Tag Archives: christmas toys

Figura Obscura – Krampus

Oh shit, look who showed up for Christmas!

Over the years, I’ve acquired quite a few action figures designed by the good people over at Four Horsemen LLC. They’ve been designing figures for companies for awhile now. My first exposure to the company was via NECA’s inaugural line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles based on their appearance in the Mirage Studios comics. Lately, I’ve been enjoying their work with Super7 as they have designed most (all?) of the figures in that company’s Ultimates series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The company has become well known as a result in the action figure community, and while sculpting work for other companies is probably satisfying work, 4H always wanted to do its own thing, so it did. The company launched an in-house line of toys called Mythic Legions. As the name implies, most of these characters are taken from myth and given a new design which is then turned into a rather impressive looking piece of plastic. Just how impressive they are I can’t say because I’ve never gotten into the line.

He even comes with a Christmas card!

My exposure to Four Horsemen changed this month, when the company did a surprise drop in a new, subline, of figures called Figura Obscura. And the chosen character to kick things off is the infamous Krampus, the demon of Christmas! Krampus has long been a character associated with Christmas largely in European countries. In the US, he’s not particularly well known, but he has seen his profile rise somewhat recently. I knew of the character as a kid, though I don’t recall ever seeing him in any pop culture setting until The Venture Brothers included in him in their Christmas special. That was back in 2003 and since then the character has shown up in American Dad! and has had his own movie. In the US, it definitely feels like some companies focus on his appearance and draw from that making him some kind of horror monster when the traditional Krampus is really just someone who punishes bad kids at Christmas. It makes sense that Santa Claus would reward the good and that there would be an entity that punishes the wicked. In many settings, Santa and Krampus are like a team, but over the years that seems to be less the case.

The 4H version of Krampus defined.

Either way, I personally think Krampus is pretty neat and his design (often fawn-like) lends itself well to toys. Obviously, I’m pretty into Christmas and I’ve always wanted to do more with Christmas action figures and when I saw this Krampus go up for sale on December 5th of this year I pounced. It was a surprise drop that I don’t think anyone was aware was coming outside of the people at Four Horsemen. The figure was offered through 4H’s Mythic Legions website twice that day, once in the morning and once in the evening. It was smart on their part as it kept the figure from selling out quickly before most people knew it even existed. I personally found out about it in between drops so I was able to grab one in the evening timeslot. It didn’t sell out super fast, which was nice, and it was an in-stock sale which is unusual for 4H as they usually follow more of a made-to-order model with their releases. The company must have felt secure that this particular figure would sell out without much issue given the seasonal nature. I also understand there’s a lot of parts reuse at play here which obviously reduces costs. Just how much, I can’t say, since this my first dip into 4H’s catalog.

Pardon my flash.

Krampus arrived about two weeks after I ordered it in resplendent packaging. He comes in a window box made of very thick cardstock that’s wrapped with a magnetic, cardboard, outer sleeve. It’s well constructed and durable, more durable than a normal box as it’s laminated. The front of which has a neat Krampus logo of sorts with a story about him on the rear and the rest is covered in blue and white and it’s a snowy scene. When you take it off, the reverse side features the artwork that also adorns the box. It’s a snowy setting at night in the wilderness where a lone cottage sits rather perilously on a cliffside. You can use this wrap as a backdrop for your figure which is a really neat idea and should serve me well as I accumulate Christmas figures.

To flash or not to flash? I’ll be mixing in photos with and without, to try and present this figure as fairly as possible.

Krampus himself sits in the window box and once removed he has immediate presence on any surface he’s placed. He stands about 7″ tall with skin featuring this deep, satin, black, paint that is really rich and cool to look at. He’s covered in it too and it’s applied cleanly. His head is quite ferocious looking as he has what I consider the traditional Krampus facial expression of an open mouth with a giant tongue flicking out. He’s quite angry looking and has two gnarly horns coming off of the back of his head. There’s a lot of sculpted fur on and around the head basically forming a mane that runs down the middle of his back. The only clothing he wears is a skirt with a leathery texture to it and some greaves and gauntlets. The armor bits have a nice, worn, metallic, texture with sharp ridges sculpted into them. His feet end in hooves and they’re fringed with fur and look terrific. Some assembly is required as he has a tail that needs to peg into his rear. It’s a bit of a pain in the ass (pun intended) to insert it as the hole is really tight (I should have bought him dinner first). I had to heat up both ends with hot water to finally get it in and when I was done I was actually surprised to see the sculpted fur on the tail cut into my thumb. Damn!

