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Max & Goat Boy

Where the Wild Things Are
by yo go re

From the beginning, McFarlane Toys had always been known for making really cool monsters, but in 2000, they decided to do something different: really cool monsters. Wait, what?

And an ocean tumbled by with a private boat for Max and he sailed off through night and day and in and out of weeks and almost over a year to where the Wild Things are.

Yes, years before Spike Jonze turned the beloved children's book into a hipster's foggy laudanum dream, Todd McFarlane teamed with Maurice Sendak to create a line of toys based on Where the Wild Things Are. The real one. There were six figures released in the line, including this two-pack of Max and Goat Boy.

WtWTA is the story of Max, a little boy who, like all children, is really a bit of a dick. He drove nails into the wall and tormented his dog, which is totally one of the signs of becoming a serial killer - our hero, ladies and gentlemen! Anyway, after threatening to murder his mother with his teeth, he gets sent to bed without supper (rather than being sent to an institution without his belt or shoelaces), and it's there that he has the full break with reality and began hallucinating about being some kind of primordial beast-god. Sweet Christmas! Is this a children's book or a plot from Criminal Minds? Today he's known as "Max," but in 20 years' time the newspapers will call him "The Grovedale Decapitator."

Max is wearing his wolf suit, which covers everything except his face. It's got buttons down the front, a fluffy tail dragging out behind, and big claws on his toes. The whiskers on his cheeks are thin plastic wires glued in place. Being a McFarlane toy, the articulation is poor: Max has a swivel in each arm, one in his left ankle, and one at the base of his tail.

The figure gets a display base, like they all do. It's an irregularly shaped pad of grass with an indented footprint where he stands. Most of the figures need the base to stand, but even in his extreme pose - both arms raised over his head, one leg in the air - Max stands fine thanks to his tail reaching the ground.

He also gets a pair of accessories: the scepter and crown he got when the Wild Things made him their king. The scepter can be held in the left hand, and the crown fits over his head. Unfortunately, his left arm is so close to his head that you have to pivot it out of position to get the crown on.

Since Max is so small, he's paired with Goat Boy, the smallest Wild Thing of them all. "Goat Boy" isn't much of a name, but you can't deny that it's apropos. And it's a world better than "Alexander," which is what the movie called him. Seriously, among all its other flaws (its ponderous pacing, redesigning all the monsters so they look sad and depressed, letting the director hire his girlfriend and her twee-punk band to perform the entire soundtrack, doing nothing at all to make what should have been a children's movie appeal to children), changing the Things' names has to be right up there. No, none of them were named in the book, but they were caricatures of Sendak's aunts and uncles, and had their names as well. Emil, not Douglas. Aaron, not Judith. Tzippy, not KW. Moishe, not Carol. Bruno, not Ira. But also "Goat Boy," who was probably just a goat-boy.

Goat Boy only appears on two pages of the story, and disappears when the wild rumpus starts. His design really is just a humanoid goat, not a crazy monster like the rest of the Things. He's got big ears, horns curling off his skull, and a little bit of a beard. His articulation isn't much better than Max's: swivels in both elbows, at the neck, and in the thighs right near the hips. He has no chance of standing by himself, so it's good that he has a grassy base of his own.

Maurice Sendak's artstyle involves a lot of strong crosshatching, and while the toys can't move, they do a beautiful job of duplicating that style. You can tell that the basic figure was sculpted, then deep, straight lines were cut into its surface to create the desired look. And the lines aren't just etched in haphazardly, either: they were specifically placed to create shadows and highlights, and then a little bit of paint was applied to help sell the effect. It's impressively done (though better on Max than on Goat Boy, in this set).

Of McFarlane Toys' six Where the Wild Things Are releases, the pair of Max and Goat Boy was the hardest one to find - probably by virtue of Max being the star of the show, so to speak. I remember having to order them online, which back in 2001 was still a weird thing to do. I'm glad I got them, though: WtWTA is a seminal work, and these toys honor it nicely. Now that the prices are dropping (they were insanely high for a long time - individual figures were selling in the $50-$80 range at one point), I want to complete the lineup and have a Wild Rumpus of my own.

-- 10/19/14

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