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Genie and Bandit

Kingdom Hearts
by yo go re

The first series of Mirage Toys' Kingdom Hearts line was really rather unimpressive, but it got a second series anyway. And since there aren't a lot of opportunities to get random Disney action figures (or at least there weren't, in 2005), I naturally bought in. Big surprise, Series 2 wasn't really any better.

Heartless that mostly appear in Agrabah. They can travel under the sand. They attack deftly with a long sword. Attack them with caution.

As explained in the previous review (from, like, a decade ago, so we'll forgive you if you don't remember it), "Heartless" is the catch-all name for Kingdom Hearts' non-boss enemies. There are generic Heartless, flying Heartless, armored Heartless, magical Heartless, swimming Heartless... lots of different versions, is the point. Including, as seen here, Arabian-themed Heartless, known as the Bandits.

The Heartless all have their faces permanently hidden - granted, their faces are made of pure living shadow, so even if they weren't covered, you still wouldn't see anything. In keeping with the Bandit's middle-eastern flair, he's got his head entirely wrapped up in a stereotypical turban. That doesn't explain why the 仮 on the forehead looks Asian, though.

To complete his look, the Bandit is wearing a purple vest that allows the Heartless emblem on his chest to peek through. His shoes curl up at the toe, and his pants are puffy enough to make MC Hammer jealous. He's got a sash belt sculpted on his waist, and a bunch of rings and bracelets on his otherwise bare arms.

The figure is sparsely articulated, at least by the standards of this line: he moves at the neck, shoulders, wrists, waist, and boot tops, and they're all plain swivels. Unfortunately, the sculpt is so pre-posed that you can't really do much with him. Basically, they sculpted him in the same pose as the game renders, then cut in articulation; so that means he's permanently squatting, leaning to the side, and holding his right arm in front of himself. He's armed with his scimitar, which is about 3⅛" long and can be held in his hand nicely.

But nobody was buying this set because it had a Bandit Heartless - they were buying it because of Genie.

The wacky spirit of the lamp. He spent centuries cooped up in the lamp 'til Aladdin found him. He must grant three wishes to whoever controls the lamp, even if they are evil.

When Aladdin was still in early production, the writers were already thinking of Robin Williams for the voice of the Genie, and to convince him to take the part, they animated several minutes of Genie to the audio of Williams' stand-up routines. He agreed to voice Genie for cheap, as long as the character wasn't heavily featured in the advertising or the merchandise; considering that Aladdin was the first cartoon specifically promoted as having a major star doing voice work, you can guess how well that turned out (it's also the reason Dan Castellaneta did the voice for the first sequel and the tv series).

The likeness on this figure is superb. Animator Eric Goldberg based Genie on the caricatures of Al Hirschfeld, and the sculpt captures those smooth, curling lines perfectly. Perfectly. He has a massive smile, his familiar curly beard, and an earring in his pointy ear. He's looking down, which makes sense if he's hovering in the air. The only thing that's odd is his little tuft of hair: it points forward, instead of backward. Okay then.

The rest of the figure's sculpt is good, too, but it's brought down by the articulation. Or more accurately, by the lack thereof. Genie moves at the neck and waist. Two points of articulation. That's not even enough to qualify him as an action figure! He's sculpted with his arms crossed over his chest, but it's like it was done by someone who not only was born with a single arm, but has also never seen a two-armed human in their life. Seriously, look at that: he's got his right arm over his left, which is fine, but instead of having his left hand over his bicep like happens naturally, it's up over his shoulder. What the literal hell? Try that yourself. Cross your arms, and put your free hand on your shoulder. Doesn't that feel like the most awkward thing ever? Whoever designed and sculpted that should be embarrassed.

Like Lieutenant Dan, Genie ain't got no legs. Below the waist, he just has a smooth tendril of... smoke? Ectoplasm? What is Genie made of, anyway? It's certainly not meat. Whatever it is, there's a string of it waving from his belt. The images on the back of the packaging showed Genie with a display stand to hold him up, but the final figure didn't come with it (or even have a hole where a stand could be plugged in), so the best pose you can get with the figure is "Genie rests on his elbows to read something on the floor." The paint is good, at least - the airbrushed shadows really support the sculpt.

The Bandit Heartless is a decent toy, but Genie is kind of junk. But the thing is, Aladdin is such a fun movie, and Robin Williams' performance as Genie is so iconic, that it's worth having the figure anyway. Especially since the only other options are Mattel figures from 1993, and they're not a ton better.

-- 08/13/14

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