If you're into toys (or have kids who are into toys), you probably know that one of the best times to shop for them isn't during the gifting holiday season -- it's after it. See, that's the time when stores need to clear out their remaining stock to make room for the next year's product, and sometimes they've gotta slash prices beyond reason to pull it off. Stores aren't always willing to do this, mind you (which is why you can still find Iron Man 2 figures from 2010 on store shelves), and it's not always necessary depending upon the toyline. Some lines sell really well during the holidays, which is why many pegs in the toy aisles are all but barren during the week immediately following Christmas. But when lines are overordered -- or just plain flop -- you can get some really, really good deals.
And hence this article -- or rather article series, since it'll be at least two and possibly three parts. I'll note the specific prices as I discuss each item, but nothing in this installment cost over $4 (including tax). Let's have a closer look at what I was able to snag on the cheap, shall we?
It's no secret that I've kinda gone off the deep end with respect to My Little Pony love -- and, as we saw in this review, that love has extended beyond the Hasbro brand to what longtime pony fans have called "fakies." So when I saw the Wonder Pony Land Pretty Horse Set (which is apparently part of the Dream Collection of the Gi-Go Toys Factory) for 50% off, I just had to buy it. Now, it's worth noting that it only cost $3.99 originally. That's at least $1 cheaper than what most stores are charging for actual My Little Pony singles, and this set comes with two ponies. It also comes with a brush, comb, three hairclips, and a heart-shaped container filled with elastic bands for further pony hair styling -- not that you'll even need them for these ponies, since they come with their hair already in nicely done braids (held by ribbons and additional elastic bands).
And then there are the Wonder Ponies themselves. Look at the size of them! These ponies' legs alone are as long as Hasbro's G4 ponies are tall. They also have glass eyes (which probably aren't glass, but I don't know how else to describe them) in contrast to the painted eyes on official MLP toys, which gives them a slightly creepy but also higher end appearance. Combine that with the pre-braided hair and the cutie marks on both flanks, and you have ponies that arguably surpass Hasbro's in every way except diminutive cuteness -- and I got them and a handful of hair accessories for $1.99 at Giant. Score.
And, yes, it's also entirely possible to have the ponies kissing each other on the lips in the package. (I did that; that's not how they came -- though it's entirely possible that that is how they came and some disapproving prude swiveled their necks away from each other.) So they're potentially lesbian ponies, which is awesome. Maybe they can start a social group with Rainbow Dash.
Next up, we have Angelica from Jakks Pacific's Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides line. Despite liking the first three films in the series, I wasn't particularly interested in the fourth installment -- and, if the abundance of figures clogging toy aisle pegs at Target, Walmart, and Toys "R" Us are any indication, I'm not the only one who skipped it. Of course, it could have nothing to do with the quality of the movie or how many people saw it. Even if the movie is great and was incredibly popular (and according to the Wikipedia link, apparently it did really well at the box office), these are some pretty terrible toys.
Just check out Angelica above. Apparently she was played by Penelope Cruz in the film, but that toy hardly looks like Penelope Cruz (though admittedly it does look a bit like some still photos of her from the film -- like the one on this page). More problematic is the fact that the packaging warped the legs to all hell, such that Angelica can't even stand upright (look how she's balanced on the Marvel stand I used for the photo) and just looks plain goofy. Granted, that should be fixable with heat, but the inferior articulation (swivel neck, shoulders, waist, hips, and wrists with hinged elbows and knees) still makes this a weak toy compared to Hasbro's many 3.75" offerings. With other lines in this scale on clearance for around the same price (to say nothing of the Rise of Cobra figures you can still find in abundance at discount stores like Marshalls and TJ Maxx), I can't recommend these PotC figures even at the $2.38 I paid for Angelica at Target.
That said, the accessories -- a sword (and belt that holds it), pistol, and removable hat -- are fairly well done, and the blacklight ring that reveals skeleton paint on the figure is an inspired "action" feature. It's a shame that these things weren't included with a better figure.
