Tag Archives: toys

Lego 71044 – Disney Train and Station

71044_Box4_v39Earlier this year I did a post wondering what happened to the Lego/Disney relationship that seemed so fruitful just three years prior. It was a post born out of some frustration, but mostly just disappointment. Following the release of an entire line of minifigures devoted to the Disney brand as well as the massive Cinderella’s Castle from Disney World, it seemed like we were primed for more minifigures and more sets based on theme park attractions and icons. A set featuring Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle felt inevitable and my mind was racing to conjure up mental images of what other popular attractions might work and make sense in Lego form.

Nothing happened though. Disney still had a presence with Lego, but it was all themed sets based on the latest movie hitting theaters. This surprised me because that initial wave of figures seemed to sell out quickly around me. I had to hunt them down and eventually wound up paying almost twice the MSRP at a specialty shop with hideous mark-ups on everything. The castle set seemed to do well since Lego has kept up with production on it and I’ve never seen it discounted (it’s possible Disney has an agreement with Lego that prevents it from going on clearance) leading me to believe it’s a solid seller. If the cast members who work the crystal shop in Epcot can be trusted, they usually sell one of those $37K crystal depictions of the castle per day so Lego selling a bunch of $300 castles seems plausible.

Of course, my post either had good timing or poor as not long after a bunch of news broke. A new wave of figures, a Mickey-themed set based on Steamboat Willie, and finally the big one, a set based on Disneyland’s railroad and station. I was able to secure a set of minifigures after hunting around my area while the Steamboat Willie set was a simple purchase at a local Lego Store. The Disneyland railroad had to wait a bit as it came with a rather steep cost. The MSRP on the set came in at a tick under $330 not including tax. With less than 3,000 pieces and only five minifigures, this felt like a pretty significant mark-up. For comparison, Cinderella’s Castle had the same amount of figures, but over 4,000 pieces for a more reasonable $350. Disney always equates to significant mark-up when it comes to licensed merchandise, but this was more than I expected. The actual building is fairly small and not nearly as eye-catching as the castle. This felt more like a $250 set as a result, and I had a hard time convincing myself to foot the bill for it.

Maybe I wasn’t alone, as Black Friday arrived and with it came discounted Lego sets. To my surprise, this set was one of the ones to get marked down. It was roughly $100 off for a weekend and that was enough to get me to jump on it, along with many other shoppers. The set even sold out while I was trying to check-out online, but Lego accepted backorders with a guarantee to deliver before Christmas. This made this a suitable joint gift for myself and my wife, essentially our gift to each other, this year.

For starters, it should be pointed out that the set likely retailed for more than expected partly due to the tech baked in. This set is part of Lego’s app-enabled products. The Powered-Up Motor is Lego’s latest inclusion for making sets go. It requires you download an app and use a tablet or phone to control the train. It has sound effects as well and if you’re against pushing the train then you have this as well to make it go. It’s pretty neat, and if I didn’t already have a Disney World Monorail set to ring my Christmas tree I’d probably consider using this. It does add more of a toy quality to the set as well, which may be a bad thing if you’re like me and have small kids at home that want to play with your expensive Lego sets.

img_0777Like the castle, this one comes with five minifigures. And like the castle, most are essentially re-releases of prior figures. Minnie Mouse is the least interesting as she appears here in her red polka-dotted dress once again with the only difference being she’s traded the hard plastic skirt piece for a fabric one (to make it easier to position her in a seated position for riding the train). Three of the other figures just re-use existing head sculpts. You have Mickey as an engineer in blue overalls with a red bandana around his neck. He looks good, but where’s his hat? Engineer Mickey at the park is always sporting a hat and it would have been simple to just reuse the Steamboat Willie hat with a new paint scheme, but Lego opted not to do so apparently. Chip and Dale are here as conductors and they have new bodies as well. It’s a classy addition, but like Mickey they have no hats. At least with these two it’s more understandable as a hat is probably trickier to sculpt and add to them whereas Mickey had already been released to fit a hat. The fifth figure is the only all new one, but it’s a much welcomed one. Goofy finally gets to make his proper Lego debut and he’s in his contemporary orange shirt with blue pants. He looks great and since we had yet to receive a Goofy I am glad he’s not in train-attire. He probably should have been released as part of the minifigure wave as it kind of stinks he’s trapped in this set (for now), but I’m glad he’s here. Now we just need a Pluto to finish off the Fab 5.

img_0770All right, let’s talk about the main event now. The train station presented here is just referred to as the Disney Train and Station by Lego, but it’s a replica of the station at Disneyland. As basically the first thing one sees when entering that park, it’s one of the most iconic Disney-related visuals that exists in the real world. And since we already received a Disney World set, this makes quite a bit of sense to be the next release. I initially expected Sleeping Beauty Castle, but since that is so much smaller than Cinderella’s Castle it might not have felt as iconic when compared with that set. This one invites fewer comparisons to Disney World. Yes, Disney World’s Magic Kingdom has a train station as well, but it’s just a slightly different design that’s neither better or worse than what Disneyland has. It’s a bit bigger, but the main difference is the clock tower portion is centered whereas this one is off-center and placed on the right if you’re facing it from the front. I suppose fans hopeful that Cinderella’s Castle meant that one day a Disney World in Lego would be achievable are disappointed, but I don’t mind inter-mingling Disney World and Disneyland sets in my display.

img_0771Like the castle, the station is essentially a façade with an open back. Lego could have set it up on a hinge, but it opted not to. It’s fine and actually makes it easier to place on a shelf or something. I suppose if you have this on a large surface with the track going around the station it might bug you that it doesn’t have a back, but if it did you wouldn’t be able to see the lovely interior. Since the building itself isn’t particularly large, there isn’t nearly as much “fun” inside as there was with the castle, but what’s there looks nice. There’s a ticket counter with a bench in the main section and a luggage scale tucked away as well. There’s a pair of scaled-down replicas of the locomotive and a little lounge on the second floor. The clock tower is the only area on what is basically the third floor. An architect might complain there’s no way for the characters to physically move from floor to floor, but I like that they didn’t cram stairs into this thing. The windows in the hall look nice and I like the red curtains. Having never been inside the actual station, I can’t really attest to the authenticity, but this looks fine. The only thing missing is a bunch of fun easter eggs referencing past Disney films and cartoons like the castle possessed. There’s a cute replica of the Lego Cinderella’s Castle and box for the third floor and a pink umbrella that might be a reference to Mary Poppins, but otherwise I didn’t notice anything obvious.

ck_holiday_legoThe locomotive itself is a replica of the CK Holiday from Disneyland, which itself was based on a replica train Walt Disney owned and drove around his backyard. As the first train constructed for Disneyland, it was an obvious choice. Unfortunately, it doesn’t contain the CK Holiday branding and instead opts for a generic Disney Train. I don’t know why Lego seemed resistant to affirm that this is based off of Disneyland’s train and station, but it’s not a huge deal. The second car is basically just a housing for the motor, while the third car is for park guests and the fourth is the caboose, once again, modeled after the actual train. The passenger car has a nice design where the top flips open for easy access while the caboose has a more luxurious interior. You can fit a lot of minifigures on this thing and I can see some people stocking it with custom minifigures that look like park patrons. Or you could simply just cram it full of some of the previously released Disney figures, especially the ones that are solid stand-ins for Disney cast members in costume.

