Christmas Story

About a decade ago, action figures stopped being just toys.  It wasn't an overnight shift, but came slowly over time as most changes do.  Maybe it was the Playmates Star Trek line...maybe the Power of the Force.  But somewhere in the mid-90's, action figures made the jump from pure toys for little boys and girls to pop culture collectibles.

When this happened, all kinds of odd and unusual licenses started to pop up.  Since the market was for the fans of pop culture and not kids, anything was possible.  Sure, they weren't always successful, but there was everything imaginable.

This trend has grown and grown, to the point where any movie, comic book or tv show that has any sort of pop culture following is likely to get a set of action figures.  And now we have - A Christmas Story.

This film has a huge cult following, mostly men, who consider this one of the classic holiday shows.  It's no wonder that NECA picked up the license.

There are four figures in the line - the Old Man, the Mom, Flick (who got stuck to the pole), and Ralphie.  They retail for about $10 at most specialty stores.

NECA is also producing a ton of other items based on the film, including 12" talking figures of the Old Man and Ralphie, head bobbers, Christmas lights, full size (40") and smaller (20") scale reproductions of the leg lamp, ornaments and more.

Packaging - *
I'm being a little harsh here, but these are some ugly cards.  Very plain, and certainly not like the Hellraiser or Gremlin work we've seen from NECA.  Word through the grapevine is that this packaging scheme was the idea of the licensor.

Sculpting - Old Man ****; Ralphie ***1/2; Flick ***; Mom **
This is a series with a big gap between figures in just about every category.

Darren McGavin is a great actor, and I've always wished someone would do a Kolchak figure.  This is the closest we have so far, and they've captured his likeness extremely well.  There's no doubt who this is supposed to be, and all the detail work - the material of the sweater, the wrinkles in his clothes - are perfect.  All the figures have different textures to the different pieces of clothing, and that makes the appearance far more realistic.

On the complete opposite end of the spectrum is the Mom.  She really looks nothing like the actress, and is far more cartoony or caricaturish than realistic.  The detail work is nice, especially with the different textures of her hair, sweater and dress, but you'd never recognize her.

Flick and Ralphie fall in between.  Flick's face and head sculpt were a tough one to pull off, since he is supposed to appear as though his tongue is painfully stuck to a pole.  They gave it the old college try, but missed the mark a bit.  He's not terrible, but he's not exceptional either.

Ralphie is pretty good, and you would certainly recognize him.  The detail work on his clothing is great, especially the sweater and boots, but his facial expression is just sort of a four star version.

The scale between the figures is good, although they might be a little bigger compared to other figures than you expect.  Check the last photo out for a look at dad with Kirk and Batman for comparison.

Paint - Old Man, Flick, Ralphie ***1/2; Mom (and Randy) ***
One category that they all did well in is paint application.  There are a few issues, particularly with a couple of the lines between the facial color and the clothing, but overall they've done a nice job.

There's plenty of color variations on each figure too, so there's plenty of chance for mistakes.  But the colors are clean and consistent, and most of the figures had very little bleed.  I did notice some bleed and fuzziness between the colors on Randy's face, and Mom has a few errant paint marks on one hand.  Overall though, paint looks good.

Articulation - Ralpie ***; Old Man, Flick **1/2;  Mom **
Let's start at the bottom this time - poor mom.  She has neck, shoulders, and wrists.  The body is a solid piece, and her legs sculpt seems to have one leg (the right) slightly shorter than the other.  That adds up to serious trouble standing, and just keeping her up long enough to shoot the photos was an effort.

Flick has shoulders, hips and waist.  His purpose in life is to lean against the pole, and he has pegs in his feet to attach him on the display stand.

Dad had neck, right shoulder, left elbow, wrists, waist and cut ankles.  He stands well with the lamp and without, although there aren't too many posing possibilities.

Ralphie is the best of the set due to his great arm articulation.  He has neck, shoulders, an angled cut on his bicep and elbow on the right arm, wrists, waist and ankles.  The two cuts on his right arm allow him to hold the bb gun in a traditional pose, or hold his arm straight at his side.  That's a great design and an excellent example of useful articulation.

Accessories - Old Man, Ralphie ***1/2; Mom, Flick ***
The accessories are a decent on all four figures, and are well designed to fit in nicely with the film.

Mom comes with her little boy, Ralphie's brother Randy.  He's a solid PVC, but considering how impossible it was for him to move in the snowsuit in the movie, that's not too surprising.

The Old Man comes with his leg lamp, nicely scaled to the rest of the line.  It's actually two pieces, with a separate shade.  Take off the shade, and you'll see all the great detail on the bulb and frame!  The shade even has a cloth fringe.  This is one of the nicer single accessories I've seen this year.

Ralphie has his Red Ryder BB gun, and a small bar of soap.  The gun fits nicely in his hands, and his articulation works perfectly with the gun.

Flick comes with the pole and a small base covered in snow.  You can set him up just like he was in the film, foolish enough to do the dare.  But wasn't the pole metal?  This one looks suspiciously like wood.

Value - Old Man, Ralphie, Flick ***; Mom **1/2
I'm much happier paying ten bucks or less for an action figure than $12 and more.  It's good to see that these are only selling at ten, considering the obviously small market and the small number of retailers carrying them.  It's not perfect value, but it's better than I had expected it would be.

Mom loses a little here since her accessory (Randy) was my least favorite of the bunch, and her other issues make her worth a lot less than the other figures in the series.

Overall - Old Man ***1/2; Ralphie ***; Flick **1/2; Mom **
The Old Man is easily the big winner in this line, with a great sculpt and an excellent single accessory.  Ralphie is good as well, and I really do love his specially designed articulation.

Mom is my least favorite, and her inability to stand, poor articulation, and cartoony sculpt really hurt her overall.

Flick is in the middle really, with a pretty cool accessory and a decent sculpt.  He's likely to be the peg warmer though, since he's so specialized to a particular scene in the film.

Where to Buy - 
The only bricks and mortar store to have them that I've seen is Media Play, but I'd assume that means Sam Goody and Musicland have them on the pegs as well. On-line:

- Killer Toys has them available individually for $12 each.  They also have the 12" talking versions, along with bobble heads and other Christmas Story goodies.  The also have the set of four figures for $40, and a good price on the 40" reproduction lamp.

- if you're looking to buy the full set, Time and Space Toys has a slightly better price at $38.


Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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