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Film & Television Series Photography Toys & Collectibles

Better Run Through the Jungle: Noble Collection Meets Universal Monsters

It’s Monster Monday Again!

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The Noble Collection’s Creature From the Black Lagoon Bendy Fig captured in
a paper craft jungle.

“A sleepy lagoon, a tropical moon, and two on an island” is how the lyrics of the 1940 Number 1 hit song imagines a jungle paradise. That’s certainly not what Julie Adams and Richard Carlson encountered when their archeological team traveled down the Amazon in the now classic 1954 monster movie The Creature from the Black Lagoon. It was way more of a creepy lagoon and prehistoric goon experience.  

The Creature from the Black Lagoon ranks as my favorite of the big five Universal Studios monsters, and we’ve featured many different collectible renditions on this site in the last decade. So I’ve been looking forward to setting up a photography session with the Bendy Figs toy version of “the creech” for quite some time. The 6 inch action figure is part of The Noble Collection’s first Universal Monsters Series. Wave 1 also includes Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride. 

Noble Toys has an expansive group of licensed Bendy Figs ranging from the DC Universe and Star Trek, to Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings ( I think I’ve gotta getta Gollum).

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Bend Me, Shape Me…

Based on the product name you might expect Bendy Figs to have a Stretch Armstrong feel, with extremities you could coax to unnatural length. But bendy simply refers to their flexible but unjointed build. Though their articulation is fluid they don’t have a boneless floppiness. In fact the figures have a nicely balanced weight to them. They’re fun to handle and pose.

I found The Creature model to be beautifully sculpted with lots of detail both front and back. Though box art represents the monster’s standard film look, the actual figure is features unique variations. It’s head sculpt introduces a fearsome, fang-filled, characterization that I like very much.

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Even when subjected to close-up lens scrutiny I found the paint work on the production piece I photographed to be applied with care. In particular, The Creature’s froggy black and yellow eyes are precisely rendered. 

For display purposes the figure stands solidly on its inscribed base, which has pegs that insert into the bottom of the doll’s feet. Though actual movement is limited, arm positioning provided a useful range of expression for my photos. Overall my impression is that it’s an excellent collector’s piece with imaginative play possibilities for youngsters.

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If You Build It…

Based on a last minute decision the project became as much a things to make and do task as it was a photo session. 

I chose to create all the set pieces as physical props and light them in the spirit of a studio film. I remembered promotional photos, like those for The Wolfman, (1940) where a few tree branches on an atmospherically lit (but otherwise empty) soundstage could suggest an entire forest.

So the production ethic became no digital imaging embellishments, no photos of my backyard weeds posing as Amazonian undergrowth, and positively no plastic ferns. I wanted this project to be made from scratch as much as possible, so I undertook the task of building a miniature set with paper-craft techniques.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
Behind the scenes of my tabletop jungle built from
construction paper and cardboard scraps.
(photo © Peter Parrella 2021)

Craft Services…

During the build I got a chance to try out some recently purchased ceramic blades produced by the company called Slice. I found they worked great for precisely cutting out the construction paper leaves, and lightly scoring fold junctures. I stuck with my trusty Xacto #11 blades when cutting through  the heavier corrugated cardboard of the tree trunks.

Lighting was handled in part with a Lume Cube 2.0 kit. These lights and their accessories afforded an easily positionable solution for miniature photography. Adjustable luminance levels and miniature grids and snoots allowed me to go from subtle shading to expressionist level contrast. 

All of the Lume Cube accessories have magnetic attachments, so nothing falls off in the middle of a shoot. This makes them particularly well suited to table top set work. They are also controllable from a iOS app, which I did not try but can see the value of in the future.

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Some Mario Bava inspired color effects were achieved with
Lume Cube 2.0 lights and gels.

What Would Bava Do..?

I recently watched the 1961 sword and sandal epic Hercules in the Haunted World, on the KinoCult Network. It was a super clean print that accentuated the artistry of set designer/director Mario Bava. Bava is well known for the way he used an explosive color palette to elevate often minimal sets. With Lume Cube’s supplied color gels I was able to experiment with similar super saturated color juxtapositions in the style of the maestro.

SkeletonPete Says…

This was a fun pre-Halloween project. It offered me the opportunity to work with some “new-ish” equipment, polish up my rusty paper arts skills, and try some visual techniques I’ve been eager to explore. I’m planning on a similar shoot with the Bendy Figs Frankenstein Monster in the near future.

