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SDCC Gizmo

by yo go re

No longer merely content to update and outdo every character McFarlane Toys ever made, NECA has now decided to go back and update and outdo their own work, as well.

NECA made a name for themselves by releasing a supposedly unreleaseable figure, Pinhead. They followed that up with a well-received series of Gremlins figures. Unfortunately, while there were three series of Hellraiser toys, NECA never got to implement their plans for more Gremlins. The toys were decent, but that was eight years ago: NECA is taking another shot.

The new line will debut this fall, but they released a sneak preview figure at this year's SDCC. As explained before, I ordered the figure from Amazon, which is why we're reviewing him in September instead of with the rest of the con exclusives in August. He's sold in a small, squarish clamshell with a picture of the movie prop on an insert on the front - like Monkey Boy said, you have to respect a company secure enough in their own work to do that. The backdrop is white with Stripe's shadow raising up behind him, to mimick the original movie poster.

The old Gizmo seemed fine when we got him, but this one is superior in every way. Gizmo stands just over 3½" tall, which is smaller than the previous version, but still way too large to actually be considered the same scale as any other horror movie toys. It's interesting to compare the proportions of the two figures: New Gizmo has longer legs and shorter arms, and the shape of his torso is more even - it doesn't taper toward the neck as much. Looking at shots of the actual movie prop, it's hard to believe we used to think the old toy looked right.

One of the most major changes is the head. The two Gizmos look nothing alike, and the advantage goes entirely to the new one. The head is small and flat, and the eyes are nearly the same size as the mouth. His ears are much bigger than the old toy's, and have a much more detailed and subtle sculpt.

Naturally, the rest of the sculpt shows the same improvement. Oh, the previous attempt was very detailed, and it certainly looked like fur, but this one looks thicker and fuller: it looks like a real animal, rather than a stuffed animal. As we said, the skin has a realistic texture that just wasn't possible in 2003. The paint is good, with only a little bit of blurring between the brown and white sections of fur, and there's a darker fleshtone near the insides of his ears than on the distal areas. The fingers and toes should be slightly pinker than the ears, but who's counting?

Then there's the articulation. The last Gizmo had some clever joints, but wasn't great - not even for the time he was released. This one, however, takes things to a whole new level. The hips are swivel/hinge joints, set deep into the body. The wrists are plain swivels, but the elbows and shoulders are balljoints (concealed by overlapping layers of fur, so he mostly looks seamless). The neck is balljoined, and so are the ears. Balljointed ears?! Can you imagine anything more impressive and surprising than that?

Some more impressive and surprising than that is the feature NECA has chosen to include in all their Mogwais. There's a knob on the back of his head, and it's connected to the eyes: as you turn it, they move around in their sockets, allowing Gizmo to look different directions. This kind of thing has been done on lots of Japanese toys, but this is the first time it's ever been done on a North American release. It's not a perfect execution: my Gizmo keeps ending up with "derp eyes," and when I try to pose them in the center, they tend to roll up toward his eyelids, so he looks stoned; plus, the irises are slightly larger than they should be, so you don't see enough of the whites of his eyes. Still, considering that this is a first effort at new technology, they work quite well and are great fun to play with. (There's a plastic tab, of the sort used to activate battery-operated features, sticking out the back of his head to prevent the eyes from lolling about in the package.)

There's more to this exclusive than just a sticker on the package and the fact that he's out early. Gizmo is wearing an SDCC Professional badge on a lanyard around his neck, he's got a pair of dark sunglasses and a Comic-Con bag. The glasses have brown tufts on the ends, so they seem to disappear into his fur; clips on the ends of the arms fit into the gaps around his balljointed ears, holding the accessory in place. Finally, the swag bag is made from blue material, measures 3" x 2½" x 1¾" (not counting the long handle) and has the Comic Con logo on one side and the WB logo on the other. When Gizmo is in the bag, his eyes barely poke out the top.

The back of the packaging shows photos of the upcoming Mogwais - six of them in total - and after playing with this SDCC exclusive, I know I'm going to be getting five of them. NECA has really stepped things up for these new figures, offering not only vastly improved sculpts and articulation, but also engineering that's never been attempted by a US company before, which makes this figure important from a historic point of view: the Gremlins line is the first to have this feature, and this is the first release from the Gremlins line. It's a landmark release, but that's not why we recommend him. No, we do that because the figure is great to play with or display, whichever you want. Unless something drastic changes, the upcoming Mogwais will all be great toys as well.

-- 09/04/11

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