At the beginning of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, during the credits, we swoop past a bunch of cute pumpkins and a scarecrow signpost that points the way to Halloween Town. It feels like just another bit of flavor for the spooky opening. But then, as the H-Town denizens come parading into the center of town and singing their little song, they carry that same scarecrow with them. It then bursts into flame, burning away to reveal the hero of our tale, Jack Skellington. Ta-da!
This costume was only on screen for about five seconds, but it found its way into Series 4 of NECA's NBX line. Considering that Hasbro made a Nightmare line when the movie came out and that it failed like the Edsel, the fact that NECA made it to four series is accomplishment enough in itself, but that they got all the way down to such an obscure character? Way to go!
Jack looks good as the Pumpkin King. In fact, he looks like a real scarecrow. His body is bundled straw tied up with twine, and he's wearing an old jacket. His head, appropriately enough, is a jack o'lantern and his hands are rough sticks. This really does look like something someone would have erected in their garden, and the sculpt lives up to that.
Actually, while we think of scarecrows as being generally human-shaped, that's not really true.
Today, farmers are using strips of metallic mylar to reflect light randomly. In the past, they used bells or wind-powered noisemakers. Or, most expediently, by shooting at the damn things. Even ignoring that crows like to eat freshly scattered seeds and new shoots, one or two crows isn't a problem; but you get thirty or fifty of the noisy buggers, and you're not going to have any sleep at all. Add to that the fact that crows like to return to the same spot every night and you don't want them to start feeling comfortable in your fields. A completely immobile stick wearing your old shirt isn't going to scare away anything.
Pumpkin King Jack is 8 3/4" tall, and moves at the head, neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, chest, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. The shoulders, hips, head and neck are balljoints. Considering how very spindly his limbs are, it's surprising that none of Jack's joints were stuck or broken; that's good work on NECA'a part. The paint is excellent, with beautiful fall colors that really work for the character and no readily apparent errors, even on the tiny black stitching on his shirt. Nice!
The figure has five accessories, not counting the black oval base that keeps him standing - there's no way those itsy little feet would support a figure this tall. He's got a rough-hewn placard with the name of the town on it, and four little pumpkins. The sign is actually pretty cool, as it can fit in a slot on Jack's back so it looks like the scarecrow is hung upon it. The pumpkins are of varying size, and each has a unique face carved upon it.
Jack O'Lanterns come from Irish folklore. A wastrel named Jack somehow tricked the devil into promising never to admit him into Hell - maybe it was a fiddle contest. Satan, surprisingly, kept his word, so Jack was turned away at the gates when he died. Being a bit of a dick, the devil gave Jack one burning coal to keep him warm and light his way.
Jack was a shrewd guy, however, and quickly carved a turnip - yes, a turnip - into a lantern to guide him. Thus, Jack of the Lantern, Jack O'Lantern. The term was also reserved, in the 1600s, for night watchmen; again, people who would have lanterns. It wasn't until the 19th century that "jack o'lantern" began to refer to a carved vegetable and became associated with Halloween... and both of those began in America.
NECA keeps their NBX line rolling all year long, but you can always count on at least one series appearing around Halloween, which is the perfect time to display the Pumpkin King. You don't even have to be a Nightmare Before Christmas fan to love this guy; he's the perfect addition to any Halloweeny display. And for you Movie Maniacs/McFarlane fans out there, remember: just as Jack Skellington had originally appeared in Beetlejuice, Tim Burton re-used this exact design as a normal scarecrow in the beginning of Sleepy Hollow. Talk about mileage! Why wouldn't you buy this guy?
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