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Pan's Labyrinth
by yo go re

There's value in not spoiling stories. A joke can still work if you know what the punchline is going to be - there's a reason characters get catchphrases, after all - but most work better when the ending is a surprise. That said, there are times when authors will choose to give something away for a greater reason. Shakespeare tells us right there in his prologue that Romeo and Juliet are not going to make it out of the story alive; similarly, Guillermo del Toro makes sure the first thing we see in El Laberinto del Fauno is young Ofelia lying dead.

Long ago, in the underground kingdom of Bethmoora, there lived a curious princess who dreamt of our world. Luckily, her journey into the light did not go unnoticed. When the king heard of her absense, the shadow of loss fell over his heart. But he knew her soul to be immortal and thus ordered his most loyal subject on a mission to aid her return. And so it was that the faun, with his boon of three fairies, set off to find the lost princess Moanna.

Del Toro rejected the typical fairytale tropes that Disney, as a studio, inherited and codified from their conservative 19th century morality. While most stories uphold the virtue of reliance on and deference to authority, Pan's Labyrinth is a fairytale about disobedience. With the "real" part of the story set in the aftermath of the Spanish civil war (really, the only war of the 20th century where the bad guys won), the villain is the fascist Captain Vidal, and we root for the left-wing rebels. Ofelia never does as she is explicitly told to do, and even when that has bad consequences, it's still framed as a virtue. Even the film itself refuses expectation to come down firmly on whether the magic is something really happening or if it's an imaginary coping mechanism. This is a fairytale that doesn't obey the "rules," not even the ones we would want it to.

Ofelia wears several different costumes through the film, but they all share the same base color - green, to suggest her connection to the (super-)natural world. NECA had plenty of choices when it came to turning the work of costume designer Lala Huete into a toy, and while they didn't go with the most iconic (the one she wears when going to meet the Pale Man), they did go with the most thematically appropriate: this dress, with its poofy sleeves and white smock, is a clear reference to Alice in Wonderland. It's a recognizable choice, yes, but not major. She doesn't do anything other than walk through the woods while wearing this, and in fact takes it off and hangs it on a branch before actually going on her adventure.

Although Ofelia was written to be about 8 years old, del Toro was so impressed by 12-year-old Ivana Baquero's audition that he rewrote the character to be older. Adrienne Smith and Alex Heinke teamed up on the sculpt, with Smith working on it Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and Heinke working on it Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays (Sundays they took off, because that's a full day of pregaming for The Simpsons). Okay, we made all that up, because we don't know who did what - they're both very talented, and have delivered a good representation.

This isn't the first action figure of a little girl wearing a dress. Heck, it isn't even the first one NECA has made! Though she's older (and thus taller), Ofelia can't help but be at least somewhat reminiscent of BioShock's Little Sisters, though the interveing decade means she has better articulation. Ofelia has balljointed ankles, a balljointed head, swivel/hinge knees, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel thighs, swivel biceps, swivel/hinge hips, swivel/hinge elbows, a double-balljoined waist, and swivel/hinge wrists. Even just reading the list, you can probably tell a few of those are redundant - who needs swivels in the elbows when the upper arm already moves that way? The dress keeps the hips from moving much at all, and she comes out of the packaging slightly bow-legged.

Since she's so much smaller than the other two Pan's Labyrinth figures, Ofelia comes with a decent selection of accessories. First are the three fairies the Faun lent her as help, one green, one red, one blue. There's the large storybook she was reading, which can open to show the ornately illuminated pages within, and the key she had to retrieve so she could later use it in the Pale Man's lair. The fairies all share the same sculpt, with their "wings acting as leaf camoflauge" thing harkening back to GDT's Mimic. He does love his bugs, doesn't he?

Most impressive, though, is the stone plinth she finds at the beginning of the movie, which also serves as her first waypoint into the mystical world. The piece is fantastically detailed, with all the rounded details that were carved into the pillar, plus the rough edges and the cracks and everything else. A bit of oss is growing on the stone, and although the statue's mouth is open, it's not hollow enough to have a bug hiding inside it. You know what it does have, though? A separate, removable right eye, which fits into the notch using nothing more than friction. Don't drop it, or you're liable to just mistake it for a normal pebble and lose it forever. The entire accessory, pillar and eye alike, is not just plastic: it's made from a resin that gives it the simulated weight and heft of a real stone. Amazing!

This isn't the best Ofelia NECA could have made, but it is the only one that would have made sense with these cool accessories. Though honestly, we'd be okay with a second version of her, one that came with a table to complement Pale Man's chair.

-- 05/31/20

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