You know something we love at Scary-Crayon? Clowns. Evil clowns to be precise, but that's a superfluous descriptor because all clowns are evil. (Sure, all clowns don't go around murdering folks in the manner of Pennywise, the Joker, or John Wayne Gacy -- neither do all crocodiles do go around snapping up little girls lost in the Florida Everglades. Still, would you trust your four-year-old daughter alone in crocodile-infested territory?) Clowns don't show up on the site all that much because of a decided lack of cool merchandise and media, but that's not our fault. Unlike trolls and skeletons and mummies and robots and iconic horror monsters, the creative powers that be haven't seen fit to initiate a franchise featuring villainous and
heroic somewhat less villainous clown warriors locked in a fierce battle to decide the fate of the universe. Yet. One can only hope.
Suffice it to say that I'm always game for cool clown merchandise -- so when I recently came across these wicked unicycle-riding clowns at Dollar Tree under the Circus banner (the same line featuring the gorilla reviewed at the end of this article), I literally found it impossible to leave the store without slinging a couple in my basket. Okay, they're not explicitly labeled as clowns, since the packaging refers to each one as a mere "figure on unicycle," but you and I know clowns when we see them. Has the word "clown" become so horrifying to children that toy manufacturers dare not print it on packaging? Possibly, but my guess is that the folks responsible for the packaging just didn't want to print different cardbacks for the various unicycle-riding toys in the line. See, in addition to the clowns, there are also ringmaster figures that sport the same sculpt except for having mustached faces and hats atop their curly heads... and rather than refer to "clown" and "ringmaster" separately, the Circus line masterminds brilliantly deduced that the generic "figure" could apply to both. Along those lines, the lone image on the cardback even omits the figure's head!
The packaging also misses with respect to its naming of the clown's transportation device. That ain't a unicycle, folks -- unicycles have one wheel, but this contraption clearly has three. That's a tricycle! I completely understand why the clown wouldn't be riding a one-wheeled contraption -- it's a toy, and, as some of the recent Rise of the Fallen Transformers demonstrate, it's pretty freaking hard for a toy to balance on one wheel. I'm also not sure how the wind-up gimmick would've worked unless the clown had been perched atop one big fat faux wheel with smaller wheels and the motor hidden inside. In any case, while I get the reasoning behind the "figure" reference, this one just puzzles me. Nobody would've gotten upset if the packaging had called it a tricycle! That said, although I'll be referring to these "figures" as clowns, I'm going to refer to its vehicle as a unicycle throughout this review. Why? I have no earthly idea. Maybe I like typing "unicycle."
SMILING SINISTER SCULPT
There's no McFarlane-style sculpting or paint here, but what did you expect? It's a dollar store toy! That said, the clown's sculpt is most serviceable, with such details as a completely round head -- with round protrusions for the clown nose and mouth -- clustered round balls for his yellow 'fro, round balls for hands, and rounded arms and legs. He's got a rounded little bow tie and rides atop a unicycle with appropriately round wheels. In fact, save the sharp angles where his coattail leaves his waist and again where it flares out at the bottom, the figure hardly has any points -- even the little box that houses the motor has rounded edges and corners. It's actually quite charming, as the simple sculpt and round shapes give him the appearance of having leapt off the page of a children's coloring book. TO KILL.
The appearance of the sculpt isn't completely clean, though, as it's marred by visible screws and screw holes in certain places. There are also visible seams between the front and back halves of the clown's torso and head, and on some figures these are actually small (but nevertheless pronounced) gaps. However, these flaws can be corrected -- or at least reduced -- by tightening the screws that connect the offending halves. Finally, owing to the cycling mechanism, the clown appears to have exceptionally thin legs (or legs cut in half lengthwise) when viewed fron the front. It's not that big a deal, all things considered, but it's probably worth mentioning since this is how the clown will appear to you when he comes for your delicious flesh. Luckily, since he's only about 4.5" tall from the base of the wheel to the top of his 'fro, you'll probably be able to survive his vicious mauling by throwing him to the floor. His hair completely covers his ears, so you'll have to choose another body part to slice with your katana.
PERNICIOUS PLASTIC & PAINT
While this toy would retain a certain charm without a single drop of color, our pint-sized punchinello is proudly cast in the colors of his terrifying trade. Both of the clowns wear red and blue, though the colors of their garments are reversed -- one wears a blue tailcoat with red pants and a red bow tie; the other sports a red tailcoat with blue pants and a blue bow tie. The ringmaster variants also wear hats in these colors, though I can't recall whether the hats match their jackets or their pants. All versions of the toy ride atop dusky golden unicycles.
