Guido was deeply saddened when it was made public that the "Brothers Hassenfeld" had gotten their ham fists on the Marvel License. Guido feared the worst for Marvel Legends and so far Guido believes those fears to be well founded. Guido has not been very happy with the direction the Marvel toy license has taken. Lackluster sculpts, reduced articulation, Spartan paint apps and little or no accessories/pack-ins are the order of the day. To add insult to injury, Guido and his Marvel Legends collecting brethren got saddled with a 20 to 30 % price hike for no other reason than "uh, costs are going up."
Sheesh, Guido at least would've liked a kiss with that!
Okay, you're probably saying, "Awright, Guido, you hate Hasbro…we get it!" Yes, Guido knows you do and as such, all this ranting has served a manifold purpose: First, to allow Guido to vent some of the bile that has been clogging up my spleen due to the follies of the 'Bro and secondly, to prepare you to receive a gospel of mass-market hope! Friends, all is not lost in the toy industry! Even though the apostacy runs deep throughout the big players, there are STILL some mass-market companies that hold true to the action figure faith.
Hope my brethren, comes in a product from the Spider-Man 3 license. No, not from the dysfunctional, half-baked and an inch short action figure line the 'Bro squeezed outta their cat flaps last month, but from a line produced by a Canadian toy company that made their presence known in the toy industry waaay back in 1996 with the original Toy Story line of action figures! Guido is talking about none other than the folks at Thinkway Toys!
Thinkway has rolled out a line of super-articulated, 9" scale action figures that come bundled with an electronic "Talking Room Guard" base. Thinkway's slogan, "I'm a THINKING TOY!" is featured prominently on the front of the box. This slogan indicates that these figures are being marketed as more of a kid's consumer electronic device and not as action figures per se. The current figures available are Red & Blue
Spidey, Sandman and New Goblin. Come this fall, a black-suited Spidey will be added to the line-up and perhaps a Venom figure as well. These figures are so vastly superior to Hasbro's wares, it 's almost sad – that being said, let us move on to the review portion of our program:
Packaging - ***
It's a relatively sturdy window box featuring the same basic graphics as the Hasbro toy line. Most of the graphic design standards for this sort of license are set by the movie studio, so as to create a consistent, branded look to all product associated with the license, regardless of manufacturer. Guido's not really crazy about the overall studio driven design, but it does make it quite clear that this is indeed a Spider-Man 3 product and that by purchasing said product, you will do your part to insure that Sony Corporation will continue to exist as a member of the Fortune 500.
The package gives you a nice good look at Spidey and his talking base accessory. It does the job of keeping all the pieces together and helping you make sure you're getting one with the best possible paint job.
Sculpting - ****
Now Guido knows that this is going to cause some folks out there to have a grand mal conniption fit, but Guido is grading this on the fact that this toy is aimed primarily at a child consumer base and not the collector's market. This style of sculpt reminds me of the early days of the 9" Bandai Power Rangers figures and there is just something about it that "clicks" for Guido. It almost makes Guido think of what you would get if you took the Spider-Man and friends figures and morphed them together with Toy Biz's Spider-Man 2 movie figures. Guido would love to see a whole series of Marvel and DC figures rendered in this same style and level of quality. Heck, the sculpt of Thomas Hayden Church as the Sandman in this Room Guard toy line kicks the living crap outta anything that the folks from Pawtucket have fielded to date. This is one terrific, kiddo-friendly toy sculpt of Movie Spidey.
Paint - ***1/2
As Guido stated earlier in the review, these figures are aimed primarily at kids and as such, they have basic mass-market paint apps. This may sound like a negative at first, given the reaction by the masses to the drastically scaled back paint apps of the Hassenfeld Sibling's take on Marvel Legends, but in this case, it isn't. The paint applications on the majority of figures Guido perused in this line are extremely well done with nice clean lines and paint breaks. The figures are molded in color for the most part, which Guido actually prefers for a "play" toy. The more paint that has been schlepped onto a figure, the more likely it is going to start looking pretty crappy following a week or two of being put through the paces by Junior.
So far as Spidey is concerned, he is always the biggest challenge in the paint apps department for any manufacturer. Those webs will put any manufacturer to the test and for the most part, Thinkway did a yeoman's job! Of the samples Guido looked over, Guido would say that probably 90% of the paint jobs were mass-market good with only a few suffering from masking registration issues, overspray or slop.
Guido once had the good fortune to take a private tour of a Hallmark Cards Keepsake Ornament vendor manufacturing facility outside of Bangkok, Thailand. Said manufacturer had just finished a production run on the first Hallmark Spider-Man figural ornament (Dated 1996). He had nothing but horror stories to tell about the webbing paint apps involved with that little project. He was never so glad to finish a job in his life. He had folks in the paint department just walking out in frustration. BTW, this was a class operation – no exploitation of the locals or any sweatshop shenanigans to speak of.
