How the Grinch Stole Christmas

For fans of the original Dr. Seuss work, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the 2000 movie was a bit of a let down.  That's a bit of an understatement, of course.  I heard several true fans actually burned themselves in effigy outside Jim Carrey's house after being forced to watch the film.

Like most big block buster kid's movies that end up sucking like a Hoover, the film got a big release of toys.  Based on the film, these didn't do much for those of us that loved the original animated version.

Now Mcfarlane has stepped in to write the wrongs, free the peoples, and return balance to the force.  They picked up the license for the original toon this year, and are releasing four figure 'dioramas' (similar to what they've done with Hanna-Barbera and Simpsons) as well as a deluxe boxed set.  Tonight I'll be checking out these first four mini-sets - All I Need Is A Reindeer (referred to as the Reindeer set from here on), Cindy Lou Who, You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (referred to as the Mean set here on out), and You're Two Sizes Too Small (better known as The Meanest Thing a Woman Ever Said To Me, but I'll call it the Heart set). There's also an exclusive version of the Reindeer set that Time and Space Toys has for $10.

These are hitting online retailers right now, and with the Christmas season almost upon us, I expect they'll pop up at stores like Toys R Us at least, and perhaps specialty retailers like FYE or Suncoast.


Packaging - ***1/2
Mcfarlane has changed their clamshells, going for a smaller, more compact version.  And if you've been paying attention, I've been mentioning for several months now how much better it is for all of us - environment, MOCers and even openers - when there's as little wasted space with the package as possible.

The depth of the bubble itself has actually increased, allowing them to pose the figure and backdrop in a visually interesting way.  However, the amount of actual peg space taken up by the back of the shell is reduced, allowing them to suck up less real estate at the store.

You'll still need a knife to open them of course, but they are also very sturdy and unlikely to damage.

The graphics and colors are great, and there's a nice blurb on the back about the cartoon.  I would have liked a little more personalization, with some info on the particular scene, but I can live.

Sculpting - Heart ****; Mean one, Reindeer ***1/2; Cindy Lou ***
These aren't so much action figures as mini-dioramas, much like the Simpsons and HB sets that Mcfarlane has done in the past.  Keep that in mind, and you'll be less surprised.

That being said, I love the look of the Heart set.  The sculpting on the evil grin, raised eyebrows, and pose is absolutely gorgeous.  The fine texturing on the 'fur' looks great, and there are small sculpted details, like they eyebrows, that really add to the impressiveness of the appearance.

He doesn't stand on his own, and will require the base, but since this expression and pose is so closely tied to the heart x-ray, it would be pretty unlikely that you'd pose him separately from the base even if you could.

There is something slightly weird going on with his bent right leg, but I'd have to go back and watch the cartoon to be sure if it was really an issue, or that's how it appeared on the show.

They got quite a bit more ambitious with the Reindeer set, and I really wish I could say it all worked out well.  Alas, they tried.

The sculpting on the Grinch himself is good, if not as detailed as the Heart version.  There's a bit less detailing on the fur, and with the slightly less expressive look, he doesn't come across quite as iconic.  He's placed in the very specific but awkward pose for this scene.

Max is sculpted with the single antler on his head, with articulation designed to allow him to drop forward when you move the Grinch.  While they added in a very thin twisty tie to look like the string that was used to hold the antler in place, it's not necessary to actually keep it there.  It's glued to the top of his head, thankfully.  Unlike the Grinch, Max has no real texturing to imply fur, and ends up look a bit odd because of it.

It seems like the poor Grinch doesn't get to stand upright very much, and again in the Mean One set his bent over, removing the nails from the stockings with a magnet.  The sculpt is terrific though, again matching the show nicely.  For me there's one oddity, since the both the Grinch and his open bag are in the middle of the room, so that he couldn't actually catch the stockings as he removed the nails.  That's a pretty minor nit though, and on the plus side, many of the details that could have merely been painted on - like the edge lines of the bricks and floorboards, or the empty nail holes on above the fireplace - are actually sculpted details.

I'm also fairly sure that the head sculpt is exactly the same between the Reindeer Grinch and the Mean Grinch.  The hat was changed, but the face and expression is identical as far as I can tell.

The basic concept behind Cindy Lou is good...but I don't think it's going to be a big seller out of this wave.  It has the most general aesthetic issues of the four, and since you have to blow another twelve bucks just to add her to the display, I suspect she'll be the one most folks skip.

The general sculpting on the set is top notch.  There's the right amount of detail, and her own internal proportions and scale are good.  The unique antennae on her head are done with metal rather than plastic, which was an extremely smart move.  The metal allowed them to make them much thinner and appropriately in scale to the rest of her.

But her scale to the rest of the world is what's off.  She's at least twice as large as she was in the show, and since she's part of the larger diorama with Mean One Grinch (the bases fit together nicely to form one large scene) it's painfully obvious.  In the film, she carried a red Christmas bulb in her arms, and it was huge for her.  Here, they've included that red bulb, but it's massive compared to the bulbs actually on the tree next to her, and looks like some sort of old school cartoon bomb - not a Christmas decoration.

