Category Archives: toys

Hot Wheels Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon

 

img_4586I’ve mentioned on many occasions in my toy reviews that action figures were my first love. That’s not entirely true, as before those came into my life there were cars. My dad was always into cars, so when I came along he made sure I had a bunch of them. I had Hot Wheels, Matchbox, and plenty of Tonka. I liked them quite a bit. My favorite was some black car of unknown make. I liked it best because the rear of the car featured a molding that, to me, resembled the exhaust on the Batmobile from the Adam West show. I don’t know how close it came to actually resembling that, or if my little brain just wanted it to, but it was enough. I’d eventually get a proper Batmobile when merchandise from the 89 movie started arriving, which was probably around the time I ditched the cars for good.

Despite my dad’s best efforts, I never became a car person. It was all super heroes following that. He’s given it another try with my own son, and it’s not looking good. My nephew is still into cars, so maybe that will be his gear head. Who knows? I tried helping him out a bit myself as I’ve bought a lot of Hot Wheels for my son and daughter. When Toys R Us was still a thing, it was an easy task to leave the store with a new one since they’re so inexpensive. Prior to my son coming along, I have no idea when I last bought a Hot Wheels product. As for the last one bought for me? That’s almost impossible a task to figure out. It may have even been that Batmobile. At least until now.

 

Mattel has a history of doing exclusives for San Diego Comic Con, and this year was no exception. In addition to a brand new Batmobile, they did a first:  The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Party Wagon, or Turtle Van for short. This nifty little piece of diecast is based on the classic Turtle Van from the old cartoon with an obvious nod to the toy counterpart from Playmates. It comes in a standard box with some modern artwork on it, and within that box is a cylindrical “sewer pipe” box with the actual toy sits inside. When you remove the slipcase on that you’re met with this attractive window box display. Inside is the vehicle and around behind it is a city backdrop with villains Shredder, Krang, Bebop, and Rocksteady. Interestingly, Bebop and Rocksteady look to be based on concept art from Playmates, specifically the mutating figures toy line as Rocksteady has his helmet and green jacket and Bebop his red coat. They almost look to be celebrating the presence of the Turtle Van, which is a bit amusing, but it’s a nice touch to see them featured.

 

The underside of this display features these little plastic tabs that can easily be bent to allow the base to slide out. Once done you have access to the toy inside, which sits on a black pedestal with an ooze covered manhole beneath it. The van is screwed down to this base, and if you want to remove it you need to cut away at the label on the underside. Mattel almost made this packaging tamper-friendly, but this label is glued down so if you want to free your van you’ll have to mangle the packaging a bit. I was going to, but opted not to as I’m just going to display it in the box anyway and I don’t feel like I need to roll this thing around to get the full experience. If you do remove it from the packaging there is a disclaimer on the packaging that it’s not compatible with playsets, not that it would be a good idea to go drop this thing into your Criss-Cross-Crash set even if it were.

 

The Turtle Van itself is quite an attractive little piece. Like most Hot Wheels products, it’s done up in diecast metal. The only plastic parts are the fin on the roof, the canons, and the swinging door. There’s a transparent elastic on that door to keep it open for display, but if you were to remove it then you would find it closes pretty easily. It does look a touch off because of the colored plastic on that door piece, but from a distance you likely wouldn’t notice. The wheels appear to be rubber coated, or all rubber, which is pretty cool. The logo on the front of the van is obviously the modern logo and I do kind of wish it was the classic one, but it’s no big deal since they’re so similar. The fin is unpainted, which makes it toon accurate though I’m torn on if I wish there was another logo or something there as well for an added splash of color. The top does not open like the Playmates toy, in case you were wondering.

 

You’ve likely noticed one other cool addition to this vehicle, or rather four. Each of the four turtles is represented in plastic form. Mikey is seated on that swing out door behind a laser turret while Donatello looks on from inside the van. Behind the wheel is Raph, and beside him is Leo. These little guys look pretty great, though Mattel was apparently reluctant to paint them up in greater detail. If you look closely you’ll see they have sculpted belts and pads that were left unpainted. Perhaps a confident collector would add some additional paint to these guys, but I’m not such a collector.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I am not a Hot Wheels collector, but when I saw images for this thing I had to have it. My love for the Turtles combined with just how well this turned out made it hard to resist. Unfortunately, it was a San Diego 2019 Comic Con exclusive and was only available to those attending the show. Leftover stock sometimes goes up for sale after the event, but I never caught wind of anything like that happening with this set this year so I had to turn to eBay. The MSRP on this was about 20 bucks, but obviously I had to pay more. It’s definitely worth the $20 Mattel pegged it at, and depending on your level of fandom it may be worth more than that. I’m happy to have this one on my shelf as part of my TMNT collection. And if it seems like something that might interest you, then give it a look.

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“Umm, Donnie, how are we going to fit in there?”

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NECA San Diego Comic Con The Capture of Splinter Action Figure Set (TMNT)

 

img_4504.jpgOver the years, various toy companies have given their take on the venerable Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And no company has done that more often than Playmates, holders of the master toy license from back in the late 1980s when the property made the leap from print to world-wide phenomenon. I have no idea how many iterations of Leonardo or Raphael that company has made over the years, but it wouldn’t shock me if the number is over 100. For whatever reason though, when it came to the biggest foe the Turtles faced Playmates often came up short.

The Shredder was the villain in the debut comic and naturally he was chosen as the main villain for the cartoon series. As a result, he was one of the four villains in the debuting toy line. That Shredder left something to be desired. Few of those toys resembled the cartoon, but Shredder was particularly off. He had a blue helmet with a purple mask that appeared to reference a cloth material in the sculpt. He had his various spiked pads and a piece of purple cloth that served more like a gi than an a cape (most of my friends ditched the belt and opted to display him as a shirtless, caped, villain). Worst of all, he had this weird crouching pose that made him so hard to stand. It used to drive five-year-old me crazy that I couldn’t get him to stand or get him to properly wield a sword or something.

The toy was bad, but surely a better one would follow. Right? Eh, not really. There was a Super Shredder toy that became my favorite Shredder toy, though he was comically out of scale when compared with the other figures. He also wasn’t exactly like the Shredder I wanted. There was a wacky-action Shredder and a Toon Shredder, who was just a cartoon-accurate repaint of the original figure. Arguably, a good Playmates Shredder didn’t arrive until the 2003 cartoon series, long past the point at which I cared about the old cartoon.

 

When Playmates decided to make figures based on the film version of the Turtles, it oddly chose to essentially skip the first film. Maybe the company was unsure of how successful the pivot to live-action would be, but there were no movie tie-in toys for that film, which is really surprising in retrospect. The sequel came quick though just a year later and for that Playmates did make figures. Shredder looks pretty neat in the first film, and while he was changed for the second, it wasn’t a drastic change. Basically, he wore purple instead of red and the edges of his helmet were now serrated like a sawblade. Playmates opted against doing a figure though and instead just made a Super Shredder. Opportunity wasted.

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I need more shelf space.

