Monday, October 10, 2011

31 Days of Halloween Day 6: Spooky Toy Review – Retro Action The Real Ghostbusters By Mattel


Mattel’s Ghostbusters products have been a mixed bag; a source of both joy and frustration to collectors.

The standard 6” figures sort of fall into the “I suppose this is the best we’re going to get” category. They aren’t bad by any means, but they sure could be a heck of a lot better. Especially for twenty bucks apiece. As a matter of fact, the 6” line has been so underwhelming that Matty had to cancel the subscription service for 2012; releasing only the four figures that were already announced for next year. That’s what happens when you release the same four characters over and over again, hold back on accessories with the stated intent of making people buy figures they don’t want, and shuffle releases around constantly. People lose interest. And faith.

The 1/6th scale figures were about the same flavor of “meh” as the smaller line. The light-up proton packs were neat, but why not some sound? And the head sculpts left a lot to be desired. Also, Matty pretty much dicked everybody over by later revealing that they would be offering upgrades with more accessories. Matty revealed new sets of 12” Ghostbusters quite some time ago. These new sets were Venkman with Winston and Egon with Ray.
The original deal for these sets was that they were going to include everything you might want from 1/6th scale Ghostbusters – jumpsuits from the 1st and 2nd movies, proton packs, slime blowers, proton streams – everything. It sounded so good that I was willing to consider buying them even though I was not happy enough with the 12” Ray I had bought to keep him. But then Matty changed their plan and decided the first set would included Venkman in his original jumpsuit and proton pack and Zeddemore in the sequel gear. So fuck that.

I have written extensively about this line. As a matter of fact, my outline of how I would have handled things is one of Needless Things’ most-viewed articles. I may not be the biggest Ghostbusters fan ever, but I love the first movie and like the second a whole lot as well.

The Real Ghostbusters cartoon, on the other hand, is a phenomenon that’s right up there with GI Joe and Inhumanoids as part of my holy pantheon of 80’s awesomeness.

The animation was some of the best of the decade, with character models and voice work that preserved the best qualities of the movie actors. The stories ranged from good to outstanding and expanded on the somewhat shallow concept of the first movie in amazing and creative ways. And Peter Venkman was no longer the central character. Each of the four Ghostbusters got their share of featured stories. Even Janine got fleshed out and was used as a primary from time to time.

So I loved the show when I was a kid and when I bought the DVDs of the series a couple of years ago it was still excellent. And I don’t mean GI Joe excellent where it’s batshit crazy and painfully stupid at times but you still get a kick out of it, I mean The Real Ghostbusters is a great cartoon and holds up to the more sophisticated animation we have today. And that’s a heck of a feat for something that could have gotten away with just being more licensed dreck. Granted, the series began to falter after the second season, but those first two seasons are amazing.

I had the four Ghostbusters and a whole bunch of ghosts when I was a kid. As a matter of fact, the first Real Ghostbusters toy I ever got was (look this up). I think I had several ghosts before I even got any humans. I never had the Ecto-1 or the firehouse but I enjoyed the heck out of what I had. It just drove me nuts that they weren’t compatible with my GI Joes. But that was true of tons of toy lines back then – M.A.S.K., Inhumanoids, Centurions, Transformers; everything. I dreamed of a day when all of the different licenses I was interested in would all be the same scale, like the Mego figures I had when I was younger.
SEGUE, MOTHERFUCKERS! OCTOBER ISN’T JUST FOR HALLOWEEN! IT’S FOR RED-HOT SEGUES, TOO!

SEGUE

Sorry. I’m just very proud of myself because now it all comes back around because we’re getting ready to talk about some Mego-styled Ghostbusters and I promise you I didn’t even plan that. My brain just brought me to that point.

The Retro Action Real Ghostbusters were not an instant sell for me. I was already into the 6” figures at that point and I wasn’t too sure I needed to bother with another style. I was also under the impression that Matty wasn’t going to totally shit the bed with the 6” line and thought it much more likely that we’d get a bunch of ghosts with the smaller line. We’d probably just get the four guys with the Retro Action series. And now that I think about it, the possibility of animated-style Ghostbusters in the 6” line still hadn’t been ruled out.

