20" Gandalf

If you like your wizards big, then NECA has just the thing for you.  They've produced two Lord of the Rings figures in their 'epic scale' format (20", although since they have bent knees, they fit in nicely with other 18" quarter scale figures) - Legolas and Aragorn.

Now they bring us the wise old wizard Gandalf, in his gray period.  Like their other quarter scale figures Gandalf speaks some of his better known lines, and comes with a few accessories.  This is the same line that NECA has talked about using for their Balrog, that would put him in scale for the 6" figures from Toybiz, but the poor guy has seen a number of delays.  Let's cross our fingers and toes, and maybe we'll see him in 2006.

Gandalf is hitting at various stores, including Media Play and Suncoast.  I have some online options at the end of the review, and you can expect to pay around $40.

Packaging - ***
The figure comes in a huge window box, which does a reasonable job showing off the figure and keeping it safe.  There's not a ton of wasted space, and while it's not collector friendly, MIBBers can store the figure easy enough if they don't open it up.

The box lacks an actual photo of Gandalf though, going with photos of the toy instead.  That's a bit of a cheat, since it means you can't compare the figure to the real thing while your looking at it.

Sculpting - ***1/2
This is the finest Gandalf sculpt I've seen, at least in terms of capturing the facial structure of Ian McKellen.  It still has a couple issues, but they are fairly minor.

The head sculpt is amazing, but it is a little too smooth.  I was surprised by the lack of wrinkles or texture. There's some, but only the major lines, with no smaller more detailed texturing or wrinkling.  At this scale, that takes away a bit from the realism of the sculpt.

The hair is excellent, with all the detail the skin was missing.  I really like how they pulled off the upper layer of hair over the lower layer of hair and beard, particularly around the temples.

The beard is long and flowing, and If I have one complaint about both the beard and hair, it's that the 'action' sculpt tends to lift them too far off the body in a single chunk.  But from the right angles, the hair and face sculpt work together to make a truly remarkable version of Gandalf.

They body sculpt is similar in detail and style to the previous Aragorn and Legolas.  Lots of texture, folds, and flow, all in the right direction.  The arm articulation and sculpt don't work together for more than one pose, but in that one pose he's great.

The hands are sculpted from a soft but resilient material, so that you can get the accessories in his hands easily, but he will also hold them tightly.

Now here's an odd thing - he doesn't have legs.  I know he looks like he has legs, but he doesn't.  Under his robes - and yes, I looked, purely for scientific purposes - he has a large 'stand'.  This circular base of plastic runs up steel rods into the center of his body, insuring that he'll never fall over.  The feet you see are actually part of the sculpted robe.  Since there is no leg articulation, and because they did a nice job with the exterior sculpt of the robe to make it appear as though he has legs, this solution works well.

While Gandalf is listed as 20" tall, he measures in at 18" tall in the crouched position without the hat, which makes him fit in well with most other quarter scale figures, particularly those done in plastic or rotocast.

Paint - ****
Even better than the sculpt is the paint job.  This is the gray version of Gandalf, with the beard less whitened.  Interestingly, the head pictured on the box is much, much whiter.

The gray hair looks about as good as you could expect.  They didn't overdo any wash or dry brushing, but added enough to give some depth to the intricate sculpt.

The tone on the face is nice and even, and the hairline and eyes are extremely clean and neat.  The body doesn't have a ton of detail, but what's here - on the belts, predominantly - looks good.

Articulation - *1/2
This isn't a highly articulated figure, and actually has less articulation than the previous two.

He has neck of course, but with the long hair and beard they only movement you'll get is twisting.  He has cut shoulders and cut wrists, and that's about it.  The waist *looks* like it's articulated, but I couldn't get it to turn, and since there are no actual legs (as I mentioned above), there's no articulation there either.

He's designed for one pose - holding the sword in his right hand, with the staff out forward in his left hand.  If you're looking to do more than that, you'll be disappointed.

Accessories - ***1/2
Gandalf comes with three main accessories - his hat, sword and staff.

The hat is made from a fairly soft rubber, and fits easily enough on his head.  It stays on pretty well too, but sits a tad too high for my tastes.  While they gave it a shot - and did a much better version than the 12" Gandalf from DiD or Toybiz had - I still prefer him to go lidless.

The sword is made from a very stiff plastic, which means it looks more realistic and won't droop, but could break if you're not careful.  It fits well in the scabbard, but the scabbard's belt is glued to the figure, so it's not removable.

The staff has a nice gnarly wood appearance, with the clear stone in the top.  It fits in his left hand perfectly, and is a good size for the body scale.

Gandalf also has a soft rubber bag which hangs loose on his body, but which I couldn't get off over his hair.  I think if you played around long enough, you might be able to remove it.  His outer cloak that hangs down his back like a cape is also loose from the body, but attached at the neck.

Talking Feature - ***
Like other NECA quarter scale figures, Gandalf talks.  Flip a switch, and he talks when ever his front mounted motion sensor goes off.  The voice chip is very loud and clear, and there's very little background noise on the recording.

Gandalf says two things:

"You shall not pass!"

"There is only one Lord of the ring...only one who can bend it to his will.  And he does not share power."

Additional lines would have been nice, but at least one of these fits the pose perfectly.

Fun Factor - **
This is not a figure for playing, but displaying.  The sword is fairly brittle and easy to break, and the lack of articulation and huge size means kids won't be able to do much with him.

Value - **1/2
Most of the plastic quarter scale figures from companies like NECA, Mezco and Mcfarlane are in the $40 range these days, so the price tag is pretty much in line.

Things to Watch Out for - 
I didn't see any possible issues, but it's always a good idea to pay extra attention to the paint ops when you're buying in person.

Overall -  ***1/2
I wish I could give you a shot of all three of these guys together, but unfortunately, the other two are now boxed in storage.  This whole getting ready to move thing really blows.

But Gandalf will look excellent with the previous two, or just great on the shelf with other film icons like Hellboy and Pinhead.  Obviously, we'll never get a Balrog in scale to this guy, but the quarter scale collectors should appreciate having such a central character in their collection.

However, these three are now making me wish I had Gimli, Frodo, Merry, Sam and Pippen to go with them.  Ah, what the hell - then do Boromir and finish off the fellowship.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - ****
Articulation - *1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - **
Value - **1/2
Overall -  ***1/2

Where to Buy -
I picked mine up at Media Play for $40, but there are also on-line options:

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has this guy for $32, a great price, and the have the Legolas and Aragorn still around for $28.

- Fireside Collectibles has him for a great price too at just $33.

- Krypton Collectibles has him for $35.

- Amazing Toyz has him for just $35.

- CornerStoreComics has Gandalf for $38.

Related Links -
I have a review up of the previous Epic Scale LOTR figure from NECA:

- there was Aragorn first, and then Legolas.  I never did review Legolas, but can say that his head sculpt wasn't nearly as nice as Aragorn or now Gandalf.

- and you should hit the NECA web site for further info.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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