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Don’t Toy With Me: Gorillaz Vinyl Figures



The virtual band Gorillaz had toys in the works back in 2002 through Art Asylum, but for whatever reason, these didn’t materialize. (View the unreleased toys HERE.) Artsy-fartsy toy store Kidrobot apparently picked up the sculpts, dumped the planned Gorilla figure and a bunch of the accessories, and has released the toys as very limited-run, large vinyl figures just in time for the group’s new album, “Demon Days”.

The paint and sculpting on these figures is virtually flawless. From the even coats (you wont see apps this clean on any mass-market line) to the subtle details like the circles under Russel’s eyes, it’s some of the best paint I’ve ever seen. We don’t even need to talk about how great the sculpts are – you can see for yourself. Look at the subtle curve to 2D’s legs. How about that wry smirk on Murdoc? It’s a tribute not only to the sculptors, but to Jamie Hewlett’s original designs as well. Many simplified, graphic characters like the Gorillaz have a tough time making the jump to three dimensions. But Hewlett’s Gorillaz actually turn around quite well, which makes turning them into action figures a lot easier.

The plastic used is rigid and durable. Even in the increasingly hot weather, the Gorillaz are standing straight and tall on my bookshelf, while the 10″ Teen Titans figures next to them are crashing to the ground. This is no mean feat; most manufacturers have moved to softer plastics for both cost savings and the fact that they’re supposedly better at capturing small sculpt details. Clearly, the excellent Gorillaz toys put lie to that.

Frontman 2D is probably my favorite figure of the bunch. I love the sculpting on his teeth (including the missing ones), and his pose is probably not the first drawing off his model sheet. The posing on the hands is just spectacular, and the inclusion of the cigarette is ballsy considering how demonized smoking is these days in the action figure world. At about thirteen inches tall, he’s a pretty big toy and the tallest of the bunch. The “Pink Rabbit” design on his shirt is a fun choice, but I suspect we’ll see quite a few repaints using this tooling sporting new shirts. Though these figures are not really intended for play, 2D is articulated with a swivel neck and limited shoulder swivels.

The creepy bass player, Murdoc is captured beautifully here. A little shorter than 2D at about twelve and a half inches, Murdoc’s “arms folded” pose leaves him a little less articulated than his bandmates, but no less appealing. All the nastiness is there – from the one red eye, to the upside-down cross dangling from his neck.

Little Noodle comes with the most articulation of the set-head swivel, limited shoulder swivels and wrist swivels. She measures about seven and a half inches. Unfortunately, with Noodle, the rigid nature of the materials used becomes problematic. Though she’s intended to be posed holding the guitar accessory, it’s pretty difficult to fit it into both hands, and trying to do so caused some minor paint rubs. I’m a bit worried about the durability of the wire used to make her headphone antennas as well; it looks like it could bend or break given the right conditions. Still, she’s as beautiful as the rest of them.

Russel is a bit of an anomaly in that while most of the character’s designs remained fairly static from album one to album two, his appearance changed quite a bit. Though he’s still a hefty guy, he’s lost weight and gained a far less simian appearance. Because these sculpts were originally done a few years back, Russel’s figure is based off of the earlier album’s artwork. I do kind of wish they’d tweaked his sculpt a bit, considering how closely tied into the promotion of the “Demon Days” these toys are. He’s about eleven inches tall. I am also a bit disappointed that his radio features no detailing at all-it’s quite literally a gray box.

Each figure comes in a brown box of varying size depending on the character inside. If you’re not up to comparing sizes to guess who’s who, there’s graphic of the included character’s head on the top of each box. Line up the four boxes in the right order and they spell “Gorillaz” in spray painted text, making a nice backdrop for the band. Inside, they’re all packed into a two piece plastic tray, which keeps them nice and safe from all but the angriest delivery guy. Each includes the same sheet of stickers for customizing you figures, your furniture, or in my case, your sketchbook.

Kidrobot’s Gorillaz vinyl figures are something really different from your standard action figure. Though I generally favor toys that are more oriented to playability, in this case I make an exception. The $150 price tag on the set of four may seem steep. But considering it’s the only three dimensional representation of these characters, if you’re a fan, it’s worth it. These are truly beautiful figures, and capture the essences of perhaps the best post-millenium cartoon characters perfectly. The limited production run on these, coupled with Kidrobot’s site calling these “Black Editions”, leads me to believe we’ll see this tooling utilized again in the future. In addition, I’d love to see smaller, more articulated figures and some trading figure-style dioramas would be great as well.

The Gorillaz Vinyl figures can be found at

Jim Hill is an entertainment writer who has specialized in covering The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years now. Over that time, he has interviewed hundreds of animators, actors, and Imagineers -- many of whom have shared behind-the-scenes stories with Mr. Hill about how the Mouse House really works. In addition to the 4000+ articles Jim has written for the Web, he also co-hosts a trio of popular podcasts: “Disney Dish with Len Testa,” “Fine Tooning with Drew Taylor” and “Marvel US Disney with Aaron Adams.” Mr. Hill makes his home in Southern New Hampshire with his lovely wife Nancy and two obnoxious cats, Ginger & Betty.

