Category Archives: toys

Bucky O’Hare Wave 3.5 Aniverse Storm Toad Trooper

img_0978It’s been a long time between releases by Bucky O’Hare license holder Boss Fight Studio. The last figure released by the company was 2018’s Storm Toad Trooper, a figure that arrived at my doorstep on Boxing Day 2018. Since that time, Boss Fight Studio has had sculpts and specs to show off, most notablyBruiser, but no releases. Somewhat quietly though, this variant of the Storm Toad arrived at my door this week. I had not and still have not seen any mention of his release by Boss Fight’s social media accounts and he’s actually still listed as a pre-order item on their webstore. I know the company had some delays it had to deal with in 2018 relating to the offshore factory it utilizes to make the figures (which is why the previously set for release in the Fall of 2018 Bruiser is now slated for a Spring 2020 release) and I assume those delays impacted this figure as well.

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Some source material for this one.

Needless to say, it’s good to have some new Bucky product to talk about, even if it is a repaint of a previously released figure. If you’re going to re-release a figure though, it doesn’t hurt that it’s one of the best figures the company has put out. The Storm Toad Trooper is a marvel to look at. He looks like he was pulled right out of the comic from which he originated and there’s a ton of personality baked into this sculpt. Boss Fight smartly made sure he came with two heads and two pieces of headgear:  a hat and the traditional trooper helmet, which encouraged fans to buy two as it offered two distinct display pieces. And of course, there’s always the temptation to buy even more and “army build” the ranks of the Toads. At $35 a piece, slightly less if you opt for a two-pack, it’s a bit tough to justify building out a huge army of Troopers, but the temptation is certainly there.

In order to help maximize the value Boss Fight gets from each figure, the company has produced at least one variant of each sculpt it has released so far. For the Trooper, that means an Aniverse version. The Aniverse is the setting for the cartoon Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars and it simply means “Animated Universe.” Though considering all of the denizens of Bucky’s world are anthropomorphic animals from our world, it also works as an “Animal Universe” as well. The first run of all of Boss Fight’s action figures thus far have been based on the licensing art supplied by Continuity Comics. In order to make the show easier to animate, some characters were changed when moving to animation, though for the most part the changes were minimal. Boss Fight even showed off an Aniverse Bucky variant that seems to have been quietly cancelled, possibly because he underwent very minimal changes when changing mediums.

The Aniverse variant of the Storm Toad is the first such variant that has been produced. It makes sense considering the Storm Toad did change a bit. His jumpsuit was altered from black to blue, probably to help him stand out against the many black, space, backdrops in the show. All of the gold on his uniform was also changed to yellow, probably because yellow is cheaper, and in some episodes his gun switched from hot pink to light blue. The green of his helmet and trim are also darkened a touch and there’s less detail on his skin. For the figure, this means no green patches on his hands and head. Lastly, the lens covers on his helmet also went from hot pink to red.

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Two guns are better than one.

All of these little details have been captured by Boss Fight Studio with this version of the character. Beyond the change to the color scheme, the figure is essentially the same as released in 2018. For a brief rundown, this means he has a pair of trigger finger hands, two open palm hands, one pointing finger hand, a grinning head, a head with a sort-of side grin, helmet, hat, pistol, rifle, and hooked bayonet. A small piece of the rifle can be removed and swapped with the bayonet if you so desire. All of the weapons can be stored on the little peg holes on the figure’s belt or held. The figure itself is pretty loaded with articulation, though the details of the outfit hinder him a bit in ways the other characters in this series were not. It’s mainly those shoulder, elbow and knee pads which limit things a touch. He also has a very wide stance which doesn’t really lend itself well to dynamic posing, but it gets the job done.

Since this is basically a repaint, the figure has all of the pluses the previous one had. It also possesses the same negatives as well, of which there are few, but still worth a mention. His helmet is a real challenge to get onto the alternate head. You can try heating it up to make it more pliable, but that still might not get the job done. I could never get it to sit flush like it does on the stock head (which it snaps onto with satisfying ease) when it came to the original release, but this time I actually got it on! The second head doesn’t move as well though on the ball joint, but maybe I just pushed it in too far. The lens effect on the helmet is also achieved with a translucent plastic that runs throughout the entire inner part of the helmet and does leave red smudges on the head, something I never noticed with the first version. The alternate hat also doesn’t really snap in place, but it also doesn’t really need to as it looks fine even if it’s basically just floating on the head. The heads are a touch challenging to swap so be careful, but the hands are fairly simple. The included rifle looks great, but it is hard to get him into an appropriate rifle pose. If you can get him to hold it properly with his finger on the trigger you may be tempted to just leave it there as I did with the 2018 figure. I failed to do so this time around and a little stress crack was forming on the rifle handle so I backed off.

The Aniverse Storm Toad Trooper comes in Boss Fight’s collector friendly blister packaging. It’s a card-back with a plastic bubble that can be removed and reinserted with ease. Boss Fight even updated the artwork to reflect the new Toad with a some-what janky looking individual that’s reminiscent of the toon itself. It would have been neat if the little comic strip could have been updated to include scenes from the cartoon, but that probably would have meant cutting a check to Hasbro (who holds the rights to the cartoon) and I understand the decision to not do so there. Interestingly, the blister has changed slightly from past figures as the actual bubble is lower than before which necessitated moving the name plate up above the bubble and below the logo as opposed to on the bottom. If you’re curious, this figure is considered number 11 in the series. The bio card on the back is unchanged from the first release.

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It’s hardly what I would call an army, but it’s a start.

Because I’ve just always liked the look of the character, the Storm Toad Trooper is still one of my favorites from this toy-line, a line in which it’s really hard to pick a true favorite as all have been exceptional. I also really like this color scheme and I think I prefer it to the original, though I’m glad I didn’t have to choose between the two. For the first release, I did opt for the two-pack, but this time around I only pre-ordered the one. Interestingly, when I ordered it I had elected the option to pick it up at Boss Fight’s brick and mortar location in Norwood, MA, but the company shipped it to me instead, so a sincere thanks to Boss Fight for the free shipping! I don’t know if it was shipped in error or if they have stopped taking orders for pickup. A quick look at their website seems to suggest that option is still available, so maybe it was simply a “Thanks for being patient with this line,” gift of sorts.

I can safely say though that this is my favorite variant so far produced by this line. Holiday Bucky was pretty clever, but I really like the idea of doing cartoon versions of the characters. I don’t think Bucky and Dead-Eye necessarily need Aniverse versions, but it would be neat to see Jenny get one if they decide to do another variant of her. The upcoming Bruiser and Mimi LaFloo could also easily be adapted for Aniverse paint applications as well. I would also love to see this particular sculpt re-used for a Frix and Frax. My dream would have been for Boss Fight to include a Frix and or Frax head with this release, but I understand the desire to not add more cost. They probably would also prefer to do a more proper release with the characters getting their own card art and so forth.

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I hope to add several more figures to this display (pay no mind to the Christmas décor in the background, it has to go somewhere after the holidays).

Hopefully, the wait for the next figure in this line won’t be quite as long as it was for this figure. Bruiser is tentatively scheduled for the spring, and Boss Fight even sent a sample to Pixel Dan last year for him to review so he can’t be that far off. The company is also accepting pre-orders for Mimi and her approval process by Continuity went quickly so hopefully she’s on track for a 2020 release. And of course, Toy Fair is right around the corner now and we’ll have to see if Boss Fight and Bucky O’Hare will have a presence. Boss Fight showed off artwork for a line of mini figures last year and I would guess we’ll get more info about those soon. 2020 is already shaping up to be a good year for the funky fresh rabbit courtesy of Boss Fight Studio.


The NECA TMNT Wish List

shredder vs raphThe early months of the calendar year are generally among my least favorite. They’re cold, dark, and dull where I reside. About the only good thing on the calendar is the annual New York Toy Fair in which vendors roll out previews of the toys to come for the next fiscal year and sometimes beyond. These last few years have been particularly exciting for fans of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as easing of the master toy license by Nickelodeon and Playmates has allowed other companies to enter the mix. The company that has most taken advantage of this new frontier is NECA which currently has three toy lines based on the property hitting shelves. It’s a crazy fun time to be a Turtle toy collector as a result as NECA has taken a nostalgic approach to its figures which is something Playmates rarely does. And this year figures (pun intended) to be an exciting one as lots of figures are set for reveal.