The build for the train was pretty painless, though the locomotive presents some minor challenge. It’s more that the locomotive is fairly fragile once completed. To make sure it bends on the tracks it has a lot of floating parts such as the rear of the engine. There’s a little piece too underneath the cabin that has a tendency to pop off when handling it which did become annoying. The interior also doesn’t feature any details at all, which surprised me. My guess is the quarters are already tight and there just wasn’t enough room to work with. I think they could have slipped in a few handles or something, but oh well. The top flips up to make it easy to place Mickey or another figure inside and the windows make it easy to see who’s driving.

Past the engine is the coal cart, which also houses the power motor. It’s by far the simplest and quickest build and it does its job. The passenger car is an interesting build as well since it has a very open design. It’s a quick build as well and it’s fairly sturdy which is necessary since you’ll be inserting many figures into this car. The caboose is the longest build, but it’s also pretty simple. It has a closed design with one side being removable to insert characters. The only thing holding that side on is essentially two bricks, one on each end of the marquee, making it both easily accessible and hidden. I do enjoy the interior of this car, which creates a dilemma as I’m torn on how to display this one. Any figure you place in here with the panel in place probably won’t be readily visible to anyone looking at the train. At this point, I have so many Mickey and Minnie figures though so maybe I’ll just stash some in there for display.

Easily, the largest shortcoming for the train in both the build and display is related to stickers. I hate stickers, and this set is loaded with them. The train in particular has a lot of small stickers that are challenging to place. The caboose, for instance, has the Disney Railroad label broken up across three stickers which is practically torture. It should be a rule for Lego that any set over $250, especially one like this aiming to be more of a display piece than toy, opt for as many printed pieces as possible, but evidently Lego disagrees.

img_0769The set comes with enough track to make an oval of modest length. It’s essentially large enough to comfortably go around the station, but if you want to ring a Christmas tree or something you’ll need to buy more. Getting the train lined up is a little tricky, but not frustrating for an adult. Connecting the device to the app (I did via an iPhone) is also really simple and I had zero issues there. The train moves at a nice clip and I did not have any derailments. It can go forward and in reverse and there’s some sound effects as well. I don’t know if this is necessarily an improvement over the old setup, but it does work as intended. My only fear would be in a decade will this app still function? Lego does sell remotes, though that will obviously set you back further.

The build for the station is the longest part of the set and composes it’s own much thicker book. It’s a methodical build, and while some may resent the redundancy of constructing a brick building, I tend to find my Zen in these things. The instructions break up the construction of the outer walls reasonably well by mixing in other tasks before returning to it. By far, the most interesting part of the finished product is the metalwork on the roof. To simulate wrought iron, Lego went with black handcuffs. Admittedly, it looks a bit odd during the build since it’s hard to ignore the fact that the pieces are handcuffs, but once complete it looks pretty nice. I’ve seen other reviewers praise this creativity and probably an equal amount criticize it. Lego could have created a unique piece to do the job, but this does work so I can’t really fault the company for going in this direction.

img_0787

I hate these stickers.

Like the train, the station contains numerous stickers. In general, they aren’t as bad as the train since many are just for signs on the wall, but they’re still frustrating in places. In particular, the carpet on the second floor is comprised of three pieces and three stickers. The only way to not have gaps in the carpet is to lay the pieces and then place the stickers over them ignoring where the actual pieces begin and end. The instructions would have you do the opposite, but this gives you brown gaps in the image which looks stupid. From an aesthetic standpoint, that one part is my biggest peeve with the set.

The rest of the interior is plenty fun to both build and look at. In particular are the little model trains which consist of a clever build on their own. They don’t really resemble a train until completed which leads to a “Eureka!” moment. Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot to do with the figures once done. You can cram one behind the counter and there’s a bench and chair, but that’s about it. Both seats also lack pegs so the characters just rest on them and will flail around if you move the set. The finished station also surprised me with its size. While it is certainly small compared to the castle, it stands just over a foot in height when done. Add those flagpoles and the set ends up reaching roughly 16″. This has created some challenge for me as the places in my home I had earmarked for this thing have proven too small. Right now it’s on a hutch, but I think I may end up making some shelves and displaying it that way.

Ultimately, I think this is a set that will please Disney fans who purchase it. My initial criticism of the price of the set still stands and had I purchased this at that MSRP I probably would be less enthused by it. As a $230 set, it’s far more palatable. It’s more of a display piece than toy as the station doesn’t do much or present many opportunities for play. It looks the part though and will bring as much class to your display as any Lego can. The train though is about as fun as any other toy train. My kids ask to play with it and I oblige despite the anxiety that creates. If I didn’t already have a toy monorail to ring my Christmas tree I’d probably be in the market for more track to do the same with this.

img_0775

Mickey pondering if we may see a Disney World version someday.

This set also naturally lends me to wonder what’s next for Lego and Disney. Considering all of the time that elapsed between the castle and this set, I am certainly not holding my breath or even crafting any expectations on what’s to come. The existence of this probably makes some hope for a Disney World version, but I don’t see Lego double-dipping on trains, but it probably would be cost-effective for the company so never say never. I do wonder if Lego has any appetite for a monorail set, but that doesn’t have an obvious companion like the train station to go with it as the monorail platforms are fairly boring, aside from the ones attached to hotels. Does Lego want to create a replica of Disney’s Contemporary Resort? Probably not. I’ll continue to hold out hope for fun, attraction-based, sets. My ultimate dream would be Spaceship Earth, but numerous others would be fun as well. If this is it though, that won’t leave me too defeated. Just at least give me a Pluto, Lego! He’s such a good boy and sorely missed.

 


Take My Money, Hasbro, Give Me X-Men Animated Series Legends!

 

x-men animated group shot

Let’s talk some X-Men!

It’s been probably 13 or 14 years since I’ve purchased a Marvel-branded action figure. This is somewhat shocking to me because from the age of 7 to around 25 I spent who knows how much money on Marvel action figures. I was there for the inaugural Toy Biz line of Marvel Superheroes and X-Men action figures and I continued buying Toy Biz figures well past the age of when it was considered “appropriate” by my peers. And even after I stopped actually playing with my toys I still kept them on display in my room. Two pieces of old countertop on milk crates served as my makeshift shelves. Good guys on one side, bad guys on the other. As characters changed allegiance in the comics, so did their placement on my shelf. Aside from that, I didn’t like to mess with them and the dust would grow thicker and thicker and probably contributed to my constant sneezing. I didn’t care though, because I really loved my toys.

When action figures grew up with me I grew extremely excited. There were a few dedicated collector lines, most memorably one based on the Onslaught mini series, but things really changed with Marvel Legends. I was a bit tepid at first with them, mostly due to the absence of X-Men, but eventually I got into it. I started with just a figure here and there, and soon enough I found myself buying entire waves. I also added the occasional Diamond Select figure which at the time prioritized sculpt over articulation making some of the toys little more than glorified statues. I even got into Mini Mates for a period, since they initially focused on the Ultimate X-Men which was a comic I grew attached to pretty quickly.

Eventually, I stopped collecting. Part of that coincided with the dissolving of Toy Biz by Marvel which chose to instead license its properties to Hasbro. Those first few Hasbro waves weren’t very strong, and with the build-a-figure shrinking down to more normal proportions it failed to really motivate me. I think the last wave I bought to completion was whichever one featured The Blob. And even with that, I think I had to buy some figures based on X-Men: The Last Stand which did not sit well with me. That also happened to coincide with me moving out on my own trading the confines of my old bedroom for a small apartment. I didn’t want to have to lug a bunch of toys around with me every time I moved, and once I got settled into my own home that I purchased the itch had passed. I had moved onto other hobbies and comics just didn’t appeal to me like they once did. Sure, there have been a few figures over the years that tempted me, but the rising cost in standard toys makes it pretty easy to just focus on the things that really bring me joy.