But while these are all cast plastic colors, what really ramps up the creepy appeal of the clown is the paint. Admittedly, it's minimal -- only the head and hands of the figure are painted, and probably with something you wouldn't want your kids licking (unless you hate them) -- but it works. The hands and face are painted in flesh tones, with the hands sporting a slightly darker shade. Is the clown is supposed to be wearing gloves, or are his hands dark with the blood of innocent children? You'll have to wind him up, set him on your dresser, and turn out the lights to find out. The hair is painted a dull yellow, though the blue-coated clown has a more orangey tint to his curls. And ah, the bulbous clown nose and the dreaded painted smile. Starting from the nose, the latter half of the clown's face is painted red -- including the neck -- with the mouth outlined in white.
Of course, since clean paint is rarely a strength of dollar store toys, the paint has been applied with varying degrees of success. I picked the best ones I could find, which look fairly good except for some hazy edges and overpainting in places (on the red-coated clown, for example, the edge of the flesh-colored paint overlaps his noze just a bit; on the blue-coated clown the paint on the left hand spreads onto the sleeve), but there were far worse figures hanging on the pegs. Some of them even looked as if they'd been dipping their faces into the fresh entrails of prepubescent victims... which kinda makes me wish I'd snagged one of those. If a dollar store clown with fairly decent paint can be creepy, one with shoddy paint must be the stuff of nightmares.
Speaking of nightmares, the best part of the paint has to be the eyes on each clown. Instead of getting black dots (which I seem to recall the ringmaster versions sporting) or other conventional peepers, these clowns view their victims through thin black crosses. You know, the kind typically drawn on dead cartoon characters. It's even freakier because the eyes generally aren't symmetrical -- one eye might sport lines that look perpendicular to each other, but the other might have angles that obviously aren't 90 degrees. It almost gives the clowns the appearance of an expression... though considering that they're sporting crosses for eyes, it's impossible to discern just what that expression might be. In all cases, however, it looks quite sinister. Is this clown thinking about disemboweling third graders with rusty garden shears or feasting on the tender flesh of newborn infants? The answer is locked between the halves of its screw-bound, curly-haired head.
ACCURSED ARTICULATION & ACTION FEATURE
The neck turns 360 degrees for Linda Blair poseability, and one can get a tiny bit of tilt out of the bow tie... and that's it for articulation. Oh, there are other joints, but they're all connected to the action feature...
WIND-UP UNICYCLE-RIDING STALKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That's right, kiddies -- you wind this sucker up and he peddles forward in a mad dash to capture children and subject them to whatever horrors await within a glutted clown's stomach. Considering how svelte he remains, I'm guessing he's got one of those portals to a demon dimension at the back of his throat... or maybe cycling is just really good exercise. Who knows but the most unfortunate of children? Anyway, the feature works pretty well -- you just wind him up, set him down, and let go -- and since the peddling action has nothing at all to do with the motor, he'll still go through the motions in the event that the motor wears out or you simply prefer to push him after the underaged figures in your collection. The clown goes pretty far with minimal winding, too, so this is definitely a feature you'll want to use on the floor. You can use it atop a table, of course, but you'll have to keep stopping him to prevent him from going over the edge.
FOREBODING FINAL REMARKS
What more is there to say about this figure? It's not like you're getting a bargain here -- for the $1 price tag, the quality is entirely what you'd expect. Given that the sole point of articulation is the neck, the display value is also quite limited. And while I'm sure a kid would get a kick out of the toy for at least a little while, I'm not sure I'd give it to a small child -- the packaging does say ages three and up, but these paint used on the figure looks easily chipped and just happens to resemble the candy shell on M&Ms. In fact, the entire toy looks a bit like some of those lollipops and gummi candies made to resemble cartoon characters. Older children would hopefully have enough sense not to try to eat the thing, but they'd likely rather play with "Batman: The Brave & the Bold" or "Power Rangers RPM" figures or whatever toys are the rage with youngsters these days.
For the above reasons, I find it hard to recommend the Circus
Figure Clown on Unicycle to collectors, parents, and anyone else who might be reading a toy review on SC -- yet I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I quite like the little guy. Even though he's your typical dollar store toy, I've got no complaints whatsoever about the price. I don't imagine I'll be using it much, but the wind-up unicycling action is quite fun, and if you love clowns the toy makes a neat addition to various figure lineups. And while his size means that he's not entirely to scale with most figure lines, that's not a problem for a creative individual! For example, one can always pretend that he's an escaped creation from Toyman's workshop that gained sentience through a programming glitch or was possessed by a demonic entity with an appetite for children. Not that one really needs a complex reason for a creepy unicycle-riding clown to be present, of course -- that clowns are awesome is reason enough.
BONUS: Feeling creative? Add your own humorous, horrific, or oddball dialogue and/or exposition to this terrifying scene and send it over! There aren't any prizes or anything, but we'll post the best comics on Scary-Crayon.