Tag Archives: steve purcell

Boss Fight Studio Sam & Max

Sometimes a toy comes along that I just can’t ignore. There’s just something neat about it, or the aesthetic so on point, that I want to own it even if I have little or no attachment to the source material. Such is the case with the Boss Fight Studio release of Sam & Max. I am only aware of the existence of Steve Purcell’s Freelance Police duo. I mostly remember them from advertisements in video game magazines since their point and click adventures were fairly popular back in the day, at least, as popular as that genre ever could be. I’ve seen a little of the animated series that aired on Fox Kids and even covered the Christmas episode in 2019, but that’s the most in depth I’ve ever gone with the property. Still, I always found the duo pleasant to look at and I am drawn to the property as it certainly sounds like something I would enjoy (in particular the graphic novels), but I’ve just never taken the plunge.

When Boss Fight Studio started teasing these figures back in 2018 I mostly had no reaction. When the full reveal took place in February of 2019 I thought they looked nice, but was able to just file it away in the back of my mind. As time went by I’d get more and more looks at these guys and they just started to really captivate me. When they were finally released in late 2020 I was fully onboard and intrigued enough that I knew I wanted them, and I held out until Boss Fight Studio revealed their Christmas deals. Even though these guys weren’t on sale, I used the excuse of free shipping and the desire to add another Bucky O’Hare Storm Toad to grab a pair.

Sam & Max began life as a comic, but has since migrated to other forms of media.

It’s probably a good thing that I wasn’t hooked from the get-go, as you probably noticed in that last paragraph that there was a lengthy development cycle associated with this duo. I don’t know if there were any challenges that pushed things back on the development side. I would guess since these guys are very much their own thing it takes some time to get stuff together at the factory. Boss Fight may have elected to wait for the pre-orders to clear a certain amount before going into full production to ensure profitability. And then, of course, COVID eventually messed things up. In the US, we tend to think of COVID as a 2020 problem, but for toy makers it was a 2019 problem as well when factories in China shut down as the virus spread and didn’t restart for months. And when they did restart it was with skeleton crews that persist to this day. Even big toy producers were hit hard, so a smaller shop like Boss Fight was especially impacted. Patience is a virtue though, and as the old saying goes, good things come to those who wait. Sam and Max have arrived, and hopefully for fans of the property, the wait was worth it.

Both Sam and Max come packaged in a very attractive window box. It features new artwork from Steve Purcell with a comic strip printed on the back. There are some product shots as well as a summary of the items on one side. Max is labeled as 01 and Sam 02 and I do not know if there are any plans for more figures in this line. My guess would be some variants are probably under consideration so that Boss Fight can squeeze a little more value out of these molds, but even if it’s just a duo, it’s a nice little display piece for collectors. And the box is attractive and it’s easy to reseal should you desire to. I’m a big fan of the resealable blister Boss Fight has utilized with Bucky O’Hare, but this is pretty nice too!

Max, resident “Rabbity Thing” and most of his stuff.

Since Max is considered the first figure in the wave, we’ll start with him. He’s rather diminutive and would be even in the smallish Bucky O’Hare line. He’s roughly about 3″ in height not including the ears. Since he’s essentially all white, or a slightly off-white, he has a really clean and simple appearance. The articulation is not overpowering so there’s very little that breaks up the sculpt. Even though the character is fairly simple in design, Boss Fight sculptor Daniel Rheaume should still be credited with nailing the expressions for Max. He comes packaged with an open mouthed, toothy, grin that imparts just a touch of Max’s somewhat maniacal nature. It’s never easy to go from 2D to 3D, but I suspect the video games aided in finding the right way to position the mouth, eyes, and nose on a spherical head.

I enjoy the juxtaposition of the rather violent gun display with the peace sign.

The articulation for Max is fairly basic. His head sits on a ball-joint and can rotate freely with a little bit of room to move up and down. His shoulders are in sockets with hinges and he rotates above the elbow which contains a single hinge. The hands are just pegged in and can rotate. There’s no articulation in the torso or at the waist. His legs are on ball-joints with single-hinged knees. While I like how clean the sculpt is, I do think there’s room for more articulation with this guy. Boss Fight did say they tried to do something with the ankles, but apparently it wasn’t working. It seems strange since we have Bucky O’Hare, a fellow rabbit-thing, to compare to and he has ankle and toe articulation, but maybe they just didn’t like how it looked with Max. The other aspect of the articulation that’s a bit odd concerns the knees. Max is drawn with pronounced kneecaps so I see why Boss Fight sculpted those on, but it does look a bit weird when he bends his knee as the kneecap is attached to the lower leg. This is where a double-joint actually would help the sculpt as the kneecap can kind of exist in-between, but Boss Fight stuck with a single-joint. I think it may have looked better to have the kneecap affixed to the upper leg instead, but it’s not a big deal.

“Hello?! You’ll have to speak up, I’m dealing with a rat problem!”
Less elegant than the gun, but it makes a satisfying crunch!

