Wallace and Gromit

I've reviewed so much Wallace and Gromit stuff lately - PVC's, plush, the deluxe Were-Rabbit - that I'm pretty much all talked out on the general subject.  Here's the basics:  Wallace is a goofy inventor who comes up with wacky inventions, while Gromit is his certainly smarter dog.  They end up in all kinds of wacky predicaments, usually due to Wallace's latest invention.

In the new film, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, they are 'pest' controllers, taking care of rabbits that are eating up the local crops.  They're actually pretty good at it - and humane of course - until Wallace tries to make things better and manages to screw the pooch.  Not literally of course, since this is a kid's movie, and besides, I have it on good authority that Gromit doesn't swing that way.

Tonight I'm looking at the main course in the buffet of Mcfarlane product related to the license - the 6" action figure line.  There are actually eight figures in the line, including two Wallaces, two Gromit's, Hutch, Lady Tottington, Victor Quartermaine, and PC Mackintosh.  I'm only including one of the Wallace figures and one of the Gromit's in tonight's review.

There's also a deluxe Were-Rabbit figure, which I've reviewed over at MPS.  These should be hitting retailers in the next week or so if they already haven't in your area.

Packaging -  ***
Clamshells - there's a surprise! Remember when these were rare to the industry? Now all the specialty market guys are using them.

The insert is attractive, with the W&G movie graphics. It also shows all eight figures on the back, with some general text. The only character specific info is the sticker on the front bubble proclaiming the character's name. There's no list of accessories.

There aren't as many twisties as we've seen with some characters, but there's still enough to be annoying. I mean really, how the hell far is the figure going to move jammed into a clamshell? And the number one reason for twistes - in store theft deterrent - is fairly irrelevant with a clamshell package.

Sculpt - Victor, PC, Wallace ****; Gromit, Lady Tottington, Hutch ***1/2
These sculpts are universally excellent, appearing just like the clay versions they represent.

And that's really the trick. These are based on actual, large, 3 dimensional clay figures. That means they have to look like clay if they are going to get the style right. It's always a little tricky to make one material look like another, but you'll swear these walked right off the screen.

The proportions are excellent, another trick with W&G characters. They tend to have odd proportions, with big hands and long arms. Unless you're extremely familiar with the source material, or pay lots of attention to it as you work, a sculptor could easily make the proportions too 'normal', and loose part of the essence of the characters.

Victor's work is my favorite. His face and hair are perfect, and the body sculpt has just the right amount of detail. Both hand sculpts look great, and he can hold the flowers nicely in his left, with a peg that fits in his palm. The sculpt works well with the limited articulation too, and he can actually stand on his own, even with the itty bitty feet. 

Wallace is also terrific, wearing his rabbit catching outfit. The hat is sculpted on his head, but both hands are sculpted to hold accessories. The expression is classic, and not too extreme.

Gromit is done in a very scene specific style. He's measuring his prize melon, with tape out and quizzical expression on his face. And yes, I was already told by some of my British readers when I reviewed the PVC version that it's NOT a melon, but rather a member of the squash family. But 'measuring the melon' just sounds so much funnier!

The tape measure is glued in his hands, and his expression is really designed for this one pose. But I suspect that this squash will not be what he's measuring in most displays, and he is destined to be one of the most overused characters in suggestive photos by every internet goofball. And yes, I plan on doing the same.

Lady Tottington is doing what she seems to do best - appearing surprised and bewildered. She had fuzzy hair in the film, but here they stuck with the straight clay-like appearance. That's one of those concessions I can certainly understand.

Hutch is cute of course, but I'm not thrilled that Gromit's hat and the plate of cheese are permanently attached to his hands. Actually, they are just glued in so you could remove them if you like, but considering that he's given other accessories to hold, and the hand sculpts could work for other things, it's too bad that wasn't the plan.