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Marvel Animation bets big on shorts as it launches the second season of its Funko-inspired comic match-ups



Marvel Funko Shorts

Marvel Entertainment has long been celebrated for its ability to weave these epic-length narratives that can then play out across multiple motion pictures, TV shows and comic books.

Copyright Marvel Studios. All rights reserved

So if length really plays to this studios’ storytelling strength, why then is Marvel Animation headed in the opposite direction? Creating a series of stand-alone, 90-second long shorts that – rather than putting Marvel’s super heroes through their usual action-adventure paces – opt to shine a spotlight on these characters’ more comic side?

“It’s all about new formats, new audiences,” explained Cort Lane, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Animation & Family Entertainment. “That’s been our mission statement for this past year here at Marvel. I mean, we obviously have the affinity of our core target audiences. We have those people who already love our characters, go to see our movies or are aware of them. But we wanted to do something that would possibly help Marvel reach a broader audience. And we thought that comedy might be the way to get there.”

Mind you, what spurred Cort & Co. to initially explore this idea was this series of animated promos that Funko created for its Marvel Collector Corps subscription boxes.

Copyright Marvel / Funko. All rights reserved

“These promos were created by this tiny little studio in the U.K. called A Large Evil Corporation. And the folks who work there, they are very inventive and have a great comedy sensibility,” Lane enthused. “Even though the Funko versions of our characters don’t have mouths, A Large Evil Corporation was still able to animate these very simple versions of the Marvel characters in a way that was very expressive and highly entertaining.”

So – building on A Large Evil Corporation’s previously existing relationship with Funko – Marvel Animation launched a trial balloon late last year. They put together a trio of shorts that were basically expanded versions of those animated promos for the Marvel Collector Corps subscription box scripts.

The first of these shorts (i.e., “Spellbound.” Which debuted online back on November 30th of last year and starred the Funko versions of Spider-Man, Iron Man & Loki) was viewed 600,000+ times. By the time the third in this series (i.e., “Chimichangas.” Which featured Funko’s versions of Deadpool & Venom fighting in & around a food truck) bowed on December 14, 2016, these shorts were now getting 4 million views. Which is when Marvel Animation decided to go all in with its comic shorts initiative.

Copyright Marvel / Funko. All rights reserved

“Our thinking was – by placing these comedy short form pieces across multiple platforms – we’d then be able to reach a broader audience. Getting all the eyeballs that we might not traditionally get through our animated series. Which – while they have been doing well on Disney XD — have been more boy-targeted,” Cort stated. “By deliberately making these pieces only 90 seconds long, that then makes it possible for these comedy shorts to go on social media, to be put up on YouTube. Which then makes it possible for them to reach an exponentially larger audience.”

Ironically enough, though it obviously doesn’t take as much effort to craft a scenario for a 90-second long comedy short as it does to write a teleplay for a 22-minute long episode of an animated series or the screenplay for a feature-length film, Lane still insists that a lot of thought & effort goes into each o these short form pieces.

“Creating fully formed, independent little stories that can actually be told in 90 seconds requires a lot of discipline and some really tight storytelling,” Cort said. “You’d think that – given that the Funko versions of our characters don’t have mouths – they’d then be easier to animate. But they really aren’t. And given that A Large Evil Corporation has such a small staff of animators … Well, we had to be careful. Make sure that we didn’t overwhelm that studio by sending them too many shorts to work on at any one time. Allow them to turn each of these short form pieces into a comedy gem.”

The first of these gems which were created for Season 2 of this series – “Cosmic Sleigh Ride” – can be seen below:

“For Season 2, we’ll be ultimately be releasing eight of these comedy shorts. Some will be synergistic. ‘Cosmic Sleigh Ride’ – which features the Funk versions of Star-Lord, Rocket and Taserface — is bowing now because the Blu-ray / DVD version of “Guardians of the Galaxy – Vol 2″ hit store shelves a few weeks back,” Lane explained. “While other shorts in this series will premiere online when buzz is building around a particular character. Our ultimate goal here is to give our audience more of what it wants. Which – in this case – is connecting with the characters, but connecting in a different way. With comedy. And in a different format.”

So does Cort have a favorite among the eight new short form comedy pieces that will be debuting online as part of Season 2?

“From a storytelling perspective, there’s one coming up with Hulk and Black Widow that’s a personal favorite of mine which plays on their interesting relationship. I love those two characters because there’s such contrast there,” Lane teased. “I don’t want to reveal too much about this comedy short in advance. What I will say is that they’re on a spy mission and Hulk isn’t so great at spy missions.”

Copyright Marvel Entertainment. All rights reserved

So what with this “new formats, new audiences” initiative, should fans of Disney XD series like “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man” be concerned? Cort says no.