Max comes with an assortment of accessories to dress him up. Being that he is a mere 3″ and retails for $40, he kind of needs to justify his pricepoint with a lot of stuff and Boss Fight mostly delivers there. For starters, he comes with two extra heads. One has a huge grin and the other features no mouth at all. I will say, I love all 3 heads and choosing a display is tough. I actually like the no-mouth look for comedic reasons, though I can’t see myself going with that. Toy photographers will probably have a lot of fun with it though. Swapping heads is not exactly fun as his head is on there real tight. Heat it up and apply consistent force and you’ll get there. Getting the others on is also trying and requires both heat and patience. It’s a sturdy joint so the risk of breaking anything is probably minimal, but be careful. I did find that after swapping heads for the first time the joint appeared to be more loose. His head is rather heavy relative to the rest of the sculpt and it is just barely supported by the joint. One little touch on either side will cause it to bobble. The ears pop out and in easy enough though as they’re shared with all of the heads. Boss Fight also labeled them so you shouldn’t have any trouble remembering which is left and which is right. The hands are also quite tight and when removing them you will want to make sure you secure the figure’s forearm to prevent applying too much force to the elbow joint. If done incorrectly with a Bucky O’Hare figure, the peg above the elbow will usually just pop out and can be re-inserted, but I do not know if this figure is constructed in a similar manner. His arms are very thin so you definitely want to be as careful as you can. The good news is, switching hands will leave your own fingers a little sore and likely discourage you from putting too much stress on the figure over a short period of time.

The mouthless head works to convey a shocking phone call.
Also useful for when Max wakes up in the morning to find his ears missing.

In addition to the extra heads, Max also features 6 extra hands. He comes packed with dueling trigger fingers, but also has a set of open hands, fists, and one pointing right hand and one “peace sign” left hand. He’s also got some stuff he can hold with those trigger hands like his trusty pistol of German origin and a hammer, because a hammer is always useful. He also has an old rotary phone and I absolutely adore it. It has a spiral chord on it that’s plenty pliable and Max can hold the receiver just fine with his trigger hands. If the actual dial could spin, I’d be doing backflips. I don’t know why, I just think it’s neat. Lastly, there’s a rat. He’s painted really well for a non-articulated little figure and he’s holding up a finger. I’m not sure if he’s supposed to be taunting Max or how the two are supposed to feel about each other, but he looks pretty nice. It’s enough stuff that it makes settling on a shelf pose rather challenging. I like the expression hands like the pointing finger and peace sign, but I also like the accessories he can hold. They’re pretty easy to work into the hands too, which is certainly a plus. I almost feel like the fists are wasted as I don’t see myself ever posing him with those, but it’s always nice to have extras!

Sam is very happy with the size of his gun.

Figure number 2 is the canine shamus Sam! He is much bigger than his little buddy as he stands about 5 1/2″ without his hat. Popping him out of the box immediately feels a lot different than taking Max out. This is a chunky, dense, figure with a pretty intricate sculpt. He comes packaged with an open mouth happy face and he has three pieces of hair/fur sticking up on his head that the hat fits over. His torso is sculpted and painted all around it, even the parts hidden by his suit jacket, which is pretty impressive. No corners were cut here. His dress shirt looks so lifelike that it’s almost a shame to see it hidden under the coat. And the coat itself is soft plastic over his body with the sleeves part of the sculpt. This is a pretty common approach for jacketed characters and it works well here. The tie is soft plastic as well and can be moved and manipulated as needed since it’s attached to the collar which just slips over the ball-joint for his head. If you wanted your Sam to be more casual and ditch the tie you can just slip it off. He certainly looks the part and it’s hard not to be blown away by this sculpt.

He can get a bit angry if you take that gun away.

Sam is articulated a bit more extravagantly than his partner. His head sits on a ball peg that can move around which would typically allow for more up and down movement, though his collar and jacket limits him there. At the shoulders, it looks like his jacket should keep his arms from being able to come out and up at his sides, but it’s engineered really well and the sleeve will actually dip under the shoulder pad in his coat pretty easily. Maybe if you do this a lot there will be some rubbing damage, but you should be safe to pose him however you wish as long as you don’t go nuts. The arms can go all the way around too and there’s the usual single-hinge with a swivel at the elbow and the hands are once again just on pegs. He has a nice ball-joint at the waist so he can not only swivel all the way around, but also tilt forward and back and side-to-side. And the sculpting of the shirt works in tandem with the articulation here and slides easily behind his belt and over it. It’s really satisfying to mess around with. His legs are on a barbell joint and can come out to the side quite a bit, though not a full split. There’s a swivel at the knee and a single hinge. At the feet, he has a hinge and a generous bit of tilt so he can rock side-to-side and swivel. And what I love about both figures is that their feet are nice and big so they’re very easy to stand.

Poor Sam found himself injured. Max was fairly amused by it.

I did have one issue with Sam though, and it was a pretty big issue. His paint looked great and all of his joints were quite free and easy out of the package except for those knees. They just peg into the thigh with the hinge below the peg. I’m not a fan of this method of knee articulation, and it’s something I didn’t like about the Super7 Raphael back when I reviewed that. When I bent a knee on that figure, the peg popped right out without much warning. I wish that had happened with Sam, for when I went to bend his left knee it snapped. There was really no warning either, it was just a quick, clean, break. I then tried the right knee with a little heat from some hot water and a more delicate touch – snap! That one left a bit of the peg still on the lower leg and just for shits and giggles I tried heating that stub up and seeing if I could get that hinge to budge and I had zero success. I then went to YouTube to see if I could find some video reviews and see how people handled theirs on camera and noticed most of the reviewers received a letter with their set basically warning them about tight joints and to just go ahead and heat these guys up. It sounded like Boss Fight wanted them to not even attempt to work the joints at all without first applying heat. They did not include such a letter with my order. I wish they did, but also I have to say every other joint on both Sam and Max worked great right out of the box. It was only these knees that offered any resistance so maybe I’m just unlucky and got a bad Sam.

“Well, no sense letting this go to waste. Think I’ll try a stew.” “Hey!”