Gene Simmons wishes he had a tongue like the one on Krampus.

The look of Krampus is going to be this figure’s main attraction and 4H did a great job. I think of Krampus being covered in fur, but I like the look of the bare chest here, probably owing to the fact that I love that black paint that’s in use. His fingers are clawed, but not dramatically so, and the details on his face are incredible. Each tooth is sculpted individually and the paint is remarkably clean. The only issue I’ve run into with this figure from a presentation aspect is some paint chipping. To my surprise, it looks like the figure is cast in a white plastic and then painted, because there are some spots where the paint chipped off. Most of which is in the inner thigh by the joint so it’s not noticeable when the figure is displayed. There’s also a small one near the armor on the left leg that’s probably only noticeable when handling the figure. I don’t know why the figure wasn’t just cast in black plastic and then painted, but I’m ignorant on the costs of figure production when it comes to color choices. Obviously, white can be used for anything and then easily painted over so it could be as simple as that. Other than that one small flaw, I’m pretty pleased with how he turned out.

I guess he kept those kids in his basket too long.

Krampus needs stuff, and if you’re familiar with the legend, you know he has some specific needs at that. This figure comes with a set of loose gripping hands attached in the box, and tighter gripping hands he can swap to. The loose hands work fine with his weapon of choice, a bundle of sticks or switches, as they just rest in place. They look pretty awesome and are well-painted as they’re wrapped with sculpted tape to hold them together. I don’t know if the tighter hands are for anything specific, or just for down the road if you want to give him a weapon from something else, but they won’t hold the sticks unless you heat them up to make them more pliable. He has a pair of cuffs that can fit around his wrists and are attached via real chain. The plastic is softer so it’s not too difficult to slip them around the wrists, but if you’re concerned about breaking them you can also just pop his hands off first.

This is one demon who is going to keep his trusty basket!

Krampus also has his trusty basket. The character is supposed to wear this on his back and some versions of the character toss bad kids in there. It’s sculpted to resemble a woven basket and it has some muted green and red accents. The top is removable, and 4H loaded it with other stuff. There’s a pair of skulls, one with an articulated jaw and one without, two skeletal hands, and a leather strap. The strap seems to serve no purpose on its own and I was advised by fans of the Mythic Legions line that it’s likely included for customizers. If cut and then glued, it could be used as a belt or a shoulder strap for the basket. By default, 4H included a piece of rope with the consistency of hemp. It can be used to string the basket and then hang it off of Krampus. I ran the rope through the included slot on the basket, around each arm of Krampus, and then back through the slit. This made it tight enough to hang just fine, while also leaving room for adjustment without the need of a knot. Krampus, despite being hooved, stands fine on his own and continues to stand well even with a loaded basket on his back. The last accessory 4H included is a loop of red thread with some miniature bells strung on it. You can drape this over the head of Krampus, put them on the basket, around his waist, or even through his teeth! And they really jingle, plus the red thread adds a dash of color and is a really nice touch.

Oh you silly boy!

With all of that stuff in the box, you may be wondering how Krampus moves around. I was rather curious, myself, as I’ve wondered what 4H’s approach to articulation was. With the figures the company does for Super7, there are certain joints some consider standard that Super7 disagrees on. Namely, double joints at the knees and elbows. 4H might share the same philosophy as Krampus has single hinges at both places with swivels, but he does do something many Super7 figures don’t and that’s include a ball-joint at the waist. This gives the figure the twisting motion many want while also providing for some forward and back and a little tilt. And it’s well-engineered, as those who got the recently released Casey Jones from Super7 were treated to such a joint, but it turned out rather unsightly as the figure doesn’t sit deep enough on the ball-peg. Aside from that, Krampus is fairly typical with a ball joint at the head, ball-hinges at the shoulders, horizontal hinges at the hands, ball-jointed hips, and hinges with rocking action down at the ankles. Lastly, he has a ball-hinge at the tail. The tail is sculpted and rigid, so there’s not a lot it can do, but it has enough range to get it out of the way when posing. The amount of fur around the figure’s neck limits his head movements a bit, but he can look up and down a little and twist. The ankle rockers are also a little limited, likely owing to the fact that he has hooves, but there’s enough to support his weight and give him a wider stance, if desired. The only true shortcoming is the lack of vertically hinged wrists. I would have preferred that to horizontal, if I could only have one, though both would have been preferable. Krampus isn’t as dynamic as some figures in my collection, but I find what’s there is enough and it at least works well.

