Sideshow Collectibles Lord of the Rings
Gandalf the Grey

Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles

When the American Film Institute did their 100 Best Movie Quotes selection, only one line was included for voting that represented all of the Lord of the Rings films.  That line was "My Precious", and it didn't make the cut for their top 100.

But if you're like me, one of the key lines in the entire series is spoken by Gandalf, and is just as recognizable (at least to us geeks) as Gollum's musings.  That's the line "You shall not pass!", spoken (or more accurately, yelled) by Gandalf to the advancing Balrog. This is a pivotal moment for Gandalf the Gray, although the full ramifications aren't clear until the final installment.

AFI snubbed the old wizard, and it was looking for a long time like Sideshow might too.  Their Lord of the Rings series of 12" action figures was missing this critical character, and with others like Boromir and Faramir getting the treatment, it was starting to look like a clear cut case of ageism. Or perhaps a Wiccan prejudice.

But Sideshow came through, releasing the old coot in his gray costume in this scale. It doesn't look good for the final three members of the Fellowship, and that makes me very sad. But thankfully we did get one of the most critical characters of the entire trilogy before it was all done.
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles

Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
DC Direct Deluxe Green Lantern action figure
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
DC Direct Deluxe Green Lantern action figure
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles

This figure is not cheap, costing $90 from Sideshow. There's an exclusive (reviewed here) with Balin's Journal, and is limited to just 1250. The regular edition size has not been announced. In a rare situation, the exclusive is currently still availabe and IN STOCK at Sideshow!

Packaging - ****
It's Sideshow, and it's one of the two licenses where they really put in the extra effort on packaging. While these boxes don't have the magnetic closures of the Star Wars line, they DO have the nifty die cut flaps. On the interior of these flaps is a TON of background text on Gandalf.

Everything is collector friendly of course, and it's quite easy to remove the figure, have your way with it, and replace it with no damage to the packaging.

Sculpting - ****
Once in awhile, something is so good it leaves you searching for the moh juste, the right words to describe it. This is one of those cases.

Gandalf (and the actor behind him, Ian McKellen) has a face filled with personality, with features that make him easier to capture than, say, Sarah Michelle Gellar. We've seen a number of extremely good Gandalf sculpts over the years from different companies, including Gentle Giant and NECA, while poor Buffy has never really been treated right.

And yet this sculpt blows them all away. Everything is dead on here - the sorrowful yet wise eyes, the slightly rounded, long nose, the shape of the head, the flow of the hair, it's all perfect.

There is an aesthetic angle of course, and that might be where some folks differ. The sculptor (Tim Miller) went with an expression that implies the wisdom and grace of the character. This works great if he's posed with Bilbo, counceling him on the error of his choice of bling, but not so much if he's facing off against the Balrog in a MMA death match. I like the calmer look, because it works with more situations, but some colletors may have prefered an angrier, fighting Gandalf.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint here is much, much better than we've seen in past years from Sideshow, and it looks like we're getting solid proof that they are making huge changes in this area. We've know seen excellent paint on both Clone Obi and Gandalf, with Indiana Jones shipping any day.  Let's cross our fingers that this iimproved paint quality is a regular thing from now on.

While the face is cast in a skin tone plastic, there's actually a top coat as well. This gives it some variance in the skin tone, as well as cutting some of the plastic glare.  In fact, there's a small rubbed spot on the bridge of the nose on mine, and you can clearly see the shinier plastic under the light top coat.

The beard work is solid, although I am a bit disappointed in the cut line between the hair and skin.  They did an amazing job with this on the recent Clone Obi-Wan, and they have clearly spoiled me.  Here, the hair line is a smooth, even, abrupt cut, which isn't as realistic. 

They still hae the catchlights added to the eyes, although there is a gloss coat on both the eyes and lips to give them that wet look. However, these 'doll dots' are very small, and unlikely to be noticed by anyone other than those looking for them. Sideshow could drop them entirely, as long as they stick with the gloss coat to create them naturally, but these smaller dots aren't a major issue for me.

The eyebrows are more grey than the rest of the hair, but that's actually appropriate. In fact, I think the beard could have used a bit more grey as well, giving it some darker areas. While the work on the beard is good, adding in that variable color (and doing it well) would have taken this figure to the next level. It will be interesting to see if someone tries a repaint to give the beard a bit more 'life'.

Articulation - **1/2
My biggest issue with this figure comes with the use of the older Buck body. For a reminder of the three bodies theoretically available to Sideshow, check this photo.

