As mentioned previously I do lots of traveling during my day job. Now, what does this mean for you? Good news, and bad news. The Bad News is that this is one of those weeks when I have done no shopping for your enjoyment. The Good News is that I can fill this void with some thrilling purchases from one of my several international jaunts! In this case - a slew of products from the Tokyo Disneyland Resort!
Kaiyodo - Sci-Fi Revoltech: Buzz Lightyear
I've been a big fan of Revoltech for several years now and when Kaiyodo showed the Toy Story figures at Toy Fair 2010 I got very excited. The biggest surprise of the whole TS franchise is that no one has released a screen-accurate Buzz, at least in terms of articulation, and now the Revoltech clearly promises to match the CG model's range of movement. Sadly though, it doesn't deliver. There is a wobbly-ness to the torso that just kind of spoils the feel of the figure while many joints, for instance the neck, lack the range of motion of most Revoltech joints. It's not a bad figure at all, but at 5" and $30, it's not at all the definitive Buzz figure I was hoping for. Buzz has interchangeable faces, and, taking a cue from Hot Toys, both have articulated eyes! However, due to the small cavity behind the face the range of eye-posing is so limited it's practically pointless. Buzz includes the requisite alternate hands as well interchangeable "out" and "in" jet pack wings, a removable dome-helmet and three of the little Green Army Men. There's a lot to potentially like about this figure, but none of it really delivers on the promises of the format or source material.
Kaiyodo - Sci-Fi Revoltech: Woody
I had been looking for these since their release but online prices were pretty darn steep, so it was with great relief and excitement that I saw these when I was checking out the Disney Gallery on Main Street (which is nowhere as neat the one at Disneyland. At TDR it's basically just a waiting lobby for a "learn to draw" class). The prices weren't too much better, but at least there was no shipping! Woody is definitely the better of the two figures but suffers the same wobbly midsection problem as Buzz. However, he works with Revoltech joints far better because his long, lanky nature is rife with posing possibilities. He comes with an alternate face as well, and both have poseable eyes too! Fortunately Woody's head is big enough to allow for some really goofy variations. Let's face it, if you can pose the eyes you're going to go straight for comically extreme wall-eye (just like the first thing you do with articulated fingers is make the toy flip you the bird). Alternate hands, removable hat, microphone and the Binoculars from the first film round out this set and really help one feel better about the high price. A great touch is an extra hand for Buzz that allows him to hold the binoculars as well. If you're a Woody fan you need this figure.
Mini Blocks - Cinderella's Castle
So I didn't see many Legos in Tokyo, or at least don't remember seeing many, but what they did have were these Mini Blocks, which are basically super tiny Legos. They don't really have any license, beyond this TDR stuff, but do a full range of animals, buildings and things. I actually saw them at Toys Я Us here in the US last week so they're making their way over. There were a couple of sets for each park but this was the only one "park-themed" for Tokyo Disneyland, the rest were just characters, so this easily became my Castle memento. The Castle at TDL is a duplicate of the one at the Magic Kingdom in Disney World, so if you've seen that one you've seen this one. The brick set does a fine job of recreating it in about three inches of height. I wish they had used green baseplates as the brown just looks... unappealing. The strange thing is that about a quarter, or even a third, of the included parts were extra. I guess they just expect you to lose a lot? These blocks are obviously very small and while building wasn't easy, it wasn't as hard as I expected.
Mini Blocks - S.S. Columbia
The Columbia is a large bit of themeing in the "American Waterfront" section of Tokyo DisneySea, TDR's infamous second park. Its "castle" (i.e. emblem, or "weenie" in Park Jargon) is the Mysterious Island and Volcano at the center of the park so I was really hoping for that, but this underwhelming boat was all they offered in the way of "park-themed sets," so I sucked it up and just had to go with it. There's just nothing cool or special about this set, it could be virtually any cruise liner and lacks the recognition factor of Cinderella's Castle. It came with just as many extra pieces as the previous set and still was missing several parts! A couple of times I had to disassemble it to cannibalize pieces, so the "back" side of the ship has several mis-colored and over-hanging pieces. Way to go guys. One of the biggest frustrations with these things is the instructions which are not only black and white but are top down views. Thus it's hard to keep track of what shade of gray is which color brick or what layer of build you're at which becomes a big pain in the ass.
TDR - Costume Characters: Daisy Duck
Okay, so: I found out about these in my pre-visit research and essentially they represent the only action-figure-y available in the parks (beyond some Monsters Inc exclusive stuff and all the Mattel Toy Story 3 mumbo jumbo), but what makes these really notable is that they're not figures of the characters - they're figures of the Costumed Cast Members who walk around and sign autographs in the parks! How amazing is that!? Now, I say figures, but these are more mini-statues as there isn't a single point of articulation to be found.