If you haven’t been involved with the lines up to now, here’s a refresher. NECA is currently hard at work packing Target with two-packs based on the 1987 cartoon. Figures released so far include all four turtles in both toon accurate colors and licensing material (i.e. bright green) colors, Shredder, Krang in his bubble walker, Bebop, Rocksteady, and the always serviceable Foot Soldier. Already unveiled and set for release this spring are figures of April O’Neil, Casey Jones, Leatherhead, Slash (in his cartoon outfit), and battle damaged Foot Soldiers. In addition to them, we’ve already seen previews for a Foot Alpha, Metalhead, Triceraton, Traag, Granitor, and Krang’s android body. That’s a lot to take in with much more likely in the can.

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It’s a safe assumption we’ll soon be getting updated turtles to match their appearance in the famed sequel, as well as a few other choice figures.

At Gamestop, NECA is currently sending figures based on the 1990 film. They have thus far released the four turtles, Shredder, Foot, and Splinter. A special Loot Crate edition of Splinter is in production depicting him as a spirit from the camping sequence and with 2020 being the 30th anniversary of that film you know NECA has more on the way. We also know they intend to move onto The Secret of the Ooze so the movie line still has some legs.

At online and specialty shops, NECA is set to roll-out figures based on the popular arcade/SNES game Turtles in Time. The first of the four should be hitting retail soon and features Leonardo and Donatello complete with their weapons and surfboards from the Sewer Surfing level. There’s also a purple Foot Soldier who too packs a surfboard and Slash in his game-specific attire (which happens to match his comic look which the old Playmates toy was based on). All of the figures in this line feature a pixel-deco paintjob. Just revealed is wave two which includes Raph and Mikey as well as Shredder (the non Super version from the arcade) and Leatherhead. Considering a lot of the same players from the show were featured in that game, it stands to reason the cartoon and video game assortments will likely feature similar characters.

That’s a lot, and there’s already probably a lot more ready to be unveiled in a few weeks, but now feels like a good time to compile a wish list. I have collected all or parts of all three lines so far, but my main focus now is on the toon line. The 1990 film is my favorite anything related to TMNT, but there’s just not a lot left from that film NECA needs to touch. I have less fondness for the sequel, but wouldn’t mind some figures from it. The video game line is certainly cool, but not a huge priority right now. It may become one though if the Target two-packs continue to be extremely difficult to track down. Since the game figures are sold online and can even be pre-ordered, it makes acquiring them a lot easier. Plus they’re sold separately so there’s no danger of having to pay for a second, unwanted, figure in a two-pack (which so far hasn’t been an issue).

To sort of collect my thoughts in one place, I’ve decided to put together a little list of my most wanted from NECA. I suspect several of these will be unveiled at Toy Fair, but it would be a stretch to expect all of them. The cartoon actually featured far fewer characters than the old toyline, but many did make it into the show. NECA is thus far only doing characters that were in the cartoon, and if you’re nostalgia is just for the old Playmates line then maybe check out what Super7 is doing with its TMNT figures. Here is my list though, and I think number one is probably the same for many such lists:

  1. splinter teaSplinter (Cartoon) – We have the turtles, we have the main villains, and soon we’ll even have April and Casey, but what we don’t have yet is the beloved sensei to the turtles:  Master Splinter. Playmates never did do a proper toon version of the character, but it can be assumed that NECA will and it will be spectacular. He’ll assuredly come with his walking stick, and hopefully some fun accessories like a mug of tea or maybe some sushi. Afterall, he never was all that fond of pizza.
  2. stinky rat king

    There’s no way this guy smells pleasant. 

    The Rat King (Cartoon) – Possibly my favorite villain from the old show, speaking purely from a design standpoint. The turtles may have dwelled in the sewers, but the Rat King was really the only denizen that actually looked the part. If a cartoon character could have an odor, surely Rat King would have qualified. He would need to come with a few rats, though I’m blanking on additional accessories needed. It’s a long shot, but it would be rad if NECA could include a removable hat and duster to cover the redesign that came later in the toon’s life, but my guess is they’d rather hang onto that as a variant down the road.

  3. baxterfly

    I have an unexplainable fondness for this little guy.

    Baxter Stockman/Baxter the Fly (Cartoon, Game) – I’m cheating a little by including both at number three, but my dream is for Baxter to come in a two-pack with his mutated fly persona. Toss in some mousers, and that’s quite a set! Baxter the Fly is also a figure I’m prepared to double-dip on should he get a video game release as well (and you know he will) because it will likely come with that outrageous gun he wields. And in case you’re not familiar with the game, I speak of the gun that could shoot fists and hand slaps.

  4. killer pizzas

    Raph is probably about to make a joke about them being right behind him.

    Pizza/Sewer Monster (Cartoon) – The Xenomorph inspired Pizza Monsters seem like a solid option for NECA’s Ultimate figures based on the cartoon. The Ultimates are for deluxe figures that will be sold individually as opposed to in two-packs. We don’t know where they’ll be sold, but we do know the Foot Alpha, Metalhead, and Krang’s android body are ticketed for such a release. The Pizza Monster makes for a nice fit because it could feature a fully grown version as well as smaller ones representing the larval forms and such. It’s a classic and well-remembered episode, so much so that NECA even did a Sewer Alien based on the film franchise Alien as a convention exclusive designed to mimic the TMNT version.

  5. groundchuck and dirtbag

    Groundchuck (right) was pretty cool. Dirt Bag (left) I could take or leave.

    Groundchuck (Cartoon) – Groundchuck was one of my favorites of the Playmates toys. The bright red fur with blue attire and steel leg just looked cool to me at the time and I think it would look great as a NECA figure today. In the cartoon, he was paired with Dirt Bag whom I’m less enamored with, but it would certainly make sense to package the two together. He did not appear in Turtles in Time though so he might be a low priority figure since he doesn’t easily fit into that line (he did, however, appear in other games).

  6. tokkamomma

    I know some people are still mad we got these two instead of Bebop and Rocksteady, but it’s hard to deny they’d make awesome figures.

    Tokka and Rahzar (Film, Cartoon) – I’m not super into The Secret of the Ooze, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t think its featured dim-witted duo wouldn’t look great in plastic. Tokka especially would likely look awesome, while Rahzar would be a bit tricky given all of the fur. My guess is NECA would sculpt the fur in plastic as it did with Splinter, but who know? If they continued in their quarter-scale line maybe fur would be a feature there. Regardless, I think they would look awesome and I would also be interested in cartoon versions of the characters. It remains to be seen if NECA could create a sculpt that works for both mediums though as the cartoon versions basically looked like the Playmates figures. The two also appeared in the game so NECA could have possibly triple-dip here, though it might be safer for them to just make the film and cartoon/game versions separate.

  7. mondogecko

    Mondo Gecko was a character we were supposed to think is cool, and we all did.

    Mondo Gecko (Cartoon)- Seemingly everyone’s favorite non-turtle character was Mondo Gecko. He had a skateboard, bright colors, and was named Mondo – what’s there not to like? He’s likely a high priority figure as a result for NECA and it would surprise me a little if we don’t see him in a couple weeks. NECA will likely try to make him screen accurate which is a bit unfortunate because the figure was so much cooler. I still think he’ll turn out fine though.

  8. mightyhognrhinoman

    The heroes we truly need.

    Rhino Man and Mighty Hog (Cartoon) – Yeah, I’m cheating again with another two character entry, but what are ya gonna do? I’m mostly avoiding variants of already released figures for this list, but I do love Bebop and Rocksteady and those figures NECA did are so damn awesome that I want to see more of them from the company. While the robots Super Bebop and Mighty Rocksteady are quite tempting, I think I’d actually prefer the super hero versions of the characters:  Rhino Man and Mighty Hog. Even though this is the preferred variant for me, my guess is we actually get SNES versions of the two in pirate attire before anything else.

  9. super shredder

    It helps that NECA won’t need to make a licensing deal with Kevin Nash thanks to the giant helmet.

    Super Shredder (Film, Game) – Now you can’t have figures based on The Secret of the Ooze without including the big baddie from the end:  Super Shredder. Given how quickly he was dispatched, Super Shredder was certainly more bark than bite, but man was he intense looking. NECA would have some fun sculpting all of those spikes. This bad boy would have to be big too, unlike the puny version Playmates gave us many years ago. And unlike Tokka and Rahzar, it wouldn’t be too difficult to turn that film-based figure into a video game one as he basically looked the same. He’d just need to have cool fireball effects and maybe a little screaming turtle.

  10. darkturtle

    Cooler than Batman. There, I said it.

    Dark Turtle (Cartoon) – For my last entry, how about a deep cut? We’ll undoubtedly see figures of the Punk Frogs, Mukman, and maybe even Bug Man before we see a Dark Turtle, but he’s worth remembering. Dark Turtle, in case you forgot, was a one-episode appearance and is the alter-ego of Donatello. He basically looks like Batman, and what’s not to like about a turtle dressed as Batman? I’m not super interested in variants of the turtles, as I think I’m still fatigued by the many Playmates flooded the market with 30 years ago, but this one I’d go for.