That could change though, and if Hasbro wanted me back (and who wouldn’t?) there is one thing the company could do that would guarantee it many of my dollars and it has to do with my favorite show as a child:  X-Men.

xmen three pack

This recent action figure three-pack is what put my brain into this mode. These almost work as animated versions, but they’re different just enough to not be perfect. And I’m not just referring to Wolverine’s bone claws.

Nostalgia currently has me hooked via NECA’s line of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys based on the old cartoon series. That show may not be particularly good, but I loved it as a kid and it’s something I can’t let go of. Similarly, I have a huge amount of affection still for X-Men. That show was my life for a few years and unlike TMNT, the show is still watchable today even if it doesn’t hold up as well as Batman or possibly even Gargoyles. And I know I am not alone. There is a lot of love out there for that show and that has been preyed upon via action figures based on the costume designs of the Jim Lee era X-Men from the comics. There was a recently announced three-pack featuring Wolverine, Jean Grey, and Cyclops which is what really got my juices flowing. Those characters bare a strong resemblance to their animated counterparts, but the figures are also clearly aiming to capture the look of the comics and not a cartoon.

What gives me hope that such a line could work is because animated versions of these characters are not far off what is already out there. Take your standard Wolverine action figure, for instance. To make him better resemble the cartoon, Hasbro basically just needs to reduce detail. No stubble on his face, not much hair on the arms, and less muscle definition. DC has done a great job bringing Batman: The Animated Series to plastic form in terms of aesthetics, so why not do the same, Hasbro?

Because I’m such a generous guy, I’m even going to provide a road map for Hasbro. I envision six figures per wave with a build-a-figure bringing the total to seven. Adhering to modern times, the extra buildable figure is not some titanic character, but something closer to a standard sized figure. It would be a good fit for those figures that would need to be 7 or 8 inches as opposed to 5-6, which is what I imagine most figures would fall into. They could be done, and really should be, in scale with Marvel Legends and I would prioritize characters from the first two seasons. If the line’s a success, then sure go for more. If the series happened and worked out as outlined below, then I would definitely buy every figure and really annoy my wife as I hunted for more space to display them.

Series 1

  • Wolverine
  • Cyclops
  • Rogue
  • Morph
  • Mystique
  • Magneto
  • Build-a-Figure:  Sabretooth

This mix would get some fan-favorite good guys out early and also a few villains to pose them against. Wolverine is an obvious must for the first series as he was the most popular character. He should come in his standard uniform and additional hands, some with claws in and some with claws out. A second, unmasked, head would complete the look. Cyclops should also just have his normal look. If a removable flight jacket could be added without harming the sculpt, then all the better, but not necessary. Similar to modern Cyclops figures, he should have a second head with a blast effect and probably an extra set of hands including one with two fingers extended on his right hand to activate his “X” communicator. Morph, on the other hand, should have his flight jacket since he was most often depicted wearing it. He should also have black hair as he did in seasons one and two and an alternate “evil” head. Mystique would need few additional accessories, making her the likely landing spot for a larger piece of the build-a-figure. Magneto would need a helmeted and un-helmeted head to properly capture his long hair. A nice, heavy, fabric cape would also look great, but soft plastic wouldn’t be bad either. Sabretooth, being featured in episode one, makes for a good choice as the first build-a-figure given his size relative to the other characters.

X-Men (FOX) [1992-1997]Shown from left: Wolverine, Morph, Beast

That’s how I want my Wolverine to look, bub.

Series 2

  • Gambit
  • Bishop
  • Storm
  • Cable
  • Pyro
  • Avalanche
  • BAF:  The Blob

Wave Two would be anchored by the next most popular character after Wolverine, Gambit. He’d just need various hands and his bo staff to be authentic. Storm would be the other character from the team, and in the interest of “keeping them wanting,” would be the only other from the main team. Bishop and Cable both played large roles as guest characters and lend themselves well to action figure form. Cable should probably have his season two look which featured a metallic left arm, a more common look than the season one version. Bishop should also feature a removable time bracelet to go along with his really big gun. Pyro and Avalanche would serve as the villains with the BAF being their comrade Blob. A desire to assemble Mystique’s troop would hopefully help drive sales.

x-men_L48

Everyone can relax, Gambit is in series two.

Series 3

  • Beast
  • Jean Grey
  • Archangel
  • Civilian Wolverine
  • Graydon Creed
  • Mr. Sinister
  • BAF:  Apocalypse

Series 3 would be the one that nearly completes the main team. Beast, unlike most figures based on the character, should have a cheerful disposition as opposed to an angry one. Jean Grey would need her cartoon-accurate costume, something Toy Biz never delivered on when the show was popular, which was blue and orange as opposed to blue and yellow. She should also probably come with a Cerebro helmet. This would also be a good time for a second Wolverine figure. Since he was so often featured in plain clothes (yellow flannel with a brown jacket), a figure based on that look makes sense. He should have two pairs of clawless hands, ones that look like normal fists and ones that have the steel ports on his hands as he was incorrectly portrayed in season one. Diehard fans of the show, such as myself, really appreciate little details like that. Creed was a big player in season two, and he warrants a figure as a result. Of course, Sinister was the main big, bad, guy of that season and series three feels like a good spot for him. Lastly, Archangel should be included (with a masked head and unmasked head) to pair with the BAF Apocalypse who would be depicted in his animated purple and blue color scheme.

apocalypse cartoon

I don’t know why they made him purple, but the toy better follow in the same footsteps!

Series 4

  • Jubilee
  • Colossus
  • Omega Red
  • Forge
  • Civilian Cyclops
  • Professor X
  • BAF: Juggernaut

Series 4 would finish the main squad by including Jubilee and Professor X. Xavier would be the tough one to include as he would need his hover chair. Recently, Hasbro did a Professor X that I think retails for more than a standard Legend. The company could save money by retooling it and if it has to retail for more then so be it. Colossus guested a couple of times and is deserving of a figure himself. He should be clad in his blue pants and white tank top to match his appearance in the show. If a second, non-transformed, upper torso could be done then that would be really neat. Omega Red is a villain with a great, 90s, design, and even though he’s a bit bigger than other characters, I don’t think he’s so large that he would need to be a BAF. Cyclops had enough non-costumed appearances to be the second main cast member worthy of a civilian look. And Forge had multiple appearances as well. He should come with an alternate head so he could be depicted as main timeline Forge and future Forge. The Juggernaut is the last character that serves as an obvious choice for a BAF and would be a sought after one helping to make sure fans buy the entire wave. That only challenge with him is I think he would need two heads as well, one masked and one unmasked, because it’s hard to make a good-looking Juggernaut figure that features a removable helmet.

colossus 92

Colossus proved you didn’t need a real costume to be a hero.

