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Super7 Disney Ultimates! Robin Hood

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

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

Robin and PJ together at last!

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

So what do we think? Accurate enough for you?

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

Who has two thumbs and an arrow through the head?

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

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

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

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

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

Hey! It’s some stork guy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking for more from Disney and Super7?

Super7 Disney Ultimates! Prince John

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

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

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

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Super7 Disney Ultimates! Pinocchio

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

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Dec. 24 – Ultimate Spider-Man – “The Moon Knight Before Christmas”

Original air date December 17, 2016.

When it comes to doing these write-ups, I naturally trend towards older Christmas specials. The name of the blog is The Nostalgia Spot, after all, so it would only make sense for me to favor stuff that’s at least a decade old, if not more. The fact of the matter is, there’s really not enough content out there to only focus on the old, and besides, sometimes it’s fun to be a bit topical. In 2022, Marvel unleashed Moon Knight on the masses via Disney+. Since I am a subscriber to Disney+ and a casual Marvel fan, I watched it because it was there and I like feeling like I’m getting the most bang for my buck. It was a fine show and I especially enjoyed the performance of Oscar Isaac in the lead role. I believe it was mostly well-received, though I know there were some out there disappointed at the lack of Moon Knight in a show called Moon Knight which is understandable. I’m sure we’ll see more of him though because this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all, and it’s always building towards something.

Prior to watching the show, my only knowledge of Moon Knight was that he was some superhero with a cool looking costume. I have an old ToyBiz Marvel Legends figure of the same, but I’ve honestly never picked up a Moon Knight comic. He always had the reputation of being a Batman knock-off, and to some extent I guess that’s true. In the hands of an unskilled writer, I could easily see his books turning into a Batman-like story. In the show, he was far more interesting though so I don’t think such criticism is warranted in that case, but what about in other media?

I guess the show had a different title in its final season? It’s just listed as Ultimate Spider-Man every where.

In 2012, Disney began airing a show called Ultimate Spider-Man. Despite the name, this show was not an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name. Like many post 2000 Spider-Man shows, it borrows from that comic, but also basically every other form of Spider-Man to create one big hodgepodge of what are hopefully the best traits of the various Spider-Men over the years. I never paid any attention to the show while it was airing, but it hung around to total over 100 episodes with the series ending in 2017. One of the last episodes of the show happens to be a Christmas one, and it also features Moon Knight, and it’s also presently the “knight” before Christmas, so now feels like the right time to take a look at this one.

Ultimate Spider-Man is a Film Roman production that was overseen by Alex Soto. It’s a 2D animated cartoon series with a pretty straight-forward approach to the character designs and scenery, unlike a more stylized series and prior Christmas spot entrant Spectacular Spider-Man. The show stars Drake Bell as Spider-Man/Peter Parker and when it begins he has already been Spider-Man for about a year, until attracting the attention of Nick Fury. This is a young Spider-Man still feeling his way around things and it seems an emphasis of the show was to feature lots of team-ups with other familiar faces from the Marvel Universe. The show was able to assemble a rather impressive writing team which included Brian Michael Bendis, the creative behind the comic of the same name, and Paul Dini, perhaps the most celebrated writer in superhero animation (this particular episode is by Elliot Casey). It would seem there’s a lot to like about this one on paper and it also looks like some money was spent making the show look good so it’s a bit of a surprise on my behalf that I’ve basically ignored the series for as long as I have.

This show loves playing with the size of Spider-Man’s eye lenses.

The show begins without any sort of opening title sequence, I’m guessing that’s to come. We find Spider-Man (Bell) decorating a…tree of some kind and talking to himself. He seems to be trying to psyche himself up to have a terrific Christmas because he needs to. He’s actually house-sitting this Christmas for Dr. Strange (Liam O’Brien) in his Sanctum Sanctorum while the good doctor is off saving reality, or something. It would seem this is Spidey’s first Christmas away from his Aunt May and he’s just trying to make the best of it. Unfortunately, this bizarre, monster, tree that Dr. Strange keeps in his home is sentient and not up for being decorated like a Christmas tree. It also doesn’t seem to appreciate Spider-Man’s sass and takes a swipe at him forcing the web-slinger to retreat into another room. Oh, and this is a show that seems to break the fourth wall via its protagonist. A lot.

It also seems to like this story device as we’ll see it again.

After running from the grinchy monster plant, Spider-Man finds himself in a fancy looking armory. It’s apparently a room he’s not supposed to enter and as he tries to recall what Dr. Strange told him about the room an apparition of the doctor appears above him. A very young looking Doctor Strange is recalled just telling him to stay out of the room because of all of the dangerous weapons and artifacts present. Spidey then sheepishly scratches the back of his head as an “Oops, my bad,” kind of thing since he’s already broken his promise to Strange. I’m getting the impression this Spider-Man is a bit of a goof.

That’s a pretty bad ass way to introduce Moon Knight.

A scream from outside gets Spider-Man’s attention. He’s supposed to look after Strange’s home, but he can’t ignore what sounds like a girl in distress! Spidey races outside to find a young girl being harassed by a strangely dressed man. That man is Moon Knight (Diedrich Bader), and it would seem that Spider-Man has never encountered this soldier of the moon before. His entrance is pretty cool though as Spidey looks up at the moon and we see the alleged hero reflected in the lens of his mask. Spidey deftly avoids him and grabs the young girl in the process before staring down his new foe. Moon Knight introduces himself, and Spider-Man makes a lame crack about him not being Santa Claus as we smash cut to the opening title. Apparently this era of the show is called Ultimate Spider-Man vs The Sinister Six as that’s what the title card says. I guess it would have helped if I had watched some of this show before jumping into one of the final 3 episodes.

This rescue isn’t going very well so far.

After the very brief title card is “webbed away,” we get to see Spider-Man vs The Moon Knight! Moon Knight is impeccably voiced by Diedrich Bader in what feels like a preview of the somewhat aloof Batman (in contrast with the straight-forward Batman he has played elsewhere) he will play in the future on Harley Quinn. He’s an unintentionally humorous character (as-in, the character isn’t trying to be funny in-universe, but he’s definitely written to be comical to the viewer) as he constantly keeps referring to the moon, talking about the moon, and even converses with the moon. I’m having flashbacks to the Mooninites from Aqua Teen Hunger Force here because this guy loves the moon as much as they do. Spider-Man seems annoyed with him, and Moon Knight doesn’t really seem to have a high opinion of Spider-Man for that matter and even calls him a demon. It never dawns on Spider-Man though that maybe this guy is attacking this young girl for a reason, so he decides to retreat into the safety of Strange’s townhouse, but not before whipping Moon Knight by his cape into some snow (“And that is why I don’t wear a cape!”). Unfortunately, the building has a protective spell placed on it that requires a magical command to allow additional people through and Spidey is drawing a blank on what those words are. While he stands safely behind the magical shield, the girl he’s trying to save is in harm’s way. Worry not though, for Spider-Man is able to recall those words just before Moon Knight nails her.

And now we have some wholesome, Christmas, entertainment!

As Spidey bids Moon Knight a good night, the vigilante tries pounding on the forcefield and cries out that Spider-Man is giving this girl exactly what she wants, but he’s not listening. Inside, Spider-Man and the girl get acquainted. Her name is Francine (Mary Kate Wiles) and she tells Spider-Man she’s an orphan. A recently made orphan as she lost her father not too long ago. Spidey acts like he’s going to cry hearing her sad story and welcomes her to spend Christmas with him in this lonely old house. We then go into a montage hosted by Spidey Claus! The two make gingerbread cookies that literally get up and walk away, which they have a laugh at. We then see a sequence of polaroid photos of the two making silly faces and eating candy canes. Spidey is laying in front of the fire looking at said pictures when the brief montage ends, while Francine seems interested in looking around. She soon finds the door to the forbidden room, and like most kids, immediately wants to go in once she hears it’s forbidden. Spidey tells her he’s not going to break his promise to Doctor Strange and let her in, but as he lectures her he doesn’t really pay attention and she just slips right past him.

I’m guessing this thing is important.

Francine enters the room and is immediately drawn to a crystal ball. Spidey comes over and realizes he’s seen that ball before. It belonged to the villain Mysterio, and we see a flashback of him doing crimes and battling Spider-Man. Apparently, he fell off the Brooklyn Bridge at the end of one of their encounters and Spider-Man was unable to save him. The ball is his helmet and it was magically enhanced so that it could make Mysterio’s many illusions turn real. Pretty sweet! After Mysterio fell into the river below, Spider-Man recovered the helmet, but no body. He gave it to Strange and is surprised the sorcerer didn’t simply destroy it.

It’s a lot harder to hurt someone when you can’t touch them.

A crashing sound from upstairs gets Spider-Man’s attention and ends his little story time. He hands the helmet to Francine and tells her to stay put while he investigates. He heads upstairs into what looks like a library only to find Moon Knight inside! He’s pretty surprised to see him since Strange put that spell up to keep out the unwanted, but he’ll have to figure that out later. Spider-Man attempts to web Moon Knight, but he turns intangible and the web line goes right through him. Spidey then tries to attack in a more conventional manner, but continues to encounter difficulties. Moon Knight explains that he is but a reflection in the moonlight, which is poetic, but still confusing. Spider-Man then hears a sound coming from outside and looks up to see Moon Knight on the other side of a skylight. Two Moon Knights?!

It turns out she’s the bad guy. Try to act surprised.

