Gandalf is my favorite literary character. Oh, there are other ones I’m very fond of–Ebeneezer Scrooge, Randolph Carter, Dick Diver, the Continental Op. But when it comes down to who I’d like to share a beer (or in his case, a glass of red wine) with, Gandalf’s my man.
In fact, without Gandalf I might not be an adult action figure collector–it was Toy Vault’s line of figures based on The Lord of the Rings (the novel) that drew me back into collecting just after I started college. While the toys may look a bit quaint, and looked quaint even for the time, they were great figures and clearly created with a great love for the source material.
Of course, along came the movies, starting in 2001, and what was once a beloved secret treasure of geeks became a billion-dollar, Oscar-winning franchise.
While I do love the movies, I still love the books just as much, if not more. But Ian McKellen portrayed Gandalf so incredibly close to the literary version that I couldn’t help but love him too.
Toy Biz’s Lord of the Rings line, already fading from most collectors’ memories, was easily the best 6″ line of movie-based action figures ever made, and perhaps the best movie-based line ever made, period. The figures featured top-of-the-line sculpting, great articulation, huge character variety, and tons of accessories.
As the spectre of darkness grows over Middle-earth and Sauron’s armies issue forth from the Black Gates to lay siege to the lands of Men, Gandalf knows that in this war, victory cannot be won by force of arms alone. All hope now lay with the success of Frodo’s quest, and to that end the White Wizard marshals the forces of the free peoples in a desperate bid to distract Sauron’s gaze from his own lands. Like a radiant beacon of hope in desperate times, Gandalf musters the defenses of Gondor and councils the leaders to stand firm in the face of darkness. Every moment so gained brings Frodo another step closer to Mount Doom.
Packaging: I got this off eBay, and it came in the larger packaging used for the first three years of the line, before they switched to the more standard blister pack. I never actually liked the big “ring” packaging: it’s huge, ungainly, hard to open, and doesn’t actually show off the figure all that much.
Design & Sculpt: Toy Biz produced two different Gandalf the White figures. The first had an excellent head sculpt and a plastic cloak that hung off his shoulders. They later produced another one as part of the Gandalf & Shadowfax set which featured a cloth cloak. Finally, for this figure, they used the cloth cloak and sculpted a new head that features Mithrandir in more of a fighting mood–and with much whiter hair, which is closer to the film.
The likeness of McKellen isn’t as close as the first version but it’s still quite good, and I have no complaints about the body sculpt. I’m usually not a fan of cloth on 6″ figures, but I actually like it here. It adds a certain chaotic aspect to his look, as if he’s in the heat of battle, which goes well with the wind-whipped hair of his head.
The one negative thing is the huge button on his back, which makes his right arm do a “slashing attack” or whatever you want to call it. I hate big ugly buttons that ruin sculpts and I especially hate action features that limit articulation–the right shoulder is only a swivel, rather than a ball joint.
Plastic & Paint: Not a whole lot of paint work here. The outfit looks fine; the face is molded from plastic and is a bit too glossy.
Articulation: Gandalf has what appears to be a slightly ball jointed neck (it’s hard to tell–the hair limits the movement so much, it’s basically a swivel neck); a swivel right shoulder and a ball-jointed left shoulder; hinge-and-swivel elbows (again, I think–it’s a bit hard to tell); swivel wrists; a hinged right wrist (a very nice touch, because it looks great with the sword); swivel waist; MOTU 200x-style hips (semi-ball joint); hinged knees; and hinged ankles with good “rocker” range.
Accessories: Gandalf comes with his sword, Glamdring, and his white staff. The tip of the staff wasn’t put together quite right and looks a bit messy. The sword, however, is great–even better than the one that came with the “new sculpt” Gandalf the Grey.
Quality Control: There’s the aforementioned problem with the top of the staff. Also, the cloak is tied together around the figure’s neck and can come apart easily.
Overall: While I prefer Gandalf in grey, and the “new sculpt” Gandalf the Grey remains my favorite figure from this line, I do like this figure quite a bit. I think it’s a better figure than the first version, despite the weaker head sculpt. The action feature is still irritating, though.
These were my main gateway drug into the world of toy collecting, as well.
I have a massive collection of these figures: the Legolas from Two Towers is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest action figures I've seen in this scale. Just a fantastic line.
Love this line of figs, even though I sent a big pile to a yet to be disclosed location 🙂
I loved this line! Still have all of my figures on display in my hobby room (along with everything else)
I think the only figures I never ended up with were Faramir in his ranger garb, Grima Wormtongue, Haldir, and the Gondorian Soldier. Great line. I'm really hoping that whoever does the inevitable line is able to match the scale of the Toybiz figures.
I liked LOTR well enough but never got into the merchandise. It's odd cause I had numerous chances to buy all kinds of LOTR figures… Of course that was during the time when I didn't buy any toys.
I didn't realy like this figure all that much I realy want the shadowfax version.
If these were still available in the shops I would have a near complete collection. Good quality figures at good prices. ToyBiz was great.
@Poe: Thank you sir.
@Mario: The Gimli comes from the Gimli & Uruk 2-pack; Legolas is Legolas in Rohan Armor.
Hey Poe, which versions of Gimli & Legolas are those? They sure look nice.
I remember when these were out, I wasn't really into collecting yet. I think I was still dipping my toes into the water with Traqnsformers Beast Wars. Had these come out today, I'm sure I would have picked up a Gandalf, and possibly a few others.
I would love to hang out with Gandalf, share a pint (or as Poe points out a red wine) and maybe enjoy some pipe weed.
Greatest toy line ever. Gandalf the Grey…the first one, with the light up staff…was the figure that made me start collecting. Unfortunately the light-up staff never, ever worked for me.
These were great figures, and they were a good value, too, which seems to be a thing of the past.
Your renewed interest in LOTR figures has renewed my interest! To ebay!