And here's another movie line that didn't do so well at retail. Unlike Angelica above, however, the 3.75" Green Lantern figures from Mattel aren't total junk -- and I dare say they might actually have been contenders if not for one glaring shortcoming. The sculpts are pretty detailed, if a touch soft; the paint is mostly clean and crisp; and the accessories work well with the toys and, with the attachments included with larger figures like Kilowog, can even attach to the 6"-scale DC Universe Classics figures. Heck, they even come with impressively sculpted Lantern rings, though it'll take some dremeling to fit them onto (my) adult fingers.
So what are they missing? Articulation. Poor Isamot Kol above is only rocking six points -- he's got swivel joints at the neck, shoulders, hips, and tail -- and Kilowog barely fares better with eight -- he's got swivels at the neck, waist, and hips and swivel-hinged shoulders. These figures are really working with articulation that's just a half-step beyond basic-five, which is kinda sad for 2011 superhero offerings. It actually doesn't work too badly for Isamot given his unusual posture, but Kilowog's posing potential is really limited without swivel-hinged hips and any elbow or knee articulation.
Now, the GL toys seem to be moving a little better now that they're on clearance and making the discount store rounds -- I picked these guys up for $2 each at K-Mart, and they've recently arrived at Five Below for $3 a pop. But for the $7+ retailers originally wanted, it's no surprise that Mattel's offerings had a hard time competing against the similarly priced and much more poseable 3.75" figures from Hasbro. Of course, what I hear about the quality of the Green Lantern film probably had something to do with it as well.
Also, is it me, or does the GL Corps let in some of the most fucked-up creatures this side of the galaxy? Kilowog I understand -- sure, he's a huge domineering pig monster thing, but he doesn't seem all that alien aside from his appearance. (Granted, it's probably because he gets more attention than any other non-human Lantern in other media, but he's one of my favorite GL characters -- such that I came this close to buying his figure even before it went on clearance.) But Isamot Kol? I don't know anything about the guy, but it looks like they just found a dinosaur eating sheep in some volcanic wasteland and said, "Fuck it, suit 'im up!" The biggest indicator that this thing has no business wearing the uniform? His accessory is an oversized bear trap. The GL Corps is supposed to be facing down the deadliest villains in the universe, and they can construct almost anything they can imagine with their Lantern rings to aid them in this task. And this creature makes a freaking bear trap, as if the greatest scourges known to sentient life don't have the sense to step over a giant glowing green obstruction in their path. But you can't make what you don't know, and apparently that's what Isamot Kol learned on whatever world he hails from. In my collection, Kilowog's first assignment will be to send that thing back to that world immediately.
And finally (at least for this installment!) we have Chemaster from the 3.75" Redakai line, which I bought for $3.50 at K-Mart. He's actually a rather decent figure. Sure, the toy is missing some key articulation -- wrist, ankle, and some kind of waist/torso articulation would be nice -- but what he has (ball-jointed neck and hips and swivel-hinged shoulders, elbows, and knees) is enough to get him into some dynamic poses, especially since he can use the giant BONE CRUSHER HANDS for balancing assistance. And while the wash makes the figure look kinda dirty (which might be intentional), it's definitely a good-looking figure with a sharp sculpt and a respectable paint job.
If I had to guess at why this line didn't catch on, I'd say it's because of two things. First, the property isn't terribly well known. Kids might be a lot more familiar with it, since it has a card battle game and apparently a television show (I didn't even know about the latter until I visited the Redakai website), but I've heard next to nil about the property on toy collector forums -- and while a toyline can do well without collector support, it does seem like the ones that do best enjoy at least some attention from an older audience. But second, and most important to me, these things were initially way too expensive! Whereas Hasbro's excellent 3.75" figures cost $7-8 at most retailers (sorry to keep mentioning Hasbro; I swear they're not paying me), these things were $10 a pop at Target, TRU, and the few Walmarts that carried them. That's tough to pony up for such a small figure even when it's a recognizable character (Japanese import toys notwithstanding; I'd jump on most of those for $10), but when it's just a random monster? Not quite as appealing. If the Redakai figures had been more competitively priced, I imagine they'd have done much better among buyers of all ages.
And that'll do it for this installment! Join us next time, when we review more post-2011 holiday clearance offerings. Until then, keep your eyes peeled for those slashed-price stickers -- you never know what you'll find! Sometimes what you find might actually be good.-- Wes --