I reached out to Boss Fight via email and it took them a couple of days to get back to me. When they did, the rep from their store apologized and promised to get replacement parts out to me soon. It was nice to not have to deal with any condescension as I was half-expecting a lecture on proper action figure handling. Maybe they saw how many orders I’ve place with them over the years without any quality control issues and took me at my word that I know what I’m doing. While waiting for the new parts to arrive, I was able to have a little fun at poor Sam’s expense. Max, to his credit, found it all very amusing.

A week later, Sam’s new legs arrived at no additional cost to me. Each one was in a separate bag and the knee was bent on both probably to make sure the joint was fine. Getting the old stumps off of Sam was pretty easy and getting the new legs on was no trouble at all. All in all, a minor inconvenience that was remedied by the manufacturer and that’s all you can ask of toy makers.

After all of that trauma, Sam deserves a little treat.

Sam comes packaged with a fair amount of accessories, as did Max. He comes packaged with gripping, trigger, hands and in the box are a set of open hands and a set of fists. Removing and swapping hands is easier than it is with Max, largely due to Sam just being a more generously proportioned creation. He also has a pseudo-extra hand in the form of a brown bag puppet with Max’s face on it. I believe this is from an episode of the cartoon, but the bag looks pretty great and has a peg inside of it so it can peg into Sam’s forearm. There’s also a set of orange, melty, popsicles that I take it Sam is a fan of. They’re pretty easy to position in his hand since the stick end is rather small. Lastly, Sam has his massive revolver. The barrel on it is curved slightly to really give it a toon quality and I absolutely love how it turned out. The handle on it is pretty substantial, so you’ll probably end up warming one of Sam’s hands up to fit it in properly. Once you do, chances are you won’t want to take it out.

The “Ooo” mouth works well with the Max puppet accessory.

Sam also comes with a pair of extra heads. His default look is an open-mouthed happy expression and Boss Fight chose to give him the same, but with angry eyes, as one option and another where he’s making an “O” mouth, as if he were talking or whistling. I don’t think of Sam as the angry type, so I’ll probably stick with the happy look. The whistling head is pretty tempting though as it’s quite cute. Popping Sam’s default head off is pretty easy and you’re likely to do it by accident when testing out the range of articulation at his neck. Getting the others on is definitely a struggle. Even just examining the different heads, the opening on the default head appears to be larger and there’s a gradual slope to the front of the opening that would appear to exist to facilitate swapping. The angry head has that as well, while the whistling one just has a hole. You will want to heat the heads up when swapping if you want any chance of getting them on properly. It was still a bit odd as they didn’t seem to “pop” into place even after heating, but just kind of slid on. It’s a real workout for the thumbs.

The Freelance Police stand ready for action!

Sam and Max are mostly what I expected. Swapping parts has never been the strong suit of the Bucky O’Hare line and it isn’t here either. It’s kind of a chore, but I’m still glad to have the extra parts as they do a lot to liven up a display. The issues I had with Sam’s legs was something I did not anticipate, but to Boss Fight’s credit, they rectified it at no cost to me and without hassle. As a wise man once said, no harm, no foul. As for the figures themselves, what we have here is a tremendous representation of the characters in plastic form. Sam is easily the star for me, even with the broken legs, as he looks great and is a lot of fun to mess around with. Max also looks good, but his very basic articulation is a bit of a bummer. He’s kind of pushing it at $40 too, considering he’s a three inch figure. Niche license and a small company often means a bit of sticker shock. I know I had it with Bucky, and Sam & Max fans probably felt it a bit here. I suspect the Sam & Max diehards (and most fans might fall into that category) are okay with the cost. I obviously bought a set and I’m a casual at best fan and the cost didn’t deter me. Other, more casual, fans may want to wait a bit and see if there’s ever a promotion at Boss Fight or one of the third party retailers who are stocking this set. One likely isn’t coming anytime soon, but they probably won’t retail for $80 forever. As for me, I like these figures and I’m further comforted by the fact that I’m supporting a small toy maker that is also local to me. I think Boss Fight Studio runs their business the right way, and I like to support them and I intend to continue supporting them in the future.


Dec. 2 – Toy Story That Time Forgot

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Toy Story That Time Forgot first premiered December 2, 2014.

When the credits started to roll in 2010 signaling the end of Toy Story 3 I think most who were watching it assumed this was “good bye.” The toys which had captured the hearts of movie-goers going on two decades were saying good bye to their former owner and playmate, Andy, and so too were we to these characters. It was a somber close to a particularly wonderful film that closed out an improbable trilogy. It took a lot of risk on the part of Pixar and Disney to bring the original Toy Story to theaters in 1995, but it proved to be a colossal success that forever changed the animated film space, for better or worse. Toy Story 2 wasn’t even supposed to happen, and when that film ended, Toy Story 3 wasn’t exactly a foregone conclusion, but it turns out there was still one more story to tell and the film absolutely nailed it. The franchise ended up being the rare one that may have gotten better with each installment in its trilogy.

Of course, Toy Story 3 wasn’t the end for these beloved toys for more was on the way. What seemed like a compromise to keep these characters alive and to line the pockets of Disney and Pixar, the company turned to an old standby – the holiday special, before a new film was eventually released in 2019. First up was Toy Story of Terror!, a Halloween themed special of sorts which premiered on October 16, 2013. Announced at the same time was a Christmas special, but fans would have to wait over a year for that one. Toy Story That Time Forgot premiered on December 2, 2014 and like Toy Story of Terror!, it was not content to be a straight-up holiday special. Toy Story of Terror! may have obviously been timed with Halloween, but the special makes no mention of the holiday. Instead it’s just a thriller with some light horror elements, but it was also rather compelling and entertaining. Toy Story That Time Forgot does at least make mention of Christmas, but it’s in passing as the special actually takes place two days after the holiday. Perhaps that is done because, as we saw in the first film in the series, Christmas is a pretty stressful time to be a toy. While the special avoids recounting that plot, it does go back to that first film for another major piece of the story.

