Shrek 2
Shrek and Puss In Boots

Mcfarlane toys tried something new when they obtained the 'master license' for the film Shrek. That meant they were the go to guys for everything - plush, action figures, mini-sets, everything.

Unfortunately, they were stuck with tons of unsold merchandise, and it was not a successful experiment. But they did do a good job with the action figures, even though it was clearly a "kid's line".

Fast forward to 2004, and Hasbro is now producing action figures for the sequel, appropriately called Shrek 2. There are five figures in the first wave, including Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Puss In Boots, and the Dragon.

Each comes with a variety of accessories, an action feature, and one accessory that has a rather unique odor. Tonight's review covers the Shrek figure and Puss In Boots. Puss is voiced by Antonio Bandaras, and is a swashbuckling ogre killer in the tradition of Zorro. If Zorro was a cat. And killed ogres.

The figures retail for $8 each, and I've found them at Toys R Us so far. I suspect Wal-mart and Target can't be far behind. The movie will be hitting theaters on May 21st, and if the trailers are any indication, will be just as funny as the first.

Packaging - **1/2
You have to give them credit for creativity. The backer card is shaped like Shrek's head, at least in basic form. That means he has two little ears sticking out on top, but these will end up damaged right away. They did extend the plastic of the bubble up onto the ears to try to reduce the bending, but these won't be easy for the MOCer's to keep nice long term.

That's not my real complaint though. My biggest issue is with the lack of the complete line on the back of each card. Each one shows a couple other figures in the line, not the full line up. Having a full series on the cardbacks is a pet peeve of mine.

Sculpting - Puss **1/2; Shrek ** 
This is one of those unfortunate cases where both these figures looked better in the package than out, and the culprit is that old enemy, the action feature.

Shrek looks like he lacks detail, even in the package, but that becomes even more apparant when he's out of his plastic prison. The reason for less detail also becomes clear - his entire torso and head are hollow, soft rubber. This is to allow his action feature to work. You squeeze his belly, and the air inside his upper body is forced out through small slits in his ass. Yep, his ass. As amusing as this is (and I'll get into greater detail in the section on action features), it means that both the sculpt and paint of the torso suffers. There's no texture to the skin, and even the shirt has very few wrinkles or lines, making it look out of place with the more
heavily detailed arms, legs and skirt.

The proportions seem less accurate as well, although that isn't as big of an issue until you stand the new Shrek next to McToys version. Hasbro has made him smaller all around, and he's not in scale with the original figures.

Puss doesn't have that same scale problem though, probably since he's too big for the new series. He stands well above this new Shrek's waist, and is one large puddy tat. He fits in nicer with the original figures. His overall sculpt is more detailed than Shrek's, and I particularly like the work they did on the rich Corinthian boots.

However, his action feature causes the overall sculpt some issues as well. Again, I'll explain more about the feature itself later, but it requires that the top half of his head tilt back to allow a hairball projectile to fire from his mouth. It's another nifty feature, but the hinge on the back of his neck is so loose that the head wants to flop back all the time. With a careful balancing act you can get the weight of the hat to sit far enough forward to keep it down - most of the time. But when his head suddenly flops open at a freakish angle, it puts a damper on an otherwise solid sculpt.

It's worth noting that Puss' right hand has been sculpted to hold his foil, and his left in a standard fencing pose. You can rotate the left arm to get a couple different and reasonable poses out of him.

Paint - Puss ***; Shrek **
The paint ops on Puss are solid, if not outstanding. There's a decent amount of variety, and very little bleed between colors. Lines are crisp, and colors are clean and consistent. There isn't the kind of small detail work you see on more collector oriented lines, but the work that is hear is neat.

Shrek doesn't fair as well, but due more to color choice and that damn soft rubber. They selected a very bright green for his skin, made more obvious with a gloss finish. The rubber torso is also not the best material to paint, and makes the overall appearance look more dog chew toy than action figure. The did do some detail work, and the mud on his shirt is a nice touch, but overall the paint choices are worst feature.