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The Noble Collection’s Bendy Figs Universal Monsters, Series 1 Box Art.
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Toys & Collectibles

Who Was That Masked Fan? Toy Insider’s Gift Guide Event Returns In-Person

It’s Toy Tuesday!

The Toy Insider 2021 Holiday Gift Guide will help relieve toy shopping uncertainties.

Fall arrived with joy filled promise thanks to the folks at The Toy Insider, who held their first in-person post-lockdown Holiday of Play event this week. Led by Chief Toy Officer Laurie Schacht, these play mavens have admirably virtualized their last few events, but there’s nothing like making a personal connection, even if it’s with a socially distanced wave or an elbow bump.

JustPlay offered a variety of safety mask designs for kids

The annual soirée highlights the Toy Insider Holiday Gift Guide lists for best toys of the coming season. They focus on three categories: The Hot 20, The S.T.E.M. 10 and 12 under $20. The guide affords gift givers a head’s up about what are likely to be the most wished for holiday presents. A print edition of will be available in Parents magazine on sale October 4th.

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Young tastemakers took the opportunity to explore the toy industry’s newest batch of playthings at Toy Insider’s Holiday of Play event.

Here’s how the Toy Insider’s 2021 choices stack up.

0-2 years 
• Choppin’ Fun Learning Pot (LeapFrog)
• Fisher-Price 4-in-1 Ultimate Learning Bot (Mattel)
• Flybar Bumper Cars (Flybar)
• Little Tikes Learn & Play 2-in-1 Activity Tunnel (MGA Entertainment)

3-4 years 
• Batman Bat-Tech Transforming Batcave (Spin Master)
• Blues Clues & You! Cook-Along Play Kitchen Set (Just Play)
• CoComelon Deluxe Interactive JJ Doll (Jazwares)
• Disney Princess Ultimate Celebration Castle (Hasbro)
• Gabby’s Purrfect Dollhouse (Spin Master)
• Ryan’s World Lost City Adventures – Mega Adventure Chest (Bonkers Toys)

5-7 years 
• Akedo Ultimate Battle Arena (Moose Toys)
• Got2Glow Fairy Finder (WowWee)
• KidiZoom PrintCam (VTech)
• LOL Surprise OMG House of Surprises (MGA Entertainment) 
• Magic Mixies Magic Cauldron (Moose Toys)
• Pokémon Trading Card Game: Celebrations Elite Trainer Box (The Pokémon Co. International)
• Chuckle & Roar Pop It XL (Buffalo Games)
• Squishmallows Food Squad (Jazwares)

8+ years
• Beyblade Burst Burst Speedstorm Motor Strike Battle Set (Hasbro)
• Tamagotchi Pix (Bandai America)

• Ada Twist, Scientist On-the-Go Lab Set (Just Play)
• Artie Max (Educational Insights)
• Candy Claw Machine (Thames & Kosmos)
• Coding Critters MagiCoders (Learning Resources)
• Game Builder Garage (Nintendo)
• HEXMODS Pro Series Elite Raceway (HEXBUG)
• National Geographic 100-Piece Makeway Magnetic Marble Run (Blue Marble)
• Osmo Math Wizard and The Amazing Airships and Osmo Math Wizard and the Enchanted World Games (Osmo)
• Paper Butterflies Science Kit (Crayola)
• The Young Scientists Club Future Veterinarian (Horizon Group USA)

• 5 Surprise Mini Brands Series 3 (ZURU)
• Care Bears Cutetitos (Basic Fun!)
• Cats vs. Pickles Bean-Filled Jumbos (Cepia)
• Compound Kings 5 Stack Donut (WeCool Toys)
• Crystalina (Skyrocket Toys)
• Dimpl Pops (Fat Brain Toys)
• Koosh Mondo (PlayMonster)
• My Squishy Little Dumplings (WowWee)
• Needoh (Schylling)
• Nickelodeon Cra-Z Sand Bucket (Cra-Z-Art)
• Pom Pops (Sunny Days Entertainment)
• Treasure X Monster Coffin (Moose Toys)

SkeletonPete Says…

Knowing one’s buying options in advance will be especially crucial this year as the pandemic has made supply chains unpredictable around the world.

Andy and I will be pointing out several of our favorites in the coming weeks.