Hot Wheels Mario Kart Circuit and Other Sets

mk_circuit_boxToy reviews are not uncommon on this blog, but when they take place they’re almost always about an action figure that I bought for myself. This post is the rare toy post that’s not about one of my toys, but about a toy that belongs to my son. That’s because this Christmas Santa brought my boy a whole bunch of Mario Kart branded Hot Wheels. Given that Mario appeals to me and the Mario Kart series of video games is one of the most popular in the world, it felt like a review was a worthy endeavor for this blog.

My son has mostly been in and out of Hot Wheels since he turned 2. My dad, who tried his best to make me a gearhead, has probably been responsible for the majority of the Hot Wheels my kid has received over the years. He drifted away though with his interests going in different directions, but the Mario Kart set seemed to catch his eye when it came time to make out a list for Santa this past year. This surprised me as I had seen this set over the summer and somewhat tried to get my son interested in it, but he paid it no mind. The main track looked interesting, and the Mario Kart racers looked great. He has some interest in Mario as it is, but the games still frustrate him given that he’s only four. I thought maybe it just wasn’t the right time, but things obviously changed. And since the only other item he was insistent upon receiving as a gift this year was a cheap little game called Dragon Snacks, Santa delivered when it came to Mario Kart.

mk_circuitUnder the tree on Christmas morning was the main racetrack, the Mario Kart Circuit. It’s an oval design of two tracks for simultaneous racing. There’s a launcher to start and then motorized boosters before the second of two long curves. Two additional sets were also present, one based on avoiding a large piranha plant and a second where the obstacle is a massive thwomp enemy. Also joining the crew was nearly every single-carded racer including the likes of Peach, Bowser, and everyone’s favorite, Waluigi.

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Blue should always win.

Leading up to Christmas I had read mixed things about this set. Some YouTube videos were watched, and I saw enough to convince me that my kid would probably enjoy it. We were able to convince him to give up his seldom used Paw Patrol toys freeing up considerable space in the house for these new toys. I assembled the sets and while the main track looks intimidating, I found it rather easy to setup. Four D batteries are required to power the boosters and I don’t know when I last had something that required D batteries before this thing. Stickers are needed to dress the set up and they suck as usual, but at least there aren’t a ton of them. The secondary sets are even simpler as they don’t require batteries. The piranha plant was a little tricky to assemble, but it went together fine. That set just uses gravity to work alongside a wind-up function while the thwomp set has an elastic-powered launcher.

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The set includes a goomba. He doesn’t do anything, but hey, it’s a goomba!

The main track, Mario Circuit, shares a name with a track from the actual games, but it doesn’t really resemble anything aside from the fact that it’s a basic oval design. There’s a goomba in one place and Toad’s house is inside the track and that’s mostly it as far as the big attractions go. The track itself consists of four long curve track pieces connected by straight pieces. There’s a starting gate which features a lap counter function via the two flags protruding from it. You can even “lock” the counter so that when one racer completes all of its laps the opposing side locks forcing a crash. Two launchers kick things off and getting the cars to fire off properly requires more finesse than power. My kids find it hard to produce enough force, but if I try to hit it with what I’d consider is hard force the cars go flying off the track. I found it easy to get a feel for it, but the different sized cars present a challenge (more on that later). My kids choose to ignore the launcher and just feed them into the motorized portion and they seem content with that. While the cars are in motion and racing, the spectators can utilize the turtle shell buttons to try and bump their opponent off of the track. It’s surprisingly challenging, but plenty doable, and helps extend a race.

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Extra parking for all of your racers!

When my son found this under the tree, he started playing with it almost immediately. We had a lot of fun, until one of the long curves started to fail. I soon noticed that the groove under the track had begun to split. Soon enough, the piece wouldn’t even stay connected so after only a few minutes of play the two-track circuit was now a one-track circuit. To his credit, my son didn’t seem to let it bother him and I quickly fired off an email to Mattel. I received a response on the 27th, and had a replacement free of charge on the 30th. It was disappointing the track broke so quickly, but at least Mattel rectified the problem in short order.

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Racers can even hide in the turret.

The track contains room to store other racers, which is great because we have a lot. Coming with the set was Mario and Yoshi in standard karts. The thwomp track came with Luigi in a standard kart, and the plant with a second green Yoshi, but this time in the Mach 8 kart. I appreciate the new kart for Yoshi, but why did he have to be green again when there are so many other colors of Yoshi? The single carded vehicles include Peach in a standard kart, Toad in the Sneeker, Bowser in the Bad Wagon, Waluigi in the same Bad Wagon, Wario in standard kart, Koopa Troopa in the Circuit Special, and Blue Yoshi in a standard kart. Also available is a Tanooki Mario and Rosalina. There’s also a four-pack that features a Black Yoshi and there’s supposed to be another track with Donkey Kong. I’m sure there will be more to come as well.

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Toad even gets his own parking spot behind his house.

All of the cars seem to work to some degree on the Mario Circuit track. The characters in standard karts seem to fare the best, with Toad and the Mach 8 vehicle working just a little worse. With standard carts, I had no trouble getting vehicles to hum around the track with little interruption. The heavier racers, like Bowser especially, are a tad trickier to get a successful launch out of. For whatever reason, the inside track in particular was a challenge and sometimes I’d just give up and start them off in the booster area. Koopa Troopa works all right in his elongated vehicle, but he’s practically unusable in the smaller sets as his vehicle gets hung-up on the turnarounds. Even though they don’t all work as well as each other, the vehicles are still worth having because they look great. The only one I’m not as into is Toad and that’s because Mattel didn’t paint his steering column and wheel leaving it flesh-colored, which just looks weird. And since the dimensions on these karts are essentially the same as other Hot Wheels, they should be usable in other sets.

The smaller sets are far less impressive than the main track. Of the two, the piranha plant one works the best. You simply wind-up the plant and watch him slowly spin and dive at the track in an effort to consume a racer. The cars are gravity fed, so you just wait for an opening and let them go. It’s very easy to get a racer past the obstacle, but my son seems to like it. The thwomp track is less enjoyable. You pull back on the golden mushroom and select from three different release points, with really only the first one being usable. When the racer is fired it hits a little flapper which causes the thwomp to fall at random. Sometimes they get by, and sometimes they don’t – it’s all predicated by chance.

mk_circuit_plus

Mattel would have you believe incorporating more pieces is the ultimate goal, but that is not the case.

The appeal of the smaller sets on their own is minimal, but the real draw is that the plant and thwomp can be incorporated into the Mario Circuit track set. Mattel’s instructional images put the thwomp just after the starting launcher and the plant just before the booster piece, while some promotional images (above) feature a different, but still long, layout. When added it certainly gives the track more personality, as my main complaint with it in its base form is that it needs a touch more Mario in terms of its visuals. Unfortunately, that’s really all they add to the track. Incorporating the two of them means adding considerable length to the circuit, and the boosters just don’t provide enough power for a longer track. The standard cart characters can basically only compete a lap or two before they just fall off, while the heavier racers can’t even pull that off. It’s really not even usable in this form, which is a shame since it’s a big piece of the appeal of the set.

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The preferred layout in my house.

The good news is, you can still find other ways to make this track work. Finding the wind-up feature of the plant a bit too annoying to use with the main track, my son and I opted to simply remove it. He likes that small set on its own, so he can play with it in that fashion. We kept the thwomp, but moved it to where the plant was. This meant we had to remove a corresponding piece of track to make it fit, but the end result is we added a fun obstacle with visual flair while keeping the track still usable. It worked well when tested on a hardwood floor, though once I moved the set to my son’s room and placed it on a thin foam mat (which is on a hardwood floor) the performance dipped. That could be a result of the playing surface, or the batteries may be weakening as the cars aren’t firing from the booster with the same velocity and after a few laps some are falling on the long curve immediately after it. I hope this thing isn’t going to suck batteries that fast as it’s barely been a week.

mk_light

New to retail in January 2020 is the Light version of the track.

Overall I do mostly like the main Mario Circuit track. The other two I could take or leave. I like that the track attempts to make it a competitive race with a little chaos tossed in, and it has lots of space for other cars to be parked. There are supposed to be more sets released as well. I’ve seen images for a Mario Circuit Light which is the same track, but smaller. It has launchers with warp pipe adornments which I like, but not motorized boosters which I do not like. The listings at Target’s website reference a Chain Chomp Challenge set as well, but I have not seen any images for it. These things seem to sell well, so I assume it’s still coming. I do have concerns with the performance long-term. I had one track piece break and I’ll give Mattel the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s an isolated instance, but I’m concerned it could happen again. And if my batteries are already weakening that could be a problem. If I feel the need to, I’ll return to this review and update it accordingly. For now, I’ll continue playing with my son as I keep an eye out for new racers showing up at retail.