Series 5 and 6

  • Phoenix
  • Gladiator
  • Nightcrawler
  • Dazzler
  • White Queen
  • Sebastian Shaw
  • Henry Gyrich
  • Bolivar Trask
  • Dark Phoenix
  • Banshee
  • Fabian Cortez
  • Empress Lilandra
  • BAF:  Sentinel

I’m grouping these two together because I have a radical idea for the BAF. It would be a sentinel and the pieces spread between both waves. The piece loadout would be like Giant Man from the Toy Biz days which did an oversized wave of Marvel Legends as a Wal-Mart exclusive. This would allow Hasbro to do a bigger figure to do the sentinel justice, because we need a sentinel for such a series since they were so important in that first season. The desire to have a cartoon sentinel would help move some of the less exciting, but still essential, characters contained in this wave. Trask and Gyrich, specifically, would be unsexy figures, but they had such a large presence over the first season that it feels wrong to exclude them. Much of these waves would also be devoted to the Phoenix and Dark Phoenix Sagas. Doing both regular Phoenix and Dark Phoenix would also save Hasbro money since they’d basically be the same figure, different head. For Lilandra, I’d also go with the Empress version of the character as that would just make for a more striking visual. Cortez is the only character from a later season, but I see more opportunity for villains and I just happen to like him more than someone like Erik the Red or D’Ken.

sentinel 92

I don’t see how you could have a toy-line dedicated to the X-Men cartoon and not feature a sentinel somehow.

If the line was a success, it wouldn’t have to end there. I completely ignored Sinister’s Nasty Boys and all of the mutates from the Savage Land. They would really help to bolster the ranks of the villains, but it might be hard to convince people they’re more deserving of plastic than some of the others. An entire Savage Land wave could even be done, though I don’t know if that would be a big seller. Another big bad guy I left out is Mojo who would probably work best as a BAF. If he was done, then he would need to be paired with a Longshot.

As for heroes, there are alternate versions of other characters that could pad things out. Civilian versions of Storm, Rogue, Jean and Jubilee (or her in a flight suit) could be added. Beast and Gambit had other looks as well, but nothing really drastic (though Beast with his Howard the Duck shirt is pretty tempting). Archangel also briefly appeared as Angel in season one and returned in season four sporting his white and blue Angel costume. Wolverine had other looks as well, though my personal favorite would probably be the alternate timeline Wolverine from “One Man’s Worth” which also featured a mohawked Storm. Other guest heroes included Iceman, Psylocke, Alpha Flight and X-Factor so there are certainly more characters to mine from, I’m just not sure any really need a dedicated figure based on their look in the cartoon.

Hasbro missed its chance to honor the cartoon with a line of figures to celebrate the show’s 25th anniversary. There’s still time though to recognize the 30th in 2022 and a toy-line near then would be an appropriate way to do so. If 2022 seems too far away right now it could be timed to end that year. The show is also about to gain new exposure via Disney+ where it and other X-Men cartoons will be available day one. And with Disney acquiring 20th Century Fox it stands to reason that the X-Men will soon join Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe bringing even more of a spotlight to the brand. The time is right, Hasbro, make it happen!

 

 


Funko Pop! Halloween Huey, Dewey, and Louie

There’s a scourge taking over our local record stores, clothing outlets, and gaming boutiques. It comes in mass quantities dominating its chosen territory at the expense of other merch. It swears no allegiance to anyone and will even place mortal enemies side by side as it amasses an army of licensed property of yesterday and today. I am, of course, speaking of Funko Pop! vinyl figurines. Where I once had a local record store, I now see what is practically a dedicated Pop! outlet. Gamestop devotes considerable shelf space to them and they even show up in drug stores. It’s hard to find a licensed property that isn’t in Pop! form these days and since they keep on coming it leads me to believe they’ll be around for some time to come.

And considering the brand’s scope, it’s obvious people are into these things. Funko sells special cases to keep your Pop! mint-in-box and I do see people get legitimately excited for new releases, even though every time I’m at a store that features these things prominently I rarely see someone actually pick one up and head for the register. I don’t think they’ve reached the level of Beanie Baby popularity from the 90s, but they must be doing well for them to persist.

The source material for today’s subject.

If you’re not familiar with Pop! figurines then you’re probably not human, but I’ll indulge you anyway. They’re essentially little plastic statues that adhere to a standard form. They all feature an oversized, oval, head with a tiny body. They’re either non-articulated or just the head swivels. The eyes are always circles and one color, typically black. Most characters don’t have a mouth, but as the line has persisted I’ve noticed more unique head-sculpts that do indeed feature a mouth. It’s a simple, identifiable, style that can be applied to virtually anything depending on how much effort Funko puts into the sculpt. It seems to work well for cartoon characters, especially anthropomorphic characters, but it’s not universal. For one, I think the ones based on The Simpsons look awful, but I’ve encountered many that look fine. Live-action personalities can also be adapted and they typically turn out all right. It’s a brand, and it’s obviously successful. I would rather purchase a Kid Robot mini-figure, but at least these ones don’t come in blind boxes.

 

When it comes to my own interaction with Funko Pop! I am merely a casual participant. I wouldn’t even call myself a casual fan or collector, I’ve just somehow managed to end up with some here and there. I used to buy the Frozen ones for my wife as she expressed a fondness for them and I’ve picked up other Disney ones here and there. I currently have a Remy from Ratatouille in my kitchen because he looks cute and fits in with the setting. Mostly, they end up being the occasional thing I’ll buy for my desk at work, but I’ve mostly reached my limit there. I don’t seek out any particular license, it’s more just a case-by-case thing where if I really like how something turned out then I may buy it. That’s how I ended up with Rocko, Scrooge McDuck, and Stimpy. Rocko in particular works well in this style, and I liked the personality on display of the other two. I considered getting Ren to pair with Stimpy, but I just didn’t like how he turned out. Normally I can’t leave a character all by itself, especially from a famous duo, but with Pop! I just don’t have much of a collector’s impulse.

 

What I do have a weakness for though is Donald Duck, especially limited merchandise based on him or one of his cartoons. I am especially fond of the classic shorts, and there isn’t many better than 1952’s Trick or Treat. That’s the cartoon where Huey, Dewey, and Louie team up with a new character, Witch Hazel, to get back at Donald for refusing to treat on Halloween. In that cartoon, the nephews are depicted in Halloween costumes and they’re quite adorable. The designs are so popular and beloved that they were reprised for the 2017 Mickey Mouse special The Scariest Story Ever.

 

In celebration of that short, Funko did a special release of Huey, Dewey, and Louie in costume as Pop! figurines. This isn’t their first Pop! exposure as they were part of the DuckTales wave as well. They were sold exclusively on Funko’s website as a three pack and I just couldn’t resist.

A little defect on Dewey’s broom.

The trio are each packaged separately in a box under the Mickey Mouse and Friends banner. I wish they had come in a special box together, but that adds cost and companies are usually loathe to do that. It also would have been nice to see some artwork from the sour material, but oh well. Since their costumes are quite different, Funko wasn’t able to do the usual of creating one figure and painting them different colors. The likenesses are quite good, though obviously they’re in that Pop! style. It helps for Louie in particular that his character was pupil-less in the cartoon so the Pop! dead eyes aren’t as noticeable here. The paint applications are mostly clean and I like that they included Louie’s pumpkin on his head. Only Dewey appears to have any defects as he has some slop on his hat and feet plus an odd mark on his broom handle (pictured).

 

Even though Pop! figurines are sold at toy stores, I wouldn’t call these toys. My kids certainly like the aesthetic of the figures and were pretty excited when they came in the mail, but there isn’t anything they can really do with them. These guys are destined for a shelf, and I was even tempted to leave them in their boxes, but found they didn’t display as nice. These will be a part of my annual Halloween décor like the Grinch Pop! figures I own and display at Christmas. One thing I appreciate about these figurines is the packaging is easy to utilize for storage. There’s a plastic, molded, tray inside the box that is easy to remove and reinsert. There’s no tape on the top flap so you don’t even need to bust out a razor blade to get into these things.

