Wednesday, 7 March 2018

AFB's Top 12 Favourite McFarlane Movie Maniacs Figures

We’ve had a lot of toy content on this blog since last Christmas and I apologise for that, this blog was never meant to focus on one particular thing – I promise I have some non-toy posts brewing. However I just finished my index for Movie Maniacs and it made me want to do a countdown so more toys today I’m afraid.

 An index? Yeah, I make visual ‘indexes’ for personal reference, they have pictures and names for everything released in that line (they’re usually for toys or video games) and despite requiring a fair amount of work I generally don’t post them anywhere because they use images stolen from all around the internet, I have posted the odd small index on here before though and because the index is important to the backstory of why this post exists, here is my newly finished Movie Maniacs Index:
click to enlarge
Movie Maniacs, first unleashed in 1998 by McFarlane Toys and running for 7 waves over 7 years, ended up being somewhat revolutionary (in the field of action figures) – it produced highly detailed (and poorly articulated) action figures of various horror and movie icons made for and sold to adults. That doesn’t sound to amazing today  when there are dozens of companies doing such things and one or two who’s whole business is built around this but what Neca do today, what Diamond do today, what Mezco do today, what Hot Toys do today – the bloke from Spawn was doing last millennium and doing it well, McFarlane Toys had got their shit down by the time the line debuted and the results were a shocking consistent line in terms of quality and sheer awesomeity so this was a surprisingly hard countdown list to narrow down.

12. John Shaft
Movie Maniacs 3, 2000
Who? Titular character of the 2000 film Shaft, a remake of the 1970s television show – played by Samuel L. Jackson
Why? There’s a weirdness to Movie Maniacs (one that isn’t related to it being made up of figures of human fly hybrids and murderous hillbillies) caused by McFarlane choosing to use the line to produce figures of then-current licenses1 he’d got as well as by-then firmly established movie icons, leaving almost every wave2 with at least one choice that seems completely baffling today and none of them stand out more than the random inclusion of a modern-day urban detective. The John Shaft figure sticks out like inflamed testicles on a small Chihuahua in a line filled with monsters, madmen and the people who fought them but he’s a simply a fantastic figure of Samuel L Jackson. His likeness is perfect, and the posing of his limbs has managed to catch every ounce of the pure coolness that makes up Sam Jackson, the reason he’s so low is simply because he’s a little boring compared to all the others on this list, he is – after all – just a bloke in a roll neck sweater, though it’s also a testament to how good this likeness is that a bloke in a roll-neck sweater ended up getting voted above King Kong and Jaws3.

11. Blair Witch
Movie Maniacs 4, 2001
Who? Unseen antagonist of the 1999 smash hit horror film and exemplar of clever marketing that was The Blair Witch Project. How can you make a figure of a character you never see though? Such questions do not stop eccentric millionaires like Todd McFarlane! He was basically given carte blanche to design whatever he liked for the monster.
Why? This is so ridiculous that I can’t help but love it; they made a figure of a character you never see! It’s bonkers! The fact that it turned out to be a really wonderful and really quite original witch design was just the icing on the mental cake. It IS a very McFarlane toys design but in 1999 McFarlane Toys’ design aesthetic was shared by the film industry anyway so no harm there. What McFarlane and his boys produced was an emaciated thing that had a distinctly tree-like feel to it (one of the two versions had a full-on tree like head, that’s my favourite of the two) that’s a perfect for something so closely associated with forests from a film entirely set in one. If you were a Blair Witch fan (and I was and still am) this was our only way to see the witch and that was damn special – and frankly the small glimpses we’ve had haven’t matched up to this figure.

10. Norris Creature and Spider
Movie Maniacs 3, 2000
What? ‘The Thing’ in a form it took after it’s impersonation of the character Norris was exposed (via defibrillator), from the 1982 marvel that was John Carpenter’s The Thing, the remake of The Thing From Another World.
Why? While not 100% accurate (something that would have been bloody difficult in 1998 and still would be pretty hard to do today) the Movie Maniacs Thing figures completely captured the design and feel of The Thing’s signature (and fucking stunning) physical effects – and by that I mean they were exceptionally grotesque – lovely. There were two in the line, both in the same wave, Blair Monster (the big one at the end) and Norris Creature (the spider one) and the reason Norris on here and Blair isn’t? For me the Norris-Thing is what I think of when I think of ‘The Thing’ both as a film and a ‘character’ and this is my list so I can be as biased as I want, plus he came with the spider-head and that thing is just magnificently unsettling in-film and magnificent unsettling as a small accessory, so it had value for money as well as everything else. The reason it’s so low though is that I’ve never been happy with the paint jobs on the Movie Maniacs Thing figures, they’re just simply way more colourful than the film’s props and use a few too many washes for me liking.