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It’s Santa Woody!

Toy Story That Time Forgot is written and directed by Steve Purcell. This seems especially noteworthy as just a year ago we talked about a Christmas special from the property Purcell is best known for:  Sam & Max. Purcell got started in comics before moving onto Lucas Arts and Industrial Light & Magic where he honed his animation chops. He’s been with Pixar since 2000 and has made contributions to films like Cars, Ratatouille, and Brave, where he served as co-director. Toy Story That Time Forgot is his first solo director credit. The short took roughly two years to write and plan with another year in actual production to finish it out. This short also marks the last time Don Rickles was alive for production on a Toy Story project before his passing in 2017. His character of Mr. Potato Head does appear in Toy Story 4, but in a far smaller role than we’re accustomed to seeing.

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This special is going to center on Trixie and how she’s unhappy with the roles Bonnie chooses for her. Around the holidays, that includes being a baby reindeer.

The special begins at the home of Bonnie (Emily Hahn) as she plays with her toys following another successful Christmas holiday. Surprisingly, Bonnie appears to have received few new toys as the only addition to the cast is Angel Kitty (Emma Hudak), which could be a new toy or could just be a holiday decoration that spends 11 months of the year in an attic or something. Trixie (Kristen Schaal), Bonnie’s toy triceratops, is frustrated that she’s being forced by Bonnie to roleplay as a reindeer, amongst other things, when she just wants to be a dinosaur. She is even momentarily teased when Bonnie declares she needs to find her dinosaur, only to decide that Angel Kitty is to be the dinosaur today. The other toys try to cheer Trixie up while reminding her she’s lucky to be the toy of such an imaginative child, but it does little to please Trixie. Soon the toys are bagged up because Bonnie has a playdate with a boy named Mason (R.C. Cope) over at his house. This is where we say “bye” to most of the toys as only Woody (Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen), Rex (Wallace Shawn), Angel Kitty, and Trixie are brought along.

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Angel Kitty, more of a decoration than toy, is a new addition to the gang.

When the crew arrives at Mason’s house, Bonnie finds the boy enthralled by a new video game he must have received for Christmas. She tosses her backpack of toys into Mason’s playroom and goes to join him at the television. The toys emerge from the backpack to find Mason’s room absolutely covered with boxes and boxes of new toys. They’re all from a new line of action figures called Battlesaurs, a sort of anthropomorphic dinosaur brand that would have been right at home on store shelves in the 90s. They are soon greeted by a warrior of this brand, Reptillus Maximus (Kevin McKidd), and it becomes clear things are a bit screwy in Dinosaur Land. Reptillus is very serious about his culture and refers to the other toys as being of the “Bonnie Tribe” when they mention their kid. Trixie, seeing what she deems is a more idealized dinosaur, is taken by Reptillus almost immediately and wants to know more about their “race.” Meanwhile, another toy has taken interest in the Bonnie Tribe by the name of The Cleric (Purcell). He’s a robed, Emperor Palpatine-like character that also happens to be a pterodactyl. He’s the unquestioned leader of the Battlesaurs and does not appear to be welcoming to outsiders. As Trixie is lead away by Reptillus, the others grab Woody and Buzz from behind while The Cleric mugs for the camera because that’s what villains do.

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Mason apparently enjoying his new Optimum X gaming console.

As Trixie is taken around the room we see loads of other action figures. This kid Mason is quite the spoiled little kid as not only does he appear to have every figure and playset in this line, he even has loads of multiples (in the toy-collecting community, we refer to these figures as army builders). He’s like every kid in a toy commercial who improbably had an entire army of Foot Soldiers to battle against his Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Trixie is soon outfitted with special armor to make her feel as if she is apart of this tribe. Rex also gets to play along and receives some mechanical arms and leg attachments. As she is lead around by Reptillus, he shares details of his world which even includes a righteous theme song. It’s clear he and the others are not aware of their existence as toys, and whenever Trixie makes mention of their reality it’s met with confusion by Reptillus, and anger by The Cleric who continues to lurk in the shadows.

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Trixie first encounters Reptillus Maximus.

A battle is organized and Trixie has it sold to her that this is a major part of the culture of Battlesaurs. They thrive in combat, and a gladiator-styled ring is erected for the toys to engage in combat. Trixie joins Reptillus, but soon she realizes that this activity is rather barbaric. Toys she used to play with at Mason’s house are brought into the ring against their will and are systematically dismantled by Reptillus. She does not like this ferocious side of Reptillus, and she likes it even less when her friends are brought in to fight. Woody and Buzz are forced to face the duo in combat, and it’s Woody who reveals to Trixie that these toys have never been played with. The two put up a good fight against Reptillus, but he eventually gains the upper-hand. As he prepares to finish the duo, Trixie makes the save and smashes into Reptillus declaring him a bully. Frustrated, The Cleric summons a new dinosaur; a giant, Rancor-like beast. Woody and Buzz are soon swallowed by soon swallowed by it much to Trixie’s horror.

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Trixie and Rex really take to this new dinosaur culture they’ve stumbled upon.

