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Star Wars: The Vintage Collection – Din Djarin (The Mandalorian) and The Child

The wholesome content you come here for.

Today we are celebrating ten years of The Nostalgia Spot! It’s not ten years to the day, the actual anniversary was about a week ago, but it’s close enough. In those 10 years, there have been 750 posts here on a variety of subjects, pretty much all of which could be labeled as nostalgic to someone my age. One such topic though has never been broached, and it’s Star Wars. I have nothing against Star Wars and actually consider myself a fan. The first Star Wars film I ever saw was The Empire Strikes Back when my dad was watching a television broadcast of it in the early 90s and beckoned me to watch it with him. I enjoyed it, even though I thought Darth Vader looked like a rip-off of The Shredder, and my dad made sure to rent The Return of the Jedi for me shortly after our viewing. I don’t think I’d see the original film for a year or so though, and that inaugural viewing was a broadcast television airing too.

I thought Star Wars was pretty great though, and while it never really threatened Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for number one in my heart, I would eventually become a bigger fan later in the 90s. The special edition of the trilogy was heavily marketed as was the novel Shadows of the Empire. Kenner re-launched its Star Wars action figure line and I dabbled in it. I had versions of all of the main cast, as well as a few vehicles, some Micro Machines, and other assorted toys. I got into the Expanded Universe and read quite a few books during that time and also played the video games. I even unironically enjoyed Masters of Teräs Käsi for the PlayStation and sunk several hours into it. And when the prequel trilogy was announced, I was pretty pumped and my family and I made sure to see The Phantom Menace as soon as we could.

Hasbro knows nostalgia.

Ever since though, my fandom has certainly waned. The prequels turned out be rather poor, and when I moved on from toys I largely left Star Wars behind as well. I never stopped liking the original films, but the fandom certainly became exhausting and I’ve never been able to bring myself to care about the franchise in the way a self-described “fan boy” would. To me, it’s just a fun world and fun collection of movies. I have made no grand plans on how to introduce my own kids to it or anything, I’ll just show it to them when they finally show enough interest to care. And so far, they’re fine with not really interacting with it outside of the Disney Infinity game. On the subject of this blog though, I’ve just never felt like I had anything important to say about Star Wars that hasn’t been said somewhere else. It’s a huge topic with a lot of opinions and you can find Star Wars blogs and YouTube channels in astronomical numbers. Anything I post here would just wind up in an echo chamber. I haven’t been actively avoiding the subject, I just haven’t really found anything worthwhile to say on the subject.

If you don’t like the modern stuff, there’s a Luke to keep you happy.

In celebration of ten years blogging though, it felt fitting to finally tackle something related to Star Wars. And today, we’re looking at a toy! The Star Wars: Vintage Collection from Hasbro is a throwback line of action figures meant to remind collectors of the Kenner days. And since Hasbro owns Kenner now, they can even toss the logo right onto the package! The Kenner line was a 3.75″ scale line, though it might be more accurate to say that was really the height and not the scale as the characters did not scale well with each other. They were also articulated in a simple manner with just five points of articulation: head, shoulders, and legs. It was limited, but not in a manner that stood out for the era as a lot of lines offered little articulation. A Toy Biz X-Men figure, for example, often only had four more additional points of articulation at the elbows and knees. I think the line is actually more memorable for just having some amusing sculpts and oddball characters. The original Luke, based on his appearance in Star Wars, had a massive, barrel, chest on him that looked ridiculous. There were also numerous peg warmers of characters no one wanted as the line went on as long as it could often pulling background characters into the limelight. It was a flawed line of figures to be sure, but I had a lot of fun with it and even still have all of my figures to this day.

And with him, as always…

For The Vintage Collection, Hasbro wisely did not just emulate Kenner. These are not ReAction figures. This is a 3.75″ scale line of figures with modern articulation and a lot of the bells and whistles collectors today are used to. I do not collect anything Star Wars today, but it looks to me like this line works largely in tandem with Hasbro’s The Black Series, a 6″ scale line, with these figures just being scaled-down versions of figures from that line. I do not know if that’s true of every figure, but it certainly appears to be the case with Din Djarin, better known to most as The Mandalorian.

This is awesome.