Spider-Man noticing another Moon Knight outside seemed to be enough for this Moon Knight to call it quits. It disappears in a blue light and Spider-Man realizes he was just an illusion. Saying the word “illusion” out loud is enough for him to figure out what’s going on. He heads back to the forbidden room and somewhat nervously pops his head in to check on Francine. He finds the girl holding the orb and she too is surrounded by a cold, blue, light. When it fades we see she’s a grown woman, and wearing Mysterio’s old costume too. She then thanks Spider-Man, and introduces herself as Frances Beck, daughter of Mysterio! It would seem she holds a grudge against Spider-Man for her father’s apparent death and retrieving his magical helmet is exactly what she needs to exact sweet, festive, revenge. This is going to be the best Christmas ever!

Just the first of Mysterio’s holiday themed not-illusions. You have to appreciate a villain that gets in on the theme of the episode.

Lucky for Spider-Man, the New Mysterio is quite new to this whole villain thing and Spidey just takes the helmet away from her via a simple web-line. He tells her she can’t handle this thing and suggests she’s not the real deal, but she assures him she is. She lifts her arms up and opens a portal in the ceiling and a horde of vicious looking elves drop in! Spidey is able to escape to the ceiling though as they’re rather short, and he and New Mysterio do the whole “You killed my father!” “No, I didn’t!” routine before Spidey bails into another room.

Dr. Strange is here to save the day! Though Spider-Man is fighting a master illusionist that has already tricked him once…

Spidey’s webs can only hold off the elves for so long as they are vicious little bastards, so he retreats back up to the library. There he finds Moon Knight, still just chilling out on the roof outside the window, before he’s visited by an unexpected guest. Or should I say homeowner? Because Dr. Strange can’t be a guest in his own home! He appears before Spider-Man and seems quite ticked off with old web-head. He let people into his home, entered the forbidden room, and has removed a powerful item from said room! Spidey tries to apologize, while Moon Knight bangs on the window shouting “Not strange!” This confuses Spider-Man more as he very much disagrees with Moon Knight and reminds him that this night has actually been very strange! He then finally realizes what Moon Knight is saying, and it’s probably helped by Dr. Strange lunging for the helmet and failing this whole thing, that he means Strange, not strange. Which, I mean, come on Spider-Man! I know you’re not a detective like Batman, but you’re facing an illusionist here and she’s already fooled you once!

More holiday monsters – I love this stuff!

The illusion of Strange then vanishes and is replaced by Mysterio. She makes a crack at Spider-Man referring to him as a joke to which he responds with “To be fair, I think everything’s a joke.” She also does some magic finger snap that just makes the helmet appear in her hands. She finally puts it on and uses the power of the helmet to summon a giant gingerbread man! Spidey points out that this is very much a joke as he dodges the massive candy cane the beast swings in his direction. I must say, I do admire Mysterio’s commitment to the season with her various summonings. Come to think of it, how did she summon the non-illusion elves without the helmet? Maybe it was the magic of the season? I guess it’s best not to think about these things.

Here comes Moony!

Spider-Man does what he seemingly does best: flees to higher ground. Up on the ceiling, he’s able to watch the Christmas abominations lay waste to what are likely some very old and likely priceless objects in Doctor Strange’s library and also regroup. He tries to recall the advice Dr. Strange gave him in the past, but all he can do is recall generic advice like wearing a hat when it’s cold outside. He then remembers something about Strange advising him to make allies out of the enemies of his enemies. Naturally, this means Moon Knight who is still banging away outside because he is one persistent fellow. Spider-Man shouts out the magic words to release the barrier and Moon Knight is finally able to smash in that very expensive looking window and join the battle!

Seems there’s a downside to all of this power, who could have foreseen that?

Moon Knight comes in wielding his baton and smashes some ginger foes! He’s ready to rumble, and it allows Spidey to attempt to appeal to Francine. She corrects him when he addresses her by that name and refers to herself as Frances Beck! She is not going to be swayed, but before she can really get into her villain speech she collapses to her knees in pain. Reaching for the fishbowl on her head, it would seem the orb is a bit more than she can handle. Spidey tries to help her, rather lamely though by putting an arm around her when he could have just yanked the thing off. She recoils from his touch and uses her power to open a portal that she and her gingerbread minions are able to escape through.

Look out world, Moon Knight has a wand!

With Frances gone, Moon Knight and Spider-Man are able to have a little heart-to-heart. Only, Moon Knight doesn’t seem interested in sharing any of his knowledge with Spider-Man, probably because he’s pretty much responsible for this mess they’re in. Their conversation is interrupted though by the moon. Yes, Moon Knight takes his orders from the moon and it’s played rather comically since Moon Knight can hear the moon, but no one else can including the viewer. It would seem the moon has decided that Spider-Man’s help is needed and Moon Knight is commanded to reveal all. He basically just relays that the moon warned him about Beck and that she intended to wake a dormant evil that lurked in this place, which must be the fish bowl. It also told him how to stop it: a magic wand! Yes, some wand has the power to make the helmet collapse in on itself, and it just so happens to be in this house too! Spidey is forced to break his promise, again, to Strange and admit Moon Knight into the forbidden room. There he finds the wand they need and the two set out to stop Beck.

I’ve seen this guy before.

As the two walk out the front door, Spidey asks Moon Knight (he calls him Moony – adorable!) if this wand will destroy the wearer of the helmet. He only responds with “The moon shall have its vengeance,” which is interesting because I never thought of the moon as the vengeful type. Spider-Man points out that isn’t really an answer and tells Moon Knight if his aim is to kill Francine then he doesn’t want his help. He doesn’t offer a reply as the two head outside and find Mysterio floating high above the city doing super villain stuff. She uses her new powers to summon a giant snowman monster than looks curiously like Marshmallow from Frozen.

Now Santa is getting in on this – is nothing sacred?!

Upon coming face to face with this monster, Spidey is suddenly more interested in Moon Knight’s help and willing to accept any conditions. Of course, when he looks over to the vigilante for help, he’s busy chatting it up with the moon. This guy! It would seem he’s also trying to convince his…boss…that Spider-Man is a liability, which Spidey takes offense to. The two then turn their attention to the task at hand and Spider-Man observes the Moon Knight method of dodging. Which is to say, he does no such thing. He takes a punch from the beast and explains to Spider-Man that he’d rather take the hit than waste time avoiding it, which Spidey is forced to admit is pretty badass (my words, not his). While Moon Knight tangles with Marshmallow, Spidey tries reasoning with Frances, but she just responds by turning an inflatable Santa sentient which goes on the attack. Lucky for him, Moon Knight’s aversion to dodging gets him knocked into Santa and solves that problem for him!

Hey! Quit laying around! There’s a city to save!

Spidey takes to the sky to try to get away from the monster, but ends up getting swatted instead. He crashes through a building and finds himself in a department store. A giant, novelty, present broke his fall. Moon Knight soon follows and lands on top of another novelty present and Spidey is forced to make a crack about the bad holiday décor. Moon Knight ignores Spider-Man’s joke and informs him of the dire situation they find themselves in. He also adds that the moon demands this situation be rectified by any means necessary. The duo are soon set upon by an army of nutcrackers and toy airplanes. The two leap into the scaffolding smashing toys along the way until the big snowman comes bashing in with Mysterio right behind.

I’m very surprised Spider-Man didn’t make a crack about a splitting headache here.

As Spider-Man dodges their attacks, he sees Moon Knight go for Mysterio. He calls out for him to wait, but Moon Knight leaps through the air and plunges the wand through the glass dome. Frances collapses to her knees and appears to be in a trance of some kind. Moon Knight suggests the spell is taking over and will soon end all of this, but Spidey isn’t willing to give up on Frances. He realizes that the only way to get Moon Knight to help him is to trick him. Sounds deceitful, but if this plan works then Moon Knight only has himself to blame for Spidey pretends to hear the moon. Moon Knight is perplexed, but also a bit impressed, as Spider-Man acts as if the moon is commanding him to save Frances. Moon Knight may be a badass, but he’s definitely not the sharpest knife in the drawer as he falls for it. He agrees to hold off the monstrous snowman, while Spider-Man attempts a rescue.

We all talk to the moon all the time. You’re not special, Moon Knight!

Spidey doesn’t really know what to do, so he instinctively grabs the wand. That seemed like the logical place to start, only the unexpected happens and Spider-Man gets sucked inside the helmet! He finds himself in a dreary setting, but a farm house comes into view and Spider-Man figures it must be the farm house that Frances told him about. He approaches a window and spies Francine inside seated at a dinner table with her father, Quentin Beck (Paul Scheer). They appear to be having Christmas dinner, and the decorations in the background would indicate as much. As Spidey gets closer, he finds himself transported into the house and seated at the table. There, he tries reasoning with Frances by telling her this is all an illusion and they need to get out. She insists it’s real though, that her father is real, but Spidey tells her if it was real then he’d tell her what happened that night between them. So he does!

Well, since you’re here, you might as well stick around for Christmas dinner, Spidey.

It turns out, Frances was right and this is the real Quentin Beck. He describes how he made a deal with the demon Dormammu for the power to make his illusions real, and this is the price he paid. He tells his daughter that Spider-Man did try to save him, but he refused the hero’s aid. When he fell off of the bridge, he was pulled into the helmet where he’s to remain. This also explains why Doctor Strange didn’t destroy it since doing so would have destroyed Beck. Unfortunately for the Becks, this world starts to collapse upon itself. A vortex opens above them and it’s pretty clear they need to get out. Frances pleads for her dad to come with them, but he knows he’s trapped in this prison. Or is he? Spider-Man doesn’t think so, but soon the ground opens up below them and Frances is sent falling into the void!

