One thing I love is the classic, cartoonish space alien aesthetic–green tentacles, eyeballs on stalks, clanking robots, bulbous glass helmets with antennae, ray guns with fins, colorful fungus-covered landscapes, and so forth. This “retro-future” can be found in shows like Futurama and Ren & Stimpy, videogames like Day of the Tentacle and Toejam & Earl, Mattel’s new “Space Mutants” logo and 1950s Batman comics. It can also be found in toys such as the once-and-future Outer Space Men and the subject of today’s review, the Toy Story 3 Space Alien.
“The Claw chooses who will go and who will stay.”
I loved these little guys the first time I saw them, nestled by the dozens in a claw machine at Pizza Planet, a Chuck ‘E Cheese like restaurant in the original Toy Story. The aliens serve as the Planet’s mascots, bearing the company logo, a pizza with a Saturn-like ring around it. While there have been some injection-molded toys of the character over the years, what I’d always wanted was a vinyl figure like the squeeze toys in the film.
Contrary to what you might think, this figure was not made by Mattel. Mattel is producing Toy Story 3 toys, but much of what you see at Walmart, Target etc. is being produced by Thinkway Toys. There seems to be some significant overlap between the two companies–competing products at similar sizes and price points–which actually means kids and parents have a lot of choice in their Toy Story 3 selection. It also means the market is probably over-saturated. In general, however, the Thinkway stuff seems to be a tad nicer–and more expensive–than their Mattel counterparts.
“Nirvana is coming, the mystic portal awaits…”
I wanted Thinkway’s Space Aliens 3-pack every time I saw it at TRU, but at $30 for three unarticulated vinyl toys, I could never pull the trigger (even Dr. Mrs. Ghostal considered and passed on it as a Christmas present). So imagine my glee when I finally came across individually packaged Space Aliens. Yeah, they’re still $11 apiece, but at I’m willing to pay that to just get one. These are Target exclusives. They come in three types: one that looks like he’s in the middle of lecturing about the wonders of the Claw, one in mid-“ooooooo,” and one with a “neutral” expression, which is the one I chose.
Packaging: The Space Alien comes in a fairly attractive, colorful window box. But it’s rather large and the figure is heavily shadowed inside it, so it doesn’t really show off the toy.
I do wonder if they could have skipped the packaging and just stuck a tag on it, then lined them up on the shelf. That could have shaved a dollar or two off the price, and I suspect kids would be much more likely to want a toy they can hold in their hands first. But I don’t think companies go the no-packaging route very often anymore, especially for big licenses like Toy Story.
Design & Sculpt: This is where this toy shines. This is the best sculpted depiction I’ve seen of the Space Alien, perfectly matching the character’s look, proportions, and expression in the movie. The arms, while immobile, are separate pieces glued on to the figure, as is–I think–the head (presumably so that they body could be re-used for all three poses and facial expression).
He stands about 5″ tall at the top of his head (just over 6″ including his antenna) and is about 3½” wide at the waist, which strikes me as a bit larger than they were in the movie, but I haven’t seen it in a long time so I can’t say that for sure.
Plastic & Paint: This is where the figure isn’t quite as sharp. The edging where the hands start on the arms is very uneven and looks cheap. While I’m not sure how accurate to the original design it would have been, I think a small sculpted line around the wrists could have made both the painting process and the overall look work a lot better. The Pizza Planet logo is also a bit sloppy and thin in places.
However, the eyes look great, and the plastic chosen for the head is just the right shade. The glow-in-the-dark aspect of the plastic doesn’t detract from the hue.
Articulation: None. I’m not clear on why I’m paying $11 for a figure that could easily have articulation at the shoulders and head. It’s disappointing, but obviously it wasn’t a deal-breaker for me; as squeeze toys the movie figures probably didn’t have any articulation either.
Action Feature: While not an “action feature” per se, the Space Alien’s skin glows in the dark. It’s a subtle effect, probably owing to the fact that it’s green and not the traditional white; the hands, which are painted, glow better than the molded head.
It’s kind of a bummer that he doesn’t actually squeak, but on the other hand, if he’d been molded in the sort of plastic needed for that he would have looked and felt cheaper.
Quality Control: No issues aside from the aforementioned paint problems.
Overall: The Space Alien isn’t all that different from many of the designer vinyl toys out there these days, and in terms of sculpting I think he’s on par with many of them. The paint applications suffer from massmarketitis, however, which costs him a half-raven.
If he’d been a wee bit smaller, had articulation at the arms and head, and cost $3 cheaper, he’d be a five-star figure. But I’m still very happy with him; he already has a place of honor on my work desk.