Twisted Land of Oz
Cowardly Lion

Mcfarlane Toys is known for great sculpting, and excellent looking figures, but they are also known for pushing the envelope, and along with it some buttons. Right from the start, there's been upset parents and shocked retailers, and Todd chuckling at every turn.

His latest series of figures - the second series in the 'Monsters' line - is called the Twisted Land of Oz. This is a 're-imagining' of the classic story, not really based on any actual version. While some folks said it was based on the Baum book, and while old Frank's original tale was far darker than the foo-foo version that introduced color to film, it still wasn't anything quite as, well, twisted as

There are six figures in the series - Dorothy with munchkins, Toto with rider, the Cowardly Lion, the Tinman, the Wizard with Scientist, and the Scarecrow. There's also a Spawn Collectors Club exclusive set of Winged Monkeys, available at the Spawn website to club members. Retail on the figures runs fro $10-$13, similar to other recent lines from McToys.

Now, before I get into the review, I have to make some comments about the overall concept itself. There's been tons of debate over this line, just what I'm sure Todd was hoping for. When I first heard about this concept, I thought it was pretty damn silly. Wizard of Oz fans won't like it, and general monster fans are only going to find one or two of the overall line appealing. Now that I've held them in my hand, I think they are still pretty damn silly.
At first glance, the license must have seemed like a wet dream - plenty of unusual characters, including a robot-like one, a ferocious (if you ignore the whole 'cowardly' angle) animal, and even a hot chick! Of course, the same could be said of the Jetsons, but I'm not really interested in seeing a bondage fetish version of Judy. Although now that I mention it...

On top of that, there's no license fees, since the Oz book is in the public domain, and yet it's a tremendously recognizable name. What else could you ask for? Well, a line that actually meshes up with this type of 're-imagining' first, and second, something done a with a little more creativity. How could I say that this line isn't creative? Pretty easily. If this line is creative, than the porno director who came up with the title "Shaving Ryan's Privates" must have been a genius.

First we have Dorothy. Okay, let's make her a bondage figure with perverted little munchkins. Since this theme has been done to death by underground cartoonists and X-rated movie producers, I wouldn't call it creative - shocking, yes, since their products were never on the shelves next to the latest video game, but not necessarily creative.

Then we have the Scarecrow, Tinman and Toto. It's Tortured Souls time! While the sculpting and paint applications are top notch, these figures could have fit right in with the Tortured Souls line, right down to the metal devices of pain.

That leaves us the Wizard and the Lion. The wizard is perhaps the most creative, but maybe too creative. What's his deal? Of all of them, his rather unusual but non-freakish (as compared to the rest of the line of course) appearance requires the most back story. And then there's the lion, likely to be the biggest seller of the series, and the one that actually fits in best with the style of the first series of Monsters.

So what does all that mean? I think the concept is a silly one. Will that be factored into this toy review? No. This review is about sculpting, paint, articulation, etc, not about whether person who came up with the idea was tripping at the time. There will be specific comments on the design of the Lion where I think things were either silly or could have been improved, but my overall impression of the concept won't be included. On to the review! Tonight I'm covering the poor Lion, and next week at Poop Shoot there will be a review of Toto.

Down at the Monster Swap Meet, the Lion was hoping to get more for his intestines than an old head...


Don't you just hate backstabbers?

Packaging - ***1/2
I love the clamshells, and I think they are a fantastic idea for both the MOCer and the opener. Sure, it takes a little sweat to get into the package, but it's less likely to have shelf damage, stores better, and is fairly small. They've included the usual insert card with great graphics, and this time around we get some great text too - an actual booklet on the twisted version. Back story has been something missing from other lines (except for Tortured Souls), so it's great to see it here.

Too bad that the story isn't better. To be completely fair, I'veonly read two of the six sections, so I'm operating off of only a third of the storyline. But what I did read was like Anne Rice's version of Sleeping Beauty - soft core masquerading as literature. I'm betting that professors who teach first year creative writing see a lot of stories written in a similar style and tone.

Sculpting - ***1/2
The level of detail is amazing, as you'd expect from McToys. The intricate head sculpt, that so clearly expresses the pain and suffering of the beast, is fantastic. The fur, exposed muscle and bone, all looks tremendously realistic and impressive. But two aspects of the figure hurt what could have been a four star sculpt.

The first problem is with Leo's (aren't all lions named Leo?) guts, most specifically their external nature. You see, he's been eviscerated, and his intestines are hanging out. Now, his sculpt and articulation allow him to hold on to them, and they are actually a separate piece that you attach with a peg into a hole in his stomach, but with them in, his overall appearance takes a hit. If you were unfortunate enough to be holding your innards in your hand, you'd assume they'd be wet and gloppy, oozing if you will. While the finish is slightly glossy, the sculpt and finish together just don't have the realism required, and it looks more like bubble gum than actual intestines. Considering the realism of the rest of the figure, this hurts, in more ways than one. Since the guts are removable though, I didn't deduct as much from the sculpt as I would have otherwise. If you don't like them, you can do what I did and toss them back in the box, displaying him sans the pink stuff.