So the 8” figures weren’t a priority, but I bought them as soon as I saw them in Toys R Us (if they were a priority I would’ve ordered them from BigBadToyStore or Entertainment Earth). I dug the packaging so much that I really didn’t want to open them. Same problem with the Venture Bros. toys, by the way. But then Matty showed us the set with Janine and Sam Hain – the greatest ghost to come out of any iteration of Ghostbusters – and I had a feeling I might be opening those guys up at some point.

I was right. The set arrived the other day and between my desire to see that firehouse diorama in its entirety and the need for Halloween posts I opened everything up. So let’s take a look.


First Glance: Obviously these are all a lot more exciting to look at than the movie-based figures. I didn’t like the brightly-colored jumpsuits when I was a kid, but I really appreciate them now. Except maybe Egon’s. That might be a bit much.


Sculpt: The four Ghostbusters share the exact same bodies. And the Retro Action line is the one place where Mattel can totally get away with that, all thanks to the nostalgic appeal of the designs. When you’re ripping off paying tribute to a line that featured a Hulk that was the same basic size as Spider-Man, you get a little leeway. It would actually betray the aesthetics of this style if there were different body types among the males.


The figures feel more solid than the old Megos or even some of the other Mego-style figures I’ve bought lately. I believe the articulation is exactly like the classic toys – swivel neck and waist, ball joint shoulders and hips, pivot elbows, and ball/pivot wrists, knees and ankles. Most of the joints are tight but some are super loose. If these guys didn’t have giant boots they’d never stand up, but that’s part of the design and not a flaw.


There are some variances between the four main guys and Sam Hain and Janine. Sam Hain is cast in orange plastic (some of it is translucent and some is not, which is weird) and has tiny hands. Janine has a female body. Obviously. That’s another thing I like about the Mego style – the females don’t have giant boobs. They’re juts regular. Also, Janine has tiny little hands that can’t hold anything. I guess I prefer this to her having giant man-hands, but couldn’t Mattel have found a happy medium?

All of the characters’ heads look great except maybe Egon, but I’ll get to that.


Sam Hain has a big pumpkin head and a little face. This is exactly what he looked like in the cartoon and I dig it.


Janine Melnitz has her big hair and horn-rim glasses. The face underneath looks just like the cartoon counterpart, but she almost looks like she’s making a sexy face. I’m going to assume she’s looking at Egon. Who else never liked Janine getting stuck with Louis Tully? I very much preferred the dynamic between her and Egon.


Winston's good. He has a calm, laid-back expression and is perfectly on-model with the cartoon character.


Peter Venkman looks bored and not just a little smug. Which is just right for the character. The hair is just as it should be.


Ray Stantz’ head could probably stand to be a little fatter, but other than that this is a dead-on likeness. He looks happy, like he just ate a donut. Or maybe a Stay-Puft marshmallow.


Egon Spengler is the one that bothers me. Not because the likeness is off – the figure matches the cartoon. The hair is just as stupid as it should be and he has the rat tail and everything:


The glasses are even perfect in sculpt and placement. This guy’s expression is just a shade too serious. He look like he’s getting ready to murder somebody. But it is still definitely Egon.


Slimer is adorable. I’m not a huge fan of Slimer in the movies or in the cartoon. I almost never like the cutesy companion – you could take Slimer, Snarf, Orko; any guys like that and set them on fire and I’d laugh. But this is a cute little Slimer. I don’t know why he’s so small, though. He was smaller in the cartoon than he was in the movies, but not this much smaller. But aside from the size this is a good likeness of Slimer from the first season of the show. His little arms move up and down but that’s it. No ball joints or anything.


Design: Not much to say about Slimer. He’s green and has little yellow eyes and teeth. Looks good.


