures do have updated hips with the ball and socket joint. Like the previous figures, the biceps are actually a little different as Leo and Mikey share the same parts while Donnie and Raph share some as well. The shells are all the same, though Raph’s has some distress marks carved into his and Leo’s appears to allow for the scabbards of his swords to key-in. Each turtle does differ in that the pattern of their freckles are applied different from brother to brother.

In terms of changes from the past figures to these ones, they’re mostly subtle, but apparent. Obviously, the heads are all different as the costumes were overhauled to allow for a wider range of expressions. Donnie’s changed the most, while there’s a hint of the first film Leo and Raph in their designs. Mikey was practically unchanged, but his head seems a little smaller and more round. All of the turtles wear their bandanas over both shoulders and that’s reflected here. There are no optional display parts there. The colors are also a bit softer, especially Leo and Raph, and it’s captured here. The skin tone also appears to have more yellow incorporated into the green so they have a slightly different appearance. For some reason, there’s a powdery, green, residue on them this time around which tends to rub onto the accessories when placed in the gripping hands and can even find its way onto one’s hands after extensive play. I’m not sure why that is, but it’s so far been easy to clean off of the accessories. The plastron of each turtle is shaded more heavily than it was in the first film and I like how it contrasts with the otherwise brighter look. Michelangelo also has satchels for his nunchaku this time around which is cool and a nice addition to both the real world costume and the figure. Perhaps due to the flaky nature of the topcoat, there are a few spots on the figures where the plastic is shiny. On Leo especially, his right foot appears a lot glossier than the left which is a bit odd. Maybe they missed that piece with a final paint app or something. The powdery green also shows up in some of the grooves, especially on the hands, which is a little off-putting but not something that can be seen from a shelf. I would classify such issues as relatively minor, for otherwise these look like they jumped out of the movie. It’s almost eerie at times to look at them because they seem so lifelike.

It’s turtle time.

Since the bodies in use are very similar to the past turtles, it shouldn’t surprise anyone to learn the articulation is more or less the same. All of the turtles feature a double-ball peg for the head. The lower peg is recessed quite a bit so the range isn’t optimal. The turtles can basically rotate fine, but looking down varies from turtle to turtle with Michelangelo performing the best. None of them can look up and the ball peg is pretty snug and tight. At the shoulders we have ball-hinges and they can raise their arms out to just about horizontal and rotate all around. There’s no biceps swivel, which is something I would have welcomed, but we do have the NECA double-elbows which feature two hinges and a swivel above and below the joint. The elbow pads are smaller this time around and peg into the elbow like the quarter scale figures. This results in better range than we saw on the first film release as the turtles can now bend their elbows past 90 degrees. The wrists swivel and every hinge features a horizontal orientation, which is a bummer for Leonardo, especially. In the torso, there’s a ball joint or something, but it doesn’t do a whole lot. It basically just provides a tiny bit of rotation and tilt. The hips are the newer model hips and the turtles can just about do splits. They can’t quite kick forward all the way though as the thighs rub against the plastron. It’s also very creaky and unpleasant. There’s a bit of a thigh swivel at the ball-joint and the knees are double-jointed. They can just get past 90 degrees there while the ankles feature the usual hinge and rocker combo and works all right. They’ll move okay, but elaborate stuff is a bit out of the question. I do wish they had decided to sacrifice a tiny amount of the aesthetic to carve in a biceps swivel, but I understand why they didn’t. The lack of vertical hinges for the gripping hands is the one major oversight and NECA frustrates me in that area. They sometimes include such a hinge, and sometimes they don’t. Toon Leo and Raph, for example, have them and even the quarter scale movie Leonardo has them. The 7″ scale ones don’t though and that’s a real bummer.

Combat cole cuts!

This four-pack also comes packed with a fair assortment of accessories. Some are repeats, and some are new. For hands, all four turtles come with gripping hands. They then share the following sets: open, relaxed gripping, thumbs up, and pointing/sai grip. The gripping hands are really tight, but pliable. They’ll hold almost everything, but the green paint will transfer. There’s a full canister of ooze, which you probably have several of by now, and a second empty canister of ooze which is new. The fire extinguisher makes a return, but new this time is the foam bat from the opening of the film. It’s not actual foam though, but painted, hard, plastic. There’s also a new pizza box and it comes with a bunch of pizza “stubs” which is a nice addition. There’s also a full slice with a hole through the center so Raphael can catch his touchdown pass as he did in the film. There’s an extra left forearm and this is for Donnie as his default forearm features the wristwatch in the wrist strap as seen in one scene of the film. I have no idea how easy it is to swap forearms as I have no intention of removing the unique wristwatch arm. Mikey also comes with his “combat cole cuts,” two pairs of linked sausages which are in a nice, rubbery, plastic that almost makes them feel real. And lastly, each turtle has his standard weapons. For Leo, Raph, and Donnie, these are the same as the first film turtles with Donnie’s bo having a noticeably lighter paint app. For Mikey, his nunchaku have been updated so that instead of a pair of strings connecting the two he has something more like a bendy wire. It doesn’t seem to be strong enough for posing, but perhaps it will be more durable. They slot rather snugly into his new satchels too.

That’s a fair amount of stuff. I think we could always use more hands, especially with vertical hinges, but I think they come with enough. Maybe another set of open hands should have been included so they could execute a proper Cowabunga pose, but at least we have the hands from the first set. If that’s not enough though then NECA has you covered as they also put up for sale an accessory set alongside this release. I passed on the same for the first film, but this time I decided to go all-in. And there’s a lot of stuff in here. It comes in a square box with an image of one of the film’s theatrical posters on the cover (the same image we saw on the Super Shredder release) with photography on the rear and spines. Inside the box is a big plastic tray with a cover over it and all of the accessories are visible. It’s not as flashy a package as the VHS box, but it’s durable and easy to reseal if you can’t find a home for all of this stuff.

I guess we’ll just plow through it, but this thing has a lot of stuff pulled from the film. Up first, another ooze canister! This one though is basically the catalyst for the film as it’s the empty, broken, canister and it can separate just like the one in the film. It’s a nice little thing to have and kind of makes me wants another Splinter. To keep track of these things, there’s a computer and keyboard and, uh oh, one canister is still active! Also in here is Michelangelo’s chocolate bar so he can annoy Raph. And if he’s thirsty, there’s a red mug of what appears to be cola that features a straw and a blue mug without a straw. If salty is more your thing, there’s also a bowl of popcorn and two bags of potato chips (the bare essentials). When it’s time to clean up after another pizza party, there’s a pair of aprons: pink and purple. They’re soft goods and can tie onto any of the figures. There are also two cleaning brushes (wax on, wax off) and Donnie’s bo with a mop molded onto both ends – perfect for cleaning and romancing! These guys eat a lot of pizza, so there’s another box of pie! It’s the same box as the one featured in the four-pack, but this one has four, full, slices inside. They appear to be the same mold as the pizzas that came with the first film figures. When it’s time to move out of April’s apartment there’s a suitcase which can open and actually has a lot of room for stuff inside. Michelangelo’s hat is also included to protect him from the rain, and since you’ll be wanting to contact April once a new home is found there’s also a payphone. It has a slot on the back so that it can be hung on a nail or tack, if you wish. As for something cute, there’s a pre-mutated Rahzar which features articulation at the head. Less cute is the pre-mutated Tokka which has a hinged jaw. Rahzar looks fine, but Tokka is actually pretty impressive. There’s more paint on this little snapping turtle than is featured on most Hasbro figures. There’s also some included reading material, a little, paper, newspaper with “NINJA RAP IS BORN” as the cover story. They had to include that. And if reading’s not your thing, then you can also rock out with the included keytar. It easily slips over the head/shoulder of any turtle and is known to cause massive headaches in villains.

That’s a lot of stuff, and I feel like I’m forgetting something, but I don’t think there’s any way to shake that feeling. Probably the main draw of this set is the five extra heads included for the figures. For Donatello, we get an open mouth expression which works for any of his talking poses. For Michelangelo, we get the opposite as his is more stoic compared with his default open mouth. Leonardo also gets a stoic face and it’s an expression I more associate with the character than his smiling portrait from the four-pack. Raphael’s is the least different as he has a half smile, I guess, by default and the new head is a full smile. He gets a third head though which features tape across the mouth so he can be “a little too Raph” should it please you. I wish they included a post to tie him to as well. Oddly, the Raph heads feature a darker shade of red on the bandana while the others are more uniform. I’m guessing this is an error, but it’s probably not something that will bother most. As for swapping the heads, it’s pretty painless. I was nervous about it at first, but I didn’t even need to heat them up or anything (same is true for the joints on the figures) and was able to just pop them off. Getting the secondary heads to really snap-in is tricky and may require heat. It does create a dilemma on what to display. I definitely prefer the alternate Leo head and I think I like the open mouth Donnie head more. Raph is the only one where I’m kind of lukewarm as far as preferring one over the other. Eventually, I probably will tie him up as it’s just too funny.

These figures are pretty damn terrific. If you have any desire to add action figures of the turtles from Secret of the Ooze to your collection then you absolutely should track these down. The four pack is basically long gone, but two-packs should continue shipping all throughout 2023 to Walmart stores. Hopefully, NECA does a big restock at some point to help make it easier because they’re going to be in demand. The accessory set is unfortunately a NECA store exclusive and it too is long gone. They might reissue it at some point, but considering they’ve never done that for the first film accessory set it likely will be a long wait. If it’s something you have to have then you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and buy one on the secondary market. For 60 bucks, I think it’s worth it, but I don’t think I’d personally go much higher than that. The two-packs are a complete enough package that it’s hard to call the accessory set essential, but there is a lot of fun stuff in there. I particularly like the phone and the PC, though figuring out a way to display the PC is going to be tricky. I wish they had just included a little table for it and the office chair Donnie went surfing on. If the accessory set had included more hands, especially the coveted vertical hinged hands, it definitely would have been more of a slam dunk.

The collection basically doubled with this release (not pictured is the Shadow Master variant of Super Shredder nor the Euro variant, the latter of which I didn’t get).

This is another homerun from NECA and an A+ release. It’s also potentially the last release from the Secret of the Ooze for me. A figure of Keno with his moped is coming in 2023, but I’m on the fence there. Do I need a Keno? No, but the fact that he comes with his motorcycle is pretty cool. And if he’s sold on the NECA website that will go a long way. I’m definitely not going to run around Walmart looking for him. If this is the end though, then I’m pretty damn happy with the display I have and I think anyone else who invests in this line will be too.

More from The Secret of the Ooze…

NECA TMNT Secret of the Ooze Tokka and Rahzar

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…

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NECA TMNT Secret of the Ooze Ultimate Shredder

For the first time in a long time we went a week without a blog entry here. That’s because I took a much needed vacation and didn’t schedule anything. I’ll probably be backing off a little bit as we dig deeper into 2022 since there’s a certain holiday I need to get crackin’ on if…

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NECA TMNT Super Shredder

“The last vial of ooze!” “He must have drank all of it!” “It’s a Super Shredder!!!” It’s a simple, obvious, and corny introduction for a character, but as a 7-year old it felt rather impactful. The introduction of Super Shredder in the waning moments of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze…

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Dec. 17 – Peace on Earth (1939)

Original release date December 9, 1939.

Hugh Harman was one of the early stars in the field of animation. In fact, we talked about one of his shorts already this year, but perhaps his most famous and most celebrated is the 1939 anti-war film Peace on Earth. According to Harman, the short subject was nominated for The Nobel Peace Prize, but no such record exists of that officially happening. Perhaps it was merely in the conversation and Harman was mistaken or the record of its nomination was simply lost to time. Either way, it’s often a distinction tacked on to any conversation about the short, but in truth, it doesn’t need such accolades to justify its relevance as the short carries a very simple, relatable, and irrefutable message.

The cartoon centers around the lyric and Bible verse “Peace on Earth / Good will to men,” or as stated by Luke “on Earth, peace, good will toward men.” It came during a time when the world was moving towards another global conflict that would eventually be labeled World War II with many people alive still able to remember the first World War. It’s understandable why there would be a lot of uneasiness at that time, and Harman seemed to think that Christmas would be the appropriate backdrop for this anti-war piece. It was released by MGM in December of 1939 and would receive an Academy Award nomination, though it lost to Disney’s The Ugly Duckling. It’s certainly a bit heavy-handed, so maybe that explains why it wasn’t embraced more in the moment, but it came to be relegated as one of the best short subjects that takes place during Christmas. In my youth, Cartoon Network could be guaranteed to show it every Christmas Eve, usually late at night and possibly right around midnight, and that’s where I saw it most. Laying in my bed, unable to sleep due to the excitement to follow the next day, watching as many Christmas cartoons as I could find on television.

Not many Christmas cartoons begin with a look at a church in ruin.

The short opens with an animated title card. “Peace on Earth” is in an elegant font while shadowy men run by and a church appears to burn in the background. The camera pans across weapons of war all covered with snow and the ruins of an old church, possibly the burned out one from before. A choir can be heard singing an original composition, sort of. It’s “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” but the words have been adjusted to really emphasize the “peace on Earth” portion of the song. At least I think it’s original as the old audio and the fact that it’s sung by a choir can make it hard to decipher the lyrics. There are other songs out there called “Peace on Earth” that may or may not be the same or similar. Either way, it sounds lovely enough.