Some comparisons. First up, we have a RED Soundwave and a Super7 Leonardo, another 4H design.

Krampus is a pretty wicked design that’s going to look good whether you display him with Christmas stuff, monsters, or your Mythic Legions. He poses well enough, and best of all, he can hold his accessories without toppling over. The backdrop is an awesome little bonus too, and the only drawback I have with him is that returning him to his box would be a challenge. I really have no desire to unthread the basket nor do I want to remove that tail to get him back in his bubble. With my seasonal figures, I usually put them away after the holidays, but Krampus will likely find a new home on a shelf somewhere. And that’s not really a bad problem to have as this is a figure I want to look at year round. And if my kids start acting up, maybe I should just convince them Krampus operates like that cursed Elf on a Shelf and start moving him every morning. That will probably give them nightmares though, so maybe it’s best that I don’t.

And here he is with another fantasy character in Drizz’t from Hasbro’s very short-lived D&D line and a fellow hooved character in NECA’s Groundchuck.

If you wish to get a Krampus figure of your very own, well, I’m afraid it’s sold out. Four Horsemen made it sound like this is just the first Krampus they’re doing, so maybe he comes back next year in another form. If this is the Krampus you need then you’re going to have to pony up some extra money on the secondary market or hope someone that got one decides they don’t need it. The figure retailed for $50 which is already pricey for a 7″ action figure. While I like it, I definitely wouldn’t have much of an appetite to pay much more than that. Good luck if you’re in the market. As for the rest of you, hopefully this is the only Krampus that visits your house this Christmas!

Merry Christmas, pal!

Misfits Holiday Fiend Figure from NECA

2020 will be remembered for a lot of things, many of them not good. One non-negative aspect of 2020 that will be memorable for me was that it was the year I really got back into toy collecting. Most of that was courtesy of NECA toys and their various Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles lines. Those started hitting retail in 2019, but that year was largely a catch-up year as NECA rolled out figures to market that had previously been made available as convention exclusives, which I had purchased at the time. The first new to me figure release came in November of 2019 in the form of the cartoon Bebop and Rocksteady two-pack. Waves 3 and 4 hit in 2020 along with new releases in the movie line such as Casey Jones and Super Shredder. Super7 got in on the fun too launching its own line of TMNT products and I didn’t just stop with that brand. I also got figures from Hasbro, Bandai, and more as the lack of entertainment options and stay-at-home orders had me turning to toys to fill time.

Since 2020 ended up being a big year for toys on this blog, it seems only fitting to interrupt the annual Christmas Spot advent calendar (don’t worry, this doesn’t replace a normal entry) with a holiday themed toy review. In this case, it’s the Holiday Fiend action figure from NECA. The Fiend, also known as The Crimson Ghost or Misfits Ghost, is the mascot of the horror-punk band The Misfits. When it comes to Misfits fandom, there have been two camps for the past 25 years: the Glenn Danzig camp and the Jerry Only camp. Sometimes the fandoms have overlapped, but for the most part fans seem to pick sides. For me, I was always team Glenn. Nothing personal when it comes to Only, but I just never liked his version of The Misfits. The original band broke-up in 83, and it wasn’t until the mid-90s that Only and his brother Doyle tried to resurrect the band. After some litigation with their former frontman, it was decided the two individuals would share merchandising rights to The Misfits and that Only could continue the band without Danzig. Shockingly, The Misfits have now existed as a Jerry Only band far longer than it did with Glenn Danzig as the singer and songwriter of the group.

Santa Fiend has come to town!
He’s got a bag that’s filled with…something.

