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Trading Figures

Nightmare Before Christmas
by Rustin Parr

Among the action figures and 12" figures and plushes and whatnot, Jun Planning has also released a set of six The Nightmare Before Christmas trading figures - you know, the blind-boxed mini toys that are usually sold as point-of-purchase displays near the cash register? You buy a bunch, keep the ones you like, and trade the remainder to other fans to complete your set. Thus the name. It's the same kind of thing Marvel tried with their Figure Factory line, or DC's "Who's Who." These trading figures are big in Japan, which is why they made perfect sense for Jun's NBX line-up.

The figures are sold in appropriately themed packages, boxes in blue and black with a picture of Jack, Zero and the curved hill on the front. The sides show all six figures in the assortment, and the individual toys are identified on the front, so you know what you're getting. Jun Planning provided us with a complete set, so yo go re and I split them up for faster coverage. Take it away, yo!

Figure #1 (they're all numbered next to their names) is Jack Skellington, the star of the show. He's bagged in nine separate pieces: base, two-piece clear stand, individual legs and arms, hips/thighs, and torso/head. It's hard to figure out which shin attaches to which thigh, since they both fit, but the feet only go into the base one way - attach those first, then build up from there. It's a tight fit, too, so don't force them. Neither is it any easy task to get the arms in place, since Jack's bat bow tie gets in the way. The figure will stand fine by himself, once he's plugged into the base, so for now, the clear stand is just for security. Better to use it than not, though; you don't want your Skellington sagging over time.

Jack has one point of articulation - his neck - but the sculpt is great. At first I was impressed by the job they did painting the pinstripes on his suit, until I realized that those are all sculpted into his body. Wow! The grey paint used to separate the bones of his finges is uneven, but not to the point of being ugly or useless. His teeth are yellow, and the inside of his mouth has been done up in a nice light purple. His base is detailed just as much as the rest of the figure, with a striated pattern on the ground, a few random roots, and a grinning orange pumpkin. All put together, Jack is an even 5" tall. Rustin?

Sally comes in three parts (technically four) despite what's pictured on instuction sheet: torso and head, arms and basket, base with cat legs, and clear rod. The sculpting is fantastic, yet again, and the paint is effectively perfect, which is exceptionally impressive considering all the different dress patterns and that each stitch is painted. The base even has a three-tone paint scheme giving it more realism and life. And I would be remiss to not mention that the bottle in the basket is cast in translucent green - oh how I love translucency!

The arms were a bit tricky to plug into their sockets based on the soft-ish plastic and difficult-to-grip arm/basket piece in relation to where it needed to go. The legs were much easier but only once I found that the clear rod behind them was removable and could be plugged into the dress first, otherwise it would have been impossible to align everything correctly. Once fully assembled Sally stands a whopping 4¼" tall.

Figure 3 is actually a pair: Lock and Barrel. Or "Barell," as the packaging calls him. Here we get four pieces: the two boys, their base, and a ball and chain. No mystery about how this set is assembled: the scene is Lock and Barrel playing on a metal floor - probably Oogie Boogie's house - and their pegs are drastically different sizes. The easiest way to assemble them is to put the figures on first, then put the steel ball and Lock's hands in place, and finally connect the chain to Barrel's ankle cuff.

Assembled, the scene is 3¼" wide and just about 1½" tall. No articulation on these two, but the sculpt and paint are good. The character premise of Lock, Shock and Barrel is that they unexpectedly look just like their costumes, even when the masks are removed: Lock is a little red devil, with a pointy face and his hair curled up to form "horns," while Barrel's face looks like a skull. The bony details on Barrel's costume have sculpted edges, so the paint looks its best. Sadly, he's not wearing his mask: though Lock and Shock hardly ever put theirs on, Barrel rarely took his off.

And speaking of Shock, she's in set #4. This one probably isn't going to be a big seller by itself, because both figures included here are just accoutrements for other figures: Shock is obviously intended to go along with Lock and Barrel, and Zero gets added to Jack Skellington. The set includes seven pieces - Shock, her hat, two arms with weapons, a base, Zero, and a clear arm to support him. Getting Shock assembled can be tough, because her arms don't want to stay in place when attaching other bits; your best plan of attack is to put on her hat, then her left arm, then attach her to the base, and do the right arm last.

Both these figures look really nice. Shock is dressed as a witch, wearing a purple dress and hat. Her stringy hair hangs wild, and her teeth are jagged. The weapons in her hands look like real tarnished metal, and her base fits perfectly in a gap in Lock and Barrel's base. Zero is molded from clear plastic, but has a dusting of white paint on the surface to give him the appropriate ghostly look. His eyes are black, his nose orange, and he wears a solid white collar. His support arm connects to the rod that helps hold Jack up, so this loyal dog can hover next to his master.

Again, contrary to what's on the instructions, Dr, Finkelstein comes in only two (or technically three) pieces: the Doctor and the wheelchair. Both are excellent sculpts that are pretty darn film accurate, and both feauture one point of articulation. The Wheelchair's two large wheels are joined by a common axel allowing for real wheeling action - hurrah!

However, the wheels are so free in movement, and the (immobile) rear third wheel a bit too forward, which all conspires to give Finky a tendency to tilt forward, throwing the paralyzed doctor from his conveyance about 60% of the time! Finklestein, however, sports a much more enjoyable articulation - his cranium. The top of the man's head can flip open for a fine gander at his brain, which, I might add, is removable (that previously mentioned third piece). The brain is cast in a rosy-tinted, near-transparent plastic for some wholly bizarre reason, but it does have a gray wash to bring out its details and darken it up a bit.

The Doctor fits perfectly in his chair and is assembled to perfection, so that with minimal effort his left arm holds its chair joystick exactly and the legs dangle neatly centered - a very impressive feat! All told, the mad scientist rides a full 2½" once assembled.

The last figure is Oogie Boogie, the closest thing Nightmare Before Christmas has to a real villain. Oogie's made from eight pieces - head, tongue, feet, arms, and the front and back of his body - though the two halves of his torso were already together when I opened the box. It would be a real shame if people just left the pieces together like that, because the inside is fully sculpted: open him up, and you can see all the bugs that fill his body. All the limbs and other pieces plug into the front half, so you can remove the back and look inside without disturbing anything.

Oogie is definitely not the same size as the rest of the figures. Jack, Sally, Dr. Finkelstein and Lock, Shock and Barrel are all generally in scale with one another, but that stops here. A fully in-scale Oogie Boogie would probably have to have been six or seven inches tall - way too big for a trading figure. He stands just below 3½", and has a very dynamic pose: he's striding forward, in his own floppy way, and swinging his arms as he goes. There's no base, but he stands well on his own. The surface of the figure is sculpted to look like heavy, stitched burlap, and his shadows are painted on.

These are incredibly well executed figures, with Jack and Sally effectively being perfection in the format. The only real complaints I have would be the difficulty in keeping Finklestein's chair upright and that the brain is translucent despite what's shown in the film. Beyond that, I'm only a bit disappointed that the figures lack a lot of the "building factor" which adds a lot of fun to the Trading Figure format. I personally prefer my trading figures to be more... action-y. Mini dioramas, interesting poses, elaborate bases and so on. Oogie's got the pose, but he's denied the size. I probably would have passed on these, or looked for a good deal on a set, but now that I have a few provided by Jun for the review, I'm very tempted to go ahead and track down the other figures once they reach the US to complete the collection!


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