Sing it, boys! That’s the good stuff!

It’s a snowy, nighttime, setting and an old, gray, squirrel (Mel Blanc) is walking through town. The song is originating from a trio of carolers that appear to be red squirrels or chipmunks. They’re anthropomorphized and wearing clothes while the buildings appear to be made out of human items so they’re not giant animals like Mickey Mouse or even Bugs Bunny. The old squirrel walks with a cane, but he’s got a big smile on his face as he sings along really emphasizing the whole “Peace on Earth, good will to men,” part. He encourages the carolers in their singing and when he reaches a small house with a wreath on the door he pauses to remark how it’s a wonderful world! He sure is in high spirits.

I want to call this a cozy, Christmas, setting, but there’s really nothing Christmassy in the shot.

In a small house, a mother squirrel knits while two smaller squirrels sleep in a cradle. One is in blue pajamas and the other pink so I’m guessing they’re brother and sister assuming animals abide by the gender norms of the era. The old squirrel bursts in singing his song and the two little ones wake up instantly shouting “Grandpa!” It would appear grandpa here mated with a red squirrel at some point if the mother is his daughter. We don’t know, as she will only have one line. I have to give her credit for not getting ticked off with the old guy for waking the children.

Uh oh, it’s grandpa and he’s ready to party!

The kids and their grandfather exchange “Merry Christmas,” and all that. There’s apparently no material component to animal Christmas as the grandfather has not come baring gifts or anything, they’re just happy to see him as they jump into his arms. He waddles over to an arm chair the mother vacated for him, but she failed to remove her ball of yarn and crocheting tools and the poor guy sits on them. He pops up immediately and for a moment appears ready to lose his cool, but he just tosses the yarn aside and sits down. That little gag is basically the only physical comedy we’re going to get in this one.

Settle in kids, it’s time to talk about the apocalypse.

The whole time the grandpa squirrel has been walking around he’s been continuing the song and also just muttering to himself the “good will to men,” line. One of the children then asks their grandfather what the line means. It would seem there are no more men so the kids have no reference point for them. Well, this just means we’re going to have to have a bit of story time as old grampy squirrel tells the kids about who man was and why he’s no longer around.

It’s easy to see why they’d fear us.

How does a squirrel describe men to those who never saw them? Well, as monsters! He rises from the chair to demonstrate and all we see are the shadows of the characters on the wall, but they soon fade and are replaced with images of men. He describes them as great, big, monsters with iron pots on their heads that walked on two legs that carried terrible looking shooting irons. The image we see is of a soldier wearing a helmet and gas mask carrying a rifle. The uniform is brown and likely deliberately nondescript so as not to put the blame on what’s to follow on any one group of people, but all people.

A banner Bugs Bunny would support.

The grandfather continues to describe the man we’re looking at and mistakes the hose on the gas mask for man’s nose. As he describes them, we cut back to the little home and the two kid squirrels are a little scared. One of them expresses relief that all of them are gone and the other agrees. The grandfather then goes on to say he couldn’t figure them out and describes them as always fighting. When one argument was settled, another came up. This whole time we’re watching tanks and artillery getting moved into position and the grandfather describes the escalating hostility as so silly that vegetarians began waging war against meat eaters. We see that displayed via banners of war, another rare instance of legitimate humor in this one.

Now he’s getting into it!

He then goes on to say that one day they got into a terrible fight. Now we’re seeing those weapons of war being used, and the burning church from the intro is back as men run past it. Artillery weapons are firing, planes are dropping bombs, and soldiers are banging away. The grandfather is shown acting things out by swinging his hat and cane around in the living room and banging on a pot. He describes hearing a whistling sound, which we then cut back to the scenes of war and recognize them as bombs. The music has been steadily rising in intensity as well. There’s explosions, soldiers firing machine guns, troops running around and that same background of the flaming church shows up again. The sequence ends with soldiers at a stationary machine gun and fades to show the grandpa mimicking them using his cane as the gun and rattling it over some logs. He’s wearing the pot on his head.

The death of the last man.

The children then ask what happened next and the grandfather confirms it was terrible. Just two men were left. We see one soldier aiming from inside a trench and another waist deep in a swamp. A gun shot rings out and the soldier recoils, but before he falls he’s able to squeeze off a round of his own presumably hitting the other. The swampy soldier then sinks to his demise.

The world belongs to them now.

Among the tattered trees and desolation, the woodland critters poke their heads out. As they begin to explore the now man-less world, a mournful instrumental of the main theme plays. They soon flock to a blown out church and a younger version of the grandfather squirrel approaches a wise owl looking over a book. It’s a version of the Bible, likely the old testament, and when the squirrel asks what it says he reads aloud the commandment before him, “Thou shalt not kill.” He then flips through the pages and remarks that it seems like a collection of mighty good rules, but man chose to ignore them. He comes to rest on a page that reads, “Ye shall rebuild the old wastes.”

All right, we get it!

Upon hearing that, the other animals (which are basically all small mammals and a few birds) declare that’s what they’ll do. They’ll rebuild! They start picking up the wreckage left behind, mostly old helmets from fallen soldiers, and start building around them. The music picks up and the scene shifts to a brightly lit setting. The animals are now wearing clothes and utilizing tools to build their new society from the ashes of war. If you didn’t get the message of this short, the name of the town will drive that point home for you: Peaceville.

They fell asleep once they got past all of the killing.

The camera pans over the animals building and it transitions to a shot of the town in the present day. The choir comes back in singing “Peace on Earth” and the camera pans across the town until it comes to rest on the little house where the story is being told from. The carolers then shift to “Silent Night” and the grandpa is shown sitting in the armchair with his grandkids in his arms fast asleep. He’s finishing his story, but before he can actually finish the line “Good will to men,” the mother “shushes” him. He smiles and puts the kids back in the cradle then he hobbles his way towards the door grabbing his hat along the way and reciting over and over to himself “Peace on earth.” He leaves, though without his cane, and the camera pans back over to the mother squirrel who finally gets a line, “Sleep in heavenly peace.” The image fades to one of clouds with the words “Peace on Earth” in the center of the screen. It fades out and we see the clouds with beams of light passing through them.

The mother finally gets to do something just before the thing ends.

That’s how Peace on Earth concludes its message. It’s a nakedly obvious message, but one that really can’t be refuted. The Harman directed short is able to sidestep most politics of the day by not depicting any one army and puts the failure of war squarely on all of mankind. The mood is sort of hopeful as we see the animals come together to build their own society, but at the same time it feels pessimistic since, you know, all of mankind had to die in order for peace to be achieved. It gives the short a time capsule feel as this was likely the mood of many a person as the world was on the verge of all-out war once again. The short also offers a solution in the form of the Bible, or church, which feels a bit dated now since it seems all of the worst people are backed by evangelicals in the United States, at least. The messages are still there, but few seem interested in following the basic tenants.

There certainly are some cutesy looking animals in this one.

It’s a nice sentiment that’s baked into this one, but it’s also pretty on-the-nose. It feels like “Oscar bait,” but at least that’s reflected in the budget. The animation on this one is Disney level. I am having a hard time thinking of many non-Disney shorts that look this good. Maybe some of the early Tom and Jerry stuff or the Chuck Jones early works that were deliberately trying to imitate Disney. The characters all have that round, soft, look to them which makes them pleasant to look at while the men are done in a realistic style. Some of their movements may be rotoscoped, but it’s hard to know for certain. The backgrounds are highly detailed, though they are a bit few. Especially in the scenes of war as many are recycled and they got a lot of a mileage out of that burning church background. I suppose it’s fine though since they look good and there are only so many ways to portray a darkened, war-torn, setting in an 8 minute short. The quality of the score also matches the production quality of the images as it’s very cinematic and often intense.

The short gets a lot of mileage out of this background, but at least it’s a good one.

I don’t know if Peace on Earth is worthy of being considered for a Nobel Peace Prize, but it is a good cartoon. It does straddle the line as far as taste goes so I can see it being too much for some who might respond in a cynical fashion. And I can also see plenty of folks finding it profound. For me, my response is more in the middle. It’s a sweet little cartoon and I enjoy the visuals, but it could use some subtlety as well. As a kid, there was a shocking element to the short for me the first time I saw it when it just tosses out that mankind is gone. As an adult, it’s less shocking and on my darker days almost seems likely. As a Christmas cartoon, I think it appeals more to the devout since the religious aspect of the holiday is pretty front and center without actually mentioning Jesus. The modern trappings of Christmas aren’t present, and that’s fine. We don’t need Santa in everything.

That’s the goal. It sure would be nice to live to see it.

If you want to check out Peace on Earth, MeTV will probably air it either on the show Toon in With Me or as part of its Tom and Jerry Saturday morning block. Considering today is a Saturday, it might air this morning or next Saturday. If you can’t catch an airing of it though, it has been preserved on the Internet Archive and can be streamed there as well as in other places. It’s not hard to find and these 8 minute shorts don’t even need to be as good as Peace on Earth to make them worth watching at this time of year.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 17 – Popeye the Sailor – “Spinach Greetings”

One of the big, early, cartoon stars was Popeye the Sailor. Popeye starred in newspaper strips, radio plays, and theatrical shorts with contemporaries like Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny. His star has faded over the years, but few would deny Popeye’s place among the greatest cartoon stars of all-time. Come the 1960s though, Popeye and…

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Dec. 17 – The Mask – “Santa Mask”

In the world of film, 1994 belonged to Jim Carrey. On television, 1995 belonged to TV shows based on those 94 movies. Well, not exactly, since all of the shows based on Jim Carrey movies made little impact, but like yesterday’s show I’d hesitate to call today’s subject a failure. The Mask began life as…

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Dec. 17 – Family Guy – “Don’t Be a Dickens at Christmas”

So it’s come to this. We’re doing Family Guy. I don’t mean to come across as a snob or some animation elitist (after all, we already did Robot Chicken), but I don’t care for most of Family Guy. That wasn’t always the case. When the show originally aired on Fox I actually liked it quite…

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Dec. 6 – Silly Symphony – “Santa’s Workshop” (1932)

Original release date December 10, 1932.

Back in 1929 Walt Disney launched the Silly Symphonies series of cartoon shorts. Unlike the Mickey Mouse shorts that were growing popular at the time, Silly Symphonies did not center on just one character or even a group of characters, but rather were fairly self-contained. Some shorts that became popular, like The Three Little Pigs, would receive sequels, but mostly the series was designed to be a testing ground for the animators working for Disney in the 1930s. Techniques with sound and color were first tested in Silly Symphonies as was the famed multiplane camera.

Despite the name, there often wasn’t a ton of “silly” to be found in a given Silly Symphony. Not that it stopped them from being popular or critically acclaimed for a large amount of Disney’s Academy Award wins came from the series. And had the series not been a success we probably wouldn’t have Looney Tunes, which is basically a synonym for Silly Symphony. Warner Bros. Studios would be better at incorporating the “looney” into their Looney Tunes and today those shorts are more fondly recalled and often more celebrated while many associate the Silly Symphonies with noodle-armed characters that just smile and dance around. Not that there aren’t some that are genuinely funny or even scary, and Donald Duck famously debuted in a Silly Symphony short, but the vast majority tend to be more whimsical than anything.

The subject of today’s Christmas post is one of those more gentle and whimsical shorts. Santa’s Workshop was released in December of 1932 and depicts what the famed workshop might look like on Christmas Eve. Understandably, there’s a lot of work to be done and Santa has to rely on his elves to get the bulk of it completed in time for his big flight. The short was directed by Wilfred Jackson and was just the fourth Silly Symphony to utilize Technicolor while also serving as a testing ground for a new audio synchronization technique crafted by RCA. A couple of years ago, we actually looked at the short’s sequel The Night Before Christmas. At the time, I was trying my best not to duplicate specials and shorts already covered by the unaffiliated website, A Cartoon Christmas, but that blog has since gone dormant and most of the old posts are no long accessible so I no longer feel such an obligation.

These must be the guys who empty the mailboxes at Macy’s.

The short begins with an original song by Frank Churchill. I couldn’t find a credit for the song’s name, but the words are “In the North North Pole in a distant land lives Santa Claus with a merry band of jolly elves who sing and dance making toys for girls and boys.” It’s sung with a choir and it just brings us into the picture which begins with an exterior shot of Santa’s Workshop and an elf can be seen hauling a sack of mail in its direction. In the background are more elves with more sacks as there’s apparently a lot of late arrivals this year.

Always important to get that establishing shot or line letting the viewer know how close to Christmas we are.

We then see a group of four elves working on Santa’s sleigh. One is scrubbing, one dusting, one touching up the paint and the fourth is shining the runners. They pause in their work to continue singing to the same melody telling us they’re “Merry, merry, men of the midnight sun,” which makes them sound a lot more intriguing than they really are. The painter elf punctuates their little song in a baritone that tomorrow is Christmas Day, implying they have some urgency in their work despite having time to stop and sing.

The guy on the right definitely has the worst job of the four.

We then cut to another group of four elves taking care of one of Santa’s reindeer. In the background we can see the name Prancer above a stall so I suppose this one is indeed Prancer. Prancer looks like an actual reindeer so I applaud Disney for its attempt at realism since many cartoons seems to model the reindeer after white tail deer and not actual reindeer. The elves in this shot are taking care of Prancer by brushing the fur, polishing the hooves and antlers, and the fourth unlucky elf gets to clean the deer’s butthole. He literally lifts up Prancer’s tail and wipes the deer’s ass with a brush. He seems happy to be doing it though as they’re all whistling to the same melody. We then cut to another elf brushing Donner’s teeth and yet another giving Dancer a rub down before the scene shifts to an interior shot.

