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Ultimate Gremlin

by yo go re

We're going back to basics.

A gadget salesman is looking for a special gift for his son and finds one at a store in Chinatown. The shopkeeper is reluctant to sell him the "mogwai" but sells it to him with the warning to never expose him to bright light, water, or to feed him after midnight. All of this happens and the result is a gang of gremlins that decide to tear up the town on Christmas Eve.

NECA cannonballed into the action figure industry's swimming pool with their Hellraiser line, and their follow-up was the equally surprising Gremlins, proving that they weren't going to be a one-hit wonder. They've given us a lot of Gremlins 2 figures since then, and a whole bunch of mogwais that didn't even appear anywhere, but now they're going back to the original lizard-monsters from the original movie.

The first thing you'll notice about the new Gremlin is how dark it is! The old toys were a desaturated shade, but still comparatively light. This one is so dark it almost looks black. Looking at screenshots, there were definitely times the creatures looked like this, but it appears to be due to lighting, not design: this is the whole "Aliens are brown/Aliens are blue" thing all over again.

Gremlins 1 gremlins have a different anatomy than Gremlins 2 gremlins, so even though NECA did have a plain body, this still required a 100% new sculpt. Jason Frailey has given us a 6" tall beast with scales all over its body, from the small ones covering the skin to the large plates on the legs and shoulders. There are spikes on the top of the head, and a ridge of spines running down the back to the broad, layered tail (which was originally designed to hide the puppeteering of the gremlins, not to suggest some natural anatomical feature). The legs are thinner and shorter than they would be in the sequel, and the feet are significantly smaller.

Another way NECA has changed in the past 16 years is that now their toys have as much articulation as possible. Like the old toy, the Ultimate Gremlin moves at the hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists and neck; unlike the old toy, the Ultimate Gremlin also move at the ankles, hocks, knees, torso, head, mouth, and ears. Yes, articulated ears: he can turn and flap them, helping army-builders who want to buy hordes of these little terrors make them all look slightly different. Most of the joints are extremely tight, so you will absolutely want to loosen them up with a hair dryer before you try to move them. (We'd say you could also use boiling water, but, well, you know: "the rules.") There's also something up with the left ankle on mine, which leaves the foot tipped permanently to the side, so the only way I can get his sole flat on the ground is to have the legs really wide.

The coolest thing about the 2003 figures was the accessories they came with, rivalling Palisades' Muppets. This figure keeps that tradition alive, with two kinds of candy (a 3 Musketeersalike "Doo Dah Bar" and a red bag of Skittles-ish "Brad Bites"), a red cup of Cola soda with ice cubes and a straw sticking out of it, a glass of beer, a hand of cards, a cigarette, and a few paper accessories: two popcorn bags, perfect for sticking on his ears, and a pair of 3D glasses with actual colored plastic lenses that suggest they would be functional if your eyes were small enough. It's more than he can hold at once, and again will create some variety in your display if you want multiple gremmies.

NECA's original Gremlins marked them as a company worth watching; now, a decade and a half later, they're back at it, giving fans a toy that shows off how much they've grown.

-- 02/28/19

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