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Walt Disney Animation Studios

Disney Heroes
by Rustin Parr

There was once a time when Hasbro was just about the worst thing that could happen to a toyline. It wasn't so long ago that we all sat with bated breath for Hasbro's rights to the DC Universe and particularly Batman (acquired via Kenner) to run out so that DC Direct and ultimately Mattel could save us from "Fire Escape Batman" and the like. Thankfully and ironically that time is now completely flipped. Hasbro is now an innovator and trendsetter. First just about every other company rolled out their answer the Mighty Muggs, and now everyone is trying out their own attempt at the "Heroes-scale" format (itself once a derelict Playskool offshoot of the Star Wars license). Now the powerhouse that is the Disney Corporation takes this aesthetic approach and marries it to their previously established success of PVC figurine box sets to give us - wait for the clever spin - Disney Heroes.

The introductory set under this new banner is cute for three reasons: 1) the design aesthetic is adorable, 2) Disney Heroes is clearly a cash-in on Hasbro's Galactic Heroes, Adventure Heroes, Combat Heroes, and so on, and 3) it's a throwback to an amazingly awesome Disney Store exclusive line that gave re-imagined takes on Hercules, Peter Pan, Prince Philip, Captain Hook and Malificent-Dragon which was also launched the brand name Disney Heroes. The lineup of this box set likewise pays homage to the former line, including four of the five characters from that line and at least one that was to be in the never-to-be-released second wave. This collection, titled Walt Disney Animation Studios, comprises: Malificent-Dragon, Prince Philip, Gaston, Beast, Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

The sculpting of these figures is pretty close to the Hasbro Heroes aesthetic. They have slightly more bulbous or rounded proportions than the competition, but it's really the faces that differ. Rather than a blank slate with the same anime eyes and smile tampographed on, each figure has a uniquely sculpted face that reflects the character to some degree, though the overall "everyone is happy" approach is maintained. This is most notable on Beast, who is apparently really enamored of Gaston and/or his beatin'-club, and especially on Peter, who is effectively a John Kricfalusi character. [See? --ed].

Most of the figures are in standard, crouched, "I'm a'gonna git ya" pose, but the two out-lyers are pretty notable. The Dragon is in a pretty silly "wanna play fetch" pose while good ol' Pan features a neat cloud burst which helps him "fly." In general the figures stand well, though Gaston is certainly a wobbler and Hook, thanks to his massive hat, can't stand of his own accord - and indeed, there are no pegholes to easily remedy that. I should also note that there isn't a single point of articulation amongst the lot of them.

The paint is pretty clean, and the bright reds on Philip, Gaston and Hook really pop out giving life to the tableau. The coloring isn't complex - there's no shading or texturing - but the sculpts don't really demand it. There is a reliance on colored plastic, which is a pet peeve of mine, but it really is only a problem on the fleshtones. It gives that overly shiny, semi-translucent look that we all hate so much. Fortunately, the cartoonish-ness of the aesthetic kind of allows for that, no its not as distracting as it normally is.

This isn't a set that's going to win any awards, but it definitely helps fill that desire for more Disney boys' toys (which the market generally lacks). I found these at Disneyland and Disney World last year, but I'd imagine they'd be at Disney Stores too (if any of those still exist). Each set cost $13, which is less than it'd cost to buy two Hasbro Heroes sets, and this came with 6 figures! Taking that into account, it makes up for any shortcomings (though I'm still upset Hook won't stand!) and makes the set totally worth it. Especially since it fits in with an established aesthetic already applied to a variety of licenses.

-- 01/07/10

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