As a final note, these sets appear to be exclusive to Target for the time being, though it looks like Amazon may now be selling them as well. The Light version of the track might not be exclusive to anyone though and a four-pack of vehicles is coming to retail soon. My assumption is this brand will expand to other retailers in time, but it’s just that – an assumption. The small sets will run you around $19.99 while the larger track retails for $79.99. I have seen it on sale numerous times though for $69.99 so you probably don’t need to spend more than that if you wish to take the jump. Individual cars are $4.99.


Lego 71044 – Disney Train and Station

71044_Box4_v39Earlier this year I did a post wondering what happened to the Lego/Disney relationship that seemed so fruitful just three years prior. It was a post born out of some frustration, but mostly just disappointment. Following the release of an entire line of minifigures devoted to the Disney brand as well as the massive Cinderella’s Castle from Disney World, it seemed like we were primed for more minifigures and more sets based on theme park attractions and icons. A set featuring Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle felt inevitable and my mind was racing to conjure up mental images of what other popular attractions might work and make sense in Lego form.

Nothing happened though. Disney still had a presence with Lego, but it was all themed sets based on the latest movie hitting theaters. This surprised me because that initial wave of figures seemed to sell out quickly around me. I had to hunt them down and eventually wound up paying almost twice the MSRP at a specialty shop with hideous mark-ups on everything. The castle set seemed to do well since Lego has kept up with production on it and I’ve never seen it discounted (it’s possible Disney has an agreement with Lego that prevents it from going on clearance) leading me to believe it’s a solid seller. If the cast members who work the crystal shop in Epcot can be trusted, they usually sell one of those $37K crystal depictions of the castle per day so Lego selling a bunch of $300 castles seems plausible.

Of course, my post either had good timing or poor as not long after a bunch of news broke. A new wave of figures, a Mickey-themed set based on Steamboat Willie, and finally the big one, a set based on Disneyland’s railroad and station. I was able to secure a set of minifigures after hunting around my area while the Steamboat Willie set was a simple purchase at a local Lego Store. The Disneyland railroad had to wait a bit as it came with a rather steep cost. The MSRP on the set came in at a tick under $330 not including tax. With less than 3,000 pieces and only five minifigures, this felt like a pretty significant mark-up. For comparison, Cinderella’s Castle had the same amount of figures, but over 4,000 pieces for a more reasonable $350. Disney always equates to significant mark-up when it comes to licensed merchandise, but this was more than I expected. The actual building is fairly small and not nearly as eye-catching as the castle. This felt more like a $250 set as a result, and I had a hard time convincing myself to foot the bill for it.

Maybe I wasn’t alone, as Black Friday arrived and with it came discounted Lego sets. To my surprise, this set was one of the ones to get marked down. It was roughly $100 off for a weekend and that was enough to get me to jump on it, along with many other shoppers. The set even sold out while I was trying to check-out online, but Lego accepted backorders with a guarantee to deliver before Christmas. This made this a suitable joint gift for myself and my wife, essentially our gift to each other, this year.

For starters, it should be pointed out that the set likely retailed for more than expected partly due to the tech baked in. This set is part of Lego’s app-enabled products. The Powered-Up Motor is Lego’s latest inclusion for making sets go. It requires you download an app and use a tablet or phone to control the train. It has sound effects as well and if you’re against pushing the train then you have this as well to make it go. It’s pretty neat, and if I didn’t already have a Disney World Monorail set to ring my Christmas tree I’d probably consider using this. It does add more of a toy quality to the set as well, which may be a bad thing if you’re like me and have small kids at home that want to play with your expensive Lego sets.

img_0777Like the castle, this one comes with five minifigures. And like the castle, most are essentially re-releases of prior figures. Minnie Mouse is the least interesting as she appears here in her red polka-dotted dress once again with the only difference being she’s traded the hard plastic skirt piece for a fabric one (to make it easier to position her in a seated position for riding the train). Three of the other figures just re-use existing head sculpts. You have Mickey as an engineer in blue overalls with a red bandana around his neck. He looks good, but where’s his hat? Engineer Mickey at the park is always sporting a hat and it would have been simple to just reuse the Steamboat Willie hat with a new paint scheme, but Lego opted not to do so apparently. Chip and Dale are here as conductors and they have new bodies as well. It’s a classy addition, but like Mickey they have no hats. At least with these two it’s more understandable as a hat is probably trickier to sculpt and add to them whereas Mickey had already been released to fit a hat. The fifth figure is the only all new one, but it’s a much welcomed one. Goofy finally gets to make his proper Lego debut and he’s in his contemporary orange shirt with blue pants. He looks great and since we had yet to receive a Goofy I am glad he’s not in train-attire. He probably should have been released as part of the minifigure wave as it kind of stinks he’s trapped in this set (for now), but I’m glad he’s here. Now we just need a Pluto to finish off the Fab 5.

img_0770All right, let’s talk about the main event now. The train station presented here is just referred to as the Disney Train and Station by Lego, but it’s a replica of the station at Disneyland. As basically the first thing one sees when entering that park, it’s one of the most iconic Disney-related visuals that exists in the real world. And since we already received a Disney World set, this makes quite a bit of sense to be the next release. I initially expected Sleeping Beauty Castle, but since that is so much smaller than Cinderella’s Castle it might not have felt as iconic when compared with that set. This one invites fewer comparisons to Disney World. Yes, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has a train station as well, but it’s just a slightly different design that’s neither better or worse than what Disneyland has. It’s a bit bigger, but the main difference is the clock tower portion is centered whereas this one is off-center and placed on the right if you’re facing it from the front. I suppose fans hopeful that Cinderella’s Castle meant that one day a Disney World in Lego would be achievable are disappointed, but I don’t mind inter-mingling Disney World and Disneyland sets in my display.

img_0771Like the castle, the station is essentially a façade with an open back. Lego could have set it up on a hinge, but it opted not to. It’s fine and actually makes it easier to place on a shelf or something. I suppose if you have this on a large surface with the track going around the station it might bug you that it doesn’t have a back, but if it did you wouldn’t be able to see the lovely interior. Since the building itself isn’t particularly large, there isn’t nearly as much “fun” inside as there was with the castle, but what’s there looks nice. There’s a ticket counter with a bench in the main section and a luggage scale tucked away as well. There’s a pair of scaled-down replicas of the locomotive and a little lounge on the second floor. The clock tower is the only area on what is basically the third floor. An architect might complain there’s no way for the characters to physically move from floor to floor, but I like that they didn’t cram stairs into this thing. The windows in the hall look nice and I like the red curtains. Having never been inside the actual station, I can’t really attest to the authenticity, but this looks fine. The only thing missing is a bunch of fun easter eggs referencing past Disney films and cartoons like the castle possessed. There’s a cute replica of the Lego Cinderella’s Castle and box for the third floor and a pink umbrella that might be a reference to Mary Poppins, but otherwise I didn’t notice anything obvious.

ck_holiday_legoThe locomotive itself is a replica of the CK Holiday from Disneyland, which itself was based on a replica train Walt Disney owned and drove around his backyard. As the first train constructed for Disneyland, it was an obvious choice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain the CK Holiday branding and instead opts for a generic Disney Train. I don’t know why Lego seemed resistant to affirm that this is based off of Disneyland’s train and station, but it’s not a huge deal. The second car is basically just a housing for the motor, while the third car is for park guests and the fourth is the caboose, once again, modeled after the actual train. The passenger car has a nice design where the top flips open for easy access while the caboose has a more luxurious interior. You can fit a lot of minifigures on this thing and I can see some people stocking it with custom minifigures that look like park patrons. Or you could simply just cram it full of some of the previously released Disney figures, especially the ones that are solid stand-ins for Disney cast members in costume.

The build for the train was pretty painless, though the locomotive presents some minor challenge. It’s more that the locomotive is fairly fragile once completed. To make sure it bends on the tracks it has a lot of floating parts such as the rear of the engine. There’s a little piece too underneath the cabin that has a tendency to pop off when handling it which did become annoying. The interior also doesn’t feature any details at all, which surprised me. My guess is the quarters are already tight and there just wasn’t enough room to work with. I think they could have slipped in a few handles or something, but oh well. The top flips up to make it easy to place Mickey or another figure inside and the windows make it easy to see who’s driving.