The Mandalorian has been a big hit for Disney and its streaming service, Disney+, pretty much since day one. The second season just finished at the end of 2020 and a third season is expected later this year along with a spin-off series concerning Boba Fett. Like basically everyone with a Disney+ subscription, I have watched The Mandalorian and I’ve found it pretty damn enjoyable. It’s probably the best Stars Wars thing Disney has done and I think that’s due to it keeping things simple. Some of the episodes get a little too formulaic and feel like video game quests or missions, but for the most part the show is anchored by the relationship between its title character and The Child, a toddler of sorts who bares a strong resemblance to Yoda, hence why many just refer to him as Baby Yoda. The Child was given a name in Season Two, but I’ll refrain from including it here since it’s not printed on the package and because I don’t need to spoil it for anyone. This set features both characters and appears to be partly inspired by the final episode of the first season and is very similar to a set from The Black Series that also includes both. And because Hasbro needs to please all retailers, that Black Series set is exclusive to Target stores while this one comes from Walmart. I don’t know if any of these have actually made it to physical stores as it seems everyone who got one did so via Walmart’s online store where this set was made available as a pre-order (which Walmart cancelled many orders of). I did not get a preorder and was actually hooked-up by a fellow collector whom I met on Twitter via the #CollectorsHelpingCollectors group so a special shout-out and thanks go to Jay (@TMNT_MOTU_RGB)!

He’s got a spot for his rifle.

This set comes packaged on a retro-inspired blister card. The card itself is really attractive and features a shot from the series and a cross-sell on the rear. It looks so nice that I almost hate to open it as this is a classic blister and not something that can be resealed, but this wouldn’t be much of a review if I kept it mint-on-card. Once freed from his plastic confines, Mando stands almost right at that 3.75″ mark coming in a tick over. This makes sense as he appears to be a character of approximately average height for the setting. He’s in his beskar armor and he looks like he’s been in a fight as I think this is modeled on the Season One finale. There’s a nice graphite quality to the beskar with just a hint of a pearl finish on it. Black scuff marks and dirt smudges provide the distressed quality the figure is going for while the rest of the figure is mostly an earthy brown and gray-blue. He’s quite detailed for such a small figure and it’s incredibly rewarding to just sit an admire all of the little touches sculpted into the belt, armor, gloves, and boots. The amount of paint on him is rather impressive as there’s lots of little touches, especially on the belt or the shells strapped to his right calf. And it’s remarkably clean for the most part. The only areas I have some paint slop are the fingers and inside of the glove. The trigger finger of his right hand has some turquoise on it that I don’t think is supposed to be there, and it’s the only paint slop I’d consider an eyesore.

Or if you prefer, a jetpack!

Like the detail work on the sculpt, the articulation is rather impressive for such a small figure. His head is on a ball peg and has great range of motion. He can look up and down and tilt as well as rotate. The cape doesn’t really get in the way too, which is surprising. The shoulders are ball-hinged and he has single-jointed elbows with swivel right above the hinge. Even without a double joint at the elbow, he can still bend his arm a bit past 90 degrees. The wrists swivel and his left hand is a gripping hand while the right is in a trigger position. There’s a ball-joint in the torso with some nice range of motion that affords forward and back bends and plenty of twist and side-to-side action. The bandolier across his chest is loose enough that it doesn’t restrict the torso at all. His legs are on ball hinges which is certainly different. You can get him to kick forward and back as long as you line that hinge up the way you want it to go. This means he can swivel at the top of the thigh, plus he has a thigh cut just above his armor so you can finagle a kicking pose, for example, by spinning the top joint to orient the hinge properly and then twisting the thigh so his leg doesn’t look like it’s been contorted in an impossible fashion. I don’t know why they don’t just use a ball-joint, but this is okay. He has a single hinge in each knee and can swivel below the knee for an effective boot cut. The ankles are hinged and can rotate, but don’t appear to have an ankle rocker of any kind. And really, that’s probably the only thing I miss. An ankle rocker just adds stability for more spread out stances, but this guy stands pretty well and I am just impressed that Hasbro got as much articulation into this one as they did.

The best I could do with the rifle. Note how his jetpack can stand on its own though!
The ever important beskar.

Since this is Mando, he needs to come with some accessories. And obviously, important to him are his weapons and tools. He comes with a blaster holstered at his hip which fits snugly in there, but is also easy to remove. The sculpt on it is quite nice, but the paint is understandably simple. It’s just gray with a brown hilt, but there is a touch of pearl in the finish on the gun metal. He also has his rifle which he can either hold or have pegged into his back. The sculpt of the rifle is great and it’s painted or sculpted in that same graphite gray nearly matching his beskar armor. The stock of the rifle is more of a copper than brown and there’s some gold portions where the scope is fastened to the barrel. It looks rather nice, though there is a couple of spots of missing paint on the stock that I don’t believe I caused when trying to pose him with the rifle. His articulation means he can hold it in a ready position, but struggles to hold it in a firing position, but that’s common for six inch scale figures as well. He also comes with a container that probably has a special name, but I don’t know it. It opens at the front with a hinge and the top can also come off. It’s off-white with a little gray paint and looks like something from Star Wars. It’s mostly here to store his stash of beskar. He has a single brick he can hold in his left hand and a molded stack of bricks to put in this container. It might sound stupid, but even this little, plastic, brick is sculpted rather well as it even has the Galactic Empire insignia stamped into it. The finish is the same graphite color as his armor. He also comes with his jet pack, and it’s done in the same graphite color. I’m not sure if this is painted or just the plastic used, but it’s nice. It pegs into his back just fine too.