I had to include a picture with their Uncle Donald.

If you’re interested in acquiring these yourself, they’re currently for sale on Funko’s website. They’re sold together for $45 plus shipping and taxes which is pretty close to the retail price most Funko figures sell for. If you don’t like Pop! figures then these aren’t going to change your mind. For Pop! figures, I think these are well done and there is enough of the classic design of these characters contained in the figures while conforming them to Funko’s brand. And they’re fun, decorative, seasonal figures that aren’t horribly priced. I do wish they were closer to the 10 dollar range as opposed to 15 as the current price point is basically the maximum Funko can charge without really turning folks off. It’s especially attractive for people who like to acquire merchandise related to the Trick or Treat short, as the Walt Disney Classic Collection of ceramics are way beyond my price range.


Boss Fight Studio Storm Toad Trooper (Bucky O’Hare)

IMG_3148In case you haven’t noticed or do not frequent this blog, I have quite a passion for Christmas. As a kid, my enthusiasm was directed at the holiday thanks in large part to the toys and such. As an adult, that enthusiasm has been transferred more towards the season and the build-up to Christmas. I like to indulge in it, but once Christmas comes and goes it leaves me feeling rather blue. This year though, December 26 had a bright spot when a package from Boss Fight Studio arrived at my doorstep containing the latest from the toy maker’s Bucky O’Hare line – the Storm Toad Trooper.

Boss Fight Studio has designated the Storm Toad Trooper as figure number 7 of its Bucky O’Hare line, but due to the presence of variants in the line, it’s actually sculpt number 4. This gives BFS a release schedule of a tidy 2 new sculpts per year so far. For what is essentially a niche line that’s pretty reasonable. This isn’t Hasbro with a Marvel license, after all. Plus these suckers aren’t exactly cheap, so having time to save up is not a bad thing, especially for an army builder like this one. This figure represents the first villain of the wave, and as it is of the lowly trooper (described as “Laser Fodder” on the card) there is a temptation to buy more than one. Like the more popular Storm Troopers from the Star Wars universe, these bad boys are all bark and no bite. They couldn’t hit a moving target to save their life and are constantly brushed aside by the good guys of the series. And while they strike a mean pose, our heroes are likely only shaking in their boots when encountering a horde of them as opposed to one.

The Storm Toad Trooper stands a tick under 4.5″ and is about as tall as Jenny. He’s noticeably taller than Dead-Eye and Bucky (when ignoring his ears). As far as the source material goes, it’s a bit hard to say as the toads of the cartoon are often hunched over, but it looks about right. These figures, as far as I know, are done to the specifications laid out by series creator Larry Hama who had figures in mind when he originally designed them. The cartoon may have possibly used a slightly different scale, of that I don’t know, but it passes the eyeball test. Because these are to Hama’s designs, the Trooper is different in the area of color scheme with his animated counterpart. Those characters wore a blue suit, but these guys sport a black one like the blister card picture. They’re also more detailed as the show simplified some of the designs a bit for animation, a common practice. Just comparing him with the blister art and he looks pretty damn exact with the only difference I see being a tank on his rifle that isn’t present on the toy’s version.

As the principal grunt of the Toad army, the Storm Toad Trooper has a Hasbro equivalent from the old line. Despite his lowly status, it was one of my favorite toys from that line because of how much I enjoy the design of this character. He’s very expressive and has a fun, toon, look to his mouth and eyes. The dark green helmet that sits flush along the pale green skin of the head is just so pleasing to me. The green and black also works well together, and the gold and pink accents in the belt and eye lens really pop. I love the hot pink of the weapons too as it’s such an of its era touch and I’m happy no one decided to try and update the look with something more real world, or opt for the light blue occasionally used by the cartoon. Speaking purely on aesthetics, he might be my favorite of this line so far and that’s no small praise given the rest.

Moving beyond just the look of the figure reveals so much more. Boss Fight Studio made the helmet removable, which feels like a brave move given how flush it’s supposed to sit on the character, but it looks fantastic. You would have no idea it’s removable just by looking at it, but it’s relatively easy to pop off and it snaps back on in a very satisfying manner. Underneath the helmet is a detailed headsculpt with camouflage-like green spots. There’s a gap in the head for the helmet to snap into, so this isn’t a toy you would display without headgear, but given how well the helmet works I’m not sure if it would have made sense to try and accomplish this in another fashion. He comes with three additional hands to go along with the stock weapon-holding hands. Two open palms and a pointing finger, which feels fairly standard. His weapon outlay is a bit more robust as he comes with a rifle, pistol, and sickle-shaped bayonet. He can hold the bayonet like a weapon, or it can be attached to the rifle by removing a piece of the rifle’s stock, which I suppose could then double as a grenade. The weapons click into his belt nicely, and his hands are all easily removable which is an aspect of these figures that seems to be improving with each new figure. In addition to all of that, he also has a second head, which is a first for this line as the previous figures just had swappable face plates. The second head sports a different expression, though both could be described as angry and aggressive. There’s also a hat he can wear instead of the helmet.

The articulation and build quality is what consumers have come to expect from this line and Boss Fight Studio in general. All of the joints are affixed to plastic ball joints which make posing easy. The ball joints also practically ensure you won’t accidentally break your figure when posing, as they’ll simply pop off if too much force is placed upon them. I found this figure to be pretty free and easy right out of the box, which was nice as both Bucky and the standard version of Dead-Eye were not for me and required a breaking-in period. The odd shape of the shoulder “pads” this figure sports make his arm movements a bit more restricted than the other figures, but I haven’t found it really inhibitive. The legs have a bit less motion at the hips when compared with the others, but this guy’s gigantic feet still allow for some different posing options in spite of that as he’s so easy to stand.

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The second head didn’t like the helmet.

Nothing is perfect though, and I did find a few shortcomings with the Storm Toad Trooper, though nothing that would cause me to reconsider my purchasing decision for even a moment. For one, his rifle is oddly shaped and difficult to pose. I wish it had a handle behind the trigger, but this is how the gun was also supposed to look. I had to work at it a bit to get it to look okay, but I think the figure actually looks better with the pistol in hand instead and the rifle affixed to his back. The second head also gave me some trouble. I was never able to get the helmet to seat on it properly. It’s possible if I hit it with a hairdryer I’d have more success, but it wasn’t something I tried. The hat is also tough to get on as it doesn’t really click-in nicely like the helmet. With some effort though, I did get it to sit properly on the second head. As long as it fits on one I’m happy.

Like the other figures in this line, the Storm Toad Trooper retails for about $35. Knowing fans were likely going to want more, Boss Fight Studio offered an “army builder” two-pack for $65. It doesn’t feature any different packaging or anything (which I should add, the default packaging is awesome and resealable, a strong point for this line), it’s just an order for two figures, but the 5 dollar savings is a nice gesture on their part and it prompted me to buy two for myself. The inclusion of the hat and second head made it an easy call as it’s possible to display both figures I acquired while having them look different. I’ll stay at two for now, but I expect re-paints to come along eventually which could tempt me further. An obvious re-paint would be to make the figure blue and yellow to better reflect the cartoon while the Bucky O’Hare arcade game contained different color variations that would be more drastic and possibly more eye-catching. The animated series also featured the characters Frix and Frax, a pair of twins that wore Storm Toad Trooper uniforms but with an admiral-styled hat instead of a helmet. Such a variant would be more costly for BFS as it would require new heads, but it would be another opportunity for a two-pack as fans would want a figure for Frix and one for Frax. It’s likely something they’ve considered or will consider, though I don’t know if I would go so far as to say it’s likely.