Articulation - ****
38 points by my count and they are as follows:
Neck: cut and anterior/posterior pivot joint = 2
Shoulders: ML style ball joint = 4
Biceps: swivel = 2
Elbows: double pin = 4
Wrists: cut swivel and pin = 4
Fingers: single pin = 2
Chest: Old school Spider-Man Classics ball joint = 1
Waist: cut swivel = 1
Hips: Series 1 ML Captain America style ball joint = 4
Thighs: cut swivel = 2
Knees: double pin = 4
Calves: cut swivel = 2
Ankles: single pin anterior/posterior pivot joint & lateral swivel = 4
Toes: single pin = 2
38 points of articulation on a figure basically being marketed as an accessory piece for Little Emilio's nightstand! Meanwhile, back over at the Brothers Hassenfeld, they schlepped an "Icon" version of Dr. Doom out the door sans cut biceps, pinned chest and a decent neck joint! Something just isn't right here— either Thinkway is going too far, or the 'Bro is phoning it in. Guido, of course, believes it is the latter case. Someone at Thinkway has been paying attention to what Toy Biz was up to in revolutionizing action figure articulation and has applied it quite well to their own wares. This Spidey reminds Guido quite a bit of his all-time favorite Spidey action figure, Web Trap Spider-Man from Toy Biz's Spider-Man 2 figure line.
All of Spidey's joints are nice and tight and move VERY smoothly. Spidey is able to hold just about any pose for hours with nary a sign of droop or slouch...all without the aid of a clunky ratchet joint! The articulation points all make perfect sense and none are hampered in their range of motion in any way save possibly the old school mid-chest joint ala Toy Biz's Spider-Man Classics Series 1. This is the only change Guido would have made in the articulation that Thinkway designed into this figure. In all fairness, Guido has yet to see anyone produce a figure where this joint works as well as pinned chest joints so far as anterior/posterior movement is concerned.
The good news is that even though the chest joint's range of movement is limited, it still works well enough for Thinkway's Spidey to assume a nice, deep, John Romita Sr. style crouch pose (see photo). Guido is just tickled with this Super-articulated Spidey figure and hopes to see Thinkway Toys expand their presence in the hyper-articulated action figure market – even if it requires marketing them through this sort of backdoor approach.
Accessories - ***
Spidey comes with a nifty blue base that is sculpted to resemble a rocky outcropping or perhaps a frozen fire ant hill. Guido believes that at one point, Thinkway was going to give each figure a character specific base, but due to tooling costs, probably abandoned this idea. Guido has noticed that Thinkway likes to reuse their toolings from product line to product line in order to keep costs down and maximize profitability. This makes perfect business sense and the base is generic enough that it could be used for any number of characters and still work. It also allows for the figure to be posed in a number of dynamic ways. Guido would have loved character specific bases, but seeing as how it probably saved Guido some precious bank, Guido can live with it.
One thing that Guido found odd was the attachment of two rubbery blue posts via screws to the bottom of Spidey's feet. Spidey isn't shown on the box art with these posts, but he does have them on the illustrated instruction sheet (see
photos). These posts have recesses in them that allow you to attach Spidey to the mounting posts that project from the top of the base. The weird thing is that there are already recesses for the base pegs molded into Spidey's feet (see photos) that work perfectly well at keeping him attached to the base. Guido believes that the posts had to be added after the fact due to some legal clause in the license agreement that forbid Thinkway from manufacturing action figures in the purest sense. Thinkway had a similar approach to marketing Toy Story 2 action figures as "build-a-toy" kits when they lost the master toy license to produce action figures to Mattel. Fear not, the blue pegs are easily removed and Guido's Spidey quickly took his rightful place atop his base following a quick outpatient procedure in Guido's action figure chop shop.
The base contains a string of Spider-Man specific phrases and sound effects that can be accessed by pressing a textured topside button on the base. The base also contains a motion sensor that allows the base to function in a user activated sentry mode. Guido surmises that this is why the toy is labeled as a "Room Guard". The sentry mode is activated by holding down the base's top side button for a few seconds until you hear Spider-Man say the sentry function is activated. The sentry mode self deactivates after 1 hour or ten intruder alerts – which ever comes first. The sentry mode is deactivated manually by tapping the topside button twice. Spider-Man will announce the deactivation of his "Security Web" when the code is tapped in properly. The only downside to this actually pretty cool accessory is that Tobey Maguire doesn't supply Spidey's voice! The voice talent sounds like your average younger Joe Voiceover Guy from Central Casting. The kids probably won't give a hoot one-way or the other, but Guido was pretty bummed out. If Guido has to put on his sad face, the result is usually a demerit or two. In this case the result is the loss of a full star in the Accessories review category.
Fun Factor - ****
Room Guard Spidey is one fun toy by any account. He's super-articulated, kid tough and comes with a pretty cool electronic base – what more could Guido or Little Emilio ask for?
Value - ****
Guido dropped around $17.00 U.S. for Talking Room Guard Spidey. Guido has dropped a whole lot more for a whole lot less in the past, and most of it ended up in the Brothers Hassenfeld's offshore bank accounts. This is a great toy at a great price, which leads Guido to ask, why has the 'Bro seen fit to skimp and cut corners at every turn whilst jacking the price up 20 to 30% on anything with the word "Legends" or "Marvel" printed on it? Kudos to Thinkway for giving us great value along with a great toy!
Things to Watch Out For -
Nothing much, except the occasional off register silver web line paint app.
Overall - ****
Guido is giving this toy the coveted four-star rating! Sure there are a few boogums here and here, but this toy is soooo great in so many other ways, that Guido can easily over look them! This is a toy that has made Guido feel that there is hope for the mass-market toy industry and the material manifestation of Guido's obsessive/compulsive disorder. Way to go,