Apexplorer + = Apextaobao 12” Vinyl figure
Winson Classic Creation

   "The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."

Everyone loves monkeys - monkeys in space suits are even better! Jeff checks out a cool one tonight - tell us all about it, Jeff!

To collectors of high-end 1/6th and indeed vinyl aficionados the world over, the name of Winson Ma will not be a new one. For the last few years he has been producing slow but steady stream of very cool toys and figures under his own company name Winson Classic Creation. He’s a contemporary of the likes of Eric So, Michael Lau and used to be part of the Brothers Worker collective alongside William Tsang and Kenny Wong. However all good things come to an end, and after their partnership ended Winson went on to set up his own company. A business that though independent still collaborates with other companies to bring his visions to the masses!

A couple of years back I reviewed his very cool figure of Space Adam in the limited edition white colour-way. It brought together two of my favourite things… apes and space suits, and did it in such an original way that he remains one of my favourite figures to this day.  The style of the head was very much from the urban vinyl scene, and this aspect, much like on the 3A human/clone figures is the aspect that seems to divide opinion. And hey, we are all entitled to our opinions, but to me variety is the spice of life, and if you missed out on that figure because of ‘style’ issues you may have cut your nose off to spite his face! That figure was produced under association with long time collaborator Hot Toys, and the figure I am looking at today is a collaboration with the retail behemoth

If you are not based in China (and I’d guess a good swathe of our readership is not… however, 您好,如果你是中国人) you may not be familiar with the company… I wasn’t! You can find out all you need to know about its eBay like marketing might by reading this link here.

The result is Apextaobao, a mash up of Winson’s sub zero vinyl styling and the cool detailed aesthetic of 1/6th clothing with a healthy dollop of kawaii thrown in for good measure. Again the styling will be contentious, but if you have an open mind and a hankering for a big-headed ape in an orange jumpsuit, it’s your lucky day. You may need to act with a degree of urgency however as these were made in limited numbered runs. The orange version here has an individually numbered edition size of just 1000 and the even rarer white suited version comes in with a mere 500 being manufactured. So the next few months look like a good time to be a fan of Winson Ma, not only has Apextaobao landed, but his Apexworkbot figures are due in the next few months as well… another favourite area… robots… can Winson read my mind… or is it just a universal given that we all just love monkeys, apes and robots?

Packaging - ****
This is a relatively bulky figure and it comes in a pretty big box to make sure it has a comfortable journey. The white version of the figure came in a real wooden crate, which makes the extra $27 you pay for him even more palatable considering his edition size was also half of this ones.

No wooden crate here, but we do get a sturdy orange cardboard box with a cool Photo-shopped marker style illustration on the front while the back has a huge glossy ‘A’ against a black background with various logos. It’s a straight forward shoebox design with a lift off lid, that when removed reveals a sheet of black foam that can also be lifted to show the fully constructed and clothed figure held snugly in a die-cut foam surround. I’m liking every aspect of this box, from the bright orange colour with the groovy illustration right through to luxury of that foam surround. The quality of the fabrication is excellent while still managing to maintain that oh so fashionable indie edge!

Sculpting - ****
I find it hard to know how one can judge the sculpt on vinyl figures harshly. All you can do is bring your personal opinions to the table, because it is all about the artist/designers vision. Unless there are any obvious flaws in its manufacture and construction it is a very personal thing. The features on Apextaobao are kept simple and elegant with an unfussy minimalist purity. This makes the final look very striking when combined with the perfection of the paint app. The torso is rigid with sculpted shoes that are part of the unarticulated legs. The base of the feet have all the requisite makers marks and logos, with the left foot having a brushed steel base engraved with the Apexplorer and logos alongside the number of the edition, mine being 0267 of 1000. The arms have a cut joint at the shoulder and another cut joint at the wrist where they are joined to his sculpted gloved hands. The detail is again quite minimalist reducing the form of the hand to a simple orb with a tubular groove, not unlike a LEGO mans swollen appendage. The outside of the glove is where a little detail is lavished on the protective ridged pads on what would be the back of the hand.

The lion’s share of the sculpted detail that remains is on the head, though he does have a few small details on his suit that I shall cover in the relevant section. The head is quite frankly huge in relation to his body and displays that this is one angry ape! Imagine the evil monkey that lives in Chris’ closet in Family Guy but with the cute factor turned up to 11 and you might get somewhere close to how this guy looks. I guess his expression is actually more ‘seething with contempt’ rather than ‘blatant aggression’, but that might have something to with the probe attached to his brow from which a wire and transmitter hang.

His face is held in a perfectly symmetrical heart/strawberry shape with his pissed expression staring back at you. The eyes are half closed in a scowl rather than anything remotely resembling sleepiness, and his mouth also shows that this is not a monkey you want to mess with. There is no back-story with this figure, so the reason for the mechanical probe/tag/antennae hanging from his temple and the impressive horn that erupts from the right side of his cranium are a mystery… and for me, that’s a good thing! My daughters asked me why he had them. I said I have no idea! Then they asked where is he from? I said nobody knows! ‘Oooooooooh’ they said in a collective unison. See what I mean, a little mystery is a good thing! The rest of the oversized head is clad in a chocolate brown ultra soft plush fur, that because of its tufted finish is virtually seamless (meaning I know there must be some joins within it, but I can’t see them).  So, as this is a flight of fancy direct from Winson Ma’s head direct to fully formed vinyl reality, who am I to tell him he’s got it wrong… and as far as I’m concerned the actual sculpting on this figure is perfect!