“Moving into shorts is obviously a big shift for us. But we’re still in the business of creating long form animation. That said, all of the diverse platform opportunities that you get with short form really open you up to new audiences. And we’ll continue to explore that opportunity with things like our pre-school series, the Marvel Super Hero Adventures. Those will be a series of 3 & ½ minute shorts that will be coming out soon,” Lane concluded. “So, as you can see, we’re stretching. We’re committed to exploring short form as a format because the kind of audience that you can potentially get out of it is so significant.”

And that’s the long & the short of what Marvel Animation is doing with its new short form comedy pieces. 


This piece was originally published by the Huffington Post on Wednesday, September 27, 2017

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“Let It Go” gets the LEGO treatment as a whole new Disney “Frozen” story unfolds across books, TV & digital with “Frozen Northern Lights”



What with “Frozen – Live at the Hyperion” opening in late May at Disney California Adventure Park and Epcot‘s “Frozen Ever After” attraction opening its doors later this morning, Anna & Elsa have had a very busy month.

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So what will these Scandinavian sisters be doing for an encore? Would you believe joining forces with the LEGO Group? Anna & Elsa – along with Kristoff, Olaf & Sven – will be starring in four new “Frozen” animated shorts that will air on the Disney Channel. Not only that, but these new LEGO shorts will be based on a brand-new published-by-Random-House story, “Frozen Northern Lights.”

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The fun officially gets underway in July as “Frozen” fans can once again return to the kingdom of Arendelle thanks to a cleverly interconnected collection of books, animated shorts from the LEGO group as well as digital games & activities.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

“So what awaits ‘Frozen’ fans once they return to Arendelle?,” you ask. “Frozen Northern Lights” tells the story of Little Rock, one of those trolls that adopted young Kristoff & Sven in the original “Frozen” film. Little Rock needs help earning his tracking crystal. So Anna, Elsa, Kristoff, Sven & Olaf join this tiny troll on an epic mountain adventure to restore the glimmer of the Northern Lights.

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

The hardcover novelization of this story — “Disney Frozen Northern Lights: Journey to the Lights” – will hit store shelves next month. As for those four animated shorts, the LEGO Group will definitely be bringing its unique style of animation and quirky sense of humor to the world of “Frozen.”

Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

And did I mention that the vocal talent from the original Disney “Frozen” will be returning to reprise their roles? Or that a full compilation of all four of the LEGO “Frozen Northern Lights” shorts will air on the Disney Channel later this Fall?

So are you ready to see “Let It Go” get the LEGO treatment?

This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post’s Entertainment page on Tuesday, June 21, 2016

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“Yo-kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls” coming to America



If you’ve been watching Disney XD lately OR If you’ve been in a Target, a Walmart, a Hot Topic OR anywhere that sells video games … Heck, if you’ve been around a group of kids lately, chances are you’ve heard of Yo-Kai Watch.

Initially released in Japan by Level-5 in 2013, just last year the first of Yo-Kai Watch games were translated and brought over for American audiences. In Japan, the game was a huge, bombastic hit. And why not? The creatures within the game were based on characters from popular Japanese stories. The kappa, the nekomata, and the kitsune, just to name a few. Via use of their Yo-Kai Watch, the main character — Nate in the English version — is able to see the invisible Yo-Kai, who haunt and inspirit the world around them.

Given it was so rooted in Japanese culture, it was thought that this series would have an uphill battle once it arrived in the US. But luckily, Yo-Kai Watch wound up with an extremely solid viewership on Disney XD. And the game — despite a demo that was sort of ‘eh’ — was a really inspired, beautifully detailed, fun game. The writing in the game really held it up, despite the battles sometimes becoming repetitive. Overall, it was a fantastic, moving experience to play.

So imagine how excited I was to see that the long-awaited sequel was finally announced. English fans had been campaigning under the hashtag ‘#LocalizeYW2’ passionately, and it seems they’ve been heard. Or the game sold enough. Or hey, probably both. “Yo-Kai Watch 2: Bony Spirits and Fleshy Souls” will be arriving in America on the 3DS on September 30th, 2016. 

Kind of an odd name, right? Well, there’s going to be two versions. If you’re familiar with Pokemon (And sorry. it’s a bit of a sore point when Yo-Kai Watch is brought up next to Pokemon. But sometimes comparisons need to be made) you probably are aware of the fact that typically two versions of one game are released — Pokemon Diamond and Pearl, X and Y, etc. Well, that’s what’s happening here. The game introduces 184 new Yo-Kai, and some are split between the two versions of the game. There’s also different quests, and different exclusive DLC add-ons between the two.

With new merch coming out, and the sequel on the horizon, it seems Yo-Kai Watch is really picking up speed here in North America. If you’d like to check out this phenomenon, “Yo-Kai Watch” airs weekdays at 5 p.m. on Disney XD

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