Trixie makes an attempt to free her friends recognizing the button on the beast that works its jaw. She is unable to do so though, and when knocked over the other toys see her mark. The “Bonnie” written on her foot is declared the mark of obedience, something which the Battlesaurs have been conditioned to shun. Trixie tries to play it off as no big deal, since it truly is not to her, but The Cleric orders her seized. He’s brought a controller and it’s revealed that it controls the arms and leg attachments that have been placed on Rex. He forces Rex to go after Trixie, and she in turn is forced to run with Reptillus ordered to give chase. As Trixie runs through the maze of boxes and playsets, Reptillus is close behind. He eventually comes face to face with his own packaging. Seeing himself, he has a crisis of faith, but is still unwilling to admit to himself he is in fact a toy.

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Woody and Buzz not having a good time.

Woody and Buzz are taken to The Cleric’s apparent lair. There The Cleric has Rex remove the pair from the bowels of the other toy, and Angel Kitty is also regurgitated. Woody and Buzz then learn that The Cleric is able to spy on Mason using a periscope-like feature on one of the playsets. He wants Mason to remain occupied by his new gaming console so that he may rule the play room with the other Battlesaurs ignorant of their station (one onlooker even remarks “What’s ignorant mean?). This is his master plan, and he intends to dispose of the nuisance toys.

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Reptillus comes face to face with his packaging.

Trixie makes a break for the TV room where Bonnie and Mason are still playing. She’s able to get under the television and as she treks through the tangle of wires all of her new armor is dislodged. She eventually reaches her destination:  the surge protector. Waiting for her is Reptillus, but she shoves past him. She tries reasoning with him, explaining that part of the joy of being a toy is being played with by an imaginative child. And as she attempts to convince Reptillus of this, it’s clear she’s also convincing herself. Reptillus doesn’t know what to believe, but Trixie presses further. Reptillus acknowledges what she speaks of as “surrender,” but the look in his eyes suggests that maybe he’s ready to surrender. He then takes up his default pose, and it’s Reptillus that turns off the surge protector. With the game turned off, Mason reaches under the television and finds Reptillus. He gives the figure a look, before Bonnie runs over and declares it’s cool. She starts playing with Reptillus as Mason turns his game back on, but as he goes to sit down he gives Bonnie a look. She’s already crafting a backstory for Reptillus and Mason is intrigued. He puts down his controller and goes over to Bonnie to learn more.

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Things aren’t looking so good in the playroom.

In the playroom, Rex has been forced to carry Woody and Buzz towards a heating vent where a whirling fan awaits. Angel Kitty plays a mournful tune on his/her horn as the toy is being carried hanging from an axe. Another Battlesaur grabs the horn and tosses it into the fan where it breaks into pieces. As Woody and Buzz dangle precariously over the opening, Mason and Bonnie rush in. The two come in like a whirlwind and start grabbing all of the toys in sight. Bonnie is happy to see her “baby reindeer” with Trixie having returned the little pipe cleaner attachments to her horns (quite the achievement for a toy with no hands) to play the role Bonnie seems to prefer for her. Even The Cleric gets scooped up into the action as the kids decide to have a dance party.

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At last, the toys get to play.

Mason and Bonnie are shown enjoying the vast amount of toys in the playroom via montage, and the frozen, plastic, faces of Reptillus and Trixie somehow convey a sense of contentment. Eventually, all play dates must come to an end and Bonnie heads home. Trixie and the others fill in the toys left behind when they get home on what happened while Trixie declares she’s found a new appreciation for Bonnie and how she’s utilized in play. Angel Kitty appears to reaffirm the message of the special, and then vanishes confusing the onlooking toys. We then see Mason, once again, only now he’s fast asleep clutching his Reptillus Maximus. The toy wriggles free from Mason’s grasp and we see he’s been “branded” on his hand. The Cleric is also shown apparently happy to be utilized like a nightlight as he possesses illuminated wings on his back. Reptillus goes to the window and forlornly looks out with anticipation of seeing Trixie of the Bonnie Tribe once again – Tuesday around 3:30.

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There’s a real “post sex” vibe to this scene between Trixie and Reptillus following an exhausting playdate.

Toy Story That Time Forgot is a Christmas special that is exceptionally light on the holiday. The opening scene contains a Christmas tree and some décor, but following that our only holiday expression is essentially Angel Kitty, a surprisingly secular choice. Anyone who has ever seen a home occupied by a child after Christmas is certainly familiar with the boxes and general chaos the holiday leaves behind. Though in the case of Mason, that is taken to another level. Even on my best holiday, I probably didn’t come close to getting half the stuff Mason apparently received. I suppose it’s possible he didn’t get all of those toys for Christmas, but considering pretty much every toy in the room also has a corresponding box it sure makes it seem like this all just arrived.

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The Cleric is written and played in such a silly manner by Steve Purcell that it’s actually hard not to like him.

The general plot for this one relies heavily on the familiar topic of a toy not realizing it’s a toy. We saw this with Buzz in the first film and this special can’t shake that familiar feeling. It makes Toy Story That Time Forgot feel like a truncated version of that story only with the focus being on Trixie and Reptillus instead of Woody and Buzz. It also turns it on its head a bit with Trixie being captivated by Reptillus, rather than annoyed and jealous. There’s also the nefarious motivations of The Cleric who’s actually utilizing the ignorance of his tribe to further his own goals where as Buzz wasn’t really hurting anyone with his delusions. It may be a bit of retread, but it’s at least tidy and there’s plenty of humor and charm to go around. We all know where the story is going basically from the moment the plot is established and we know it’s all just a means for Trixie to have a better appreciation for her lot in life, but predictable doesn’t automatically mean bad.