That’s a lot of last minute letters or the big man has been slacking this year.

Here we get our first look at the big man himself, Santa Claus (Allan Watson), as he sits among a mountain of letters and goes through each one with a smile on his face. He reads them aloud and as he does his secretary to his left (Pinto Colvig) consults a ledger and lets Santa know if the kid has been good or not. Little Molly asks Santa for a dolly (everyone is going to speak in rhyme so the requests from the kids need to rhyme too) and his secretary informs him that Molly is okay because she eats her spinach every day. Santa gives a belly laugh in response and tells another elf to get her a doll. The next kid, little Billy, wants a whole bunch of stuff including various animals which prompts Santa to laugh to himself as he suggests he just get the kid Noah’s Ark. We then find out little Billy hasn’t washed behind his ears in seven years, but Santa just instructs an elf to toss in a cake of soap and resumes his laughter. The helper elf says, “Okay, a cake of soap!” and he’s clearly voiced by Walt Disney since he sounds almost exactly like Mickey Mouse from that era.

I know it says “Factory,” but every time I see this shot I read it as “Fartory” and wonder what a “Fartory” would look like. I’m pretty sure I know what it would smell like.

The little elf runs off with Billy’s massive list into another room and we get to see the actual workshop in action. The elves are banging away at all manner of toys and we get to see how they build a rocking horse. First is a shot of a massive log getting cut to size so an elf can shove a horse head onto it. We then see an assembly line of elves inserting the runners into the bottom via hammer. Then we get to see an elf very cheerfully drill holes into the backside of each horse which moves along to the tail elf who grabs a tuft of straw, or fur, dabs it in glue and then tosses into the newly drilled hole. Lastly, we see the elf who applies some black spots to each side of the horse. Pretty conventional stuff here which leaves me wondering, “Where’s the gag?”

The secret to perfect curls is terror.

Now that we know how to assemble a rocking horse we move on to see a group of painter elves coloring up some blocks and doll heads. It’s at this point it feels like we’re seeing a lot of this just so Disney can show off its Technicolor exclusive license it held at the time. The next elf is painting checkerboards and the gag here is he has checkered paint that does all of the work for him since it goes on as a checkerboard. It’s a gag that I’ve seen used a fair amount in cartoons over the years, though for all I know, this was its origin (but probably not). We then see some elves sewing doll clothes before moving onto an assembly line for doll hair. A shaggy looking doll comes down the conveyor belt and an elf dangles a spider in front of its face. This frightens the doll so its hair stands up on end and a bunch of curlers fall from the ceiling to do its hair up nice and pretty. A second doll comes through and there’s a quick animation error as the color of its dress changes from blue to pink as the gag with the hair is repeated.

No, it very much is not okay.

We then rejoin Santa Claus and it’s here we have ourselves a bit of controversy. If you’re watching this short on Disney+, Santa will appear to just be fiddling with a toy airplane which amuses him greatly. He comes off as a goof who is just playing with the toys while the elves do all of the work. If you’re watching the uncensored version though, then you know he’s actually testing the products. A doll comes down a chute and he asks her to say “Mama.” She says “Mom,” at first and Santa has to correct her until she says it right, then laughing heartily once more, he stamps an “OK” on her backside. As the doll walks off another one comes down the chute and this is the offensive one. We’re talking about a 1930s cartoon so you can probably imagine what the doll looks like, but in case you can’t it’s a blackface doll. It pops up on its two feet and in a raspy voice says “Mammy!” which makes Santa laugh. It does a “butt stomp” on Santa’s stamp and struts off and Santa doesn’t stop it so he apparently approves of this racist doll. After that, the airplane comes down the chute and the edited version picks up with Santa testing that one out. Should Disney have cut it? Eh, I don’t know. It’s been released so many times by the company uncut that it feels like it’s trying to hide something by not putting it on their service. They already have a disclaimer before the short, so might as well leave it, I guess. Or just put both up. The gag is definitely dated and doesn’t exactly add much, I just don’t like how it’s edited because the new version doesn’t make it obvious that Santa is testing product and actually doing something.

The is the only way to get him to stop laughing.

Anyway, with Santa laughing at the airplane the thing flies into his mouth and he pulls it out and sends it off into the workshop where it just starts knocking a bunch of toys off various shelves (see why the edit makes him look like an unhelpful boob?). The toys land on the floor properly arranged and we basically go into a parade of toys segment. Here we get more racist depictions of toys, these ones are left in the Disney+ cut, as a blackface marching band leads some white toy soldiers in a march. They’re followed by some penguins, a clown, an elephant, and a donkey. Behind the donkey comes some “China dolls” that look at the camera and have their hair shoot up for some reason. Is it racist? Maybe, they definitely shouldn’t be given the benefit of the doubt. Behind those dolls comes a Charlie Chaplin inspired toy with a police officer chasing after him. I’m guessing that was a pretty big hit in 1932.

This job really doesn’t look that hard.

The toys all march into Santa’s sack while their overlord/creator looks on approvingly. The racist band is slightly less racist now since the red lips have been removed basically leaving them looking like Bosko. We cut to another Bosko-like toy steering a carriage pulled by a donkey towards Santa’s sack and the donkey pauses to kick the carriage every few seconds to bounce the black-face toy into the air. Some wooden ducks go by in the background and we then see Billy’s Noah’s Ark go “sailing” past on wheels with various animals poking their heads out. More mechanical toys continue their march which include some flamingo-like birds, a rolling teddy bear, and some wind-up pigs. Santa stands the now overflowing sack up and the last toy to jump in is a Jack-in-the-Box because every Christmas cartoon from this era requires one be present. Santa laughs and then lets his elves do all of the work in carrying the sack outside to place in his sleigh.

The second that sleigh takes off these elves are busting out the eggnog.

All of the elves are waiting for them outside and they cheer at the sight of Santa Claus. He takes a stand in the sleigh and a rare, serious expression, is painted on his face. If you look closely, an off-model Mickey Mouse toy is present in the sack of toys. Santa then bobs and sways as he sings “Goodbye, my merry little gnomes,” and the elves respond in kind with “Goodbye! Goodbye! Goodbye!” Santa then boasts that he’s bringing joy to a million homes and after the elves respond with their goodbye cheer once again he sits down and cracks his whip over Dasher’s rear. The reindeer are lined up single-file in front of the sleigh and there are actually 9 of them. They take off to thunderous applause and we get to see Santa and his sleigh pass in front of the screen a few times before they head off towards a really creepy moon. It’s our first moon shot of 2022, and it’s certainly memorable and might haunt your dreams later.

They were even doing hidden Mickeys back in ’32.

That’s all she wrote as this one is a tidy 6:40, and even shorter if you’re watching on Disney+ due to the removed content. This one is a fairly conventional Silly Symphony as it’s all set to music and there’s basically no conflict. It’s just a bunch of characters cheerfully doing stuff, in this scenario making toys and getting ready for Christmas. It’s fine, and I do like this very jolly depiction of Santa as a guy who is just tickled by his profession. He does come across as a bit of an overlord since we don’t see him do much. He’s basically king of the elves and they just do his bidding, but the song makes sure to tells us that they’re very happy with their lot in life. Does that make it better? No, not really, but whatever.

There it is, the first animated “Moon Shot” to appear in color. Many have followed and many have been less unsettling. Where’s Piccolo when you need him?

Obviously, the censorship present provides for some talking points and it might be the most interesting aspect about the short. That type of racial depiction was unfortunately very common during this time period. It’s so common that I’m actually surprised when one of these “parade of toys” cartoons doesn’t include some type of blackface gag. Apparently white audiences just loved that stuff in the 30s. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. If not for that, this would just be a fairly benign Christmas cartoon that’s also forgettable. It doesn’t really add anything to the Santa lore and the gags are fairly pedestrian. Still, of all of the shorts that are like this, I might like this one the most? I don’t love it, but the music isn’t tiresome and the visuals are pretty nice. The elves are a bit more noodle-armed than I like, but the character designs are pleasant and I really like this rounded Santa.

Being that this one is on Disney+, Santa’s Workshop should be a fairly easy cartoon to find if you wish to view it this year. It’s been released on Christmas DVDs and was included in the Walt Disney Treasures line of DVD releases that are now long out of print and quite expensive. I actually don’t have that set as I really couldn’t see myself sitting down to watch a marathon of Silly Symphony shorts, but if you fancy yourself a cartoon historian then it might be worth tracking down. And if you don’t have access to any of those things there’s always YouTube which is where you’re most likely to encounter the uncut version. Disney is a pretty litigious company when it comes to protecting its brand, but when it comes to the old shorts it’s surprisingly lax with YouTube.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 6 – Christmas in Tattertown

Nickelodeon in the late 1980s was a network on the rise. Cable was expanding to more and more households each and every day and Nick was able to seize the youth market almost from the get-go. Prior to that, broadcast networks dominated children’s programming, but restricted it to certain parts of the broadcast schedule. And…

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Dec. 6 – Christmas Flintstone

The Flintstones have a well-established relationship with Christmas at this point. There have been a few specials, some even prime time, and plenty of home video releases. For that reason it’s a bit interesting that the show actually waited until its fifth season for its first Christmas episode. At that point, the show had been…

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Dec. 6 – Pokémon – “Holiday Hi-Jynx”

Yesterday, we took a look at the so-called Pokémon killer, The Weekenders, so today we’re going to look at Pokémon itself. The Weekenders earned that nickname because it was the first to knock Pokémon off the top of the ratings charts for Saturday morning television after it had reigned for a year. The victory was…

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Dec. 4 – The Pups’ Christmas

The Pups’ Christmas had the very seasonable release date of December 12, 1936.

Hugh Harman and Rudolf Ising were among the first stars of cartoon creation to burst onto the scene. Together, the duo would work for Disney, Warner, and MGM (among others) creating and overseeing some of animation’s most memorable characters from the golden age. After working with Leon Schlesinger’s studio to produce Looney Tunes shorts, the duo jumped to MGM in 1934 taking one of their creations with them: Bosko. Bosko isn’t exactly the most well-remembered character from that era, but for a little while, he was indeed a bonafide star. Harman continued making theatrical shorts of the character under the new banner Happy Harmonies while Ising specialized in one-offs that sometimes returned characters, and sometimes did not. One returning set of characters was a pair of puppies which debuted in the short Two Little Pups, but it’s their next appearance that we care about today which came in the 1936 short The Pups’ Christmas.

MGM’s Happy Harmonies series of cartoon shorts didn’t last long, but had a respectable output.

It is a bit of a stretch on my part to call these puppies returning characters. They look basically the same between the two cartoons as far as the general shape and model look, but the original pups were white while the two we’re about to meet are brown and black. The thought process for both shorts is essentially the same though which is to watch two, ignorant, and curious pups interact with the world around them. And for this cartoon, that world happens to be the underside of a Christmas tree full of presents. It’s a fairly simple and basic premise that lends itself well to physical comedy. There’s almost no dialogue present in the short, apart from a few lines spoken by some children, as the focus is going to be squarely on the puppies and the toys they encounter.

Time to get some toys!

The cartoon begins in typical Christmas fashion. We get a rendition of “Jingle Bells” over the standard MGM intro followed by a simple title card that fades to show the exterior of a snow-covered house as “Silent Night” filters in. Maybe some day I’ll go back through all of the Christmas cartoons I’ve consumed over the years and count the number of times “Silent Night” brings us into a short because it sure feels like there’s a lot. When the camera enters the house we find three children, two boys and one girl, as well as our two title characters lurking on the stairs. They’re all spying the goodies recently left by Santa under the tree, though while the children display some excitement, the pups show uncertainty. The kids, which are mostly just shown from the feet as the camera is locked-onto the puppies, beckon the pups to follow while also reminding them to keep quiet as they continuously bark at the sight before their eyes. The two eventually descend the stairs, but not before the brown pup gets its head stuck in the banister supports. The pup is able to yank its head out, it’s neck stretching impossibly long to do so, and the two head for the tree.

Just the first of many toys these puppies are going to have a bad experience with.

Once at the tree the pups run and bark at the assortment of packages and toys left neatly piled all around the tree. These kids seriously made out like bandits this year based on the sheer amount of stuff present. One of the boys starts fiddling with a toy train that the brown pup is suspicious of, while the girl is seated in a new rocking chair with a doll. The brown pup goes to inspect the doll and jumps when it says “Mama.” The two pups are then further startled when the toy train takes off. They run and try to hide behind a large box, but the other boy comes blasting out from behind that on a new tricycle nearly running the pair over as they dash for cover. It’s a scary world for these pups.

They’re right to be suspicious of diseased Pluto.

The pups take refuge in what is I assume one of their Christmas gifts: a dog house with a bow on it. Near the dog house is a pup-sized, fake, Christmas tree and numerous packages that must be intended for the dogs for they include dog collars and a miniature fire hydrant. The black pup seems quite please with the hydrant, but before he can even entertain the notion of taking a whiz on it he’s startled by a stuffed, polka-dotted, dog that kind of resembles Disney’s Pluto. The black dog retreats towards the dog house where the brown pup has been hiding barking all the way. The barks turn to growls as the pup slowly creeps towards the doll with the brown pup in tow. The two approach the doll with a great deal of trepidation and when the black pup stops short of it the brown pup starts pushing it. The two circle the doll nervously sniffing at it until it collapses causing the two to frantically run away and seek shelter amongst the unopened gifts.