Since I wasn’t a fan of “The Newfits,” I tended to avoid the merch put out by that band. I did end up with a t-shirt here and there, but I tended to only buy stuff that Danzig put out. The same has been true of the various dolls and toys that have come out over the years, including the original release of this figure I’m about to talk about. The original NECA release of The Fiend is clearly an homage to the album cover of American Psycho, the big come-back record for Jerry’s version of The Misfits. Being that, I never had much interest in it. Throw in a dash of Christmas though and now you have my attention! I’ve managed to resist Christmas themed releases before with The Misfits. Only’s band even covered the holiday classic “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and released it as a single with artwork basically depicting a mash-up of the classic character with the Misfits Fiend. I was able to resist though, and it was made easier by the fact that the cover was really not very good. I’ve caved this time though and it’s time to find out if that was worth it.

If you want to lessen the Santa look you can remove the hate, though why would you want to do that?

The Fiend comes in a window box package featuring some festive artwork on the front. Inside you get a good look at the contents of the box with some nice product shots on the back. The Fiend stands at about eight inches and is basically just a plain, black, action figure. And that’s because you’re never meant to see what’s under his robe, and I don’t think the source material has ever revealed what’s supposed to be there anyway. All that is visible are the face and hands, which are skeletal in nature, but also have always embodied the look of the serial from which the character originated. That means that rather than just being an actual skeleton, the being is clearly wearing black gloves with printed bones and the head is wearing a mask. The new, festive, robe is meant to be the defining characteristic and it’s a plush, red, piece of fabric that looks rather lovely draped over this handsome boy. The ends of the sleeves and the hem of which have been embroidered with white to give the figure a very Santa Claus look. And he even has the hat to complete the ensemble. The robe isn’t mean to be removed, but I’m sure you could if you wished. The hat is and it sits over the normal hood The Fiend features. A plush, green, sack is also included to create a Santa Fiend look and one is left to ponder what this creature would bring to all of the good little boys and girls of the world? Skulls?

Oh, my!

The base figure underneath is pretty basic. I think, but I don’t know for sure since this is the first horror or music figure I’ve purchased from NECA, that this body is pretty standard for the company’s clothed releases. The head is on a simple ball peg (and it’s really tight) with good rotation and tilt. The shoulders are standard ball-joints and the elbows and knees on this figure are single-jointed hinges. The wrists rotate and have a hinge each and unlike the head are really easy to remove, so much so that I accidentally have popped them out when manipulating the figure. There is no ab or upper body rotation, but there is a waist swivel. The legs are on ball-joints and actually have very good range of motion. There’s a thigh swivel and the ankles are hinged. The Fiend, if you were wondering, appears to be wearing black high-tops. It’s an acceptable amount of articulation for what this figure is, but one thing missing that disappoints me is the lack of peg holes on the bottoms of the feet. This guy can be tricky to stand because of all of the material draped over the figure and I really wish I could utilize the standard NECA stand. Instead, something more like a Barbie stand is needed as I don’t want to spend 10 bucks on an action stand for a figure that literally just needs to stand.

He looks positively resplendent in those robes!

The star of the show is the Christmas soft goods. The robe is really nice to look at and NECA included wires where needed. It shimmers in natural light and really catches the eye and I love that it’s hemmed with white at the cuffs and bottom of the robe. A Velcro strip runs up the front of the robe so if you wish to take a peek underneath you certainly can. The hood is a separate piece that is stitched to the back of the robe. It has a wire running through the hem and you’ll probably have to manipulate it a bunch out of the box. The only odd aspect of the robe I’m not sold on are the sleeves. They’re meant to have large cuffs that hang low, but NECA tailored the white onto a smaller cuff to go around the hand leaving a big hole behind it for the rest of the red cuff to hang down. I think it would look better if they had done the white around the whole thing and inserted another wire for posing as it’s just kind of weird as-is. The hat is a simple, Santa, hat that also contains a wire. It fits snugly on the Fiend’s head and looks pretty terrific. The sack is basically just a piece of green velvet-like material with a string tied around the end. There’s nothing inside it, though it has a wire running around it to allow for some posing. I kind of wish NECA had filled it with cotton or something to fluff it up. I suppose I could do that myself if I was willing to mess with the knot on it. It gets the job done though.

If you prefer a more “classic” look, NECA included a second, all-white, face on a second head.
Christmas Evilive!

