Santa's Workshop Playest

There are three Christmas shows which I love from my childhood.  First is the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Unfortunately, after last year's movie, it's unlikely we'll ever get any toys from the original.

The second is Charlie Brown's Christmas.  With the news that Playing Mantis will be doing action figures based on this and other classic Peanuts shows, there was much rejoicing.

One of the reasons for that joy was the wonderful job that Playing Mantis did on the action figures for my third favorite Christmas show, The Island of Misfit Toys or Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.  Both titles are used, and the wonderful set of action figures were one of the best lines of 2000.

Now Playing Mantis has treated us to a new Rudolph toy - Santa's Workshop!  The workshop is scaled to work with the small PVC figures, also produced by Playing Mantis.  It's a Toys R Us exclusive, and costs $50.  There are also three exclusive PVC figures included; the little girl elf, the Chief Elf, and Mrs. Claus.

Packaging - ***
It's a big box.  Hey, this isn't really the kind of toy anyone keeps MIB, so the packaging isn't quite as crucial here.  But it's still important that it's attractive and colorful, and true to the source material.  If it isn't, it can hurt sales.

No problem on that score, and the box will be sure to catch your eye as you wander through the Christmas section of your local store.

Sculpting - ***
This score is based on two areas - the sculpting of the playset, and the sculpting on the three included PVC figures.

If I were simply rating the sculpting and style of the workshop, I would have rated this at least a half star and perhaps a full star higher.  The doors, windows, and external surfaces are terrific, and while the interior might seem a bit simplistic, it fits the source material very well.

Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the PVC's.  Unlike last years action figures, these PVC's aren't up to the level of sculpting and quality you'd expect.

Of the three, Mrs. Claus is the best, but all of the little girl elves I saw already had very bent legs, and the sculpts on her and the Chief Elf are very soft.

Paint - ***1/2
The pastel colors and clean lines really make this set look great.  There's a nice wide variety of color being used, but the set itself isn't so busy as to take away from any figures placed within.

Some folks may be turned off by the interior pastels though, as it may remind them a little too much of a Barbie playhouse.

Quality - ***
The quality of plastic used in this set is extremely good.  Everything is quite sturdy, and while breaking off a piece is still possible, it's been built for normal play.

There were several stickers however, and I'm never fond of stickers.  While most of them went on okay, I found the flag stickers extremely annoying and difficult to apply.  Getting the two halves to line up properly was tough, and will certainly require adult assistance.

Accessories - ***1/2
There are a ton of neat accessories included with the set.  From the basics, like several stools, a table, a bed and a bookcase, to more extravagant items like Santa and Mrs. Claus chairs, or the small toys and tools, everyone is well made and look terrific.

There's logs for the fireplace, and a pair of ladders to climb to the top of the shop.  The Christmas tree includes a strand of garland and a removable star.  I was very happy with the nice variety.

Play Factor - ***1/2
This playset was built for play, and kids will get a lot of fun out of it.  Pick up the set of PVC's and you'll have a great toy for kids of all ages.

Value - **1/2
The set takes a bit of a hit on the value side.  While I like the style, construction and accessories, fifty bucks is still a pretty steep investment.  I'm not complaining too loudly, mind you, but at around $40 I would have felt like I'd gotten an appropriate value.  Perhaps leaving out the PVC's would have helped.

Overall - ***
This set was almost a ***1/2, but the price along with the poor sculpting on the PVC's brought it down slightly.

I bought this for a special purpose however.  As you can see by the pictures, I have a ton of figures already in the set, and they certainly aren't the PVC's.  These are the Enesco ornaments, and they are right in scale with the playset.

These ornaments are a far cry better than the PVC's, as you can see by the photo comparing the two Chief Elf figures.  I needed a good place to display these, and wasn't coming up with much.  But when I heard this castle was coming out, I knew I'd found my answer.

It works perfectly with the ornaments, and the 8" Bumble is in scale as well.  Overall, I think it makes a terrific display, and now I just have to hunt up the last three or four Enesco ornaments to finish it off! 

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford

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