Friday, 24 October 2014

Restaurant Collectables: Disney/Pixar's A Bug's Life 1998 McDonalds

Back in 1995 Animation company Pixar via Walt Disney studio released an entirely Computer animated movie called Toy Story (Oh you've heard of it!) the movie was the first of its kind and wowed audiences (including the six year old me!) of course Computer graphics had been featured in animated movies since the late 80's but never before had a full length animated movie been entirely rendered in CGI and there was initially uncertainty as to how audiences would respond to this new way of filmmaking. I don't need to tell you Toy Story was a huge hit and led to the end of traditional hand drawn animation and the rise of  Computer generated animated movies! In 1998 Pixar followed up their first feature with A Bug's Life which again proved to be a major box office hit despite competition from rival studio DreamWorks with the similar but inferior Antz, which has been accused of directly ripping off A Bug's Life in order to hurt the movie's financial success! Of course A Bug's Life was champion at the box office and has since become a cherished classic in the Pixar cannon and though both films can be enjoyed in their own rights  Pixar's effort has far more charm! 

Amongst the companies promoting the movie were McDonald's who put out a set of eight different action toys, as they had for the previous Disney movies Hercules and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, producing some very nice, fun little figures to collect with the purchase of a Happy Meal! here we will take a look at the full set:

Flik: The kind hearted inventor with a eye for Princess Atta sets out to seek help in defeating the evil Grasshoppers who have forced his Ant Colony to harvest food for them leaving little for the Ants themselves! He finds help in the form of a group of unemployed circus Bugs who are mistaken for brave  warriors only when they return to the colony it soon becomes clear there has been a terrible misunderstanding!    

Flik here is a simple pull back toy who once revved up speeds away at some speed! He is depicted astride a leaf with a backpack and sports a very good likeness of the animated character and features glittery paint applications! overall a very nice looking figure!   

Princess Atta: Heir to the throne of the Ant Kingdom Atta is nervous about her new responsibilities though she has the loyal inventor Flik supporting her and to prove his worth he promises the Princess he will go to the big city and return with some much needed help!  

as with Flic princess Atta has a pull back feature and is again featured riding on a leaf but with added floral decoration! Again this is a nice representation of the on screen character and has a similar glittery paint job and clear plastic wings. Very nice!

Princess Dot: The youngest of the two princesses Dot is curious and free spirited with none of the anxieties of her older sister! She idolises Flik and offers him support when things seemed hopeless!

Dot is a very sweet little figure sat astride some kind of mushroom she bounces along when wound up!

Dim: As his name might suggest Dim here isn't the sharpest tool in the box but when it comes to helping take on the Bag guys his sharp snout and large bulk certainly comes in handy!

The great thing about these figures is that they are pretty much in the right scale with each other so the rhinoceros beetle Dim is  rather appropriately one of the largest figures in this set! He is nicely detailed and scutters along when wound up!

Heimlich: voiced by the late Pixar animator and voice artist Joe Ranft, Heimlich is one of the most memorable and funny characters from the movie! The German caterpillar dreams of one day becoming a beautiful butterfly but for now he performs as the clown in P.T flee's circus before being recruited along with his fellow performers to battle some Mean spirited Grasshoppers!   

Like the other figures in the set Heimlich is very nicely detailed and resembles the character very closely, he also has a glittery paint job and a wind up feature which when activated sends him slinking along!   

Rosie: Very much the mother figure of the group of outcast bugs despite being a black widow spider who has had many husbands (all of who have died!)

Once again this is a nice looking figure particularly for a fast food premium and is one of the largest if not the largest figure in the set! She is a wind up like most of the toys seen here walking along when activated!  
Francis: Though he is often seen as aggressive, due to him often being mistaken for a female due to his unfortunate namesake, after he plays a major part in rescuing Dot  he is made 'den-mother' to the scout-like organization of young ants called the "Blueberry Troop"! Though He isn't exactly thrilled about it to begin with but ultimately feels honoured at the privilege!

Francis is a ladybird who is often mistaken for a female and so has to play up his toughness which is comically represented here in his grumpy facial expression and closed fists as though he is ready for a fight! His action feature is a wind up mechanism that once wound up makes it appear as though Francis is walking along, swaying his head from side to side! Along with a great gimmick this figure also boasts a very good likeness of the on screen character and is one of the best figures in the set! 

Hopper: The leader of the mafia-like Grasshopper gang Hopper is feared by the Ants and revered by his fellow Grasshoppers but the only thing that Hopper fears himself are Birds (after an earlier encounter left him blind in one eye!) a fear which the Ants eventually use to their advantage!  