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The Battlesaurs are pretty damn cool and I kind of wish they existed in the real world.

What keeps this special interesting and entertaining is the design of the Battlesaurs. It’s obvious a lot of thought when into the creation of this fictitious toyline. I get a real Masters of the Universe vibe from some of the playsets we see, and I love how the animators kept everything grounded. It’s obvious these are toys and they move and function like toys, so while it’s a bit horrifying to see Woody and Buzz devoured by a dinosaur, we also know it’s a plastic toy that is supposed to “eat” other toys with no actual harm coming to the ingested toy. The remote-controlled dinosaur arms are a bit weird and convenient for the plot of this one, but I suppose for a toyline consisting entirely of dinosaurs it wouldn’t be out of the question for something like that to actually exist for the T-Rex characters. The Battlesaurs are so convincing as an actual toy property that I wish Disney had gone ahead and had a bunch of these things made. Maybe if the special had done some crazy viewership numbers Disney would have, but alas these beings exist only in this fantasy world.

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Even though it’s made for TV, this special still looks about as awesome as you would expect a Pixar feature to look.

Toy Story That Time Forgot is a fine piece of entertainment. No, it doesn’t come close to matching the heart of the films, and I do enjoy Toy Story of Terror! more, but it’s still worth an annual viewing. It’s not going to bring the Christmas cheer though, so I don’t blame anyone who doesn’t feel like this is required Christmas viewing. It’s at least extremely accessible as ABC and Freeform will air this special this year. ABC usually devotes Thursday nights to Christmas programming, and in particular, Disney specials and often pairs this one with the Frozen special. Freeform will show it multiple times as the month goes along so if you miss the network broadcast, you have cable to fallback on. And the special is also available to stream on Disney+, and if you really enjoy it, you can purchase it on physical media as well.


Dec. 4 – The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police – “Christmas Bloody Christmas”

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Original Air Date December 20, 1997

Come 1997 I was moving away from what is largely considered “kid’s stuff.” I was in my teens and gearing up for high school and the Fox Kids I had grown up with was changing. My beloved X-Men came to an end that year and with it came my disinterest in Saturday morning cartoons. I preferred to stay up late on a Friday and sleep in till near noon on Saturday, and when I did wake, I often went straight for the computer or my PlayStation. As a result, I totally missed out on The Adventures of Sam & Max:  Freelance Police. It views like the heir apparent to Fox’s previous version of The Tick. Both are rather offbeat, comedy, comics geared towards a slightly more mature audience than the conventional super hero books and both had to be toned down in order to work on network television. How they both got to where they ended up was quite different though.

Sam & Max were largely created by artist/writer Steve Purcell. They actually originated in a comic his brother Dave created as a kid. He’d leave his unfinished works around the house and Steve would playfully finish them often completely changing the tone and poking fun at what his brother started. Eventually he started coming up with his own stories for the duo and as a birthday present in the 70s his brother signed over rights to the characters for Steve so that he could explore an official way to distribute his stories.

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Sam & Max’s foray into television only lasted one season despite being well received.

Sam is an anthropomorphic dog in detective clothing. He’s sort of the straight man in the pair and takes his work seriously, but is also prone to his natural canine instincts making him excitable and, at times, a touch vicious. Max is an undefined rabbit-like creature who prefers to be called a lagomorph. Where Sam is more straight-laced and serious about their work as police officers, Max is not. He’s violent, crazy, and possesses a very short attention span. The two debuted in 1987 as a counterpart to Fish Police, but when Purcell was hired by LucasArts his characters came with him where they enjoyed their greatest success.

It was at LucasArts that Sam & Max made the leap to video games. They first appeared as comics in a newsletter and due to their success they were given a starring role in their own adventure title. Sam & Max Hit the Road was a point and click adventure for PC in 1995 and it was quite successful. Despite that success though, attempts to create a sequel fizzled and were never released. This was largely due to the genre of game they helped refine falling out of favor with gamers, or at least the publisher losing confidence in the format. When the rights expired in 2005, Purcell took his talents to Telltale Games which had resurrected the adventure game and would find great success with episodic titles for the next decade+, until it eventually closed in 2018. Sam & Max starred in several Telltale titles and pretty much all of them were well received.

In 1997, the duo made the leap to television. The Adventures of Sam & Max is a toned-down take on the pair that strives to maintain the core beats of the source material. The violence is largely absent and the profanity as well, but Sam is still a pretty straight and narrow, albeit ignorant, detective while Max still has a touch of that homicidal nature to him. Neither character was allowed to wield a gun though, but at least the show does a faithful job in adapting the look of the comic. Twenty-four episodes were produced for the first season, with only the first and final episode being a standard half-hour format. The other 22 were approximately ten minutes each and shown in pairs.

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A cozy, Christmasy, setting gets things started.

For the 10th episode, one half was devoted to Christmas. “Christmas Bloody Christmas” is written by Purcell himself and isn’t as violent as the episode title would suggest. It involves Sam reuniting with his grandmother for a trip to Blood Island Maximum Security Penitentiary to bring Christmas cheer to those needing it most:  inmates. What could possibly go wrong?

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That feeling of calm is quickly abandoned.

The episode opens with Sam and Max in a cozy, festive, setting dressed in their pajamas. Max (Rob Tinkler doing a pretty decent Roger Rabbit impression) casually smashes a little music-playing Santa and remarks how Christmas with Sam’s granny will be different from most. Or rather, how each year he wishes it would be different and better and each year he’s let down. Since Max speaks with that diabolical grin at all times it gives all of his lines a bit of dryness to them that’s part of the show’s charm. Sam (Harvey Atkin) informs Max that instead of spending Christmas in front of the TV that Grannie has something special planned for them.