The Storm Toad Trooper is an excellent addition to Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line. He looks great among the other figures and the addition of the hat and second head make buying two feel like a necessity. The build quality is excellent, and just like the other three figures it’s easy to make a case for this being the best one yet. I look forward to seeing what’s to follow for this figure in the form of variants and re-paints, as you know there’s at least one to follow. As for the line itself, Boss Fight Studio has already announced that the next figure will be Bruiser and he’ll be going up for pre-order in January. He’ll be the first figure to really bust the mold on this line as far as size goes as he’s much larger than the other characters. As such, Boss Fight Studio has already announced he’ll retail for more than the others, but the prototype they’ve shown off is something special to behold. They also teased another sculpt is pending approval by Continuity Comics so it looks like the company is on-track to maintain its output of two new sculpts per year and I can’t wait to see what’s next. In the meantime though, I’m quite happy with what I have and I’ll be looking to come up with some fun displays between now and then.


SH Figuarts Kid Goku

IMG_2167I was so happy with my Super Saiyan Vegeta from SH Figuarts that the very next day I purchased a second figure:  Kid Goku. Now I’ve mentioned more than once here that I prefer Dragon Ball to Dragon Ball Z. It’s just a tighter and more fun series with better action sequences. The characters become so overpowered in Dragon Ball Z that the fight scenes became a series of dashing lines as characters move faster than sight and lots and lots of posturing. Dragon Ball has some of that too, but not nearly as much. And shining like a beacon through out it is young Goku. His ignorance of virtually all of society is what drives much of the show’s humor (as well as the perversions of one Master Roshi) and it’s a personality trait that suits the youthful version of our hero better than the adult version. This isn’t to say the adult Goku of DBZ isn’t charming, he’s just less believable.

I initially bought Vegeta instead of Goku for the simple fact that he was five dollars cheaper. I assume he runs a little less because Goku comes with more accessories. His little box is packed to the gills with extra hands, face plates, and power poles and even boasts a Flying Nimbus with an extravagant action stand. A stand is what’s really missing from the Vegeta figure and seems like something that should be included for all of the flying characters so I’m happy to see it here. So while Goku is certainly smaller than Vegeta, I’d wager this set has more plastic in it (and that Nimbus is quite dense) than most of the SHF figures.

For this figure, Kid Goku comes depicted in his orange gi that he first started wearing following his training with Master Roshi. Prior to that he sported a blue attire, and while I would have probably preferred that to the orange one, it’s not really a big deal to me. Goku is about 4″ tall from head to toe and nearly 5″ when you factor in his hair. Height-wise, he seems to be pretty much in scale with Vegeta, though the proportions aren’t quite perfect with Goku being a little chunky. Like most of the kids in Dragon Ball, he has an oversized head which also looks a little funny next to Vegeta, though in all honesty Vegeta’s head could probably have been a little bigger upon reflection. Either way, Goku feels like he’s at about the right size and I’m more curious to see how he compares with the upcoming Master Roshi when that drops.

Young Goku has tremendous articulation, which is to be expected of any toy in this line. The giant melon atop his shoulders doesn’t appear to hinder his ability to stand much too, which is nice. If anything, the smallness of his feet can make it a bit of a challenge to get him to stand in more dynamic poses, but you always have the stand if need be. His articulation is good enough to that he can handle a Kamehameha pose or event sit slightly cross-legged upon the Nimbus. I’ve had a lot of fun moving him around and seeing what I could get out of the stand. The stand has to be partially assembled and it has movable grabbing parts so it’s really easy to fit it onto Goku. I was initially skeptical that it would do the trick, but it’s plenty sturdy and even the additional legs for the Nimbus have no trouble supporting both the weight of the Nimbus and Goku. The stand also isn’t necessarily needed to position Goku on his trusty flying cloud, but it helps and provides peace of mind for standing poses while a seated Goku probably doesn’t need it.

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Look at all this stuff!

Goku has a vast assortment of hands and extra little bits, enough so that it was easier to just take a picture. In addition to his smiling, but determined expression he also has a happy open mouthed face and a giddy, squinty-eyed face. All are very appropriate for Goku and they are all easy to swap in and out. Goku’s bangs pop off and from there the face plate can be removed which does a great job of hiding the seams and keeping things nice and neat. His head pops off as well to allow his power pole sling to be worn (otherwise you won’t get it over his dome) which features the handle of the infamous pole sticking out. For when you want Goku to hold his weapon he has a separate extended pole he can wield, and to make sure everything is consistent, the handle on the holstered pole is removable preserving the illusion of an empty sling. His hands pop off and on just like Vegeta’s, though here I’m a little more concerned about eventual damage. Goku has some skinny arms, and the pegs his hands snap onto are even skinnier. Thus far, I’ve had no issues, but I probably won’t be switching poses too often with this one, at least with hand placement. Goku also has a pair of swappable tails, one that’s more natural and another that’s running up his back for when he’s seated. Rounding things out is Goku’s prized “Grandpa,” the 4 star Dragon Ball, which appears to be in perfect scale with the character and apparently can be fitted onto a base for the Shenlong/Eternal Dragon action figure.

IMG_2180Kid Goku is a damn fine piece of plastic. I think I like him more than the Vegeta figure, but that’s mostly due to my fondness for the IP. He looks great, moves great, and has enough accessories to keep you entertained if you’re the sort that likes to re-pose your display constantly. If you’ve been aching for a good Dragon Ball accurate Goku, it’s hard to imagine a better one than this will come along anytime soon (unless there’s a blue gi repaint, then maybe).


Disney gets the Lego Treatment

maxresdefault-3Lego is one of the most popular toy manufacturers on the planet. They’ve become known for their building block style toys that come in various shapes, sizes, and colors and can be combined to form castles, pirate ships, space crafts, and other fantastic designs. They also have struck gold with their mini figures, simplistic action figures that embody the Lego design and make great pilots, captains, and heroes to pair with the various sets. It used to be you had to buy a construction set to get a figure or two, but for several years now Lego has capitalized on the appeal of its mini figures by releasing them individually in blind bag assortments. Even more recently, Lego has decided to apply a popular license for these blind bag releases. For the past two years, that license was The Simpsons. I was rather fond of this decision and really it got me back into Lego after not buying a set since I was a kid. The Simpsons I feel still had legs and a series three would have been welcomed by me, but Lego has apparently killed that line and decided to go with a new license:  Disney.

Theming a line of figures on the Disney license is almost as broad as creating a line of “People” figures. The Walt Disney Company has been putting out animated and live action films for nearly a century. The company has its own television station full of original programming, plus it owns Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and ABC to name a few. And since Lego already makes Star Wars and Marvel sets, it stands to reason that their Disney themed wave of mini figures could include those franchises if it wanted to. What it really means for Lego is that its first wave of Disney mini figures is an amalgamation of a few popular Disney properties. The first set of 18 Disney figures contains popular Disney creations like Mickey Mouse and Donald, characters from classic animated films like Aladdin and Peter Pan, and also a few Pixar figures to round things out. There are likely fans out there who would have preferred it if Lego stuck to the classic animated films, or maybe even just the Mickey and friends line, but Lego opted to try to please a wide consumer base.