Hopper, of all of the bad guy's to feature in a Pixar production, is the most like a classic Disney villain and could have been cut from the same cloth as Hades or scar and it is clear from his menacing expression he is one evil bug! Hopper's action feature is obviously inspired by his namesake you simply wind him up and he hops about! like the majority of these figure Hopper has a glittery paint job and features a fantastic likeness that does his on screen appearance justice!

A Bug's Life was only the second feature produced by animation company Pixar who had previously found major success with the award winning Toy Story and it is truly one of their best efforts to date despite often being overlooked in favour of the likes of Finding Nemo and The Incredibles! Pixar lead the way in computer generated animated films that seem to dominate the box office nowadays and yet A Bug's Life still remains one of the better animated movies to be made in this way and these McDonalds kid's meal toys are really great examples of giveaway premiums that not only perfectly capture the look and feel of the characters and movie they are inspired by but are fun and engaging in their own right!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Flintstones 1994 Mattel

The Flintstones has been a beloved pop culture icon for some 50 years and its popularity hasn't waned in all those years. The Flintstones cartoon series was the longest running in television history (right up until the Simpsons  beat that record, and then some, years later) Before the Flintstones made their Live action big screen debut in 1994 there were some original straight video feature length episodes produced to go along with the syndicated  series that had found favour with a new generation as well as a spin off series featuring all of those familiar characters but in their adolescence  years (a popular trend at the time that included "Muppet Babies" and "A pup named Scooby-doo") but it was that Spielberg produced big budget adaptation that really got people excited especially when John Goodman was perfectly chosen to be the flesh and blood embodiment of Fred Flintstone! Another piece of perfect casting came in the form of Rick Moranis who perfectly captures the hapless but kind hearted Barney Rubble. The real stars of The Flintstones however could be said to be the fantastic prehistoric creatures  the Jim Henson workshop's  wonderfully brought to life complete with their familiar sarcastic observational quips Flintstones fans will be familiar to!
The Flintstones movie proved to be finically successful but wasn't very warmly received by critics who felt the adult themes and cartoonish tom foolery didn't mix well but praised the cast and production as top notch.  

As with most big budget summer tent pole  movies there was a slew of merchandise to be had! Mattel who held the licence to produce toys based on the Flintstones series put out a line of action figures and accessories to tie-in with the new movie which they designed with the combined look of the movie characters with the proportions of their animated counterparts! The line quickly became store shelf fodder not being particularly popular and therefore eventually resigned to the bargain bin! Here we will look at a couple of figures from the line:   
Hard Hat Fred Flintstone: Fred is a hard working family man who loves his wife and daughter more than anything else (With Bowling coming in at a close second!)When he gives away his and Wilma's savings to best friend Barney and his Wife Betty so they can adopt son Bam-Bam his generosity is repaid when Barney switches aptitude tests at work! Fred is promoted and Barney fired as a result forcing a rift between The Flintstones and The Rubbles!  
With the Flintstones popularity as strong as ever this live action movie update had a slew of merchandise produced too tie-in with this highly anticipated release with Mattel producing not only a standard set of action figures but also a series of bendable figures with accompanying play sets and vehicles! The standard set featured some very nicely detailed and fun accessories and decent likenesses of the on screen characters with Fred in particular looking very much like the actor John Goodman who portrayed him! Mattel made the creative decision to make these figures proportioned in a similar style to the original cartoon series which some have criticised but ultimately works quite well and isn't too off putting! The line consisted mainly of different Fred and Barney figures with each of their respective partners, Dino and Cliff Vandercave making up the rest of the line with this version of Fred appearing in his classic attire complete with workman accessories! 
One of the best things about these figures are the accessories which in true Flintstones style feature some poor creature functioning as an everyday tool or household appliance such as a pterodactyl serving as pickaxe!
Lawn Mowin' Barney Rubble: Kind hearted Barney can often be found at the side of best friend Fred even when his good buddy gets a new high flying position at work and Barney is made unemployed until Fred's new lifestyle gives him allusions of grandeur and Barney calls it a day on their life long friendship!   
As with the Fred Flintstone figure produced Barney Rubble was also given a few different variants based around some of the jobs he had to take up after being fired from the quarry including "Crash Test Barney" and "fillin' Station Barney"! This figure is the classic looking version of the character with a very nice likeness of actor Rick Moranis! These figures tend to be quite basic in appearance and aren't the most detailed with very limited articulation and feature soft rubber heads with the overall look being a good mix of the Cartoon and movie incarnations as mentioned above the figure comes complete with a lawn mower and chainsaw inspired by a brief scene in the film itself where Barney is mowing his lawn which itself a nod to the original cartoon series where the characters will perform mundane tasks with the help of various creatures who often quip to the audience "Its a living!"   
The accessories for this figure are two solid plastic creatures functioning as household appliances one being a lobster Lawnmower and the other a Beaver Chainsaw! Both are very nicely detailed though they have only basic paint applications are still very nice looking and well sculpted with some intricate detailing particularly on the lobster (which has been coloured purple instead of red for some reason!)