A canister, some space metal, and a kid.
“I love you, little buddy.”

Of course, there is one other accessory and it’s The Child, or Baby Yoda, whatever you refer to him as. He’s in scale with his much taller buddy meaning he stands at just three quarters of an inch. He is tiny, and yet somehow he’s just as cute as he is on television. The face is perfect and his eyes are a shiny black so they really capture the eyes of the actual character. There’s a little paint in his ears, but otherwise he’s kept pretty simple. His robe is two-toned and has some nice sculpted details in it. Best of all, he’s articulated which the Black Series two-pack can’t even boast. His head is on a ball-joint and it can rotate all around. He can look up and down slightly, but the way the robe is sculpted won’t allow much. That’s the only disappointment since he can’t really look up at Mando. The arms are ball-jointed too so he can raise his arms out to the side a bit and rotate forward and back. I don’t think his hands can move, but they look like they could be pegged in. Maybe they were strengthened with glue. He is beyond fantastic as far as I am concerned though. Somehow, Hasbro got more personality into this tiny chunk of plastic than some of the much larger versions of the character I’ve seen out there. The only downside is he lacks his little, floating, bubble (pram?) stroller of a device which would look nice beside Mando. He’s also so small that he basically can’t have his little steel shifter-top from the show.

What’s in the box?!
SHIT!

And one last thing! Mando also has an alternate head. If you prefer your Mandalorian unmasked you can pop the helmeted head off and replace it with this unmasked version. Once again, I am left floored by this figure as the likeness to actor Pedro Pascall on this tiny, piece of plastic is better than a lot of the larger scaled figures out there. It’s also a far better solution than the Black Series which made the helmet fit over the head thereby smooshing the nose of the actor and leading to a slightly imperfect fit. I can’t imagine ever displaying him with his unmasked head, but it’s nice to have the option. It’s also worth noting that this head features no battle damage as one may have expected given the rest of the figure. And I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that his cape is removable. One you have popped off the head, simply slide it off, if you desire. It’s well positioned though so as not to interfere with the jetpack slot or the rifle slot so I doubt most will want to remove it. Plus, everyone looks cooler with cape!

He’s so small that it’s hard to get a camera to focus on his face.

If you can’t tell already, I am in love with this release. It’s the best Hasbro figure I’ve ever owned. It makes me want to check out more from the Vintage Collection, though presently I am not after any other characters. Instead, maybe I’ll just quietly hope my son or daughter falls in love with Star Wars and wants to start a collection of these or something. I definitely don’t feel the need to acquire other characters based on The Mandalorian, at least not the characters who originated in the show. I can think of one character from the Season Two finale that might tempt me, but otherwise I think I’m all set. We’ll see. Time has a tendency to make fools of us all. For now, I have this awesome set of figures that I’m really excited to find a home for in my house. I don’t know where they’ll be displayed, but it will be somewhere prominent, I suspect. This set is being sold by Walmart and is presently sold out, but considering how popular these characters are I expect a restock is underway. There may even be a reissue that omits the battle damage and is distributed to other retailers, so if you missed out don’t despair just yet. And if you’re not interested in The Child, there are single card editions of just The Mandalorian available. It also should go without saying though, if you’re a fan of the show or a Star Wars collector you absolutely do not want to miss this!

I feel like we should end this on a comparison shot, just in case I didn’t properly convey how small this figure is. Left to right: Lightning Collection Green Ranger, Mando, Funko Scrooge, NECA Leonardo

12 Films of Christmas #2: Elf

elf_movie

Elf (2003)

It’s pretty hard to come into an established industry with something new and find success.  And when it comes to holiday films and television specials, it seems like it’s especially hard. Sure, sometimes you get a Prep & Landing that really surprises, but mostly you get Shrek the Halls…

Jon Favreau is mostly known these days for directing the Iron Man films. In 2003, people may have mostly known him for his short-stint on the sitcom Friends when he played the boyfriend of Courtney Cox who wanted to be an ultimate fighting champion. He certainly wasn’t known for holiday films, but who knew he was about to preside over one of the best?

