Nightmare Before Christmas Series 2
Harlequin Demon and Dr. Finklestein

I always know that if I'm going to see a Tim Burton movie, I'm going to see something visually stunning. He has an amazing eye for color, style and design. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the same flare for script or direction.

That's not completely fair of course, but generally I expect little from a Burton movie (at least one he's directed - his writing tends to produce the better films) outside of the visual. One of the notable exceptions to that rule though was the Nightmare Before Christmas. This wasn't his directing, but it was his writing and his original vision, and it's a marvelous tale of Christmas, all wrapped up with a spooky Halloween flavor. It's one of the few holiday films that works not just for kids but adults as well, with a wonderful tale and sensible moral.

When the film came out in 1993, we were treated to a weak set of action figures. Now however, fans are being treated to the second series of figures from NECA, and much improved they are. This time there's Santa Jack, the Harlequin Demon, Doctor Finklestein and the Witches to add to the first set of Jack, Sally, the Mayor and a Vampire. Soon to be released is a third series with a Santa Jack and Sally variant, along with the Cyclops and the Werewolf. There's a deluxe boxed Oogie Boogie as well, so now we just need a few more (like Behemoth, Lock, Shock and Barrel, and Santa) to round things out!

These are popping up at Hot Topic, Sam Goody and Media Play right now, and some of my sponsors already have them in stock. Expect to pay around $12 each.

Packaging -  ***
Decent, sturdy clamshells with standard if uninspiring graphics. They allow for easy viewing of the figure and accessories, hold up fantastic to peg wear and shipping, but because of the different size fronts can be tough to store for the MOCers.

Sculpting - Harlequin Demon ****; Finklestein ***1/2
Both of these are excellent sculpts, although in the end I liked the Demon just slightly more.

I've been looking forward to the good doctor, since he's my favorite character from the film. Not so much because of the characterization, but because of the design. NECA did a marvelous job capturing the scale, style and especially the expression, much better than the previous attempt in the earlier line. There's still a couple nits to pick though, even in what amounts to an almost perfect sculpt.

First, his arms are a tad too long and thin this time. The previous figure had arms that were too short and stubby, but NECA has gone a bit to the other extreme, making these much longer than I remember from the show. And second, I'm not sure what's up with his lab coat. It seems odd that it's suspended in air like that at his lap, allowing everyone to see Big Jim and the Twins if they feel so inclined. Again, this doesn't seem accurate to the movie, and it seems like the front should lay flat against his legs. But those are some pretty minor issues with what is really an excellent job.

I wanted to mention his expression again, since they managed to pull off the wavey lips so well. Much of his expression comes from his mouth, and NECA nailed it.

But while the doctor is very good, the Demon is perfect. It's another really wild character design in a film filled with them, but NECA has managed to translate it nicely into three dimensions. Of course it helps that this isn't 2-D animation, and working from what amounts to toys to begin with is a big plus. But it's still possible to completely miss the mark, as we saw with the figures from the old kid's line. Thankfully, that's not an issue here.

There's plenty of small detail with the demon, from his little feet up to the long, graceful antenna sprouting from his head. His arms and torso are 'feathered', and very bird like, with lots of delicate work. his head raises and lowers like in the film, but if there was one thing I'd change, it would be the height of the lower teeth/jaw in the front of the face. It comes up further than I expected, or the inside head doesn't raise far enough - either way, the gap isn't quite as big between the teeth when the head is fully raised as I'd like.

But that's an even smaller nit. The Demon can actually hold some of his accessories, as can Dr. Finklestein, and the scale on both of these works well with the rest of the line.

Paint - Harlequin Demon ***; Finklestein **1/2
If there was one failing, it's with the paint ops.  Neither are terrible, but they aren't perfect either.

Finklestein uses a duller white, with some bluing for false shadowing. There's also some washing over the white to darken it up, and the end result doesn't look as good as I'd hoped. There's some slop around the lips and eyes, and the white lacks the consistency you might expect.  His robe looks more like a spackled concrete wall than cloth. 

The brain is a bit soft, with some tackier paint than the rest of the body, so you might want to be careful leaving it in the skull indefinitely.

