Well... Two Hundred. We did made it, kiddos. There was a big chunk of time there were ol' Rustin really needed a break from all of this and it seemed like 175 might not even happen, but dove back in I did and here we are. So while I did a Very Special Episode for Spoils of the Week 100 I must confess I just don't feel that "passion" or even sentimentality to go that deep again. Yet, I do quite appreciate this milestone (which is partly why I held it off to be our first Spoils of 2018) so I figure this would be a good opportunity to do a "special" on some Theme Park purchases (which apparently I haven't written about in nearly 5 years!). During my holiday break here, in late 2017, I made a sojourn down to the Theme Park mecca of Orlando, FL, and hit up ye olde Walt Disney World and yon Universal Orlando Resort - so let's us take a looksee at what I flew away with.
Hasbro - Transformers, The Ride: EVAC
Not only am I huge Theme Park fan, I am particularly enthused by the actual mechanics of the rides such as attraction-specific characters and ride vehicles - and Evac is a perfect marriage of both of those passions. Transformers: The Ride uses the same ride system as Spider-Man: The Ride, which is 12-person car on a motion simulator base moving you to various 3D screens. The ride vehicle on Transformers is just a repaint of Spider-Man's "Scoops" vehicles but here uses the conceit that it is an actual Transformer... But while we see his arms occasionally in the 3D video footage we never see and experience him actually transform into a proper robot. Regardless, Universal, et al, worked out a design for him and are now merchandising it, so... this pretty much ticks all of my Theme Park Merch boxes. Universal has an exclusive line of Transformers with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Megatron and Evac - I presume the former three are just repacks on a Uni exclusive card and I wouldn't be too surprised to find out Evac is just a repaint as well since he's pretty off model. He comes in Robot mode and looks fairly accurate to the various art of him in that look. He's got a decent amount of articulation for a reasonable degree of posing, but the weak hips make him tough to keep upright and the multitude of transforming joints cause him to bend annoyingly during play. Thankfully the figure comes with a double-sided instruction sheet with guides for how to transform from Car-to-Robot or Robot-to-Car, and since this is the first Transformer I've bought and played with I definitely needed them. I was quite looking forward to the car mode version of him as I expected it to be a reasonable model of the ride vehicle but this guy just turns into a car - NOT the ride vehicle. While it has some seats sculpted in it there are only 4 as opposed to 12 (3 rows of 4) and this has a translucent-black "windshield" covering them while the actual vehicle has no canopy/roof! Worst of all... this janky-ass little toy cost me $30!!! Thirty dollars!?!? And I don't even get a reasonably close-enough toy of the ride vehicle! Lame!
Hasbro - Transformers, The Ride: Kre-O 4-Pack
While I struggled to decide if I'd actually drop $30 on that dumb Transformer above I spotted this stupid Kre-O 4-pack. I mean... come on... Kre-Os are kind of awful. Buuuuut, I'm a bigass sucker for theme park characters and exclusives and while Disney has plenty of those Universal is woefully short, so for $22 I pulled the trigger on this set too. It's kind of just goofy fun, and while still largely overpriced it feels much more reasonable when compared to the Evac transformer above. Here we get movie versions of Optimus Prime, Bumblebee and Megatron (and frankly I don't know if Hasbro ever did movie versions of these characters in their previous Kre-O lines, so maybe that's an appeal to this set as well. They come individually polybagged in the box and each has at least one accessory while the Autobots get more, and each has a removable helmet to better get those "iconic" looks. Annoyingly, Prime's helmet pops off by itself about half the time; so if you do get it snugly on, by all means leave it on! The real star of the set is ride-vehicle-turned-character Evac who gets the car door wings from Bumblebee cast in blue, a unique (or maybe reused from some previous Kre-O 'bot) helmet, and two vac-metalized piston/cannons for his arms - not too shabby. All the deco is really tight and clean, too, so add in the bright colors and these suckers do end up looking pretty nice (for what they are). At least until you do the math and realize they cost $5.20 apiece, before tax... Oh well. They're theme park exclusives.
Disney Parks - Disney Hollywood Studios: Magnet 8-Pack
I enjoy anything "sculpted" that's park or attraction based and I really like this kind of multi-color molded rubber, so when I saw these I kind of had to have them - plus the vaguely art deco aesthetic is really great! Florida's Tower of Terror is one of my favorite rides on the planet so I love seeing it represented here, and without any sort of gag or gimmick - just a great representation of that beautiful building! Rock'n'Rollercoaster is actually a pretty good coaster despite the super cheap deco and the very tacky Aerosmith theme. Buzz Lightyear is a weird fit since he has his own ride at Magic Kingdom, but I guess he'd popular and dynamic looking than Woody as a Pixar rep. R2 and 3PO are decent representatives for Star Wars, though I'd have preferred something with a Starspeeder or Star Tours logo. "Golden Age of Film" Mickey is a fun addition to both rep the Mouse and the loose theme of the park. But man - how great is that Maleficent Dragon design!? Really it was the left side of this 6-pack that sold me and while I searched hard I was really bummed to not find comparable sets at the other Disney Parks.
Disney Parks - Haunted Mansion: Fidget Spinner
Fidget Spinners, man... well... They were hawking these at every cash register with a big 8"x11" sign reading "$5 with any purchase" so I let my Haunted Mansion mania get the better of me. The spinner has cutesy versions of the three Hitchhiking Ghosts on the three spindles. Each of the images is on a translucent white button with a couple LED lights behind it, and pushing the button causes the lights to light up and flash at different speeds. First click is fast, second click is medium, third click is slow, and the fourth click turns them off. Oh, what terrible fun.
Disney Parks - Star Wars Droid Factory: R2-H15
In 2015 Disney started rolling out exclusive carded deco's of their Droid Factory astromechs. The first was to "celebrate" Disneyland's 50th Anniversary and the second was this holiday-themed one. It's your basic R2 unit done in white with Christmas-y red and green accents. What makes it a bit more interesting is the inclusion of an exclusive (I think) Santa hat. The card art has a bit more tech-y aesthetic to the white parts but the final piece has those bits fluffy, like the real thing, and there is a bit of curve to the red cone. The schematic on the cardback calls the hat an "auxiliary thermal guard" with the pom at the top being an "atmospheric gauge." Like all the Droid Factory figures this fellow has hinged "ankles" and pops apart at the "shoulders" and head, and the third leg/foot can unplug. I don't know, it was novel enough to pull the trigger on the $12.95. Plus I kinda hoped it was the first in a series, which turned out to be true - hence I'm finally reviewing these guys along with the new one for 2017.
Disney Parks - Star Wars Droid Factory: R2-H16
Following the assumed success of the 2015 Holiday Droid we got this one in 2016, and unlike its predecessor it's genuinely neat. I quite like the red body and legs with white head, and green accents - it actually seems like it could be a "real" droid beyond just the holiday gimmick. The real clincher, though, is the unique/exclusive beanie! Or, as the card calls it, the "external radiant heating array." It's big, not very detailed and kind of unnaturally stiff but there is something pretty neat about it - probably the size, novelty and exclusivity (this never showed up in the standard Droid Factory bins while I think the Santa Hat did). Plus, it's green color really plays with the white head and red body definitely making this a compelling and dynamic looking figure. The price jumped up 5 cents to $12.99 with this guy but for a themed exclusive it looks cool enough that I feel $13 is a reasonable price for it. H16 is definitely my favorite of these three guys!
Disney Parks - Star Wars Droid Factory: R3-H17
And now we get to the new one - the incredibly bland H17. I like that he's an R3 and hope they continue advancing through the heads/numbers like that with subsequent releases too. White is just never a very interesting or compelling base color and by going with light colors for the accents this whole thing just feels too "bright." The gold and mint-greens are metallic, at least, but it really feels lacking... the large panels on his torso should have been mint-green too, or something. And ditching red feels kind of weird after the first two. This set definitely feels more "New Year's Eve" to me than "Christmas" unlike the previous two; and while I kinda like the idea of trying out different holidays under the broader "winter holiday" umbrella, I can only imagine the "killing Christmas" butthurt if they ever strayed too far from the core Christmas colors. Anyway, this guy comes with one of Chopper's articulated arms cast in gold which plugs into his dome... which is neat, and makes that awesome Chopper figure even MORE impressive as I didn't even realize his arms were removable before! I just thought that this was a new, unarticulated sculpt of a "precision pincher arm" gripping Mistletoe so it was quite a welcome surprise to find that the arm is articulated (simple hinge joints at the elbows) and that the Mistletoe was removable! Still, though, it's not as striking or appealing as the hats on the previous two releases, and for $12.99 I just wish this figure was more visually interesting like his brothers before him.
Universal Studios - T2 3D: Golf Ball
Universal Florida "unexpectedly" shut down the T2 3D attraction late last fall (and surprisingly without announcing a replacement) meaning that now Universal Studios Japan has the only one left. It's not a great attraction, and certainly I've never been drawn to "live show" attractions as I prefer rides, but this one was "good enough" and used some clever gags to merge the live, in-theater stunt actors with the celebrities on the screen. At any rate, I was kinda sad to see it go but also surprised to find some merch for it still hanging around, so... I couldn't NOT get this stuff from an essentially extinct attraction! They had a bin of these golf balls by the register as I was checking out, so... what the hell. Universal has a lot (i.e. more than none) of these novelty/themed golf balls around and, not being a golfer, I couldn't care less. But... for a dead attraction, sure I'll take the hit. It's all black with silver lettering for the attraction on the "front" and legal text on the "back."
Universal Studios - T2 3D: Souvenir Mug
Universal made a bunch of mediocre merch for this show and one of the most iconic was this ceramic mug (the other being an endoskeleton action figure with light-up eyes that was in no way worth the price they were charging [and none of this stuff was discounted, by the way]). I definitely have some nostalgia attached to it from the last 20 years of ogling it but not wanted to carry a big, breakable mug around that I'd likely never use - but now, it's a Collector's Item, so that makes it all okay! It's fully sculpted all the way around with the show name and branding on the left side of the handle with some Endoskeletons marching around to a large Endo-skull to the right of the handle. The interior of the mug is glossy black and the exterior is a flat gray with a liberal black wash to bring out the details. It's not a big surprise why so many of these remain unsold, but as a lover of theme park/attraction-specific merchandise, plus the vague memories I have attached to it, this a very welcome piece in my collection.
Universal Studios - UniMinis: Terminator Endoskeleton
Circa 2014 Universal rolled out this line of mini vinyls in a vain attempt to play catch-up on the then cash-cow Disney had with Vinylmation. Universal's answer to the market was this UniMini line featuring a common, stylized body with large uniquely sculpted heads. Yeah, they're not that great. The line has various Universal Studios attraction-related characters like Seuss' Thing 1 & 2, E.T., Bart Simpson, King Kong, Optimus Prime and so on. But, with the closure of T2 3D I finally bought one of these $15 cash grabs. The paint/printing is, actually, tight and clean (though his pupils do seem a bit wall-eyed) and the sculpt on the head is pretty solid for a rotocast vinyl. The head is also fairly large too, about Quarter Scale I think. But... it just doesn't tie together all that well. I've never been a fan of the "sculpted head with shared body" approach to this kind of product, plus the squat and bulbous body is basically the antithesis of the endoskeleton. Still though, it's a nice enough little memento of ex-attraction T2 3D, and the box is bright and colorful so I'll just keep him in that.