#1199: Mystery Machine (w/ Fred Jones)

MYSTERY MACHINE (W/ FRED JONES)

SCOOBY DOO (CHARACTER OPTIONS)

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In addition to being a comics geek and a sci-fi geek, I’m also quite a bit of an animation geek.  Obviously, I love the cartoons of the ‘90s, being the ones I grew up with and all, but access to the likes of Boomerang and Cartoon Network also afforded me an appreciation for a number of older cartoons.  Of course, it hardly takes an animation geek to be familiar with today’s subject of review.  Scooby Doo hit the airwaves in 1969 and there’s been at least one new iteration of it every decade since, keeping it pretty squarely in the public eye.  As I noted in my previous Scoobybased review, I actually don’t have a particularly large selection of Scooby Doo items in my collection, but as with just about everything there isn’t enough of in my collection, I’m working on it.  Today, I’ll be looking at one of the fixtures of the franchise, the Mystery Machine, along with perpetual driver of said machine, Fred Jones.

THE VEHICLE ITSELF

mysterymachine5The Myster Machine was released as part of the latest iteration of Character Options’ Scooby Doo line, which hit last year.  While lots of places seemed to have the two-packs featuring the one member of the gang each packed with a ghost, the Mystery Machine seems to be a slightly rarer find (for me anyway).  The vehicle is 6 1/4 inches tall, 5 inches wide, and 9 1/4 inches long.  In terms of design, exactly what version of the Mystery Machine this is supposed to be is a little hard to place.  Near as I can tell, it’s not actually based on any specific design for the MM, but is instead a somewhat stylized take on the classic design.  I think a lot of this may be due to some mold re-use, as it appears this mold initially showed up as the “Goo’busters Mystery Machine,” which was a playset designed to go with a line of Superhero Squad/Galactic Heroes-style line of Scooby characters.  That would mysterymachine6explain the harsher stylization present here.  It doesn’t look awful, provided you aren’t looking for a really faithful recreation of the original vehicle.  The biggest complaint I have is that it’s rather difficult to get the full-sized figures into the front, since it wasn’t designed with them in mind.  Aside from that, it’s actually remarkably well-scaled, to the point that it was only after a considerable amount of digging around that I realized it was originally made for the smaller guys.  It’s worth noting that it’s clearly designed as a playset first and a functioning Mystery Machine second.  There aren’t any functioning doors (the figures are placed in the front through the hatch at the top), there’s no actual seating in the back, and the steering wheel doesn’t turn.  It does at the very least have actual moving wheels on the bottom.  From what I’ve read online, this mysterymachine3is a change from prior releases, so I guess they’re learning.  Yay!  The back of the van folds out into a…thing.  Not really sure what.  I guess it’s supposed to be a crime solving lab or something? The original release had some traps and stuff built in, but this one leaves those out, so we just end up with a lot of flat surfaces with printed on details.  It’s kind of cool, but a little confusing.  Also, the fold-out feature results in some rather ugly hinges running along the middle of the van, which is really unfortunate.  Could those not have been worked into the interior of the design?  The paint on the Mystery Machine is rather on the sloppy side, especially around the edges of the green sections.  Of course, actual paint is minimal; most of the details are decals.  By and large, this is a perfectly fine way of handling the details (since they’re mostly on large, flat surfaces anyway), but there are some peeling edges and, in the case of the flowers on the side, some issues with underlying paint showing through.  There’s a valiant effort to ignore a few of the sculpted elements to bring the design closer to the classic look, which works about as well as anything else on this thing.  For accessories, the Mystery Machine includes one main extra, and that’s….