It took almost 30 years, but NECA has delivered where Playmates failed. Earlier this year, the company released a quarter-scale version of Shredder from the first movie. I want it, and it looks awesome, but I made the painful decision to take a pass. I was partly able to do so because I knew this set was on the way. For San Diego Comic Con, NECA delivered another set of action figures based on the 1990 film. Last year it was the Turtles, and this year it’s Shredder, Splinter, and a pair of Foot Ninja.

I’ve had really good luck with these NECA exclusives over the past couple of years, but I had to sweat this one out a bit. I landed my set on the last day of the presale, having failed the days prior. It arrived just at the end of July as it was shipped after San Diego Comic Con and I’m happy to finally have it in my possession. The box will probably strike people as being understated compared with the past two convention exclusives. Last year’s Turtles set came in a box resembling the original VHS of the film. This one settled for a simple black with the Foot bandana wrapping around it. The inner box has some photos of the set, as well as the actual figures in a window display. It’s a nice piece, it just happens to follow two spectacular looking ones between last year’s VHS box and the prior year’s Archie action figure collector case inspired look.

 

We’ll get to the big guy eventually, but lets not forget that before Shredder there was the Foot Ninja. NECA did a quarter-scale version of this character as well and released it early this year. Unlike Shredder, the Foot Ninja has a Playmates counterpart which was actually one of the better figures Playmates did during that era, save for the fact that he was made green for some reason. A quarter-scale version of this figure was a bold move, and hopefully one that has worked out financially for NECA as he’s what we would call an army-builder in the collector community. You can’t have just one, but at that size and price point few can justify acquiring more than one. In a seven inch scale though, the figure works just fine.

img_4514Just like the Turtles from last year, the Foot Ninja appears to be an almost exact scaled-down version of the larger figure. He looks great, and best of all there’s two! The texture of the costume is so realistic looking that I feel like I’m looking at a still from the film. There’s numerous weapons from the film and even a weapon rack to stack them on. Want to re-enact the nunchaku face-off with Mikey? You can. Maybe you just want to see them smash the floor of April’s apartment with those giant axes? Go for it. The only thing limiting you is your imagination. This figure is expected to get a single card release down the road at retail (Gamestop exclusive) and I imagine there will be lots of people interested in acquiring more and more Foot to pose with their heroes.

img_4515The Foot Ninja is dressed all in black and sculpted with a soft, plastic, material in many places. This helps make him have a really excellent range of motion even with those funny shaped shoulders and such on account of his costume. He’s all plastic, save for a strip of cloth around his waist just above his sculpted belt. At first, I didn’t understand why NECA would include that until I realized it functions as a great way to store weapons on him. And he has a lot of weapons. There are two nunchaku, one with a plastic strap similar to Mikey, and one with a chain linking the two handles. He’s also got a katana, a baton, and the aforementioned axe, plus a pair of sai and a bo staff for good measure. I do not recall any of the Foot wielding sai in the film, but I’m happy to have the extra weapons. The longer weapons can be stored on that included weapon rack, and the smaller ones in the fabric strip on the belt. He also has a pair of gripping hands and a pair of open palms. I have no complaints about this figure, but one obvious shortcoming is in the hand selections. The two Foot by default have punching hands which means they have to share the other two sets. Really, the default hands should have been gripping hands with the pair sharing the fists. If you want one of the ninja to hold a pair of sai, or nunchuks, or even the staff with two hands then that means the other one gets to hold nothing. They also share an extra knot for their bandana, but that doesn’t bother me.

 

Splinter is the lone all-new sculpt in this set. There is no accompanying quarter-scale version and as far as I know there is no planned one. 2020 will mark the film’s 30th anniversary and NECA will surely celebrate that in some fashion, so maybe a quarter-scale Splinter could be a part of that. Anyway, this is a depiction of Splinter from when he was captured by the Foot in the first film. He looks a little worse for ware, and even comes with shackles for you to hang him with. A separate to purchase diorama of that area he was held prisoner would have really made this set perfect, but beggar’s can’t be choosers. Splinter looks solid, with cloth accents used for his rags. He’s done-up all in plastic, in case you expected NECA to do something else with the fur. Because of that, he doesn’t look as picture-perfect as the other figures, but this is still a near spot-on likeness of the character. This battle-damaged version of the character is expected to remain exclusive to this set, so if you want your Splinter tenderized you’ll have to track one of these things down. Otherwise, a standard version is expected to be made available at some point in the future. Presumably his robe will be cleaner (though the guy lives in a sewer so it can’t be too clean) and maybe he’ll have a brighter paint deco. This one is fairly dark, and I do wish some red was added to his fur to warm him up a bit (since he was often under a harsh light in the film). Maybe he’ll also gain some swappable hands as this one just comes with shackles, which can be removed if you wish, but I’m a big baby so I haven’t tried.

 

As mentioned above, Splinter is light on accessories with the shackles being the main feature. They clip around his bicep area and are joined by a chain. He also has a crate to stand on that’s just a printed piece of cardstock. Plastic would have been better, but the figure appears to stand on it just fine without putting much force on it so I don’t think durability will be a major issue. His cloth robe looks great and even has a nice feel to it, almost grimy. There’s a fabric belt around it that’s really long. It kind of stands out too much and I’m tempted to remove it, though I probably won’t as I don’t really mess with the integrity of my toys. That robe hides a surprising amount of articulation as well, so if you want to remove the shackles and go nuts you can. My Splinter’s arms want to stay in that hanging position and I’m reluctant to force them, but I’m pretty sure they can be positioned more naturally (I might just need to remove the shackles). It’s a bit of a shame he can’t hold the nunchaku convincingly, but I’ll probably just display him in chains so it’s not really an issue for me. I don’t have a nice chain-link fence to hang him from, but that weapon rack seems to function as a decent stand-in.

Which brings us to the main event, Shredder himself. This is the figure I have wanted since I was a kid first seeing these characters I loved so much on the big screen. Even more so than the Foot Ninja, he looks like he was ripped from the screen. His magenta outfit has that slight sparkle to it and the helmet looks like it’s actually made out of metal. The faceguard pops off to reveal the scarred visage of Oroku Saki underneath and it’s a quite satisfying and fun accessory to play with. He comes with various extra hands and weapons, including his hidden dagger he tries to take out Splinter with. His weird, shiny, zebra-print, cape is also here and it’s a heavy cloth material that convincingly drapes over the character. It looks great and it really causes a dilemma as to how to pose him on a shelf since he rarely sported that look in the film. I’ve opted for the no-cape look for now, but I might change in my mind in a month or so when I get sick of looking at the current pose I have going on.

 

The body of Shredder appears to be the same as the Foot Ninja. I suppose that’s a bad thing if you wanted your Shredder to be taller than his minions, but otherwise it’s fine as the body sculpt looks excellent. There’s a lot of softer sections of plastic making posing free and easy. His extra parts are also snug against his limbs, but can be manipulated if necessary. Mine needed some adjusting out of the box and at no point did I fear breaking anything. Like the Foot Ninja, he has a strip of fabric across his waist for storing a weapon or two, an obvious necessity for Shredder given the events of the film. He also has his long spear weapon to combat his foes with. He has additional hands as well including a pair of gripping hands and two open palm hands. The material his helmet is made of is soft plastic so getting the faceguard on and off is pretty simple. His face looks amazing and it’s almost a shame to keep it hidden under that faceguard, but he just looks so cool with it on!

