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Pumpkin King

Nightmare Before Christmas
by Rustin Parr

I'll just say it - this figure is awesome.

According to the back of his card, "Pumpkin King" is and comes with:

- 13 articulations fully movable
- Change the hand with Torch
- With accessory of Halloween Board
- With Figure Stand

Not much of a background (or great grammar), is there? That's fine, though, as nine out 10 people who'd buy this figure know exactly who and what he is - Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas in scarecrow grab from the "This is Halloween" opening number to the film. Despite his very limited screentime this figure is definitely one of the most memorable designs for the film and JUN Planning nails it to a tee!

The sculpt is, for lack of a better term, exquisite. Every straw in legs and forearms detailed, the tattered shirt flowing in the wind, the gnarled twig fingers, the jack o'lantern head... it's all great. The pumpkin and shirt even have slight imperfections to their smoothness, which really goes a long way to adding to film accuracy of this figure since it's based on hand-made puppets. The only downside is that the back bit of shirt, which is sculpted to hold the "Halloween Town" sign that comes with the figure, is laid out in such a fashion that the head must be titled forward for the sign post to even begin to fit, which severely limits poseability in that configuration.

However, the other accessory that comes with the figure is a flaming torch, and it's just as amazing as the rest of the figure. The flame is very detailed in sculpt and, much cooler, appears to be cast in translucent yellow plastic then given several layers of translucent red paint wash which conspires to give a red-to-yellow effect, just like real flame. Granted, it is a little heavy on the red, but it's still a great piece that can be added to the figure.

In fact, the paint on the overall figure is great in its subtlety. The figure is generally painted in very core colors but is a testament to the power of paint washes. With a brown wash on the straw and gray wash on everything else the sculpted detail and implied textures all sing to one's eyes in glorious three part harmony!

Contrary to the cardback, there are actually 14 "articulations" - a ball-and-socket joint at both ends of the neck, balljointed shoulders, hinged elbows, balljoint wrists, balljointed hips, hinged knees, and hinged toes. Similar to the regular Jack Skellington figure, the legs are a bit full at the hips, not allowing for much range to the balljoints, though they do have more than on regular Jack. The toe articulation seemed a bit odd, but then I realized what that added to poseabililty when using the base; though not much, it allows for more film accurate poses to be hit.

Like all the other figures in Series 1, Pumpkin King comes with a plastic stand similar to that used with 12" dolls in lieu of the more common footpeg base (these figures, in fact, have more pegholes). Like Jack, this base has a short extender that is used to get the stand up to a point where the King can stand; however, it again is too tall and the figure just hovers. Take the extender out and you can get some cool - and funny - running, flying, stepping poses, and more. The coolest of which is the ability to recreate the "dance with the torch" scene of the film.

But, as with every other figure in the series, we get to the elphant in the room... how does this figure compare to NECA's figure?

When I first saw this guy, I yearned for him so intrinsically I almost felt ill; he so clearly was a damning improvement over NECA's offering. Yet, I must confess, once I out the two figures next to one another, NECA's really outshone JUN's - in virtually every way. The paint is much better and varied, the articulation more plentiful, the sculpt more film accurate. (Though I should note, that while comparing the two, NECA Jack's left forearm broke off). Still, I cannot not love this figure! It has a more stylized feel to it, and is honestly dead-on perfect when not standing directly next to the NECA version. This is really the only time that this has happened for me. It's fairly bizarre.

Much like the regular Jack Skellington figure, I would highly recommend this figure for your collection. It's an iconic costume and can work well as an "on its own" piece, keeping you from feeling the need to completely restart your Nightmare Before Christmas collection (unlike other Series 1 figures, Behemoth, the Vampire Brothers, and arguably Sally). I must confess, though, that unless you get a free sample from JUN too, paying $15 for a smaller, not as good figure of something you might already have is probably not very appealing. As I say, it works well on its own and I quite like it for that. If you look at this figure and feel any desire for it, I can pretty much assure you you'll like. If hesitation is the main sensation your occulation puts into preparation for this quaint temptation, then you'll live your life comfortably without it, I predict.

-- 02/21/09

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