Rudolf Ising has no problem going for the cute, so the pup gets a bonnet.

When the black pup emerges from one of the boxes it tore through it’s sporting a Native American headdress. A stereotypical Native American jingle plays in the background as the pup barks in the direction of the doll. It cuts out rather quickly as the camera pans to reveal where the brown pup is hiding. It’s in a doll stroller and it pops up from under a blanket with a bonnet on its head. The doll from earlier is positioned behind the pup and it tilts forward saying “Mama,” as it contacts the pup’s rear. The black pup jumps out of the offensive headdress to look in the brown pup’s direction as that pup bats at the doll (behaving more like a kitten now than a pup) each swat causing the doll to say, “Mama!”

This little wind-up tank is about to make this puppy’s Christmas miserable.

The black pup then takes note of the little boy once more. This time he’s winding up a tank toy. When he lets go the tank practically comes to life as the sound of drums rumble in the background. It hops and blasts the poor little pup with a shower of sparks from its cannon as it lurches forward. The tank waddles more than it rolls as it marches through the area while the black pup hides behind a large ball. Once the tank passes the pup nervously pursues it. As it sniffs at the tank, the pup gets too close and the tank whirls around and blasts it once again causing the pup to retreat into a large bass drum. Seemingly satisfied, the bird-like tank turns itself around and resumes it’s march with the top turret bouncing on a spring with each step.

Apparently the tank is allowed to be cute too.

The black pup is clearly a little miffed at the treatment it’s receiving from this toy and stalks after the tank. The tank climbs a rectangular box that’s leaning against a cubed one, and once at the top, literally jumps a gap over to the next stack of presents as this thing is clearly alive at this point. It doesn’t quite make the leap, tanks aren’t known for their agility, but is able to pull its rear end over the edge of the gift and disappear to the other side. The pup runs around and looks behind the gifts expecting to find the tank, but unbeknownst to it the tank anticipated this and pops out from around the other side. It starts shooting off sparks once again and the pup spins around to yelp and run away after taking a shot to the face.

This poor pup gets blasted a whole bunch in this cartoon.

The pup runs away and right into a small, hand accordion. It crashed through one end and emerges out the other clearly destroying someone’s new gift. It then runs and hides behind a present and now just looks plain terrified instead of curious or angry. Too bad for the pup the tank remains one step ahead of it. We see it slip past the pup, and as the pup backs away from the present it’s rear end comes to rest in a French horn. On the other side is the tank which shoots its sparks through the horn and connects with the puppy’s backside. It yelps and runs away crashing right through the gift it was previously hiding behind and emerging out the other end draped in someone’s new pajamas.

Are we supposed to just ignore the murder that took place off camera?!

The sound of “Mama” gets the black puppy’s attention and we pan over to see the brown pup is batting at something on the floor. It’s the voice box for the doll which says “Mama” each time the puppy hits it. In the background is the doll itself torn to shreds. Where are the kids during all of this? That little girl is going to be heartbroken when she finds her new doll. Judging from the volume of gifts though, it looks like mom and dad can afford to get her a new one. The brown pup stops smacking the toy and instead chooses to bark at it which causes the black pup to bark too. That dastardly tank, apparently not yet satisfied, comes up behind the black pup once more and blasts it with sparks. The black pup yelps and runs away only to collide with the brown pup causing it to swallow the voice box. Now the brown pup is confused as every time it’s butt connects with something it hears “Mama!”

Impressive vertical displayed by the tank.

The tank returns to inflict more terror upon these hapless pups. Seeing it, the brown pup takes shelter behind more gifts while we see where the black pup ended up following its collision with the brown one. It, once again, smashed through another box only this one contained boxing gloves. It emerges from the box with the gloves on its front paws. I expected the pup to then use these to bash the tank, but instead it reacts more like an actual puppy would if it found itself in such an improbable situation and starts trying to shake the gloves off. One goes soaring across the room and the tank has to duck to avoid it. Then comes the other one which the tank jumps to avoid. Now apparently mad, the tank goes after the black pup and resumes blasting it with more sparks.

Definitely the look of someone wondering why their ass is talking.

The brown pup emerges from its hiding place seemingly ready to help out the other pup, but instead chooses to sit down. This causes the soundbox to go off again and the pup spins around confused. We then go into a little dance where the brown pup keeps searching for the source of the “Mama” soundbite, but can’t find it since it’s coming from inside it. Once the pup does figure that part out, it keeps gently sitting down and popping its bum back up the second it hears the first little piece of sound. Only when the pup sits with more force does it freak it out causing it to run for another hiding spot.

Toy? Ornament? Whatever it is, this monkey is all right. Or rather, it was…

The brown pup, in its haste, crashes into another toy. And yup, I figured this was going to happen, it’s racist. The toy is a dancing black person depicted in a very offensive manner. It’s limbs flail about as it does a dance ending with a “Hey!” as it spreads its arms out wide. The bit is mercifully over in a few seconds as the pup takes off. It comes towards a monkey toy, or ornament, that is very much alive as it climbs up a string to avoid the puppy. It then slides down with a look of shock on its face, only for the barking pups to come running by once again, this time with the tank in pursuit. The monkey avoids them all, but for some reason the tank whirls around to regard the monkey up in the Christmas tree. The monkey is pretty ticked off at this point and it yells down at the tank with a bunch of unintelligible, high-pitched, squeaks similar to what Chip and Dale do at times. The tank does not take kindly to this at all and fires off a volley of sparks in the monkey’s direction catching it clear in the face and utterly destroying it. Poor, little, monkey.

There’s a surprising amount of murder in this little cartoon.

This terrible tank them goes after the pups once again. As they run away, they run into a toy airplane hangar and quickly bounce out. That’s because it’s occupied by a toy plane which comes rolling out and takes to the sky. The tank ducks under the plane, but once clear of it fires more sparks at it. The plane soars around the Christmas tree seemingly avoiding the tank which only makes it madder. The tank fires off another round with the last one being something akin to a “charged” shot. That’s the one that strikes the plane which stops in mid-air to grasp at it’s chest like it was a man shot in the heart. It then goes into a tailspin with flames shooting out the back. The pups run for cover in their new dog house seemingly shutting the tank out. It runs around in circles, but with no where to go, does the only thing it can: duck and cover.

A pile of dead toys. Toy Story never had the balls for this!

The planes lands a direct hit on the tank reducing both toys to a pile of twisted steel and springs. The pups emerge from their house to sniff at the pile, only for the tank’s turret (which is basically its head) to pop out on its spring and fire one last blast of sparks at the pups when it strikes the ground. The pups race back into the dog house, but turn around to bark incessantly in the tank’s direction. “Jingle Bells” plays in the background as we close on an iris shot and one last, somewhat joyful, yelp from the brown pup.

Well, at least the brown puppy seems happy.

And thus, the first Christmas for these two little pups is concluded. They caused a lot of mayhem as they investigated the gifts under the tree. I’m not sure what happened to the kids from the beginning. Did they go back to bed? Head into the kitchen? Or did they just watch these toys torture their little puppies with amusement? I have to believe they vacated the room since the brown pup was able to absolutely savage that doll. The destruction wrought by the pups almost makes them villains, in a way, albeit innocent ones. At least it would if not for that asshole tank. Seriously, what is that thing’s problem? One puppy sniffs your backside and you make it your mission to murder the little dog?! That thing got what it deserved, but not before it “killed” a monkey toy and a plane toy that were all just minding their own business. Why couldn’t it have killed the racist toy?!

These little pups are cute because they’re meant to be. It’s really that simple.

For its part, The Pups’ Christmas feels like a Rudolf Ising short. It’s mostly set to music and relies on the animation to depict a fairly conventional setup that doesn’t really have a plot. It’s just two, cute, puppies getting into mischief. It’s the sort of cartoon Ising does well as the animation style is very pleasing to the eye and the production values appear fairly high for this sort of thing. Probably too high for the folks at MGM since the Happy Harmonies series of shorts was ended because they routinely went over budget. I do like how the puppies are presented, even if some of their behavior felt more cat-like than dog-like to me. That detestable tank was also animated in a very amusing manner. It’s waddling and bouncing is a lot of fun, even if it appears to break a whole bunch of rules as far as sentience goes. The short begins with the puppies having exaggerated, but realistic, encounters with objects around the tree until that tank comes into the picture. From there, all of the toys basically come alive with no explanation. Not that one is necessarily needed since we’ve looked at a bunch of pictures like this in the past where toys on Christmas Eve behave like living beings. And of the ones I have looked at, this one is probably the best so far.

I definitely didn’t expect to see flames circling a Christmas tree in this one.

The Pups’ Christmas, being an old cartoon short, is not an easy thing to come by if you want to actually pay for it. It’s never been released on home video and isn’t streaming on any of the major streaming platforms even though it’s owned by Warner Home Video at this point. And I’m guessing the one offensive toy will keep it that way, unless a renewed push is made to get the Happy Harmonies series up and running. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily hard to watch it though as Warner apparently sees no value in protecting its asset which means this short can be found streaming for free all over the place, including YouTube. Just punch it in and you’re sure to find multiple options. MeTV has also shown it in the past year, with the racist toy edited out, so chances are it will pop up this month either as part of Toon in With Me or as part of the Saturday morning Tom & Jerry block of cartoons. And if you’re a dog lover, you’ll probably find this one cute and if you just like animation there’s a lot to enjoy here. It’s nothing amazing by any means, but at a running time of less than 8 minutes why not give it a look?

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 4 – Family Guy – “Christmas Guy”

In the fall of 2013, beloved family dog, Brian, met his demise. Brian was an extraordinary dog capable of communicating in English with his family members who was often seen walking on two feet. Despite that though, he met a rather ordinary end for a dog when he was unceremoniously struck by an automobile. Life…

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Dec. 4 – A Christmas Story (1972)

For today’s Christmas post, we’re going to take a look at A Christmas Story. No, not that Christmas Story, the first one. Way before Ralphie started obsessing over a BB gun, the duo of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera brought us a story about a mouse and a dog trying to get a last-minute letter…

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Dec. 3 – Popeye the Sailor – “Mister and Mistletoe”

Originally released September 30, 1955.

Last year for the Christmas Spot we took a look at the 1960’s TV series Popeye the Sailor and its Christmas episode “Spinach Greetings.” There are a lot of Popeye fans in the world and my assumption is that most would not put Popeye the Sailor above the theatrical shorts that helped catapult Popeye to stardom in the preceding decades. Popeye the Sailor was a TV series produced on the cheap. It wasn’t much to look at and it was missing some of the classic stars, namely Bluto, though it did have the added charm of working in some forgotten foils for Popeye like the Sea Hag.

Still not the best era of Popeye cartoons, but better than the TV series of the same name.

This year, we’re going back to a more beloved era of Popeye, though probably still not the preferred era, as we have here a cartoon from the Famous Studios era of Popeye the Sailor shorts. These ones are notable for being mostly in color and for not featuring the work of the Fleischer brothers. Their ouster at Paramount is another story, but suffice to say that Popeye would not be a star without their contributions. The Famous Studios era would total 122 cartoons and run from 1942 – 1957. Many of these cartoons would find their way to television and could even be seen on Cartoon Network in the 90s. Not all of them were considered suitable to air though as, you could probably guess, there are some unflattering depictions of Japanese people during the World War II era of the shorts. Today’s selection, Mister and Mistletoe, is the 215th Popeye cartoon and was first released on September 30, 1955 alongside Alfred Hitchcock’s The Trouble with Harry.

This one takes place at Olive’s house on Christmas Eve and that’s going to cause some confusion for me.

The cartoon begins at Christmas time and Popeye’s nephews are present and all ready for bed. It’s Christmas Eve and they’re informing Popeye (Jack Mercer) and Olive (Mae Questel) that they’ve been good and need the adults to relay this important information to Santa Claus upon his arrival. Of note, only three of Popeye’s nephews appear in this one. Popeye usually has four nephews: Pepeye, Peepeye, Pupeye, and everyone’s favorite, Poopeye. I don’t know which one is missing here, but I refuse to believe it’s Poopeye!

There’s one in every family.

The boys are dismissed, but before they head upstairs to bed, they hang their stockings by the fireplace. One nephew, predictably, has an absurdly long stocking. Olive and Popeye then start decorating, while that crafty Bluto (Jackson Beck) lurks outside an open window (even though this takes place in a cold climate). Popeye shows off his impressive Body by Spinach by holding Olive up off the ground one-handed. She’s basically standing in the palm of his hand, but in a seated position, which just looks awkward. Bluto bemoans the fact that Popeye got here first which implies that this is Olive’s house (her name was also on the mailbox in the opening shot). Why are Popeye’s nephews sleeping at Olive’s house on Christmas Eve? I have so many questions!

Wait! That’s not Santa!