TDR - Costume Characters: Donald Duck
The sculpting on them is pretty darn good, pretty much what one would expect from the country that brought us Kaiyodo, Medicom and Hot Toys. Textural detailing is not particular omnipresent but certainly Donald and Daisy's feathers fall more on that end of the spectrum than clothing and such. They do a really good job of capturing the fabric folds and do a great job of taking the "real world" edge off the costumes (for instance there are no zippers or mask seams), so these can play as "just the characters" were that your pleasure.
TDR - Costume Characters: Goofy
The paint is equally phenomenal and the bright, varied colors on Goofy illustrate that perfectly. They even went in and added a light wipe in the faces to add some color texture to the facial features. Not much more I can say on it other than it's really good. Let me take this chance to point out the backdrops, which are just different photos of Cinderella Castle "signed" by the character, printed on thin cardstock which fits in a slot at the back on the base. There's not enough variety between the photos to really be "cool" but what is nice is the pairing. The boys, Donald and Mickey, get daytime photos while the girls, Daisy and Minnie, get daytime photos with flowers in the foreground, and the dogs, Goofy and Pluto, get evening or dusk images. It would have been preferable to have the house or other relevant Toontown building for each character, I think, and would have provided a more visually interesting display.
TDR - Costume Characters: Mickey Mouse
The poses selected are individually excellent in that they are fairly recognizable poses for the characters and definitely signature stances the Cast Members are trained to hit, which is one of the things that make them so identifiable as being Cast figures. Another is costume, as seen on Mickey here, who only really ever wears this outfit to meet'n'greet visitors of the Disney theme parks. A third indicator is scale, the figures all match the standard human height resulting from the people inside the suits. Speaking of which, interesting trivia? Cast Members who portray Costumed Characters are separated into two groups defined by height, roughly 5' tall and 6' tall. Thus, just by basic human nature the two groups favor the two genders and as a result the Queen of Hearts is usually a man while Mickey, Donald, etc., are typically women.
TDR - Costume Characters: Minnie Mouse
I mentioned that the poses are good on an individual basis and that's because they all seem to share an identical base, which causes some of the poses to take the figures off-center to the base. Thus, when lined up, the symmetry is off balance and they don't match up well. Minnie manages to be the most centered of the figures, but her pose still favors the right. It matches Mickey's rightward lean too, but leaves a big gap when paired up on the left or kind of bumps into other characters when paired to the right.
TDR - Costume Characters: Pluto
If any figure "proves" the costumely inspiration for this line, it's Pluto. Not only is he clearly squatted in a human, not dog, pose, but the human appendages can be easily made out from the clinging, wrinkled costume. For reasons unknown, Pluto also has a softer, rubbery feel to him. I can't tell if the subtle sensation is a result of the plastic or the paint, or even if it's meant to suggest the felt-ish material of the actual costume, but regardless that softness is there.
TDR - Ride Vehicles: Journey to the Center of the Earth
Growing up Submarine Voyage was my favorite ride; that changed to The Haunted Mansion, which has been the king of my passions for quite a while. Journey, though... well, it doesn't replace either ride in my heart, but it definitely clearly soared to the top of my list and is officially My Favorite Ride. I weaseled out something like 12 rides in my three days on property, and that is a popular ride so the lines can get pretty long. It uses the "Rocket Rods" ride system used at the Test Track in EPCOT and briefly in the short-lived Rocket Rods at Disneyland, which is a six person car capable of very quick acceleration and decelerations. Matching that to a solid ride structure and incredibly rich detailing makes for a ride that pretty much covers all the bases! It's kind of a steampunk dark-ride-meets-rollercoaster. This toy captures that kind of feel both in its sculpt, which is a pretty accurate recreation of the ride vehicle though the proportions are exaggerated in a somewhat cartoonish style, and its play feature. Rather than being diecast it has a mechanism that sends the car speeding forward once pulled back and released.
TDR - Sinbad's Storybook Voyage: Plush Chandru Picture Frame
Sinbad's Storybook Voyage is a weird ride, mainly in that it's so big and so unrelated to anything Disney. It's a great throwback to the non-movie-based rides of the '60s, except while those were based on a theme (Pirates, Ghosts, Submarines) this is based on a particular character. One can't help but wonder "why not Aladdin," etc.... but such the ride is and as such it gets a lot of flack for being "lame." The reality, though, is that it's really cool! Pretty much like Pirates of the Caribbean meets It's a Small World. It's a slow boat ride through large scenes depicting Sinbad's voyages, all done in cute little animatronics and with a really catchy song. This ride boasts the tallest Audio Animatronic in the world (a 15' tall Djinn) and the most Audio Animatronics in any single ride (The Little Mermaid might be claiming that title when it opens this summer at Disney California Adventure in L.A.). I love and enjoy the ride so much that I had to get some kind of product from it but, just like the rest of the resort, the only thing that sells is "cute" and "major characters." Chandru, Sinbad's tiger cub sidekick, qualifies for the first so he's the only thing from the ride that gets some merchandise - which is terrible because there's lots of great toys-in-the-making on this ride (like the 12' wingspan Red Eagle we ride under or the Monkey Warriors). Anyway, this is just a simple little picture frame done as a plush carpet with a plush Chandru hanging of the back. He's a full figure but his paws are sewn on to the frame, which also has a very week kickstand for non-wall-hanging action. The really neat thing about this, though, is the card in the frame is a cartoonish map of charting out the adventures depicted on the ride.