9. Chucky
Movie Maniacs 2, 1999
Who? A My Buddy Good Guy doll possessed by the murderous spirit of Billy Bibbs from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and the main antagonist of the Child’s Play franchise, this is his look from Chid’s Play 2.
Why? Because his size, look, articulation and rooted hair this figure looks and feel slike the Good Guy poseable figure that undoubtedly would have been released alongside the full size Good Guy dolls during their (fictional) day in the sun as a toy fad but one that’s also possessed by a murder! To further explain, in the 1980s toy companies developed this habit of making small action figures of toys that were primarily based around soft toys or dolls – Care Bears, Wuzzles, Rainbow Brite, Gummi Bears, Teddy Ruxpin, they all had ‘em – but because these were marketed towards girls or a unisex audience they were called ‘poseable figures’ or ‘poseables’ for short and as Chucky is a possessed toy from a big 80’s toy fad (in-universe) based around a doll it makes sense that there’d have been a poseable figure for him and McFarlane accidentally made it a reality. What’s important is that I HORDE these, I have a complete set of Care Bears bar one (Champ Bear! I can’t find that mustard coloured prick anywhere) and a complete set of Wuzzles for instance, you can get a life-size Good Guy (Chucky) replica doll from multiple manufactures but Movie Maniacs made the replica of the Poseable Figure (which doesn’t exist remember) that I’d’ve wanted more than that doll had it been 1988.

8. Candyman
Movie Maniacs 4, 2001
Who? Say his name three times and he’ll come and cut your nuts off, titular bogeyman of the 1992 film Candyman, was played very effectively by Tony Todd
Why? As far as I know this is the only figure of Candyman, which seems like something of an oversight on the part of the whole toy industry if you ask me but if this is destined to be the only plastic Candyman then ol’ Tony Todd could do a lot worse, the likeness is damn good (from most angles), the coat looks comfy and the torso came out nice and grizzly. It’s not perfect, the torso is stuck in a twisted position that can look very odd in some poses and the likeness isn’t spot-on, which might beg the question of “why’s it’s higher than Shaft?” because of two reasons a) Candyman is far less boring a design (and far better suited to the line) b) I like Candyman better than Shaft.

7. The Tooth Fairy
Movie Maniacs V, 2002
Who? The villain from the (then-upcoming) 2003 movie Darkness Falls, which I guess was tipped to be a big thing in horror when McFarlane got the licence – that didn’t happen.
Why? Darkness Falls is a shit film (I think it’s Rotten Tomatoes score is something like 7%?), I can get through it ok because I like the whole ‘coming back to a town with dark memories’ thing and because I think the Tooth Fairy is a sweet-ass villain but I think most people would need at least a Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (or RiffTrax) commentary to make it half way. However just because the film she comes from is crap that doesn’t mean that the Tooth Fairy’s figure is equally shite, in fact it’s the complete opposite which shouldn’t be too surprising as she’s number 8 and thus above stars of not-crap horror film like Psycho and Halloween.  Her figure is just an amazing work of detailing, texturing and colour and with her wings open becomes a bloody impressive presence on your shelf – she’s effectively the toy collector’s version of the stone angel gardeners get and just as impressive.

6. RoboCop
Movie Maniacs 7, 2004
Who? The murdered cop Alex Murphy is reborn as a cyborg lawbringer in the future, titular star of RoboCop from 1987 and its subsequent sequels and television series.
Why? I have a theory that Movie Maniacs RoboCop is slightly overvalued by ‘at-the-time’ buyers and fans of the series because it took all 7 series to get a figure of him, that was certainly true for me and it seems to be true for a few others from the blogs I’ve read so I’m saying it’s a fact, live with it.  However the figure that we waited for turned out be quite frankly beautiful, he may lack the articulation of the newer Neca figures (and McFarlane never made a glow-in-the-dark repaint of him, a wasted opportunity if ever there was one) but the colour and sculpt of this one is just so visually appealing, you could use him as a Christmas ornament. Personally he reminds me slightly more of the Kenner action figures than the film version but I have NO problem with that at all, he was the sole highlight in Series 7 – which was otherwise dominated by Texas Chainsaw Massacre characters and a poor likeness of Michael Biehn but Murph’ would have stood out in any wave. So why is he only number 7 then? Well because his positives boil down to ‘he looks pretty’ and because a RoboCop figure is hardly a unique thing and this isn’t the best RoboCop out there - which is a bit unfair but I have to find some way of ordering these.

