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12" Willy Wonka

Jeff is back tonight with another sixth scale review - this time, it's Willy Wonka from the new Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Take it away, Jeff!

There are few successful directors working in Hollywood today that can truly be described as auters. David Lynch, Quentin Tarantino and Tim Burton being the only ones that jump to mind. Sure there are dozens of very fine directors with a great feeling for what audiences want to see, but all to often their work is almost indistinguishable. But being an artist in the true sense of the word is not really about making people happy all the time, it's about effecting them on some level. I've said in the past I'm a big Tim Burton fan, but even I feel he drops the ball sometimes, and often his films feel like style over substance (I won't go on about 'Planet of the Apes' again I've bashed it enough already). But strangely for me I haven't seen his last two offerings, namely Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory or The Corpses Bride.








Getting to the theatre to see a film the way it was meant to seen gets increasingly hard when you have two small children (the upside being it gives you the excuse of buying a lot more DVD's), so my only two visits in the last year were for Ep3 ROTS and Jacksons KING KONG, slightly disappointed by ROTS and suitably blown away by KONG. I'm eager for the DVD release of 'Bride' but feel no urgency about seeing Willy Wonka at all. I've seen clips but it just doesn't grab me. So why buy the figure? Well up until a trip to London in December I didn't even know this figure existed. I'd seen the Medicom one up on eBay for a ton of money, but when I saw this one in The Cinema Store, in Upper St Martins Lane, London, I was attracted to it straight away. Firstly I didn't know Gentle Giant did 1/6 poseable figures, and secondly I thought for the 19.99 it looked like a great figure, one I could bring out every Christmas, like Santa Jack from NBX and sit him in our tree (which I did). But did it make me happy when I got him home and freed him from his cardboard sarcophagus.

Packaging - ***1/2
A great colourful and really quite psychedelic looking box. Flap fronted with a great stylised illustration of Wonka on the back with a brief bio of the characters story, the front is just a swirly colourful pattern with movie logo and telling us its a 'Willy Wonka 12 inch action figure doll' (cleverly getting the words action figure for the fiercely heterosexual and the word doll for collectors of 'dolls'). Inside the flap is a copy of the picture used on the theatrical posters and facing it is the figure. Inside is a bubble headed vac form tray that holds him tight without any twistie ties, his walking cane lies beside him. 

Sculpting - ***
It tells us on the box that this is one of those 3D digital face scan sculpts taken from the actor, and as that's what Gentle Giant are famous for I guess it would be, so there is no denying it looks like Depp in character. Now I'm all for the onwards and upwards march of technology where it helps us. For example neither of the films I mentioned earlier that I went to see this year would have been possible to make with the degree of 'realism' they achieved without digital technology. And working as an illustrator I can see how working on my Apple Mac is far cleaner and more adaptable than in the days when I used an airbrush, compressor, pencils, pens, paint, inks and scalpel's.

But as I also mentioned earlier 'art' is about effecting people, now a lot of folk will raise there eyebrows when I talk about art and toys in the same sentence (though probably not most who visit this site). But to the people who do actually 'sculpt' the figures we buy, like the Andy Bergholtz, Oluf W Hartvigson and Mat Falls of this world, the man who co-started Sideshow Toys. I'm sure they would be at least slightly insulted not to be thought of as artists. And it's my belief it's what an artist brings out in his subject matter that makes a sculpt successful. Sometimes making us see something in a person or object we have previously been unaware of. Take the new Luke Skywalker/Mark Hamill sculpt recently unveiled over at Sideshow, it's been knocked by a lot of people, and while I haven't seen the figure in its full 3D realised glory, I for one think it looks like a really strong sculpt of a 'Jedi' era Mark Hamill.

But back to this sculpt, what I was trying to say is 'yeah' it looks a hell of a lot like Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka, so I can't give it a bad score, but it is bland with a capital 'B', and I personally think a lot more 'character' should be evident in the expression, an upturned eyebrow, slight smirk anything to stop him looking like he's on a mortuary table. 

Paint - ***
All the painting is crisp and tight. The main area of course being the face. The hat is permanently attached, but stuck on, so the line between hair sculpt and hat looks convincing and all the paint ops work well. there are a few other areas picked out. The small 'W' worn on his collar, the red 'W's' on his shoes and his glittery walking cane. All are carried out well.

Articulation - ***1/2
It looks like Gentle Giant have created there own body for this release, and as Depp's/Wonka's physique is tall and lean, I guess they had no option. It seems very similar to the body Medicom used on some of there stylish collection, like Edward Scissor Hands, Sid Vicious and many of there Lupin 3rd figures. The articulation seems good and I could get him to achieve most poses, they claim on the box he has14 points of articulation, though I counted at least 23 (counting double elbows and knees as two). So as you can see from the photos not quite up there with the Medicom RAH 301, but not far off and a hell of a lot cheaper. 

Accessories - **1/2
Not having seen the film I can't comment much, but in many of the clips I've seen Wonka is pictured wearing goggles/glasses, so I guess they might have been nice. And if they'd thrown in an Umpa Lumpa as well it would have been 4 stars all the way. As it is you just get his cane and a basic black stand with no printing or logo on it.

Outfit - ***1/2
Although getting the same score as packaging and articulation I feel this is the strongest area on this figure. The attention to detail and tailoring on the shoes, trousers (pants), shirt and waistcoat (vest) are great, for a figure in this price range I don't think I've seen better. The only piece letting it down, and robbing it of that half star that would have given it top marks is the coat. At first glance it's not too bad, but compared to the one worn in the film it doesn't sit right. Much finer tailoring was needed on the collar in particular and the stretchy fabric used means it has a tendency to bunch and ruck up in places. 

Fun Factor - **1/2
Not a great mark in this area, as although I have no complaints with its basic construction I just don't (maybe wrongly) see this being a figure many kids will want to play with. However if you have kids that do want one they shouldn't be too disappointed as its robust and very poseable, and at this price you can buy two....therefore stopping your kids wrecking your one. 

Value -  ****
I've just contradicted myself, I said I thought 'outfit' was this figures strongest area, and here I am giving full marks for value. It's just not often you see a new 12" figure that's not on discount/in the bargain bin for under 20 in the U.K. Even crappy Hasbro stuff usually retails around 25 to 35 and many Sideshow figures are around 35 or nearer 40. So I feel compelled to disagree with myself and give top marks for value! 

Things to Watch Out For - 
He doesn't hold his cane that tightly so be sure not to lose it, that said it's hardly the smallest of items but be aware. I had to search through our Christmas tree for mine on two occasions, but I don't imagine that 'lost in Christmas tree' is high on your list of concerns.

Overall - ***
I wrestled with giving an extra 1/2 point, just because it was such good value, the outfit was great (jacket aside!), nice box, solid sculpt (all be it digital), but in the end three stars just seemed right. I could be wrong, but I think this is Gentle Giants first foray into the arena of 1/6 poseable fabric dressed figures, and as such would like to say what a great first figure it is. And on the strength of it I hope they get many more licenses, as this degree of detail on a more desirable figure at his price point should have the Sideshows of this world worried.

SCORE RECAP:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - ***
Paint - ***
Articulation - ***1/2
Accessories - **1/2
Outfit - ***1/2
Fun Factor - **1/2
Value - ****
Overall - ***

Where to buy
I've seen plenty on eBay with a 'buy it now' price of $19.99 to $29.99, so even better value over there than over here, as I'd expect from a U.S company. Online options include:

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has him for $24.

- CornerStoreComics has him at $27.

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Figure from the collection of Jeff Parker.

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