No daughter, I think I would prefer to remain here in Armageddon than join you for Christmas.

She stops though, bathed in a green light, lifted up by her father. He’s holding all three of them with his magic, I guess, suspended in the air. Beck then uses his powers and a green light envelops all three of them. Outside the helmet, Moon Knight is having a rough go of things. He’s being attacked by the snow monster, nutcrackers, and some nasty looking teddy bears. As he sees the helmet pulsate, he assumes that he has failed and apologizes to the moon. Then, his enemies drop dead and Spider-Man appears with the Becks and Moon Knight is forced to correct himself.

Oh look, it all turned out well in the end. That tends to happen at Christmas in TV shows.

While father and daughter have a reunion, Spider-Man remarks how Moon Knight really trashed the place. He reminds Spider-Man this isn’t the only place that’s been damaged this evening and Spidey lets out an “Oh no!” We cut to Dr. Strange finding his home in shambles. As a book crumbles to dust in his hands, he curses Spider-Man to the heavens! We then are taken to F.E.A.S.T. where Aunt May volunteers to help the less fortunate. Spider-Man, Moon Knight, and the Becks are shown enjoying a meal together and there’s laughter and happy, holiday, cheer. We then head to the roof, where Spider-Man is attempting to wrap things up for us, only he’s distracted by Moon Knight’s persistent conversation with the moon. He makes fun of him for it, but Moon Knight turns the tables since Spider-Man can’t even explain who he’s addressing. Moon Knight calls him a weirdo, and Spidey is apparently content to leave things there as he wishes us all a “Happy Holidays,” and we exit with an iris shot.

I suppose it didn’t turn out all that well for Strange. Don’t worry about him though, he can magic that glass back together or something.

That was how Spider-Man spent a Christmas. And it was a rather eventful one. I have to confess, I wasn’t much at all interested in the story of the Becks. We barely got to know Francine so it wasn’t as if I felt hurt by her betrayal of Spider-Man like he seemed to be. I also wasn’t attached to her, but I guess it’s good that Spidey wasn’t willing to take the easy way out and let the magic wand kill her. I also never saw the episodes with Mysterio so I didn’t have that to fall back on. What hurt things further though was the performance of Paul Scheer as Quentin Beck. He is so wooden in the role and the scenes with him are terrible. Was he just mailing this one in? I’m surprised they would stick with this casting because it did not work at all. Perhaps the direction for him was poor as when the vortex is swallowing them he sounds bored, like maybe he didn’t really know what was happening to his character? I also don’t understand how his powers work. I thought he just did illusions and the helmet contained the magic? Did he learn how to utilize the helmet’s magic from within it? Could he have “magicked” himself out of that thing this whole time? It’s messy.

Even Moon Knight joined them for Christmas dinner.

What did work though was Diedrich Bader as Moon Knight. He steals the show and when he’s not on the screen I was definitely looking for him. He gets to be a badass with a personality as he comes across as aloof due to his constant conversing with the moon and Spider-Man is a natural foil for such a character. He takes himself very seriously, and Spider-Man could certainly be described as the opposite. As for old web-head, he manages to be charming and charismatic, but also annoying. It’s a unique quality that Spider-Man sometimes possesses. This particular iteration pushes things at times and he’s definitely upstaged in the funny remarks category by Moon Knight and his deadpan delivery, but I’m guessing that doesn’t happen in most episodes. As for Christmas, it’s here in spirit and Mysterio does her part to make sure of that. We don’t really see much of the reunion at the end so we never get a big dose of those Christmas feels, but given my distaste for the performance of Scheer, it’s probably a good thing that we ended things where we did.

After watching this episode I just have one question: where’s my Spider-Man and Moon Knight spin-off?!

If you like Spider-Man and want to see him at Christmas, this is fine. There’s some lore here to work around, but nothing that should feel too difficult for a casual Spidey fan. The animation is solid and I like how this thing looks. It did take me a bit to warm up to Spidey’s constant eye posing, but I could definitely watch more of this. I don’t know that I will, but maybe. This episode and the rest of the show is streaming on Disney+ and I would not expect to see it shown on television, especially this late in the game. This is also the show’s second Christmas episode, but the blurb on the first one made it sound like an It’s a Wonderful Life parody and I didn’t want to bark up that tree. If I’m mistaken and you think I should check it out, let me know. For now, I feel fine leaving it at this. Plus, that one doesn’t have Moon Knight!

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

Dec. 24 – Shrek the Halls

2021 marked an important anniversary in animation: Shrek turned 20. The animated film from DreamWorks is credited as really helping to launch the company as a viable competitor to Disney’s Pixar. Prior to Shrek, DreamWorks had found success at the box office with Antz and Chicken Run, but Shrek was the first to really explode…

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Dec. 24 – The SpongeBob Christmas Special

When I listed out the best Christmas specials over a week ago, I included the stop-motion A SpongeBob Christmas. And I stand by that as that special is pretty great. Before there was A SpongeBob Christmas, there was The SpongeBob Christmas Special. Confused? Well, there are only so many ways to title a Christmas special.…

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Dec. 24 – Silly Symphony – “The Night Before Christmas”

We have reached a day of great, holiday, release – Christmas Eve. And what better way to mark the occasion than with a holiday short titled The Night Before Christmas. A lot of cartoons have made use of this title, but today’s subject is the Silly Symphony short that falls under that heading. It felt…

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

Original release date December 10, 1932.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The secret to perfect curls is terror.

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

No, it very much is not okay.

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

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

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

This job really doesn’t look that hard.

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

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

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

They were even doing hidden Mickeys back in ’32.

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

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

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

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

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

Dec. 6 – Christmas in Tattertown

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

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Dec. 6 – Christmas Flintstone

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

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Dec. 6 – Pokémon – “Holiday Hi-Jynx”

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

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Mickey Mouse – Runaway Brain (1995)

Original release date August 11, 1995.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aww, he’s cute!

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

I think he likes it, Minnie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is one powerful motor in that billboard.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Beast Kingdom Disney Dynamic 8ction Heroes Classic Donald Duck

Here’s Donnie!

Few brands are as immensely popular as Disney, which is why it’s a bit surprising that the company’s presence in the world of action figures has always felt a little lacking. It’s thought (and maybe even confirmed by the company) that Disney’s interest in properties like Marvel and Star Wars stemmed from them being unable to internally develop IPs that better aligned with what boys enjoy. Disney has never had trouble selling princess dolls to little girls, but action figures? It’s always been a tougher sell. They’ve tried and managed to craft a wonderful IP in Gargoyles, but apparently it didn’t have the sort of commercial success that Disney was looking for. Even so, it’s a shame their classic characters haven’t always been well-represented in plastic. Maybe they just think kids don’t want a Mickey figure? With the collector market amongst adults really exploding over the last decade or so I suppose it’s no surprise that we’re finally seeing some change in this area.

Donald comes in a heavy cardstock box that reminds me of a board game. The left is the outer lid, and the right is the inner box with the insert over it.

It was a little over a year ago that I took a look at the Hero Cross HMF Donald Duck. At the time, that figure was one of the few collector grade figures of Donald Duck out there. Since then, we’ve seen other companies show interest in Disney figures like Super7, McFarlane, and now Beast Kingdom. Beast Kingdom has actually been at it for a little while doing some collectible statues and also dipping its toe into the action figure game with it’s line Dynamic 8ction Heroes. The first figure I saw from Beast Kingdom and had interest in was a Jack Skellington. Since there isn’t a review of that figure on this blog I obviously didn’t buy it, but I sure was tempted. Beast Kingdom has since released a Mickey, Darkwing Duck, and Scrooge McDuck, but it was Donald Duck that I decided would be my entry point into the world of Beast Kingdom. And today, on Donald Duck’s 88th birthday, I’m going to tell you all about it!

And there’s our boy and all of his “parts.”

Donald Duck has long been one of, if not my absolute, favorite cartoon characters so when a new product featuring him comes along I immediately take notice. I liked the figure from Hero Cross last year, but the cost of that line left me content to just make Donald my one and only. Beast Kingdom has a similar issue in that these figures are not cheap. And like everything the past year, the price seems to only be going up. I paid just over 70 bucks for this guy at Big Bad Toy Store and that’s certainly a lot for an action figure. It’s a hard price to live up to, but if I was going to have any interest in adding to my collection beyond Donald, I needed this figure to win me over.

Such a nice looking, well-mannered duck.

Donald Duck arrives in a pretty hefty package. It’s a square box and the top slides off like the box to a board game would. There’s an insert featuring Donald’s shirt pattern over a plastic tray which contains the actual figure. There’s a transparent plastic overlay on that tray, but otherwise everything is loose with no tie-downs or anything. It’s also worth pointing out that this seems designed for internet sales because you can’t see the figure at all without opening the box which is taped closed. There are some product renders on the rear of the box, none of which showcase the entire figure’s body. It’s a bit odd, but again, this isn’t the type of product destined to sit on a shelf at a brick and mortar location.

I’ll just give you the comparison you want right out of the gate.

