Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Toy Review – WWE Elite Collection Series #29 Andre the Giant from Mattel

Dammit, this is another one of those figures that gets me in trouble and starts me collecting a line that I don’t need to be collecting.

Here’s why Mattel’s Elite Collection is so insidious: first of all, they’re the best action figures on the market. I’ve said this in every review of them that I’ve written, and I mean it. The likenesses are great and the figures are incredibly poseable while still maintaining pleasing profiles that are realistic enough. One of the tough things about producing wrestling figures is that they have to look like human beings that the customers buying them see on a very regular basis. We all know exactly what Daniel Bryan is supposed to look like. He isn’t a cartoon character or a giant robot. You can’t take creative license with his form, appearance or scale-wise. The people on Mattel’s WWE line are very good at dealing with this.

So every time a wrestling fan walks down the toy aisle, there are a ton of instantly recognizable, high-quality figures staring them down. And the line is not only high quality, it seems to have the best distribution of any line I’ve seen in the last decade. To date, I have seen every figure that has been released since I started following the Elite line at retail.

But all of that isn’t the truly insidious part. That’s the fact that Mattel puts these Flashback figures into the assortments, so no matter how disillusioned I might be with the current product, there are always going to be nostalgic favorites among the current Superstars. Like Andre.

Andre is a legendary being to me. I think I discovered the WWF around 1985. That was when Hulk Hogan’s Rock N’ Wrestling debuted and I’m pretty sure that factored into my interest. It was around the same time that I discovered Commander USA’s Groovie Movies, which I mention because I’ll take any opportunity I can to mention Commander USA’s Groovie Movies.



I don’t have a lot of memories of Andre in a wrestling ring. I would imagine that he was something of a special attraction and wasn’t used on TV a whole lot. I wasn’t able to watch the actual wrestling programs on a regular basis because my parents weren’t real big on it and I certainly never saw any pay-per-views. When I think of Andre, I tend to think of him in a button-down shirt and blazer more than a singlet. Or as Fezzik in The Princess Bride, for that matter.

He’s a singular individual whose character and impact on the sport will never be equaled. He’s one of the few that transcended professional wrestling to become something that the entire world remembers fondly, and for that he is a legend.

All of that is why I had to buy this figure when I saw it on the pegs, despite the fact that I’m not collecting wrestling figures anymore.

Okay, well, I am now.

First Glance

The WWE figures are a little larger than twelfth scale, making them bigger than most of the stuff in the toy aisle. Andre is, of course, even bigger. This is a very large figure, one that could almost have commanded a higher price if it were practical for Mattel to do charge it as opposed to including it in a case of same-priced SKUs.

I love that Mattel managed to incorporate two looks into the figure, effectively making this the ultimate Andre. The only other variant I might want would be a suited Andre. And I would totally buy that.

Packaging

The boxes for the Elite line are practical and visually pleasing. The graphics have changed in subtle ways over the years since Mattel got the WWE license, but they are always eye-catching and do a great job of featuring both the Superstar and the WWE logo prominently. Normally I would call a single figure box of this size too big, but considering Mattel has packed everything from this hairpiece to the Money in the Bank briefcase to tables to ladders in with these figures, I think we can excuse it.

The back features a great graphical depiction of the Giant, as well as an in-ring action shot (I love Andre’s huge smile in that picture) and a fantastic bio. Not as fantastic as Box Brown’s book, but pretty darn good for an action figure cardback.

Looks

I feel like they chose the right facial expression for this figure. Some might have wanted the smile or a look of anger, but I like this neutral, perhaps slightly unimpressed look. The details and proportions of the features are wonderful. Even without the gargantuan frame underneath, there’s no doubting that this is Andre Roussimoff. The hair had a good shape with sculpted curls all over. The paint is actually kind of remarkable. The eyes and eyebrows have the same accuracy as most figures in this line, but the paint on the hair is amazingly precise at the hairline. None of the black slops over onto Andre’s face, nor does it fall short of covering the sculpted hair.

The figure’s body features a massive torso and huge limbs. I don’t know if the scale is accurate to the centimeter, but Andre the Giant is one of those people that we all just know. The proportions look right. This is his shape.