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Hang there, until you die!

That’s not to say that Shredder is perfect. He’s almost perfect, but there’s one shortcoming with him and it resides with that helmet. It looks awesome in promotional images, and the texture of it is also well-sculpted, but that soft plastic which makes it easy to slide the faceguard off and on can also bend. Most of the images I’ve seen from consumers all tend to have an issue where the left side (Shredder’s left) curls into the figure or bubbles out. I’ve tried messing with it a bit, and I don’t know if hot water or a hair dryer would help or hurt (the heat might make it curl more). It’s not something I feel like I need to contact NECA over, but it does bother me a bit. Since removing him from the packaging and messing around with him it has improved, so it may settle into the right position eventually. The only other nit I can think to pick with these figures is that the Foot and Shredder don’t have the necessary amount of movement in the shoulders to hold the axes over their head in a swinging motion. That’s minor though, and really the only solution would be additional joints in the front of the shoulders which would harm the aesthetics of the figure. Given the choice between the two, I think NECA got it right.

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Maybe all that hardware’s for making coleslaw?

Overall, this is a really satisfying set that should please Turtle fans out there. If you happened to get one of these and you’re not satisfied with it, I’ll just add that NECA has some of the best customer support you’ll find. I haven’t had to do it, but I’ve encountered people who felt there was a problem with a part of their figure and NECA either replaced the part or the entire figure at no charge, often with no questions asks. It might take a few weeks, but they always deliver and stand by their product. The only real fault I can find with this set is the lack of extra gripping hands for the Foot Ninja, but if I’m really bothered by that I could always try and buy more Foot Ninja when they hit retail. Otherwise, the rest is just nitpicking here and there. At the end of the day, these are some really finely sculpted action figures and it’s hard to imagine anyone being able to top what NECA has done here.

 

The only other major shortcoming many people might add is that this sucker is a convention exclusive and thus, if you don’t have it, you can’t get it unless you’re willing to pay a scalper. The good news is that there’s a high likelihood of these figures all hitting Gamestop either by the end of the year or early next year. NECA all but confirmed that and if I had to guess the only exclusives with this particular set might be the weapon rack and shackles on Splinter and possibly some of the weapons the Foot get to play with. The single-carded Foot Ninja will likely have a full assortment of hands and the extra bandana knot and I’d be surprised if Shredder was changed at all. So if you missed out and you’re real upset about it, just be patient and keep your eyes open as these guys will sell fast once they’re made available. Earlier this year, Gamestop had issues fulfilling all of the pre-orders online for the Turtles so a pro-tip for you is if you have a local Gamestop preorder in store. Everyone I know that did so got their set and it was only the online orders that were cancelled. I don’t go into Gamestop too often, but every time I have I’ve taken a peek to see if they have the Turtles and I’ve never seen them so they’re still selling extremely well.

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Now I will finish what I began with your ear!

As for the future of this line, expect more! Nothing is certain, but Randy Falk at NECA was quick to remind folks during his interview with Pixel Dan that next year marks the 30th anniversary of the first TMNT film. Expect something from the company to mark the occasion. As for what that could be, your guess is as good as mine. NECA also confirmed it will make figures based on the sequel, The Secret of the Ooze. Whether or not those include quarter scale versions is unknown, but I think it’s safe to say if you’re a fan of two prominent adversaries from that picture then you’ll probably be happy, eventually. And of course, NECA is continuing its line of TMNT with cartoon themed figures in two-packs at Target (Bebop and Rocksteady should be showing up this fall) and also video game themed figures at specialty shops. Expect Turtles in Time themed toys, including Slash, to start showing up at those places this fall. Right now may be the best time ever to be a TMNT fan, so start saving!


TROGDOR!! The Board Game

 

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You must scream it when reading aloud.

Today marks a first for The Nostalgia Spot – a board game post. Like probably everyone my age, I grew up playing board games. Most of them were terrible. They were either overly simple, but long to finish, like Candy Land and Shoots & Ladders or they were gimmicky and over in five seconds like Shark Attack and Crossfire. Board games felt like the at-home equivalent of busy work: give one to your kids and forget about them for a half hour or so. Good vacation fodder for when you have nothing to do and also a rainy day activity. Video games largely replaced them for me as I got older, but they were always around.

Not all board games were terrible. It’s tried and true, but Monopoly is fine and my family even experimented with a Monopoly night that might have lasted a few weeks. There were also more aggressive games that asked more of its players. I had an X-Men game that was pretty neat and required you to enter rooms inside the mansion and clear them of bad guys. I don’t remember exactly how it worked, but it was something I enjoyed when I could find someone to play with. Hero Quest was a popular one that was basically Dungeons & Dragons light and took a long time to play. I actually don’t know if I ever finished a game of Hero Quest. The one kid who had it always wanted to be that game’s equivalent of The Dungeon Master, and he was a brutal liar. I think we always lost and couldn’t trust he was playing by the rules so every game just ended with an argument.

Board games seem to be enjoying a quiet renaissance these days. From time to time I notice friends and acquaintances having a game night on social media. I had one such night with some cousins though it was mostly silly games eventually just leading to a Cards Against Humanity setting. I have not tried to get into a more complex board game, and maybe that’s just because I was waiting for the right one.

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Check out all these contents!

Enter Trogdor:  The Burninater. In the early 2000s, homestarrunner.com was a thing. I first encountered it in 2002 when a friend basically camped out in my dorm room at my computer watching the flash animation over and over. The first one that caught my eye was the Strong Bad email that gave rise to Trogdor. It was ludicrous and quite funny, and after that I started keeping up with it as well. It didn’t take long for me to start hearing about it in class or booming from the speakers of another dorm. The site was popular for much of the early part of that decade and Trogdor would even be included in Guitar Hero and Strong Bad also had his own game for the Wii.

The creators of that website, The Brothers Chaps (Mike and Matt), sort of quietly retired the website. They had their fun and moved on, though on occasion a new video will pop-up. The website is still active and the archives can be plundered and merchandize can still be purchased. You can also find most of the videos on YouTube now as well. Last year, the property returned via a Kickstarter campaign. It was for a board game centered around Trogdor, Strong Bad’s dragon invention. Kaizer from CA wrote in asking Strong Bad to draw a dragon, and a legend was born. After first coming up with something that admittedly sucked, Strong Bad stumbled onto Trogdor utilizing techniques such as consummate Vs and the inclusion of a beefy arm. The video then pivoted to a scene of other characters doing their own interpretation of the character. After Strong Bad burns up Strong Sad’s version that may have been superior, the video then unexpectedly goes into a song all about Trogdor burninating the countryside and all of the peasants, which serves as the basis for the new board game.

trogdor instructions

Instructions!

