The Hobbit - The Bridge Direct
Thorin Oakenshield, Goblin King, Grinnah the Goblin

Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct

One of the best T-shirts I've seen recently said "Don't worry - the Mayans were just counting down to The Hobbit".  For fans of Tolkien, the release of the film is *almost* that important. Plagued with legal battles and schedule delays, we're finally getting the Jackson treatment we've been waiting for.

At SDCC last summer, the new toys were displayed at the Weta booth, but are being produced by a company called "The Bridge Direct". Most collectors are not going to recognize their name, but may recognize some of their other products - Annoying Orange PVC's, Justin Bieber dolls, and even the recent Cartoon Network Looney Tunes PVC's.

It was quite a surprise for a relatively unknown company, and one that has almost no experience with either actual action figures or a license of this type, to land such a big film. Toybiz did the action figures for the Lord of the Rings films, and did a fantastic job - Bridge Direct has some mighty big boots to fill.

Along with a company change, there's been a scale change from the old Toybiz figures. As you'll recall, they were a 6" scale, but this time they're going with a smaller 4" scale for the main line.

The first wave of single carded characters consists of five figures: Thorin Oakenshield, Legolas, Gandalf, Grinnah the Goblin, and Bilbo Baggins. These retail for around $10 each.

There are also a number of two packs, a much better deal at $15. There's Bilbo and Gollum, Dwalin and Balin, Kili and Fili, and Legolas and Loriel. There's a couple more expensive two packs so far, one with Gandalf and what appears to be a large Orc, and one with a Warg and another orc. Finally, there's one large set with the Goblin King and Thorin that sells for $30.
Click on the photo below for a life size version
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct
Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct

The key take away from all that is for the completist, four of the five single pack figures are available in the other double packs with figures that aren't currently available alone. The only single pack you have to buy right now is Grinnah, who I'm reviewing tonight with the large deluxe set of Thorin and the Goblin King.

That's a really nice touch, since nobody wants to end up buying multiples of the same character to get a complete set if they can help it.

These are showing up at Toys R Us first, but should be at just about every major mass market retailer any day.

Packaging - ***
None of this packaging is collector friendly of course, but there's a few more twisties and rubber bands than I like, even for a mass market toy.

I do really like the graphics and colors though, matching up with the film designs nicely. These are dictated by the licensor of course, but they've been well executed.

The text on the back does a nice job of giving each character's back story, but a mention of the accessories would have been nice as well.

Sculpting - Goblin King, Grinnah ***1/2; Thorin ***
Looking across the first wave of figures, it's clear that getting the human likenesses right is going to be the bane of this series.

Thorin is decent as a generic figure, but I'm really not seeing the character likeness. All the facial hair helps hide some of that though, and you do get the general impression that this is Thorin.

What saves his score is the nice work on the armor and clothing. There's lots of textures here, with different looks to the boots, cloth, leather and mail. Small details like the buckles look good, and there's some excellent stranding in the hair.

The Goblin King has some decent detail - it's just lost without any color. Small touches like the really creepy smile, beady eyes and long toe nails make him much more interesting, and they've done a great job creating just the right expression. It's unfortunate that a solid sculpting job like this is let down by the paint work.

The same is true for Grinnah. I love the work on the face, especially around the mouth and eyes. The posed hands look great, and he stands well on his own in even deep stances. Again, a great sculpt is hiding in there, but with the heavy wash it's impossible to easily make out the details.

These are done in a 4" scale, which is about where Grinnah comes in. Thorin is at 3 1/2", while the Goblin King is about 8" tall.

Paint - Thorin **1/2; Goblin King, Grinnah *1/2
The area that really hurts this line is the paint, although on some it's a bigger issue than others.

Thorin isn't too bad, although his face work reminds me of some of the stuff we saw with the first wave of Indiana Jones figures. There's little real detail, and just broad colors are really applied. The beard and eyebrows are thick and a bit too much, and make it tough to notice that the eyes are pretty good considering the scale.

The costume needed  a few more details, but there is a buckle here and a button there. The hair has some interesting gray strands, but they are almost too slight to notice, especially in person.

And in person versus photos is really a big difference with these three. This is one of those VERY rare instances where macro photos make the paint look better and not worse.

That's particularly true of Grinnah. In person he looks like a hot mess, and it's impossible to make out the subtle differences between the eyes, hair and filthy skin. In photos, he looks pretty good because you can see the eyes and teeth clearly, and tell there's actually hair on his head.

Even so, the wash is just too much on the body, overpowering the entire look of the figure, and messing up what is otherwise a really good toy. There's even a few large splotches of the dirt paint which look like exactly what they are - splotches of paint, not dirt.

The much larger Goblin King has the opposite problem - there's almost no paint detail at all, making him mighty boring to look at. All the cool skin imperfections are lost in the expanse of consistent skin tone. His big skirt is just solid brown, and all this solid unbroken color makes it tough to even notice the cool little teeth and eyes.

They tried to use some of the wash around the neck and hair, but it ends up looking awful, with a clear line where it's been rubbed off the main body. It almost looks like a perfectly round ring around his neck, and the wash within the stringy hair takes away all the detail.

Like Grinnah, he has a few weird splotches of color on the otherwise pale skin. When I looked at the photos I was pretty surprised - the Goblins look much worse in person.

Articulation - Grinnah ***1/2; Thorin, Goblin King **1/2;
None of the figures look particularly well articulated, but it turns out that looks are deceiving, at least in Grinnah's case.