Past the engine is the coal cart, which also houses the power motor. It’s by far the simplest and quickest build and it does its job. The passenger car is an interesting build as well since it has a very open design. It’s a quick build as well and it’s fairly sturdy which is necessary since you’ll be inserting many figures into this car. The caboose is the longest build, but it’s also pretty simple. It has a closed design with one side being removable to insert characters. The only thing holding that side on is essentially two bricks, one on each end of the marquee, making it both easily accessible and hidden. I do enjoy the interior of this car, which creates a dilemma as I’m torn on how to display this one. Any figure you place in here with the panel in place probably won’t be readily visible to anyone looking at the train. At this point, I have so many Mickey and Minnie figures though so maybe I’ll just stash some in there for display.

Easily, the largest shortcoming for the train in both the build and display is related to stickers. I hate stickers, and this set is loaded with them. The train in particular has a lot of small stickers that are challenging to place. The caboose, for instance, has the Disney Railroad label broken up across three stickers which is practically torture. It should be a rule for Lego that any set over $250, especially one like this aiming to be more of a display piece than toy, opt for as many printed pieces as possible, but evidently Lego disagrees.

img_0769The set comes with enough track to make an oval of modest length. It’s essentially large enough to comfortably go around the station, but if you want to ring a Christmas tree or something you’ll need to buy more. Getting the train lined up is a little tricky, but not frustrating for an adult. Connecting the device to the app (I did via an iPhone) is also really simple and I had zero issues there. The train moves at a nice clip and I did not have any derailments. It can go forward and in reverse and there’s some sound effects as well. I don’t know if this is necessarily an improvement over the old setup, but it does work as intended. My only fear would be in a decade will this app still function? Lego does sell remotes, though that will obviously set you back further.

The build for the station is the longest part of the set and composes it’s own much thicker book. It’s a methodical build, and while some may resent the redundancy of constructing a brick building, I tend to find my Zen in these things. The instructions break up the construction of the outer walls reasonably well by mixing in other tasks before returning to it. By far, the most interesting part of the finished product is the metalwork on the roof. To simulate wrought iron, Lego went with black handcuffs. Admittedly, it looks a bit odd during the build since it’s hard to ignore the fact that the pieces are handcuffs, but once complete it looks pretty nice. I’ve seen other reviewers praise this creativity and probably an equal amount criticize it. Lego could have created a unique piece to do the job, but this does work so I can’t really fault the company for going in this direction.

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I hate these stickers.

Like the train, the station contains numerous stickers. In general, they aren’t as bad as the train since many are just for signs on the wall, but they’re still frustrating in places. In particular, the carpet on the second floor is comprised of three pieces and three stickers. The only way to not have gaps in the carpet is to lay the pieces and then place the stickers over them ignoring where the actual pieces begin and end. The instructions would have you do the opposite, but this gives you brown gaps in the image which looks stupid. From an aesthetic standpoint, that one part is my biggest peeve with the set.

The rest of the interior is plenty fun to both build and look at. In particular are the little model trains which consist of a clever build on their own. They don’t really resemble a train until completed which leads to a “Eureka!” moment. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to do with the figures once done. You can cram one behind the counter and there’s a bench and chair, but that’s about it. Both seats also lack pegs so the characters just rest on them and will flail around if you move the set. The finished station also surprised me with its size. While it is certainly small compared to the castle, it stands just over a foot in height when done. Add those flagpoles and the set ends up reaching roughly 16″. This has created some challenge for me as the places in my home I had earmarked for this thing have proven too small. Right now it’s on a hutch, but I think I may end up making some shelves and displaying it that way.

Ultimately, I think this is a set that will please Disney fans who purchase it. My initial criticism of the price of the set still stands and had I purchased this at that MSRP I probably would be less enthused by it. As a $230 set, it’s far more palatable. It’s more of a display piece than toy as the station doesn’t do much or present many opportunities for play. It looks the part though and will bring as much class to your display as any Lego can. The train though is about as fun as any other toy train. My kids ask to play with it and I oblige despite the anxiety that creates. If I didn’t already have a toy monorail to ring my Christmas tree I’d probably be in the market for more track to do the same with this.

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Mickey pondering if we may see a Disney World version someday.

This set also naturally lends me to wonder what’s next for Lego and Disney. Considering all of the time that elapsed between the castle and this set, I am certainly not holding my breath or even crafting any expectations on what’s to come. The existence of this probably makes some hope for a Disney World version, but I don’t see Lego double-dipping on trains, but it probably would be cost-effective for the company so never say never. I do wonder if Lego has any appetite for a monorail set, but that doesn’t have an obvious companion like the train station to go with it as the monorail platforms are fairly boring, aside from the ones attached to hotels. Does Lego want to create a replica of Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Probably not. I’ll continue to hold out hope for fun, attraction-based, sets. My ultimate dream would be Spaceship Earth, but numerous others would be fun as well. If this is it though, that won’t leave me too defeated. Just at least give me a Pluto, Lego! He’s such a good boy and sorely missed.

 


NECA TMNT Bebop and Rocksteady Target Exclusive Series

img_0666I have been rather fortunate when it comes to toy collecting in recent years. When I was a kid, toy collecting meant going to Toys R Us or a similar store and seeing what was on the shelf. Catalogs, commercials, and card backs were my main source of information. I assume there were newsletters and other avenues for the older collectors, but for a kid that was basically it. Today though it’s way different. Kids who collected have turned into adults who collect and it’s become a large market that seems to keep on growing. As a result, there’s extensive coverage of new and upcoming toys at conventions and trade shows. The brick and mortar toy store is also basically dead in the US, and most people get their toys online. The “toy hunts” I used to go on as recently as the 2000s have mostly vanished for me, until recently that is.

When NECA was finally allowed to expand upon their Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles offerings it meant I had a whole new line to dive into. The loosening of the master license by Playmates was still pretty restrictive though and it largely kept NECA to doing annual convention exclusives. That’s how I landed my set of 1987 Turtles two years ago in a gloriously massive set of 8 figures. This year though, NECA was finally allowed to seek distribution through conventional means that still kept the product somewhat separate from whatever Playmates was doing. This meant GameStop exclusive single-carded movie figures which had previously been a convention exclusive or restricted to quarter-scale. It also meant those toon Turtles were coming to retail and for that NECA partnered with Target.

Since Target also sells toys it meant there would be a conflict with Playmates. Even though Playmates is only producing Turtles based on the new cartoon Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, there’s still a sensitivity there. As a result, NECA was forced to make sure their product is differentiated even more than it already was in the form of two-packs that retail for around $52 each and they had to stock the product in the back of the store, usually behind electronics. Their distribution method is a bit tricky too as the product gets shipped to Target, but is then stocked by a NECA employee. As a means of keeping track, NECA even launched what it called an Ambassador program, which is essentially a Street Team which musical acts and record labels often utilized back in the 80s and 90s, and these ambassadors basically make sure the area looks tidy and sends a picture to NECA on a weekly basis.

I am a part of that program as I have a Target right in my town. I also work from home a few days a week so I have the flexibility to get there. When the Turtle sets started arriving though, I never saw one in my store. I would eventually see some months later at other stores when I thought to look, but they were definitely a bit hard to come by. No matter, as I already had them thanks to the convention set I had previously purchased. That all changed though with wave two. Back at Toy Fair, NECA unveiled the crown jewel of wave two:  a two-pack featuring the dim-witted duo of Bebop and Rocksteady. Based on their cartoon appearance, this was basically the first screen accurate version of the characters ever. Back in 89, Playmates released the duo in their inaugural wave of figures, but they were hardly cartoon-accurate. Bebop mostly looked the part, but Rocksteady had a black tanktop for some reason and his seldom worn helmet was part of his sculpt. As a kid, this bothered me because I was a bit of a pedant when it came to toys, but I still loved them for what they were.

Since this pair was not part of a con exclusive set, it meant I was going to have to hunt for them. The second wave of these figures was set for release on November 26, but due to the unique distribution of the figures it meant some started showing up the week before. They even went up on target.com briefly the prior Friday, though Bebop and Rocksteady either never did or sold out in a flash. The other figures in the wave are all repaints and re-releases:  a two-pack of Leo and Don, Raph and Mikey, and a two-pack of Foot Soldiers. The Turtles have been repainted in a bright green shade to more reflect the promotional art as opposed to the actual show, while the Foot Soldiers are basically army builders. All very cool, but I’m a bit limited by funds so I had to just focus on the new sculpts.

