Categories
Film & Television Series Photography Toys & Collectibles

Better Run Through the Jungle: Noble Collection Meets Universal Monsters

It’s Monster Monday Again!

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
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).

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography

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.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography

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.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography

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.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
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.

noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
The Noble Collection’s Bendy Figs Universal Monsters, Series 1 Box Art.
noble toys, the noble collection, bendy figs, universal monsters, action figures, hobby crafts, toy photography
Categories
Toys & Collectibles

Hellish Glare and Inference: Mezco “Living Dead Doll” Series 31

living dead dolls, mezzo toys, ldd series 31
This little fellow gives a whole new meaning to blood, sweat and tears.

The Light That Never Warms…
What’s that wheezing under your bed? Peering, gape mouthed, from that crack in your closet door? Tap, tap, tapping in your crawl space? It’s likely Mezco ToyzLiving Dead Dolls Series 31 figures. This group of five represent the theme of all the things that thrive in the dark. Night lights won’t help as these nocturnal kiddies dart from shadow to shadow.
living dead dolls, mezzo toys, ldd series 31
Mezco’s Living Dead Doll Series 31. When darkness falls these creepy kids emerge from their hiding places.

They Are Legion…
Series 31 features, Umbral, Kreek, The Dark, Bea Neath, Thump, who join the legion of LDD’s brought forth from the twisted creative minds at Mezco over the last 18 years. Collectors can expect this individually coffin boxed group of 8 inch tongue tied and tongue eyed spirits to emerge from their pitch black sanctum later this spring.

Categories
Toys & Collectibles

50 Shades of GREEN: Mezco LDD “Creach” Gets a Makeover

mezco toyz, living dead dolls, creature from the black lagoon, universal monsters
Mezco’s Living Dead Doll Creature gets a new design.
Tipping the Scales
Last year at this time we were treated to a look at Mezco Toyz’ early prototype for a Creature from the Black Lagoon Living Dead Doll which quickly went on my must have list. Since then the company has done a design rethink on the figure and gave us another early look during last week’s Pre Toy Fair press event.
Mezco Toyz' LDD Creature in original un-produced retro "jump suit" style design
Mezco Toyz’ LDD Creature in original un-produced retro “jump suit” style design
The little Creature’s head sculpt still presents a child like look in keeping with his Living Dead Doll siblings but he has lost the Mego style cloth jump suit that represented his scales in the original design. The rethink gives the doll a nicely sculpted fully molded body more in line with Mezco’s stylized lagoon monster released last year. I was lucky enough to score an all white pre-production “test shot” of that guy, seen in the photo below, at Mezco’s vault clearing sale.
mezco toyz, living dead dolls, creature from the black lagoon, universal monsters
At the Mezco “Vault” sale I grabbed this unique all white “test shot” of their stylized Creature.

Due in July 2015, the “creach” will join the Mezco’s other Universal Monster LDD’s Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster and his Bride. Preorder the prehistoric gill-boy here.

mezco toyz, living dead dolls series 29
Mezco Toyz Living Dead Dolls Series 29, the Nameless Ones
Damned If I Know…
What’s In A Name? Well, that which we call a rose might wither in the hand of any of one of Mezco’s long running and award winning Living Dead Doll line. New Series 29 will introduce us to the The Nameless Ones. Fresh from interment these 5 children of the damned are garbed in a variety of togs from party dresses to morning and mourning gowns.

Follow the Jaundiced Brick Road…
Along with their original LDD designs, like the new Grim Reaper kissing booth ghoul, Mezco continues to spin up licensed merchandise in some of the most sort after fan franchises. Leafing through their beautifully laid out 2015 product catalog reveals some interesting surprises ahead. In addition to Child’s Play‘s Chucky (design still pending licensor approval) and The Conjuring’s Annabelle, I’m most excited to see the announcement of Wizard of Oz themed dollies joining the Living Dead roster. Dorothy and her companions The Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion and Tin Man dolls are first up, but I’m hoping for an LDD Flying Monkey easing’ on down the road.
wizard of oz, living dead dolls,  mezzo toys

Categories
Toys & Collectibles

Re: Animator – Diamond Select Toys Halloween Treat


Diamond Select Toys just unleashed a sweet treat for your Halloween bag in the form of an animated video featuring their line of Universal Monsters figures. Created by Alex Kropinak, the man behind the madness of the Marvel “What The …..?” series, the short follows a trio of Halloween candy hunters to some surprising doorways. In just over a minute we get a slew of cute vignettes of which I especially love the Metaluna Mutant conjuring up a giant candy corn on the old interocitor.
UMStopMoMutant
Scripted by Kropinak and DST Marketing Supervisor Zach Oat, the film nicely displays the expanded articulation of DST’s newest additions to the line, Son of Frankenstein and a beautifully revamped Creature from the Black Lagoon. It also affords a cameo appearance to their first original concept Van Helsing character.
UMStopMoFrank
SkeletonPete Says…
Thanks to the Diamond Select gang for this excellent surprise. Having spent a healthy chunk of my early teen years creating backyard “jungle” adventures using a collection of 12 inch G.I. Joes, I’m always appreciative of a nice piece of stop motion animation like this one. The miniature sets are an inspiration for us toy photographers and Kropinak utilizes a touch of CGI for the atmospheric effects. This truly makes me pine for a proper animated version of Ray Bradbury’s The Halloween Tree.

