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Review of Dwalin - The Hobbit mini-bust

Gentle Giant
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Overall Average Rating: 3 out of 4

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Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Introduction

Did you love the Hobbit? I did - while it's not my top movie of the year, it was a great start to what I hope is another exceptional trilogy. Does it have a few warts? Yes, but the overall effect was enough to overcome them, at least for me.

Gentle Giant is doing a series of mini-busts based on the license, and since I have their Lord of the Rings busts, it just made sense to pick them up. They released Thorin Oakenshield as an SDCC exclusive last summer, and have pre-orders up for a new Gollum and Gandalf at many retailers. They have a bevy of dwarves to do, but they haven't announced any additional releases yet.

Dwalin is a Premiere Guild Membership exclusive. The PGM is Gentle Giant's version of a collectors club, and members could pick up Dwalin for $70. Membership costs though, so if he's the only benefit you want, it might be cost prohibitive. They produce other exclusives in other licenses for the PGM members, as well as giving them early access to others like the SDCC exclusives.

A lot of exclusives claimed they are a 'limited' edition, but rarely are. Not so this time - they only produced 300 of these, and in my book that's a truly limited edition.

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Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Packaging - ***1/2
I really like the graphics and style of the package, even if the colors and designs are pretty much set by the licensor.

As any regular Gentle Giant collector might expect, there's a great baseball card style Certificate of Authenticity as well, and I've always loved these little guys. They're actually collectible in their own right.

A window would have made the difference and snagged them four stars, but it's still a great box without it.

Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Sculpting - ***
I love the book and the movie, but I sure as Hell can't keep track of which dwarf is which. Dwalin? Yea, sure, what ever you say - it looks like one of the dwarfs to me, which is about as much as I can tell without some help. Looking at a reference photo, it's clearly who it's supposed to be.

The best thing about the sculpt is the costume and weapons. The axes and hammer look like their real forged metal, dangerous and deadly in his hands. The furry costume has layers and textures, something we rarely get in a Gentle Giant bust.

But there's some other issues that really hurt the overall look. First, there's the head and beard sculpt, which is simply too soft. There's almost no detail to the beard, and the face is too smooth and clean. The scar across his eye and nose is there, if you really look for it, but it's not the obvious badge of honor that it is in the actual makeup.

I'm also disappointed in the size of this bust. Their previous Lord of the Rings busts were their usual scale - around 1/6th, or just a smidge under. While this is a dwarf, and therefore should be smaller, he's simply too small at just 5" tall including the large base. I didn't have one of the LOTR busts handy, but they were the same scale as other GG busts, so I took a shot of him with the Kreacher from the Harry Potter line. Kreacher, like Dwalin, should be half the size of a human, maybe a little bit larger. Dwalin is much smaller than Kreacher, and it's not just about height - it's about volume. Had Dwalin been at least 4" tall on his own (the base is quite big), I think the scale would have been close, but he's tinier than that, and takes up way too little space overall. While the dwarves are short, they are stocky and thick, which doesn't translate well into this undersized bust.

Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Paint - ***
The paint quality isn't super consistent. Some areas, like the hammer and axes, look terrific, but other spots, notably the beard and skin, are a bit on the sloppy side.

I mentioned that the beard lacks detail, and is a bit too chunky and soft in the Sculpting section. The paint doesn't do anything to highlight any detail or add any depth. The beard edge is a tad sloppy too, including what looks like some glue or gloss along the top edge.

The skin is good on the head, including a rather weird dot-matrix looking tattoo. I didn't remember him having it in the movie, but he must have - it's not something they would have made up. After checking out some stills I found that he certainly did have it, although he was also dirty enough that it was almost covered up. It's odd looking, since the highly consistent application looks a but too much like a machine, rather than an organic design. While it's true that the dwarves are more industrial than much of the rest of Middle Earth, this still looks too modern to me.

The skin on the hands and forearms isn't quite as good, with some clumpiness around the fingers and edges.

The work on the outfit is good, with a bit more layers and brushing than we usually see from Gentle Giant. It's not exceptional, but it's still solid work.

Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Value - **1/2
While the regular releases are running around $50 or so, this guy is quite a bit more expensive. A big chunk of that is due to the very limited nature, however. When you only produce 300 of a unique bust, it's going to cost more. It's not a great value, but you aren't getting stiffed even with the slightly higher price point.

Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Things to Watch Out For -
Pay special attention here! There are two very small straps handing down from the buckles on his back. These are tiny, thin, and hard to see. They are also very easy to break with just a little pressure, so locate them and handle with care.

Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Overall - ***
If this were a completely independent series, or the first time anyone had done Middle Earth busts, I might be a tad easier on them. The sculpt and paint aren't perfect, but it's decent enough work, and the extremely limited nature is always a selling point.

But for me, the small size hurts a lot. I want these to fit in well with Gentle Giant's previous busts, and I don't think they do. It will be a few weeks before I have my older busts back out of storage - I'm making progress on the 'barn', but it's slow - and until then, I can't be 100% on the scale, but compared to other GG lines, they are definitely tiny.

I'll be interested to see how that translates to Gollum and Gandalf - will they be too big for these dwarves, or will they be shrunk down a bit from their previous releases to fit in better with Thorin and Dwalin?

I'm also hoping that Gentle Giant has enough success with these for us to see all the dwarves released, along with Bilbo. If we don't get them, these first two are going to stick out like a sore thumb on the shelf.

Score Recap (out of ****):
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - ***
Value - **1/2
Overall - ***

Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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Where to Buy 
Getting this guy directly through Gentle Giant is your best bet, but you'll need to have a PGM membership as well. Although it's an exclusive, I wouldn't be surprised if we see a few pop up at other spots. Of course, there's also ebay where you might snag a deal.

Related Links -
Other recent Hobbit goodies include the Key to Erebor replica, and the 4" scale action figures.

You should also hit the Search Reviews page, in case any other applicable reviews were done after this one was published.

Discussion:
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Hobbit LOTR Dwalin mini-bust by Gentle Giant

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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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