Mattel does an interesting thing with these figures – the skin has a very slight bit of texture. It’s not visually apparent until you get up close and only slightly detectable as a tactile sensation. But it’s there and it very subtly makes the figures look a bit more “real” than other action figures with smooth, even shiny skin. It’s an ingenious technique and almost even distracts you from the fact that these little men don’t have nipples.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t know which would be more odd – these figures not having nipples or having them. I suppose the lack of nipple isn’t as startling. Most people probably don’t even consider it. But once you do, it’s bizarre. I just don’t know if it would be more bizarre if they had them. I bet there’s a guy out there somewhere that’s putting custom nipples on his WWE figures. Heck, there might even be a website selling them.

Andre’s trunks/crotch piece look accurate are the shape works well with the articulation. This is another thing that Mattel is clever about. They shape the trunks into a sort of overhanging flap on the back of the figure to conceal the hip joints and allow for a little wider range of movement.

The boots are tall and packed with detail – laces, soles, and folds. I’m always impressed with the footwear on this line. I feel like the sculptors use a lot of reference for the various boots and whatnot.

From its massive feet to its thick torso to the great likeness on top, this figure is a beautiful Andre; easily the best that’s ever been made.

Accessories

Andre comes with a hairpiece and a singlet.

The singlet is very easy to take off and put on. It’s made from a shiny material that resembles the spandex used for ring gear and is cut in such a way that it completely conceals the blue trunks underneath. The shoulder strap manages to stay up on its own, which is a minor miracle. I thought for sure that it would slide down the shoulder over time, but it’s been a couple of months now and the thing has stayed put. The singlet is the right size and looks great. It’s not too baggy or too tight. It’s easily one of the best soft goods pieces I’ve seen at this scale.

The hairpiece is intended to go on the figure when the singlet is not in use, recreating Andre’s 70s look. It’s another fairly impressive piece, as it fits securely onto the figure’s head and manages to not look ridiculous. It really looks completely natural and like the figure was just designed with it. It’s obviously a separate piece, but that could easily have been a design decision. The shape and sculpt are accurate to Andre’s impressive afro and the figure really does have a significantly different profile in its two different looks. Mattel probably could have gotten away with selling this as two different figures simply by permanently attaching the hairpiece for the 70s variant. But they didn’t, and for that I salute them.

Fun

All of these Elite figures are great. They’re packed full of meaningful articulation that doesn’t detract from the profile.

Despite being a larger figure Andre still has a great range of posability, possibly more than the Giant himself. The figure has a fantastic balance to it and can hold many poses unsupported thanks to this and solid, tight joints. 
 
This guy stayed on my desk for a couple of months because I had fun playing with him and having him brutalize the other toys unfortunate enough to be within range. Not only is Andre fun to mess with, he has the interchangeable parts that add to that play value. Plus that afro can fit on all kinds of other figures, like my pal, Soulzilla:



Overall

I can’t imagine a better Andre. Up until this guy came out, my favorite Andre the Giant figure was this semi-statue that JAKKS released years ago:

Obviously that face sculpt is kind of insane-o, but the sheer bulk of that one made me happy. Mattel’s Andre isn’t as big, but it looks incredible.

5 out of 5

I’m always recommending that toy collectors pick up one of these Elite figures, even if they’re not wrestling fans. Just to see the detail and quality of work. This Andre would be a great one to get, as he’s a beloved figure beyond the ring.

As a matter of fact, you could get one right now and help out Needless Things!:












2 comments:

  1. I don't collect Wrestling figures either but DAMN I want this one!

    Funny thing about the nipples - Mattel actually painted nipples onto their Brave and the Bold B'Wana Beast, and it's as odd as any lack of nipples is - I suppose it's a lose lose situation when it comes to male nipples:

    http://toyriffic.blogspot.com/2010/09/i-bwana-rock-and-roll-all-night.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think B'Wana's painted nappies look okay. What I want to talk about are the massive holes in the arms and legs of those Brave and the Bold figures. Ugh. And that's not just me as a collector. My son hated them, too. The play value of the plug-in accessories didn't balance out the damage to the aesthetics on that line. The modular Batmobile was pretty awesome, though.

      Delete