Donald stands at approximately 6.3″ per Beast Kingdom’s product solicitation. He’s quite big and might catch some folks off-guard as a result. He’s bigger than even the Hero Cross Donald and if there’s a scale to this line I’m not sure what it is. Donald obviously doesn’t exist in the real world, but when animated into live-action he looks like he could be around 3.5′ tall which would make this something close to 1/6th scale. Either way, he’s likely not going to scale with anything else out there except for other Beast Kingdom figures from this line. And by “line” I mean the Disney ducks, and maybe Mickey, because the Jack figure from Beast Kingdom is 8″ tall. As I said before though, I don’t have any other figures from this line to compare him to, but I’m assuming he shares some parts with the likes of Scrooge and Darkwing and they’re probably all comparable in size.

We should probably compare duck butts too. One thing Hero Cross has over this one is no seem for the faceplates on the head.

Donald is presented in his licensing art attire. That means he has a light blue hat and shirt with yellow trim on the shirt and a red bowtie. It’s not my preferred Donald, but it’s not unexpected. Since Beast Kingdom lists him as “Classic” Donald maybe they intend to do other versions later. Out of the box, Donald has a fairly neutral expression with gripping hands. The white areas of his body are appropriately white and the only other color really is the orange of his bill and legs. There’s very little paint on this guy, especially because his eyes are a separate piece of very light blue plastic. The only paint you’ll find on him really are the black pupils of his eyes, which are printed I’m guessing, and his inner mouth on the alternate portrait. The white plastic has a nice matte appearance, while the orange is a bit more glossy and “plasticy” in nature. It stands in contrast to the more saturated and richer presentation of the Hero Cross figure and I wish they had painted those parts. This is a figure meant to represent a classic cartoon character and that saturated look would serve it better in replicating the ink and paint origins. The bill looks okay, but the feet have a cheap look to them as a result that I wish wasn’t present in a $70 figure.

Behold the horror that is faceless Donald! The tab for the eyes slides into that open slow and you can see the magnet at the top of the head which doesn’t appear prone to falling out.
And those eye plates will allow the figure to do things like look up…
…and put some movies on Daisy, if there ever is a Daisy.

Also contributing to the figure’s appearance is the use of soft goods for the shirt. It’s a design choice by Beast Kingdom probably to differentiate their product from others out there, and as far as I can tell, all of the figures in this line come with soft goods attire. The quality of the shirt seems okay. It has the thickness of a Barbie shirt and the printing of the yellow parts looks nice. I like how the rear “flap” is sewn into the collar and the bowtie is also handled well. The issues I have it with though are that mine is fairly wrinkled out of the box and I’m not sure there’s much I can do about that. I wouldn’t dare iron it, and if I wanted to I’d have to figure out how to get it off to do so which would likely require me to remove the figure’s arms. I suppose I could hit it with some wrinkle release spray and see if that helps. I also find the fit of the shirt just looks a little off. It sits very high on Donald’s shoulders and basically erases his neck. I find myself tugging on it a lot to try to bring it as low as possible, even though it isn’t accomplishing much. I think there’s just not enough weight to the material which is often the issue of soft goods and why some people hate them. I don’t think it looks terrible by any means, but it’s easy to see why Hero Cross went with a vinyl body instead of soft goods.

Posing won’t be this figure’s strongest point, but at least he can guard Optimus in a game of one-on-one.
Beast Kingdom includes a stand if you want to attempt more dramatic poses, but I have found the figure just works best in simple ones.

Beast Kingdom does refer to this line as its Dynamic 8tion line. Why they use an “8” I don’t know, but nitpick aside you would expect some dynamic posing out of a line with such a name. That’s going to be a challenge for a duck, but Beast Kingdom does list 12 points of articulation for this figure. Donald’s head sits on a double ball-peg with another ball-peg at the base of the neck. This means he has no trouble looking in basically all directions. The shoulders are on standard ball-hinges and he gets good rotation there even with the soft goods shirt. At the elbow is a single hinge with a swivel and the sleeve of the shirt slides up past the elbow pretty effortlessly to facilitate movement of the joint. The wrists are on ball-hinges so he gets a full range of motion at that point as well. In the torso, we have what feels like a ball joint of some kind. It mostly allows Donald to rotate as trying to use it as an ab crunch causes the figure to just snap back into place when released. The legs are where things are most limited as he has a ball and socket joint at the hips and ball joints at the ankle. There’s no knee joint which is odd so Donald’s knees are permanently bent. His shape being what it is, there isn’t a lot one can do with the legs and the plastic for them is too light to handle one-legged poses and some walking positions, but I suppose that’s why there is a stand included. He moves about as well as I expected and the only knock I’d give the figure are the lack of knee joints and it’s worth pointing out that Beast Kingdom’s Darkwing has knee joints, while Scrooge does not. Most of the articulation is well-hidden at least which is a nice bonus.

They really made sure he could look in just about any direction.

In terms of accessories, Donald has a lot and a little. All of his accessories are just optional display parts so there’s no props or anything. Given he’s a generic Donald Duck, there isn’t exactly a prop that jumps to mind so I suppose it’s not a big deal, it’s just odd to have gripping hands on a figure that has nothing to grip. Donald also has a set of relaxed, open, hands and a set of waving hands. No fists is a bummer so you can’t even really try to replicate his classic hopping mad pose. Donald also comes with a second head, but I think it’s just included either as an extra or to help pack the other faceplate because it’s not needed. Donald’s face system works in that there’s a plate that comes off and behind that you have a plate for the eyes which are removable. The back of his head works with both faceplates, which is good because when I tried popping the head off the neck came with it and I could not get that off. And thankfully I don’t need to because I can just swap the faceplates. Donald’s other expression is an open mouth with frowning eyes which required a different shape for the eyes. You get four sets of eyes for each faceplate: straight-ahead, looking up, left, and right. Swapping them is fairly painless, and swapping the hands out is also easy, which is great considering I had issues with my Hero Cross Donald. Lastly, the hat is removable and attaches via a magnet. Beast Kingdom also includes a stand which is made of translucent, blue, plastic and features a black arm that is designed to grab the figure around the neck. It’s a bit unusual, but it works and it looks okay since it has Donald’s name printed on the front. I just wish it wasn’t hollow and had more weight to it so I felt like it was really anchoring the figure down, but he doesn’t have issues standing so I likely won’t even utilize the stand.

For those who don’t have an expensive import Donald, here’s some comparisons to the short-lived DuckTales 2017 toy line and a NECA TMNT figure.
Perhaps more useful, a comparison to a Marvel Legends Spider-Man and a Figuarts Goku.

Beast Kingdom’s take on Donald Duck arrived largely as expected. The product shots online paint an accurate picture of what you’re getting, so if you’re a Donald fan and you’re okay with the price, then you should be satisfied. I have some nitpicks with the soft goods, but they look as advertised so it’s not like Beast Kingdom delivered a product that was misleading. My only real issue is with those legs as a digital render isn’t going to reveal just how cheap they look in person. If I’m paying a premium for a collectible, cheap is the last thing I want to enter my mind when I look at it. And the lack of fist hands too kind of sucks as I find the options I have in posing the figure aren’t “wowing” me. It would have also have been nice if the beaks were removable. I like the angry expression quite a bit, but the neutral one is almost too plain. It looks like Donald, but when am I ever going to choose to display Donald with an expressionless face? This is a character that’s usually displaying some pretty extreme emotions be they happy, mad, frustrated, scared, etc. I definitely don’t picture Donald Duck in my head with a blank expression on his face.

Looks like they’re getting along just fine!

Ultimately, your perception of value is going to define how you feel about this figure. It mostly looks the part, the articulation is acceptable, and there’s some options available for display purposes. It just all comes at a pretty steep cost and I don’t know if it truly earns it. There’s no feeling of “extra” with this guy: no reference items or just fun add-ons like you might see from other companies or even from Beast Kingdom as they included Scrooge’s number one dime in his set (among other things, and to be fair, he’s being sold for $85). I’m fine with this figure though and I’m happy to add it to my Donald display, but it didn’t leave me wanting more figures from the line. I feel pretty comfortable now in passing on Scrooge and the nephews. Maybe Beast Kingdom can convince me to buy another Donald down the road if an update comes along based on a favorite short or something, but for now, I’m content to let this be it and I enjoy it for what it is. And on a personal note, I’m also happy to devote this blog’s 900th entry to a Donald Duck toy! Now I have 99 entries to think of an appropriate 1000th one. Will it be Donald? Will it be a toy? Check back, I suppose, in a year and half or so.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Bronx

The good doggo has arrived!

Well, here’s something different. Bronx, the good gargoyle dog, is NECA’s fourth entry in its relatively young line of action figures based on the beloved Disney Afternoon series Gargoyles. And not only is Bronx here all on his own, he’s also got something for his buddy Goliath that collectors of this line have been begging for. Unfortunately, he also arrives as part of NECA’s Haulathon event, a gimmicky collector event taking place at Target that should be over by now. Unlike his line-mate, Demona, Bronx appears to have shipped in rather large numbers. Also unlike Demona, he was never put up for order on Target’s website so those who want him have been forced to trek to the store in hopes of catching him on a shelf. Or, you get a friend like I did in @JoePoppingOn who came through for me again with a Bronx! That’s three figures he helped me acquire so a very, hearty, “Thanks” are in order for him. Give him a follow on Twitter, especially if you’re located in the US north east.

Articulated jaws are cool.

Bronx comes in NECA’s standard Ultimates styled packaging with artwork on the front and product shots throughout. The front flap opens to reveal the figure inside and showcase the accessories, with one accessory displayed about as prominently as the actual figure. We’ll get to that, but first we need to talk about Bronx. Bronx, being more like a dog than human, is a quadruped who gets around on all fours. He’s also wingless, so at last he’s a release in this line that’s relatively easy to fit onto a shelf. He scales well with Goliath and the others when placed beside them, and because his form doesn’t showcase giant pectorals, he’s probably the most on-model release when compared with the show. NECA is obviously not going for a true on-model look with this line, so for Bronx, it’s more like a bonus for those out there who wish the company was aiming to do just that.