Paint - ****
Vinyl figures generally demand two things. One is obviously a minimalist sculpt, paring things back to simple but elegant forms, and the other is an A1 perfecto paint job, so crisp you could cut yourself on it. And this delivers an app almost as razor sharp as folded Katana steel!

The face is a base flesh coloured plastic onto which his features are painted with a well-defined graphic aesthetic. It’s the reason that vinyl is so favoured in the hip design circles that it is. They are the pop cultural equivalent of having a Faberge egg on your mantelpiece. And the fact that no one knows who or what it is on your shelf makes it all the more hip! They are the toy equivalent of that fantastic new song you just downloaded from that underground band that only you and a select few are into…yet! Of course the simile is something of a forced one, because that song was probably downloaded for free, where as the other classic trait of ‘designer’ vinyl figures is that they generally carry hefty price tag. One that is steadily more inflated, dependant of the notoriety of its creator. Just take a stroll around any Kid Robot store and you will see a range of figures ranging in price from the pocket money ‘blind bagged’ Dunny, up to pieces that resemble furniture more than toys and demand a weeks wages! But I’m rambling again, I’m here to look at the paint.

His large half disk eyes have a white outer circle and an orange iris around jet-black pupils. Over this the graphically represented details of highlights and shadows are applied with an almost scientific accuracy, it’s as if some hidden code might lurk within them. I’m especially liking the implied shadow being cast by his brow, and the small white highlights flicked in at their edges. The shields on the reverse of the hands are painted to mimic dark brown leather and the edges of the boots are like a cross between walking boots and crampons. He is also flecked with spots of black and white paint over the hands and feet to imply some very stylised weathering.

All in all the paint is handled just as well as the sculpting is, so for me this is another home run.

Articulation - **
Vinyl figures generally come with articulation ranging between none to limited, as they are usually intended to be ornamental rather than play things. So this guy comes in near the top end of that scale. He has a simple cut joint for a straight forward turning motion at the shoulder and wrist, then the head has what seems to be a ball joint that is able to turn freely and has a limited amount of tilt. That is pretty much it, but to be honest I think most will just want him standing, arms straight down by his sides and staring forward… I know I do!

Accessories - N/A
I guess one could argue that his rope is an accessory, but the fact he comes with it already slung around his body means for me it is part and parcel of his overall look… so he gets a big fat N/A here! Which is a shame, because those that that are familiar with Winson’s work will be fully aware of how much he enjoys designing the accessories for his creations. An ice-axe would have been cool, or even a grappling hook, but alas t’was not to be, ho hum!

Outfit - ****

There are of course exceptions to every rule, and I am fully aware that there have been many vinyl figures in the past that come with some degree of fabric clothing, but it is far more usual for the threads to not be threads at all, and in fact be sculpted or even purely painted. This figure does however come in a cloth outfit, consisting of a bright orange (Winson’s signature colour) quilted snowsuit. It’s well tailored to the specific form of this figures body and has lots of nice details to break up that large expanse of orange. It is removable by means of undoing a zip that runs up the back of the suit, but it’s a pretty snug fit so I decided against trying to take it off.

It has black elasticated ankles, cuffs and collar and some cute little features like two carabiners, one attached at the hips on either side, a plastic rivet on the right hand side of the waist band (looks like it’s meant to hook up to a hose) and a little Apexplorers badge on the right hand chest.  He also has the Apexploreres logo printed in white on the left hand chest and the logo on the left arm. The last detail is the coiled climbing rope I mentioned above. It’s slung around his upper torso and is bound and tied in a very specific way.  A relatively straight forward outfit, but expertly executed with a beautiful finish and no loose seams or stray threads.

Value - ***1/2
As I mentioned earlier, there are two versions of this guy. The one I am reviewing here in an orange ski-suit limited to 1000 pieces @ $123 and a special edition white ski-suited version limited to 500 pieces @ $154. I admit that these are sorely lacking in the accessories department, but considering the quality and size of the figures, that price actually seems pretty fair to me. And for the RRP you might just find he has more impact on the shelf than a great many other more expensive figures. I know he is dearly loved in our household already.

Fun Factor - ***
As I already stated above, this is not a toy that was ever intended to be played with! However, my eight-year-old daughter has been playing with it… (very carefully I might add) alongside her Sylvanian families (do you have them in the US?). He has been a King Kong like figure terrorising their neighbourhood, and very effective he was at it too.

But this needs to be viewed from a far more adult angle. So whilst it is undeniably well put together, it lacks the dynamic ‘fun’ that comes from a fully articulated and multi accessorised action figure. But the fact that even when nonchalantly stood on the chest in our front room, he draws a smile from me every time I look at it, well, that something doesn’t it?

Overall- ***3/4
I am far from being fully immersed in the world of vinyl figures, but I can quite easily see the appeal, especially when the figure is as substantial as this one. It certainly ticks all the requisite boxes in terms the quality of its sculpt, paint and outfit, meaning the only sore point could be considered price. My usual arena of expertise is 1/6th scale figures, where it is increasingly hard to find a high end example that costs less than $150, making it hard to be too harsh on a figure that stands at the same height, comes in at $123 and has an edition size of a mere 1000.

So, if you do still have a hankering for unique looking, orange clad, angry ape for your shelves, look no further.

Where to Buy -
These actually seem pretty rare at the time of writing, you can try eBay where one may crop up from time to time, or hit the website. If all else fails you could try emailing Winson creation here.

This product was provided free for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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