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A motley crew of Disney plastic.

As someone who likes Disney and is married to a woman who LOVES Disney, it meant i had to collect this line with the same vigor as I did with The Simpsons. The wave hit retail on May 1st, though a few lucky individuals probably found them earlier. Like other mini figure waves, this series is released in blind bags so the consumer doesn’t know what they’re buying, unless they’re willing to sit and prod at each bag to feel the figure out. As Lego did with The Simpsons, they’ve chosen to make custom head sculpts for a lot of the Disney characters, basically all of the non-humanoid ones. That means finding Mickey and Minnie when groping a plastic bag is actually pretty easy, same for Sticth as well as the ducks, Donald and Daisy. I actually found the entire wave pretty easy to feel out and went a perfect 18 for 18 with my purchases. Now, if only I had better luck at finding the figures at big box retailers. Stores like Target and Toys R Us sell each figure for 3.99 a piece, but I got stuck hitting up specialty shops that charged 6.99. The things I do for love.

 

Unlike The Simpsons, these Disney figures are not released alongside any standard Lego sets, which is a bummer. Lego does have a line of Disney centric Lego Friends sets which focus on the various princess characters. The Friends line is Lego’s girl line, because apparently girls can’t handle traditional mini figures and bricks, and it’s clear Lego avoided duplicating characters it had already released as part of that line. The set of 18 is mostly free of the princess characters, with the exception of a mermaid Ariel. Alice from Alice in Wonderland is also included, but I don’t think she’s ever been considered a “princess.” From the Mickey and Friends collection, we have Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Daisy. Any Disney fan immediately sees that list and says “Where’s Goofy?!” He’s missing in action here. The four who are included look pretty good though. Donald and Daisy even have a little duck “butt” piece which is pretty funny but also pragmatic. Mickey is kind of dull though as he comes with no unique pieces or accessories. He doesn’t even have a tail! That’s a problem I’ll address later as it’s a recurring problem. Not the tail, but the lack of accessories to go along with these figures.

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Ursula’s got it going on.

From the Disney animated classics group of films, there’s the following:  Alice, Cheshire Cat, Maleficent, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Stitch, Ursula, Ariel, Aladdin, and the Genie. All are done fairly well, though characters like Aladdin and Pan suffer from being a bit too conventional and kind of boring in appearance. Genie suffers a little in that he’s fairly unique, but the efforts made to convey that don’t work so well. Instead of getting a more unique sculpt, he’s actually a standard mini figure with add-on pieces to round out his look. He does have a “ghost” lower body which is kind of neat, but he still doesn’t really look all that much like the Genie from Aladdin. Plus Lego got really cheap with his gold cuffs and only painted half of his wrist. Maleficent is unique in that she doesn’t have legs, but a triangular block for a base to simulate her robes. It works pretty well as a visual, though it’s probably not fun for kids to play with. Ursula is definitely the cream of the crop as she gets a uniquely sculpted lower body that looks great. Ariel does as well, but her tail is rather blocky and unappealing to look at. I get that Lego is supposed to be blocky, but there’s just something off with Ariel’s look.

 

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The piece Lego fanatics have been waiting years for:  duck butt.

Pixar is also featured, albeit in a minor way. There aren’t many Pixar characters that would work as Lego mini figures, but Lego did pick some suitable ones. From Toy Story, there’s Buzz Lightyear and the Alien, and from The Incredibles we have Mr. Incredible and his foe Syndrome. Buzz is the star of the four. While he doesn’t quite look like the Buzz we know and love, the unique pieces included give him a lot of personality. The Alien gets a unique head sculpt and looks fine, while Mr. Incredible and Syndrome look about as good as they can, though they’re a little boring. I don’t dislike any of the four, and actually really like Buzz, but I am left wishing Lego had stuck with more conventional Disney properties and gave Pixar its own wave.

 

With any release like this, it’s easy to zero in on what’s missing. Properties like Pinnochio, Snow White, and The Lion King are synonymous with Disney but not represented here. There’s also a lack of quality accessories that’s kind of disappointing. Mickey comes with none, when he should come with Pluto. He could have come with some clothing type accessories like his sorcerer’s hat, something which is better than nothing. Ursula comes with King Triton’s trident but not his crown, and Ariel comes with an oyster shell with a pink jewel in it. Maybe I need to watch The Little Mermaid again because I don’t remember that amongst her many treasures. I’d rather she come with a fork, I mean, dinglehopper, though a Flounder would have been better. Stitch, Cheshire Cat, and the Alien all come with no accessories, and Aladdin and the Genie both come with the same lamp. Couldn’t Aladdin at least have come with a black Jafar’s lamp? These figures aren’t really all that cheap, the least Lego could do is make sure each character has at least one appropriate accessory to round them out.

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Pan looks kind of bloodthirsty, not that Hook looks like any less of a maniac.

Criticisms aside, I do think this is a pretty solid wave of mini figures and a nice start for the Disney line. I assume there will at least be a wave two and I’m hopeful Lego will explore some Disney sets, especially if they’re based on Disney World or Disneyland. As far as a potential wave 2 is concerned, I would assume some characters are no-brainers. Goofy, Woody, and Jessie seem like locks. Near locks would include Mrs. Incredible, Frozone, and Jafar. If Lego really wants to stick with the films its already touched upon, then characters like King Triton and the Queen of Hearts certainly have a shot as well. I’m hopeful that Pinnochio and Jiminy Cricket get a look, and a Beast and Gaston would be pretty awesome. It’ll probably be nearly a year before we know what’s to come, but until then it will be fun to speculate.

UPDATE:  Well it took Lego a few months to unveil it, they did indeed confirm a Lego version of Disney World’s iconic Cinderella Castle is coming this September. It will retail for $350 (ouch!) and total over 4,000 pieces and come bundled with 5 mini figures. Making her traditional Lego debut will be Tinker Belle and she’s joined by a tuxedo-clad Mickey, a red polka-dot version of Minnie, a pink version of Daisy, and Donald, who appears to be identical to his previously released figure. It looks pretty slick, and it’s hard to argue with the character choices. The castle interior looks like it will be full of easter eggs, and possibly hints for future mini figures, and the only initial piece of criticism I could offer is the depth of the castle looks shallow. It likely would have benefitted from a hinged design to make the base at least appear bigger. Aside from that, it’s a nice piece of eye candy and something I’m going to have to buy for my Disney-obsessed wife.LEGO_71040_fi

 


Revisiting The Simpsons as Lego

Lego-The-Simpsons-episodeLast July, I made a post about 2014’s newest addition to the Lego family:  The Simpsons. Two of the world’s most popular brands teamed-up not just for a Lego-themed episode of the iconic television show, but also to bring several of the show’s many characters to life as little three inch plastic toys. The big addition was also the release of The Simpsons’ house in Lego form which covered the bulk of my post.

Well now it’s 2015, and if this Lego fan-blog can be believed, we’ve got a new round of Simpsons Lego merchandise to look forward to in the spring. And considering the snow is piled high outside my home right now, spring can’t come soon enough. I ended that post from last summer wondering about what was to come as it pertained to Lego and The Simpsons. There was the possibility that The Simpsons would be one and done, and had they been, it wouldn’t have been a slight. An entire wave of mini figures was devoted to the brand and The Simpsons house is positively massive by Lego standards. It’s questionable how well a brand that is mostly aimed at older individuals would sell as a toy, especially considering that the show is no longer as popular as it used to be. Truth be told, I have no idea if kids today watch The Simpsons as I did when I was young enough to be interested in Lego as a plaything. Still, I hoped we would see more from Lego concerning The Simpsons because there is so much left untouched as it stands now, and my Simpsons’ house could use some company.