Because NECA basically stocks these figures themselves, Target employees are often unreliable. I found if I called a store the best they could tell me is if they were physically out or not. One employee was actually really helpful and knew that they were in the back, but they were waiting for the NECA rep to put them out. That was on the 22nd, and I made sure to check that Target the next morning. I got there about a half hour after opening and found the Turtles and Foot, but no Bebop and Rocksteady. Kicking myself for not being there right at opening, I proceeded to head to the next nearest Target where I found nothing. I would visit 8 other Targets that day driving over 100 miles in the process and found nothing at all of them. I kept an eye on Target’s website all weekend, and even asked my wife to check out our nearest Target on Monday while I was at work. Finally though, the day of this post, I found what I was looking for and at my store, no less.

What felt like a long and exhausting hunt was really only a few days and largely the result of my impatience. Had I just waited until the official release of yesterday, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money, but it’s all part of the experience. While it’s deflating to walk into store after store and find nothing, there’s also nothing like the rush of excitement when you finally do find what you’re looking for. I would and do trade that for the ease of an online preorder when possible, but it was nice to have that experience again.

All of the figures in NECA’s cartoon wave are packaged in window boxes with a color scheme that brings to mind the Turtle Van. NECA is unfortunately forced to use Nickelodeon’s licensing artwork on the packaging. This means the 2012 logo and character portraits of an unknown origin. The Turtles look fine in this loose style, but Bebop and Rocksteady look pretty terrible. Well, Rocksteady looks fine, I suppose, it’s mostly just Bebop that looks dumb. You don’t want to display these guys in box though, so I recommend just stashing that thing away.

So how are these guys? Well, in short, they’re a pair of beauts! Some might say these are faces only a mother could love, but they sure put a smile on mine. Bebop, largely by virtue of his glasses, has a bewildered expression on his face that I remember fondly. Meanwhile, Rocksteady has more of a disheveled look. There’s a craziness in his eyes that suggests he thinks he’s smarter than he really is, but anyone who watched the cartoon knows that’s not the case. His gut protrudes from under his yellow tank top and if you wish you can have his jaw hang open.

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They’ve got the guns, but make no mistake, the Turtles always have the advantage.

Prying these bad boys loose was a bit of a challenge as they’re big and they’re bulky. Once I had them in hand though I was in love. Bebop is the slightly more impressive of the two just because of what his look involves. He stands about 7″ tall so he towers over the Turtles and is just a bit taller than Shredder. NECA used actual metal chain links for his wrist bracelet and belt which is really neat. The front clasp on the belt is glues to the figure so you don’t have to worry about it sliding off completely while the forearm has a little hook on it to keep the bracelet in place. Every part of his outfit is a separate piece of soft plastic as opposed to just sculpted on, including the bandolier strapped across his chest and under his red jacket. He has a necklace of teeth and those big turtle shells on his shoulders. His hair is even colored correctly with the mohawk on top in purple and his pony tail in brown. His glasses flip up as well to reveal eyes that are almost entirely black, likely to make sure he looks best with the glasses down. His mouth can open into a yell, though I definitely prefer him with the mouth closed. My figure has no paint defects I could find, and NECA used a shading to similar to what it did with the other figures so the back of his arms and head are in a slightly darker brown. The line work and the paint app just makes this guy “pop” no matter what is displayed around him. A true sight to behold.

Rocksteady may be slightly less impressive than Bebop, but he’s no slouch either. This version of Rocksteady is from season two of the show onwards, basically the version most are familiar with. In the first mini series, he sported a helmet at times and also had camo pants. This version has brown pants and no helmet. I know some fans were hoping for an included helmet, but it might have required a different headsculpt to facilitate and this headsculpt is perfect as is. Would I have liked one? Sure, but I don’t know if I would have displayed him with it. Everything else though is pretty much perfect right down to the single grenade on his chest strap and the lone turtle shell on his hip. I love that his belt is slightly askew and also that he’s just a hair shorter than Bebop at 6.5″. He also looks pretty great with his mouth open or closed, and like Bebop I couldn’t find an imperfection on mine. The only disappointing thing about him is that his knife isn’t removable from its sheath, and since it’s a bit loose, don’t try to pull it out. The linework is just as well done as Bebop’s and it really gives the impression that this is a guy with a rather soft physique.

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“I’m surrounded by idiots!”

As these are big boys, one probably expected them to feature less articulation than the Turtles. And they probably do, but if so it’s not by much. A lot of the same joints are in place including ab crunches and ball joints at the hips and shoulders. There’s hinges in the wrists and cut biceps, double-jointed knees and elbows, waist articulation, and ankle pivots and hinges. The sculpt and added costume parts hide a lot of the articulation, but it does also hinder it. They may have a similar amount of points of articulation, but the functional articulation is certainly less. It’s a trade-off that makes sense though given these guys are brutes as opposed to nimble ninjas and the sculpts are really fantastic. The joints on mine were fairly tight when I opened them up. There’s a lot of paint here so that was expected. I was able to loosen things without the aid of hot water or a hair dryer, but just be gentle with your own set. Bebops legs are a touch loose and I do find him harder to stand than Rocksteady. That’s also partly due to his sweet high-tops limiting his range of motion at the ankle which is, again, a trade-off worth making. I can’t really get both feet on the ground and I might end up buying some NECA stands for these guys. Rocksteady is easier to stand, though his head is more forward. He’s limited in his poses as well, and again, a stand may be a wise investment as I’d hate for these guys to take a tumble and chip some paint.

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“Uh oh, looks we’re surrounded.”

Accessory wise, these two come with everything you would expect them to come with. Out of the box both sport fists, but they each have a set of open hands and hands for holding their weapons. These extra hands are the same between the two, just colored differently. Both apparently shoot right-handed as their trigger finger grippers are right-handed parts. There are two rifles and two pistols for the two to share and they’re the same as what was included with Shredder and the Foot Soldiers. They also have a communicator to share between the two of them and affixed to it is an image of the NECA Shredder, which is quite cute and pairs well with Shredder’s communicator that has an image of Krang on it. Maybe a future release will feature these two on communicators, if one doesn’t already exist. Some might lament the absence of Bebop’s drill-gun, but like Rocksteady’s helmet, it was one of those things rarely featured. Usually they just had the nondescript laser weapons you see here. Removing the stock hands is just a matter of twisting and pulling gently. Beware with Bebop though as his left hand is largely responsible for keeping that chain bracelet on and it could go flying off if you’re not careful. I wish the pegs on the hands were a little thicker as they appear a bit fragile to me, but they’ve held up well thus far so my concerns may be for naught. The hands are also painted plastic, and sadly paint is prone to chipping. I had a hard time getting the trigger hand to fit into the handle on the pistol blaster and chipped Bebop’s fingers a bit. I decided from then on to play it safe and just use the more generic gripping hand on the pistols and reserve the trigger finger for the rifle. As an added little touch that may or may not be intentional, there’s a tiny peg on the communicator that can be fit onto Rocksteady’s belt. Pretty cool!

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Rocksteady even has a place for that communicator.

Pairing these guys up with the other figures from NECA is a ton of fun. They look the part and they fit in scale-wise. In the show they might have been a little smaller, but that is largely due to inconsistencies within the show. They certainly look the part here and my bet is NECA was able to source the proportions from the style guide which hopefully dated back to 1987. These guys are in hot demand right now, but I encourage those of you on the hunt to remain patient. NECA knows it has a hit on its hands with these and I would expect they will make every effort to flood Targets around the country with them, and they’re also heading to the UK too. NECA even sent out an email to their ambassadors asking them to check with their local store to make sure these guys are either on the shelf or sold out, which is something they haven’t done for any other release. And if these guys don’t excite you enough, 2020 sure sounds like it’s going to be a blast! We’ve already seen finished, painted, prototypes for Slash, April, Casey, the Triceraton, Leatherhead, Roadkill Rodney, and Metalhead. Krang’s android body is also on the way and NECA hasn’t exactly been shy about confirming that Baxter Stockman should be expected at some point. And if video games are your thing, NECA’s latest in its TMNT video game series is expected to ship in February to specialty shops and includes renditions of Leo, Donnie, and the Foot Solider from the popular Turtles in Time game as well as a version of Slash from that game as well. 2020 is going to be a very exciting, and expensive, year for Turtle fans and we have NECA toys to thank for it. I can’t wait to see what the future holds, but I’m also not losing sight of the present as Bebop and Rocksteady rival anything the company has put out yet. Don’t sleep on these guys, Turtle fans!


Take My Money, Hasbro, Give Me X-Men Animated Series Legends!

 

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Let’s talk some X-Men!