The second issue is one of overall appearance. The Lion is covered in wounds, ripped flesh, and exposed muscle and bone. This bugger suffers from a ton of recent (i.e. unhealed) damage, and someone sure handed him his ass. The big problem is that this ends up looking far more
zombie than lion, sort of an undead version of the movie character. With his exposed insides and extreme battle damage, he's no longer scary
for the same reason. Rather than be afraid of the Lion, you feel sorry for him. He really is a pathetic sight. That doesn't mean his appearance doesn't inspire fear though - I sure as hell wouldn't want to be walking down a dark alley and bump into the dude that did this to him.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint application is exceptional, as is the standard for McToys. The colors are consistent, and they've blended the wounds with the fur very nicely. The work on the face detail is especially important, and improves on the already great head sculpt. I have heard of people having major issues with some of the other figures, particularly Dorothy, but the Lion doesn't seem to suffer the same issues.

The only nit to pick here is one I already mentioned - the finish on the intestines. The sculpt ends up looking more like Bazooka Joe because the paint application fails to convey a realistic appearance.

Articulation - **1/2
The one category where Mcfarlane shows the greatest variation from line to line is articulation. While the Lion isn't bad, he does lack a few useful joints.

He has a great neck joint, allowing for a lot of up and down movement even with the mane. There's also shoulder, elbow, wrist and waist joints, allowing for at least a mediocre amount of upper body positioning. The big plus is the bendy tail, which can give you some various options, and also allow you to use the tail to support the large upper body if you need to.

There's no lower body articulation though, and if you don't use the enclosed stand, you'll be pretty limited in how you can pose the upper body and still keep him standing.

Accessories - ***
There are five accessories, although I'm only going to be hitting four of them in this category. It's a tough call on whether his intestines are an accessory or not - they are removable, so that hints at accessory, but they are also a fairly, uh, integral part of any figure. I put them in as part of the main figure (and already slapped them around in the sculpt and paint sections), so I won't repeat myself here.

The other four accessories are a half sword that fits into a slot on his upper back, a full knife/sword that fits into another hole on his mid-back, a spear that fits into a hole on his thigh (and actually goes all the way through his leg), and a mustard brick road base.

The half sword and long knife look good stuck in his back, although the plastic on the half sword is a tad bendy. The sculpts are good, and the paint ops acceptable, although the all gold color for the hilt and blade is a bit unusual and boring. The spear is the best of the weapons, and looks great in or out of his leg.

The base isn't absolutely necessary, but you won't have any issues with him toppling over if you use it. Unlike the Terminator figures, I had no trouble with the pegs fitting into the holes on his feet snugly, but not too tight. It's clearly the yellow brick road, although it's a lot more dirty and real looking than the film version.

Value - **
I'm grading this set of figures harder on value than other recent Mcfarlane releases like Matrix and Terminator for a couple reasons. First, this is not a licensed line, so costs are lower. Second, both the Matrix and Terminator figures were carried by Toys R Us stores and Meijer stores. It was possible to pick these up at a store for less than $13, although if you broke down and bought them at Gamestop or Electronics Boutique you did pay a premium.

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll be seeing these at any mainstream store location, so the odds of paying less than $12 or $13 at a local retailer are slim to none. There's some on-line options where they are ten bucks, but then you have to factor in shipping. These two factors mean that overall, these figures end up costing us more than the Terminator and Matrix figures did. And $13 each for these is at least $3 too much. This jump we've seen in just the last few months - from figures costing $8 - $10 each on average to $12 or $13 each - is hitting the collector wallet hard. Four figures today cost what six figures did a year ago, and that's a huge jump. The move away from mainstream retailers to small retailers is a bid cause of this, but it also means that fewer lines will succeed, and fewer companies will stay in business.

Overall - ***
I wish all the figures were as cool as the Lion, and I'm willing to bet he'll be the one that sells the best, once those initial "buy the short packs first" crowd gets done with the Wizard and Tinman. The style and design of the Lion will allow him to fit in with the first Monster line or even the Medieval lines, so there's some crossover potential as well.

I may not be fond of the overall theme, but you can't fault McToys for making a great looking figure no matter how goofy the theme might be! Still, there were enough individual issues with this figure to keep him from ranking up there with the better Mcfarlane offerings.

I have wondered though, since seeing the first pictures of Dorothy - was her design inspired by the actual fact that Judy Garland had to wear something similar to strap down her blossoming womanhood during this film? It's pretty well known that she was a bit too bosomy to pull off playing a pre-teen girl, and had to wear a rather uncomfortable undergarment to add in her portrayal. One has to wonder...

Where to Buy - 
I found mine at Gamestop, but at $13 each you'll wish you'd gotten a kiss too. On-line:

- Killer Toys has the set available for $59, or the figures individually for $9.95, a very good price. Dorothy is more expensive though if you buy her individually.

- Aisle Sniper has a case for pre-order still at $110. That's 12 figures in total, but you'll have extras of Dorothy for sure.

- Beans Toys had them up for pre-order as a set for only $55, but they sold out. However, they may end up with some extra sets in stock once they get their shipment, so you might want to check them out.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour