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Vanellope Von Schweetz

Wreck-It Ralph
by yo go re

It's been a long time since we've had occassion to tell you that the Disney Store had better toys than you could buy at retail, but that's just what we're doing today. Of course, "better" in this case is a very subjective term, based on one specific criterion.

Known as "The Glitch," Vanellope is a pixelating programming mistake in the candy-coated cart-racing game Sugar Rush. With a racer's spirit embedded in her coding, Vanellope is determined to earn her place in the starting lineup amongst the other racers. Only problem: the other racers don't want her or her glitching in the game. Years of rejection have left Vanellope with a wicked sense of humor and a razor-sharp tongue. However, somewhere beneath that hard shell is a sweet center just waiting to be revealed.

Thinkway Toys, the company that made the mass-market Ralph figures, did release several Vanellope toys (including at least one that also comes with her car), but the figures were much too big to be in scale with Ralph himself. Technically the same can be said about Felix, but the discrepency there isn't quite as noticeable. Their Vanellope was huge!

The Disney Store Vanellope definitely doesn't have that problem: even with her ponytail rising up above her head, she barely cracks the 2¼" mark. Which, judging by the picture up there, makes her a little too small to fit next to Ralph, but doesn't that just add to their mis-matched dynamic? Her articulation is very simplistic, as well: both arms moves as one, and both legs move as one. That's it. She's like a glorified accessory.

While most of the Sugar Rush racers have designs that match their names, Vanellope does not - there's nothing vanilla about her. Her candy-inspired elements include a skirt made from Reese's Cup wrapper and Twizzlers as the drawstrings of her hoodie. And maybe on the soles of her shoes: there's some swirly red pattern down there, and that's the only thing that really makes sense. Her pale blue leggings have white stripes, but they're different on each leg - part of her "glitch" status, we presume? The ones on her left leg should be thicker than they are, but it's a small area to try to get things right.

Like we said, her black hair is pulled up in a ponytail, and it's tied with another Twizzler. There's random cady stuck in her hair, her big ears stick out to the sides, and she has hazel eyes. The face, chibi-fied though it may be, is clearly based on Sarah Silverman - and though it's not present here, some of the toys even use her voice.

Part of the reason that this Vanellope is rather sub-standard is the way the toys are sold. While Thinkway's toy was an action figure with a car, Disney Store's release is a car with a figure. Make sense? See, this is one of a dozen Wreck-It Ralph racers, with the emphasis on race: put the included key in the back, press the trigger, and the car launches across the room. Well, assuming you have hard floors. If, like most people, you have carpeting, this kind of "key racer" can be pretty useless. To the kitchen! Or the bathroom I guess, but probably the kitchen. Yeah, stick with the kitchen.

Anyway, Vanellope's car is one messed up ride. She and Ralph built it using one of Sugar Rush's optional minigames, but it didn't end up looking anything like the intended model. It's got a layer cake chassi, cookie tires with gummi worm treads, a pretzel steering wheel, Devil Dog seat, a wafer cookie spoiler held up by peppermint sticks, and the exhaust pipes are Pixi Stix. It's then covered by gloppy, uneven icing and random sprinkles. One headlight is a marshmallow, while the other is a gumdrop. The four tires are each different kinds of cookies! It's a mess!

The designers' directive was to make sure the car looked like it was designed by a child, so Cory Loftis looked at pictures of cakes that kids decorated for Mother's Day. Terrible, terrible cakes jammed with everything the kid had in reach. All the sprinkles are sculpted on, which is really impressive, but many a paint app has been skipped to make up for it. There's glitter on the front end that fades as you move to the back, but the while filling between the layers of cake isn't painted, and there are no signatures on the side. Oh, and the worms on the tires are way too flat - you can't even tell what they're supposed to be.

The car is 3¼" wide, 5" long and 1⅞" tall. The front wheels roll as one, but the rear wheels move individually. The interior doesn't really allow Vanellope to sit, just recline - not that she has the articulation for it anyway, but the spring for the key launcher takes up that room. Her feet squeeze in between two plastic tabs that help hold her in place, but don't expect her to hold the steering wheel or anything.

The racer sets are sold in nice boxes that display the toys well. The entire top is clear, allowing full views of the car and the figure (as well as the golden coin key). The bottom of the display is pink and white checkerboard, showing the start/finish line, while the back shows some of the grandstands - the heart lollipops that cheer for Taffyta Muttonfudge, the candy corn that roots for Gloyd Orangeboar, and the teddy grahams that pull for Crumbelina Di Carmello. Because Vanellope has no fans. This is a really lovely display, perfect for MOC collectors.

The thing that makes the Disney Store Vanellope better than the mass market release isn't the superior sculpt or the killer packaging - and it's certainly not Vanellope herself. The price is better ($9.50 vs. $14.99), but even that's not it. No, the reason this one wins is because Thinkway crapped out after only three Sugar Rush characters, while Disney did the full dozen. All the racers have neat designs, and there's no sense in cherry-picking two different scales. The only downside is that Vanellope Von Schweetz, being a star of the film, was the first to sell out, and consequently the hardest to find. I was lucky enough to get most of this series for Christmas, and by the time I went looking for the rest, Vanellope was nowhere to be found. Poor little Glitch.

-- 03/17/13


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