It’s been probably 13 or 14 years since I’ve purchased a Marvel-branded action figure. This is somewhat shocking to me because from the age of 7 to around 25 I spent who knows how much money on Marvel action figures. I was there for the inaugural Toy Biz line of Marvel Superheroes and X-Men action figures and I continued buying Toy Biz figures well past the age of when it was considered “appropriate” by my peers. And even after I stopped actually playing with my toys I still kept them on display in my room. Two pieces of old countertop on milk crates served as my makeshift shelves. Good guys on one side, bad guys on the other. As characters changed allegiance in the comics, so did their placement on my shelf. Aside from that, I didn’t like to mess with them and the dust would grow thicker and thicker and probably contributed to my constant sneezing. I didn’t care though, because I really loved my toys.

When action figures grew up with me I grew extremely excited. There were a few dedicated collector lines, most memorably one based on the Onslaught mini series, but things really changed with Marvel Legends. I was a bit tepid at first with them, mostly due to the absence of X-Men, but eventually I got into it. I started with just a figure here and there, and soon enough I found myself buying entire waves. I also added the occasional Diamond Select figure which at the time prioritized sculpt over articulation making some of the toys little more than glorified statues. I even got into Mini Mates for a period, since they initially focused on the Ultimate X-Men which was a comic I grew attached to pretty quickly.

Eventually, I stopped collecting. Part of that coincided with the dissolving of Toy Biz by Marvel which chose to instead license its properties to Hasbro. Those first few Hasbro waves weren’t very strong, and with the build-a-figure shrinking down to more normal proportions it failed to really motivate me. I think the last wave I bought to completion was whichever one featured The Blob. And even with that, I think I had to buy some figures based on X-Men: The Last Stand which did not sit well with me. That also happened to coincide with me moving out on my own trading the confines of my old bedroom for a small apartment. I didn’t want to have to lug a bunch of toys around with me every time I moved, and once I got settled into my own home that I purchased the itch had passed. I had moved onto other hobbies and comics just didn’t appeal to me like they once did. Sure, there have been a few figures over the years that tempted me, but the rising cost in standard toys makes it pretty easy to just focus on the things that really bring me joy.

That could change though, and if Hasbro wanted me back (and who wouldn’t?) there is one thing the company could do that would guarantee it many of my dollars and it has to do with my favorite show as a child:  X-Men.

xmen three pack

This recent action figure three-pack is what put my brain into this mode. These almost work as animated versions, but they’re different just enough to not be perfect. And I’m not just referring to Wolverine’s bone claws.

Nostalgia currently has me hooked via NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys based on the old cartoon series. That show may not be particularly good, but I loved it as a kid and it’s something I can’t let go of. Similarly, I have a huge amount of affection still for X-Men. That show was my life for a few years and unlike TMNT, the show is still watchable today even if it doesn’t hold up as well as Batman or possibly even Gargoyles. And I know I am not alone. There is a lot of love out there for that show and that has been preyed upon via action figures based on the costume designs of the Jim Lee era X-Men from the comics. There was a recently announced three-pack featuring Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Cyclops which is what really got my juices flowing. Those characters bare a strong resemblance to their animated counterparts, but the figures are also clearly aiming to capture the look of the comics and not a cartoon.

What gives me hope that such a line could work is because animated versions of these characters are not far off what is already out there. Take your standard Wolverine action figure, for instance. To make him better resemble the cartoon, Hasbro basically just needs to reduce detail. No stubble on his face, not much hair on the arms, and less muscle definition. DC has done a great job bringing Batman: The Animated Series to plastic form in terms of aesthetics, so why not do the same, Hasbro?

Because I’m such a generous guy, I’m even going to provide a road map for Hasbro. I envision six figures per wave with a build-a-figure bringing the total to seven. Adhering to modern times, the extra buildable figure is not some titanic character, but something closer to a standard sized figure. It would be a good fit for those figures that would need to be 7 or 8 inches as opposed to 5-6, which is what I imagine most figures would fall into. They could be done, and really should be, in scale with Marvel Legends and I would prioritize characters from the first two seasons. If the line’s a success, then sure go for more. If the series happened and worked out as outlined below, then I would definitely buy every figure and really annoy my wife as I hunted for more space to display them.

Series 1

  • Wolverine
  • Cyclops
  • Rogue
  • Morph
  • Mystique
  • Magneto
  • Build-a-Figure:  Sabretooth

This mix would get some fan-favorite good guys out early and also a few villains to pose them against. Wolverine is an obvious must for the first series as he was the most popular character. He should come in his standard uniform and additional hands, some with claws in and some with claws out. A second, unmasked, head would complete the look. Cyclops should also just have his normal look. If a removable flight jacket could be added without harming the sculpt, then all the better, but not necessary. Similar to modern Cyclops figures, he should have a second head with a blast effect and probably an extra set of hands including one with two fingers extended on his right hand to activate his “X” communicator. Morph, on the other hand, should have his flight jacket since he was most often depicted wearing it. He should also have black hair as he did in seasons one and two and an alternate “evil” head. Mystique would need few additional accessories, making her the likely landing spot for a larger piece of the build-a-figure. Magneto would need a helmeted and un-helmeted head to properly capture his long hair. A nice, heavy, fabric cape would also look great, but soft plastic wouldn’t be bad either. Sabretooth, being featured in episode one, makes for a good choice as the first build-a-figure given his size relative to the other characters.

X-Men (FOX) [1992-1997]Shown from left: Wolverine, Morph, Beast

That’s how I want my Wolverine to look, bub.

Series 2

  • Gambit
  • Bishop
  • Storm
  • Cable
  • Pyro
  • Avalanche
  • BAF:  The Blob

Wave Two would be anchored by the next most popular character after Wolverine, Gambit. He’d just need various hands and his bo staff to be authentic. Storm would be the other character from the team, and in the interest of “keeping them wanting,” would be the only other from the main team. Bishop and Cable both played large roles as guest characters and lend themselves well to action figure form. Cable should probably have his season two look which featured a metallic left arm, a more common look than the season one version. Bishop should also feature a removable time bracelet to go along with his really big gun. Pyro and Avalanche would serve as the villains with the BAF being their comrade Blob. A desire to assemble Mystique’s troop would hopefully help drive sales.

x-men_L48

Everyone can relax, Gambit is in series two.

Series 3

  • Beast
  • Jean Grey
  • Archangel
  • Civilian Wolverine
  • Graydon Creed
  • Mr. Sinister
  • BAF:  Apocalypse

Series 3 would be the one that nearly completes the main team. Beast, unlike most figures based on the character, should have a cheerful disposition as opposed to an angry one. Jean Grey would need her cartoon-accurate costume, something Toy Biz never delivered on when the show was popular, which was blue and orange as opposed to blue and yellow. She should also probably come with a Cerebro helmet. This would also be a good time for a second Wolverine figure. Since he was so often featured in plain clothes (yellow flannel with a brown jacket), a figure based on that look makes sense. He should have two pairs of clawless hands, ones that look like normal fists and ones that have the steel ports on his hands as he was incorrectly portrayed in season one. Diehard fans of the show, such as myself, really appreciate little details like that. Creed was a big player in season two, and he warrants a figure as a result. Of course, Sinister was the main big, bad, guy of that season and series three feels like a good spot for him. Lastly, Archangel should be included (with a masked head and unmasked head) to pair with the BAF Apocalypse who would be depicted in his animated purple and blue color scheme.

apocalypse cartoon

I don’t know why they made him purple, but the toy better follow in the same footsteps!

Series 4

  • Jubilee
  • Colossus
  • Omega Red
  • Forge
  • Civilian Cyclops
  • Professor X
  • BAF: Juggernaut

Series 4 would finish the main squad by including Jubilee and Professor X. Xavier would be the tough one to include as he would need his hover chair. Recently, Hasbro did a Professor X that I think retails for more than a standard Legend. The company could save money by retooling it and if it has to retail for more then so be it. Colossus guested a couple of times and is deserving of a figure himself. He should be clad in his blue pants and white tank top to match his appearance in the show. If a second, non-transformed, upper torso could be done then that would be really neat. Omega Red is a villain with a great, 90s, design, and even though he’s a bit bigger than other characters, I don’t think he’s so large that he would need to be a BAF. Cyclops had enough non-costumed appearances to be the second main cast member worthy of a civilian look. And Forge had multiple appearances as well. He should come with an alternate head so he could be depicted as main timeline Forge and future Forge. The Juggernaut is the last character that serves as an obvious choice for a BAF and would be a sought after one helping to make sure fans buy the entire wave. That only challenge with him is I think he would need two heads as well, one masked and one unmasked, because it’s hard to make a good-looking Juggernaut figure that features a removable helmet.

colossus 92

Colossus proved you didn’t need a real costume to be a hero.