When I saw the Kickstarter last summer, I had to back it. Almost exactly a year to the day, it arrived. The game was super popular and it took almost no time to fulfill the parameters of the Kickstarter campaign. It’s a collaboration between the Brothers Chaps and James Ernest. It’s a cooperative game that can support 1 to 6 players. The players are to aid Trogdor and his mission is to help him burninate the countryside including all of the peasants and their thatched-roof cottages. The game contains lots of fan service, due in part to the Kickstarter goals being exceeded, and if you’re a fan of the characters you’ll probably like what you see here.

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The layout for a hypothetical game scenario.

The game is fairly complicated, but not overwhelming. It’s the type of game where your first play through will be done with the instructions at hand. Your second will go better, and after a few games are under your belt you’ll be off and running. Since it’s cooperative, you’re not competing with fellow players which is a unique approach. I thought maybe there would be folks controlling the peasants or adversaries of Trogdor, but that’s not the case. And it’s in spirit with the original cartoon in which Trogdor and his atrocities are celebrated. We don’t want to oppose Trogdor, but celebrate him!

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Trogdor strikes again!

The game is a board game, but it doesn’t actually have a board. Instead, it contains 25 terrain tiles that are laid out in a 5×5 grid. Each card has an image on one side, and a burninated version on the reverse. Some tiles have special properties, and by going this route it accomplishes two things:  Trogdor can burninate the setting and it can be tracked by flipping the tile, and each game can be slightly different depending on the layout of the tiles. One of the tiles contains a mountain, which Trogdor can hide behind. Two contain a cave that are connected so Trogdor can “warp” across the playing field quickly if desired. Cottages that require burninating are placed on specified tiles, and there are some other special ones. Trogdor always starts in the center.

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The Trog-Meter represents Trogdor’s health at any given time expressed in peasants. That guy in the corner is bad news, he’s The Troghammer.

The game largely occurs with cards. There are no dice. Before the game begins, each player receives a Keeper card which may or may not give them a special ability to exploit on their turn. There are also item cards and action cards. The action cards dictate the movement of the NPCs and provide Trogdor with the action points he has on that turn. Action points can be used to do things like move and burninate. If Trogdor burns a peasant, the action card provides a movement path for the burning peasant. Any tile he touches he burns before he dies, unless he winds up in the lake in which he’s spared. After the turn is done, the NPCs move. There are knights on the board that harm Trogdor if they at any point share a tile with him. There’s also an archer piece that fires in horizontal directions. And once Trogdor is harmed, a super knight called The Troghammer is unleashed to provide additional chaos. The unused peasants are essentially Trogdor’s health. He starts each game with 4 and if he chomps a peasant he gains health. When a peasant dies, it goes to The Void and is removed from play preventing Trogdor from acquiring more health, but also preventing more peasants from entering the game.

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These guys are your enemies. Avoid them at all cost.

When all 25 tiles are burninated, all three cottages set ablaze, and no peasants are on the board the game is over and Trogdor wins. If Trogdor loses all of his health, he gets to rage-quit by going on a rampage with a reasonably high probability of being successful. The game can also end if the players run out of action cards, though I haven’t come close to that scenario in my games. It’s an involved game that’s pretty fun. There’s strategy to employ as one needs to prevent Trogdor from getting hurt, but the limited cards means there’s a de-facto timer on the game too so you can’t play skittish. I haven’t encountered any arguments with fellow players, but I suppose it could get heated in certain settings if some people take things too seriously.

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These are your optional Trogdor pieces. Some possess more majesty than others.

Beyond the game itself, there’s a lot here for people who are fans of Homestar Runner to enjoy. The pieces are either made of plastic or wood, depending on the version of the game you backed. I went for the Wingaling level which was the cheaper one and contains painted wood pieces. In addition to the main pieces needed for the game, there are also bonus Trogdor pieces depicting his other forms. There’s the original “S is for Sucks” Trogdor, Coach Z’s interpretation, and even a piece that just says “DAGRON” with the reverse being Homsar’s Toaster’s Choice. This means that before each game you get to select your preferred version of the now timeless character.

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Hey! I know these guys!

In addition to the game pieces, there are bonus meeples! The meeples are wooden depictions of the Homestar Runner cast so there’s Homestar Runner himself, Strong Bad, The Cheat, Strong Mad, and so on. I think I had to pay extra to get these, though I don’t remember since everything happened so long ago. These have no necessary purpose for the game, I suppose you could substitute knights and such with them if you want, but they’re a fun inclusion and a logical stretch goal for the Kickstarter. They even included a little baggy for the meeples and a suggested game that could be played with them. Given that they’re little painted pieces, I’m reluctant to do much with them as I don’t want the paint to chip, but there’s entertainment value here if you want it.

If you did not back the Kickstarter, then right now your only option appears to be eBay. Some folks are selling their sets there with gross mark-ups. Given the presence of a “Buy It Soon” option on the website it looks like a regular retail version is to come. It probably won’t have the meeples by default, but maybe they’ll be available for purchase as well. You can even sign-up to be alerted when they go on sale. Once they sell out, I don’t know if there’s any plan to make more so you may want to act fast. Should you choose to take the plunge you’ll end up with a fun game that has a great theme. If you’re a fan of the property then you pretty much owe it to yourself to seek this thing out. And if you have a group of friends that still remember this, then all the better as your game crew is ready to go. Now get burninating – Trogdor demands it!

 


Toy Story 4 Happy Meal RV

 

happy meal boxThe Happy Meal toy is one of the lowest common denominators of toys. It’s somewhere above that of a vending machine toy, but maybe not quite as good as the toys at the local pharmacy. It’s the kind of toy that a child is happy to have in the moment, and then a day later it’s at the bottom of a toy box or forgotten in the car. And that is essentially by design. The toy is just a means of attraction, like a cereal box toy, and also is a means of promotion. It gets the attention of a child via a commercial or restaurant signage which in turn gets said child to beg their parents to buy them some delicious, but also terrible, food in order to get this temporary must-have item. And it works, probably too well, which is why the state of California actually banned McDonald’s from including a toy with its Happy Meal (you have to buy the toy separately for a meaningless amount of money) because the feeling was that fast food was a leading contributor to childhood obesity.

Like a lot of things, credit for the Happy Meal is given to some rich white guy, but the idea originated elsewhere. Its roots can be traced to Guatemala where restaurant operator Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño first came up with the concept of creating a meal for kids making it easy for parents to just walk in and order an item for their children. McDonald’s liked the idea so much, that it basically adopted the concept worldwide and thus the Happy Meal was born. It debuted in 1977 and Bob Bernstein is recognized by the company as the creator of the product. It went national in ’79, and that year the first big marketing tie-in was utilized in the form of Star Trek:  The Motion Picture. Kids who received a Happy Meal during this promotion would receive a piece of a comic book strip. In order to see the full story, they had to keep coming back and buying more.

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I may have lost you, but I’ll never forget you, McNugget-O-Saurus.