NECA opted to include some swap-able parts with this figure, though they’re not particularly exciting. The finish on the face of the included head has some embellishments on it. I think it’s from the original release which is aiming to mimic the American Psycho cover by Basil Gogos (who also did the art for this release) which was going for a grave-emerging or crypt-lurking kind of look. Only now, the colors are a muted red and green to go with the whole Christmas theme, but it almost looks like some sort of weird camo. I’m not really a fan. The alternate head is a bone white version with no added paint which is basically how the character was depicted in art on the classic releases like Horror Business. The hands on the stock version also feature the same red and green paint on the back of the hand and they provide alternate bone white versions to match the face. All four hands are in a relaxed, open, position. He doesn’t have any proper gripping hands, but since the sack is light and empty he can still hold onto it well enough. Swapping the head on this guy was quite a bitch. I had to give it a real, good, tug to get the stock one off and I heated the other one with running water to get it on. I didn’t want to use a heat gun or anything given the presence of soft goods which could catch fire. At least I don’t like the regular head very much so I shouldn’t have to swap it again.

I think this is the look I’ll stick with.

The Christmas version of NECA’s The Fiend action figure is largely as expected. While I think there could have been some better design choices and I wish the stock head better matched the artwork, this figure should largely satisfy any Misfits fan looking to add the ghost to their holiday decorating. I love Christmas decorations and this guy will certainly stand out with what I already have. I could even see some NECA collectors paring this guy with the Santa Stripe released this year from the Gremlins line. And fans of the Jerry Only Misfits who already have the Horror X-Mas release should definitely try and pair that with this for their holiday display. The only reason not to is the price. At an MSRP of $35, this guy is on the pricier end of NECA releases. That could have something to do with the cost of the license, and anyone who saw the merch prices at the more recent Misfits shows know how expensive that stuff can get, and it’s definitely more than what I’m used to with NECA given what’s in the box. If price is an issue, maybe wait until the spring when this guy hits clearance. At least this isn’t an exclusive and you should be able to buy this wherever NECA products are sold, in particular the horror figures.

And if you’re still on the fence, he makes a nice tree topper!

NECA Gremlins Santa Stripe and Gizmo

There’s a new Santa in town this year.

The Christmas Spot is just around the corner, but before we can get to there we have a new Christmas action figure release from NECA Toys to talk about: Santa Stripe! NECA has done an admirable job of mining material from the film Gremlins and it’s sequel Gremlins 2: The New Breed, and Santa Stripe is another fine example of that. This figure originates from a promotional image used for the film around Christmas 1984, and since Gremlins is a Christmas movie, it works on two levels. While Stripe never dons a Santa suit in the film, he did in that image and it’s hard to argue it’s not something well suited for an action figure release.

That’s some fine packaging.
Good luck recreating that pose on the inside panel.

Stripe is essentially a re-release of the Ultimate Stripe figure released by NECA, which is more or less the same Gremlin figure that’s been released over and over. That’s not a criticism or anything, it’s just an observation. The base Gremlin figure is a roughly 6″ tall figure with solid articulation that can be added onto to achieve a desired end by NECA. There’s a gamer Gremlin, flasher Gremlin, caroling Gremlins, and so on. This one is different in that it’s a specific character, Stripe, and the only difference there lies in the face and head which contains his signature stripe of white hair and unique portrait. The rest of the package consists of soft goods and accessories to go along with the terrific packaging NECA products are known for with its Ultimates releases.

Look at that handsome boy!
Aww, he’s smiling!

This festive rendition of Stripe comes in the five-panel window box package all of the Ultimates come in. The front panel features an update to the promo art the figure is based on and the rest of the panels contain product shots. There’s a window box revealing the figure inside and I must say this packaging is excellent because it’s easy to reseal. This is extra important for a Christmas themed release because I can see a lot of people taking this guy out for the holidays and then tucking him away with the other Christmas decorations in the new year.

The entire wardrobe is removable, though I’m too much of a baby to take off the suit.
Stripe’s signature hairstyle can be found under the hat.