Series 5 and 6

  • Phoenix
  • Gladiator
  • Nightcrawler
  • Dazzler
  • White Queen
  • Sebastian Shaw
  • Henry Gyrich
  • Bolivar Trask
  • Dark Phoenix
  • Banshee
  • Fabian Cortez
  • Empress Lilandra
  • BAF:  Sentinel

I’m grouping these two together because I have a radical idea for the BAF. It would be a sentinel and the pieces spread between both waves. The piece loadout would be like Giant Man from the Toy Biz days which did an oversized wave of Marvel Legends as a Wal-Mart exclusive. This would allow Hasbro to do a bigger figure to do the sentinel justice, because we need a sentinel for such a series since they were so important in that first season. The desire to have a cartoon sentinel would help move some of the less exciting, but still essential, characters contained in this wave. Trask and Gyrich, specifically, would be unsexy figures, but they had such a large presence over the first season that it feels wrong to exclude them. Much of these waves would also be devoted to the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas. Doing both regular Phoenix and Dark Phoenix would also save Hasbro money since they’d basically be the same figure, different head. For Lilandra, I’d also go with the Empress version of the character as that would just make for a more striking visual. Cortez is the only character from a later season, but I see more opportunity for villains and I just happen to like him more than someone like Erik the Red or D’Ken.

sentinel 92

I don’t see how you could have a toy-line dedicated to the X-Men cartoon and not feature a sentinel somehow.

If the line was a success, it wouldn’t have to end there. I completely ignored Sinister’s Nasty Boys and all of the mutates from the Savage Land. They would really help to bolster the ranks of the villains, but it might be hard to convince people they’re more deserving of plastic than some of the others. An entire Savage Land wave could even be done, though I don’t know if that would be a big seller. Another big bad guy I left out is Mojo who would probably work best as a BAF. If he was done, then he would need to be paired with a Longshot.

As for heroes, there are alternate versions of other characters that could pad things out. Civilian versions of Storm, Rogue, Jean and Jubilee (or her in a flight suit) could be added. Beast and Gambit had other looks as well, but nothing really drastic (though Beast with his Howard the Duck shirt is pretty tempting). Archangel also briefly appeared as Angel in season one and returned in season four sporting his white and blue Angel costume. Wolverine had other looks as well, though my personal favorite would probably be the alternate timeline Wolverine from “One Man’s Worth” which also featured a mohawked Storm. Other guest heroes included Iceman, Psylocke, Alpha Flight and X-Factor so there are certainly more characters to mine from, I’m just not sure any really need a dedicated figure based on their look in the cartoon.

Hasbro missed its chance to honor the cartoon with a line of figures to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary. There’s still time though to recognize the 30th in 2022 and a toy-line near then would be an appropriate way to do so. If 2022 seems too far away right now it could be timed to end that year. The show is also about to gain new exposure via Disney+ where it and other X-Men cartoons will be available day one. And with Disney acquiring 20th Century Fox it stands to reason that the X-Men will soon join Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe bringing even more of a spotlight to the brand. The time is right, Hasbro, make it happen!

 

 


Funko Pop! Halloween Huey, Dewey, and Louie

There’s a scourge taking over our local record stores, clothing outlets, and gaming boutiques. It comes in mass quantities dominating its chosen territory at the expense of other merch. It swears no allegiance to anyone and will even place mortal enemies side by side as it amasses an army of licensed property of yesterday and today. I am, of course, speaking of Funko Pop! vinyl figurines. Where I once had a local record store, I now see what is practically a dedicated Pop! outlet. Gamestop devotes considerable shelf space to them and they even show up in drug stores. It’s hard to find a licensed property that isn’t in Pop! form these days and since they keep on coming it leads me to believe they’ll be around for some time to come.

And considering the brand’s scope, it’s obvious people are into these things. Funko sells special cases to keep your Pop! mint-in-box and I do see people get legitimately excited for new releases, even though every time I’m at a store that features these things prominently I rarely see someone actually pick one up and head for the register. I don’t think they’ve reached the level of Beanie Baby popularity from the 90s, but they must be doing well for them to persist.

The source material for today’s subject.

If you’re not familiar with Pop! figurines then you’re probably not human, but I’ll indulge you anyway. They’re essentially little plastic statues that adhere to a standard form. They all feature an oversized, oval, head with a tiny body. They’re either non-articulated or just the head swivels. The eyes are always circles and one color, typically black. Most characters don’t have a mouth, but as the line has persisted I’ve noticed more unique head-sculpts that do indeed feature a mouth. It’s a simple, identifiable, style that can be applied to virtually anything depending on how much effort Funko puts into the sculpt. It seems to work well for cartoon characters, especially anthropomorphic characters, but it’s not universal. For one, I think the ones based on The Simpsons look awful, but I’ve encountered many that look fine. Live-action personalities can also be adapted and they typically turn out all right. It’s a brand, and it’s obviously successful. I would rather purchase a Kid Robot mini-figure, but at least these ones don’t come in blind boxes.

 

When it comes to my own interaction with Funko Pop! I am merely a casual participant. I wouldn’t even call myself a casual fan or collector, I’ve just somehow managed to end up with some here and there. I used to buy the Frozen ones for my wife as she expressed a fondness for them and I’ve picked up other Disney ones here and there. I currently have a Remy from Ratatouille in my kitchen because he looks cute and fits in with the setting. Mostly, they end up being the occasional thing I’ll buy for my desk at work, but I’ve mostly reached my limit there. I don’t seek out any particular license, it’s more just a case-by-case thing where if I really like how something turned out then I may buy it. That’s how I ended up with Rocko, Scrooge McDuck, and Stimpy. Rocko in particular works well in this style, and I liked the personality on display of the other two. I considered getting Ren to pair with Stimpy, but I just didn’t like how he turned out. Normally I can’t leave a character all by itself, especially from a famous duo, but with Pop! I just don’t have much of a collector’s impulse.

 

What I do have a weakness for though is Donald Duck, especially limited merchandise based on him or one of his cartoons. I am especially fond of the classic shorts, and there isn’t many better than 1952’s Trick or Treat. That’s the cartoon where Huey, Dewey, and Louie team up with a new character, Witch Hazel, to get back at Donald for refusing to treat on Halloween. In that cartoon, the nephews are depicted in Halloween costumes and they’re quite adorable. The designs are so popular and beloved that they were reprised for the 2017 Mickey Mouse special The Scariest Story Ever.

 

In celebration of that short, Funko did a special release of Huey, Dewey, and Louie in costume as Pop! figurines. This isn’t their first Pop! exposure as they were part of the DuckTales wave as well. They were sold exclusively on Funko’s website as a three pack and I just couldn’t resist.

A little defect on Dewey’s broom.

The trio are each packaged separately in a box under the Mickey Mouse and Friends banner. I wish they had come in a special box together, but that adds cost and companies are usually loathe to do that. It also would have been nice to see some artwork from the sour material, but oh well. Since their costumes are quite different, Funko wasn’t able to do the usual of creating one figure and painting them different colors. The likenesses are quite good, though obviously they’re in that Pop! style. It helps for Louie in particular that his character was pupil-less in the cartoon so the Pop! dead eyes aren’t as noticeable here. The paint applications are mostly clean and I like that they included Louie’s pumpkin on his head. Only Dewey appears to have any defects as he has some slop on his hat and feet plus an odd mark on his broom handle (pictured).

 

Even though Pop! figurines are sold at toy stores, I wouldn’t call these toys. My kids certainly like the aesthetic of the figures and were pretty excited when they came in the mail, but there isn’t anything they can really do with them. These guys are destined for a shelf, and I was even tempted to leave them in their boxes, but found they didn’t display as nice. These will be a part of my annual Halloween décor like the Grinch Pop! figures I own and display at Christmas. One thing I appreciate about these figurines is the packaging is easy to utilize for storage. There’s a plastic, molded, tray inside the box that is easy to remove and reinsert. There’s no tape on the top flap so you don’t even need to bust out a razor blade to get into these things.

I had to include a picture with their Uncle Donald.

If you’re interested in acquiring these yourself, they’re currently for sale on Funko’s website. They’re sold together for $45 plus shipping and taxes which is pretty close to the retail price most Funko figures sell for. If you don’t like Pop! figures then these aren’t going to change your mind. For Pop! figures, I think these are well done and there is enough of the classic design of these characters contained in the figures while conforming them to Funko’s brand. And they’re fun, decorative, seasonal figures that aren’t horribly priced. I do wish they were closer to the 10 dollar range as opposed to 15 as the current price point is basically the maximum Funko can charge without really turning folks off. It’s especially attractive for people who like to acquire merchandise related to the Trick or Treat short, as the Walt Disney Classic Collection of ceramics are way beyond my price range.


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