This concept of having to buy repeated Happy Meals for a larger experience is not one utilized by the company very often. Usually, a Happy Meal is just connected to an external property and cheap toys are made based on that property to promote a movie, TV show, or something else. Occasionally, there is no real outside promotion and McDonald’s just promotes itself. In fact, some of the most well-remembered Happy Meal toys fall into this category. I know when I was a kid, a personal favorite of mine were the transforming meal item toys. Originally, there were food items that transformed into robots. There was no connection to the Transformers officially, but I’m sure that’s where the influence came from. Later the robots were replaced with dinosaurs leading to one of my all-time favorite Happy Meal toys:  The McNugget-O-Saurus! Another popular promotion were the Halloween trick-or-treat pails featuring a pumpkin, ghost, and witch. These pails would reappear several times, and the best version featured a removable piece in the center of the lid to pass the candy through, though all knew these pails were far too small for actual trick-or-treating.

And that’s not to say that the external promotional items weren’t memorable as well. A lot of the times they were just simple, cheap, toys with an action feature that was often repeated. Other times though there was a gimmick that worked a bit better. For some reason, I have strong memories of some Tiny Toons cars that featured a domed portion that contained an action when the car was pushed. I had Buster and in his dome was a mini basketball court and the ball would shoot in the air and sometimes go through the little plastic hoop inside. I don’t know why I remember this particular toy. I know I got it when my mom took me and me alone to McDonald’s, a rarity as often my sister would be included. She must have been at a sleep over or something and my mom wanted to treat me. We got it at my favorite McDonald’s too, a blue-roofed restaurant somewhere near Gloucester, VA that also had a classic car in the dining room (I want to guess it was a Chevy, but can’t recall). We only lived there a short while, and my guess is that McDonald’s is gone and replaced with one of the newer models which is a shame. Another promotion I remember is coincidentally another Warner one that featured a Loony Tunes figurine with snap-on DC super hero costumes. I had the Bugs as Superman and I liked it so much I nearly bought a set a year ago off of eBay, but thought better of it.

I have some positive memories of Happy Meal toys, but like most kids turned adults, I don’t physically own any of those toys. They were disposable, and while I liked them in the moment, I soon forgot about them. I have even fewer memories of competitors Burger King and Wendy’s. They followed suit with kids meals as well, Burger King even had the Burger King Kid’s Club in the 90s with its own cast of characters. I remember BK was the first to land the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles license, but their toys were terrible. When Disney and McDonald’s had a break-up, BK was also there to swoop in leading to some worthwhile attractions. They were actually separate from their kid’s meal though and included things like puppets. I remember two versions based on Toy Story in particular.

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I’m just glad my kids are young enough to not realize they want all 10.

Which brings us to today’s post, Toy Story 4 Happy Meal toys. Ever since Disney and McDonald’s kissed and made up in 2018, the franchise has rolled out several Happy Meal promotions based on a Disney property. They even just went back-to-back with Toy Story 4 and now The Lion King and earlier this year had toys based on The Avengers. As a parent of small kids, I am often asked to go to McDonald’s because, like most kids, they love Happy Meals. McDonald’s is often tempting because it’s cheap, tastes good, and my kids will actually eat it. Most parents likely know the frustration of making a meal only for a picky eater to just poke at it and play with it. Dinner time is not fun, and feeding a kid something they’ll actually eat is often quite tempting. McDonald’s has improved its Happy Meals to a point, but they’re still pretty unhealthy. As such, I rarely give in with my kids maybe averaging one trip per month, but it’s harder when the toys are so attractive.

I have a Disney family. We all love Disney and Pixar too and Toy Story 4 in particular. When I saw the toys I didn’t think much of them, but then I saw what they could do. Individually, they’re unremarkable. Some are even terrible. Most feature a figurine of one of the film’s characters and a base with an action feature of some kind. The first one we received was Forky while we were on a road trip. Forky’s figurine is a good enough likeness that it’s cute, and his base features a dumpster and he’s supposed to get launched into it. I never saw my kid pull it off as he often missed. And poor Forky’s paint application was so cheap that it started to scratch off. Others, like Trixie and Rex, lack a figurine and just imitate a carnival ride and is quite dull. Ducky and Bunny at least feature a roulette wheel that’s a game. It’s a boring game, but at least it does something. By far, the most fun are Buzz and newcomer Duke Kaboom. Buzz just gets launched straight into the air, which is pretty common for a Happy Meal toy, but it’s at least common for a reason. Duke is similar, only he gets launched horizontally off a ramp. The only odd thing about him is that the wheels on his motorcycle aren’t actual wheels. He just glides. Woody and Bo Peep both feature a dull action, but at least the figurines look nice.

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Along the way, I ended up with an assortment of doubles.

All in all, there are ten toys to collect and if you manage to collect them all, like that original Star Trek promotion, you can experience something more. The base pieces from each toy combine to re-create the RV Bonnie and her family travel in during the film. This concept has always intrigued me and as a kid it was also something that felt out of reach. As an adult though I’ve taken advantage of it as a build-a-figure attraction with toy lines like Marvel Legends and even Futurama. It’s a brilliant concept as it can lead to people purchasing a character they may not want, but will help them complete a figure they do want. As a Happy Meal toy, it’s even more frustrating as who goes to McDonald’s enough times in a month to get 10 toys? Plus, each restaurant receives a different allotment of toys so even if you were to walk in intending to just buy the toys outright you’d likely end up disappointed. When I took my kids, all they had was Forky, which was good for my son since that was the one he wanted, but it deprived us of a second piece as my daughter received the same.

We ended up seeing Toy Story 4 two weeks after that visit, which meant another McDonald’s trip. There my kids received separate toys – score! One more visit at the end of the promotion lead to a fourth toy. That was more than enough Happy Meals and an extended McDonald’s break is now needed, but as a toy collector I couldn’t look at these four now discarded toys and not want to see the end goal realized.

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Individually, the toys suck, but at least the figurines look okay. Left to right:  Forky, Bo Peep, Gabby Gabby.

To eBay I went! There I found several listings for complete sets and individual toys. Most sellers wanted somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50 bucks for a set of 10. No thanks. Individually, most were also trying to mark these things up as high as 10 bucks a figure, some yet to factor in shipping! I initially abandoned my pursuit, but on occasion I would get curious and do another search. With the promotion nearly over I was hoping that some who tried to collect a set by simply going to the restaurant would have failed and given up by putting what they had on eBay. I ended up being proved right as I found an auction for 7 distinct pieces, plus numerous doubles. Since there was a secondary promotion with these figures in the form of a contest you had to enter, that may have also contributed to people buying up a bunch of these things in hopes of winning a trip to Disney World or something. Whatever the reason, this person had a bunch of toys and I ended up paying about 10 bucks for the whole lot.

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Don’t forget Woody and Buzz. I do appreciate that the designers seemed to settle on a certain look for these toys they all adhere to. It’s similar to the Disney Infinity look.

The problem with doing so was that I was a figure short. Bo Peep was the one toy that between my own visits and this stranger on eBay’s lot that managed to elude me. I couldn’t let myself come up a figure short, and I paid an eBay price for her. I’m not proud, but in the end at least I didn’t pay 40 bucks to assemble this thing, because had I done so I would have been extremely disappointed.

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Are we sure this thing isn’t a torture device for poor Jessie? At least she’s smiling.