As Popeye and Olive decorate, Olive remarks how wonderful it is to see children believe in Santa Claus while Popeye wishes there was a Santa for adults. I don’t like Olive’s phrasing here as it implies there is no Santa Claus, but I guess since this was screened with a Hitchcock black comedy maybe kids were never expected to take this one in? Popeye’s comment seems to inspire Bluto to swipe a Santa suit and sack of presents that were by the open window. Now decked out in Santa’s threads, Bluto makes for the chimney and utters his own version of the jolly, fat, man’s signature laugh which gets Popeye excited. He peers up the chimney and as he does Bluto rips the top portion of it from the house and sends it down what’s left of the chimney to smash into Popeye.

Popeye seems to enjoy his “gift” from Santa Claus.

Bluto is then able to enter the home and Olive is instantly smitten. Popeye doesn’t seem to mind the mishap with the chimney either and is delighted to see Santa pay them a visit. Popeye and Olive not doubting the man’s identity seems to make-up for the prior comments about Santa. Olive leaves to fetch Santa a cup of hot chocolate while Santa suggests to Popeye a good spot for the mistletoe. Once placed, Popeye excitedly calls out to Olive to set himself up with a perfect opportunity for a smooch only for Bluto to literally pull the rug out from under him exposing a vent in the floor. Popeye goes sailing through an open door leading to the basement with the rug allowing for Santa Bluto to movie-in for a kiss with Olive. Before his lips find hers, Popeye pops up from the vent in the floor and Bluto’s kiss lands on the back of Popeye’s head causing Popeye to giggle and blush suggesting Santa is embarrassing him.

Saved by a tree on Christmas.

Mildly dismayed by Popeye’s intrusion, Bluto tries to get him out of his beard by asking Popeye if he’d like to help him with the toys. Popeye enthusiastically races over to Santa’s sack and starts filling his arms with toys. Bluto then sneaks up behind him, dumps him into the sack of toys, and chucks it out the window. As the sack of Popeye and toys sails through the air the drawstring snags a pine tree outside. The tree bends back, then snaps forward sending the sack back through the window. When it arrives, Santa and Olive are found seated beside each other on a lounge chair looking cozy while Santa starts to recite A Visit from Saint Nicholas. Olive looks primed and ready so maybe this was an erotic version of the Christmas classic? The sack smashes into Bluto and Popeye pops out looking a bit irritated. Santa Bluto laughs sheepishly and offers an apology.

An interesting way to play with a train set.

Bluto suggests Popeye setup the electric train set and we cut to Popeye excitedly doing just that. As he snaps pieces of the track together, Bluto pops out from behind a chair to plug the set in. When Popeye snaps the last pieces of track together he gets a mighty jolt of electricity. Who designed this thing?! This hardly seems safe for children! Popeye lands on the floor on his stomach with his mouth open in a cartoonishly large manner. Track is coming out of his mouth and the train engine soon drives out.

This poor guy just wanted to celebrate Christmas.

We then cut to Santa and Olive, and Santa has his arm wrapped around her, as they place lit candles on the Christmas tree. Every time I see this tradition acted out in old cartoons it floors me that anyone would have ever willingly placed a flaming object on a dead tree in their own house. Santa bemoans to Olive that it’s a shame Christmas only comes once a year and Olive, rather suggestively, replies that he can drop by anytime. Popeye then interrupts to ask Santa if he can help light the tree. Santa Bluto laughs boyishly as he apparently doesn’t mind the interruption and tells Popeye he sure can. We then see why he wasn’t frustrated with Popeye’s intrusion as he produces a stick of dynamite from behind his back. He tells Popeye he saved the last candle for him and instructs him to place it on the top of the tree. Popeye races up a ladder and does as he’s told. With the “candle” lit, he shouts out a hearty “Merry Christmas!” just before it explodes sending him smashing through the roof (Olive now has a busted chimney and a massive hole in her roof). Popeye soars through the air once again and crashes through a frozen river. The water splashes upwards and freezes instantly with Popeye trapped inside.

Donald Duck shares your pain, Popeye (note: see the entry for December 1st)

Admiring his handiwork, Bluto laughs heartedly while Olive looks worried, either over Popeye or the hole in her roof. We also seem to have switched locations in the house as the pair are still by the tree, but it’s now in a corner of the house. As Bluto laughs, he doesn’t notice his beard has landed in a candle and it catches fire. The flames burn away the false, Santa, beard leaving Bluto’s normal beard intact. Once Olive sees that this Santa is a phony she gets angry. Bluto brushes her anger aside and grabs her around the waist and suggests she give him a kiss. She clearly doesn’t want to as she wrestles against this would-be rapist’s grasp and is able to squirm free. She jumps on a tricycle and starts racing around the room on the walls while Bluto chases after her. He too is able to defy gravity by running on the walls. As Olive tries to avoid her attacker, she calls out to Popeye for help.

There’s the good stuff!

Popeye, hearing Olive’s cries, wakes up only to find himself encased in ice. He then blows hard on his pipe producing a blast of fire which melts away the ice freeing him. Popeye races back inside the house and, rather than immediately go to Olive’s aid, runs for the sack of presents. We soon see why as he pulls out a golden can of spinach. It’s addressed to “Me Nephews” and it’s from Popeye explaining how he knew it was there. He devours the contents and is then able to morph his left arm into a massive mallet (I love when the spinach gives him absurd powers beyond just ludicrous strength).

Bluto gets a brain injury for Christmas. I suspect it’s not the first time.

Popeye runs into another room and sees Olive go racing past him. When Bluto appears behind her Popeye blasts him with his mallet arm knocking him right out of the Santa suit. He bounces, in his long underwear, along the floor and comes to rest beside the tree. The stars spinning around his head then wrap around the tree and one comes to rest at the top. A very resourceful way to decorate a tree, Popeye.

Go get ’em, Poopeye!

Popeye then dons the Santa suit and belts out a “Merry Christmas” as he puts on a spare beard. The nephews hear the call of Santa and emerge from their room. They excitedly race down the stairs and dive into the sack of toys. They immediately recognize Popeye and as they jump into the sack each one asks a question of “Uncle Popeye” like “What did you bring me, Uncle Popeye?” “Did you bring me my gun, Uncle Popeye?” Realizing his disguise is no good, Santa Popeye just has a laugh at his own expense and the cartoon fades to black.

The expected ending of a Christmas Popeye short.

It may not have included a wacky flying reindeer airplane, but I feel comfortable declaring Mister and Mistletoe a superior Christmas cartoon to “Spinach Greetings.” It’s a pretty standard Popeye short with Bluto and the sailor battling over Olive only this one is set at Christmas and Popeye is mostly ignorant of Bluto’s advances until the very end. It certainly is a bit confusing as far as the setup goes of Popeye seemingly bringing his nephews along for a sleepover at Olive’s on Christmas Eve, but apparently someone at Famous Studios felt it had to be set at Olive’s house as opposed to Popeye’s. Those two certainly have an odd relationship.

Bluto is such a disgusting creep that I wouldn’t have minded a little more violence directed his way.

Being a Famous Studios production and not a Fleischer one, it likely comes as no surprise that this isn’t the best looking Popeye short out there, but it’s far from ugly. The animation is fine and there appear to be few shortcuts taken. There are a few hard cuts which are a bit unusual, but maybe that was to imply a longer passage of time. It’s only six minutes long so those kids were basically in bed for a wink or two before getting up for presents. None of the physical comedy is particularly original for a Popeye cartoon as I know I’ve seen Olive ride along a wall like she does in this one before. Popeye getting smashed with an entire chimney is certainly a violent touch, though the mallet transformation was a bit too conventional. Why not have his arm turn into something more festive? This is a Christmas cartoon after all.

I still have questions about this relationship.

Being that this is a fairly typical Popeye short, it’s also no surprise that there isn’t any sort of message baked into it. We don’t expect life lessons from Popeye (at least during this era) so it’s fine he has no Christmas wisdom to share. I do wish they had snuck in confirmation of the real Santa Claus as I do hesitate to show this to my “true believer” kids for that reason. It’s not the electrocution or the smoking that concerns me as a parent, it’s the Santa stuff! At any rate, this one is relatively easy to find online if you wish to make it part of your Christmas viewing this year. And with MeTV airing Toon in With Me and a Popeye show on Saturday mornings, there’s a decent chance this one will show up on television too this year.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 3 – The Simpsons – “The Way of the Dog”

It’s not often I get to look at a Christmas special from the same year I’m doing The Christmas Spot, but it also helps when that Christmas special premieres in May of the same of year. May?! Yeah, it’s weird, but for the 31st season finale of The Simpsons the show rolled out a Christmas…

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Dec. 3 – Mega Babies – “A Mega Christmas”

Considering how gross a lot of cartoons had become in the 90s, it should come as no surprise that the decade concluded with Mega Babies, a cartoon about literal snot-nosed, super-powered, babies featuring diapers overflowing with excrement in the opening title. Mega Babies was a short-lived production from the Tremblay brothers, Christian and Yvon, who…

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Mickey Mouse – Runaway Brain (1995)

Original release date August 11, 1995.

There is a lot of debate over who the greatest cartoon star of all time is, but there isn’t much debate about who the first real star was. That title belongs to Mickey Mouse who entered into the world of cinema in 1928 and remained a star into the 1950s. Since then, Mickey’s presence on the big screen has been severely reduced. Between 1953 and 1983, there were no Mickey Mouse shorts. That drought was put out with the release of Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but that short subject has always felt like a cheat. Most Mickey Mouse shorts were around 8 minutes or so, that one was 26 and that’s likely because Disney always had plans to put it on television as a holiday special. Following that short, Mickey would come back with a cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? followed by another long-form short in The Prince and the Pauper in 1990. Again, not really a short in the classic sense. The true drought was finally laid to waste in 1995 with a brand new bonafide short that would go on to be nominated for an Academy Award, but Disney would rather you forget about that these days.

Since it is October, the spookiest month of the year, I wanted to recognize the spirit of the month in some fashion which is why we’re to talk about the much unloved Mickey Mouse comeback Runaway Brain. The short was conceived by animator Chris Bailey with backing from executive Jeffrey Katzenberg. In the 90s, Mickey Mouse was a frequent subject in the halls of Disney’s animation wing as the company wanted to restore the character to prominence. The problem was, after decades of being a corporate mascot, Mickey was hard to pin down. As characters like Goofy and Donald Duck gained popularity back in the 30s, Mickey was pushed into more of a straight man role. He really didn’t do much, just played off of others. The 1990 short was attached to The Rescuers Down Under, one of the only animated films of the Disney Renaissance that failed to make a splash. Was that Mickey’s fault? No, probably not, but he apparently didn’t help to elevate that release.

Runaway Brain sees Mickey Mouse firmly as a 90s man.

Bailey wanted to do something different with Mickey and it’s said that Katzenberg was onboard with doing a “90’s Mickey.” The original pitch for a short was a duo picture between Mickey and Donald where a jealous Donald would actually try to kill Mickey. That wasn’t going to fly and it was unsurprisingly nixed by Disney executives Peter Schneider and Thomas Schumacher. Rather than rework that pitch, Bailey did something all-together different coming up with a pseudo-Frankenstein for Mickey that saw the mouse turned into a monster. It was a bold take from a design standpoint as it involved creating a new, monstrous, version of Mickey Mouse which could upset Disney fans young and old. Katzenberg liked it though, and since Disney had a newly acquired team of animators just sitting on their hands in France, the storyboard actually went into production.

Unfortunately, between the start of production and the eventual end, Jeffrey Katzenberg was fired. Or let go, however he chooses to spin it these days. At any rate, one of the supporters high up in the company was gone and in his place were Schumacher and Schneider who seemed to have a much lower opinion of Bailey’s short subject. Despite having a terrific team of animators onboard including Andreas Deja who animated Mickey in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the executives demanded the short be chopped up and hacked apart to remove effects and change scenes around entirely, including the ending. Michael Eisner was said to have liked the short when it was screened for he and the other executives, but either Bailey and team were cut off from appealing to him, or he just left it all to Schumacher and Schneider and put all of his trust in their decisions.

The end result is that a severely compromised version of Runaway Brain was sent to theaters in 1995 playing in front of the dud A Kid in King Arthur’s Court. I suppose the optimist might say that the powers that be paired Mickey up with the forgettable picture to help bring in additional patrons, but Bailey saw it as a slight. It would air with A Goofy Movie and The Hunchback of Notre Dame in other territories, two films that make more sense to pair it with (A Goofy Movie especially), but plans to screen it in 1996 with the Glenn Close starring 101 Dalmatians re-make were nixed at the 11th hour. And since then, the film has only been released on physical media once as part of the Mickey Mouse: In Living Color Volume 2 set and digitally with Walt Disney Animation Studios Short Films Collection. And that digital release could be considered a surprise, though it says a lot about the studio’s attitude toward the film that it wasn’t part of the actual, physical, release of the set.

Does Runaway Brain deserve this kind of treatment from the studio? Of course not! While it’s not Mickey’s greatest role or anything, it’s a fun little film and should be on Disney+ at least. Granted, a lot of Mickey shorts are not on the service, but as the only true short from the 1990s, why not that one? Plus it would fit nicely into the Halloween collection. At any rate, lets take a scene-by-scene look at this short so we can see what we’re being deprived of. I am viewing the short via the DVD of the previously mentioned Mickey compilation which is a pretty great set if you like physical media (and it seems to have actually come down in price over the years).

Not the kind of intro we’re accustomed to seeing for a Mickey cartoon.

