Tag Archives: gizmo

NECA Ultimate Gizmo

In 1984 a little film called Gremlins came along and made a splash in American pop culture. The film largely starred little puppets, and while many did take to the villainous, evil, gremlins like Stripe, many also walked away from that film wanting more of Gizmo. Gizmo is an adorable little creature of mostly white and brown fuzz with big, giant, ears. I had a Gizmo doll when I was a little kid, well before I even saw the film since it was pretty intense for wee ones. Try as the humans of the cast did, Gizmo was the star and he still is today.

Back in the 80s, Gizmo attracted quite a bit of attention for himself at retail in the style of the plush. He was a natural for that, which may be why no one really thought to do proper action figures based on Gremlins. Toy company NECA has once again stepped in to fill a void in the fandom of another feature. NECA has been producing Gremlins related action figures for a few years now, and the company has finally roped me in with its Ultimate Gizmo action figure.

Now, I like Gremlins just fine. It’s a great Christmas movie for adults and older kids, not so much for younger kids. And not because of the violence and frightful scenes, but because it does feature a character confess that there is no Santa Claus. And as you may be aware, I am a bit of a Christmas junkie so whenever I see a toy or knick-knack that I can work into my Christmas decorating I often jump in. And that’s what sucked me into this Gizmo since he comes with some festive attire. I should say, it’s what sealed the deal as I was already smitten with the adorable little guy and even tried to talk my kids into wanting the plush version NECA released, but I have not had any luck on that front yet.

Gizmo comes in a larger outer box that looks just the like the VHS release of Gremlins. The rear features photography of the toy in action while the front flap opens to reveal the figure inside along with some more images. This is the standard Ultimates packaging NECA goes for and it really is a nice display piece for mint-in-box collectors, but no disrespect to NECA’s packaging designers, I am opening this sucker!

Gizmo stands at about 3.5″ tall. He’s a little guy. I assume he’s in-scale with the evil gremlins NECA has released, but sadly I don’t have any to compare him to. He’s sculpted all in plastic and looks rather cute out of the box. There’s a nice wash applied to his face and hands to bring out the details of the sculpt and there’s lots of sculpting done to make the fur look like fur. From a distance, one might even think he is covered in actual fur. I’m curious if NECA toyed with the idea of doing actual fur with this figure as that might have made him look really neat, but it probably would have added considerable cost. The paint is clean, though if you go over it really close you’ll notice some overlap here and there where the brown meets the white. The ears are thin and feature sculpt work such as veins. The paint is a bit muted in that respect as they didn’t try to bring out those veins, which is probably good from an aesthetic point of view as if one were to make Gizmo appear too realistic he may loose some of that cuteness.

For articulation, we don’t have a lot to talk about. Gizmo’s head is on a ball joint and rotates just fine, but he has little to no up and down movement because of the shape of his rather large melon. The ears are on ball joints which is a nice touch as it affords him more expression. Turn them down and he looks sad or tired while rotating just one can make him look almost inquisitive. The arms can forward a bit, but they can’t really go back or out. There’s another cut joint past the brown fur of the shoulder that may actually be a ball-joint, but it only can rotate so functionally it’s more like a bicep swivel. The hands are in the same boat as they only really are able to swivel. There’s no waist articulation, and while the legs are on pegs they really can’t do anything. He’s pretty much a statue once you move past the arms.

The eyes see everything.

Gizmo, being a puppet in the films, didn’t really move much and is not a figure crying out for a ton of articulation. It’s clear NECA’s goal was to make something aesthetically pleasing and true to the films as opposed to something ultra-poseable. As such, it’s more important for Gizmo to be expressive which is why he has some unusual eye articulation. A trackball on the back of Gizmo’s head can actually rotate the eyes in his skull. It’s a bit finicky as the mechanism is really loose. Patience is needed to get the eyes just the way you want them, but sometimes you’ll probably have to just pop his face off to work them with your thumbs. The eyes have a tendency to sometimes go crooked giving the impression that Gizmo has a lazy eye. They also kind of float in there so there’s some play in the eye depth, and when one eye moves forward the other will sink in which can look kind of silly. They easiest way to remedy that is to just push the other eye in with the face removed to get them balanced. It’s a system that works, but given that Gizmo does have a removable face it probably would have made more sense to just ditch the trackball and have the eyes be adjusted manually.