The Buck body is woefully outdated. It was woefully outdated months ago when they announced the new Prometheus and Armorted bodies - it hasn't aged well since.

On the plus side, I have to admit that this Buck gave me better poses than it has in the past. I don't know if they've tinkered with it, but I was able to get a slightly better flow and hang out of the body. Let's not go nuts here - it's nothing like a TrueType or a RAH body. But it was a slightly better experience than I've had with Buck's before.

Also going in Gandalf's favor is that he's no Olympic Gymnast. Sure, he's a pretty damn spry old man, but the Buck does provide enough flexibility to get the basic poses for this particular character.

On the negative side, the neck has far less mobility than usual, due of course to the long hair and beard. Look up, look down, tilt...these things aren't going to happen. He isn't even going to turn his head. It's as locked in place by the hair sculpt as it could be short of being glued down.

That's acceptable, since you have to have the hair and beard. And while I've been complaining about the Buck, the torso does turn well enough to allow you to use the chest and waist to provide positioning of the overall upper body.  It's not perfect, but it makes up for the lack of neck articulation a bit.

There's also a fair number of loose joints here, and thankfully the boots keep the ankles from buckling. I didn't have any trouble posing him in standard ways, and I don't see myself using the stand, but I've heard that some folks have had more issues than I.

Outfit - ****
After the sculpt, my next favorite aspect of this figure is the costume. There are multiple layers, but it doesn't look puffy or out of scale.

At the base is a pair of pants and a shirt. Yep, Gandalf just wears pants and a shirt. The pants are billowy and flowing, with some really, really intricate printed designs along the bottom. They fit well, and look more like an extension of the robes than pants.

The shirt is a soft knit deal, with very long sleeves.  He wears this sweater-like shirt much like the average teenage girl, covering his hands. They've given his thumb a cut out (that's even hemmed to avoid unraveling at the edge) so that the sleeve can pull down on his hand like a reverse glove. It looks good out of the box, but I have to admit that once I started swapping hands, I just left it off.

Next is his long grey robes.  These tie in front, up under his beard. The material is very thin to allow it to remain in scale, and yet it's high quality, with very good hems and stitching all around.

Over the robe he wears a woven belt. While the actual fabric is bit large when woven like this, I prefer it to a sculpted version. While the belt is tied in the front (and I kept it that way) there is a buckle like in the movie that it can be threaded through.

The boots are sculpted of course, and it's another tremendous sculpt. There's lots of detail in the lacing and weathering, giving them a very realistic leather look.

On his head, he wears his wizard hat. They went the sculpted route here, and thank God they did.  There's no way I can imagine them getting the look right with a floppy cloth hat. It fits him properly, and looks good in most poses.  I personally prefer him without it, since it allows you to appreciate the head sculpt a bit more, but for those looking for the fully dressed look, the hat finishes it off.

Gandalf comes with not one but two outer cloaks.  The one most folks will use is his standard grey. This cloak has a hood in back, as well as a fine wire around the edge of the hood. The wire makes it much easier to pose the cloak on his shoulders in a realistic way.  In fact, I rarely used the supplied tie on the front of the cloak to keep it in place, since the tie is very hard to work with, and too easy to end up knotting. The wires in the hood can be used to keep the cloak in place quite nicely.

The other cloak is not hooded, and is more of a pancho. I'm not sure when he wore this (when he returned from his imprisonment at Isengard perhaps?) and I couldn't find any way for him to wear it that I liked.  If you do, send along a photo!

Accessories - Exclusive ****; Regular ***1/2
Although the price tag for this figure is steep, Sideshow helps make up for it a bit with a nice selection of extras.

I already discussed his hat as part of his outfit, as well as the extra cloak, so those won't be part of this section.

Gandalf comes with not one but two of his walking sticks. The one staff, done in a darker color, has the crystal placed in the top. When I was putting the photos together later, I realized I'd shot most of them with this staff, rather than the lighter brown version.  It wasn't intentional, so it must have been my subconcious prefering this darker, more powerful looking staff.

The other staff, made to appear as if it is lighter wood, has the tobacco pouch attached, and the pipe fits inside the gnarled top. The pipe is easy enough to remove and replace, and there's even an extra hand to hold it.Both staff's look terrific, with a detailed wood-like sculpt and paint.

