Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Quick Crappy Review: Disney Store Mickey’s Christmas Carol Special Edition Figurine Playset

It's the last of my trilogy of Impromptu Quick Crappy Review and I honestly don’t know how and if I’m going to be able to do this, but I’m determined to do it so…sorry.

If you’ve been in the Disney Store in the last year or two you should have seen these, probably. I dunno, I don’t know how much attention you pay when you’re in the Disney Store, maybe you just go straight to the Star Wars section (though that has a set now too) or the big screen draws you like a moth, you watch two music videos and then leave wondering what happened.  But hopefully you imaginary readers will be familiar with the concept of these figurine playsets, Disney have been making them for whatever they’re currently promoting and using any excuse to make one for older properties so I guess they must sell pretty well, the number of figurines in each varies (in fact this set has a rather small number) and they’re about £12-£15 over here.  I like ‘em and if I was under 10 today I’d be all over ‘em like a rash (shaped like a Hidden Mickey obviously), they’re good value for money, allow you get a figural representation of lots of characters – including some that you unquestionably wouldn’t have gotten in a standard action figure line – and the odd bit of paint slop aside they’re really good quality. But I’m not under 10 (really) and I haven’t bought any yet, I’ve wanted to but logic has always taken over, and logic says “what the fuck are you doing to do with these if you buy them?” while you may think that’s true of every toy an adult buys it really isn’t; when they’re outside of the scales or franchises featured in my dedicated toy areas I use toys (and other merch) like ornaments so they have to feel like ornaments, a vintage Action Man feels like an ornament, a modern collectors’ figure feels like an ornament, but (ironically as these are closer to real ornaments than most) Disney’s figurine sets don’t – they feel like what they are, toys, which is absolutely fine if you’re the target age range but as we’ve discovered I am Groot not.

But even I have my limits of self-control, and making a Mickey’s Christmas Carol set pushed those limits way beyond breaking point.

The *deep breath* Mickey’s Christmas Carol Special Edition Figurine Playset is a limited edition1 Disney Figurine Playset brought out for Christmas 2015, obviously I bought it already so it came out in November as many Christmas things now do. It’s based on the 1983 short ‘Mickey’s Christmas Carol’ which was kind of like a proto-Muppets Christmas Carol only without any iconic British actors; Scrooge McDuck was Ebenezer Scrooge, Mickey was Bob Cratchit, Mr Toad was Fezziwig, Jiminy Cricket was the Ghost of Christmas Past and Big Bad Pete was the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, it did a good job of mixing the Disney short slapstick with the iconic scenes from the book without feeling disrespectful  and it was atmospheric as all get-out, I still watch it every Christmas, usually twice or more (it’s not very long).

So now I have to review the figurines themselves and it’s kind of weird to do, they have no articulation to fill up a paragraph with for instance and they’re all very, very good so I'm not sure what I'm going to talk about. Each stands a different height with Goofy being the tallest (though out of scale, I’m guessing they have a maximum height these things can be) and each come on a thin but sturdy base that look like unwrapped chocolate coins – a fittingly Christmassy thing to look like. They’re all amazingly wells sculpted, you know the phrase ‘it’s like they stepped right out of ____’, I hate that phrase, it’s one of a few very overused phrases in the geek world that pisses me off (‘knocked it out of the park’ being my least favourite) but these really DO like they stepped right out of the cartoon, in fact no they look like they were PLUCKED straight out of the cartoon – still in a pose lifted from it (with one exception). Befitting the Disney Store’s old reputation of having the finest quality crap they’re made of good quality soft plastic and come with a generous amount of paint apps, especially as you get six of these for half the price of a Masters of the Universe Classics figure. I suppose the easiest way to do it to just zoom through each figure one by one.

Mickey Mouse as Bob Cratchit is one of the three figures who aren’t in an exact pose from the film, but he is in a pose inspired by it – the difference being that he isn’t carrying his sack when he takes off his hat to Scrooge and that sack in-fact includes laundry not the toys Scrooge brings at the end. I love that his hat is squashed and that the bear in the sack is on-model for the finale of the short, though both also contribute to the figure not being 100% accurate to the scene its plucked from if they’re already decided to deviate from that by giving him the sack they might as well go the whole hog and give us some more references. He has probably the worst paint apps of the set with the lines on the ‘flesh’ part of his face being pretty jaggedy though it’s not really very noticeably unless you’re holding it close to your face.

Donald Duck as Scrooge’s nephew Fred is spot-on perfect, the pose comes from his first scene when he comes to ask Scrooge for dinner and the only really noticeably deviation from the shot is that this is very much Donald in his modern proportions whereas he was a bit lankier back in the 80’s but this is true of all the figures (though it’s really the most noticeable with Donald and then I guess only noticeable if you’re a big Duck fan, which I kind of am, blame Carl Barks) and I’m sure it was Disney mandated, some kind of ‘stick to the current style guide’ order and really I’m only bringing it up to fill up this paragraph because otherwise it would just read ‘OMG it’s so great, squeee’.

