The Disney Store has definitely had its business-ial ups and downs but one thing they have and are doing well is carving out a niche for exclusive product - a surefire way to drive traffic. Better yet (or "worse," contingent on your point of view), it's very solid product making it well worth your time to track it down. Of course they generally charge about 10%-30% more than what I'd normally pay for any particular item, but the holiday season has led to several sales bringing things more inline with my expectations, if not budget.
The Disney Store - PVC Sets: "Wreck-It Ralph" Fix-it Felix Jr.
The Disney Store has been carrying exclusive PVC sets for about as long as I can remember, and fortunately the quality has been steadily improving. The general release sets for older films or "Best-Of" character assortments are still a little iffy but things that tie-in to the In-Theatres films are generally very good - case-in-point, the Wreck-It Ralph sets. The film is fantastic and if you're following OAFE I can pretty much guarantee you will enjoy the film. The downside is the mainstream toys are only okay. TDS has done three sets, one for each game in the film, which gives us a delightfully wide range of characters and a surprisingly high quality of paint and sculpt (all things considered). This is by far the hardest of the three sets to find, and that's probably because it has signature poses for Ralph and Felix, plus a host of lovable residents from the game's building. The sculpts are all spot-on accurate, the only "issue" being that Ralph is about half-size based on the movie's scale, but that ain't no real problem. The paint on this particular set isn't the best but it's still very good (better than many mainstream toy releases I've seen), it WAS the only one of this set I could find and even then it was at the bottom of a window-facing display, so I'm happy to take what I can get!
The Disney Store - PVC Sets: "Wreck-It Ralph" Hero's Duty
While the Hero's Duty sequence was probably my least favorite one of the film, I think this is arguably the best of the three PVC sets because of character selection. We get both baby and adult versions of the space bugs plus Ralph, Felix and Calhoun - that's three of the four main characters, plus the Stormtrooper-equivalents of the film! Calhoun is in a great, signature pose and Felix is has a fun "attack" stance going on. But best of all, their two bases - while not a perfect fit - are contoured to fit together. The bugs are great with translucent wings and clear rods deftly obscured to support their weight. Ralph is both my most and least favorite piece here. On the upside is the awesome translucent green dust cloud (it looks so cool when backlit - perfect execution) but on the downside is him not in the Hero's Duty armor. Honestly, I don't really recall how much time he spent in and out of it, but it would have been nice to have one of our three Ralves be different in more than just pose. Sculpt and paint is darn near flawless across the board here.
The Disney Store - PVC Sets: "Wreck-It Ralph" Sugar Rush
Like the other sets, this one is just easy to love too. We, of course, get another Ralph, but we also get Vanellope VonSchweetz, Taffyta Muttonfudge, King Candy and his two cops, Wynnchel and Duncan! The upsides: Alan Tudyk's awesome King Candy and the two donut cops, plus our sole release of Vanellope. The Downsides: I'm not too crazy about Vanellope's pose nor of Taffyta. The latter makes sense, but frankly I'd have much rather had Sour Bill, completing the King's goons, than her. And I'd even had gone for a second Sugar Rush set featuring more of the racers. But one of the main reasons I really like these sets so much is that Ralph has some of the plaid patterning on his shirt which is so conspicuously absent on the mass market figures. Here it's achieved by sculpted lines filled with a nice grey-green wipe. These three sets are just fantastic!
DST - Marvel Select: "Amazing Spider-Man" Spider-Man/Peter Parker
I was on the fence about which of the three versions of Spidey to get (Regular, Metallic paint or Peter - the latter two being Disney Store exclusives) and had missed out entirely, so while I think I would have most preferred the Metallic paint version I was quite relieved to see this guy make a return to stores just before Christmas. Of all three versions this is the most "bang for your buck" version has it has unique un-gloved web-slinging hands and an alternate unmasked head. That head comes packaged on the figure, which is great because it is impossible to get it off! As in you'd have to break the neck joint. So, the heads ain't so interchangeable. The hands, on the other hand, pop on and off pretty easily. I dig the un-gloved hands, but there's just something visually odd about them on the costumed body. Other than that the figure is fantastic - stunning detail, remarkably good paint and scads of articulation! Plus he gets a big ol' base. For some inexplicable reason I really like the window AC unit but the highlight are two pegs on the piping which allow you to wall-mount the Wall-crawler! That makes this one of the most enjoyable bases since the original series of Spider-Man Classics from over a decade ago! All in all a good figure and one of, if not the, best movie-based Marvel Select release.
DST - Marvel Select: Hawkeye
I finally got around to picking up this figure and it is in fact as good as expected. Jean St. Jean did a great job on the sculpt thoughout this whole piece and the paint is equally as great. This figure is worth getting on principle alone! There's at least 18 points of articulation, 5 accessories and the coolest base since ToyBiz dropped them from Marvel Legends. I love the slaughtered Ultron (especially since he shares the design and even some sculptural elements as the proper Marvel Select one) and the whole rubble look is pulled off fantastically. There are two tiny holes in Ultron for tip-less arrows to plug in, but the arrows can also fit in Hawkeye's quiver, which ingeniously has sculpted arrows plus a hole in the center for the loose ones to fit. His bow is a pretty solid plastic - firm and un-warped but soft enough it could be pulled back by his other hand somewhat. I only have two problems with this figure. The Wasp sitting on the arrow is awesome but she is sitting on the wrong side of the arrow for a proper pose with Hawkeye holding the arrow - a pretty glaring oversight. Worse, though, is that Hawkeye's right two fingers are sculpted together meaning that the arrows cannot fit correctly in his hand. You have to sort of wedge them between the middle and ring finger for a pretty off-angle pose. That said, though, this is still a great figure and a shining example of the Marvel Select format. I highly recommend this figure!
DST - Marvel Select: Hulk
This is my new favorite/default Hulk figure. I was never too crazy about the extreme vein-y-ness of the prototype though Jean St. Jean was spot-on accurate for Marc Silvestri's art, but in production it all worked out. That's right - the rarest of all toys: one that looks better in production than in prototype! I think it's the paint that really pulls this guy together and knocks him out of the park. He's cast in a sort of mildly translucent green, then gets some dark gray-green spray for shadow-y lowlights and finally a lime drybrush or wipe over that. It all combines to look just utterly fantastic, and add to that the blue-cast jeans with similar two-tone paint and you get just a beautiful, beautiful figure. The only thing I'm not totally sold on is the face. There is something odd about, almost like there was some shifting in the mold. Still though he looks great. I know that all "oversized" Marvel Select figure come sans pack-ins, but I've got to say I feel like this figure is getting the shaft a bit. Not only could he use some more articulation (bicep swivels, balljointed wrists and/or a balljointed, rather than swivel, waist would all have been awesome) but his feet, torso and arms are all shared with the new Barbarian Hulk. Sure this guy has bulk, but you compare the amount of plastic and tooling to many Select figures, let alone other Disney Store exclusives like Hawkeye, and it just feels like this guy is at about an 8 or 9. Regardless of all of that, though, I really do love and fully recommend him. Best Hulk figure since the Toybiz Face-Off one!