While Victor might be my favorite, PC Mackintosh is a might close second. He sports another excellent sculpt, with a slightly bewildered and dazed expression. There's some very nice detail work on his uniform, and both hands can hold the accessories, or they can be removed. They are held in with pegs, but no glue.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint work is Mcfarlane quality across the board, even though there isn't the small detail work you might be accustomed to in their other lines. These figures are all about bold, expansive colors that cover lots of area, with just a few added details for a little spice.

Consistency is critical in this situation, both in the finish and in the coverage. All the figures show great consistency, and there's no silly washes or dry brushing to detract from the work. Oh, there's the occasional stray mark, slight bleed, or uneven line. This isn't quite four star work, but it's extremely close, and I suspect that there will be excellent consistency across the line, making your online purchase that much safer.

Articulation - Victor, PC ***; Wallace, Gromit, Lady Tottington, Hutch **1/2
I don't recall articulation like this on any other Mcfarlane figure. Actually I don't recall articulation exactly like what Wallace and PC have ever before period.

The characters with thin limbs have standard bendy arms and legs. Victor, Hutch, Gromit and Lady Tottingham are all examples. They bend alright, but getting them to hold a pose can be pretty difficult, since the rubber is fairly stiff. The limbs tend to bend back into position, but I had the most luck with Victor.

My only worry with him is that the thin legs, with bendy feature, are likely to bow and buckle under the weight of his body over time. If that turns out to be the case, I would have much preferred plastic legs.

Unfortunately, characters like Hutch and Gromit really don't have long enough limbs to make the bendy feature worthwhile. Simple cut joints, or no joints at all, would have made me happier with these characters.

Lady Tottington also has a bendy body, with a larger wire frame underneath the dress. You can bend her forward (and you know that's what Wallace likes!) or backward and even get a little twist out of it. It isn't anything amazing, but serviceable. There's also a cut joints on her upper arms.

PC Mackintosh and Wallace have a slightly different approach, and more articulation. They have fat arms and legs, but these are largely hollow. There is a wire armature in both though, but because both have cut wrists joints, the wire doesn't run completely to the wrist. It stops early, leaving a hollow section of soft rubber between the end of the wire assembly and the start of the wrist. It's very weird, but once you get past the oddity, you'll see that the elbows bend pretty well, and the cut joints at the shoulders help too. Victor has the cut wrists joints as well, but since his arms are hard rubber - and not soft hollow rubber - you won't notice the floppy wrist.

The legs are the same way, but the wire actually runs all the way to the foot. That's because there's no ankle joint for it to interfere with. I couldn't get a lot of posing out of these wires though, and found that a straight legged pose worked about the best.

All the figures sport cut neck joints except Lady Tottington and Victor, and some - like Wallace, PC and Victor - have cut wrists. There's not a ton of articulation here, but what is here works better than I had expected. I'm not a huge fan of the bendy sections, and I prefer when they come up with more imaginative ways to handle 'cartoon' articulation (look at the work Palisades did with the Muppets or Invader Zim), but it's a compromise I can certainly live with.

Accessories - ***1/2
There's a fair number of goodies here, but some of the things that appear to be 'accessories' are permanently attached.

Let's start with Gromit. Yep, as I mentioned, the tape measure is glued in. Not a big deal though, since this pose is really intended for that specific accessory.

He comes with a nifty base that has a squash, section of fence with a tomato vine growing up it, and the watering can. Yes, it looks like a tea pot, but it's a watering can.

Gromit fits on the base easily, as do the rest of the parts. It's a nice little diorama, and comes right out of the film.

Wallace is also out in the garden, huntin' rabbits. But where Elmer had a shotgun, Wallace has a device to capture them around the neck. It fits perfectly in his right hand. He also has a flashlight, and his left hand is sculpted to hold this.

His base has a garden gnome, another of those funky squashes, and two pumpkins, with a vine attaching them together. All of these pieces fit to the base with appropriate pegs. Wallace doesn't need the base to stand, but he looks great on it.