5. Sarah Connor
Movie Maniacs V, 2002
Who? Destined to give birth to the saviour of the future, this is the character as played by Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 – Judgement Day when she’d become a confirmed badass and an escapee from a lunatic asylum.
Why? Unlike RoboCop this is my favourite figure of Sarah Connor and unlike RoboCop I REALLY like Sarah Connor and I’m particularly fond of (read: sexually obsessed with) the T2 version of the character and that’s totally playing a part in this figure’s ranking as well, pathetic yes but still a reason. McFarlane released three versions, each with a different head (hair down, hair up, wearing a cap), all of which were included in Neca’s recent Ultimate Sarah Connor which of course was better articulated but I wasn’t quite as happy with the sculpt, I didn’t like the face as much (I’d say the likeness was no better or worse, I just didn’t personally prefer it) and that just continued all down the figure, I can’t really elaborate on why this is I just simply prefer the McFarlane sculptors’ Linda Hamilton efforts.

4. Pumpkinhead
Movie Maniacs 2, 1999
Who? Titular demon from the 1988 horror film Pumpkinhead (yeah, not much to say here really)
Why? Simply put: Pumpkinhead is a cool toy (you read that in Tom Hanks’ voice and you know it) – taken completely separately from his liscence, just as a monster toy, Pumpkinhead works – he’s a tall, twisted, detailed monster with a bendable tail that looks familiar enough to fit in with other monsters but still original in his own way (he kind of looks like a Xenomorph that’s been peeled). Now combine that fact with the fact that he’s actually a very good Pumpkinhead figure – he’s accurate, he’s surprisingly well articulated for a McFarlane release and he’s in-scale (roughly) – and bam, number 4 slot filled.

3. Special Edition Eric Draven
Special Edition, 2000
Who? The main character of the 1994 film The Crow (based on a comic book created by James O’Barr) who was played by Brandon Lee, son of Bruce and who famously died while filming the movie, strangely fitting as Draven is a murdered musician brought back to avenge his and his fiancé’s murders.
Why? I have only kept 2 Movie Maniacs, this is one, number 2 is the other. Now I am more than willing to admit that Neca’s Draven figures are actually far better likenesses while this one is a little more cartoony but I rather like that about it, perhaps I’m more accepting of it on The Crow because it started out as a comic book? I’m not saying it’s better than Neca’s offerings, just that I like it as well – probably because the whole figure captures the essence of Eric Draven perfectly; god that sounds really pretentious doesn’t it? But it does, or at least to me – the pose, the…swagger of it, it’s just so CROW. The reason I’m putting the special edition the ‘fish tank’ re-release from 2000, on here is because it came with a crappy stand,  - really, the stand is really pathetic, it’s a plastic stand with a cardboard backdrop but that backdrop is of the circular window that Draven was thrown from in the movie, it’s an exceptionally iconic thing if you’re a fan of the film (and I REALLY am)  being able to pose this figure - who’s walking at you like the undead thing he is and loving every scare – in front of that, that iconic thing where this character died, is just so fitting and so pleasing to me as a fan.

2. Edward Scissorhands
Movie Maniacs 3, 2000
Who? Johnny Depp was built by Vincent Price and fell in love with Winona Ryder so Tim Burton and Caroline Thompson could make a comment about American suburbia, titular character of Edward Scissorhands from 1990 and technically the figure should just be called ‘Edward’.
Why? The sheer detailing in this sculpt alone should get it into a top 10, every stitch, every zipper, every scissor has been put onto this and they’ve all had their detailing painted, something that most companies would consider the exact same thing and burning $100 dollar bills in piles but hey, detailing and paint apps aren’t uncommon for McFarlane toys of this era so why so high? 1) the sculpting has a delicateness that’s not only rare for McFarlane and it’s macho heavy metal output but also perfect for the character 2) the likeness is excellent 3) they managed to get that hair looking that good on a 6” piece of plastic – which may well be magic and 4) like with The Crow this somehow catches the pretentious sounding essence of the character, only with a much better likeness, I really wish they’d made Kim4 to hug him, he needs a hug.