The Flintstones original big screen adventure is perhaps the most successful of the live action adaptations of well known Cartoon shows, Its (mostly) perfectly cast with fantastic production designs and creature effects and despite its uneven tone it at least plumped for a story with a little more maturity than you'd expect and the result is a movie that whilst fun to watch is deeply flawed, flaws which as time goes by become more and more apparent. Mattel's toy line is also fun but flawed with the choice of design being slightly off-putting for some but is made up for by the addition of some great accessories that accompany each figure!

The full list of figures available in the series:

-Hard Hat Fred
-Lawn Mowin' Barney
-Wilma with Pebbles
-Betty with Bam-Bam
-Licking Dino
-Cliff Vandercave
-Big-Shot Fred
-Fillin' Station Barney
-Big Eat Fred
-Crash Test Barney
-Bowl-O-Rama Fred
-Dino-Drilling Barney
-Yabba-Dabba-Doo Fred (8")


-Le Saber Tooth 5000

Friday, 3 October 2014

STARGATE 1994 Hasbro

Before he had scored a huge hit with the mega blockbuster Independence Day, after which he has become known for his special effects driven disaster flicks,  German born filmmaker Roland Emmerich had cut his teeth on a couple of modestly budgeted sci-fi movies most notably 1994's Stargate, A movie inspired by the popular conspiracy theory that suggests the famous pyramids of Egypt where actually designed by Alien life forms! Stargate has a really strong and interesting premise with great performances, particularly from Kurt Russell, and stunning (for the time) special effects though somewhat surprisingly wasn't received all that favourably by critics on its initial release but nonetheless proved to be financially successful and gained a loyal fan base which has continued to grow thanks to the long running Stargate Television series and spin off movies.   

Hasbro produced a basic line of action figures and a couple of vehicles to promote Stargate's release several of which aren't particularly noteworthy however the better offerings are decently rendered and come with some interesting accessories making this series of figures overall worth checking out so lets have a look at two of the figures (the best two as far as I'm concerned) from the set:

Colonel Jack O'Neil: U.S Air Force special operations man Colonel O'Neil leads a team of military men accompanied by hieroglyphic expert Daniel Jackson through the Stargate where they find themselves inside of a pyramid type structure on a distant planet. The return home depends on Dr. Jackson being able to discover and translate the missing coordinates! O'Neil however is focused on his own top secret mission and is prepared to die there on the planet having lost his son in an unfortunate accident which he blames himself for!
With the majority of the figures in this line barely resembling the on screen characters they are suppose to be based on it is a relief to find that the most interesting character in the movie has been given by far the best treatment! not only is his fatigues nicely sculpted and detailed but the head sculpt is really very close  in likeness to Actor Kurt Russell! The figure comes with the usual fire arm type accessories as well as a small replica of the Stargate and most importantly his trusty beret!
RA: The dying Alien known as RA travelled across the universe searching for a new host so he could continue to survive eventually landing on earth in ancient Egyptian times! He possesses a young boy and enslaves the youth's people transporting them to a desolate planet where he could continue to rule over them posing as a God until they rebelled and buried the Stargate device!
RA in figure form differs somewhat from his on screen counterpart with the figure suggesting that the gold coloured God-Like image of RA is his actual form when in fact he is merely a young boy in a mask! Its not a huge deal as the overall look of the figure decently represents the version of RA as he is addressing his servants albeit with more skin on show than the fully robed appearance of RA on screen. Despite the slight departure from the character design used in the final film this is still a nice looking figure with nice paint detailing and a decent selection of accessories including  a removable headdress a staff and a small replica of the Alien pyramid as well as an over sized projectile launcher!    

Stargate was a huge success on its initial release despite its mixed reviews and has amassed a huge following over the years thanks to its continuing adventures on the small screen! Stargate's Director has gone on to produce some of the most awe inspiring disaster movies of recent years and also some not so awe inspiring disastrous movies as well! Hasbro's tie-in toys are probably not the greatest set of figures there has ever been but they are far from terrible despite some of the figures being poorly designed and not looking much like the characters they are suppose to represent but at least they got Kurt Russell's likeness spot on and the Egyptian Gods/aliens figures are also superb!      

The full list of figures available:

-Colonel Jack O'Neil
-Dr. Daniel Jackson
- Lt. Kawalsky
-Horus attack pilot
-Horus Palace Guard

-All- Terrain cruiser
-Winged Glider