Lady Tottington has a base as well, with another watering can and a basket of cabbage. She doesn't have quite as interesting of a base as Wallace or Gromit, but the carved stone style looks great.

Hutch gets the points for weirdest accessory, in his screwdriver. It has a peg on the side of it, obviously intended to fit someplace...but hell if I can figure out where. Hints? He also has his shoes, which go on easily and fit great, and they have holes in the bottom to allow him to still attach to the pegs on the base.

The base is fairly plain, and the wrench you see is permanently attached. The coffee mug isn't, but he can't hold it since both the hat and plate of cheese are glued in his hands, at least on mine.

PC has a base with an attached street lamp. This is my favorite of the bases, and the top even comes off the lamp. The color scheme of the figure and the color scheme of the base work terrific together. He also has his night stick and pad of paper, both of which can be removed from his hands.

Victor has the dullest base of the bunch - a simple looking section of ground. He does come with his dog, Philip, and both of the attach to the base with pegs. The roses in his left hand can be removed as well, and are held in place with another peg.

Fun Factor - ****
These are a rare set of figures from Mcfarlane - they really can be played with by kids. There's not much that can be easily destroyed (although the stiffer plastic of PC's street light might be in jeopardy), and the bendy arms and legs will make kids happier than collectors. This is a set that includes good guys and bad guys as well, so there's enough conflict (unlike, say, the Simpsons) to give them something to actually DO with the figures.

Value - ***
You can expect to pay $11 - $13 or so each for these, depending on the retailer. I'm betting mass market stores will be closer to $10, and considering the quality and cost of the license, these are a better than average bargain. But if you're really looking for a steal, check out the deluxed boxed Were-Rabbit that goes with these (and who is in one of the photos). He's huge, but yet a mere $15!

Things to watch out for - 
I'm betting this line is extremely consistent, so there isn't much to watch out for. Although it appears as though Lady Tottington has a cut neck, she DOES NOT. And if you try to hard to turn it there, you could easily tear the head right off. Since these are made of a fairly rubbery material, fixing them will be a little more difficult than just grabbing the handy super glue, so take some care.

Overall -  PC, Victor ****; Wallace, Gromit, Lady Tottington, Hutch ***1/2
I'm not sure how well the bendy articulation is going to go over, and I have to admit it surprised me. I probably would have prefered if they had come up with more conventional types of articulation for the line, but kids might not have enjoyed them quite as much. And let's not forget that this line should be loved by kids first, and collectors second.

Although collectors might not favor the rubbery arms and legs, they won't be able to deny the beauty of the sculpts and paint. Combine this line with the recent release of the Corpse Bride figures by Mcfarlane, and they prove once again that they can take any license, any style, and any theme, and to it right. God knows everything Mcfarlane does isn't a home run, but there's a reason their a leader in the industry, and these lines are great examples of their talent.

Packaging - ***
Sculpt - Victor, PC, Wallace ****; Gromit, Lady Tottington, Hutch ***1/2
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - Victor, PC ***; Wallace, Gromit, Lady Tottington, Hutch **1/2
Accessories - ***1/2
Fun Factor - ****
Value - ***
Overall -  PC, Victor ****; Wallace, Gromit, Lady Tottington, Hutch ***1/2

Where to Buy -
These will hit specialty stores, but I'm not sure about mass retailers, like Toys R Us. You'd think so, but then you never know these options include:

- Killer Toys has the Were-Rabbit for $15, and the full set of eight figures for just $85.

- Clark Toys has the rabbit for $15, and the individual figures for $11 each.

Related Links -
Check out the following for more W&G goodness:

- this is the official Wallace and Gromit web site, where you can see trailers of the various films, buy goodies like Middle Age Spread, and other cool features.

- there's a separate official movie site for the new film as well.

- I will also have a review up of the Were-Rabbit at MPS.

- I've already reviewed the set of plush from the film, as well as one of the PVC sets based on the film.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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