ToyBiz's Lord of the Rings was the second-greatest movie toyline ever. In fact, just yesterday we revealed them as #3 on the list of Top Toys of the OAFEnet Era. The figures were awesome, which is why everyone was nervous when it was announced that The Hobbit toys would be made by a company called The Bridge Direct, who were only known for creating some truly abominable Justin Bieber dolls. Their first release came at this year's SDCC, and it seemed worth taking a chance to find out how the final product would be.
To begin with, the packaging is clever. The box is designed to look like a book - we'd call it Bilbo's journal, but it's not. That's a specific prop, and this doesn't look anything like it. Call it a missed opportunity, maybe, but the journal is a thin prop and if they wanted to put a figure inside it it would have had to be extra thick, which might have angered the purists. Ah, whatever, it's not like there was only ever one book mentioned in Tolkien's series. The box is 8¾" tall, 6" wide and 2¼" deep. many of the details are embossed on the surface - the Hobbit log, the SDCC and Bridge Direct tags, and the fancy little details in all the corners. There's a faux wax seal on a band around the book, helping hold the cover closed.
When you slide the band off, it's not like the book's cover just flops open immediately - there's velcro holding it shut, so that was really more for decoration. Anyway, the interior is designed to look like a cave (Gollum's cave, one assumes), with the figure seen through a cutout on the right side, and a text summation on the left:
Like all Hobbits, Bilbo Baggins is fond of his comfortable
existence; all he needs to be happy is a full pantry and a good book. When the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves unexpectedly appear on Bilbo's doorstep and invite him to join them on a dangerous adventure, Bilbo's life changes forever. Initially skeptical of the invitation, Bilbo's spirit of adventure leads him to join the Company of Thorin Oakenshield and become the "burglar" required to complete their quest to outwit a ferocious dragon and reclaim the Dwarves' stolen treasure. To everyone's surprise, including his own, Bilbo's wit and courage prove that there is indeed more to this Hobbit than meets the eye.
Bilbo is a Transformer?! That certainly never came up in the previous movies, but it might explain where Peter Jackson is getting enough material to turn this into a trilogy. "You've got to find the AllSpark, Mr. Frodo!" exclaims Samwise Witwicky.
This figure is, obviously, clear. It's 100% clear, unpainted plastic, representing Bilbo when he's wearing the One Ring. Man, and people give DC crap for the "New 52" reboot not being fully planned out? Here we've got a ring that can control all the other magical
rings in the world... oh, and will also turn the wearer invisible. That's weirdly specific. Imagine if a Green Lantern ring could do all the usual stuff from the comics, but then also made you fart the national anthem every day at noon Oa time. Anyway, since this figure is clear, it gives us a chance to appreciate the sculpt. Bilbo's definitely good, but it's obvious that Bridge Direct isn't trying to capture the same insane level of detail in the textures that ToyBiz did. He does, however, have the ring molded on his right middle finger.
Bilbo is played by Martin Freeman, who you'll either know as Watson on the new BBC Sherlock or as "British Jim" on The Office. Or maybe as Arthur Dent... but no, nobody saw that movie. It's a bit hard to judge the likeness when it's clear, but from what we can see, this is a quite good first effort. He's got a lovely smirk, and shaggy hair.
What's truly impressive is the articulation. Now, to be entirely fair, Bridge Direct has an entire decade of toy industry innovation separating it from ToyBiz's first LotR offerings, but ToyBiz also had experience making action figures, and thus a base level to work off of. Bilbo blows them all away. He has swivel/hinge joints at the ankles, knees, hips, elbows and shoulders, plain swivels at the waist and wrists, and a balljointed head. For a figure that's barely 4½" tall (and from a comparatively new company), this is spectacular.
Bilbo comes with three accessories: a heavy rucksack with a sculpted drawstring, a sling with two (non-removable) bottles that hangs to his waist, and of course,
his racist-ass sword, Sting. It's just as clear as the rest of the toy - it might have been neat to give a light blue airbrushing, to suggest a glow, but it's easy to quarterback these things after the fact. The blade is slightly thinner than it should be, and the pommel isn't the perfect shape, but the damn thing's only 1¾" long, so you're not going to catch us complaining about either of those. The sword can be held in his left hand, or fit in the sheath on his hip.
We were all worried about the announcement that Bridge Direct would be making Hobbit toys, since ToyBiz had set the bar so high. But as Rustin uncovered, the sculpts are done by Gentle Giant and a lot of the team came over from ToyBiz, so it's not like they were as unfamiliar with the license as we all assumed. Clear Bilbo isn't just a very good toy, he's clear evidence that Middle Earth is in good hands.