Yup, that’s Bronx all right.

The sculpt for Bronx is essentially what one would expect of NECA where the character is concerned. He’s a lovely shade of blue with a pale gray on his underside reserved for his lower jaw and belly. His eyes are all white and always displayed in that fashion, unlike the other gargoyles who only go all-white when trying to intimidate others. I like how the paint is applied to give them an almost glowing appearance as the white is soft on the edges and more stark in the center. His body has the usual gargoyle anatomy with spikes here and there. Not only does Bronx lack wings, he also features a far shorter tail giving him a really compact appearance. He’s all front end too with a smaller backside. He looks awesome, and even though the Bronx design from the show was never a particular favorite of mine, I find myself really liking the look of this figure because NECA just plain nailed it.

He’s a big boy.

Even though Bronx stands on all fours, he’s articulated in a very similar manner to his line-mates in some ways, but he’s also different in others. For one, Bronx has articulation at the jaw so he can open and close his mouth and look a bit more fearsome, if need be. His head is on a double ball-peg and it’s reinforced with another ball peg at the base of his massive neck so he gets terrific range looking to the side as well as up and down. He also has plenty of tilt and he’s very expressive in that area. His front legs are joined to the body via ball-hinges and he has “elbow” joints, ankle joints, and toe joints. His legs can spread out wide and kick forward and back. The torso has a rubbery overlay, indicating that NECA intends to do more figures in this style down the road, which does kill whatever torso articulation is hidden underneath that. His rear legs are affixed via ball joints just like the other gargoyles and he has knee joints that move very little as they’re always intended to be bent. Past that, his feet are done in the same fashion as the front ones with ankle hinges, rockers, and toe hinge and rocker. Because of his design, Bronx isn’t going to be super dynamic, but I think NECA did a good job here of getting articulation into this figure without sacrificing really any of the aesthetic. And I wish they’d add neck articulation to the other figures.

Check out the range on that neck!

Bronx doesn’t fly, or use weapons, or even have hands, so he doesn’t have much in the way of accessories. For Bronx, there’s really just two: a second head and a hunk of meat. The second head features a wide open mouth and is a touch more fearsome looking than the standard one. It would still feel a bit unnecessary if not for the big slab of meat he also comes with. I don’t know that I’ll really incorporate it into my own display, but the meat can fit into the mouth of the second head so he can hold it, or it can be placed at his feet. The meat looks fine and it’s painted, but at the end of the day it’s just a piece of meat.

The alternate head features a jaw that’s sculpted open.
He deserves a treat.

What collectors are really intrigued by is the last accessory: Goliath’s closed wings. Also referred to as caped wings by the fandom, these are for the Goliath figure and are posed as the character often did in the show by hooking them below his chin like a cape. This is a casual, walking around, look for Goliath and has the bonus of reducing the amount of space he takes up on a shelf. To put them on, you need to pop off the head and wings from the Goliath figure and then just drape it over the shoulders. They’re a soft, flexible, material, but still feature the same paint and detailing as the open wings. There are two pegs on the rear to slot into the figure and these basically just keep things together. Once the head is replaced, the look is complete and it’s…okay. Goliath’s body was sculpted to be in attack mode, so his head isn’t really positioned in a casual manner making it look a bit awkward. If he had a joint at the base of the neck, this could be worked with, but alas he does not. The head is also even more locked-down than before as his hair keeps him from really being able to turn his head. He can look down a little, but that’s it. Still, now that the display is four figures, the extra room is welcomed so I’m probably going to stick with this look, but what I really want are just relaxed wings.

A more studious look for the clan leader.
They do go well together.

Bronx is a terrific entry in this young line, and he might be my favorite. I’ve mentioned how the other figures are so cumbersome that they’re not very fun to mess around with, but Bronx doesn’t suffer from that at all. He’s a joy to play with and pose, and while his accessories do nothing for me, the actual figure is great. The caped wings for Goliath are certainly a welcomed addition, but I am lukewarm on the end result. It’s okay, and maybe I’ll like the look more with an Elisa to pair him with, but it seems clear to me that the figure wasn’t really sculpted with this look in mind. I think NECA is generally very good at balancing aesthetic with articulation and function, but with this line I don’t think they’ve been as successful. Hopefully we see some improvement going forward and that these extra wings which are sorely needed aren’t few and far between.

Even with Goliath’s new wings, I still feel this shelf is maxed out. Good thing the next release isn’t slated until the fall.

As mentioned before, Bronx was part of Haulathon at Target. He was up briefly on the Haulathon website, but I literally know of no one actually receiving the figure via that site as seemingly all, or most, of the orders ended up cancelled. He seems to still be shipping, so check your local stores if you’re after this one. He has since gone up for pre-order in the usual places with an expected June delivery, so while you may have to wait, you shouldn’t have to go to the secondary market to add to the clan.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Demona

Demona is here to prove Tuesday isn’t just for turtles.

When NECA launched it’s line of action figures based on Disney’s Gargoyles, it seemed to imply that Demona would be figure number 2. She was not. That honor went to Thailog, the Goliath clone, and that might have had something to do with the many factory delays and shipping woes that were impacting the entire industry. It’s a lot easier to pivot from Goliath to a figure like Thailog at the factory when almost all of the molds are the same. The other promise from NECA was that none of the Gargoyles figures were slated to be sold as exclusives. They were all general release and collectors could expect to be able to preorder them from their preferred retailer. Well, that went out the window with NECA’s Haulathon event which was split between a website for Halloween costumes and Target stores. And as you could probably have guessed at this point, Demona ended up falling into that event.

Sadly, flight stand not included.

Demona is the rogue gargoyle from the show. Goliath’s former lover, she’s basically the Magneto of the series as she has a justifiable distrust of humans, but turns that mistrust into all-out hatred. She doesn’t want to live alongside humanity, she wants to crush it. Armed with advanced weaponry, magic, and a wealth of knowledge given her extreme lifespan, she’s a formidable foe for Goliath and company and a worthy third figure in the line. Since she’s not a Goliath repaint, she’s also just the second, unique, sculpt we get to experience. With Goliath and Thailog, I had some nitpicks, but was generally satisfied with the finished product. With Demona, that’s pretty much still true, but she does introduce a new problem that I really hope isn’t one going forward.

Like Goliath, she brought reading material. Unlike Goliath, her book can actually open and close.

Demona is sold in the standard NECA Ultimates five-panel window box. It’s a bit smaller than Goliath’s since Demona is a smaller character. Not only is she shorter than her former beau, she’s more slender as she has a very feminine physique that mixes with the gargoyle anatomy. She has a big tuft of red hair that looks quite nice and the pale blue-gray of her skin lines up well with her appearance in the cartoon. Like Goliath, she’s inspired by the cartoon, but has added detail to make her look a bit more “alive.” It’s a bit less pronounced as she doesn’t need giant, rippling, muscles and it’s mostly seen in the texture added to her clothing. She basically just has a top and loincloth with the bottom piece being separate while the top appears to be part of the mold. Either that, or the torso is cut-out to fit it so it can be glued down. It’s interesting as I suspect NECA will want to reuse much of this mold for Angela at some point, but her top is different. Maybe Disney just didn’t want people sneaking a peek under Demona’s top? Which does raise the question: why do female gargoyles have breasts? They’re an egg-laying species, most of which don’t nurse their young, but they are fantastic beasts so I guess they can follow different rules.

Good luck deciphering that.

Demona has a very striking appearance, and one thing I rather like is that NECA used actual metal hoops for her earrings and her anklet. This could potentially make her more fragile, but they seem secure and fine. Her proportions look nice, and like Goliath, her wings are painted in a two-tone fashion with a purple shade used for the membrane. Also like Goliath, the wings are huge and made of ABS so there’s no give to them. They’re going to take up a lot space, and there’s nothing that can be done about it. Aside from that general complaint, my only other issue with her is that her face looks just a little off. I feel like her face should be longer and more narrow. Instead, it starts off rather wide and quickly comes to a point at her chin giving her a slightly scrunched appearance. It’s not terrible or anything, but I think she could look a little better.

Your kids probably won’t like this face.

Demona comes with more stuff than we’re used to, and she even has a new feature that I wish Goliath had. And that feature is she uses faceplates instead of swapping an entire head. Bandai has been doing this for years with its figures, and I’m surprised it took NECA this long as it would have been easy to do with Goliath. Her face pops off easily and she has a screaming, red-eyed, face to go in its place. It’s appropriately unsettling, so much so that I almost don’t like looking at it, but it definitely works. Demona also has various hands including open, clawing hands, fists, a trigger-finger right hand, and a modified gripping left hand for her book or gun. She has two, giant, guns. One is a bazooka while the other is some kind of laser canon. The bazooka has a trigger and a more conventional design that’s easy to get the character to grip, while the other gun is more cumbersome with no actual trigger. I’m assuming it appeared that way in the show so I’m not faulting the toy here, just pointing it out for review. She also has her Grimorum Arcanorum which is really cool. It’s well-sculpted and the paint looks awesome as it has this distressed look to it and it can even open. It’s also sculpted to have a page torn out and that missing page will come with a future figure – a nice attention to detail.

The laser canon is a bit awkward with no actual trigger leaving Demona to wonder how she’s supposed to hold it?

