Napoleon Dynamite

I was really geeked to see Napoleon Dynamite the first time.  Everyone was raving about how funny this flick was, and I'm always up for a good comedy.  Personally, I've always felt comedy was the toughest to do, and it does tend to be awfully personal, but with that many people slavering over this film, I figured it couldn't miss.

Unfortunately for me, it did.  Now, there must be something here I'm missing, but I walked away thinking this was a boring movie with a few bright spots. Still, you can't deny that it spoke to a lot of people.

Mcfarlane picked up the license last year, and there was much gnashing of teeth and debating of choices.  The first series is now on shelves just in time for the holiday season, and includes three versions of Napoleon - Prom Date (brown suit), Tetherball Champ, and Dancing.  There's also his buddy Pedro, who we all should vote for, and his goofy brother Kip.

You can find these at most stores for around $10, and there is also a 12" talking Prom Date version hitting right now as well.  These are showing up at Wal-mart first, but you'll probably be able to find them at other major retailers, along with the various sponsors I have listed below.

Packaging -  ***1/2
I do love my clamshells.  Of course, you better have a machete handy to get them open, but that's (and a couple fingers) is a small price to pay.

The insert art is great, based on much of Napoleon's art from his school notebooks.  It also lists all the lines for each figure on the back, a nice addition, along with some instructions on what not to do with the batteries.

Sculpt - Prom Napoleon, Dance Napoleon ****; Tetherball Napoleon, Kip ***1/2; Pedro ***
If you're a fan of the film, it's not going to get any better than this.  Oh, there's a couple issues, but in general they've done another amazing job with the sculpts.

The Prom Napoleon and Dancing Napoleon are my favorites, but if you held a gun to my head, I'd pick Prom as the final standout.  That's good since it's his most recognizable look, and probably the one that will sell the most.

His wild bushy hair was tough to capture, but somehow they pulled it off.  Even more difficult was the glasses, because glasses done in this scale are almost always too large and silly looking.  Perhaps the fact that Napoleon's glasses are large and dorky in real life made their job easier, but these really are amazing.  They don't look oversized, they fit his face, and the lens are fairly clear.

The reason I pick Prom over Dancing is that while both sculpts are great, I prefer the open eyes of Prom.  How often have we gotten closed eyes on an action figure?  I'm sure there's been a couple times now, but it's pretty rare.  While that is movie accurate, it doesn't look quite as good as the regular version.

The rest of the body sculpts all match up with the usual Mcfarlane quality, giving you very realistic appearing clothing, buttons and jewelry.  The hard plastic coat over the shoulder of Prom Napoleon flows perfectly, while the wrinkles in Tetherball and Dancing Napoleon's shirt and jeans match the movement of his body underneath correctly.

I wasn't quite as enamored with the head sculpts on either Kip or Pedro quite as much.  They're still well above average, but aren't quite as movie accurate.  Kip is hurt by a very obvious neck joint as well, and I would have preferred him in one of his dorkier, early movie outfits to his later, post Fawnduh get up.

Pedro's problems are all in the face.  I know who it is, but it looks like him at his 20 year reunion.  Compare it to the prototype shots at the Mcfarlane website, and you may see what I mean - there's bags under the eyes now, the skin more wrinkled, and the jaw line softer.  I'm not sure why the change, but it wasn't for the better.

Scale seems a little weird on these.  Napoleon comes in around 8" tall, although I believe these were considered a 7" scale.  They range in size from just under 7" (Pedro) to just over 8" (Prom Napoleon).

It's worth noting that while these come with display stands, every one of them (with the obvious exception of dancing Napoleon) can stand perfectly fine on his own.  And yes, that includes Tetherball Champ, although he takes a little work to find the sweet spot.

Paint - Kip ***1/2; the rest ****
While Mcfarlane leads the industry in realistic human sculpts, they also do pretty damn good with paint application.  That's critical when you're doing plastic statues, since you don't have much to fall back on in the way of articulation or accessories.

The paint here is almost perfect across the board.  Small areas where masking was used are very clean and neat, with no bleeding or over spray.  The eyes are sharp and clean, and small details like buttons and stripes, are neat and even.

They do use some light dry brushing and wash techniques, but none of it is overdone or sloppy.  When it is used, it highlights the detail rather than obscuring it.

All the tampo type work is also well done, especially the "Vote for Pedro" on the dancing Napoleon's shirt.  Sometimes this type of work is poorly done, with the letters of the tampo not matching the folds and movement of the shirt.  Not so here, and the printing follows the wrinkling of his shirt perfectly.

One of the nicest little touches here is the addition of a lipstick mark on the left cheek of Kip.  It's very subtle, but very clean, and is the kind of attention to detail that keeps Mcfarlane on top of his game.

I did notice some clumping of the skin paint on both hands of Kip and Pedro, but it didn't seem to be an issue on any of the Napoleons.

Articulation - *1/2
None of these figures are intended to be articulated action figures, but rather statues with just the most basic articulation.

Prom Suit Napoleon has a cut joint neck, cut joint right shoulder, and cut joints at the top of the boots.  You can get him to stand in one basic pose easily on his own, but that's it.

Tetherball Napoleon has cut joints at the top of the boots, and biceps at the sleeves.  He lacks any neck joint.