Junior reporters get the lowdown on Pixicade’s Mobile Game Maker Kit.

Categories
Film & Television Series Toys & Collectibles

A Grander Grand Moff: Gentle Giant’s Cushing Kenner Counterpart

It’s Sci-Fi Friday !

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Peter Cushing’s Star Wars character gets a belated but super-sized facsimile.
(All images courtesy of Diamond Select Toys/Gentle Giant Ltd.)
Categories
Film & Television Series Toys & Collectibles

Heaps of Creeps: New Diamond Select “Nightmare Before Christmas” Figures Emerge from their Halloween Hiding Places

A Return of “Spooky SundayInstallment…

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Halloween Town Denizens. DST Select NBX Series 10 and Previews Exclusive
action figures.
(All photos courtesy of Diamond Select Toys)

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (NBX) is the gift that keeps on giving for enthusiasts and collectors of all things All Hallows Eve. It’s spooky spin on holiday television staples like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and How The Grinch Stole Christmas seemed pretty quirky upon its release on October 29, 1993, but ultimately it has gained classic status among the classics it set out to spoof.

Though it never generated an on-going sequel franchise, the film continues to ooze oodles of cool collectibles based on the 230 puppets built to fill every corner of its miniature stop motion animation sets.

I could feign astonishment but it’s not too surprising when those characters were fired in the creative cauldron of Tim Burton’s brain. Though he did not direct the film (that was Henry Selick) his eerie but playful visual imprint is unmistakably present from spindly spooks to corpulent corpses. 

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DST Select NBX Series 10: Mr. Hyde and Corpse Dad.

DST Select NBX Action Figures Series 10…
Keeping in step with the abundance of possibilities Diamond Select Toys (DST) has just released a new batch of Nightmare Before Christmas Select Action figures featuring inhabitants of both Halloween and Christmas lands.

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DST NBX Series 10 Corpse Mom is ready to roll
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Series 10 NBX Diamond Select Mrs. Claus, with choir elf and lounging penguin

This tenth series treats collectors to Mr. Hyde with Corpse Dad, Corpse Mom with Duck Gift, and Mrs. Claus with a Choir Elf and hilarious penguin pie. The figures sport multiple points of articulation and were designed by Eamon O’Donoghue with sculpts by Cortes Studios. They are boxed, along with their fun accessories, in Select action figure packaging featuring side panel artwork to facilitate shelf storage. SRP is $29.99 each. 

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The Creature Under the Stairs and Cyclops action figures debut as a
Previews Exclusive package from Diamond Select Toys.

Dynamic Duo…
An even deeper dive into the film’s recesses brings forth the Cyclops and Creature From Under the Stairs in Select Previews Exclusive (PX) format. I think this 2 pack will be a real crowd pleaser. It finally makes these two sort after Halloween Town denizens available to die-hard fans of the film. They’re also designed by O’Donoghue with Cortes Studio sculpts. $29.99 will get you these blokes to adorn your display shelves.

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Sally and Jack 3 inch PVC figures from DST’s D-Formz Mystery Box format

D-Formz Blind Box Figures…
DST has also announced an assortment of Nightmare Before Christmas D-Formz. These are 3 inch PVC figures, which will come as blind boxed collectibles. Characters Jack Skellington, Sally and Oogie Boogie are presented in standard and glow-in-the dark versions. Dr. Finkelstein and Santa Claus figures are the rare chase figures, turning up only once per case.

These pieces come packaged 12 to a counter display. They were designed by Barry Bradfield and sculpted by Rocco Tartamella. You can grab ‘em for $7.99 each.

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Dr. Finkelstein, Santa Claus, and glow-in-the-dark Oogie Boogie are chase figures in the Diamond Select Toys D-Formz blind box series.
Categories
Books & Graphic Novels Toys & Collectibles

Regal Roll-Out: Image Comics’ “King Spawn” #1 Dons the Crown of Sales Superiority

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Greg Capullo’s Variant Cover Art for the Record Breaking King Spawn #1

Title: King Spawn #1
Publisher: Image Comics
Release date: August 25, 2021

Congratulations to comic artist and uber-entrepreneur Todd McFarlane on achieving a landmark launch with the first issue of King Spawn. With nearly a half-million comic retailer pre-orders to date, this Image Comics title becomes the single highest selling new superhero monthly in 25 years.