THE FIGURE ITSELF

mysterymachine8….Fred Jones!  Fred (who, fun fact, was named after CBS executive Fred Silverman, who was a driving force for getting Scooby Doo, Where Are You? on the air) is the leader of Mystery Inc, the owner of the Mystery Machine in at least a few versions of the story, and above all, the guy usually seen driving the Mystery Machine, making him quite the sensible inclusion here.  The figure stands 5 inches tall and has 9 points of articulation.  Fred is based on his slightly updated design from Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated, where he was given a slightly more brawny physique and a more pronounced lantern jaw of justice.  I actually quite liked his redesign from that show, so I’m happy it’s the version they went with.  It’s transition into three-dimensions isn’t too terrible; he looks a little off from certain angles, but that’s the sort of thing you expect with action figures of two-dimensional designs.  The legs could stand to be a little longer, and the torso a little less tubular, and his chin should probably be a little less pronounced.  He sort of reminds me of the Kenner Batman: The Animated Series figures, being slightly off-model, but still pretty solid as an action figure.  The paint on Fred is a good deal cleaner than we saw on the Mystery Machine.  While he’s still not devoid of sloppiness, especially around his hairline, the overall appearance is a lot cleaner.  His eyes are also kinda goofy, thanks to no one really being very sure of how exactly this style of eye should be done in 3D.  He looks a bit surprised.  While my figure is pretty decent, I should note that I had to pick through four of this set, and finding a combo of good paint on both Fred and the Mystery Machine was pretty much impossible.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Fred’s my favorite character from Scooby Doo.  Prior to picking up this set, he made up half of my Scooby Doo collection (granted, it was a collection of TWO figures, but still).  So, when I spotted the two-packs last year, I immediately flipped through the rack to find the set Fred was in.  Imagine my dismay when I discovered they doubled up on Scooby instead of including him.  Now, all of my issues would have been resolved had there simply been a picture of the Mystery Machine and the included Fred figure somewhere on the packaging for the two-packs, but Character Options didn’t see fit to actually inform their customers what was actually out.  So, instead of tracking this set down early last year, I ended up stumbling upon it at the K-Mart near where my family vacations for Christmas.  It was even marked down to $15.  There’s a whole extra $10 they could have gotten out of me if I’d known this thing existed (to say nothing of me forking over the cash for the rest of the gang).   Ah well, I got my Fred figure, and that’s really what matters.  Ultimately, this is a more toy-etic set than I tend to go for in modern toys, but I can’t say I’m unhappy with the purchase.

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#1179: The Wall (w/ Tyrion)

THE WALL DISPLAY (w/ TYRION LANNISTER)

GAME OF THRONES (FUNKO)

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Oh no!  It’s Friday AND it’s Day 13 of the post-Christmas reviews.  Someone’s probably gonna die.  Well, as long as I review something safe and—Game of Thrones you say?  Someone’s *definitely* gonna die!

Yes dear readers, Winter has officially arrived here, and I’m taking a look at yet another Game of Thrones item.  But this time, it’s something slightly different.  I’ve looked at two figures from Funko’s new Game of Thrones line and had a so-so reaction to them.  However, the cornerstone of this new line isn’t the figures, but rather Funko’s ability to take advantage of the line’s smaller scale to provide some playsets—sorry, displays— to go with the figures.  The first series of figures were all based around The Wall, so it’s not a huge surprise that the first large scale display is the aforementioned Wall, which I’ll be looking at today!

