MYSTERY MACHINE (W/ FRED JONES)
SCOOBY DOO (CHARACTER OPTIONS)
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 Scooby–based 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
The 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 explain 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well-scaled, to the point that it was only after a considerable amount of digging around that I realized it was originally made for the smaller guys.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 is 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
….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.