To make those eyes offer as much expression as possible, Gizmo does come with four interchangeable face-plates. The default, in-package, face is Gizmo with a subtle smile. A good neutral expression for the little guy. He has one with a bigger, toothy, smile to go along with a sad or frown face and, what I assume will be the favorite face for many consumers, a Rambo face. The Rambo face is a callback to Gremlins 2 and even has the bandanna included. It’s glued to Gizmo’s left eye and half of it just kind of lays flat on Gizmo’s head. I wish it were an actual fabric material as the soft plastic NECA used never wants to lay flat on my figure’s head. The face itself through is great and he has a narrow eyed glare for maximum intimidation. The faces pop off and on really easily, but not so effortlessly that they’ll fall off.

Gizmo also comes with a few additional accessories to complete a display. He has a trumpet like the one he was playing with in the first film and he also has a Santa Claus hat and candy cane. And since he has the Rambo face, he also has his makeshift bow and arrow, which is a pencil crammed into a bottle with a feather sticking out. He also has his rope belt to complete that ensemble which is knotted and can easily slide off and on. The Santa hat basically just rests on his head as there are no pegs or magnets to hold it in place. The sculpt and paint looks great on most of the accessories, though the candy cane is a little sloppy in places.

You can kind of jam the arrow in between his fingers, but he’s not really able to grip anything.

The drawback to the accessories for Gizmo has little to do with the accessories themselves, but actually Gizmo. Unlike many of NECA’s Ultimates, Gizmo comes with just one set of hands. They’re both open palms, kind of neutral, hands and they’re not fit for holding much of anything. Basically, the only way to get him to hold anything is to turn his palms up and try to balance them on his hand that way. It’s odd that he doesn’t have a gripping hand or two to properly grasp anything. I’m not surprised he can’t properly draw his bow, but I would have expected him to be able to hold the trumpet. As a result, I suspect most will just position items at Gizmo’s feet or leaning on him. You can sling the bow over his shoulder at least since it’s a very rubbery plastic, but he can’t hold it or even act like he’s about to draw it.

NECA’s Ultimate Gizmo is a fine looking figure, though it doesn’t quite feel “ultimate” due to the lack of extra hands and positioning power. And even though he’s a mere 3.5″ tall, Gizmo still retails for the standard Ultimates price point of $30. He’s a bit of a tough recommend at that price, but I’m also not regretting my purchase either. He’s a fun addition to my knick-knacks shelf and I look forward to dressing him up for the holidays when the time comes. Worse, I’m also tempted to add some more Gremlins, especially the holiday two-pack of carolers, and I really don’t need to get sucked into another line. We’ll see what comes of that. Gizmo does at least look the part, even if he doesn’t exactly put the “action” in action figure.


12 films of Christmas #9: Gremlins

gremlins1

Gremlins (1984)

It’s hard not to take some pity on parents at Christmas time who feel pressured into getting their kid some must-have toy as a present, often to be left by Santa Claus. My own children are not yet old enough to where I have to concern myself with such, but I know a day will come when I’ll find myself lined up outside a department store four hours before opening in hopes of scoring the latest holiday fad.

Gremlins isn’t quite a film about getting some hard to find toy, like Jingle All The Way, but it does feature a father looking for something unique for his son Billy. Randall Peltzer (Hoyt Paxton) thought he found such a present for his teenaged son when he stumbled into a little shop in Chinatown and bought a gremlin. Gizmo (voiced by Howie Mandel) was his name, and though the shop keeper was reluctant to sell him to anyone (Peltzer makes a deal with the guy’s grandson), Gizmo seems from all angles to be an easy to manage and perfect pet. And he is! He’s a living stuffed animal. He purrs like a cat when happy, is capable of simple speech, yet lacks even the playful aggression of the most well-behaved dogs and cats.

