Overlooked Masterpieces: NECA Tonto

"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."
Well, technically this isn't a review of any kind. Instead, it's a terrific photo shoot by my friend Monte Williams, a guy that designs and executes on exceptional outdoor photos with your favorite figures.  In this article, he's covering one of his favorite, most photogenic recent figures - the Tonto figure from NECA. Take it away, Monte!

I am not here to defend Gore Verbinski’s The Lone Ranger. A number of perceptive writers (Matt Zoller Seitz of Roger, Angie Errigo of Empire, Mark Hughes of Forbes, Luke Y. Thompson of Topless Robot, Walter Chaw of Film Freak Central and Andrew O’Hehir of Salon, among others) have already championed that misunderstood, uneven, ambitious film, so in lieu of another redundant piece of film criticism or a handwringing analysis of the casting of Johnny Depp as a Native American, I’ll focus on something important: toys.

I don’t suppose that what follows can rightly be called a defense of the NECA Tonto action figure, either, if only because defense isn’t precisely what the toy warrants. After all, reviews of NECA’s Tonto are overwhelmingly positive; Michael Crawford praised both the seven-inch figure and its towering quarter-scale counterpart here at the Review of the Week site, The Fwoosh’s RoboKillah wrote a giddy review, and OAFE’s Monkey Boy and Bill Sencio of Kastor’s Korner both admired the figure despite their misgivings about the film.

And while I normally don’t make a point of perusing the comments of anonymous shoppers (recall the brilliant headline from The Onion: “Majority Of Human Discourse Now Occurring In Online Product Reviews”), it is perhaps worth noting that, of the twelve customer reviews of NECA’s Tonto at, ten rate it a 5-star figure.

If not a defense, then, I guess this hasty essay and barrage of portraits is simply a tribute. While most toy collectors seem willing enough to agree that NECA’s Tonto is a neat toy, few bothered to actually buy it—presumably due to a general lack of interest in the film—and consequently, too few toy enthusiasts have made a point of capturing photographs of the figure. This is a shame, for whether on its own or standing alongside the Lone Ranger figure, NECA’s Tonto is one of the most photogenic, inspired action figures of the decade.

The most obvious selling point of NECA’s Tonto is its sculpt, produced by the talented Kyle Windrix. The complexity of the cracked face paint is eerie and astonishing, and its Johnny Depp likeness puts the Hot Toys Tonto portrait to shame despite costing only ten percent what the Hot Toys figure costs.

However, for me at least, the most important component of the figure is its articulation. Indeed, if Tonto had featured the limited articulation most NECA figures boasted until 2012 or so, I might never have purchased him. It was only when they included proper leg articulation in their figures that I finally gave NECA a chance to impress me, and now, such is my mania for the Tonto figure, I’ve even purchased some older NECA figures with no leg articulation. (One example is Jonah Hex, another Old West masterpiece that too few bought and fewer still elect to photograph.)

Beyond the aesthetics and the affordability and the articulation, however, and certainly unrelated or only peripherally related to whatever affection I might harbor for 2013’s The Lone Ranger, there is some intangible yet transcendent appeal to the Tonto figure, a special invitingness that is all too rare in toys these days. Put another way: my NECA Tonto portraits are never my most popular toy photos… but they are almost always my best toy photos.

Some action figures are shelf fodder. A precious few become nostalgic favorites, and fewer still become muses, inspiring a creativity and speculation and wonder that come as close as an aging toy enthusiast is likely to get to the immersive, consuming play of childhood.

Tonto is just such a muse.

Keep scrolling down for more exceptional photos of Tonto from Monte!

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This product was purchased for the review by the reviewer. Photos and text by Monte Williams.

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