The Demon has excellent small detail work, especially on the stripes of the face and the small white teeth. No excessive dry brushing or washing here, and he is a great mix of vibrant Halloween colors. He'll fit in great with any Halloween display, NMBC or not!  However, there's still a bit of slop around the eyes, where the green tends to drive into the black, and the paint work isn't quite up to the standard you expect.

Articulation - Finklestein ***1/2; Harlequin Demon ***
NECA has squeezed in more articulation with this line than you might expect, and have done it without compromising the look.

Finklestein has an excellent ball jointed neck (although it is easy to pop the head off, and right back on again), ball jointed shoulders, cut biceps, waist and wrists, pin elbows, and cut joints at the top of the legs. The wheels roll on the wheelchair of course, and both of the shifter handles on the arms of the chair move back and forth. And let's not forget that his head opens right up, so you can slip his brain in or out!

The Demon isn't quite as articulated, due to his stocky nature. His head rotates left and right, and also lifts up and slides back down into the lower jaw. The shoulders are ball jointed, with cut wrists, and there are cut joints at the top of each leg along with a waist joint. He gets extra love though because his tentacles are bendy, and can be repositioned as you like. He can stand on his own, but he also comes with a small display base to make him that much more stable.

Accessories - ***1/2
The Demon is nicely loaded, including a wrapped present, 'bat hat', large table, rat, mallet and display base. The doctor isn't quite as loaded but still has a respectable number of accessories, with his removable brain, bowl of nasty broth, plate, wrapped present, Christmas book and skull.

The brain fits nicely in the doctor's head, as you'd expect, but the rat also fits right in the Demon's palm, if you don't mind him carrying it palm up.

The sculpting is great on these accessories, and several of them tie in nicely with the accessories of other figures. For example, the bowl of soup and plate work well with a number of the utensils that Sally has. Some of the paint ops aren't quite as clean as on the figures themselves, with more issues with stray marks and slop.

All four of the figures come with the Halloween Town presents, which makes for a nice consistency across the wave.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Neither of these figures have the issues of popping off limbs that we've seen with some (like Jack), so they will prove much less frustrating for kids. And fans of the films will have great fun posing them in all kinds of ways on their desk at work. And their coworkers will have even more fun posing them in all kinds of disgusting ways at work.

Value - ***
At $12, these are certainly a better than average value in today's market. These are specialty market toys, and if they were as cheap as $10, they'd get another half star here. As it is, you're still getting a solid bang for your buck.

Things to watch out for - 
With small joints, you always want to be careful loosening them up from any paint sticks. They can be easy to twist off or break if you're not careful. Now, none of the joints on these two (or the Santa Jack or Witches that I reviewed at MPS) seemed to be weak or easy to break, but it's still a good idea to be careful.

It would also be a good idea to watch for the paint ops on the accessories, as that's where I'm seeing the most slop.

Overall -  Harlequin Demon ***1/2; Dr. Finklestein ***
This has become one of my top three currently shipping lines, and one of the best things NECA has ever produced. With it's holiday theme and nice assortment of characters, it has the potential to go several more waves, and could be a major hit for them. They've managed to pull off excellent sculpts, decent paint, and wonderful accessories, all with more articulation than most people expected. I do hope the crack down on the paint quality though, and that's really my only complaint with this pair.  Then again, you have to get Dr. Finklestein to make your set even close to complete. Now the question will well will the Corpse Bride figures fit in for a big Tim Burton display?

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Harlequin Demon ****; Finklestein ***1/2
Paint - Harlequin Demon ***; Finklestein **1/2
Articulation - Finklestein ***1/2; Harlequin Demon ***
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ***1/2
Value - ***
Overall -  Harlequin Demon ***1/2; Dr. Finklestein ***

Where to Buy -
You can find these at Hot Topic or Media Play right now, or online at these fine stores:

- has the individual figures for just $11 each.

- CornerStoreComics has the individual figures for just $12 each.

- Amazing Toyz has the individuals for $12 as well, but they have a great price on the full set of four, at just $44.

- Killer Toys has the full set of four for $53, and still has a few of the series 1 figures available.

Related Links:
Here's some spots you might want to hit:

- I reviewed the other half of this second series, and the first series over at da Poop.

- NECA's website is always good for info.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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