Now, I wasn’t expecting anything spectacular, but I did hope to end up with an interesting visual display to mark the release of Toy Story 4, one that would hopefully prove relatively unique down the road. Most of the toys come with stickers that can be applied. There’s some freedom afforded here as some include window decals that feature a character, and some that are empty. I chose to omit the creepy puppet character, because he’s  both creepy and because he never set foot on the RV in the movie. The outer wheels of the RV are just decals with the real wheels actually found underneath the RV. It can roll, it’s just unconventional in how it does so. The pieces all connect rather easily, the only tricky one is the front piece (#2) that connects the top and bottom. That part is a bit frustrating, but manageable. Forky’s launcher serves as the ladder and can be affixed to the rear of the RV. There are pegs on the top to place figurines, and Jessie’s posts are designed to go in-between piece #2 and the body of the RV.

 

The end result is a mildly attractive piece, but also one that’s a touch fragile. If I turned this over to my kids it would probably fall apart constantly. Or, they would want to take it apart to make use of the individual toys, even though they mostly suck. That’s why I’m glad that eBay lot contained numerous doubles. They have plenty of toys to play with, and Dad has his display piece. The RV would look a lot better with more color. It’s all one, uniform, shade of light gray with only the stickers to really break things up. I generally hate stickers on toys, but I wish McDonald’s had included more to add more color. I suppose I could paint it if I felt that strongly about it, but I’m too scared I would end up with something I disliked ever more if I went that route.

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“Hey dudes, lets turn this thing into a party wagon!”

Not including the Happy Meals I bought my kids, I ended up spending a little over 20 bucks to assemble this thing. If I saw it in a store for 20 bucks would I buy it? Maybe. Probably not for myself, but if my kid wanted it as a present I’d probably be okay at that amount. And then I’d also probably think it’s overpriced depending on how much enjoyment my kid got out of it. It felt like a unique thing to have though, and I do adore my Disney related knick knacks. Now I just need to find a place for it. It’s pretty big, probably around 8″ long, so that won’t be an easy task. I don’t expect this thing to appreciate much though, especially given that prices for that set of Loony Tunes as superheroes I mentioned earlier were pretty reasonable. It should still retain its neatness though, even if one day it just winds up being some toy I hand off to a random kid visiting my house once my own kids age out of traditional toys. Hopefully, McDonald’s has no plans for similar releases as I don’t want to be tempted again by another build-a-set series.


Bring Arts Weltall Action Figure Review

 

img_4425One of my favorite games from my youth is the role-playing game Xenogears. I think I even declared it as my favorite game of all time when I reviewed it here a few years ago. I don’t know if it is my all-time favorite or not, but it’s still right up there because it did a lot of the things well that I enjoy in a game. Especially for a game released in 1998. In case you’re not familiar, Xenogears is a Japanese RPG published by then Squaresoft and released for the PlayStation game console. It was unique at the time because it chose to mostly stick with two-dimensional sprites for its characters, but placed them in a three-dimensional world. If you’re looking for a modern comp, think Octopath Traveler only with more jaggies – a lot more jaggies.

Xenogears told the story of Fei Fong Wong, an orphaned boy in his late teens with no memory of his past living in a quiet village that will not remain quiet for very long. The village ends up becoming a casualty of war, so to speak, as a battle causes a large robot to be deposited there. Fei ends up piloting this robot, referred to as a gear in the game, because he’s called to do so by an unspeakable force and he ends up bringing death and destruction to the village. Ostracized from the community, but in possession of this very lethal gear, Fei ends up getting caught up in something much bigger than he could have ever imagined. He’ll make new friends, encounter new foes, and even fall in love across two discs of gaming goodness. Things will get pretty wacky with split personalities and a destiny being revealed that seems to involve destroying God. It’s a head scratcher and probably more than a little pretentious, but damnit, that’s what we expected of JRPGs in the 90s!

 

I’ve played through and completed Xenogears on more than one occasion, and I’m sure every time I’ve engaged it I’ve thought to myself, “Man, it would be really cool if there were action figures for this game.” And for a long time, there were not. With 2018 marking the game’s 20th anniversary though, Square-Enix decided to partner with action figure company Bring Arts to do right by this game for the first time in a long time.

Bring Arts is known for collaborating with Square-Enix on several properties. The company’s figures are usually highly articulated and well-detailed, but also can be rather pricey. Finding places that carry them in the US can be troublesome, with places like GameStop usually only willing to stock a few figures of the most popular franchises. Xenogears, despite being permitted to brand itself as a Greatest Hit back in the day, is not a terribly popular franchise so I have not seen a single figure from the line in a physical store. That doesn’t mean there aren’t any carrying them, but it did mean I didn’t get too excited when I heard toys were coming.

 

Bring Arts first released last year a figure of Fei, as he being the star character that made sense. They then followed with a figure of Elly, one of the other central characters in the show. They look pretty good, but I took a pass because they’re not cheap and also not really what I dreamed of acquiring. Finally, Bring Arts just recently released it’s third figure:  Weltall. When I played Xenogears back in 98 it was Weltall and the other gears designed  by Kunihiko Tanaka that I was thinking of when I wished there were toys based on the property. Weltall is Fei’s gear, and he’s got a nice look to him. He comes across like a hybrid of a Gundam mixed with one of the orbital frames from Eva. It’s mostly blue with glowing red eyes and has wings, or fins, that don’t seem to do anything affixed to its back. Weltall doesn’t use any weapons in the game and instead fights as Fei does with martial arts techniques. It can shoot a Kamehameha like blast, but it doesn’t have guns or a giant sword

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SH Figuarts Vegeta for scale.

The Bring Arts version of Weltall is not to scale with the previous figures. It essentially exists in its own world as the figure itself is only slightly taller than Fei, even though Fei is meant to sit inside the gear and pilot it. It would have been cute if Bring Arts included a tiny Fei with the toy, but sadly the company opted not to. I don’t have Fei, or Elly, so it’s not something that really matters to me, but I suppose if you’re adding Weltall to a Xenogears display it might annoy you a bit.

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Weltall setting Vegeta up for his patented Stunner.

Weltall comes in a nice window box package that’s easy to get into. Once removed, Weltall has a nice feel to it. The figure is all plastic, but has a gun-metal finish to it that makes it at least resemble sheet metal from a distance. It would have been cool if Bring Arts could have included a lot of diecast with this piece, but considering the MSRP is around $90 maybe it’s good that it does not. The figure does feature swappable, diecast, feet which is pretty interesting. It reminds me a bit of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures from SH Figuarts which had diecast shins for balancing. Placing the diecast feet onto the figure allows it to more easily be posed in one-legged positions. Scratching is always a concern with diecast parts so you’ll want to take care when removing them, but they swap on and off easily and the paint application is consistent from plastic to diecast so they don’t look out of place.

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The feet, see if you can tell which is diecast and which is plastic.