THE PLAYSET ITSELF

thewall4The Wall hit stores a couple of months after the first series of smaller-scale Game of Thrones figures. It was initially supposed to hit at the same time, but had a few delays, which pushed it back to mid-November.  The Wall comes disassembled in the package, but when put together, it’s about 15 inches tall, 11 1/2 inches wide, and is about 10 inches deep.  Right off the bat, I need to note that, while you are expected to assemble this set yourself, there are no instructions included.  Usually, this isn’t an issue, but there’s a very specific order to how the structure at the top goes together, which meant I had to assemble, take apart, and re-assemble it several times before getting it right.  And even then, the stability of the structure is a little iffy, which can definitely lead to some doubts about whether you assembled it correctly.  For what it’s worth, you want to place the two beam sets closest to the outside wall first, with the straight beam to the back.  Then place the rafters in, followed by the reverse beam sets, one side at a time.  Then, once everything is properly popped into place, slide in the floors, and you should be could to go.  Be careful if you move the set, though, as the beams have a tendency to pop out of place, and they’re a real pain to get popped back the right way.  Assembly aside, how is the actual set?  Well, clearly it’s not the entire Wall, just a chunk of it.  It’s not really a direct match for any particular section of the Wall either, but more of an approximation of several elements.  It’s also filtered through a sort of an ‘80s playset sort of style, which sort of matches with the style of the smaller figures, but is definitely an acquired taste.  The front of the Wall is designed to offer little ledges to stand figures on.  There are eight leveled off spots, each with their own foot peg.  The effect isn’t awful, and the rock/ice detailing on the Wall helps the ledges blend in a bit.  There are another 11 pegs on the base of the wall, which are a bit more obvious, and also quite a bit more randomly placed.  In an effort to thewall3camouflage them a bit, Funko’s added several arrows and a pair of swords buried in the snow.  It’s definitely a nice touch, and one that adds a little bit of extra pizzaz to the set.  There are another six foot pegs up at the top of the Wall on the wooden floors, which brings the total count of foot pegs up to 25 (the back of the package states “displays up to 25 3 3/4” action figures!,” but it’s really just referring to how many pegs there are; you’d have quite a bit of difficulty getting a figure on every one of those pegs).  The wood sections have some nice grain and texturing, though, as noted above, still passed through that ‘80s playset filter, so nothing hyper-realistic.  The actual wooden structure feels a bit under-scaled; while Tyrion looks fine standing up there, Tormund and Ygritte’s heads get cut off by the top.  Not a big deal, but slightly frustrating.  The back of the Wall is hollowed out, and if I’m totally honest, this feels like a big missed opportunity.  About half of the space taken up by this set is completely unused.  If they were just going for a vague approximation of the Wall anyway, it would have been cool to get a scaled down version of the elevator or even a small section of Castle Black.  That would have given this set a lot more play value.  On the plus side, the clear blue plastic and slight misting of white paint over it makes for an interesting looking set, and approximates ice very well.  The Wall includes three barrels, which are nice little set pieces, as well as…

TYRION LANNISTER

thewall8…Tyrion!  Tyrion is this set’s exclusive figure.  He’s sort of an odd choice, since Tyrion didn’t spend a whole lot of time at Castle Black, and even less time on the Wall.  There would probably be a number of other more appropriate characters, but, let’s be honest, Funko’s counting on Tyrion to help move this set, and he’s a big enough character that if the line continues we’re sure to see him again.  The figure stands 3 1/2 inches tall and has 9 points of articulation.  He’s based on Tyrion’s Season 1 appearance, which is sensible, since that’s when he visited the Wall.  Tyrion is easily the best sculpted of the three figures I’ve gotten from this line.  He’s still a little goofy, but there’s a definite resemblance to Peter Dinklage on the head, and the body’s a fair bit better proportioned than Tormund and Ygritte. The cape is removable; pop the figure’s head off and is slides right off, revealing a pretty standard Season 1/Season 2 Tyrion, which is certainly much appreciated.  Tyrion’s paintwork is passable; nothing amazing, but it’s a bit more lively than the other two.  The gold leafing on his shoulders is a very nice touch, especially since it’s completely covered by the straps of the cloak.  Despite being essentially an accessory himself, Tyrion includes his own extra; a goblet.  This was easily the most glaring omission from his larger figure, so it’s nice to finally have a Tyrion who can drink and know things.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I got this set from my parents.  It’s certainly the largest item I received (as evidenced by the non-standard backdrop).  I won’t lie, there’s a lot that this set could have done better.  It’s really not much more than a glorified figure stand.  The audience for this set is pretty much limited to people like me who enjoy both fun, goofy toys and Game of Thrones, which is, admittedly, not the largest audience.  Like the rest of this line, it’s hard to tell who this set is aiming to please.  That being said, I can’t help but enjoy it.  There’s a sort of Kenner-style flare to it that makes me all nostalgic, and if I’m completely honest, I’m just happy to get a playset in this day and age.