The human heads are all very simple but look good. The colors match their counterparts and the paint apps are tight. The only issue with mine is that Egon has some sort of paint smear on the left side of his pompadour. I don’t know where it came from because it doesn’t match any other colors on the figure. I tried to gently remove it, but had no luck. What with the head being such a soft plastic I don’t want to attempt cleaning and damage it or maybe take the paint off.


The Ghostbusters’ jumpsuits look great. The four male suits are all colored properly and the stitching is tight and well done. There are even non-functional chest pockets stitched in. They have Velcro closures in the back and the collars are sewn in such a way that they stay down like they should. No popped collars here. The guys’ torsos were cast in black plastic so it looks like they have t-shirts on. I might’ve gone with white, but it still looks good.
Janine’s jumpsuit is slightly different - she’s almost showing a little cleavage. It’s actually kind of weird but it does distinguish her further from the guys.


Sam Hain has a big, orange pumpkin head with little yellow eyes. His mouth is filled in with white that is probably supposed to suggest teeth. They probably could have put a little more detail in there, but that also might have compromised the aesthetics. Meh – I’m just babbling. It looks fine.

The evil spirit’s robe is simple. The coloring is nice and the fabric is the right choice – it hangs well and has a good texture. I like the high collar and the fact that it has support sewn in to keep it in place. The stitching is a little suspect, though. It is sewn on the outside and does not have a proper seam down the sides. It isn’t terrible, but I noticed it. I suppose it was the only way to get his tattered-looking sleeves.


Accessories: Each of the Ghostbusters have removable boots, belts, elbow pads, and jumpsuits. These come on the figures and fit very well. Nothing is too loose and they are all made to stay put. The guys have standard boots but Janine’s are cut with a point at the top front, presumably these are shared with a Wonder Woman that will never happen now that the Retro DC line is defunct (and rightfully so – I didn’t even want to bother with reviewing the Batman I bought).

Each of the Ghostbusters comes with their own accessories as well.

Egon comes with a PKE meter and a proton pack.


Ray comes with that thing Venkman uses in Dana Barrett’s apartment and a proton pack.


Winston comes with a ghost trap and a proton pack.


Peter comes with a proton pack. That’s it. I felt a little gipped here. I mean, throw in another trap or something. Or they could have given Venkman the bulb thing and made goggles for Ray. Or gloves.


Janine and Sam Hain come with one of each of the above items – proton pack, bulb thing, PKE meter, and a trap. She can’t really hold any of them. I mean, she kind of can if you try really hard; but if the dog sneezes near her she’s going to drop the stuff. Slimer was in there but I’ll be generous and consider him another figure since he’s actually a character.


The box set also comes with a total bonus piece: a cardboard firehouse. It’s kind of crappy, but it looks neat and fits the Mego aesthetic. Once you fold it up it sort of stands okay. The thing is really more in scale with the six inch figures. I would put it behind them, but there’s not enough room with the old Mr. Stay-Puft I’ve got up there. My next idea was to just fold the top portion down and put it on the shelf behind the Retro figures, but it doesn’t quite fit. Now I’m going to have to move all of the Buffy toys off of the above shelf and raise it a notch and I’m sure this is all very important information to all of you.

The accessories are not so much faithful to the show as they are the old toy line. They are the same blue as the original action figures’ stuff and the detailing is similar to the role-play toys. The pieces look really good and I have to give Mattel credit – they could have gotten away with unpainted gear. That’s how Mego was and that’s how the old Ghostbusters toys were. Good for them for putting on that extra touch.


Packaging: The four guys came on classic Mego-styled blister cards. These things look so nice and are such perfect representations of the old toys’ packaging that I still regret opening them a bit. I vividly remember the last days of Mego – walking through Lionel Playworld and seeing pegs full of Ben Grimm in the clearance aisle. All of these new Retro Action figures evoke a strong feeling of nostalgia.


Janine and Sam Hain come in more conventional packaging that wasn’t nearly as painful to crack open. It’s a nice enough window box that shows off the contents well. What’s confusing is the snowflake border. The episode these characters come from is not a winter-themed one and even if this set was supposed to be a Christmas item as some have speculated it really isn’t like Mattel to do that kind of packaging for a release.