Weltall comes with additional hands for posing, including a set of gripping hands. Considering the gear doesn’t use weapons I’m not really sure what good gripping hands are, but they’re included. He has some “chop” hands and energy blast hands, which are permanently bent back. Same for the two fingers pose hands he’s got. The wings, or whatever they are, need to be attached to the figure manually and they snap on easily enough. I was concerned these pieces would throw off the weight of the figure and make it harder to stand, but they’re nice and light and I didn’t have any issues there. I heard some folks were dissatisfied with the paint on the first figures in this series, but I’m happy to report my Weltall looks great.

 

Weltall has a lot of articulation, some of which is rather creative. There are numerous plates on the figures body, some of which you need to swivel a bit before moving a limb. This isn’t a toy you ever want a kid to just grab and start fiddling with as a lot could go wrong. There are some sliding joints in the shoulders and thigh area that help make the limbs clear some of these plates so that the arm or leg can have a full range of motion. The ankles also extend a few millimeters for enhanced positioning as well which is really cool. The extra hands and feet all snapped off and on for me rather easily and this toy in general required little in the way of breaking-in. The only limitation I could find articulation-wise was with the chest and abdomen, which really aren’t able to do much. Since this is a robot, I suppose it doesn’t need a true ab crunch. The sculpt of the torso is also quite nice so at least nothing was sacrificed for the sake of articulation.

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The beauty of diecast feet.

Weltall comes across as a pretty high quality piece of plastic. The likeness is dead-on, and the inclusion of diecast feet was pretty neat. It does mean the figure comes with that hefty price tag though. The MSRP appears to be around $90, but I’ve seen the figure for sale at marks both above and below that figure. Diligence and patience are your friends if you want to get this figure for as little as possible. It’s a niche product, so there’s always the chance Bring Arts ships too many and it ends up on sale, but it almost seems too niche for that. I was fortunate to find a brand new figure on eBay that was an actual auction listing that started at a penny. As result, I ended up only paying around $65 for my figure. I say “only” but that’s obviously in comparison with the asking price as $65 for a six-inch scale action figure is a lot of money. As a result, this isn’t a toy I can recommend to casual fans and collectors. If you’re a diehard Xenogears fan like myself that has always wanted a figure of Weltall then yeah, go ahead and splurge, but otherwise you’re probably better off staying away.

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The figure also comes with a stand, but honestly, it doesn’t need it.

I’ve seen some individuals in the Xenogears fanbase openly speculating on what’s to follow Weltall. I’ve even seen some say they’re waiting for the red version of Weltall from the game, Weltall-Id, but that seems a bit risky to me. Bring Arts has not announced or shown any other figures from Xenogears, and I don’t expect any to follow. Since Weltall-Id could be done fairly easily, I suppose a future variant is possible (maybe a convention exclusive?), but new sculpts seem unlikely to me. This line feels like a rather simple celebration of the game’s age and three figures based on the most recognizable characters/gear feels like a fitting tribute. Would I want more? That’s actually a tough question. I love Weltall, and Weltall II was fine, but also not much different from Weltall 1. Of the other gears, I suppose Andvari was pretty cool and I did enjoy Fenrir, I’m just not sure I liked any of them to want to drop another 80 or so bucks a piece. Most of my favorite designs actually belonged to the bad guys, live Alpha Weltall and Wyvern, and I don’t know if Bring Arts would dare make figures based on those instead of another hero character. I guess we’ll cross that bridge should we get there.

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Blast away.

For now, this Weltall action figure is a pretty neat way to celebrate 20 years of Xenogears. It’s basically exactly what I wanted, just at a price point higher than I would have liked. If more gears come along I’ll certainly take a look, but if this is the only action figure I ever own from Xenogears then that’s okay by me.

 


Toy Collecting While Adulting

neca 2019 sdccLast Thursday was World Turtle Day, or something like that. I thought about looking up the reason why that is, but I decided I’d prefer not to know. Instead I get to just associate it with The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as well as NECA, the toy company that has become a favorite of TMNT fans worldwide. And that’s because it has become a bit of an annual tradition with NECA as it looks to that day on the calendar to announce its latest TMNT themed collectibles due to arrive for San Diego Comic Con in the summer. It’s an exciting time as a turtle toy collector, but this year there was some dread on my part.

For the past several years, NECA has really been killing it with its TMNT products. It started way back in 2008 when the company released its set of turtles based on their original appearance in the pages of Mirage Comics. Licensing issues with Nickelodeon and Playmates, the holders of the master toy license since the 1980s, prevented NECA from really going too much further with the line. A loophole, or just a voluntary opening on the part of Nick and Playmates, allowed NECA to return to the license as convention exclusives. NECA could create figures based on the brand and sell them at San Diego Comic Con and only there (eventually, it opened up to include NECA’s webstore as well). And I believe they also had to be a part of a set and not an individual release.

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One of NECA’s earlier SDCC sets – arcade game Shredder and Foot Soldiers.

Nickelodeon and Playmates would not allow NECA to create figures based on the original cartoon series, so the company had to get a bit more resourceful. Its first solution was to make figures based on the video games complete with “digitized” paint. They also supplemented the original Mirage line with a set featuring Shredder and the Foot Clan. Eventually, likely due to the success of these products, the license started to loosen with its restrictions. NECA was allowed to create quarter-scale versions of 90s movie turtles and sell them at retail. These super-sized action figures are lovingly detailed and some of the best toys I’ve had the pleasure of owning. The license then loosened further to allow NECA to release a set of turtles and villains based on the 1987 mini series for sale at SDCC in 2017. Then last year the company followed with a set of scaled-down movie figures, but more importantly, they came with an announcement.

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NECA has finally received the go-ahead to distribute to retail. These Target Two-Packs have been in constant demand since release.

Last year was the final year for NECA and its TMNT product being locked into the convention exclusive category. NECA was finally granted the ability to head to retail with only minimal restrictions. The movie turtles could be sold individually, and NECA partnered with Gamestop to sell them in their stores and on their website. They were a huge success as they sold out quickly. Restocks have disappeared just as fast and hopefully the supply will keep rolling in. NECA also was able to partner with Target for its figures based on the 87 cartoon. These figures had to be sold as two-packs and retail for $50. They also could not be stocked in the toy section, but rather electronics (basically, where Target keeps its vast assortment of Funko merchandise). These figures have been just as hard to find as the movie figures, and it sounds like they’re here to stay as NECA showed off a Bebop and Rocksteady tentatively scheduled for release this fall.

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And look who is coming this fall!

Now, I’ve been fortunate in that I was able to secure the SDCC sets each of the past two years so I haven’t had to hunt for the figures at retail. NECA launched an ambassador program last fall in which fans are asked to photograph Target’s NECA section each week and send it in. I’m a local ambassador and have yet to see these TMNT figures in person in my store. Either the store never got them or they sold out so fast that I never came across them (I have seen them once in a different Target). I won’t be so lucky in the fall when the new figures drop and will be in the thick of things as I hunt for these sought after toys.