#1009: Castle Grayskull

CASTLE GRAYSKULL

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE (2002)

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Playsets for action figures are by and large a thing of the past. They were really big in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and even kept up steam for a good part of the ’90s, but a general trending towards less interest in action figures coupled with rising costs of plastics has made them less than practical. Sure, you still see the occasional set here and there, but they lack the charm of the older sets. Occasionally, an attempt is made at recapturing that charm for a more collector-oriented market. A few years back, Mattel used their online store Matty Collector to get enough backers to fund a high(ish)-end version of Castle Grayskull, an important part of the He-Man mythos. This not a review of that. Nope, this is a review of its direct predecessor. Well, most of it anyway. Let’s get to the review!

THE PLAYSET ITSELF

Grayskull7Castle Grayskull was released as a deluxe playset during the first year of the 2002 Masters of the Universe line. The Castle is designed to fit with the basic 6-inch figures Mattel offered. It’s actually about half-scale. In its defense, even the much larger, much more expensive Castle Grayskull was only three-quarter-scale, and that one wasn’t even vying for valuable retail shelf space. As it is, it’s definitely undersized, but it’s large enough that it suits the purpose it was built for pretty well. The Castle is just about 20 Grayskull2inches tall and 17 inches wide. When the Castle is all folded up, it’s only about 4 inches deep. The exterior of the Castle is pretty impressively detailed, and features a very nice selection of textures, which keep it exciting. Well, for a non-mobile playset anyway. The overall look, though undersized, is a very nice translation of the Castle’s 200x design. As you can probably note from the pictures, the parapets are made up of several Grayskull3different pieces, which clip into place. They were prone to fall off, which is why my set is missing a couple of them. The Castle can unfold, which reveals the interior and increases the depth of the set to 11 inches. The interior of the Castle isn’t quite as nice as the exterior, since it has to fit inside when folded. Still, there are several very nice details, including a spot for weapon storage and even a neat little computer thingy in the corner. I also love the small, easy to overlook details, like the skull and rat on the floor in the prison cell area. For some reason, in the 2000s, toy Grayskull5companies thought that the best way to sell a playset was to work in some weird battery-operated, figure prompted gimmick. Remember the ThunderLynx bit from the Tower of Omens? Well, Castle Grayskull’s got something like that. Each of the figures in the 200x Masters line (well, at least the earlier ones) had a little…thingy imbedded in their foot, which was expressly designed to work with this set. There are several spots on the set where there’s a golden footprint. When a figure’s foot was Grayskull9moved back and forth on this spot, it would release a lever on a door, revealing differing parts of the set or activating traps. Most of them are a little weird and gimmicky, but I do quite like the one on the upper level, which swings open a door revealing a special chrome version of the power sword placed on a nice little pedestal. It’s still really gimmicky, but, c’mon! Chrome! In addition to the aforementioned chrome sword, the Castle included a flag (missing Grayskull6from mine), a big cannon sort of thing, a set of shackles, bars for a cell (also missing), a giant key (because why not?), as well as a large arsenal of weapons, of which I only have the trident. Still, that was a pretty awesome selection of extras, especially given the kind of extras we see nowadays.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

By the time of the 200x Masters line, I had aged out of playsets. Yeah, I know, it shocks me too. Aging out of toys. I was just about aged back into collecting playsets when Mattel’s collector version was released, but it was just far too hefty a price for a moderate Masters fan such as myself. Of course, this more economical set had also gone up quite a bit in price. As you might have guessed (or just have already known, for those of you who paid attention to my Teela review), the Castle was part of the big Goodwill find from several weeks back. I ended up spotting this particular set first, and upon discovering it was only $4.50, I felt like I couldn’t say no. Sure, it’s not complete, but it was also super cheap, and it’s actually a really fun set. It’s too bad I never got one when they were new!