TDR - Tower of Terror: Shiriki Utundu Bobble Head
The Twilight Zone isn't very big in Japan so when they decided to add The Tower of Terror to the American Waterfront section of DisneySea a new theme had to be found. The subject decided on was that of an eccentric Adventurer and Poacher/Collector of bizarre objects around the world who stored all of his finds in his large hotel, until one particular treasure placed a curse on the property and took the Adventurer and a couple towers into the aether, never to be seen again. This treasure was the idol known as the Shiriki Utundu and it is featured prominently in both the expository preshow and well as the in-ride show effects. It's also pretty much the only attraction character with merchandise at TDR and the best of it all was this bobble head. The sculpt and paint are both pretty accurate to the idol prop and the base is what it rests on for the preshow. Not much else to say... the bobbling works ok. In some ways this is the coolest score from my time at TDR because it's a great collectible of something that exists only in that park/resort.
Tomy - TDR Ride Vehicles: Astro-Orbiter
Tomy has a range of diecast vehicles that are pretty much the Hot Wheels of Japan so it's pretty cool that they partnered with TDR to do some ride vehicles. Most of the park diecast cars are character-themed or -driven, but these are the ones based squarely upon attractions. Like a lot of attractions over there, Astro-Orbiter hasn't really been updated since the park's opening so it still has the retro-futurist look. Fortunately it's a bit more contemporary and is the only orbiter in the Disney Empire to have wings. That's a pretty cool like nod to the excitement and optimism the Space Shuttles ushered in back in the day. Oh how times have changed.
Tomy - TDR Ride Vehicles: Dumbo
Possibly the most iconic ride vehicle in the Theme Park Industry, with the only possible exception of the Tea Cups, this is a great little guy. He's almost entirely diecast metal and has a good heft and coolness to him. They mix things up on the ride by giving the different Dumbos alternating clothes colors, but certainly blue is the most iconic and thus a good representative choice. A little collection or display of all the colors lined up would be pretty cool, I must say.
Tomy - TDR Ride Vehicles: Monorail
Monorail! Monorail! Mono- D'oh! The monorails at TDR are remarkably nice and unlike in the US they have Mickey-shaped windows which are a cool little touch to remind you where you are. This is a pretty solid little diecast vehicle but for reasons unknown it has more exaggerated porportions that the other cars. Like the JttCotE car this is in more of a cartoon style. Tomy actually makes both this, the "engine," and a standard car. I didn't get the latter and am kicking myself about it now. A cool touch is that this car has a side-to-side swivel-articulated plastic clasp coming off the back that can connect to a likewise one on the standard monorail car, which has a clasp at both end. Were you of the mind you build a full monorail by stringing them together and this "engine" functions as both the head and the tail so two molds equals all they/you need.
Tomy - TDR Ride Vehicles: StormRider Plane
StormRider is a... well, I'll say "semi-controversial" attraction, but only because it doesn't really live up to the caliber of the DisneySea park in which it resides. This is a motion simulator ride (you can see the doors along the side of the plane) but rather than an in-vehicle screen like Star Tours it uses a large, domed Imax screen, like Back to the Future: The Ride. The story is essentially that this is a cutting edge plane for giving groups close views of active hurricanes. We're also tasked with dropping a bomb in that has the metaphysical properties of breaking up the Hurricane and saving the threatened futuristic metropolis. But, in classic Disney fashion, "something goes terribly wrong" and we're treated to a "4D" adventure that involves some semi-neat in-vehicle effects but really ends up just meaning you get wet, which is the last thing I want from a motion simulator. Regardless though, the vehicle is a neat design and an especially cool feature on this toy is the articulated wings - they can be drawn in to angle back or spread open to stick to the sides. Of all of these vehicles it's the most toy-ish, and thus the most fun.
Tomy - TDR Ride Vehicles: Western River Railroad Engine
So the story is that Tokyo/Japanese law states that any form or transportation that carries people from one place to another which is longer than a certain length must charge admission. For instance this is certainly true of the Monorail (which, like Disney World, is outside of the parks) but not true of the electric rail cars in DisneySea, so you can decide for yourself. It's plausible enough to me and is the best sounding explanation of why Tokyo Disneyland is not encircled by a train. Instead, they have Western River Railroad whose station is directly above the Jungle Cruise dock. The track goes out, wrapping around the Jungle Cruise and goes by part of The Rivers of America and Big Thunder Mountain. It's a decent ride but not totally special as it could definitely use some extra theming or scenes just for it. This is a pretty darn accurate mini version of their engines, which are roughly between the size of the BTRR and Disneyland Railroad ones, in terms of size.