Word is Diamond Select will continue it’s Universal Monster line next year. A super articulated Wolfman would be awesome, but I’d be just as happy to see them do something left-of-center like a Henry Hull Werewolf of London. I’m also really curious to see what their next original creation will be.

DST will launch it's "Nightmare Before Christmas" Mini-Mate Series with Jack Skellington.
DST will launch it’s “Nightmare Before Christmas” Mini-Mate Series with Jack Skellington.

Additionally Diamond Select will kick off their The Nightmare Before Christmas Mini-Mates series via shops participating in Halloween ComicFest, with a great Jack Skellington figure that was on display at New York Comic Con a week ago.

Categories
Toys & Collectibles

High Stakes: Van Helsing Joins Diamond Select Monster Series

Diamond Select Toys' Van Helsing action figure prototype as seen at Toy Fair 2014.
Diamond Select Toys’ Van Helsing action figure prototype as seen at Toy Fair 2014.
Van the Man…
Diamond Select Toys is taking the opportunity to expand the monster line with a unique design of their own. DST’s Van Helsing, is an armed-to-the-teeth vision of the vampire hunter with a wizened and battle scarred countenance. With his axe, rifle, pistol and bandolero of wooden spikes he’s clearly a determined and formidable foe for the feral creatures of the night.

With many of us still cringing from the loopy Hugh Jackman misstep of 2004 Van Helsing was a risky choice. Fortunately DST presents him as an effective cross between the grandfatherly character portrayed by Edward Van Sloan in 1931 and Anthony Hopkins’ frenzied doctor of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula (1992.)

The Van Helsing “Select” version is the most ornate of the three new Wave 5 boxed packages. The base provides a cemetery scene with dual tombstones and vicious vampire bride Mina Harker pouching from her grave.

More Monsters…
I’ve been stalking Diamond Select Toy’s fifth wave of Universal Monsters figures since they first appeared as early prototypes in DST’s Toy Fair Booth back in 2013.

These two newest 7 inch scale action figures present Boris Karloff as The Monster from Son of Frankenstein, and a new version of The Creature From the Black Lagoon. The Jean St. Jean sculpts are created with “super articulation,” giving the models many more poseable points of movement than their previous incarnations.

DST has announced these items in blister-carded Toys “R” Us Exclusive configurations (already on the shelves) as well as “Select” boxes, available shortly in comic book shops, or for pre-order. The “Select” versions add extraordinarily detailed bases and props.

Inspector Krogh "lends a hand (and arm) to Karloff's "Son of Frankenstein" TRU Exclusive. Image Courtesy of Diamond Select Toys.
Inspector Krogh “lends a hand (and arm) to Karloff’s “Son of Frankenstein” TRU Exclusive. Image Courtesy of Diamond Select Toys.

The Monster is portrayed with a slightly more gaunt look than Karloff lensed in the original 1939 film. He is clothed in his signature “Son of” wooly vest, a look that will forever remind me of Sonny Bono’s preferred garb in the 1960’s. In addition to more articulation The Creature update trumps its Wave 1 predecessor with, to my eye, a sculpt more accurate to its film appearance and a glossier aquatic paint finish.

“Armed” and Dangerous…
The “Select” Son of Frankenstein comes with an awesome Kenneth Strickfaden inspired piece of electrical laboratory gear that will remind old school collector’s like myself of the similar rig that was part of Aurora’s classic Bride of Frankenstein tableau. No Son of Frankenstein collectible would be complete without the wooden arm of Lionel Atwill’s Inspector Krogh for the monster to swing around. For me it’s a must have, and I’m glad to report it comes in both packaging configurations, so you won’t be torn (hee, hee.)

SkeletonPete Says…
While I’m happy to learn that Diamond Select will continue to offer Universal Monster figures in another wave next year, I also applaud the initiative to bring some of their own creative juice to the monster mix.

The Aurora Plastic Model Company did this quite effectively in late 1960’s. Their Forgotten Prisoner of Castle Mare, The Witch, and The Guillotine models were equally cherished by collectors. In fact they are the only intact original Aurora models I still have. The others succumbed to an ill advised tangle with a barrage of firecrackers one fateful Independence day.