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Cubes - Bob

Millions of people travel to a place of business to work, only to spend their 8 - 10 hours a day boxed into a six by five chunk of real estate known as the cubicle, or cube for short. Just one step shy of the utter dehumanization of an open environment, there are often rules thrown into the mix, just to make sure that while you spend a third of your life in this space, you never start thinking it's yours.

Just like the steno pool of the 50's and 60's, the grouping of cubes, known as a cube farm, has become an all too common sight. The latest 'innovation' (i.e. concept to crush the will of the common man) is to shorten the walls from the usual 6 feet to around 4 - 4.5. The party line says that this is to 'improve the visual flow, and increase the open appearance', when it reality it's an attempt to further cut costs at the sake of employee privacy and sense of self.

Can you tell I'm not a big fan of cubes? The anarchist in me, along with the lone wolf slouching in the corner of my mind, considers them another of the many crosses heaped on the back of the working stiff. Mind you, I've spent almost none of my career in one, but that has not lessened my disdain for what they represent.

And now comes a new product from Accoutrements called Cubes. Why didn't I think of this? Because the obvious is so often not. Using the scale of the average mini-figure, around 3", they have released a series of figures based on people you see everyday, like Bob. Bob isn't the important feature though; it's his accessories and diorama, based on the cubicles at work. The diorama looks just like the world many of us live in every day, and gives you a chance to build your own cubicle farm to micro-manage.

Each cube with one figure retails for around $13, but I haven't found too many retailers carrying them yet. I have some suggestions at the end though, just like always. Also, the company website includes additional graphics to download for the cubes, like desk blotters, chair mats, and carpet!

The website is well thought out, and can add to the fun. I bought Bob, and his personnel file at the site says:

PERSONNEL FILE
HUMAN RESOURCE EYES ONLY

Employee #: 021871138
Name: Bob
Title: Junior Accounting Analyst
Status: Full time
Hire Date: 04/06/1994
Infractions:
11/20/1995 Level 9 Conduct Violation (Sleeping in cubicle, 1st offense)

03/01/1999 Level 6 Conduct Violation (Improper use of company email system -sent digitally altered image of supervisor to coworker)

10/16/2001 Level 9 Conduct Violation (Sleeping in cubicle, 2nd offense)

02/09/2002 Level 6 Conduct Violation (Playing "Minesweaper" on company time)

03/29/2002 Level 9 Conduct Violation (Sleeping in coworker's cubicle, 3rd offense - Action Taken: Salary reduction of $.10/hr

Sound like anyone you know? I picked Bob simply because he was the most generic of the various figures that are available. There's also Ann, Joe, and Ted who come with cubicles, and an additional expansion pack of Jim, Sue, Jan and Dan that come together with just a couple basic accessories each.





Packaging - ***
The whole shebang comes in a cube shaped box of course. Inside you'll find the various pieces polybagged for your convenience, and the exterior of the box explains a little about Bob's bleak existence and the toys in general. The graphics are fairly sharp, with some funny text, and the boxes can be kept to pack up the figures when you get moved from cube to cube at the office, in that corporate version of musical chairs that seems to happen every quarter.

Sculpting - ***
The sculpting on these figures is minimal, similar to the many other current mini-figures on the market. While at first you might think that they simply should have gone to Art Asylum and licensed the mini-mates for this, the bodies and heads are done in a style that fits with this theme more appropriately.

The head is a cube of course, and a rather large one at that. Bob's torso is sculpted with a slight paunch, and his arms and legs follow the cube pattern.

Overall, while the sculpting is basic, the form follows the overall theme well, and gives the characters the right mix of conformity with just a touch of individualism. Just like your fellow co-workers.

Paint/Stickers - ***1/2
The paint ops are not super refined, relying on stickers for most of the cool graphics. Bob has a basic paint job, predominately consisting of black and white. The colors are very clean and consistent though, and whatever form of masking they are using works perfectly, because every line is straight and clean.

It's the stickers that are the big stand out of course, and there's a nice assortment. The first sheet includes 36 'job titles'. These can be single titles like 'analyst', or can be combined to form titles like 'Domestic Sales Coordinator'.

The second sheet contains a wide variety of silly sayings, all of them just like the stupid, inane things you see people put up all the time. "Having Fun Yet", "This isn't an office, this is Hell with fluorescent lighting", and "A person who smiles in the face of adversity probably has a scapegoat" are all posters I've seen more than my fair share of times gracing the walls of cubes at work. There's more than a half dozen of these various sayings, and it looks like each of the four currently offered cubes comes with a different set.