Daisy Duck as Belle is one of the two figures I’d’ve cut for the set so they could have included the ghosts but that’s got nothing to do with her being a bad figurine, in fact she’s utterly fantastic; is it weird that I’ve always kind of fancied Daisy Duck? Not as much as I fancy Morgana Mccawber or Magica DeSpell (when it comes to anthropomorphic Disney ducks) but then I’m a terrible stereotype. She just seems to be designed to be so much sexier than Minnie Mouse. Moving along from that filler, Daisy is another taken straight from the animation cells, this time from the scene where she visits Scrooge and he forecloses on her honeymoon cottage rather than asking to marry her as Disney simplify Scrooge growing cold to his lover as he becomes more business minded for time and the kids in the audience. She’s pretty much perfect, the odd soft line on the paint of her fur wrap aside (and it IS fur), except she’s kind of leaning too far forward, it’s not warped, in fact she’s very sturdy, it’s just how it’s been sculpted and could possibly be a result of her high heels, I dunno, but now I’ve noticed it I can’t unsee it.

Risking accusations of sexism, Minnie Mouse as Emily Cratchit is the other character I’d’ve cut so we could have the Ghosts of Chrsitmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. It of course has nothing to do with sex but simply overall importance to short, Emily’s there but I’m not even sure she has any lines - though I reckon her showing off the canary turkey is one of if not the most memorable scenes in the cartoon, it’s certainly the clip that gets played the most. Of course the real reasons are undoubtedly that Daisy and Minnie sell more units than Big Bad Pete and Willy the Giant and Disney are probably a bit apprehensive about having a figurine with a cigar the size Will Smith’s tackle. As a figurine though she's brilliant, she’s one of the three ‘off-pose’ figures but only her expression, which is smiling rather than dejected as the sight of a turkey the size of a budgerigar and that makes sense in terms of the toy. I feel like the set is the characters today dressing up in their old costumes and posing for the anniversary. On a less professional note – look at that little turkey! Isn’t it so precious? I can’t believe I have a little plastic version of the little turkey from Mickey’s Christmas Carol!

Goofy as Marley’s Ghost was one of the two big gets for the set in my mind, I’ve wanted a figure of this for 25 years or more and the sculpt is pretty much perfect (though again it’s modern Goofy, the biggest change being the design of his muzzle), even the three money boxes attached the chains he formed in life are straight from the cartoon and include the piggy bank that Scrooge momentarily shakes instead of listening to his warning (such a McDuck thing to do!), I love it. But he’s the figure I’m the least satisfied with, he is out of scale, which the sets do often because I’m sure there’s a limit to how tall they can make them, undoubtedly for cost reasons, but that’s OK, Orko was about 4 foot in the vintage line so it’s not a big thing for me. What I’m dissatisfied about his how shiny he is, he looks like a boiled sweet while all the other figures have a matte finish that makes them look like cartoon cells. I’m sure it’s because they wanted Goofy to be transparent – and I applaud them for that (because he’s transparent in the film and because I love transparent toys) but it is possible to have c-thru plastic that’s matte finish. He’s also one of the three figures to be ‘off-pose’ and the biggest departure, he never adopts this pose in the cartoon, I think it’s supposed to represent him sneaking up behind Scrooge in a bit of added slapstick that I find rather amusing but he’s only a shadow when he’s doing that, this only really matters because of how the other figures are posed of course, if they were all in original poses it wouldn’t notice, so Goofy is a victim of the team’s brilliance, which I guess fits him perfectly really. On a happier note they added paint (which is very nicely done) to darken the areas of the character that are in fact darker in the ‘toon and I appreciate little touches like that greatly, thanks design team.

Scrooge McDuck and Morty Fieldmouse as Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim is the centrepiece of the set (even if it wasn’t positioned like that in the box so that glory hound Mickey Mouse could stand front-centre), it is almost exact to the cell from the scene where Scrooge barges into the Cratchit household on Christmas day pretending to have more laundry for Bob but really having brought Christmas in a sack, there’s a few seconds where his façade cracks when he sees Tiny Tim and that is represented here pretty much to a tee (they’re not actually both standing on the mat in the shot and Morty’s a slightly different angle but fuck it), it would have been so easy for them to have made Scrooge in his standard outfit or had Morty smiling but no they made it dead right, with Scrooge in his nightshirt and slippers and Morty confused/scared/going ooh/whatever it is he’s doing, it is bloody brilliant. This may make me sound strange but… Scrooge’s sack feels really nice, it’s size, shape and texture make it lovely to stroke, MOVING ON my Scrooge has some pretty shoddily applied paint to the band of his top hat, it doesn’t really line up at all, but happily most of it is hidden by the brim when he’s just standing on the side.

I think this may be the longest Quick Crappy Review I’ve done but then I guess I did just review six things. The set is brilliant, I don’t know if kids still grow up with Mickey’s Christmas Carol (though I know at least the woman who served me in Romford’s Disney Store is making sure her grandkids are) but if you did this is pretty much a dream come true in toy terms. Yes it would be better if it had the three ghosts but again I really can’t see them making Pete with that huge stogie and if he didn’t have it then, well, it wouldn’t really make a lot of sense as it’s a major part of the character’s costume (and the cause of the atmospheric smoke that usually accompanies the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come) but you get six brilliant figurines with only one failing to qualify for perfect and only if you’re a nit-picking bastard like me (and he does look so tasty! I assume he tastes like blue Slush Puppy) and they even have a purpose because let’s be honest here – there are fucking Christmas Decorations, these are going at the foot of my small tree (we have several) every year for ever more, and five quid says Mickey gets lost first.      

I hate these twisty things so much
This picture is here just so I can express my hatred

1 At least I think it is, the woman at the till said they were only making them for Christmas but she didn’t specify ‘this’ Christmas so they could come back next year I guess. 

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