Side Note: This set was far too large for my usual photo set-up, so this is the first item to be shot in the Auxiliary Photo Studio (aka the dining room). As it turns out, the Auxiliary Photo Studio takes two people to operate, so special thanks goes out to Super Awesome Girlfriend, who aided with most of the photos you see here!

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#0914: Tower of Omens

TOWER OF OMENS (W/ TYGRA)

THUNDERCATS (2011)

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Since fairly early on in the world of action figures, toy makers have recognized the need for said figures to have somewhere they could hangout. Why not create some cool locales for those figures? Well, they did, and that’s where we got playsets. Playsets made their first big splash in the 1970s (with Mego making some of the coolest), and really hit their stride in the ‘80s. They continued into the ‘90s (so I had quite a number of them), but have more or less gone away in recent years, due to the rising costs of manufacturing. They haven’t totally disappeared, though, and today I’ll be looking at the Tower of Omens playset from the recent Thundercats re-launch.

THE PLAYSET ITSELF

TowerOfOmen6The Tower of Omens was released as the largest item in Bandai’s Thundercats line from 2011. It’s based on the design of the Tower from the most recent cartoon, and is nominally meant to go with Bandai’s 3 ¾-inch line of figures, though it’s been scaled down a fair bit to make it more economically feasible. There are two main pieces to this set: the main tower and the gate. The tower is about 18 inches tall. It’s topped by a beacon sort of thing, which features the Thundercats logo on each side. The red of the beacon is translucent, but there’s apparently a light-up feature, but I didn’t put in any batteries to try it out. The top level of the tower pops open on either side, providing a flat surface for the TowerOfOmen2figures to stand on (though not a whole lot), and the front panel of the tower can be removed and placed on either side to act as a slide, though the effect is middling at best. At the base of the tower, there are four pillars, which I think are supposed to act as extra support, but just end up falling off a lot. The interior of the tower has an elevator. There aren’t any fancy mechanisms here; you just move it by hand through use of the handle on the back. The gate stands a little less than half the height of the tower, but it’s about 16 inches wide. It appears to be a bit closer to proper scale, but is still a bit undersized. The actual doorway is a pretty solid piece, and features some excellent sculpting, especially on the cat head. The Thundercats line tried to work in a weird magnetic gimmick wherever possible; on this set, when you TowerOfOmen5place the back of a figure up to the “nose” of the doorway, the doors pop open. It’s kind of a neat feature, but the doors have a tendency to get stuck open. The actual gate portion is made up of two fairly flimsy pieces attached to either side of the doorway. It looks okay from the front, but is hollow on the other side. Also, the gate falls apart a lot; were I planning to use this for any long stretch of time, I’d probably find some way of permanently affixing the gate to the doors. There’s not a whole lot of paint on this set; it’s predominately just molded in a dull brownish sort of color. However, there’s some pretty sweet metallic blue accent work, which adds some nice pop to the set. In addition to the two main pieces, the set includes a catapult, a three-wheeled vehicle, and a Tygra figure. The catapult is kinda boring, since there isn’t a spring-feature or anything. Also, the two boulders included are TowerOfOmen7each only half a rock. The vehicle is sort of interesting, but rather goofy. The front has a missile launcher, and there’s another magnet gimmick, where the cat head on the back pops up when a figure is placed in the driver’s seat. The Tygra figure’s actually pretty cool. The figure’s 3 ¾ inches tall and he has 9 points of articulation. He’s a different sculpt from the normal Tygra; there’s less articulation and his outfit is totally different. He’s totally clear, which seems kinda random, but I think makes him pretty nifty.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

At the time that I bought this, I owned no other Thundercats figures and hadn’t seen a single episode of the 2011 series (I’d probably seen one or two episodes of the original show, but I don’t remember them all that well). So, why’d I get it? Well, last summer, I was at an Ollie’s with my brother and Tim and I found this set for $6. I figured “why not?” and got it. It’s not as thrilling as the playsets I grew up with, to be sure. I can definitely see why it ended up at close out prices. Still, for the price I paid, it feels like I got a decent enough deal.

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