The accessories are certainly appropriate, and the only thing missing is what’s missing from all of the figures so far and that’s a flight stand and additional wings. The wide open wings are essentially gliding wings so a flight stand is almost a necessity, but obviously would add cost to the figure. I’d happily take an increased cost if it meant alternate wings though. I know I sound like a broken record, but these things are too much to manage now that we have three figures.

That’s the best I could do.

Demona may be smaller than Goliath, but she essentially articulates the same. The head is on a double ball-peg, but her hair keeps her from being able to look up which is unfortunate for flying poses. NECA could have fixed that with either a second hairpiece or with a hinge in it, but chose not to. She can look down, tilt, and swivel. There’s no lower neck joint and her shoulders are ball-hinges. She can raise her arms out to the side without much trouble and has a biceps swivel, double elbows, and wrists that swivel and hinge. All of the hinges are horizontal, which is unfortunate for the trigger hand. Demona has a ball joint in the torso below her bust and a waist twist below that. Her hips are the standard ball joints and she can kick forward and back, since she doesn’t technically have an ass. There’s a twist there as well and she has single-jointed knees since the gargoyle anatomy only requires that much. The ankles are hinged and can rock a bit with another hinge at the toe that also has a rocker. The tail pegs into the rear of the figure and is bendy plus there’s a hinge at the peg. At the wings, she has hinges and they’re on pegs so they can rotate up and down and also swing out.

The rocket launcher, on the other hand, is quite easy to work with.

It’s with the wings that a new problem emerges for Demona. In many respects, I think she articulates better than Goliath as there’s less bulk to maneuver around, but what kills her is the tolerance of the wing joints. They are far too loose and are downright floppy. Her wings immediately slump to the table and posing them on their own is impossible. I’ve had to prop them up on Goliath and Thailog or just let them hit the shelf to pose her. She’s a challenge to stand, so I guess the wings help in that regard, but it’s a problem and it seems to be rather widespread. I’m going to have to try to remedy this somehow, either with super glue, tape, or something that can be added to that peg to tighten things up. It’s a problem that the figure really can’t have since the wings are so huge and it’s something NECA needs to tighten up now. I’ve refrained on trying to remedy it for the time being so that my images with this review are true to what the figure is out of the box.

I think three, winged, gargoyles is the most this shelf can handle.

Demona is a figure that is largely as expected. She looks the part well enough and has essentially the same articulation as Goliath, just with a new problem in the form of the wings. If not for that, I think I’d find her a little more entertaining than Goliath, but instead I find this figure to be rather frustrating as I try to pose it on my shelf. That’s also true of the other releases in this line as they’re so cumbersome that they’re really not a lot of fun to handle. They look pretty great when placed in a pose that looks nice, but they make you work to get there. NECA plans to include extra wings with the non-winged characters in the line, but that’s not going to do it. We really need options right out of the box, or else I think a lot of people will drop this line after a figure or two. Maybe I’m wrong, but despite this figure being overall a solid release, I’m finding my enthusiasm for this line waning which is hard to believe given how excited I was a year ago when the line was announced.

Demona was part of the Haulathon event and some stores are still receiving stock of her and she should set you back around $36. The distribution appeared poor to start, with some stores only getting one unit or none at all, but Target did make her available online so hopefully those who wanted her got her. I never found this figure in stores, so a special shout-out to @JoePoppingOn who helped me in tracking her down and the next figure in the line. The figure is also now up at various online retailers, some with a mark-up so it pays to shop around. Those figures are presently slated for a June release so hopefully that holds true and everyone who wants it can get one.


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

Do bad things always happen when the mouse puts on the hat?

The first figure from this line of Super7 action figures based on characters from Disney’s treasure trove of animated characters was Pinocchio. In that review, I mentioned how Disney wanted to outdo itself with Pinocchio and sunk a lot of money into that film’s production. Well, the only other film from that era that might compare is 1940’s other feature: Fantasia. Fantasia was Walt’s passion project as he saw the marriage of animation with classical compositions as high art. I think he was mostly happy with how it turned out, but not happy with the reception as audiences didn’t seem to appreciate it the way the company figurehead did.

How come Mickey gets a special sticker, but Pinocchio doesn’t, when both films were released in 1940?!

Even so, there’s no denying that at least one segment from Fantasia has impressed and delighted movie goers for generations and that’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That segment starred Mickey, who was still a pretty big deal in 1940. He was voiceless in the film, but was arguably never as expressive as he is in the short segment because no Mickey cartoon before (or likely since) had the budget of Fantasia. It truly is a delight and one of the best cartoons of all time and it’s no surprise that Super7 turned to Fantasia, and Mickey, with its first wave of Disney Ultimates!

Doesn’t get much more iconic than this.

The direction of Super7 founder Brain Flynn with this Disney line is to not simply do characters from Disney in their most recognizable forms. For Mickey, that would be classic red trunks and yellow shoes. The thinking from Flynn is that you can get that Mickey anywhere so Super7 should do something else. Now, doing Mickey as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice isn’t exactly breaking new ground either, but it’s apparently enough for Flynn who basically conceded that they needed to do something a bit more expected and generic for this first wave as Disney collectors are probably pretty new to Super7. And since the figure did sort of coincide with Fantasia’s 80th anniversary (curiously, so did Pinocchio but that one didn’t get a fancy sticker on the box), it makes perfect sense to have this Mickey in Wave One.

Careful, he doesn’t like it when you call him short.

Being a 7″ scale line, Mickey comes in on the small side for an action figure. He is not, however, as small as Pinocchio and I think most collectors are likely going to be pretty happy with the sizing of the mouse. To the top of where his head would be he’s nearly 4″, and once you factor in the hat he’s basically a 5″ figure. His proportions are fairly small, though more substantial than Pinocchio, and he does feature the trademarked oversized gloves and shoes. This is a figure that largely features no paint. There’s the blue on the hat with the painted silver runes, Mickey’s eyes and mouth, and the black lines on the back of his gloves. Under the robe, he does have blue trunks which are a mix of colored pieces and painted ones and the brown boots are colored plastic. It’s largely fine, as his entire body is covered by the robe, but where paint is sorely needed is on his face. The flesh-tone plastic is just not saturated or warm enough for the character and it has a glossy characteristic that is off-putting. Some have gone so far as to say it ruins the look of the figure, but I’m not willing to go there. Instead, it’s just an unfortunate shortcoming. Simply painting that area of the face would do wonders for the look of this guy.

Mickey’s feeling pretty good in that snazzy robe.

I mentioned in the Pinocchio review that one of Super7’s goals with this line is to incorporate soft goods into each release. For Pinocchio, the inclusion was a minor one, but for Mickey the soft goods needed to be something special and I’m happy to say Super7 pulled it off. Mickey’s robe is a touch darker than it is onscreen, but it has a shimmery quality to it that really imparts a sense of quality into the release. It’s cinched with a simply knotted rope, and it’s appropriately sized for the figure. It doesn’t look overly baggy, and the roominess of the design allows Mickey’s articulation to function as intended. Like a lot of collectors out there, I’m not often partial to soft goods, but here they work and they work well.

Things always start off well enough when tossing magic at a broom.

As for that articulation, I’m happy to say it’s better than what we got with Pinocchio, though it’s still hardly a strong point. Mickey’s head sits on the same ball peg design as Pinocchio so there’s no neck articulation and what you get out of his head just depends on the amount of range on that single ball. It’s sufficient as Mickey can look up an okay amount, but there’s really no reason why they couldn’t a double ball peg. The shoulders are ball-hinged and Mickey can raise his arms out to the side just fine and he can even rotate around with the robe on. He has single-hinged elbows with swivel and his hands rotate and feature horizontal hinges. Once again though, we have no torso articulation. Not even a waist cut, which is a shame because, again, the robe would hide everything! Maybe it’s a size issue – I don’t know, but NECA’s done figures at this size with more articulation so I’m not willing to allow that as an excuse. At the hips, we have the usual Super7 ball-peg hips and they’re fine. The knees hinge and swivel and Mickey can at least bend 90 degrees. The ankles are, once again, rather floppy and the oversized shoe means the ankle rocker isn’t as useful as it could be. The right ankle on mine isn’t as bad, but the hinge is pretty tight. I actually have a hard time getting both legs to appear the same length as the knee hinge is loose on the left leg. There’s also a ball-hinge at his tail giving that some movement. He can hold a pose at least, and hasn’t fallen down like my Pinocchio, but there’s room for improvement.

Eventually though, things take a turn and it’s time to break out the axe!
There’s certainly a nice assortment of stuff here, and I didn’t even place all of the extra hands into the shot.

On the accessory front, we pretty much get all that we need. The default head is an open mouthed smile and Mickey can swap to an angry head or a standard smile. Both extra heads feature a bend in the cap which is nice for a little added personality. I probably could do without the smile though in favor of a scared expression because it feels redundant with the open smile. All of the heads also feature the ears sculpted into the hat, and I feel like Super7 missed an opportunity to change the ear position so we could have a screen accurate way to present Mickey from the side as he is on the back of his box or as he was in the often seen tag before every Walt Disney VHS release in the 80s and early 90s. A scared expression would have been really nice for the giant book accessory that Mickey floats on towards the end of the segment. The book is just a big slab of plastic, and it’s cool, but without a scared head I really don’t know what to do with it. There’s also a single, animated, broom with a pair of water buckets it can hold. There’s no articulation on the broom, but both it and the buckets are very well-painted. And for when Mickey gets angry with said broom, he has an axe to chop it up. To go along with all of that, are numerous hands. Mickey has open hands in the package to go with fists, gripping hands, pointing hands, and a more relaxed open set of hands. With the hands, the only criticism I can make is the hinge on the gripping hands isn’t going the right way, but otherwise this is a fine set of expressions.