Speaking of the hands, there is one set of extra digits. The hands he comes wearing in the box are gripping hands, designed for the sword or staff's. The hands are a bit too open for the sword though, so it flops around quite a bit. The extra hands include one right hand posed to hold the pipe or other small objects, and one left hand in an open pose.  The hands swap easily, and don't fall off with normal poseing.

Gandalf also has a haversack, or man purse, which looks good and can be used to hold small items. It's not one of those key accessories, but since he was always wearing it, I'm glad they included it.

And where would he be without his scabbard and Glamdring? The sword is a decent sculpt, although the paint work is a bit toyish.  There were also a few rub marks on the silver, and they weren't intentional wear. The sword fits in the scabbard nicely, which is part of a more complext two belt system. The belt(s) have nicely sculpted buckles, and are fairly easy to put on and take off.

For the regular figure, the final accessory is the display stand. You won't have to use it if you don't feel the need, but I'm glad they always include them.

If you picked up the exclusive version, you get one more accessory.  That's the norm with Sideshow, but often the extra exclusive accessory is rather lame.  This time, we got something that actually works pretty well.

The extra is Balin's Journal, read from by Gandalf when the Fellowship was deep in Moria.  It was a great scene in the film, as the attack by the Cave Troll was immenint, and the Journal has been reproduced fairly well. No, the pages don't turn, and the book doesn't open and close.  The sculpted pose is what you get, but it works for me.

And yes, I know that the book is upside down in the photos. I could tell you that I did that because Gandalf can't look down, so he can't be posed reading it, and therefore I chose to have him looking up and pointing out something in the book for you to read. And that makes complete sense.  But the truth is that if I posed the heavier side of the book on the left, it kept falling off his lap, so I just flipped it around.

Fun Factor - **1/2
The Buck body makes this guy a bit more frustrating for kids and adults alike. And while he hasn't forgotten his toy roots, Gandalf will be more at home on the shelf than in the sandbox.

Value - **
This figure was one of the higher priced sixth scale collectibles released from Sideshow this year.  Along with Indiana Jones and Clone Armor Obi-Wan, his priced jumped up to $90. The difference here is that the other two are on the newly designed bodies - Gandalf is not. I was disappointed that this was the case.

Things To Watch Out For
I didn't have any issues. You might want to pay attention to how the pipe fits in the staff, so that when you replace it you don't have any trouble, but otherwise everything is sturdy and easy to work with.

Overall - ***1/2
While I've graded one of the Sideshow LOTR figures higher than this (Sam), that was largely driven by the exceptional outfit and accessories, along with the brand new body.  All of that was had for a much lower price than dear Gandalf.

However, if you merely look at the entire series so far next to each other on the shelf, my personal favorite is easily Gandalf. They've done a marvelous job with him, and the only thing that would have pushed him that extra half star would have been if they'd given us the Prometheus body at this $90 price tag.

It breaks my heart to think that after getting 6 of the Fellowship, with only two Hobbits and Gimli to go, that the line is likely done. I'd gladly trade my Faramir for a Gimli in a heartbeat.

C'mon Sideshow - make it a priority for 2009 to find SOME way to get at least Gimli into our hands.  You're sitting on that new smaller body that cost you bucks to design, so let's find a way to put it to use with everyone's favorite Dwarf.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ****
Sculpting - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - **1/2
Accessories - Exclusive ****; Regular ***1/2
Outfit - ****
Fun Factor - **
Value - **
Overall -  ***1/2

Where to Buy -
There are several options with my sponsors:

- Sideshow HAS THE EXCLUSIVE! currently in stock for $90.  The fact that this guy hasn't sold out yet is amazing, but now that he's shipping I don't expect it to last long. Act quick if you want that Journal accessory!

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has the regular at $81.

- Alter Ego Comics has the regular at $81.

- you can search ebay using the sponsor MyAuctionLinks.

Related Links -
Other Sideshow LOTR figures:

- this past summer saw the release of the first Hobbits, Sam and Frodo.

- prior to that, we had Aragorn, Faramir, Boromir and Legolas.

- and if you're just a Gandalf fan, check out the Gentle Giant mini-bust, the DiD 12" figure,  and the NECA 18" figure.

Want to chat about this review?  Try out one of these terrific forums where I'll be discussing it!

Reader Ratings!
Here's your chance to weigh in!  Select your rating for this figure(s) to the right.  Yea, it's a five star system and not a four star system like mine, but it's the best I've been able to come up with so far.  You can only rate once from any particular IP.  Converting to a five star system for comparison is: 4.375

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Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles
Gandalf the Grey 12 inch action figure by Sideshow Collectibles

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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