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Grannie Ruth is going to take the lead in this episode.

Just then, a commotion and bright lights appear outside the cozy cabin. Max thinks it’s the mothership of his species finally returning to bring him home, while Sam thinks it’s an ambush. Grabbing Max, he flees for cover instructing the lagomorph that he’ll have to use his endearing charms to distract their attackers so that he can ensure Grannie’s safety. The door bursts open and it’s Grannie (Pam Hyatt). She curtly orders the boys to suit-up because they’re heading out which takes us into the credits.

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I love the festive attire, in particular Max’s three hats.

After the credits conclude, we see Sam, Max, and Grannie are aboard a helicopter being piloted by the old girl. Sam and Max are dressed in festive holiday attire, with Max adorably sporting a Santa hat on each ear. Sam takes the time to inform Max that Grannie was once the warden at Blood Island, and they’re going to bring some holiday cheer to the folks there. Max reacts to this news by declaring he always hoped his last Christmas would be spent as an elf-shaped holiday appetizer. Sam assures him that they’ll be fine since all of the inmates loved his grandmother referring to her as The Iron Maiden.

As the helicopter touches down in the prison yard, the inmates rush it. The guards are prepared to act, but the warden instructs them to stand down – they just love that old girl. They cheer as Grannie and her “elves” emerge from the chopper with Sam and Max tossing candy canes to the prisoners. Off to the side, some tough looking inmates remark this could screw up their plans while a blonde Russian inmate with a wild-looking neck (the thing looks like an elbow) remarks that this might actually work out for them.

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Grannie should really be dressed-up too if she’s going to play Mrs. Claus.

Inside the prison, the inmates are lined up to meet Mrs. Claus who is just Grannie in her normal attire. Sam and Max make quips at the expense of the inmates, and one rather large looking fellow informs the pair he’s in jail because he ate his parole officer with some fava beans and seltzer, an obvious reference to The Silence of the Lambs that may not have been so obvious to the show’s target audience. It’s then that Grannie takes note of the Russian fellow from earlier. She’s not happy to see him and references his 43 escape attempts. She also calls him by his name, but I have no idea how to spell it. It sounds like Hurt-Sock. We’ll just call him Russian guy.

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That is one amazing neck.

Russian guy drops to his knees and begs for forgiveness for his past deeds from Grannie. He claims to be a changed man, and in the spirit of the holidays Grannie accepts. Max then gifts him with the most obvious, and tired, of Christmas gags:  a fruit cake. It’s incredibly heavy as the inmate nearly drops it upon receiving it. The music then gets sinister, and one of the other inmates from earlier is now sporting a baseball glove and making it clear to the Russian dude that he wants the “ball.” He tosses the cake to him who then pitches it to the third inmate from earlier. This guys grabs Max and swings him like a baseball bat, bashing the cake into an electrical switch on the wall and knocking out the power causing the room to go dark. Sam states the obvious in that this can’t be good, while Max sarcastically remarks that nothing could go wrong in a dark room full of violent offenders as he lights a candle.

After a break, Grannie, Sam, and Max are shown running through a hallway. They’re in the underbelly of the prison and Grannie assures the boys she knows this place like the liver spots on the back of her hand. Max breaks the fourth wall to make a dated SNL reference as Grannie leads them to a spot in the wall. Max uses his very large ears to listen for activity, and finding it, he punches a small hole in the stone wall and yanks the inmate who swung him like a bat earlier through the impossibly small hole.

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Max, ever eager to climb insane a human body.

Once the inmate is pulled into the hallway, he claims he won’t talk. Max enthusiastically requests that Grannie let him jump down the man’s throat and prepares to climb inside him, but he’s denied. Grannie then reprimands the man, telling him that his mother would not appreciate him back-talking old Grannie. Sam is then shown calling the guy’s mother on the phone and this causes him to break. He confesses that the Russian guy is planning on taking the warden hostage. With no further use for him, Grannie pinches the fella’s neck causing him to pass out. Max remarks this is a helpful maneuver all parents should know for bedtime.

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The characters are allowed to behave like classic toons when needed.

The trio then apparently head deeper into the prison as they’re shown traveling through the darkened hall by hanging from some pipes. Grannie suspects their target will use the prison’s pipes to get to the warden which is what they’re doing as they enter the pipes. The pipes start off large enough for them to crawl through, but eventually become too small. That doesn’t stop them though, considering they’re cartoons and all, and they eventually emerge from the shower heads. The show then makes a mild prison rape joke as Sam appears to be in awe and wonders aloud what the room would tell them if these walls could talk. Max remarks it’s probably best that they didn’t with a look of disgust on his face.

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Let’s get silly.

Outside the room, the sound of talking and laughter can be heard. Grannie instructs the boys to turn on the hot water making the room steamy. The bad guys enter and are surprised to find Grannie. They’re probably more surprised when Sam and Max emerge from the steam wearing towels and snapping additional towels in a threatening manner. The henchmen inmates, including the one previously knocked out by Grannie’s neck pinch, scream like girls and run away slipping on some stray soap. They crash into a wall and are rendered unconscious. Grannie then beckons the Russian guy to come at her, but he opts to flee by flushing himself down a toilet. Max requests he not be asked to chase after him, while Grannie becomes worried as she concedes he now knows this place better than her. As Sam reassures her, Max’s feet stick out from the toilet.

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No one told Max he had to do that, but he did it anyway.

