Corpse Bride Busts

Corpse Bride might not be Nightmare Before Christmas, but it was still a pretty solid story with fantastic visuals, style and design. Mcfarlane Toys has produced two lines of action figures based on the property, but for the higher end collector, Gentle Giant stepped in with some busts and statues.

I'm not a huge buyer of GG statues, but I do enjoy their busts, especially Star Wars and Harry Potter. That made the Corpse Bride mini-busts particularly interesting to me - but at the original retail prices of $40 - $50, not interesting enough to buy. However, demand for these has been pretty low, driving the price down considerably. That picqued my interest, and I picked up the four released so far - Victor, Victoria, The Bride, and Pastor Galswells.

Normal price right now is around $20 - $25 each, so that's where I'll be grading them. You can find them at that price at several online stores, along with many ebay auctions. The runs on these weren't huge though, with 2500 of the bride, 2000 of Victor, and 1500 of Victoria and the Pastor.

Packaging - ***1/2
I prefer windows on my bust boxes, if for no other reason than to be able to see what I'm buying if I pick them up at a regular store or a toy show. Gentle Giant doesn't use windows with some of their lines, but they went with them for this series, and it's much appreciated.

The inner styrofoam trays are well designed, and the busts are very safely packed. There's the usual mini-trading card Certificate of Authenticity as well. The graphics on the package are clearly driven by the designs of the film, and they look terrific.

Sculpting - ***1/2
To translate licensed characters into sculpture can be difficult, or more difficult. It's rarely easy. The most difficult work, in my opinion of course, is capturing actual human likenesses. This is tough since we grow accustomed to seeing them, and now their ticks and foibles, things that are difficult to translate into non-living materials.

Next up is cartoon characters. These alter from scene to scene and animator to animator, not to mention that they have to go from two dimensions to three. Capturing them can be extremely tricky, and it doesn't help that people assume it's easy because they are simplistic in design.

Then there's non-human characters, like Stormtroopers and monsters. These characters have highly recognizable exaggerated features - easy to capture.

And then there's the easiest - something that's already simple, already set in scale and size, and all ready really a toy.  Something just like the Corpse Bride figures.  See, they used actual figures - albeit extremely complex ones - for the animation.  Therefore, the theory is that any other action figure, statue or bust is really just a carbon copy of those.

And generally, that's true.  Gentle Giant has done a nice job with the sculpts on all these, giving them interesting textures to define the various materials, adding in enough detail to the hair and clothing, and getting the scale between them right. 

Speaking of scale, the Pastor is HUGE.  With that long pointy hat, he's about 12 1/2" tall, while the others are all around 6 1/2".

Paint - Pastor, Bride ***1/2; Victor ***; Victoria **1/2
The paint quality isn't as consistent as the sculpt quality, unfortunately. While these look good in general, there's a couple specific issues that hurt some scores.

The Pastor is the best of the bunch in this category. There's some marvelous shading in his face, and the broad colors that are used are clean an consistent. His eyes look terrific, and while there's not a lot of small detail work, they've managed to capture his somber appearance extremely well.

Victoria is on the opposite end. Actually, most of her paint ops are great, and she could have easily gotten another half star - maybe a full one - had it not been for one crucial problem. Her eyes don't track together. Considering the size and visual importance of her eyes, and the way they've used them to emote a particular scene, the fact that the left eye is looking further to her left than the right eye is very annoying.

Fortunately, neither Victor or the Bride have serious eye issues. They are both a little too zombie-like (or mannequin-like, if you prefer), lacking some of the life and dynamic appearance of the Pastor, but the paint work is still certainly above average. I'm particularly happy with the blending of the more vibrant colors of the Bride. As you'll remember in the movie, the Land of the Dead was far more colorful and lively than the Land of the Living, and the Bride bust does a nice job making that evident with the busts as well.

Design - Pastor, Bride, Victoria ***1/2; Victor ***
Can you tell the Pastor was my favorite? Well, there's good reason for that. Of the three, his is the most interesting design, and the facial expression has the most life. His personality is easy to read, always a sign of a good, solid design.

The Bride and Victoria are solid, if not outstanding. I do like the use of the cloth for the Bride's veil, and having both arms included with all four of these 'busts' was a smart move, particularly for her. But both the Bride and Victoria could have had a bit more personality in their designs.

My least favorite from this perspective is Victor. While the sculpt is technically quite good, the expression and emotional posture are predominately ones of confusion or exasperation, rather than fear. Of course, the 'design' category really is one where you're touching heavily on the artistic qualities of a bust, and those can be extremely personal.

One of the best features of the design is the bases.  All three of the 'living world' figures have a drab, yet intricate and old world style base.  The Bride has a much more macabre style, but it's also much more colorful.  I'm assuming that if we were to get any more of the dead in this series, their bases would match hers.

Value - ***1/2
If I were grading these at the original retail of around $45, they'd get ** - **1/2. However, there's really no reason to pay that right now. I bought this set off ebay, paying only $15 each for Victor and Victoria, while spending $20 on the Bride and $25 on the Pastor. Those were all BIN prices, and as I type this I see several more BIN auctions at around $20, and one of my sponsors is selling them all at $25 each. I don't expect these prices to last though, especially for the Pastor. At only 1500, he's going to dry up pretty quickly.

Things to Watch Out For - 
The little windows make it possible for you to find the best eyes on Victor and Victoria. Then again, the lack of any brick and mortar stores carrying collectibles like these any more makes it pretty much impossible for you to see them before you buy them. Catch-22.

Also take some extra care with the thin areas, like the boney arm of the Bride, or the staff of the Pastor. They are packed well so that nothing will happen to them - until you open them up and get your big, clumsy paws on them.

Overall - Pastor, Bride ***1/2; Victor, Victoria ***
While these aren't quite as high quality (particularly in terms of paint) as the Harry Potter or most Star Wars busts from Gentle Giant, they are still excellent representations of the characters. At the current market price, they're also a steal, and well worth picking up for yourself or a friend that's a big fan of the movie. I have my doubts that we'll get any more, so if you hate collecting lines that go on, and on, and on...well, you shouldn't have that problem with this one.

This is one of those very cool lines that's been overlooked by most people, driving down the cost of ownership. If you get in now, assuming you're a fan, you'll be much happier than if you realize six months from now that I was right, and are shocked to see the Pastor costing $100.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpt - ***1/2
Paint - Pastor ***1/2; Bride, Victor ***; Victoria **1/2
Design -  Pastor, Bride, Victoria ***1/2; Victor ***
Value -  ***1/2
Overall - Pastor, Bride ***1/2; Victor, Victoria ***

Where to Buy - 
Online options include:

- Dark Shadow Collectibles has them in stock for $25 each, including the Pastor.

- Fireside Collectibles still has them listed as pre-orders at the original price of $42.50.

- Amazing Toyz has them listed at $42 - $43 each, but only have Victor and Victoria.

Related Links - 
I've had plenty of Gentle Giant bust reviews:

- when it comes to Star Wars busts, I've discussed Qui-Gon, Palpatine, and Lando in his Skiff Disguise.

- for Harry Potter, there's the guest review of the original Harry and Sirius, plus my reviews of the rest of the series - Snape/Dumbledore, Dobby/Dementor, and Nearly Headless Nick/Lucius Malfoy/Deatheater.

- and if you're looking for other Corpse Bride goodies, there's series 1 and series 2 (split into a review here and a review here) of the regular figures from Mcfarlane, along with the special DVD boxed set.

- and let's not forget the Corpse Bride beanies, also from Mcfarlane.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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