Maggie doesn't have many looks on the show, but this is her most popular aside from her traditional blue onesie.

Maggie doesn’t have many looks on the show, but this is her most popular aside from her traditional blue onesie.

Here’s how 2015 is currently looking: We’ve got another wave of mini-figures on the way and at least one more building set. The lineup for mini-figure wave two is quite appropriate given what came out last year and what would be expected of a second wave. First off, there’s a new version for each member of The Simpsons family. Collectors and fans of the show are probably disappointed by that as we already have two versions for each as it is, but anyone who has ever followed a toyline as a kid or adult knows this is par for the course. Just like every wave of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures needs another version of each turtle, expect future waves of Simpsons figures to contain Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, and Maggie. I was kind of hoping maybe Lego would just include another Homer and Bart, given that they’re the two most popular, but oh well. At least we’re getting Bart as Bartman, a pretty popular version of the character, and while we don’t know what Lisa and Maggie will look like, both are being bundled with one of the family pets, Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II, who really should have been included with the house last year. Homer and Marge are both in their “Sunday best” so I take that to mean Homer’s blue suit and Marge’s long, green dress that the duo often wear to church. It wouldn’t surprise me if Lisa and Maggie are similarly dressed, though I’m kind of hoping we get Maggie in her starfish-like snow suit.

The remaining supporting characters rumored to be a part of wave two are a mix of popular characters and those that pair well with other figures. Martin naturally fits in with Bart, Milhouse and the other kids while Smithers can finally be placed alongside Mr. Burns. Groundskeeper Willie and Comic Book Guy are fan favorites and it’s nice to see the retired Edna Krabappel included as well. Some notable omissions though are still present. It’s nice to have Edna, but it would be better if we had a Principal Skinner to pair her with. Milhouse as Fall Out Boy is likely included to pair with Bartman, even though it doesn’t make much sense from the perspective of the show and it just makes me want a Radioactive Man (Rainier Wolfcastle) as well. Dr. Hibbert and Professor Frink have been around awhile, so I’m not disappointed to see them included but I personally would prefer Lenny and Carl. There are images of a head mold for the infamous criminal Snake floating around the internet and he is noticeably absent from the list for wave two. My guess is he is being bundled with the Kwik-E-Mart set which will probably also contain another version of Apu, or better yet, Sanjay or Manjula. I’m curious if they’ll sneak another version of one of the Simpsons into the set as well, maybe a version of Homer as a Kwik-E-Mart clerk.

Which brings me to the second part of this post: what I want going forward! We know we’re getting a Kwik-E-Mart which is both logical and welcomed, but we don’t have confirmation for anything else. So here’s a small list of ways Lego could bring Springfield to life (as lifeless plastic):

That's a pretty extreme reaction to Lego's choice to bypass you, Moe.

That’s a pretty extreme reaction to Lego’s choice to bypass you, Moe.

1. Moe’s Tavern: Let’s get this one out of the way upfront. I want it. You want it. Anyone who has any interest in Lego versions of Springfield wants it, but isn’t going to get it. Lego has a pretty strict policy against alcohol and certain forms of violence, and a Lego version of Springfield’s most famous dive is probably out of the question. I’m hopeful that Lego could compromise and give us mini-figures of Moe and his number one patron, Barney, even if they’re in less memorable versions. Moe could be in his casual attire he sometimes wears on the show while Barney could be depicted as either the Plow King or as he was when he got sober. If Lego really wanted to give us Moe’s Tavern while saving face they could always do Moe’s Family Restaurant, which is just Moe’s Tavern from when he decided to try to be more like TGI Friday’s. It’s better than no Moe’s at all!

2. The Android’s Dungeon:  I mentioned this one last year, mostly because it just makes so much sense given the market Lego is courting with The Simpsons. The Android’s Dungeon is the infamous comic book shop run by Jeff, aka: Comic Book Guy. It played a prominent role in the Lego episode of the show and would be a natural set to include a Radioactive Man to pair with Fall Out Boy. Lego could also bundle it with Homer as Angry Dad when he came to resemble the Incredible Hulk or versions of Bart and Lisa from the Halloween special where they became superheroes. I’m actually surprised this set hasn’t already been announced.

These are definitely going to be on display in my house come Christmas time. If I can wait that long.

These are definitely going to be on display in my house come Christmas time. If I can wait that long.

3. Springfield Elementary:  When Department 56, a company known for crafting ceramic Christmas Villages, partnered with The Simpsons last year to do a series of Simpsons inspired ceramics it selected The Simpsons house, the Kwik-E-Mart, and Springfield Elementary to focus on. Lego should do the same. The school would probably end up out of scale when placed beside 742 Evergreen Terrace, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. As long as it includes a classroom (complete with chalkboard gag), cafeteria, and Principal’s office I’ll be happy. It would pair extremely well with the children of Springfield already released as well as Groundskeeper Willie and Edna. Skinner could also be included along with Lunch Lady Doris and Superintendent Chalmers. Willie’s tractor and shed could be a part of the package and Lego could even include some of the students who have yet to be released. There could be a school bus with Otto. There are so many possibilities! Like the already released home for The Simpsons, this would be an expensive set but one I’d be willing to invest in.

4. Krusty Burger:  We already have a Krusty, so why not the fast food restaurant that bares his image? Krusty Burger would be an attractive piece and would fit in with the Kwik-E-Mart as a smallish-scaled release. It could include another version of Krusty, maybe Sideshow Mel, as well as Mr. Teeny and everyone’s favorite local teenager, Jeremy, the squeaky-voiced teen! If we need to toss-in another member of The Simpsons family, how about an obese Homer?

It sells itself.

It sells itself.

5. Vehicle sets:  New buildings are nice, and probably preferred, but if Lego wanted to do cheaper sets they could always turn to vehicles. One fans would be sure to eat up is Homer as Mr. Plow, one of the show’s most famous episodes. Naturally, that would pair well with Barney’s Plow King. A police cruiser for Wiggum that includes Eddie and Lou seems plausible. The Homer, with Herb Powell, would certainly be an interesting vehicle to behold. Any of Burns’ vehicles or the family’s station wagon would also make sense. If it can’t be included with Springfield Elementary, then Otto’s bus would also be a good one and would be another way to introduce more children of Springfield. Sadly, we probably would never get a Duff Blimp given the previously mentioned alcohol policy, but a man can dream!

There are countless other sets that would be welcomed but didn’t crack my top five. Ned’s house would make sense given it sits right next to The Simpsons’ and we’ve seen the interior of it many times on the the show. Something incorporating the Nuclear Power Plant would make sense, even if it’s just Homer’s control deck or Burns’ office. Burns’ mansion would also be interesting, complete with hounds, and a version of Lard Lad Donuts would fit in nicely with the other smaller builders I proposed. It’s probably unlikely that Lego supports The Simpsons line long enough for even half of these to get produced, but as long as it continues to sell well, Lego will likely keep putting out stuff. If you liked last year’s offerings and if the Kwik-E-Mart turns out well, let Lego know with your dollar that you want to see more of the many locations around Springfield!


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