Articulation - **
Neither figure has a ton, but both have enough for most kids to enjoy. Still, when you have less than Mcfarlane, that's never a good thing.

Shrek has ball jointed shoulders, a cut left elbow, and cut legs where they attach to his body. He could have neck or waist with the soft rubber torso.

Puss has that flapping mouth, shoulders, and hips. He doesn't have neck or waist either, again due to his hairball action feature.

To be completely fair, when checking out the Donkey, it looked like he had more articulation than the original from McToys.

Accessories - Puss ***; Shrek **1/2
Puss has a nice selection of accessories, which tie in nicely with the film. There's his sword and hat of course, and both fit nicely in their proper places. The hat is pretty critical, since without it, his head likes to flop open.

He also has one stinky accessory, as do all the figures in the assortment. His is the Gingerbread Man, who actually doesn't smell too bad - there's a nice hint of cinnamon. I'm not sure why they all have a stinky accessory, but it's pretty clear that olfactory jokes will abound in the film.

He's rounded out with the three blind mice, all sculpted in different poses. The bright white color of the mice could have been grayed up a bit, but the poses are great and they stand nicely on their own.

Shrek also has a stinky accessory, but this time it's a big sunflower, and this time it really does stink. He also comes with a bottle of a potion labeled "Happily Ever After", but I have no idea if this is some sort of spoiler or not. Two accessories is pretty light though, even for a figure with two action features. And speaking of action features...

Action Features - Puss ***1/2; Shrek ***
This is easily the funniest thing about the figures, and while they get in the way of the sculpt, taken on their own they're pretty damn cool.

Shrek actually has two features. One is a left arm that swings up when you pull it down. I'm not quite sure what the point is, since he tends to bang himself in the head in most positions, but it still works pretty good.

He also has a disgusting noise feature, that I mentioned earlier. Squeeze his torso, and the air is forced through some slots in his butt, making some rather rude noises. My three year old son thought it was hilarious - what more can I say?

Puss has one of the most unique projectile firing mechanisms I've ever seen. Flop back that head of his and you can insert a long 'hairball' projectile down his throat. It clears his mouth too, so you can close his head again and store the projectile like that, a much appreciated design feature. Then, bend him forward at the hips, and at about a 60 degree angle from the vertical he fires out the nasty looking hairball. It works pretty well, although I had better luck with it without the hat on than with. The spring is fairly strong, and it's just so unique that I'd almost recommend him just for this oddity.

Fun Factor - ***1/2
Combine the cool action features with fairly decent accessories, and you've got a winning pair for play. Since these two are adversaries at first meeting, it also allows for some conflict play. Kids will have a great time with the action features, although I suspect parents will tire pretty quickly of hearing Shrek cut the cheese. Thank goodness his stinky feature was a sunflower.

Value - **1/2
At eight bucks each, these are pretty expensive figures for what you get. It's not a terrible value, but fairly average these days. This overall rise of all figures, no matter what, to the $8 - $10 range is not a good thing, especially if quality doesn't rise with it. While these are decent kid's toys, parents have only so much income to spend on their children's toys, and a line like this will have a tough time competing against the Power Rangers, Yu-Gi-Oh and Transformers of the world.

Overall - Puss **1/2; Shrek **
The action features on both of these figures are the big selling points. It's unfortunate that the Shrek has so little detail and weak paint, since there is only one version of him currently out. Puss is my favorite of the series, simply because he looks like such a great character in the film, and because he fits in nicely in terms of scale with the McToys versions.

Of the other figures, I have yet to see Princess Fiona, but the Donkey looks very good. A similar sculpt to McToys, at about the same size, but with a little more articulation. The Dragon is likely to sell quickly, but she's waaaay out of scale. Of course, even the large Mcfarlane version was out of scale, so I suppose you could argue that if it can't be in scale, why try?
The Dragon also comes with an accessory that is probably a spoiler, and I was surprised that it wasn't hidden in any way.

Where to Buy - 
Toys R Us is the only store I've seen these at yet, but I'm betting Wal-mart and Target will have them in very soon, particularly with the movie fast approaching.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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