Cindy should have been an accessory to the Mean One set, or included with either another Grinch or some other Whos entirely.  Putting her on her own meant they had to upscale her considerably to make her seem worth the cash, but that threw her completely out of scale with the rest of the line.

There is one plus to Cindy though - she stands fine on her own off the base.  She can even hold the wreath in her arms without fear of toppling over, which surprised me.

All the figures are done in the now standard (for Mcfarlane) 5" cartoon scale, although Cindy is actually much too big at 2 1/2 inches tall.  They'll display well with either the HB stuff or the Simpsons.  They will be dwarfed by the old Christmas lines from companies like Playing Mantis however.

Paint - Heart, Mean One ****; Reindeer, Cindy Lou ***1/2
For awhile there, it seemed like the cartoon lines were getting the short end of the quality stick from Mcfarlane, at least in the paint department.  However, the movie Simpsons seemed to step it up, and I'm happy to say that these figures appear to also be much better across the board.

The paint work on the Heart set is very clean and neat, and the use of the black lines really, really works well here.  Nothing has been overdone or over washed, but the final product looks very cartoon-like - and yet manages to have plenty of small details.  Just check out how cleanly the exposed teeth on the left side of the mouth have been done to see what I mean.

The work on the Reindeer set is extremely clean as well, with good cuts between colors and a nice use of bold solid colors.  The green used on the Grinch seems a bit too bright to me, and is brighter than the Heart set.  It's just a smidge, but it's enough to make him look a little off.  The extremely consistent brown of Max's body also makes the lack of texture all the more obvious, and it is actually a bit darker than he was on film.  But these are fairly minor nits.

Perhaps the best use of color is on the Mean One set, where all the stockings are done in bright, unique colors, and the large room pieces - wall, floor, bricks, mantel, decorations - are all different and eye catching.  The yellow walls might be a bit much for some folks, but I like the cartoony feel of the colors.

I had a little more slop with Cindy Lou than the other sets, but not enough to hurt the score much.  The colors are generally screen accurate, and while there isn't as much variety as there is with the Mean One (there's an awful lot of pink), it's still a nice looking addition to the shelf.

Now, you'll see some slop on the extreme close ups - keep in mind that your eye can't make out what the camera can.

Articulation - Reindeer *1/2; Heart, Mean One, Cindy Lou *;
These aren't 'action' figures - they are little plastic statues and dioramas.  They are intended to capture very specific scenes from the film, not to be posed in multiple ways.  Think of them as Precious Moments for pop culture fans.

The Heart set has only one point of articulation - his neck.  There's a cut joint, but you won't even be using that one much, since he was staring straight ahead at the camera in this scene.  The cut lines on the legs and arms are NOT joints, and are glued tight.  The arm holding the x-ray can be removed from the tree, but the peg is cut in such a way as to only fit one way, so it can't be turned either.

The Reindeer set actually has some articulation, but it's specifically designed to work with the action feature.  Max has a jointed neck, along with two joints on each leg.  These joints allow him to drop forward from the weight of the antler when you move the Grinch back.  I'll talk later about how well this works, but the joints themselves are quite loose.  That's so he drops forward in a convincing way of course, but it also made it very difficult to get him to hold the initial position correctly.  On top of that, one of the front joints broke minutes after I had him out of the package, making it a fairly worthless action feature.

There's two other areas with articulation - Max's ears and the Grinch's neck.  Both have cut joints.

The Mean One set has only the neck joint on the Grinch as well.  Cindy Lou has an cut neck as too, but that's it.

Accessories - Reindeer, Mean One, Cindy Lou ***1/2; Heart ***;
Even though the figures really need the bases, I'm counting them as the accessories here.

The Heart base has the snowy ground, with blue highlights like in the cartoon. The added tree holds the attachment for the x-ray, which is suspended in front of his chest.  This 'arm' is very sturdy, and unlikely to droop except in very hot climates.  The base also has the added feature of his Santa hat resting in the snow.

The Grinch attaches to this base with three pegs, two in one foot and one in the other.  He pops on and off well, and is unlikely to fall over or sag.

Of the four bases, I think I really like the Reindeer set the best.  The rocks are very cool, with a great sculpt and even better paint job that gives them a very deep three dimensional appearance.

But the detail work on the Mean One set is quite nice as well.  I mentioned the sculpted details of this set earlier, but it's worth noting it again.  In several cases, they could have just gone with paint but opted to sculpt the details instead. BTW, when you're putting this set together, you might want to snap the two halves of the wall together first before attaching it to the base.

They really missed an opportunity with the Mean set though.  Had they given us a second swappable right hand, sculpted as if he was patting Cindy Lou on the head, he could have easily been positioned that way too.  That was a real missed opportunity.

The Cindy Lou set has the most parts, all of them with holes/pegs to attach to the base.  The back wall comes in two pieces, but the pink decorations that string across the door come glued in place so they aren't actually two separate pieces. Unlike the Mean One wall sections, these I'd pop into the floor first, then attach to each other.

