Yodasnews Review: Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader
Hot Toys “Chubby” Nesting Dolls
Review and Photography by Jeffrey A. Gouse (SithLord0498)
Review Date: February 4, 2008
With a seemingly-endless string of powerhouse pieces, Hot Toys has quickly become a major power in the 1/6 scale realm. They have developed a reputation as a company who fearlessly takes on the projects from which others have shied: the Aliens Power Loader, ED-209, and a myriad of hyper-realistic human portraits from properties such as Pirates of the Caribbean and Rocky. So it should come as little surprise that the on-line collecting community buzzed with more electricity than Darth Sidious when they announced the acquisition of a Star Wars license.
Could it be the armored figures that Sideshow had (and still have) not released and Medicom has produced in an off-kilter scale? Given their successes with the Aliens and Robocop lines, perhaps they were the ones who could and would manufacture a true 1/6 scale articulated General Grievous?? What could they possibly be planning to give us???
They gave us nesting dolls.
A bit of history is in order, dear readers. The nesting doll or Matryoshka doll originated in Russia in the waning years of the 19th century, and they were a combination of Japanese souvenir dolls and earlier Russian handicrafts. Quite simply, a nesting doll was comprised of a series of identically shaped figurines (cylindrical with rounded edges and several tapered points) that separated along their mid-sections. Beginning with a large doll, each successive piece is slightly smaller and resides or “nests” within the larger piece. When all the figurines are in place, you can keep removing the tops and find figurines inside each other until you arrive at the smallest one. Traditionally, nesting doll sets are hand painted, follow a consistent theme, and have six dolls on average. However, they can be as few as two and as many as someone is willing to craft.
So this is what the great and fearless Hot Toys had in store for Star Wars? Were they crazy? Would these be as big a failure as Hasbro’s Customs choppers? At a price tag of $10-15, just how cheaply made were these going to be? And what kind of a product line name is “Chubby” anyway???
The answers to those questions are quite surprising.
Considering that Darth Vader, the largest of the three dolls, is only 3.5 inches tall, the packaging for this set is very compact and wastes very little space. The dolls are kept in a removable plastic tray that is specifically sculpted in both shape and depth to provide a firm and level fit for each doll. Vader’s lightsaber is kept inside a separate clamshell which is placed at the feet of the Anakin dolls. The tray itself is easily removed from the packaging, making it very collector-friendly for those who keep the boxes for storage purposes.
As for the design layout, it is modeled after the 30th Anniversary design used in the 3.75 scale toy line. The black, red and white colors, the angular edges, the “77-07” inside the “30”…these are all carry-overs from the Hasbro design. This is advantageous for MIB/MOC collectors because it supports a homogenous look. For the rest of us, it just looks familiar.
Anakin Skywalker (Episode I): Above Average (bordering on Excellent)
Before tackling the specific elements of the Episode I Anakin doll, a few words about the overall composition and construction of the dolls are in order. These are made from a lightweight plastic that is durable and can withstand being dropped from significant yet realistic heights (i.e. – a three foot drop from a shelf). Interestingly, when this sample was tested, the doll bounded and popped apart on impact and went in separate directions, and there was no damage to either the construction or paint. Naturally, these figurines aren’t likely to remain unharmed if repeatedly abused, but it should hold up well in the event of an accident. Another notable aspect of these nesting dolls is that the two halves enjoy a snug fit via grooved lips that interlock together. This also ensures that the paint applications appear to flow uninterrupted when viewed from a healthy distance. Lastly, the shape of the dolls provides a very solid center of gravity, allowing them to wobble but remain standing even when not resting on the feet (display base). Of course, significant wobbling will topple the doll, but natural shaking will not.
As for comments specific to the child Anakin nesting doll, it is a good start to the trio. Every feature and aspect of both the portrait and outfit are executed via paint applications tailored to effectively utilize the pear shaped “base body” of the entire Chubby line (excluding the use of helmets, cloaks, etc.). The smaller top contains Anakin’s face and hair, and the bottom part is the torso. The likeness and emotional state are conveyed through the use of simple shapes and lines. For child Anakin, this means saucer-shaped eyes, a small mouth, and rounded wavy lines that simulate the hairline of Jake Lloyd’s mop-like haircut.
The paint lines on both the head and outfit vary between immensely crisp and surprisingly muddled, which closer examination suggests is intentional and meant to simulate areas where there would not be a clear-cut delineation. Examples include shadows caused by wrinkles in one’s clothing and the boundary between one’s clothing and the base of their hair. However, this approach is not entirely effective because it increases the risk of smudging and excessive blurring, which does occur on the back of the doll where the hair and clothing meet. There are also a few slight scratches spread out on the figure, the most noticeable being a hairline scratch across the left eye.
Anakin Skywalker (Episode III): Excellent
Much like the progression of the character through the Prequel Trilogy, the Revenge of the Sith Anakin doll is a significant improvement over the Episode I Anakin, but it is not without its flaws.
In terms of strengths, the facial features are scratch-free and very crisp. The expression has changed from wide-eyed and innocent to fierce and subtly sinister simply through alterations in the shape and line applications of the eyes, eyebrows, and mouth. The contour of the hair line combines with brush strokes of varying thickness and flow to effectively simulate Hayden Christensen’s hair-do in Episode III, and the layered Jedi tunic is done through crisp lines painted in shades of brown and orange. Overall, the complexity is greater, and the execution is more than up to the task. The only flaw is (as with the smaller Anakin) a smudged and muddled hairline on the back of the doll.
Darth Vader: Fully Armored - Excellent; Anakin Portrait – Average (bordering on Above Average)
Not surprisingly, the gem of this set is the Darth Vader nesting doll. In addition to building onto the basic look of the Chubbies with the inclusion of a helmet and cape, this doll also houses the removable three-stage helmet feature with an Episode VI-era scarred Anakin portrait beneath it. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll work from the outside inward.
Whereas the pear shape is immediately recognizable on the Anakin dolls, the inclusion of Vader’s helmet and cape masks that shape so much that this doll looks more like Egg-Vader or the Sith Lord with one big beer belly. There’s nothing wrong or detrimental with this. It’s just amusing. The exaggerated shape extends to the shape of the face mask as well. While the features of the mask (including the remarkably well done vents and other mechanics hidden by the snug-fitting locking cap) are relatively untouched, the sides stretch and bulge outward, distorting the overall appearance just enough to fit in with the “Chubby style” without sacrificing the malevolence inherent in Vader’s visage.
As for the paint deco on the body, the thin white lines that simulate the stitching of Vader’s leather bodysuit are crisp and virtually perfect in their spacing. The chest and belt panels are clear as well with no overt smudging. The underlying portrait recycles the eye shape of Episode I Anakin, but the context imbues this wide-eyed look with a tragic sadness as opposed to innocence. Honestly, this was the best approach Hot Toys could have used for the Anakin portrait.
Sadly, it is in this portrait that one finds the greatest flaw of this entire set. As seen in the picture below, it appears as though the mask was attached prior to the paint fully drying on the face. The result was severe paint blemishes on the forehead (as pictured) as well as on each side of the head (not pictured). In fact, the right hand side of Vader’s head bears the most paint damage with a decent amount of the underlying black plastic of the body showing through. Sadly, this doesn’t appear to be as isolated as one would hope. The sample used in the Photo Archives on www.rebelscum.com shows paint damage on the scarred Anakin portrait as well—albeit damage in the form of chipped paint.
Next up for examination is Vader’s lightsaber, which is the sole accessory in this set. Taking a cue from the dolls themselves, the weapon is a simplified version of the screen prop and bears only some of the major trademark features: the emitter shroud and black handle grips. The activator switch is nowhere to be found. The reduced accuracy, however, is inconsequential because the weapon is far from being a major focus with the product.
As for the peg-and-hole approach used to attach the lightsaber to the doll’s “hand”, there is some give-and-take involved. On the up-side, the connection is very snug and meshes well with the doll. On the other hand, finding the right angle in which to insert the hilt can be tricky (and downright frustrating with the General Grievous set, which includes four lightsabers).
Fun Factor (Based on Format-Specific Criteria): Excellent (bordering on Above Average)
Inherently, nesting dolls are little more than display trinkets, so traditional “fun factor” rubrics are inapplicable here. However, the varying states in which you can display them add a nice amount of variety to their overall appearance. First, you can rotate the doll on its “feet”, meaning that they can be displayed as if in mid-turn toward another direction. Additionally, Vader’s scarred face, three-stage helmet, removable cape, and optional lightsaber provides more than half a dozen different display options. For collectors who want to put an interesting thematic spin on the display, they could even remove the top half of Vader and his armor and skip ROTS Anakin to reveal “Little Ani” inside Vader’s shell, showing the innocence still within the darkness.
So while traditional grading is impossible, these nesting dolls are more fun than one would initially think.
Overall Rating: Excellent
Apparently, Hot Toys’ successes are no longer limited to their 1/6 scale Movie Masterpieces offerings. It may have seemed like a throwaway, childish idea at first, but the Chubby line is a fun concept that successfully brings Star Wars to a format previously unexplored by mass production companies. And as for the idea that the low price tag would translate into a cheaply made product? It couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, these are amazingly well-built and sturdy.
Unfortunately, when Gentle Giant Limited imported these from Hong Kong, they failed to make much more than a blip on the collecting radar. Not surprisingly, updates on the second wave’s status have been sorely lacking. Even Hot Toys’ official website only lists the first wave and the large scale Vader Chubby. One has to wonder if Wave 2 will end up getting released at all. Hopefully, it will be considering it is slated to include sets such as “The Fett Family” and Imperial Stormtroopers (presumably including Prequel Trilogy Clonetroopers as well).
Oddly enough, this sample was purchased at F.Y.E. in the local mall for $14.99, so check there for these sets. For those who prefer to order on-line, Razor’s Edge Collectibles has all of the sets except Obi-Wan in stock for prices averaging below retail. In fact, the C-3PO set is listed at a shockingly low $4.99. The 9.5 inch tall “Jumbo Vader” is also in stock for $29.99 and sports a magnetic base.
Even you don’t end up collecting all of them, the Hot Toys “Chubby” line is an innovative and welcome addition to the Star Wars collectible universe, and it is definitely worth the money to pick up a set or two.
As for the final question posed in the introduction, I’m still not sure why they decided on the name “Chubby”—especially when you take a good second look at the logo. Kids, don’t ask. Trust me.