Kip has a neck joint, but it has almost no range of movement due to the sculpt, and it really should have been skipped.  It's a glaringly obvious joint, and yet is pretty much useless.  He also has a cut joint at the left shoulder, and right elbow.

Dancing Napoleon is the most articulated, with cuts on the boot tops again, a cut neck, a cut left shoulder, cuts on both biceps at the shirt sleeves, and a cut joint at the top of the left leg.

Finally, Pedro has a cut neck, cut wrists, and cut shoulders.  Again, he stands great on his own, but has really just a single pose.

Accessories - ***
Every figure comes with a talking base, and perhaps one or two additional items from the film.

Prom Date Napoleon has the corsage, which fits in his right hand.  His base also has a cardboard background that attaches to the base.  The background is pretty small too, barely covering the area behind him.  Some folks have reported also getting a sticker for the base showing the gym floor, but not I.

Pedro has his small red base, along with the Summer Wheatly piņata.  The piņata is actually articulated, at the hips, shoulders and neck.  That's more than Pedro!  His wig is removable as well, but fits nice and tight.

Kip has a base again, along with a plate of nachos and a tube of chapstick.  At first I thought it was a cigar, but it's white on both ends. I've heard that some folks have gotten the chapstick with Prom Suit Napoleon, rather than Kip.  Weird.

Dancing Napoleon has his headphones and Walkman, and the sculpt on these is extremely good.  However, he has to wear them around his neck, as he did in the movie, because they won't ever fit over that massive hair of his.  Oddly, I couldn't find any way to attach the Walkman to his belt.  He also has the wrestling figure, which has another great sculpt and paint ops, and even stands on his own if you work at it. Oh, and he has a small stand as well.

Last but not least, there's Tetherball Champ Napoleon.  His stand is larger than the others to accommodate the tire and pole for the tetherball.  These fit together easily, and the 'rope' attaching the ball to the pole is actually metal, which makes it much more sturdy and unlikely to break.  It's not a simple wire though, that would bend, but a very stiff steel that will retain its shape.

Talking Feature - ***
There's two aspects to this feature, one very good, one not so good.  Let's start with the good.

Unlike the much earlier McToys talking figures (like Austin Powers), these figures aren't limited to one line each.  Instead, each has two or three, all very good choices.

Prom Suit Napoleon has three lines: "So you and me are pretty much friends by now, right?", "Sweet!", and "Took me like three hours to finish the shading on your upper lip."

Kip has three lines as well: "Don't be jealous I've been chatting online with babes all day", "Peace out", and "I've been training to be a cage fighter."

Pedro only has two lines, and one isn't his.  He says "If you vote for me, all of your wildest dreams will come true", while Napoleon has another line with him "So you've got my back and everything?"

Tetherball Napoleon says "Hey Summer, wanna play me?" and "Yes, yes, yes!"

Finally, Dancing Napoleon is back up to three lines, with "Freakin' idiot", "Gosh", and the classic "This one gang kept wanting me to join because I'm pretty good with a bo staff".  He's also the second Mcfarlane figure to say 'freakin' that I know of.  There's some useful trivia for you!

The speakers are located on the bottom of each base, and the sound is clear and clean.  My only big grip here is the lack of batteries.  You'll need to go out and pick up two AAA batteries for each figure before you can enjoy the chit chat, and that hurts the score here a bit, along with the value score.

Fun Factor - *
These aren't intended as toys, although the talking feature will be fun at work.  Still, kids will have little to no interest in these.

Value - **1/2
While they aren't loaded with articulation and accessories, at $10 - $11 you're getting a solid value.  Had they actually thrown in batteries for the talking feature, the score here would have been above average.

Things to watch out for - 
Nothing, really.  It would be tough to break much of anything, and the paint ops look fairly consistent.  I don't know yet if there are variants, but that might very well be the case.

Overall -  Prom Suit Napoleon ****; Dance Napoleon, Tetherball Napoleon ***1/2; Pedro, Kip ***
As I mentioned earlier, I'm not a huge fan of the license.  However, I can tell you that at least two of these are going to take a place on my desk at work.  While neither Kip or Pedro are quite as nice as the rest of the Napoleons, the overall set looks terrific together, and I'm betting plenty of Napoleon fans find one of these guys in their stocking this year.

Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - Prom Napoleon, Dance Napoleon ****; Tetherball Napoleon, Kip ***1/2; Pedro ***
Paint - Kip, Pedro ***1/2; the Napoleons ****
Articulation - *1/2
Accessories - ***
Fun Factor - *
Value - ***
Overall - Prom Suit Napoleon ****; Dance Napoleon, Tetherball Napoleon ***1/2; Pedro, Kip ***

Where to Buy -
Wal-mart is the first B&M store to get these, but online stores are also carrying them:

- Killer Toys has the set of 5 for $55.

- CornerSToreComics has the individual figures for $11.50, or the full set for $55.

- Amazing Toyz has the singles for $11.50 each.

- Clark Toys has the singles for $11 - $13 each.

Related Links:
Not much right now - check out Mcfarlane Toys website for their plans for series 2 and boxed sets.  They also have a terrific feature article on the series, including some cool downloads.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

This page copyright 2003, Michael Crawford. All rights reserved. Hosted by 1 Hour