She also has the red bulb, one package, and the tree.  These all attach to the floor, although you could put them pretty much anyplace and they'd stay put just fine.  In fact, you might want to move at least the package, since sitting it right in the doorway doesn't make a lot of sense, and makes it tough to see.

Finally, she has the wreath, which she can hold quite easily in her hands.  I was surprised how well it stayed in place, framing her face, without any pegs or way to attach it to her.  She also stands fine with it, even off the base.

Action Features - Reindeer *1/2; Heart, Mean One, Cindy Lou Bupkis
The Heart, Mean One and Cindy Lou sets might be a bupkis here, but that's not such a bad thing.  They aren't supposed to have an action feature, so not having one isn't a problem.  In fact, that will help their overall score in the end, while the action feature on the Reindeer set is going to end up hurting it.

The idea with the Reindeer set is simple - after the Grinch attached the antler to Max, he drooped over onto his chin, with his back legs in the air.  They've tried to replicate that here.  The Grinch attaches to a sliding section of the cave floor, so he can be slid backward away from Max easily.  Max is attached to a hunk of cave floor that is removable, and as you move the Grinch away, Max should tilt forward just like in the show.  Unfortunately, it's one of the more poorly engineered and executed action features we've seen from Mcfarlane, and getting it to work reliably is difficult at best.  I would have much preferred this set as a regular diorama with the figures staying in place ala the Heart set.

Fun Factor - **
These aren't toys in that sense of the word.  They are intended for display, either at home or work, for the fan of the show.  With Christmas right around the counter, they'll look terrific in your cube!

Value - ***
At $10 - $12 for a licensed product, these are a slightly above average deal.  The quality is top notch, and the display bases are fairly intricate.  I'd suggest getting them for $10 if you can, but even if you pay $12, you won't feel ripped off.

Things to Watch Out For - 
I mentioned how easily the joint on Max's leg broke, so take extreme care there.  The pins used are metal, but the disks are just plastic, and that's what broke on mine.  The small wire that's supposed to look like twine coming off the larger ball on the base is also easy to pop off and lose, so keep an eye on it.

I'd snap the two walls of the Mean One set together before attaching them to the base, just to save a little effort.

And when you're removing the walls for the Cindy Lou set from the package, take extra care.  With all the tape holding them in place, you might be tempted to pull them free, but you can damage the soft plastic decorations that run from one section to the other.

Overall - Heart ****; Mean One ***1/2; Reindeer, Cindy Lou ***
Of this set, my clear favorite is the Heart Too Small set.  It's a classic moment in the film, and they've captured it perfectly.  The sculpt and paint are amazing, and folks will stop and stare at it on your desk.

If you're looking for something a bit more iconic though, the Mean One set fills the bill.  With the Santa suit, stealing the stockings, he's in the most often remembered outfit.

Cindy Lou was a nice try, but the fact that she is so far out of scale with the other sets - particularly when she is designed to be a part of the larger diorama with the Mean One set - ruins it for me.  Unless you're a completist, I'd skip her.

I wasn't really disappointed by her though, because I knew that was going to be an issue from the prototype photos.  The big disappointment here for me was in the Reindeer set.  I love Max, and I really wish they had simply made this set free of any action feature.  While I still would have wanted some texturing on Max (and a slightly lighter brown), taking away the action feature would solve all my major issues with this set.  Interestingly enough, that looks like exactly what the Time and Space Toys exclusive is, because in the photos it shows no joints on Max, and a basic base that doesn't allow either one to move.  I'm thinking that if that turns out to be the case, I will order the exclusive and replace the Max on the regular set (with the cool base) with the unarticulated Max from the exclusive, combining the two sets to get the one perfect one.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Heart ****; Mean one, Reindeer ***1/2; Cindy Lou ***
Paint - Heart, Mean One ****; Reindeer, Cindy Lou ***1/2
Articulation - Reindeer *1/2; Heart, Mean One, Cindy Lou *;
Accessories - Reindeer, Mean One, Cindy Lou ***1/2; Heart ***
Action Feature - Reindeer *1/2; Heart, Mean One, Cindy Lou Bupkis
Fun Factor - **
Value -  ***
Overall - Heart ****; Mean One ***1/2; Reindeer, Cindy Lou ***

Where to Buy -
These are hitting online retailers first, but I'm betting they'll be in some brick and mortar stores shortly.  Online options include these terrific sponsors:

- Clark Toys has a fantastic price on the set of four at just $40, or the singles at $11 each.  The deluxe set is just $20!

- Amazing Toyz has the single figures for $12 each, the set of four for $46, and the deluxe set for $21.

- CornerStoreComics has the same pricing as Amazing Toyz.

- Time and Space Toys has an exclusive variant of the Reindeer set, available for pre-order at just $10.  They also have the set of four for $60, and the deluxe box set for $28.  If you're looking for any sort of past or present Christmas themed action figures, TST is the place to look, as they carry just about every line out there.

Related Links -
I never reviewed any of the movie based toys. 

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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