Gremlins is a horror film, the rare Christmas horror film, so naturally things aren’t what they seem with Gizmo. He came with three important rules that the Peltzers¬†were to heed: ¬†don’t expose him to sunlight; don’t get him wet; and don’t feed him after midnight. The midnight one also confused me, as on a military clock midnight is 00:00:00 so every second post midnight can be considered after midnight. My guess, is that Gizmo isn’t to be fed between midnight and dawn. Anyways, the rules seem simple enough, but naturally Billy is unable to follow them. When his friend accidentally gets Gizmo wet, they’re shocked to see Gizmo “sprout” six additional and equally adorable gremlins. These gremlins prove to look rather cute, but do not possess Gizmo’s gentle nature. They’re more mischievous, and in the case of the alpha of the group Stripe, may even be evil.

daeef9ee1f59cbda54cd9c1877e2f96a

Gizmo is almost sickeningly adorable.

Billy (Zach Galligan), like most teens, has other problems to concern himself with. He has a job at a local bank where a regular has it out for his dog, Barney, and wants to see him put down. He’s also courting a neighborhood girl, Kate (Phoebe Cates), who seems to have a strong dislike for Christmas for some reason. In other words, he can’t watch the gremlins all of the time, and that eventually gets him and every one in town in a whole mess of trouble. It turns out, when gremlins eat after midnight they go into a cocoon and emerge as larger, scalier, more dangerous versions. Stripe and his minions are intelligent, so they find a way to get Billy to feed them and then go on a rampage. Properties are destroyed and people die. Suddenly the movie about the cute, furry, little gremlin is full of carnage and mayhem.

Gremlins is not directed by Steven Spielberg, it’s directed by Joe Dante, but it was produced by him and has that Spielberg feel most of his films possessed in the 1980s. There’s a lot of humor in how events unfold, but Gremlins doesn’t shy away from the horror elements. Obviously, this is what makes the film really stand-out amongst other Christmas films. And since the film centers around a Christmas gift, I think it more obviously can be considered a Christmas film as opposed to Die Hard. The film has a lot of charm and a lot of that comes from the wonderful puppets that bring the gremlins to life. Whether they’re fuzzy and cute, or scaley and sinister, they look great and possess a ton of personality. Stripe is borderline likable because he’s so expressive, even if he is clearly homicidal. Gizmo almost looks believable in the sense that he looks like a living creature. Certain features of his puppet make it obvious that he’s not, but he still possesses a lot of charm as well. The film also strikes a satirical tone at many points. The setting is appropriate for any garden variety classic Christmas film prior to the shift in tone and some of the gags and deaths are obvious throwbacks to classic era thrillers. In that respect, it has a lot in common with the Indiana Jones franchise.

gremlins-1984-04-g

Stripe and his murderous band of carolers.

Gremlins also has the distinction of being one of the last PG films to feature such obvious death and violence. It’s credited with being one of the main drivers for the creation of the PG-13 rating, and it’s not hard to see why. Gizmo was obviously very attractive to younger viewers who likely begged their parents for a doll of the character. Many parents, upon viewing the film or even taking their kids to see it, may have regretted it afterwards. I honestly can’t recall how old I was when I first saw it, but I don’t remember it being a scarring experience, though it wouldn’t surprise me if my sister said otherwise. Gremlins 2 would follow a few years later and feature a much lighter tone in comparison. By doing so though, it lost a lot of what made the original so special. If you want to watch a film that has some of that Christmas spirit in it, but not the corn of so many Christmas movies, you could do a lot worse than Gremlins.


%d bloggers like this: