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Jack Skellington

Nightmare Before Christmas
by Rustin Parr

Jack Skellington is one of the most iconic characters in film. A perfect blend of cartoon and skeleton, Jack's resonance is only multiplied by the stop-motion nature of his origin, his fantastic and unreal design, and that of his world, realized in physical space simply makes The Nightmare Before Christmas incredibly magical and ripe for action figures and collectibles.

Despite NECA just concluding a very successful and productive five-year run of action figures, JUN Planning promptly jumped on the rights, becoming the worldwide holder and immediately unveiled plans for an extensive range of products. Unlike their preivous run with the license though, rather than 12" dolls, the core focus of the line is approximately 7"-scale action figures. The star, of course, of Series 1 is the star of the film, the venerable Bone Daddy himself.

A slender, elegant fellow, Jack Skellington moves gracefully across the screen.

Although he's known far and wide for his blood-curdling screams, Jack's heart is gentle, and he yearns for something more than scaring people. When he discovers Christmas, Jack tires to recreate ti.

Although his methods may be all wrong, his intentions are all good.

And his own way, Jack finally succeeds in bringing a bit of Christmas spirit to Halloweentown.

- 15 articulations fully movable
- Change the another Jack head
- With Figure Stand

...reads the back of the package, typos and all.

Jacks stands 7⅜" tall, without the base/stand, and does in fact sport 15 points of articulation. These include, and are limited to: swivel ankles, hinged knees, ball and socket hips, balljoint shoulders, hinged elbows, balljoint wrists, balljointed mid-torso, and ball-and-socket joints at the top and bottom of the neck. A very formidable array of movable parts allowing for a good deal of positioning, though thigh and bicep swivel joints are very noticeably missing and would have been much appreciated. The sockets of the hips also appear to be not centered, causing the knees to angle in as though Jack were a toddler needing to urinate or a young girl screaming at a Beatles concert. Possibly also needing to urinate, who am I to judge? The legs also have no give at the sockets, rendering the balljoint effectively useless and leaving the figure ostensibly T-crotched.

The sculpt, however, is fantastic! JUN has really nailed the character and his proportions. An especially nice touch is than the pinstriping on the suit is etched into the sculpt instead of being just painted on. There are a few things that don't exactly thrill me (the coat tail is sculpted swaying to Jack's left as though it were being gently blown to the side [I would have preferred a straight fall down] and the pin stripes rotate out below the knees which is mildly disorienting and it doesn't feel "film accurate" even if it is) but the overall quality and especially the head vastly outweigh any negatives. Jack, like William Shatner, Sarah Michelle Gellar or Viggo Mortensen, seems to be a notoriously difficult likeness to capture - which is exceedingly peculiar, considering that Jack has only ever existed as a hand-sculpted puppet. But unlike many NBX collectibles, this guy is a spot-on perfect match to the Pumpkin King - across all his heads.

That's right, Jack has three accessories and two of them are the most logical accessories that this character could ever come with: alternate heads. Jack comes with the "classic" closed-mouth grin head already on him, but is packaged with an open-mouth smile head and his "scary" growl head (from whence he tried to frighten Lock, Shock and even that precocious little Barrel). Despite my innate love of "signature" versions of characters I actually prefer keeping the open-mouth head on Jack, a testament to its sheer accuracy of sculpt no doubt. The "growl" head is also quite good, though it doesn't really reproduce the look from the film as perfectly as the other two heads (the mouth is less open and there are no gaps between the teeth) but I imagine this was a conceit aimed at its core flaw: in the movie, Jack makes the face by pulling his cheeks down with his fingers, but with the lack of bicep articulation, that pose is impossible with this figure.

The third accessory is the stand/base, a staple for every figure in this line. Rather than going with a simple/standard foot-peg base, JUN has created a series of doll-like stands for each figure to keep them standing. At first this really seems like a fun and cool new approach, but in reality its just a gawdy eyesore, especially with Jack, who is so slender. The stand is compartmentalized so that you can raise or lower an inch or two by removing a center piece, but all this does is allow Jack to either squat or hover. While I much appreciate the attempt at a new way to get this character to stand and allow for more poseability a significant amount more of R&D was definitely needed.

But the real question with this entire line is, "How does it compare to NECA's figures?" It was clearly very brave of JUN to launch their own line so close to the conclusion of a a very successful line for the same brand, but unfortunately, much like their Behemoth figure, Jack isn't a huge improvement over NECA's. While paint and sculpt put NECA's to shame, the lack of thigh and especially bicep articulation really, really limit this figure. The stand, which is the only way to get Jack to stand, also detracts greatly from the displayability I find in this figure. But the real kicker is price. While I received this as a sample for review from JUN these figure look to run no less than $15 a pop, and really that's a very hard pill to swallow when it comes to trying to completely restart a collection that's already very extensive. That said, however, seeing as Jack is the character from the film (and this is such an overall great rendition of him) he's worth picking up in that he'll work as a standalone piece in your Nightmare collection (something that is much harder for the other figures in the series like Behemoth or the Vampire Brothers). While I love the Four Horsemen, this figure truly "schools" their Jack sculpt in virtually every way.

If you're a big fan of Jack, Nightmare Before Christmas or passed on the NECA product this is worth getting; if you get only one JUN figure this is a good one to get. But, if you're happy with your NECA collection and feel no real or immediate need for this figure or line, you could rest safe without him.

-- 02/13/09

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