Then there's a sheet of stickers that include several for the computer screen, a wall calendar and other office accoutrements. As I mentioned earlier, you can also print out several sheets of additional graphics for the cube at the website.

The quality on the stickers is good, and after a couple days all of them have remained attached to the walls. I like how they didn't try to make up their own to be funny, but rather went with all the annoying ones that really exist and that people seem to think are actually original. And if I just offended you because you're one of the people that actually has one of these sayings hanging in their cube right now, does us all a favor and take it down.

Articulation - ***
The bodies aren't as articulated as some mini-figures (mini-mates, Palz), but more than others (Mez-itz, Kubricks). Bob has neck, ball jointed shoulders, wrists, waist, hips, knees and ankles. Just like most mini-figures, Bob can be taken almost completely apart, allowing you to swap various body parts with the figures, creating your own new versions. I also tried swapping parts between some of the figures - mini-mates, Kubricks and these - but didn't have much success due to slightly differing size joints or different designs.

The figures sit extremely well, and you won't have much trouble keeping them in their seats. The also stand and pose fine, even with the big head. Elbow joints would have been nice, but aren't really a necessity here, and most of the joints were nice and tight. I had a little trouble keeping the arms attached, but the shoulders have a pretty good range of movement, and I even managed to get a slumping pose by bring the arms forward.

Accessories - ****
In the basic cube kit, there are three full walls and one half wall, to allow for the doorway. These all snap together with clips at the middle, and each kit comes with more than enough clips for not just the one cube, but for attaching multiple cubes together in various ways. The clips are very sturdy as well, and it's unlikely that you'll break them. There are clips to hook just two walls together on a corner or a straight line, three walls together, and even four walls together at a single spot.

The cube also comes with the basic necessities - desk (with sculpted drawers), single drawer file cabinet (with working drawer), computer with keyboard and mouse, In/Out box that hangs on the wall, office phone and desk chair.

The sculpting and paint ops match up with the rest of the set, with textures where appropriate (like the cube walls). Everything is the same basic color, but that's to reflect reality, in which most cube furniture is designed to look almost identical to the walls. It's all about conformity, my friend.

The office chair has a rather nifty feature that you might not notice right away. Flip over the chair and you'll find three very small ball bearings in the bottom, so that the chair can actually roll on the floor!

I managed to get all the extra clips to fit inside the file cabinet drawer, so that they'll never be far away. Had the desk drawers also opened, it would have been perfect, but that's an awful lot to ask, especially in this scale.

Fun Factor - Adults ****; Kids **1/2
I took these to work (of course) and everyone that stops by has to play with Bob. I come back from lunch and Spider-man is hanging out with him in his cube. They are excellent toys, with lots of potential, if you're an adult stuck in this world.

If you're a kid, I doubt they'd be nearly as fun. Beyond pretending to be daddy, which considering how boring his job is would only be interesting for about 30 seconds, there's really not much they could do. Of course, if Grishnakh suddenly crashed into daddy's cube, there might be some mayhem...

Then again, kids have a great time with Lego and Playmobil sets that involve farms and schools, so it's not that much of a reach to think they could have a good time pretending to be a 9-5 slave.

Value - **1/2
Thirteen bucks is at least three bucks more than you're going to want to spend on these. I'm hoping we see them catch on so that distribution and production rise enough to drop the cost.

Overall - ***1/2
This is what I saw more of - a fun concept, well executed, with nifty little freebies through the website to add to the enjoyment. Even people that HATE mini-figures in general should give these a look, since they are so perfect for making statements about work. Having a bad day? Put a little Uzi in Bob's hands! Feeling as though your work life is out of your control? Build a little cube farm and micro-manage them! The possibilities are almost endless.

I suspect I'll be picking up more of these, so don't be surprised if you see a follow up review in the near future.

Things to Watch Out For - 
The stickers really do stick well, so be sure you have them were you want them.  Switching them around is not an easy task, and you will easily end up damaging them.

SCORE RECAP:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - *** 
Paint/Stickers - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - ****
Fun Factor - Adults ****; Kids **1/2
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
I bought mine through Archie Mcphee, an on-line retailer that carries such bizarre products as the Librarian action figure and the rubber chicken chucker. If you know of other retailers carrying these, please let me know - I'd love to pick up three or four more, but at $13 each, it's a tough sell.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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