The trio return to the pipes and are shown above a whirling fan in the ventilation system. They jump in, and the air causes them to hover as if they’re in a wind tunnel. Sam seems to enjoy the blast of cold air on his genitals, though he states it in a PG manner. Grannie instructs them to hang on as she throws a switch on the wall which causes them to get sucked out of the tunnel and into the night air.

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They make this stuff look easy. No wonder why Fox felt like they didn’t need guns.

In the warden’s office, the warden is unable to reach anyone by phone. The three inmates emerge and they have a hostage too. Before they can issue their threats, the Russian guy says he hears something. Just then, Max and Sam burst out of a vent and collide with the two underlings knocking them out, hopefully once and for all. As the Russian guy turns his gun on the pair, Grannie pops up and disarms him. Seeing no alternative, he takes a swing at Grannie, but she produces another fruit cake and his hand smashes into it. While he’s reeling from the blow, Grannie drops the cake on his foot and apparently the pain causes him to pass out.

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You’ve probably heard about your brain on drugs, well this is your fist on fruit cake.

As the gang soak up their victory, some big, red, butt cheeks pop out of a fireplace. They could only belong to Santa, and he surveys the room and confirms who’s been naughty and who’s been nice. He makes Sam sign-off on his naughty and nice list before departing. While they’re distracted by Santa, the Russian prisoner taunts them from a window. He’s got an inflatable kiddie float and laughs as he flees. The warden remarks there’s nothing but open water out there and that he’s most likely shark bait at this point. The others seem unconcerned, and Sam reminds everyone there’s a big spread down in the mess hall.

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I suppose it’s better than solitary.

In the mess hall, we see a gigantic Christmas tree. The two prisoners who were working with the Russian are tied up and hung like ornaments from the tree while Sam and Max reflect on the Christmas they just experienced. Sam is thankful for being able to bond with his dear old grandma for the holidays. Meanwhile, with a tear in his eye, the warden thanks Grannie for bringing some holiday cheer to this old prison. She accepts his thanks, but is disappointed she couldn’t hang that old “Hurt Sock” from the tree too. On cue, Max finds a present under the tree addressed to Grannie. Sam opens it for her and out comes the Russian guy all tied up and bound with wrapping paper. As they all gasp and wonder how this happened, Max gives a “You don’t suppose,” as the camera cuts to a silhouette of Santa flying by the moon with a “Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas!” Max then finishes his line with another fourth-wall breaking joke, “we’d even think of employing such a sugary ending!” Sam and Max then do the customary wishing the audience a merry Christmas as well. The camera pans out to end as it started, with a Christmas card and some festive music to take us out.

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Grannie gets her Christmas wish.

“Christmas Bloody Christmas” isn’t as crazy as the title seems to suggest it will be. I knew going in this was a Saturday morning affair, but I did have some expectations of at least mild, cartoon, violence and the episode is actually fairly light on that. Despite that though, I found it rather entertaining. Sam’s matter-of-fact delivery of often bad news is endearing, and Max’s sarcasm was also amusing. Nothing made me laugh out loud, but I did find the whole thing pretty charming. Jokes about fruit cake and prison rape are certainly dated and overdone, but at least they didn’t make me cringe. And the fruit cake bit at least paid off in the end with a pretty comical shot of the inmate’s hand breaking as he struck it.

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Obligatory holiday message.

Visually the episode does a great job with its characters. In particular, Sam and Max. They look just as they should and I’m quite happy the artists opted to put them in festive attire for the episode. Max’s manic grin really helps sell his lines, and the few times his mouth changes stands out to help accentuate those scenes as well. The secondary characters are a bit cheaper looking, though I liked the main villain’s elbow neck which remained consistent throughout the episode. It was a nice, personal, touch for the character. The backgrounds look pretty good as well, though are a bit lifeless at times as well. When the characters first burst into the catacombs of the prison it looks like they forgot to animate a door too. I enjoy the cartoon aesthetic and properties of the show, such as the exaggerated actions of the characters or the very cartoony way they emerged from the shower heads.

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The show’s take on Santa is fine. He’s plump, but not ugly, and gets right down to business.

As a Christmas special, this one is predictably light on holiday sentiment. Sam does remark that he was happy to get a little closer to his grandmother, which is about as far as the episode goes. The warden’s tears of happiness are not at all heartwarming and I think it’s supposed to be played for laughs. And obviously, Santa’s gift for Grannie is intended to be humorous as well and a play on how many a sincere holiday special end. Bringing Christmas to inmates is actually surprisingly noble, but it’s not intended to be here at all. It’s a joke to the writers, and I suppose it’s fine. Some who have more experience with the real thing might view it as being distasteful, but the show does make sure to portray all of these particular inmates as exceptionally violent offenders that are probably hopeless to begin with.

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Santa is, however, missing some reindeer and that is something I cannot forgive.

I’d say overall I enjoyed this one. It’s lack of earnestness and the fact that it isn’t truly hilarious make it an unlikely annual viewing, but a once in a while viewing is certainly acceptable. If you want to view this one yourself this year, the complete series is still available on DVD brand new for about 20 bucks. If you’re willing to settle for a used copy then you can find it for considerably less. It’s a Shout Factory release which tend to be of acceptable quality but light on special features. You can also easily find this one via the usual means online and stream it for free. If you want to indulge in other Sam & Max media, there’s always graphic novels and such. A favorite toy maker of mine, Boss Fight Studio, is set to release action figures of the titular characters. I’m not a big enough fan of the property to indulge in such, but they’re certainly tempting given how well they turned out.


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