Runners-up are pretty much the whole line but if I must: variant Leatherface (Movie Maniacs), Norman Bates, Michael Myers, Ghostface (Movie Maniacs 2), Ash, Blair Monster, Bundle Fly, King Kong (Movie Maniacs 3), T-1000, Jaws5 (Movie Maniacs 4), T-800 Endoskeleton (Movie Maniacs V), Alien Queen (Movie Maniacs VI), the Dracula two-pack (2003) and Stealth Predator6 (a 2003 McFarlane Collector’s Club Exclusive).  

1. Lord of Darkness

Movie Maniacs 6, 2003
Who? Basically it’s Satan as played by Tim Curry (who apparently isn’t a demon in real life - pfft like I believe that), the Lord of Darkness was the main antagonist of the 1985 fantasy film Legend.  
Why? There was never any debate here; the Movie Maniac’s Lord of Darkness is fucking magnificent in every way a figure can be which is perfectly fitting because the character himself is magnificent, a magnificent bastard sure but still magnificent, everything about the pose they gave him screams ‘I am fucking awesome’. See how much I’m swearing? That should tell you my level of enthusiasm for this piece of plastic, I so wish I’d kept him and have no idea why I didn’t7. This exuding magnificence the combines with a spot on headsculpt with a spot-on expression (‘pissed off and evil’ about sums it up) and McFarlane’s usual level of detail and painting so it just stands head and horns about the rest of the line – he’s a huge devil, he’s Tim Curry, he’s wonderfully made and so he’s number 1. As for why I’ve put the regular release and not the deluxe edition like with The Crow, once again the main addition was a base and while it’s a million times nicer than The Crow’s I honestly don’t care about it in the slightest, that window is feels important to me while Darkness’ treasure just doesn’t feel important enough to pay out the extra cash - but then I like The Crow a LOT more than I like Legend.

And there you have it, Movie Maniacs was a schizophrenic but superb line that fulfilled a lot of toy fantasies for nerds in the late nineties and early noughties, Neca may have outclassed it with several franchises (most notably Nightmare on Elm Street, Terminator, Alien and Predator) but a lot of the figures still stand up well, either as good representations of their characters, as the only representations of their characters or just by looking bloody cool and I’ve love to see a new line like this (or Neca’s Cult Classics or SOTA Toys’ Now Playing), one that could allow for one or two figures from smaller cult films or films without the depth of character roster or profile to support a whole line of its own – wave one needs to include the Killbots.   

1 Which I suppose is great news if you’re a fan of Species II or Darkness Falls and especially if you’re a big fan of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.
2 Wave 2 doesn’t have this problem, its entire line-up had become iconic or cult classics by 1999, the most recent movie represented was Scream, by then three years old and already a modern classic and today considered on-par with the other great horror franchises.
3 I have my individual issues with all three of the big sets released in the line – the Jaws set is basically just a plastic diorama, out of scale with the rest of the line and doesn’t include a whole shark, King Kong has likeness issues (and most King Kongs do, people seem to just sculpt ‘big monkey’ rather than O’bie’s big monkey) and is again wildly out of scale (they were making 18inch versions of figures, there was no excuse) and I’ve never been fond of the ‘art style’ used on the Movie Maniacs Xenomorphs, including the Alien Queen.
4 Winona Rider’s character
5 I may have issues with them that kept them out of the top 12 but Jaws, King Kong and Alien Queen are still impressive
6 like their eternal cross-over partners I was never that impressed with Movie Maniacs Predators either, I didn’t like the bodies mostly, but I’m always willing to make an exception for c-thru Predators.
7 from this list I owned all but Chucky and Sarah Connor as a teenager, now I own Sarah Connor and was able to find a Ghostface at a bootsale but that still means I only have four figures left – sadnesss. Movie Maniacs average around twice their original retail price these days on the second hand market too – the Thing and Jaws stuff are especially expensive.

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