Stripe comes packed with a solid range of articulation. His head has excellent range and can rotate and look up and down and the base of the neck is also articulated as well. His ears are posable which helps with the hat and his jaw is articulated as well. He does not feature the same eye articulation that the Ultimate Gizmo possesses, but he also doesn’t really need to express much range of emotions, he’s mostly just homicidal. The shoulders are on ball-joints allowing him to raise his arms almost to 90 degrees. The costume prevents him from going forward and back all the way, but I assume he could if it was removed. The elbows are single-hinged, but do rotate, though the costume again limits that function, and the wrists are hinged and can swivel. There’s articulation at the thigh and knee, but given the crouched position he’s in the range is rather minimal. Like a lot of insects which Gremlins seem to borrow some style from, he has what is kind of like a second knee above the ankle which gives him that crouched look. There’s nothing going on in the torso, so Stripe mostly just stands there with his arms and head being relied upon to add character to his posture. It’s, as I said, solid. It’s not spectacular, but given that these characters were rather stiff puppets in the film they’re not really begging for articulation as a means of being screen accurate. This figure also has the added burden of the soft goods, which is quite form fitting, but does restrict movement. I suppose the optimal way to pose him would be to remove the costume, pose him, then replace, but I’m the type who doesn’t like to mess with soft goods. Plus I think he looks good as-is.

Everyone’s favorite Mogwai is now the cutest accessory.

It’s the accessories that make this figure, and that’s where NECA nailed this release. Santa Stripe’s uniform looks great on him and I like the inclusion of soft goods over molded plastic for the main uniform. While it does hinder the articulation, it’s just too authentic a look to make that trade-off not worth while. It’s a plush material that’s soft to the touch and the belt across the coat is quite sharp looking. It has Velcro in the back so don’t try and undo that buckle. The coat also has Velcro in the front and the pants on the seat. There’s even a little opening for his “tail” or carapace to stick out. The hat is the same plush material and has a wire running through it for posing. The beard is attached to the hat via an elastic which slips over Stripe’s face and stays on just fine. He also comes with a sack for whatever a Santa Gremlin delivers. It’s blue and the same plush texture of Stripe’s suit with gold moons and stars printed on it. A wire runs through it so you can shape and position it however you like. Rather than have an actual drawstring, a gold-colored rope is included to tie around it. It’s a bit of a pain, but maybe a drawstring would have interfered with the wire. Lastly, there’s a little, to scale, Gizmo that can fit in the sack or just hang around. It’s actually articulated, with rotation at the head, shoulders, and wrists which is nearly as much articulation as what is found in the larger Ultimate Gizmo. It’s painted and has sculpted fur and Gizmo has a permanent smile on his face. He’s adorable and the only thing that looks odd about him are that his hands are a bit big. The left hand especially just looks odd on mine and I initially thought he had two right hands by mistake, but I don’t think that’s the case. He also has a candy cane he can hold which I find hides the oddness of the hands a bit.

Stripe can kind of haul Gizmo around over his shoulder.
He’s better equipped though to cradle him lovingly like a little baby.

If you’re looking to pose Stripe in a manner similar to what’s on the front of the box, you may get discouraged. The limited rotation of the arms is a challenge, as is getting him to properly secure his sack over the shoulder since that rope isn’t attached. The only way to really do it without introducing other elements is by having the figure crouched so far forward that he’s almost horizontal and resting the sack on his back and using one arm for stability by placing his hand on the ground. If you don’t want Gizmo in the sack, then it’s much easier since it’s so light, but I suspect many may just resort to having Stripe hold the sack open at his feet with Gizmo either popping out or standing nearby. On the plus side, I guess I don’t have to try and construct a chimney to display with him.

Gizmo roasting on an open fire…
Ahh Cindy, you might just want to let this Santa take the damn tree.

Santa Stripe is definitely an eye-catching item to add to one’s Christmas display. Obviously, being more a horror-themed creature he’d probably stand out in most displays, but the bright and well-detailed Santa suit gives him that “pop” factor. He mixes well with the Ultimate Gizmo in his festive, Christmas, attire even if the scale isn’t perfect. I imagine he mixes even better with the winter caroler Gremlins sold in two-packs, but I don’t have a set of those (I’ve resisted that one, don’t tempt me further) and if you like Gremlins, or are more like me and just love everything to do with Christmas, this one should leave you feeling pretty happy.

Merry Christmas, and watch your back!

Santa Stripe is presently being sold as a Target exclusive in the US for $29.99. He has sold out online, but should be hitting stores right about now. If he’s anything like the other Gremlins releases, he shouldn’t be too hard to find, but don’t sleep on him if you do run across him as I assume he’s limited to the holiday season. He could return in 2021, like the carolers, but I don’t believe that’s been confirmed. Happy hunting!


Teddy Ruxpin 2017 Toy Review

TeddyRuxpinLogoIt probably comes as no surprise that the author of The Nostalgia Spot has a real soft spot for the toys from his youth. One of my favorites was my Teddy Ruxpin story-telling bear and his companion Grubby the octopede. I don’t remember receiving him, but I know it was a Christmas gift and I was terrified of him when he was first powered on, as I assume was the case for many kids in the 1980’s. Today it’s not hard to find a stuffed animal that talks, sings, and moves to pre-recorded material. I even purchased my son a talking Elmo last year that knows his name and interacts with him. In 1986 though, this was cutting edge stuff and kids just weren’t used to their toys simulating life in this manner, hence why it could be terrifying.

teddyruxpin0011

A still from an early Teddy Ruxpin commercial.

I warmed up to Teddy, as did my sister, and using him was a treat. It wasn’t an every day thing, since he was limited by how many stories he had and by how quickly he devoured batteries. I would eventually receive Grubby as a birthday present necessitating even more batteries each time we wanted to hear a story. It’s not that each session would kill the batteries, but Teddy could be a little greedy when it came to power. As I mentioned in the lead-in, Teddy was pretty sophisticated in 1986, but by today’s standards he’s actually pretty basic. Teddy Ruxpin was essentially a stuffed bear with a cassette player in his body. As a result, he was pretty bulky, and kind of heavy. He wasn’t the type of teddy bear you would sleep with. His head housed some basic animatronics. His mouth opened and closed to simulate speech and his eyes would blink too. Connecting him via a special cable to Grubby enabled Grubby’s eyes and mouth to function as well. Grubby also had his own internal speaker, like Teddy, so it really sounded like he was talking with Teddy. Other voices in the stories would emanate from Teddy’s speaker and Grubby and Teddy would just sit stoically while they spoke, occasionally blinking their eyes.

Different_Teddy_Ruxpin_Outfits

Kids had plenty of options when it came to Teddy’s wardrobe.

Teddy came with one book and one cassette tape and various other book and tape combinations could be purchased at retail. The books had some nice artwork and were fairly conventional children’s tales. Owners could also buy costumes to dress Teddy in, like a rain coat or a Santa Claus suit to pair with his Christmas story. Teddy was a pretty big hit and one of the first Christmas toys parents were seemingly willing to kill for. He was the main property for toy company Worlds of Wonder, but the company would eventually go belly-up in the 90s. Teddy was re-released in various forms throughout the decade, getting updates to the original model and also receiving a new “backpack” version that used something like 8-tracks instead of cassettes. He had a companion animated series that had a full syndication order, but apparently it wasn’t enough to sustain Worlds of Wonder.

Now in 2017, Wicked Cool Toys has brought Teddy Ruxpin back for a new audience. Unlike prior attempts to revive him, this Teddy is entirely different. Sure he’s still a bear, has brown fur, and tells stories, but he no longer is saddled with a cumbersome playback device. He’s noticeably smaller, and more cuddly than his predecessor. He’s also not designed to utilize a line of books but rather a companion app available for tablets and cell phones that substitute for an actual book. He likely has some sort of internal flash memory for storing stories and comes pre-loaded with three tales with more available for purchase through the aforementioned app. He’s basically what you would expect Teddy Ruxpin to be in 2017.

159702_4Wicked Cool Toys either hired the same actors who played Teddy (Phil Baron) and Grubby (Will Ryan) back in the day or they found individuals who sound just like them. Or everything is old material. All of the stories are recycled from the original run, as best as I can tell, so Wicked Cool Toys not only acquired the Teddy Ruxpin license, but the back catalogue as well. “The Airship,” which I believe is the original story that came with Teddy, is included and it’s kind of a trip to revisit it. The stories I remember most from my childhood, “Uncle Grubby” and “Winter Adventure,” so far are not available but it wouldn’t surprise me if they show up eventually. This means if you still have any of your old books you can basically use them with this new Teddy. I’d love to find my old copy of “The Airship” just to see if any new dialogue was added.

Operating Teddy is pretty simple. He runs off of AA batteries (not included) and is powered on with a switch on his back. He has two volume settings, and additional controls in both paws and beneath the emblem of his vest. The right paw activates Teddy and can cycle through the stories while the left paw is a pause/unpause button. The button in his chest advances the page. There’s a blue tooth connection button located near the power button. To sync with a phone, you simply open the app and then press the button and follow the onscreen prompts. There’s also a factory reset button if he ever starts acting weird. I have yet to purchase additional stories so I don’t know exactly how that works, but you do it through the app. I assume it must “unlock” the story which is already stored in the bear. He does have a micro USB port, but as of right now, there’s really no need to utilize it that I’m aware of.

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New Teddy’s eyes take some getting used to.

When Teddy powers on his eyes light up and his mouth starts flapping and the familiar “Come dream with me tonight,” still introduces each story. The motors are a lot quieter than the old ones and Teddy should seem less intimidating, so long as the eyes don’t freak you out. They take a little getting used to. Instead of animatronics, Wicked Cool Toys opted for LCD screens that display Teddy’s eyes and animate them as well. This means his eyes are capable of a much wider array of expressions, including cartoonish ones like heart-shaped eyes and stars, but at the cost of looking kind of fake. They also glow, and when Teddy is turned off they go completely black. It’s an uncomfortable feeling to stare into the blank void that is Teddy’s eyes.

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Don’t look into its eyes! Don’t look into its eyes!

When Teddy is not in use, he has a little sleeping mask he can wear to protect his eyes and hide the creepiness. The standard Teddy has an orange shirt that isn’t removable with a tan vest that goes over it. He sports some fashionable jeans to finish off the ensemble and it’s a rather “hip” update to his old onesie and vest combo. If you’re really nostalgic for that look, Target sells a special edition Teddy that features his classic outfit. I haven’t heard plans for additional outfits, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they become a thing if this toy is a hit.

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Phew, he’s sleeping. We’re safe. For now.

Naturally, I’m a man in my 30s so I didn’t purchase a Teddy Ruxpin for myself. I bought it for my one-year old daughter and it’s become her favorite toy. She practically explodes with giddiness every time I turn him on and sometimes we have to hide him when we’re sick of listening to him otherwise she’ll just keep gesturing for us to turn him on. Since she’s only one, she mostly likes the songs and the fact that he talks, but my older son likes to watch the companion stories on my phone, when he’s in the right mood to be sitting still. I do plan on adding some additional stories, especially the Christmas one, in the not too distant future. I expect the experience will be seamless, but if I have any issues I’ll update this post.

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The gang’s all here!

I have so far encountered one issue with Teddy and that’s the pause button in his left paw (paws button?) has stopped working. It’s troublesome for me because my daughter likes pausing and unpausing him because she seems to get a kick out his expression freezing in mid sentence. Now that it isn’t working, she gets frustrated with it quickly which is unfortunate because it partly ruins her enjoyment of the bear. I contacted Wicked Cool Toys via email and they got back to me within an hour and offered to replace my unit with a new one at no cost to me . I’ve been quite impressed with their customer service as a result. These things happen, so as long as companies stand behind their product I find it hard to get angry or discouraged when something malfunctions.

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Maybe Grubby could be Yoshi to Teddy’s Mario.

Teddy Ruxpin is looking like he’s going to be a pretty tough find this holiday season, which is partly why I’m making this post. At least in my house, he’s a home run and my kids really like him. They are kids, so it’s impossible to say how long they’ll stick with something, but for now they’re pretty happy. The prospect of adding new stories should help keep him fresh, and I even think they’ll only enjoy him more as they get a little older and can interact with the stories on a higher level. I do not know what the future has in store for Teddy Ruxpin, if this is it or if his buddy Grubby is in development, but it’s pretty neat to see him back in the spotlight after more than 30 years. Teddy retails for about $100, but most of the major retailers have him marked down to $90. He’s been going in and out of stock since he was released in August, and it might only get more challenging to find as Christmas draws near. If you’re after the Target exclusive, you’ll probably have a harder time tracking him down. I casually looked for one to get my nephew, but I wasn’t having any luck so he’s getting the standard version. It’s possible Wicked Cool Toys has been withholding stock for the holiday rush and he’ll start becoming easier to find. There should be plenty to go around, so don’t cave and resort to the secondary market. And if you do opt to get one for your kid this Christmas, hopefully he or she enjoys Teddy as much as my kids do.


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