But it really doesn’t matter because that box is in the trash now anyway.


Overall: This is a great set of toys and one that I’m happy to own. It’s almost a relief knowing that this is it. I’m done and don’t have to worry about getting any more. Now that I’ve opened them up I like them a lot more than the 6” figures. I even briefly considered eBaying the smaller ones, but I’m not going to. I’ve got all the Ghostbusters I need until Hot Toys gets the license (not that that’s happening, but it probably will at some point).


Peter Venkman - 4 out of 5 – No extra accessory? Really?


Ray Stantz – 5 out of 5 – This figure couldn’t be better. While I would have given him goggles, at least he does have an extra piece of ghost-busting gear.


Winston Zeddemore – 5 out of 5 – Greatness. Wouldn’t change a thing.


Egon Spengler – 4 out of 5 – I love that he comes with a PKE meter, but his face is just a bit odd.


Janine Melnitz, Sam Hain, and Slimer Box Set – 5 out of 5 – This is a very well-done set that surprised me with how comprehensive it is. Lots of accessories and the firehouse backdrop make this a big win.


The guys are still readily available through most online retailers, including BigBad and Entertainment Earth. I haven’t seen them in Toys R Us in a while, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be back. I got the box set from ToysRUs.com, but it should be showing up in stores soon. What’s more, there is a rumor that it will be marked down to $39.99.

If you’re a fan of The Real Ghostbusters you owe it to yourself to pick these toys up. For around $120 you can own the entire line and be done with it and they really look great on the shelf. Especially if you’ve got other toys from the Mego revival – because they’re all in scale!

31 Days of Halloween vs. 31 Days of Halloween!
  • 11:00 AM – 11:00 PM (!)– Scare Tactics – You have got to be kidding me.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2
  • 11:00 PM – 12:00 AM – Urban Legends – Not the movie, an actual show. I don’t think it’s new because I watch a lot of SyFy and haven’t noticed ads running every fifteen seconds. I’m curious because who doesn’t like urban legends?
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – maybe 3?
  • 12:00 AM – 1:00 AM – Scare Tactics – Enough.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score - 2
  • 1:00 AM – 2:00 AM – Paranormal Witness – Someday I’ll see this thing.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 3?
  • 2:00 AM – 3:00 AM – Ghosts Hunters International – Nerds travel the world to jump at things that aren’t there! I used to believe in ghosts, but this show has pretty much proved they don’t exist. I mean, by now they should have at least accidentally found one, right? Nobody can be this incompetent
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 1
  • 3:00 AM – 4:00 AM – Masters of Horror: Deer Woman – Masters of Horror was an excellent horror anthology show that was birthed in 2005. I might do a post on it if I have time to go back and watch some of the good ones (we own quite a few). Like all great things with more than one creative voice it eventually began to suck, but we got a lot of amazing stories before that happened. Deer Woman is not one of them. It was okay, but I was really expecting more from writer/director John Landis. His other MoH episode – “Family” - was much better.
Halloween score – 4
Quality score – 2
  • 4:00 AM – 8:00 AM – Paid Programming
Halloween score – 0
Quality score – 0
  • 8:00 AM – 11:00 AM – Moonlight – I’ve never even heard of this but Jason Dohring (the douche from Veronica Mars) and Shannon Sossamon are on it so I might have to check it out. It’s probably just crap teen drama, but I’ve been wrong about that so many times before. Okay, maybe not wrong – but I’ve ended up liking stuff.
Halloween score – 3
Quality score – 3?

3 comments:

  1. Great set! I love my Retro Action Super Heroes-

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  2. I bought a Batman and didn't like him enough to get hooked on the rest of the DC guys. But I really dig all of the other ones I've bought. More reviews of those coming!

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  3. I'll let people say anything they want here that isn't racist or homophobic or really, really irritating to me personally, but I will not tolerate spam.

    ReplyDelete