For Thorin, the articulation is there but a lot of it is restricted by the costume and hair. The neck turns a bit from side to side, but not much else. The ball shoulders can lift to the height of the shoulder but not above, and the ball hips can turn, but forward/backward and outward mobility is restricted a bit by the skirt.

The pin/disc ball elbows and knees work good though, allowing the arms and legs to turn as well as move forward and back. The wrists and waist are cut joints, but there's no ankle articulation.

The Goblin King has far less, with no neck joint at all. He has NECA style shoulders and pin/disc ball elbows and knees, but the chunky sculpt means there isn't a huge range of movement with any of these joints.

His wrists are cut joints, as are the T hips. The chest has a rolling joint, but again, the sculpt doesn't allow for much tilting or turning.

Grinnah is the big winner in this category, with a lot more posability than I had expected.  There's NECA style shoulders, pin/disc ball elbows, hips and knees, cut wrists, cut waist and a cut neck. The sculpt and clothing (or lack there of) doesn't restrict the joints allowing them to be much more useful than with either of the other two figures.

Accessories - Thorin ***1/2; Grinnah, Goblin King **1/2
It's important to note that it appears, at least so far, that any of the characters that are available both as single packs and in sets get the same accessories either way. You won't lose out on any extras if you get the cheaper two packs.

That's true for Thorin, who comes with two swords, a scabbard that attachs to his back, and forearm armor for his left arm.

Both the scabbard and armor attach with a small post. Neither stays in place particularly well, but it's the armor that's the most frustrating. After one photo with it, I dumped it in a bag.

The swords both look good, with nice sculpts considering the scale. They fit in the hands well, although it can be a little frustrating. The hands are very stiff and the hilts very soft, so take some care putting them in place.

The Goblin King comes with two accessories - his very large club-like staff, and his crown.

The staff looks good, but could use a bit more texture detail. I love the look of the dragon skull on top, and it fits well in his let hand.

His crown is best not worn, however. It's somewhat small and fits poorly on his head. I saved him the embarrassment of wearing it, and just had him hold it in his hand.

Grinnah, comes with three extras - the two rope belts that fit around his torso, and the whip-like weapon. None of these are particularly detailed in either paint or sculpt, and most kids will probably dump the belts five minutes after they open him up.

Fun Factor - ***
While these toys have their issues from a collector's viewpoint, they aren't bad action figures. The articulation was surprisingly useful, especially on Grinnah, and out of the package I was much happier with these than when I first saw them. We didn't see the large Goblin King at SDCC, and his inclusion makes me hope that we'll get other beasts (gotta have a Smaug!) as the line progresses.

Value - Grinnah **1/2, Goblin King/Thorin **; 
I'm not too shocked by the $10 price tag on the single figures, since that's a pretty common price point for 4" figures in major licenses these days. Picking them up in the two packs for $7.50 each is a much better value however, and the score in this category will reflect that when I hit up one or more of those sets very soon.

The price point on the Goblin and Thorin is a bit much, however. Assuming you're not getting any bargain on Thorin, that still means you're paying $20 for an 8" figure, at least $2 or $3 more than you should. And if you consider that Thorin really should be around the $7.50 that the other single figures are in packs, you get a Goblin King that's even more over priced.

Things to Watch Out For -
The wrists on Grinnah were a bit paint stuck, and you need to be sure you've broken them loose before you start twisting. Otherwise, you'll rip a hand right off.

Overall - Thorin ***; Goblin King **1/2
When I saw these on the pegs, I was very disappointed. I was instantly transported back to 1995 and monkey faced Leia...and that was a bad trip.

But once I had them out of the package, I softened up a bit. The paint work is particularly awful on Grinnah and the Goblin King, and that tends to override everything else when the toy is still in its plastic prison. Out, I could appreciate the articulation and play value a bit more, as well as the accessories. I could also give the sculpt a much closer examination, and I realized that under all that slop is some good work.

I've picked up several of the two packs as well, and I'll be looking at them later this week. This first wave is suffering from two main issues - human likenesses (all the monsters and beasts are much better sculpts), and terrible paint ops. Let's hope that Bridge Direct is taking this into consideration as they crank out the upcoming waves.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpting - Goblin King, Grinnah ***1/2; Thorin ***
Paint - Thorin **1/2; Goblin King, Grinnah *1/2
Articulation - Grinnah ***1/2; Thorin, Goblin King **1/2;
Accessories - Thorin ***1/2; Grinnah, Goblin King **1/2
Fun Factor - ***
Value - Goblin King/Thorin ***; Grinnah **
Overall - Thorin ***; Goblin King, Grinnah **1/2

Where to Buy -
Your best bet right now is Toys R Us, where these are hitting first. They should start showing up all over the place within a very short time, however. Expect to pay around $20 for the Thorin/Goblin King set, and $10 each for the single carded figures. The two packs are a much better deal at $15 each.

Related Links -
This is the first of several Hobbit reviews, but other Lord of the Rings reviews include the Morgul Lord PF statue, the Gandalf the Gray PF, and the Berserker and Lurtz, PF's.

In a smaller sixth scale there's Sam and Frodo, Aragorn, Faramir, Boromir and Legolas.

- NECA also did a 20" Aragorn, and a large scale Balrog.

- Gentle Giant did a set of nice busts, including Saruman, Sam and Frodo in Goblin Gear, Gandalf, Elrond and the Balrog, Strider and the Ringwraith.

- and of course, Toybiz did the fantastic original 6" series of action figures, including this Ringwraith and King of the Dead.

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Hobbit Goblin and Thorin action figures by The Bridge Direct

This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Michael Crawford.

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