There’s probably a lot of people wondering how they can get more of these guys.
The book is neat, but this would work so much better with a scared expression.

Objectively, and subjectively, Mickey succeeds far more than Pinocchio did at making the jump to plastic. The articulation could be better, but that’s often true of every Super7 release. My main critique is in the lack of paint on the face, and if not for that, I’d consider this a homerun. As released, it’s a solid line drive for a double and I think it will please both action figure fans and Disney collectors. It’s very on-model, and the soft goods robe adds a touch of class. Plus, it’s an iconic version of an iconic character. Personally, I would have loved to have seen Super7 roll with The Band Concert or The Brave Little Tailor version of Mickey, but at least we’re getting that with the ReAction line and I can’t fault them for doing this version. It’s both safe and pleasing for the audience and an easy recommend for Disney enthusiasts.


Super7 Disney Ultimates! Pinocchio

The little wooden boy is now a little plastic boy.

It seems I keep setting personal records this year for longest duration of a preorder and the new champion is Super7’s first wave of Disney Ultimates! These figures went up for preorder in August of 2020 likely closing sometime in September. At the time, the expected release was somewhere around June 2021, but a lot happened in-between. Super7’s relationship with Disney was just starting so perhaps there was a feeling out process between the two. I know for a fact that Disney had some revisions in mind for the packaging (they wanted the three figures to be unique in that regard) and it’s clear the figures underwent changes between the initial renders and final release. And then, of course, there were the shipping delays and factory closures to deal with all stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. It feels like a perfect storm struck and thus the figures were delayed all the way until April of 2022! The wait is over though, and the first one we’re going to take a look at is Pinocchio!

Disney apparently had some mandates on the packaging and I’m left to assume one of them was “Make it shiny!”

Ask me what I think the highwater mark for Disney animation is and I won’t hesitate to say it’s 1940’s Pinocchio. Disney was riding high following the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and seemingly in a bid to top that picture, a lot of money was sunk into Pinocchio and it shows. Every scene looks like it was meticulously crafted to be the best it can be and for a medium such as hand drawn animation, it’s possible we’ve never seen that kind of dedication since. In terms of plot and performance, other animated films from Disney certainly compare and likely exceed what Pinocchio, but visually? It would take a convincing argument from someone to make me change my mind.

Pinocchio and his animal buddies.

For that reason, it probably comes as no surprise that I pretty much adore Pinocchio, and when Super7 made the title character part of its first wave I was over the moon! A collector line of Disney animated characters was a grail line for me, and to see Super7 embarking on that path and kicking things off with a beloved character was almost too good to be true. The initial renders did leave something to be desired (look these figures up on most retail sites and you can still see them) as Pinocchio’s head looked off-model, but I preordered with the hope that it would turn out better in person and it’s nice to see my faith has been rewarded.

And who could forget Jiminy?

Pinocchio comes in the standard Ultimates! box Super7 is known for, only the outer box is very glossy depicting a starry night with a silhouette of Jiminy Cricket descending from the clouds. The inner box is themed to fit the film and reminds me of the Pinocchio restaurant in Disney World in terms of color palette. There’s a write-up on the back with character art and the figure and all of the accessories can be seen through the window. Pinocchio comes with a quite a bit of stuff, but in a first for me with an Ultimates! release, he only requires one insert to properly store everything. And there’s a pretty obvious reason for that: Pinocchio is small!

He’s a little fella.

Super7’s Ultimates! are a seven inch scale line, but it tends to be rather fungible across lines. They seem to prioritize certain lines to fit that scale, lines that collectors might display together or in close proximity of one another. Other, more stand-alone lines, seem to inhabit their own scale which is the case with Super7’s Ren and Stimpy. For Disney, they appear to be in the 7″ scale, though since we’re dealing with characters from different movies, there is a subjective element at play. Pinocchio himself is barely 3.5″, and since he’s a little, wooden, kid, I suppose that’s fine. It’s still odd to see him so much smaller than Mickey, and the third figure in the wave, Prince John, towers over him. And it’s not just the height, everything about him is just small. His arms, in particular, feel almost delicate as a result. And to Super7’s credit, he seems to scale well with the contents of his box. Should the company ever return to the film to produce a Geppetto or Honest John then I suppose we’d be able to evaluate the size further, but on his own I think he’s fine. Some will likely balk at the concept of paying $45 before tax and shipping for such a tiny figure, but if the scale is fine then I’m okay with it on principle. Especially since there’s still a lot of unique tooling here that likely will never benefit Super7 again and that’s where the biggest costs lay.

Naturally, he has portraits for his longer nose.
And then there’s the super long version, which mine unfortunately has an ugly, red, dot on the side of Pinocchio’s hat where one should not be.

Aside from the diminutive nature of the figure, the overall look is pretty good. His default expression is a smile, and Super7 did a great job of translating the head into 3D. It would be easy to go overboard on the cheeks as Pinocchio is often drawn to get wider in that area, but as we saw with the original renders, that can just make him look like a fat head. Most of the features on his head are painted like the hat and the inside of his mouth and the only criticism I have is the shape of his nose seems off. It could be straighter and a touch more elongated, but he looks pleasant enough. The rest of the figure is mostly colored plastic. We have red on the torso with a big, blue, bowtie and red-brown down on the shoes. His hands are cast in white with sculpted lines on the back that Super7 declined to paint black. Part of the goal with this line is to incorporate soft goods into the figures and for Pinocchio that takes on the form of his black vest. It looks nice and it doesn’t hinder anything, though the faux velvet texture is sure to accumulate dust. It’s also not removable by nature. If one were to pop off the arms then it could come off, but I’m not willing to try. I do wish Super7 did something with the bare portions of the arms and legs to give them a less plastic look. It’s a bit tricky since the film didn’t exactly go for wood grain, but some shading might have done the trick. They did paint little, silver, nail heads into the joints which is a nice touch, but took it no further.

This might be the most elaborate pose I can get him into.
This is all that’s providing the head articulation.

Where Pinocchio is not likely to impress at all is with his articulation. We know Super7 prioritizes neutral posing with its figures and shuns complicated joints, but even this is pretty underwhelming for a Super7 release. Pinocchio’s head just sits on a rounded ball peg. There’s no hinge or secondary ball below it so the head just kind of rotates there and can tilt a little. There’s very little range looking up or down, and given that the bowtie provided an easy way to hide a double ball peg, it’s a shame Super7 didn’t go for it. The shoulders are ball-hinged, but he can barely raise his arms out to the side. Inside the sleeve is an elbow joint that can swivel, but the plastic is thin and kind of gummy so bending the elbow really seems to stress it. The first time I tried to work the joint I couldn’t tell if it was working as intended or if the plastic was just bending. The fact that little, rough, pieces of plastic started to protrude from it gives me little confidence in utilizing it for much. At the hands, we have rotation and horizontal hinges. There’s no torso articulation, and the hip joints just rotate a little so that his legs can go out a bit, but not really forward or back. They feel pretty useless. Because of the odd shape of his knees, Pinocchio gets very little range there, maybe 45 degrees, and the ankles are very loose. I think if not for the fact that his shoes are rather large I’d have a hard time standing him. He’s really only good for the most basic posing. I’m assuming his small size is partly to blame, but other aspects just feel poorly engineered. With Super7, I always get the impression that when they run into a tricky spot they just choose to not address it rather than figure out a more creative solution.

Jiminy looks okay, but obviously it’s hard to paint something so small and have it look clean. Also, I don’t know why they positioned his umbrella in such a fashion as it makes him impossible to stand.

In terms of stuff, Pinocchio comes with a lot, but also a little. He has two additional heads he can swap to: elongated nose, and super elongated nose with bird’s nest and birds. Neither head is a surprise, though he doesn’t have the cage to be placed in to truly do the iconic scene justice, but at least they look nice. He has a shocked expression on his face, and there is a subtle difference between the two so Super7 didn’t just sculpt one head and two noses (though that might have been a better approach). He also has one set of extra hands. He comes with gripping hands attached and can swap to open ones. He also has a trio of mini figures: Figaro, Jiminy, and Cleo the goldfish. Of the three, Jiminy is the most on-model, but being a tiny figure, Super7 had to use a lot of paint on him and it’s pretty messy. They also positioned him with his umbrella poking out below his feet so he’s pretty much impossible to stand on his own. He’s a soft plastic, so I found I have to hook that umbrella onto something in order for him to stand. Cleo is placed in her fish bowl and Super7 filled it with transparent plastic. I do wish they added a touch of blue to the water somewhere, but she looks fine. Figaro is the most off-model as his head is just too big. It’s the one thing I wanted to see changed from the prototype that didn’t happen. His head can rotate and he looks okay, but he could be better. Pinocchio also comes with his school book and an apple for his teacher and both look fine. Lastly, there’s an axe, which I initially thought was Stromboli’s, but it’s actually the axe Pinocchio is seen holding for all of 3 seconds on Pleasure Island. Are people really going to pose Pinocchio wielding an axe? It’s also just plain, brown, plastic for the handle with no sculpted wood grain. I could definitely do without.

He comes with an axe. Cool?

That’s a fair amount of stuff, but it feels like Super7 just could have done better. Why not more hand options? Fists, or maybe a pointing finger on fire and the candle to go with it? That would have been nice to have and I definitely would have traded that axe for such. I’m guessing Disney wouldn’t let them do a smoking head or a drunk one, which is too bad as both would have been visually amusing. What I think most though are surprised to not see included is a donkey head. Pinocchio with big donkey ears and an optional tail would make sense and even encourage a second purchase. Maybe Super7 will do Lampwick and figure out a way to get those accessories for Pinocchio into the release, but he lacks a hole for the tail to go into so that would certainly be a challenge. Also, it’s highly unlikely that Disney lets Super7 do a proper Lampwick as he definitely needs a cigar and a mug of beer. I also would have loved a second Jiminy that featured a frowning face so he could admonish Pinocchio. The hand waving and smiling one we got feels more like licensing art Jiminy as opposed to the character from the film.

He’s flawed in more ways than one, and I think this image does a good job of showcasing my nitpicks with the nose, but I’m still happy to have an action figure of Disney’s version of Pinocchio.

I do have a lot of nitpicks with Super7’s Pinocchio and part of that is certainly coming from a place where I’ve seen this movie a lot, I love it, and I have a lot of opinions on what the best scenes are for the character in it. It’s likely that Super7 could not have totally satisfied me with the accessories, but that doesn’t mean they couldn’t have done better. The issues with the articulation are less nitpicky though as this figure is pretty poor from that aspect. There aren’t a lot of points of articulation here, and what is here isn’t of the best quality as we have floppy joints or joints that don’t seem to work as intended. As a result, I don’t know that I can give this figure as strong of a recommendation as my heart wants to. As a Pinocchio lover, I am happy to have this, but if I allow myself to be objective I have to acknowledge that this figure does have problems and it doesn’t feel like a premium, collector, figure. The quality doesn’t feel far removed from a Jakks figure you can find at Target for 10-12 bucks, except this one costs $45. The soft goods vest is nice, and the packaging is flashy, but the figure doesn’t really measure up. Only get this one if you’re a big fan of Pinocchio and are willing to accept its flaws.


NECA Gargoyles – Ultimate Thailog

Thailog’s coming to town.

One of last year’s biggest announcements in the world of action figures was NECA’s acquisition of the Gargoyles license. It had been decades since Gargoyles figures occupied real estate at the toy and hobby shops of America and fans of the series were eager to see what NECA had cooking. It being 2021 though, collectors were forced to be patient as delays seemed to impact the roll out of product. NECA had indicated they had multiple figures sculpted and ready to go, and a teaser video following the Goliath announcement depicted the nefarious Demona. It was later in the year that NECA would show off Thailog, the villainous Goliath clone, which seemed to suggest he would follow Demona. Instead, he leap-frogged her, sneaking out to some stores in December with a wider release following in 2022.

I don’t know what NECA’s original slot for Thailog was in the grand scheme, but I don’t think he was supposed to be the line’s second release. Being a Goliath clone, Thailog is essentially the same figure as Goliath with only minor differences. That’s not an issue as why should NECA do anything different with the sculpt for a character that is a literal duplicate of another? It’s just that most companies don’t like to dip into repaints right away with a new line, but if the factory was running behind, it may have made sense to go right from Goliath to Thailog since the same molds are in use, nothing needs to be tested, and the machines don’t need to be refitted with the molds of another. That’s what I think happened, but I have no inside information, it’s just a theory that makes sense. Either way, Demona is still coming (along with a bunch of others) and right now we have two figures released that look pretty similar to each other.

He’s Goliath with a smile. Oh, and he’s evil.

Since Thailog is basically the same as Goliath, there’s not going to be a lot to talk about here. The sculpt is identical excepting the face. Goliath came with two portraits: stern and angry. Thailog has just the one and it’s a mischievous, sinister, grin. Aside from that, he comes in the same window box with character specific artwork and product shots on it. The massive wings that came with Goliath are here as well, along with the bendy tail. Even the loincloth is the same.

And he’s also packin’ heat.

Where Thailog is different from Goliath is primarily in the deco. His skin is a dark blue-gray that almost looks black under certain lighting conditions. The hair is a silver-white with some black dry-brushing added for effect. Portions of the body are shaded with black as well and the loincloth he wears is a light blue. The wings are basically all one color as opposed to Goliath who has black membranes with a purple bone structure. His eyes are also red, which just makes it all the more obvious that he’s a bad guy. He’s a cool looking character and if you like the sculpt for Goliath you’ll like it here as well.

These two take up a lot of real estate.

The good news, all of the good details Goliath embodied are captured here, but that also means the not-so-good aspects of Goliath are also still present. The biggest criticism that has arisen from this line definitely concerns the wings. They’re huge and they’re a hard plastic so there’s not much that can be done with them. Either they take up a ton of real estate going out to the side, or you can angle them back and distribute some of that behind the figure. Either way, it’s a lot, and it’s a position that really only works for gliding poses. Standing on a shelf is not really what they’re made to do, but NECA doesn’t include a flight stand so you’ll have to buy your own or try to hang these suckers from the ceiling. I don’t know what the solution is, NECA is planning on including caped wings for Goliath with Bronx, but we need some more options. At least a more casual, standing, pose for the wings. My assumption is they looked at articulated wings during the development stage and either ruled them out for aesthetic reasons or cost ones, but it’s something that should be considered, at least. The other drawback to these wings is they peg in under Thailog’s hair which restricts the movement of the head. His head is tilted down a bit and he can’t just look straight ahead, which is kind of annoying. Turn his head too far and you’ll probably knock a wing out of the socket. The hair either needs to have room for the wing joint sculpted into it, or it needs a hinge. It’s disappointing that this couldn’t be addressed following the release of Goliath.

These beasts have a fair amount of articulation, but the wings and unique gargoyle anatomy are definitely restricting when it comes to dynamic poses.

The other area Thailog gets to differentiate himself from Goliath is with his accessories. He comes with a similar assortment of hands: open hands and fists. Like Goliath, he has a fifth hand and for Thailog it’s a traditional gripping hand as opposed to Goliath’s clawed grip. That’s because Thailog has two accessories he needs to be able to properly grip in the form of a briefcase and gun. The briefcase is rather cool as it’s a matte black with metallic accents. It snaps open and inside is a bunch of sculpted money and a set of keys. Nothing is removable, but it also doesn’t need to be. Thailog can either grip the handle with his gripping hand, or you can just dangle it off of a claw on the open hands which you will probably want to do because his other accessory needs to be gripped.

This dude’s loaded!

Thailog comes with his own sidearm. It’s a smallish handgun, but it fires a cannister or missile. I assume it’s from the show, but I haven’t seen the episode featuring Thailog in awhile. It’s simple, but it looks fine, and NECA has a little something up its sleeve with it. The cannister at the end actually pegs in and can be removed and replaced with a blast effect. It’s pretty big stretching to nearly ten inches and pegs into the barrel of the gun. There’s a sculpted plume of smoke at the barrel with some sharp blasts behind it. When the cloud ends there’s just a long cylinder with another smoke trail wrapping around it before it ends in another blast. It’s there the cannister can be reattached to complete the illusion of the gun firing. It’s very well painted and looks fantastic. It’s also a rigid plastic that is somewhat light, but it’s still a lot for the figure to handle. I find his wrist and elbow need to be positioned carefully or else the gun will start to droop. NECA didn’t include a little stand with this one like it did the Turtles in Time Baxter to help support the blast effect, but so far it’s holding up all right. I do worry that overtime his arm will start to droop, but I guess that’s tomorrow’s problem. It is an impressive display piece though, and it’s one I expect to see NECA make use of again either in this line or another.

Because the figure didn’t already occupy enough space with the wings. At least this effect piece is undeniably cool though.

That’s basically it though. I don’t feel the need to rundown the articulation on this guy since it’s the same as it was with Goliath. I will say there are no stuck joints with this figure and most of them feel fine. There is some looseness in the right arm and right foot so I’m finding it hard to get Thailog into the proper standing pose for his breed as the right foot tends to want to drop all the way to the surface. Stands and his tail can help, but I might have to go with a flying pose to mitigate this, which I don’t really want to do as I think the gun effect works better with a standing pose, and I definitely want to make use of that. I will add his articulation isn’t great for a gun wielding character. He doesn’t have a butterfly joint in the shoulder and his pectorals prevent him from bringing the gun out in front of him where I’d like to position it. And the wings interfere with the head so I can’t get him to hold the gun out to the side while looking down his arm. Again, this stems from this figure being Goliath who has no need for guns so such poses didn’t have to be considered, but hopefully Demona is better equipped to wield a firearm than Thailog.

This is a bit of a short review, but it’s also the type of release that most know what they’re in for. If you’re all-in on this line, you’re getting Thailog. If you liked the Goliath figure, then you’re probably getting Thailog. Some more casual fans will probably pass on this one as Thailog wasn’t a huge character in the show and there will also be some hoping for an armored version from NECA that they’d rather have. I liked Goliath when he came out, so naturally, I like Thailog, but some of the issues with Goliath I was willing to overlook due to excitement for a new license are a bit harder to overlook here. There’s room for improvement and it starts with those wings so hopefully NECA is listening to the fans and has something up its sleeve. Currently, Thailog is shipping to Target stores and should be available at specialty as well. Demona and Bronx are tentatively scheduled to release sometime in March, but no solicitations have gone up as of this writing so take that news with a grain of salt. 2022 should be a pretty big year for Gargoyles, and I’m definitely eager to see more!


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