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"Don't Toy With Me": Giant Incredibles Movie Merchandise blowout!

"Don't Toy With Me": Giant Incredibles Movie Merchandise blowout!

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Just a few short years ago, the toy companies were talking in the mainstream press about the failure of product lines licensed from movies. After massive failures like the toys based on the Jurassic Park and Batman sequels, Titan AE, Atlantis, the first X-Men, Small Soldiers, and many others, toy manufacturers were moving away from these licensed movie lines. And the theory was sound - a movie has both a limited story and a limited time in the public consciousness. While certain lines may have sold reasonably well before or during their theatrical releases, what happens when it's a month or two later? The product just didn't perform to expectations, especially when licenses for big budget movies were so pricey for toy companies. A consensus was formed in the industry and movie lines were downsized; less product meant less expense and less risk. And many movies went without licensing, at least from the big two: Hasbro and Mattel.

Sure, there were the big successes to point to, but they were few and far between. There was Star Wars, of course, but even that wasn't a sure thing given the absurd level of overproduction on the product for the Prequels. The original Jurassic Park did ok. Toy Story's popularity was a surprise and caught retailers short. But again, these were the exception, not the rule, and it took over a decade of heavy movie licensing to convince the manufacturers to be wary of these risky ventures. Some more recent film-based toys were only released as retailer exclusives. These lines proved generally unsuccessful, as Spy Kids figures and the horrible E.T. product line both took quick trips to the clearance aisle.

Monsters Inc., the last Pixar film to receive wide merchandising, was another one that could be chalked up in the "lose" column. Despite a pretty nice looking line of basic figures and some larger electroniky-geegaws from Hasbro, this stuff languished on the shelves. It was eventually clearanced out at ridiculously low prices.

So now we have "The Incredibles" product line, based on the Pixar/Brad Bird/Disney collaborative effort. And an enormous line of licensed product there is. Just from Hasbro, we have 6" Basic and Deluxe action figures, an "Incredobile" car (that recycles an old gimmick from the Kenner Superman line), plush toys, large rotocast figures, a Violet fashion doll, an electronic talking Mr. Incredible, Electronic talking Edna Mode doll (This character didn't seem like the most marketable, but what do I know?), RC robot-spidery guys, a giant wheeled vehicle for the badguy goons, a larger scale running Dash toy, PVC figurine sets and I'm sure there'll be more. And let's not even talk about the clothes, candy-toy combinations, costumes and such from other licensees.

So, after Monsters Inc.'s failure in the toystores, and Finding Nemo being barely a blip on the merchandising radar (just a few plush toys and lil' playsets), what in god's name is Hasbro thinking pulling out all the stops with this ginormous offering?

Well, for one thing the very concept of superheroes is still reasonably hot right now, due to the fantastic Spider-Man and X-Men films, and the possibly not-too-stinky upcoming "Batman Begins". Even if hasty licensing on Marvel's part has produced the terrible, terrible Daredevil and Punisher films, superheroes are still pretty big. Plus, if you consider the play-patterning of the Incredibles toys beyond the movie, it seems to pan out fairly well. Unlike some licensed properties, the characters seem strong enough to inspire kids to invent new stories rather than just playing out the movie plot again and again. The addition of the 'family' concept along with some strong female characters may even make this stuff play well with girls. But if you ask me, it's still some risky business to be laying out such a huge amount of money for development and tooling on top of the shelf space it's gobbling up.

Let's talk about some of that product then. What I've done is bought *some* of the toys from *most* of the price points. As I've said, there's a lot out there, and I just can't afford all of it.

The Deluxe assortment of Hasbro's figures is heavily based around some amusing action features. The case pack includes Super Strength Mr. Incredible, which features a tossing action which propels a small, suited man through the air; Rapid Run Dash, who plows through two bad guy goons; Ice Action Frozone, who fires an "ice" missile from his hand; Energy Blastin' Syndrome, who fires a missile at a drawing of Bob Parr; and the one I've picked up: Punch N' Rescue Mr. Incredible. I chose this one because it features a well-executed sculpt of the younger, blue-suited Mr. Incredible. All of the Incredibles merchandise from Hasbro has similarly-themed packaging with a yellow field of speedlines and "Kirby dots" behind the figures, and the rest decorated with a sharp red, yellow and black scheme. It's too bad that there aren't individualized illustrations for each character, but the packages grab your attention on the shelf well.