Elf, in some ways, follows one of my favorite Christmas formulas by adding to the legend of Santa Claus. It doesn’t add much, but gives us another look at how Santa goes about his business. It definitely gives us a peek at elf life. We learn their dietary habits, toy output, and that they actually make those toys that show up in department stores themselves (though I don’t know if we’re supposed to assume that all Etch-A-Sketch toys are made by elves). Mostly though, it tells the story of one elf:  Buddy. The twist is that Buddy is not actually an elf, but a human adopted by elves after he snuck into Santa’s sack one Christmas while Santa was visiting an orphanage.

Before getting to the meat of the story, I must say I definitely approve of the decision to model the elves and the North Pole after the look both have in Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Even the decor is that pale violet color that everything seemed to be cast in for that famous Christmas special. As a kid, it always annoyed me there was so little continuity between Christmas specials, even ones produced by Rankin/Bass. If I had seen this film as a six-year old I would have been even more delighted than I am as an adult.

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Ferrell is at his best when Favreau just lets him go nuts in a scene.

Now Buddy (Will Ferrell), is oblivious to the fact that he’s an elf even though he’s a lot bigger than his peers and can’t keep up with them in the toy-making field. It bums him out, and when he overhears the head elf (A Christmas Story’s Peter Billingsly) speaking with another about how Buddy will probably never realizes he’s human, he goes running to Papa Elf (Bob Newhart) to find out if it’s true. Upon doing so, he decides to set out to find his real father, who impregnated his biological mother unknowingly and has since passed away. All of the elves, including Santa (Ed Asner) wish him well, but Santa also has a revelation to reveal: Buddy’s dad is on the naughty list!

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I’m digging the Rudolph inspired look of the film.

If you have not guessed by now, Elf is a pretty silly movie. After Buddy leaves the North Pole, it becomes a fish-out-of-water tale as he journeys to New York City to find his dad. Turns out his dad is the head of a children’s book publishing firm, and right away we see how he values profits above doing the right thing when he approves a book with no ending for publishing. Walter Hobbs (James Caan) is naturally shocked to find out he has a son he never knew about, and wants nothing to do with an adult who thinks he’s a Christmas elf. He also has a wife, Emily (Mary Steenburgen), and a young son, Michael (Daniel Tay), who are equally dubious. Emily is the most receptive of Buddy, though Michael is more in-line with his dad in thinking the guy is nuts. Buddy also winds up in a department store where he meets Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), and mistakes her for someone into elf culture since she has to dress-up as one for work.

Buddy has a hard time adjusting to life in New York and makes things difficult for those around him. He gradually gets people to come around to him, starting with Michael, then Jovie, and eventually even his old man. There’s of course a big blow-up scene between him and his father that has to be resolved before Buddy can then help Santa save Christmas. It’s all rather conventional, but the film always straddles the line between cheese and just plain good fun, and one gets the impression it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

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Given her get-up, it’s not hard to see why Buddy gets a little excited when he sees Jovie.

Will Ferrell is very charismatic as Buddy. He’s annoying, as most characters played by Ferrell are, but still charming due to his child-like and honest persona. I know many people who dislike Ferrell but are charmed by his Buddy character. Maybe it’s the Christmas factor, I’m not sure, but Buddy seems to be his most-liked role. Asner’s gruff take on Santa Claus works really well in the film’s climax. He feels authentic, even when spouting nonsense about needing more Christmas spirit to get his sleigh off the ground. He’s so matter-of-fact about it that it helps the audience to buy-into what the film is selling. Caan is prickly as Hobbs, but understandably so given what his character has to deal with. He possesses some Scrooge-like qualities in the sense that he’s a workaholic who clearly doesn’t spend enough time with his family (as illustrated by Michael’s lack of respect for him). He has to come around to Buddy, and see the importance of family. He does so in semi-believable way, but considering this film exists mostly for laughs, he doesn’t need to go through a Scrooge-like transformation that unfolds over entire acts.

Elf works so exceptionally well because it’s just a joyful film. There’s plenty of humor, and enough heart to give it purpose and provide that emotional pay-off most expect of a Christmas movie. It’s a movie that I return to every year, and every time I watch it I wonder to myself if this is my favorite Christmas movie. So few are able to handle comedy and sentimentality as deftly as Elf does. The Santa Clause has some laughs, but becomes cloyingly sweet at the end. Bad Santa is plenty hilarious, but doesn’t have really much of an emotional payoff. The Miracle on 34th Street has some chuckle-worthy moments, but is hardly a comedy. Elf is able to be both, which makes it the rare modern Christmas movie that is contention for being one of the best.


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