The film begins with a big Mickey Mouse title card and some rather upbeat, fairly typical, Mickey type music. It’s interrupted with a monstrous version of Mickey’s gloved hand which slaps down on the card and then slashes across it replacing it with the Runaway Brain title. The font looks like its molten lava or something and it’s a solid juxtaposition to what was originally presented.

Maybe Disney just doesn’t want kids to see how Mickey really lives?

We then find Mickey (Wayne Allwine) at his home. It’s dark and rainy and he’s shouting from inside like he’s being attacked. He’s not, and is actually just playing a video game. He’s really into into it though and so is Pluto (Bill Farmer) who’s bouncing around and barking up a storm. We get a look at the game and it’s a fighter pitting Dopey against the Evil Queen from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The gamepad he’s using does slightly resemble a Genesis one, though it’s clearly designed to be something generic.

Geez Minnie, you’re worse than my mom! Can’t you tell by the row of tombstones that Mickey is on his last life?!

Minnie Mouse (Russi Taylor) then enters all excited to see her man. She walks in between Mickey and the TV and you can probably imagine how that goes over with the mouse. Mickey even remarks, “Are you trying to get me killed?” and Minnie responds with a “Maybe,” as she feels Mickey has forgotten about an important day. She has to remind him she’s referring to the anniversary of their first date and Mickey is forced to scramble. He puts down the game and tells Minnie he has big plans. Grabbing a newspaper which features an add for miniature golf, he waves it in her face remarking how they can have some fun in the sun. Unfortunately, Mickey didn’t notice an ad for a Hawaiian cruise just below the mini golf one and that’s what Minnie thinks he’s referring to. She gives him a big hug while Mickey stares at the ad and recoils at the thousand dollar price tag. Minnie plants a kiss on his lips before departing to go swimsuit shopping leaving Mickey to try to figure out a way out of this mess.

You can tell this is 90s Mickey instead of 2000s Mickey by his lack of an ass.

Man’s, or mouse’s, best friend seems to have the answer as he flops the want ads in front of his master. Mickey’s attention is drawn to an ad promising pay for an afternoon of mindless work – what could go wrong? Mickey sets out to investigate and arrives at the home of Dr. Frankenollie, a portmanteau of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two of the famous 9 old men of Disney animating legend. His home happens to be located at 1313 Lobotomy Lane which doesn’t seem at all like a bad omen. Mickey seems unphased though as he tosses on a blue tie, and there’s a very brief animation flourish of it choking him as he secures it, before knocking on the door.

Mickey can’t help himself – he’s jealous.

When he does so, the ground opens up below Mickey and swallows him whole! He travels down a steel pipe and drops into a crude looking chair that immediately shackles him in place. He cracks, “Talk about your ironclad contracts,” which was one of the many revisions the Disney executives made with this one as he was originally supposed to say, “I think I’m in trouble.” Such a needless revision. We’re then introduced to the doc (Kelsey Grammer), who as an ape, basically climbs all over Mickey. He’s a skinny ape in a white lab coat with a lightbulb in his head. As he examines Mickey he asks him questions such as “Here for the job?” Mickey tries answering his questions in various ways, basically trying to tell him what he doesn’t want to hear and sometimes what he does, just to see if there is a way out. It’s clear his responses mean nothing to the doctor as he has what he wants and Mickey is going no where.

He may be named Julius, but that’s Pete like you’ve never seen him before! He even has his peg leg back in this one!

Dr. Frankenollie then introduces Mickey to his partner: Julius. Julius (Jim Cummings) rises from a contraption in the ground and is basically a massive version of Pete crossed with Frankenstein’s monster. He eagerly confirms for Mickey that he intends to swap their brains, and when he does we get a fun X-Ray shot of Mickey’s head which depicts his brain in 3 parts: his head and each ear. Despite protests from the mouse, the doctor activate his machine. Electricity surges out of a contraption in the ceiling and blasts both Mickey and Julius with electricity. For Mickey, it looks quite painful, but for Julius it looks almost therapeutic.

It doesn’t look like the doctor will be helping you, Mickey.

When the experiment is over and the dust settles, the lab looks absolutely trashed. A closeup of Mickey’s eyes and a part of his nose is accompanied with a voice over of him seemingly thinking all is well. It’s not, and as the camera zooms out we see the experiment worked and Mickey is in the body of the giant monster! Mickey, panicked, runs over to Doctor Frankenollie begging him to undo what happened only the doctor is unresponsive. Mickey picks him up and he’s stiff as board. Then his flesh turns to dust leaving behind only a skeleton, which too turns to dust. It would seem the doctor didn’t get to live to see the culmination of his life’s work – such a shame.

Looks like they didn’t have to edit out all of the drool!

We’re then introduced to the monstrous Mickey! Julius comes jumping out of the debris and he’s basically a feral version of Mickey. He walks mostly on all fours, his hands are curled into claws, his ears are furry and jagged, and his eyes rimmed with dark circles and bloodshot. He was supposed to feature lots of drool too, but that was another element the Disney executives had edited out. Mickey tries to reason with Julius and in doing so mentions Minnie. He tells Julius to look in his wallet and when he does he finds a picture of Minnie and Mickey (and we get a brief shot of Mickey from Steamboat Willie) and seems to salivate over Minnie. Mickey grabs the wallet, but it’s too late. Despite formerly being a cat monster, Julius is pretty infatuated with Minnie Mouse and starts grunting her name as he climbs up and out of the ceiling of the lab forcing Mickey to give chase.

Aww, he’s cute!

Julius emerges on the roof and starts gnawing on the ledge before something catches his eye. It’s Minnie and she’s entering a shop named The Wet Rat (eww). She’s looking at bathing suits, bikinis to be exact, which look quite tiny and a bit risqué, but one look at the size of Minnie’s body and they actually seem reasonably sized. And since a bikini includes a top, it actually covers more than we’re used to seeing with Minnie. Julius comes running in and Minnie tries to hide what she’s looking at since she doesn’t want him to see it until they’re on the boat. She doesn’t notice that her man is looking a bit more feral than usual, and with her back turned toward him, the real Mickey comes bursting in.

I think he likes it, Minnie.

Mickey cries out a warning that she’s in the presence of a monster, but she only hears the warning. When she turns around, she sees Mickey, in the monster’s body, grabbing the Julius-Mickey and assumes the monster is the, er, monster. I realize that sounds confusing, but she throws stuff at Mickey and frees Julius and the two of them run out the door. As they run down the street, Minnie is holding Julius by the hand who basically hops behind her and it’s rather fun looking. Mickey, in the body of the monster, smashes through the store and chases after them.

He can change his ears at will, but apparently not the rest of his body.

Mickey catches up to the pair and is able to snatch Minnie. He’s finally able to get her to notice it’s him speaking to her, and this short does do the cheat where the characters retain their usual voice despite the body swap. As he says “It’s me, Mickey!” his ears morph into traditional Mickey-shaped ears which is rather clever. Minnie doesn’t ask questions and believes him now, but feral Mickey has grabbed onto a car and is speeding towards them. Mickey swings via some construction equipment to the top of a skyscraper where he deposits Minnie for safe keeping. He then swings back down to ground level and is able to grab Julius. As they swing up into the air once more, Julius opens the bucket Mickey is swinging from which dumps some construction waste onto his head (steel girders and such) which causes him to let go. They land on some power lines which shocks their brains back into the proper body, then slingshots them towards the building Minnie is on. They smash through a billboard, coincidentally for the Hawaiian cruise that started all of this, with the character heads comically inserted into the image.

Mickey might miss having all of that extra room for his brain.

Mickey comes to and realizes he’s back in his old body. Unfortunately, he’s also in the grip of Julius and so is Minnie! Julius is still lusting over the mouse and Mickey has to bite his finger in order for the monster to drop him. Julius swats him off of the building and then makes a kissy face in Minnie’s direction who promptly slaps him. He’s pretty ticked off now, but before he can do anything to Minnie, Mickey returns! He’s armed with some rope and what appears to be a window squeegee which he cocks like a shotgun. He gets Julius’ attention and then charges at the monster!

Disney wouldn’t let Mickey wield a toy gun for the video game scene, so they had to make do with this.

Mickey uses his squeegee like a pole-vault and launches himself over Julius and onto a mechanical arm attached to a hula dancer on the billboard they previously smashed through. The arms goes up and and down, but largely is horizontal with the rooftop so Mickey is able to run across it. He lassos Julius who lets go of Minnie, but Mickey is able to lasso her as well. Swinging down and back to the rooftop with his girl in his arms, Mickey and Minnie share an embrace while a wrapped up Julius teeters via his peg leg on the ledge. Minnie takes a step back after her embrace with Mickey ends and she accidentally bumps Julius off of the building. Worry not for the monster, for as he falls the mechanical arm of the billboard pulls him back up like a yo-yo. The camera zooms out for a full look at the gag which provides for our first real look at the contraption in action.

That is one powerful motor in that billboard.

We then cut to Minnie, in her little, green, bikini, and Mickey with their toes in the water. They look like they’re on a float indicating Mickey was able to come up with the money to make their vacation dreams come true. Or not. We zoom out as Minnie plants a nice, wet, one on her man to see they’re on an inner tube being pulled by Julius. He’s swimming them to Hawaii with the picture from Mickey’s wallet dangling in front of his face. This was originally meant to be a crude effigy of Minnie fashioned out of pillows, but for some reason the executives didn’t like that. I don’t think either is necessarily more funny than the other, it just sucks to make people re-animate something for nothing. Plus, in order for this to work now Mickey’s wallet has to be Julius-sized which makes little sense.

Mickey and Minnie may have received a happy ending, but Runaway Brain has not.

That’s it though. Runaway Brain is far more infamous than it rightly deserves to be. The cartoon is fine and I enjoy the look of the characters in it. Mickey and Minnie have a nice flow to their animation and I love how they’re just constantly in motion. Their character models are just ever so slightly redesigned here to make them feel unique to the picture. They both seem a little taller and more narrow than usual, but they still maintain their signature look. I love Dr. Frankenollie, who we really only see briefly. The animators have a lot of fun with the fact that he’s an ape as he doesn’t just stand in front of Mickey, he climbs all over him and all over his own equipment. Julius is positively huge which makes his design a great deal of fun, though he’s still plainly in the realm of a Frankenstein. The feral Mickey is the most memorable part of the short and it’s because it’s just fun to see a monstrous take on a classic character like Mickey Mouse. His arms are usually bent so he has some sharp angles in his posture which is quite different from the rubber-hosed Mickey and his fur is ruff and exaggerated, which again, is very different from traditional Mickey who looks more black-skinned than furry. I’m having a hard time thinking of a scene that makes Mickey look like a fur-covered being and coming up empty.

It is thought that the design of the feral Mickey is the leading reason why this short is so shunned by the company. He’s unsettling and a bit scary and it would seem a lot of people associated with Disney do not like seeing such descriptors attached to Mickey Mouse. Sitting here in 2022 and watching it, it really feels like much ado about nothing. This feral Mickey is not particularly gross, which he certainly could have been given this was made in the 90s, and he’s only vaguely monstrous. We’ve seen Mickey look far worse now on the Paul Rudish shorts, but perhaps those are allowed to get away with more because they have their own style which is very different from classic Mickey? I’m not sure, but in terms of ugly depictions of Mickey, we’ve moved way past feral Mickey in the 27 years since the release of Runaway Brain.

It’s a shame that Disney just leaves this one hanging when it’s a film that deserves to be seen by millions.

At this point, the black sheep status Runaway Brain seems to embody is nothing short of peculiar. It’s such an inoffensive cartoon. There’s an energy to it that is unmistakably 90s, and the animation puts it square in that era too which is a good thing. It’s nice to have a 90s looking Mickey since he had few shorts and wasn’t allowed to grace television sets as part of the Disney Afternoon like Donald and Goofy. He even gets to act heroic in this one and save his beloved Minnie who also is able to stick up for herself and avoid being a total damsel in distress. It brings back Mickey’s troubles with money, a common trait in his classic shorts, and it’s all together perfectly fine. It’s not some remarkable piece of animation and probably not even top 10 for a Mickey Mouse short, but it is fun. According to some within the company, there’s really no conspiracy or grand design to keep Runaway Brain out of the public eye, it’s just not popular and gets overlooked as a result. Others maintain the opposite though and indicate that many at Disney don’t like it and would rather see it buried. It’s rarely merchandized, and as we covered before, has only been made available on two occasions since leaving theaters. Which is silly, because I think the feral Mickey design could be popular if given the chance as a Halloween tie-in. Sell furry Mickey ears at the parks, put him on keychains, or corny motivational posters about having a bad hair day. Make feral Mickey plushes – I’d buy one! A video game where the player controls a Mickey that turns into the feral Mickey at night like a werewolf could even be fun! Or it would be like that terrible Sonic game. Either way, Runaway Brain deserves to be seen and should be a Halloween treat year in and year out and most certainly should be treated a lot better than it currently is.


NECA TMNT x Universal Monsters Michelangelo as The Mummy

Grrr….pizza….

As the toyline and cartoon series started to go long, Playmates Toys turned to other ideas to keep the good times rolling on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Long thought to just be some quick fad, the turtles outlived all expectations into the 90s spawning multiple films and video games and a cartoon series that would total nearly 200 episodes. Such longevity was basically unheard of for such a blatant kid’s property and I have to think some of it is due to the creativity of Playmates. There were lots of variants of the turtles starting with different costumes and the introduction of action features into the toyline. Playmates would double-down on wacky variants with some featuring action features, like the sports turtles, or different gimmicks all-together like the beach turtles that could spit water. Talking turtles, mutating turtles, boxing turtles – basically everything was on the table. And when that started to run dry, Playmates turned to another tool: the brand mash-up.

In 1993 Playmates introduced the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as Universal Monsters line. It featured Michelangelo as Frankenstein’s monster, Leonardo as The Wolfman, Donatello as Dracula, and Raphael as The Mummy. It was apparently successful enough that Playmates would come back with a second wave the following year. Playmates would also combine TMNT with Star Trek and make an effort to cross-brands with various properties at Lucasfilm including Star Wars and Indiana Jones. In later years, there were other mash-ups with the likes of Ghostbusters and WWE so there is apparently an appetite among TMNT fans to see their favorite heroes combined with various other brands. It’s become a recognizable aspect of the IP to the point that when NECA announced it had acquired the Universal Monsters license basically everyone and their mother started asking “So, are you going to do TMNT X Universal Monsters?”

Mummy ninja pose.

NECA initially responded to such questions in a non-committal fashion, but it’s now clear that was always on their mind because it didn’t take long for NECA to unveil Raphael as Frankenstein’s Monster. Other reveals, and releases, have followed and NECA’s approach to the famous combination has become clear. It should be noted, that when both NECA and Super7 were awarded a license for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the two individuals most in-charge of the direction of the lines, NECA’s Randy Falk and Super7’s Brian Flynn, got together to get a sense of where each company was going with the line. When NECA said it wanted to do toys based on the cartoons and movies, Super7 was delighted because their aim was to basically re-create the vintage toyline. It could be that gentlemen’s agreement between the two that is the reason why we’re not seeing the same turtle and monster combinations in NECA’s line as Super7 also has a Universal Monsters license and might recreate those old toys. Or, it could simply be NECA’s desire to do their own thing that is driving the creative process with this line.

Mikey found someone to help him strengthen his impressions.

And that process is to take the designs and likenesses from the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film and combine those with the film depictions of the Universal Monsters. It’s a great idea on paper as it takes a realistic depiction of the turtles and combines them with a realistic depiction of the monsters. The past versions of these figures (and Playmates revisited it in the 2012 line) were all cartoon-based and the realistic visual fits NECA’s strong suit when it comes to their Ultimates line of figures. It also opens the door for a version of April to feature the likeness of actress Judith Hoag and if any other human characters are featured it’s assumed they too will feature an actor’s likeness. NECA also seems to have deliberately avoided the past turtle and monster pairings. For the first time Raph got to play Frankenstein, Leonardo is Ygor the Hunchback (a character previously unexplored by Playmates), Donatello will be the Invisible Man, and Michelangelo the Mummy. Splinter is also onboard to play Van Helsing, and April has the distinction of being the only repeat pairing as she is once again the Bride of Frankenstein. More figures are expected and it will be interesting to see if NECA doubles-down on the turtles and gives everyone a repeat release as a different monster. There are certainly plenty of unexplored monsters by NECA and plenty of opportunities for more figures.

Now I personally am not a big fan of the Universal Monsters. I never bought any of the Playmates figures, and I wasn’t sure with this new line. When NECA announced Raph, I did pre-order it immediately, but I would eventually cancel it. I didn’t have an obvious place for it in my collection and I was certainly helped by my favorite turtle, Leonardo, having an unappealing mash-up. I have seen all of the released figures so far in stores and I think they look fantastic for what they’re going for, it just wasn’t something I felt I needed. Until I came across Michelangelo.

There’s some nice sculpt work on the shell, though the turtle glyph on the right is unpainted and I have to assume it’s a factory error.

I already said I’m not much of a fan of Universal Monsters, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be The Wolfman. That was the only figure I was tempted by back in the 90s since it was my preferred monster with my favorite turtle, but ultimately I decided I could do without. I don’t know where I’d rank The Mummy amongst the other monsters, but definitely more towards the bottom than the top so it’s a bit of a surprise that this is the one figure that moved me to make a purchase. It’s also just a testament of how good it turned out. Taking the 90’s costume for Michelangelo and dirtying it up with a mummy aesthetic is surprisingly brilliant. This figure looks amazing.

For starters, the textures achieved by sculptor Tony Cipriano looks incredible. The many wraps that adorn Mikey look like they could be soft goods to the point that it’s almost jarring to actually handle the figure and feel that they’re made of plastic. The texture of the skin on Mikey’s head has this very dried out and weathered appearance. His lips are cracked, there’s creases in the forehead, and various warts mar the skin. The bandana has a dark wash over it making it appear dirty and old and he has one eye that’s closed, or possibly missing, and another looking off into nowhere. It’s important the face capture an unsettling expression since Michelangelo is typically the comic relief and least threatening of the four turtles. The shell of the figure has more of a wood look to it as it’s washed out. It’s also adorned with various carvings like a couple of turtles, a Foot logo, ninja stars, and what might be a reference to the ooze canister. What’s visible of the plastron on the front is very cracked and weathered, but it’s mostly covered in wraps. The belt has a nice leather look to it with a gold scarab on the buckle. It’s sculpted throughout with more glyphs and weathering and looks terrific. The elbow and knee pads from the film are present and look as good as ever. They look a little bigger and bulkier when compared with the movie releases, but it’s also possible these will be on the Secret of the Ooze figures to come.

How ’bout a kiss, cobra?

Michelangelo looks amazing. I can’t get over how well this figure came out. If this were a 60 dollar boutique release I think I would still be satisfied, but it’s a $36 or $37 figure from Target which is mind blowing. There’s really nothing for me to complain about when it comes to the sculpt and overall look for this figure. What nitpicks I can come up with are basically paint-related. There’s a spot at the top of the wrap on the right thigh where the beige paint bled over to the skin. There’s a little of that down by the knee of the same leg as well. In the hands or around the heel there are small spots where the paint for the wraps was missed, but it’s all in areas that are only noticeable when you’re looking for such things. Since there is a wash on basically every spot of this figure there may be some figures where that’s missed or too heavy. There’s one glyph on the shell that’s missing the wash, but from what I have seen around the web, this is an error on all of the figures. The wraps inside the shell don’t feature a wash, but they’re areas that really aren’t visible unless you’re holding the figure in-hand and really inspecting it. The small paint imperfections seem acceptable to me at this price-point. The only cause for concern I see is that this is a complex figure and paint job so it might suffer from inconsistencies from figure to figure, but that’s not something I can predict with any degree of certainty and it’s personally not something I would be concerned with. Plus, that’s what window boxes are for!

“Whoa dude, I’m going to have to recommend you don’t smile.”

The Mummy is basically known for one pose: a shuffling walk with arms outstretched. Because of that, it would have been reasonable to assume NECA would not prioritize the articulation on this guy, and while NECA definitely does indeed prioritize aesthetic, this figure still moves pretty well. The head is on a double-ball and has good range in basically all directions. The bandana knot just pegs into the head so you can rotate it if need be to help the figure look up. The default head is a little loose fitting on mine, but holds a pose. The neck is independently articulated as well, but mostly just helps the figure look down. The shoulders are ball-hinged and can raise out to the side just fine. The shell is going to get in the way a bit with rotation, but that’s nothing unfamiliar for TMNT fans. There’s no biceps swivel, and instead the figure has NECA’s double-jointed elbows with the hinge and swivel above and below the elbow. Because of the elbow pad, he can just barely bend the arms 90 degrees, but the swivel works fine. The hands swivel and hinge horizontally. At the waist, there is a twist, but it barely does anything. The hips are ball and socket joints and come out to the side for splits, but kick out and to the side when coming forward because of the plastron. The knees are double-jointed, but because of the knee pad, can’t quite hit 90 degrees. There is a swivel above the knee and the thigh also swivels, but just barely. At the ankle we have a hinge and rocker which works fine. It’s basically the same articulation as the movie figures, only with the double elbows. It’s not the thing the figure does best, but if you want your mummy in more “ninja” poses it’s certainly feasible.

You may think a mummy doesn’t need much in the way of accessories, but NECA apparently feels differently. For starters, Mikey comes with three sets of hands: “mummy” pose hands, gripping hands, and fists. The default, mummy, hands are basically posed how one would associate the mummy when it’s walking and reaching out towards a victim. They’re kind of curled and misshapen and since the thumb is under the fingers they can be considered loose, gripping, hands if you wish. As for what he has to hold, we have a set of nunchaku. Only now, the handles are gold-painted ankhs with brown tape around the handles. They have real chains, and there’s a gap on each side of the shell between the belt and shell they can be forced into if you like weapon storage. Mikey also has two pre-posed wraps that can be clipped onto a leg or arm for a little added effect. There’s a giant cobra which has a bendy wire through it that Mikey can hold, or have draped over his shoulders, or just have hanging around nearby. It’s in a hissing pose like it’s ready to strike.

The cobra makes me think of the Playmates figures and their “buddy characters” that can with so many figures.

Lastly, we have the best accessory: Mikey’s decaying, alternate, head. An image of a decaying Leonardo mask from the third TMNT movie has been floating around online for years, if not a decade. I believe it originated from an auction and it’s pretty damn hideous. Other images of decaying turtle costumes have followed, but that one is the most memorable and widely seen. Mikey’s alternate head is a clear homage to that one as the lips have been rotted away revealing two rows of big, flat, teeth. The flesh around the eyes has also receded leaving the face wide-eyed and a bit crazy looking. There are also chunks missing from other parts of the head and the bandana tails are a bit more wild looking. I don’t know if you’re supposed to be able to swap the knot between the heads, but as far as I can tell, they just peg into the head so it’s theoretically possible. The alternate head fits a little more snug than the default one and swapping them is pretty painless. It’s really hard to settle on one, though I feel like this alternate head captures a little bit of that Mikey humor inherent in the character and it might be the look I go with.

This figure actually presents a lot of display options. Classic Mummy pose? A Mikey nunchaku pose? Something with the snake? Default head or crazy, rotting, head? I’m planning on making Mikey a Halloween decoration that may live in his box (which I didn’t even talk about, but it’s beautiful) 10 months out of the year so it will be impossible to get all of these display options into one season. Maybe I’ll just need to find a place for him a little out of the way for the rest of the year. If you can’t tell, I love this figure and I absolutely recommend it. I don’t think it’s convinced me to buy the rest of the line, but if they hit clearance maybe I’ll reconsider. I think this guy displays just fine on his own, and if anything I’m more likely to invest in the accessory set for The Mummy than more TMNT x Universal Monsters figures.

Now the only thing left is to figure how to pose this guy on the shelf.

This figure was part of the Fall Geek Out event at Target. It was online as well, but I’m guessing that by the time this post goes live it will no longer be available there. This is the one and only Mummy Mike I saw in-store so it doesn’t look like he’s being shipped in the same vast quantities as the Leonardo figure from this line, but I could be wrong. If you missed the Target release, don’t fret. This figure is available to preorder in many of the usual places online and should be showing up in those same places eventually. Hopefully in time for Halloween.


Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that Dragon Ball Super has been the thing I’ve loved most that I never knew I wanted. I was done, or at least content, with Dragon Ball Z. Dragon Ball GT wasn’t good, but I didn’t need it so it wasn’t something that bothered me. Then Battle of Gods came out which ended up being the start of something new for Dragon Ball and here we are. Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is the second Dragon Ball Super movie following 19 volumes of manga, 131 episodes of the anime, and the movie Dragon Ball Super: Broly. And really, the last two Dragon Ball Z films were basically Dragon Ball Super since they were adapted into the anime in a longer form. The original Dragon Ball anime will likely always be my favorite, but there’s something to be said for Super which is more self-aware and comes across as being very confident in how to depict these characters, some of whom have been around almost 40 years. It’s funny and willing to poke fun at itself without resorting to more meta humor or fourth wall breaking. And it’s still action-packed and contains all of the tropes of Dragon Ball Z that have somehow become more charming as the years go by, maybe because of the nostalgia. Probably because of the nostalgia.

Super Hero is written by series creator Akira Toriyama and it’s very much a film a designed to place the spotlight on the B-team. When Toriyama was writing and illustrating the Cell Saga for the manga, it was conceived as a passing of the torch, and even a finale, from Goku to Gohan. Obviously, that changed quickly as Toriyama was convinced to keep going and we got the Buu Saga which basically returned Goku to the top of the mountain while Gohan trended towards a more peaceful existence and characters like Piccolo, Krillin, etc. settled further and further into the background. When Super came around, it largely followed that with the only difference being Vegeta moved into an almost co-lead with Goku, but when the anime came to an end, Goku was firmly back at the top.

The Red Ribbon army is under new management.

Now, the anime ended a few years ago, but the manga has continued. We basically have two different canons going on now. While there was always some differences between the two, they were often subtle and inconsequential. Now we have Broly and this film while the manga has gone in a very different direction. This film even features a time-jump that I don’t think has taken place in the manga. I’d have to go back and look, but regardless, there will likely be debate on what is and is not canon and I think the simple answer is we simply have two timelines at this point until (if?) the anime comes back.

Needless to say, this one takes place after the events of Broly and Goku (Sean Schemmel), Vegeta (Christopher Sabat), and Broly (Johnny Yong Bosch) are now comrades. They train together on the planet belonging to Lord Beerus (Jason Douglas) and it’s implied that Broly still has a ways to go in order to get his temper under control. Elsewhere, Piccolo (Sabat) has taken to training Gohan’s daughter Pan (Jeannie Tirado) in martial arts, though the young girl is having some trouble learning to fly. Gohan (Kyle Hebert) has immersed himself in his work neglecting his training and even fatherhood, which it’s hard to say what irritates Piccolo more as he and wife Videl (Kara Edwards) have become more and more reliant on Piccolo as a babysitter of sorts.

Gamma 2 (left) and Gamma 1 are the latest in android technology.

Brewing in the background is the threat of danger. The Red Ribbon army has been re-assembled by its new leader, Magenta (Charles Martinet), who is dissatisfied with being a mere pharmaceuticals producer and longs to restart the androids program. In order to do so, he turns to the great grandson of Dr. Gero, Dr. Hedo (Zach Aguilar), a young prodigy in robotics who was recently incarcerated. Despite the fearsome origin, Hedo is a bit childish and enjoys cookies. He also doesn’t aspire to be a great villain like Magenta and would prefer to create stylish androids in the model of a super hero. Magenta is able to woo the young scientist to his side by claiming that the individuals who took down Cell years ago are aliens out to conquer Earth and Hedo is willing to go along with this since it means money for his research.

With Dr. Hedo onboard, the Red Ribbon army successfully restarts the androids program leading to the creation of the twins Gamma 1 (Aleks Le) and Gamma 2 (Zeno Robinson). It’s Gamma 2 that comes into contact with Piccolo, whom he confuses for King Piccolo (we get a running gag of people referring to Piccolo by one of his former aspects throughout), and picks a fight since he fancies himself a super hero. Gamma 2 makes the mistake of thinking Piccolo was defeated and inadvertently leads Piccolo to the Red Ribbon HQ where he makes a startling discovery. Unfortunately, Bulma (Monica Rial) is unable to get ahold of Goku and Vegeta so it will be up to Piccolo and a rusty Gohan to save the world this time.

Daddy’s not coming to save you this time, Gohan, time to power up!

And that’s basically what it feels like this film waned to do. Unlike other Dragon Ball films, Goku is not going to swoop in at the end to save the day. This is Gohan and Piccolo’s fight, and both are going to power-up to new, largely unexplained, heights. Do we care that these new forms are unexplained? No, because they’re both fun and expected. There’s a fair amount of fan service at play, especially with callbacks to some of the forgotten lore of Dragon Ball’s past, and the sort-of return of an old villain. That’s actually the one criticism I have with the fan service elements as the returning villain is more like a shell of its former self with no personality. It would have been fun to see that personality rekindled and its reaction to the current state of this universe, but oh well. The story is fun, and Piccolo’s infiltration mission he undertakes creates a surprising amount of plot for a Dragon Ball feature. Usually it’s just bad guy shows up, and a long fight ensues. This one actually has pacing and needs things to happen in order to get to the fight. And we’re also dealing with villains who think they’re the heroes, which adds a different twist. It might be less action-oriented as a result so some fans may dislike it, but I found it rather enjoyable and it definitely gave the film more of a Dragon Ball feel such as when Kid Goku basically did the same with the old Red Ribbon army.

The character and story are certainly familiar and a whole lot of fun, what’s different is the production. This is the first Dragon Ball film to be rendered in 3D. It’s a 3D that can look like 2D in some parts and it’s something the past film did in certain shots. This one, outside of 2D flashback sequences, sticks with the 3D throughout and the results are mostly fine, but there’s some ugly parts. For some reason, Goku seems to look the worst in this style and comes across far too much like a character from a video game. I guess it’s a good thing then that he’s not in a lot of this one. There are a few other shots and moments where it gets “video gamey” and it is distracting. And a lot of those shots happen early in the film which is unfortunate because the film begins with a 2D refresher that looks awesome and made me wish the entire film was animated in such a fashion. I would prefer this, and any future episodes of the anime, to look more like that, but I suspect this is the wave of the future for Dragon Ball so I better just get used to it. I do like the use of colors and light with this film going for a manga look. Scenes pop and some of the tracking shots and angles this film goes for are dynamic and really engaging. Director Tetsuro Kodama has done a fantastic job of presenting Dragon Ball as there’s a great energy to the animation and a real weight to the blows.

Piccolo is the film’s heart, and as a longtime Piccolo fan, I approve.

Another strength of the film rests with the audio. The voice performances are all as expected, which is pretty great, while the soundtrack is maybe the best Dragon Ball has ever had? There will always be plenty of fans that love the old stuff from the 80s, but this one has a terrific presence. Composer Naoki Satō really got the message across that this one should sound heroic. There’s a lot of super hero sounding compositions and the music is very dramatic. There were no odd moments, like chanting which was used in the last movie, that took me out of the moment at any time. Some might be disappointed with the lack of more familiar songs, but I for one really enjoyed this soundtrack and found it quite suitable for what the film wanted to present.

Dragon Ball Super – Super Hero is another great addition to the Dragon Ball universe. It continues this high quality return for the series which has really seen the film version of the franchise taken to new heights. Before, Dragon Ball Z films felt like filler. They were simple stories that basically were like the Cliff Notes version of the main series with placeholder villains standing in for the real thing. These last four have felt more like full-fledged movies and I suspect that’s because those involved in the creation of them wanted that to be the case. Dragon Ball has become this warm blanket for me that always shows up. It would have to be really bad to be a disappointing experience and this film is far from it. Because I seem to ask so little of the franchise to entertain me, it’s become harder to decide what’s best among these films, but easy to say that they’re all good. If you’ve ever liked Dragon Ball definitely check out Super Hero. Dragon Ball on the big screen is an experience in and of itself so this gets a strong recommend from me. And Bandai, if you’re reading, we need some more figures based on this one. You know what I’m talking about!


S.H.Figuarts Dragon Ball Super Son Goku Super Hero

Wait! Don’t go! I swear this is a Goku worth talking about!

Back in the early 2000s I was a collector of Irwin Toys’ Dragon Ball Z line of action figures. When I started collecting that line, I just focused on my favorite characters which were primarily Vegeta, Trunks, and Piccolo. Gradually, the collector impulse took over and I started buying entire waves as they came out even if I never would have imagined I’d buy a figure of Yakon or Yamcha in a yellow suit. Anyway, what happened is my collection was surprisingly light on DBZ’s main character: Goku. Irwin was also pretty bad at keeping popular figures in circulation, they basically made a wave of figures and then moved onto the next one so late adopters were pretty screwed (and maybe that’s partly why they went out of business during the line’s life). I would eventually get the Series 4 standard Goku, but only because I found it on clearance for 4 dollars at a KB Toys (it was a pretty bad likeness), but I never got a Super Saiyan Goku or others. I did get some of the later Goku figures that Irwin and Jakks Pacific (who bought the license from Irwin when it went bankrupt) released, but my collection was definitely light on the legendary Saiyan.

I lead-off with that nugget of info because I’m partly amused, and partly shocked, that Goku dominates my collection of S.H.Figuarts based on Dragon Ball. This latest release based on the new movie Dragon Ball Super – Super Hero brings my total of Goku figures to 5, which isn’t a ton, but it’s amusing to me because I have only 1 Vegeta, 1 Piccolo, and zero Trunks. I’m also not including in my total of Goku figures my Goku Black and the two Kid Goku figures. Perhaps more amusing to me, the only other characters I have multiples of are Krillin, Master Roshi (one as Jackie Chun), and Bulma(!). I’m pretty sure the me of the early 2000s would be quite surprised that I would have more Bulmas than Vegetas, but that’s where we are. This obviously wasn’t deliberate on my part to make up for my lack of Goku 20 years ago. It’s largely the result of me getting into this line very slowly. I initially only intended to collect the figures from Dragon Ball, but they’re so few and far between that I started branching out to Z and Super and event GT! There are figures of Vegeta and Trunks that I’d like to have, but they’re no longer in circulation and I’m just not willing to go secondhand on them. Maybe one day, but for now Goku gets to dominate.

I wouldn’t normally advocate for buying a figure just for a new face, but I might for this one.

So why am I adding another Goku to my collection? Well, I didn’t have a base Goku having passed on the Saiyan Raised on Earth release and when this particular figure went up for solicitation I just happened to like it. The color palette for the new movie is based on the manga and the promotional images just made this figure look nice. Rather than a red-orange gi, this Goku is sporting a much lighter shade of orange. The promo images did a good job of making the figure look like it had more of a matte finish, and the portraits looked really sharp. And since it was being solicited at the bargain price of $35 I figured “why not?” And I’m happy to say the figure is more or less as expected. This is a Goku after all and it’s on a body that we should all be plenty familiar with and those promotional images ended up being honest about some parts of the figure, and less so about others.

The yelling expression is also on point. Whatever Bandai did differently with this one, keep it up!

First of all, the portraits for this Goku look terrific. In comparing them with past releases, I’ve narrowed it down to a few things that seem to make them “pop” better than before. For one, Bandai painted all of the lines including the ones under the eyes. They also used black instead of that brown shade they often use on the faces which helps to better reflect the anime. The eyes also look to be larger and the eyebrows have a little more shape to them. That’s pretty much it, which isn’t much, but the end result looks so much better. These are the best portraits of any Goku I have and it’s also helped by the selection. There’s the usual smirky face, plus a side-eye smirk that’s a little redundant. Then we get a yelling face which looks great because they made sure to round off the eyes, as Goku is often depicted, and the paint is so sharp that it really feels like Goku is screaming at me when I look at the thing. The fourth portrait is more of a frightened or surprised look which we’ve seen out of Goku plenty of times, usually in more comedic moments. It’s my favorite of the bunch and since it’s so different from the other figures I have it’s likely I go with this look in my display.

I’ve expressed my displeasure with this butterfly joint in multiple reviews, but I don’t think I’ve ever photographed it.

Aside from the faces, this Goku is pretty much like all of the others. There are actually subtle differences among the Goku figures I had before this one. Super Saiyan God Goku has a slightly leaner mold in places while the absurdly long named Goku had a different torso due to some battle damage while Super Saiyan 4 Goku is very much its own thing. This figure though is exactly the same as the Super Saiyan Blue Goku I reviewed a while ago. That’s both a good and bad thing. On one hand, the figure is a solid representation of Goku from the anime. It looks pretty good, the proportions are okay, and it mostly moves well. It’s just getting long in the tooth. There are some things it doesn’t do well, like move at the hips out to the side or much at all in the torso. If you wanted this Goku to be positioned in a true flying pose where he’s parallel with the ground it wouldn’t work because he can’t bend his head back far enough. The butterfly joint also isn’t the greatest and this figure has the same problem as that prior Goku in that the inner portion of the butterfly joint was molded in a flesh color instead of orange so it looks like his shirt is ripping. He also has the old shoulders which seem to be getting phased out and they feature the sleeves pinned to them which I have never liked. The ankles are also still on ball-pegs and they’re not great either. That’s what it doesn’t do very well, but what it can do is allow for enough posing that someone with many Gokus on the shelf can still find variety here.

A sampling of Gokus. This figure and the one on the right (the figure’s left) are pretty much the same.

I don’t feel the need to dive into the articulation anymore than that given this is a reused figure covered before. The only other thing to talk about are the rest of the aesthetics and accessories. Given this is a $35 release, it’s probably no surprise that the accessories are limited to the face plates and hands. It’s always a bummer when we don’t get something extra, but thems the breaks. The hands are fairly standard: fists, open, martial arts pose, Kamehameha, and one right two-finger Instant Transmission posed hand. The gi is sculpted in that lighter orange and I like how it turned out. There’s still a bit of a glossiness to it, but it seems to be less severe than usual. The same can be said for the other parts of the figure like the flesh tones and blues. The painted bits are color-matched well and applied cleanly. The undershirt and sleeves are painted better than my other Goku figures and the boots are nicely done. There is some shading, but it’s limited to the lower parts of the legs. I’m not sure I quite understand what Bandai was going for here. Do they think it works best for an aura type effect? You basically have a darker orange at the shins that gradually blends into the light orange by the time it reaches the upper thigh with little shading anywhere else. There’s a hit of it on the orange part of the sleeves and maybe a tiny bit on the abdomen, but it’s so subtle that I’m not sure if my eyes are playing tricks on me or if it’s really there. Aside from that, the only other criticism I have for the paint is the opacity on the symbol on both the front and rear of the gi could have been increased. What looks very nice though is the hair which has a matte finish to it. I don’t know if they hit it with a clear finish or if the plastic is a little different as it feels softer than the black hair on Kid Goku. Whatever they did, keep it up because the hair turned out wonderful.

Goku is at least a character worthy of multiple releases. If you want a base Goku, this is the one to get.

The Super Hero version of Goku is likely a figure most fans will know if they want it or not the moment they see it. If you have a standard Goku already, it’s probably something that can be ignored. However, at $35 it’s quite cheap for a Figuarts release and that might get people to double-dip on base Gokus just for the new portraits. If you’re like me and don’t have a version of Goku like this, I think this is the superior release when compared with the Saiyan Raised on Earth version. That is largely a subjective opinion though as I prefer the more orange gi and I like the faces better. You may have the opposite opinion. At the end of the day, it’s certainly nice to have options.


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