Punch N' Rescue Mr. Incredible is articulated with swivel joints on the neck and shoulders. That's it. His waist has a very strong spring-back action (kinda like the original Masters of the Universe figures, but much stronger) to break apart a simulated brick wall with a silhouetted villain on it. The paint on the figure is fairly good with only some slight definition problems between the blue and black, and his face is cleanly done. Mine however, seems to have errant bits of glue on his legs and arms. Good thing he comes with a blue "i" stand, as even without leg joints he can't balance. It's not awful, but there's nothing to really distinguish it, and at $7.99 at TRU, I'd at least like to see basic, Star Wars-level articulation and a few more accessories.

Three PVC box sets have been produced by Hasbro. One of the family in civilian clothes, another of supporting characters, and a third of the main characters outfitted for battle. I chose the third with Mr. Incredible, Mrs. Incredible, Dash, Omnidroid, Syndrome, and Island Guard. The sculpts are solid, but the paint is sloppy - especially around the faces, and is too thin in places. If you look at some of the "Gashapon" toys coming out of Japan, Hasbro's Incredibles PVCs don't fare well. At $9.99 for a box set at TRU, the value just isn't there.

Hasbro's large scale (about 11") rotocast figures should be the best looking pieces out there. Unfortunately, they fall a little short. The assortment is Mr. Incredible, Frozone, Syndrome, and a Violet doll. Violet isn't a rotocast figure, but is more of a fashion doll with interchangeable clothes, and a fairly generic-looking body. She seems to have been included with the rotocast assortment only to streamline the product offerings for retailers and to have all of the product shelved in the same area. I chose to buy Frozone and Mr. Incredible.

With the amazing work Toy Biz has been doing with adding articulation to their large rotocast Marvel figures, these come out as a disappointment with only minimal articulation. Hasbro's design teams should be taking more frequent trips to the store to check out the competition. Frozone is articulated at the neck, shoulders, and waist with swivel joints. His paint application is clean and well-defined, but his facial tone looks a bit too light - another layer of application might have fixed that. There's nothing to distinguish the color choices, no special thought went into applying anything to further define his muscle tone. He includes a stand, which is good because there's no way he could stay vertical without it. Mr. Incredible fairs a bit better with swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, forearms, waist, and lower legs. I'm not sure about the choice of having both arms bent as it leaves him with a bit of a midgety-arms thing going on, but the detailing of the sculpt is solid. Similar to Frozone, the paint application is clean, but the red plastic he's cast in is a bit thin and tends to catch the light poorly. With a bit of work, Mr. Incredible can stand without his included base, but better to use it. $12.99 a piece at TRU places the cost a bit above Toy Biz's better rotocast offerings. Again, a very mediocre showing from Hasbro.

Longtime Pixar licensee Thinkway (they did the first year or two of Toy Story stuff) is not to be left out. They've produced two figure-kits with electronic features - Mr. Incredible and Dash. Dash looked out of scale with his dad, so I only purchased Mr. Incredible. Thinkway's product shows a hell of a lot more imagination than Hasbro's. The assembly instructions include more steps then necessary for the way he's packed in the box. Basically, you have to twist his waist into his torso, and plug on one of two included heads - either a set jaw with a full head of hair or a smug grin with male-pattern baldness. Other accessories include a phone with removable handset, a thermos, a lunchbag with "BOB" written on it, an "i" flag, an extra set of hands and best of all, A REMOVABLE GUT. This may be the coolest accessory ever - just snap the gut on and "tah-dah!", Bob's a tubbo.

On top of all this, each head selects a series of phrases to say when his chest insignia is pressed. Set-jaw head says stuff like, "Yeah, I like a little workout . . . just to stay loose." and, "(sings fanfare) THIS looks like a job for Mr. Incredible!". Grinning head's lines are best sampled with, "Let's save a few more people . . . then break for lunch." and "You expect me to save the world on salad and rice cakes?" Great voice sampling - you can tell it's sourced directly from movie dialogue. He's articulated with a swivel neck, shoulders, biceps, hinged elbows, swivel forearms, waist, ball-jointed hips, swivel thighs, hinged knees, and swivels on the lower legs. MUCH better then Hasbro, even if I could've really used ball joints on the shoulders. The other downside to this toy is his inability to hold either his phone, lunchbag, or thermos. Still, a great value for $12.99 at TRU, and the playability and fun factor absolutely demolishes Hasbro's rotocast figures. I highly recommend this one.