This year though brings another SDCC exclusive from NECA and it’s basically what most fans thought it would be. Earlier this year, NECA released a quarter-scale version of the Foot Soldier from the 1990 movie with Shredder to follow in May. I have longed for a movie accurate Shredder ever since I was a kid and the upcoming figure (who may be shipping now) looks beautiful. I’ve had him on pre-order since they went up and have been very much looking forward to adding him to my collection. As expected though, the convention exclusive this year is a complement to last year’s set in that it contains scaled-down versions of Shredder, the Foot, and introduces a brand new sculpt:  Splinter. The photos NECA released look fantastic and the set is virtually guaranteed to please.

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NECA’s take on Shredder from the 1990 film looks incredible.

So what’s the problem? Well, money for one. The quarter-scale Shredder retails for about $125.00 which is no small number when you’re talking about a toy. As an owner of the four turtles who were released at a similar price point, I can say it’s worth it based on their level of quality. The SDCC set will retail for $120, and if these figures receive single-card releases down the line they’ll likely run $25 a piece. The set comes with some extras and will likely have some kind of specialty packaging to justify the added cost. For me though, it caused me to reevaluate if I need two Shredders – a quarter-scale and a 7″ version. Had NECA not gone this route for the convention exclusive then I could have pushed it out of my mind and perhaps gone ahead with a less than responsible solution, but my sensible side has been crowing quite loudly.

2019 has gotten off to an expensive start for me. We had a family vacation over a year in the making in January to Disney World. It was an awesome experience, but then I got to come home to all kinds of fun literally on my first day back. We had some scary trees in the yard that needed to be taken down. Then both vehicles required over a grand a piece in maintenance and repairs for unexpected, non-crash related reasons. And then to top it off, a series of unexpected medical bills resulting from a hand injury I suffered which necessitated surgery (and will require additional surgery next month). That part of life has been no fun, and as a family of four in which I am the sole financial provider, it has caused me to reevaluate my spending habits.

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As awesome as the quarter-scale Shredder looks, it’s hard to choose over this equally incredible looking set.

Which brings me back to Shredder. I hated to do it, but I felt it was the responsible thing to make a choice. Having both seemed like a luxury I couldn’t do right now. Summer is coming, the kids have birthdays, they need new clothes, my son will be starting school in the fall. I’ve already cut way back on my discretionary spending, I haven’t bought a video game in over a year, and I’ve been forced to limit my toy hobby as a result. All self-imposed, but what feels like the right thing to do. I decided I can still collect NECA TMNT and Boss Fight Studio’s Bucky O’Hare line, but all others are being phased out for now. And if I have to make a choice between quarter-scale Shredder and the upcoming set, well, it wasn’t much of a contest.

I cancelled that pre-order. The quarter-scale Shredder looks amazing and I already regret my decision, but the SDCC set will feature four figures that will be much easier to find shelf space for compared with one figure who takes up a lot of real estate. I’m sure NECA expected some of this as toy collectors do typically favor the smaller scale figures over the large ones. Some collectors I know just collect the quarter-scale just to support the line in hopes it will lead to 7″ versions. Being an adult sucks. If given the choice, I would have been a kid forever. “I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid…” was like my motto as a child. There are perks to adulthood of course (beer), and I wouldn’t trade being a dad for anything, but man being a kid without responsibility was pretty great.

This doesn’t mean I’ll never return to old shell-head. Maybe things open up later this year, or maybe Santa Claus can bail me out. For now, it means I’ll be there when pre-orders open up for the SDCC sets hoping to score one somewhat secure in knowing if I don’t get lucky this year well these figures will likely show up eventually at retail. That childhood dream of a movie accurate Shredder is very much alive. This post isn’t intended as a pity party, just musings on what it means to be an adult with an expensive hobby. Toy collecting is fun and something I’ll likely never give up, but I have to limit myself, even when I don’t want to.


Lego 10766 – Woody and RC (Toy Story 4)

img_4030There’s a new Pixar movie incoming next month, which also means lots of new merch! Especially when the movie is none other than Toy Story 4 as what movie franchise could possibly lend itself better to toys than one about actual toys? Toy Story 4 is a merchandising juggernaut for Disney and a cash cow at the box office as well. That’s pretty much why it still exists as Pixar never intended to even do Toy Story 2. Normally, cash grabs can seem cynical, but in the case of Toy Story I think all can agree that the franchise’s continued existence is very much a good thing as it has yet to deliver a dud. Toy Story 4 could obviously change that, but for now that feels unlikely.

Lego is back to supplement the film with construction sets based on the property. This isn’t new, but what is new is that we now have some pre-existing mini figures in need of some company. Prior Toy Story sets put out by Lego went with customized mini figures that prioritized likeness over the traditional mini figure aesthetic. With Lego’s first wave of Disney themed mini figures a few years ago, the company created a Buzz Lightyear that is basically a traditional mini figure but with some accessories. The line also included an alien which was more like the old Toy Story mini figures in which Lego went with a custom headsculpt. Those two guys seemed lonely on my shelf, so I was happy to check out the latest sets to see what I could do for them.

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Woody together with his former adversary turned best friend.

And the one that jumped out at me is Lego 10766 – Woody and RC. This is essentially a remake of an old set, 7590, which featured Woody, Buzz, and RC plus the giant rocket from the climax of the original Toy Story. I don’t know why they’re doing a scene from the first film in promotion of the fourth, but I’m not complaining. This set is simpler and includes Woody as a more traditional mini figure, RC, and some in-scale army men. For the low price of 10 dollars, it felt like a no brainer when I saw it at the store as I could easily pair it with the Buzz I already have.

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Woody is the driver here.

Woody is a pretty straight-forward mini figure. His hat and hair are attached to his head. They’re likely separate pieces and could be separated by someone with some degree of determination, but I am not that person. All of his costume details are printed on and there’s no holster or anything additional. The little army men are just small, all green, pieces. They’re a cute touch, even if they’re not exceptional. There are also some cones to put together and an assortment of boxes with colored lids. It would have been nice if instead of boxes Lego had just included traditional alphabet building blocks, but that would require some custom printing and Lego obviously wanted to target a smaller price point for this one.

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The cockpit only has room for one.

RC is the main attraction. His build is quick and simple, but also quite clean and functional. His decals and eyes are printed pieces so no stickers to screw around with. You could probably build him just by looking at a picture, but there are of course instructions included. He also features a little remote control that Woody can hold and it’s also a simple construction, but one that captures the likeness quite well. Woody can fit in the driver’s seat area easily and I so far have elected to position Buzz on the tail piece. There’s nothing for him to click onto though. This RC is not as robust as the older one, but it works. About the only complaint I could levy is that the front bumper could have been done in a more inventive manner and the rear wheels should be larger than the front. He sits a bit too flat compared with the source material.

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Where Woody and company can expect to live out their days. It beats an attic.

A quick and simple post for a quick and simple Lego set. This one does its job and I’m happy to position Woody, RC, Buzz and the Alien together amongst my other Disney collectibles. And while I’d love to add Jessie or Rex, I don’t see myself shelling out for additional Toy Story 4 sets. I prefer this aesthetic for the figures compared with the older ones, and it’s nice to see a relatively cheap, licensed, set from Lego. I don’t think I need any additional Toy Story characters (technically, I don’t need any at all), but maybe I’ll change my mind after seeing Toy Story 4.