The gem of Incredibles product isn't even from Hasbro. Exclusive to the Disney store (and presumably parks) are six 7" scale figures of a far superior quality to Hasbro's offerings. Each figure comes in a clamshell package with the logo stickered on the front, and behind the figure, a giant "i" insignia. On the opaque red back, there's a sticker showing the whole assortment. It's a simple, durable and reasonably attractive-set up for both shelf display and peg hanging. These toys outshine Hasbro's offerings in almost every respect - sculpting, paint and most especially articulation. Each figure includes two cards with strong, graphic imagery depicting some action from the film or aspect of a character, and a different colored "i" logo ring. They'll just barely fit over my fat fingers, so if you wanted to wear one, you probably could. Hey, maybe you're the type that doesn't embarrass easily, I don't know.

Mr. Incredible is articulated with a limited ball jointed neck, ball shoulders, bicep swivels, hinged elbows, swivel wrists and waist, limited ball hips, and hinged knees. Quite a sight better then Hasbro's meager posing options. The sculpt is great with lots of subtle musculature, and a sharp, smug expression on his face. The paint is pretty clean,and even distinguishes between the glossy black of his gloves and boots and the matte black found on his undies, chest insignia. and collar. In a feature that he shares with the Mrs., Mr. Incredible's chest insignia lights up yellow for about four seconds after it's pressed.

The villain Syndrome has a goofily maniacal headsculpt and flexible rubber cape. He's articulated with a limited ball neck, ball shoulder, bicep swivel, hinged elbow, swivel wrist, swivel waist, limited ball hips, and hinged knees. Syndrome's left arm only has the shoulder and wrist joints due to a light-up gauntlet feature, but it's not too intrusive. There's also a great bit of detailing on his jet-boots. The paint's surprisingly clean except for some sloppy definition between his pants and the top of his boots.

Frozone's probably my favorite of the assortment and it has little to do with the fact that I'm a drooling Sam Jackson fanboy. He's articulated with a swivel neck, ball shoulders, hinged elbows, forearm swivels, hinged wrists, swivel waist, ball hips (the only ones not limited by sculpt), hinged knees and ankles. He's got nice paint with a little slop around the face, but a great sparkly, pearlescent white that gives the appearance of a layer of frost. Frozone's also got the most useful accessories with his included skis and sled that can plug into his feet for downhill action . . . or cross-country action if you prefer, but that's not too exciting.

Violet makes for a sharp package with her included invisible transparent double. Even if it's only articulated at the neck, it's an impressive sculpt in a groovy kung-fu pose with a glued-on stand to keep her spindly form relatively stable. The visible Violet has a limited ball neck, ball shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel waist, "Y" jointed hips (ugh), and hinged knees. There's some paint slop around the edges of her mask, gloves and boots, but nothing too tragic. They probably could have done more with the articulation, but her form is pretty thin so I don't look upon the designers too harshly. A flexible hairpiece would have been nice to allow for more head movement though.

Mrs. Incredible has a ball jointed neck, ball shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel waist, "Y" hips (ugh again), and hinged knees. She includes only the aforementioned light-up logo feature, and an immobile figure of baby Jack Jack. The sculpt on Mrs. Incredible is good with some nice work on the face, but Jack Jack's great expression and well-executed folds in his baby clothes really shine.

Large-headed tyke Dash is articulated with a limited ball jointed neck, ball shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel waist, limited ball hips, and hinged knees. Notably, those limited hips prevent Dash from being put into convincing running positions. Bad form. Dash has the light-up chest insignia as well. A stand with dust being kicked up behind him would've looked great.

At $9.50 a piece are these things worth it? Well, yeah. If you really dug the movie, then I'd say go with these over Hasbro's merch. You won't regret it. I'm gonna hold out hope there's a second series of these containing goons, blue costumed Mr. Incredible and some of the other super heroes seen in the film.

My, that's a lot of toys, isn't it? If the film is as good as I hope, then most of you are probably going to want some of them. I'd say that the verdict is head over-heels for the Thinkway and the Disney store exclusive figures. Hasbro's offerings aren't bad, but why not spend a little more and get the product that looks and plays better?

An Incredible Contest
Create a scene of your favorite Incredibles character interacting with any Pixar character or group of characters from other Pixar films.  You can draw an illustration, create something in Flash, photograph toys or your friends dressed up as characters-whatever!  Entries will be judged on creativity, so even if you don't have an art school edjumacation, you've got a shot!  The prize package will be a big ol' pile of Incredibles toys including two Hasbro rotocast figures, Hasbro Basic and Deluxe figures, and whatever else strikes my fancy on the next trip to the toystore!
Send all entries to [email protected]
Deadline Monday November 8th at Midnight EST.

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