Review: Santa Claus (from Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer)
I spend a lot of time talking about Batman, both here and at my blog. I've said it time and time again: superheroes are fascinating because they're mythic.
But the subject of today's review is far more so. While Superman and Batman may contain elements of mythological figures, Santa Claus is, at least to my mind, the single most significant mythological icon of our culture (not counting religious figures, that is, but I'll stop talking before I start offending).
Jolly old Saint Nick is a complex figure, as he well should be: he's had almost seventeen hundred years of character development, after all! There's a historical figure buried in there somewhere (born in Patara in the fourth century, orphaned during a plague, survived the persecution, and so on), but that's fairly peripheral to the legend, as is his relevance to marketing.
Frankly, Santa Claus has more in common with Odin than with the bishop of Myra. But I digress.
We recently looked at Forever Fun's Reindeer Games Rudolph, a toy I was greatly impressed with, especially considering its price. I found a "Santa Claus" from the same line, based of course on the famous Rankin/Bass production.
Am I as impressed with Father Christmas as I was with Rudolph? Lets find out....
At a glance, Santa fares well, though not exceptionally so. The figure matches up to the special well enough (he's not perfect, but that's life), and he certainly looks good. I love the eyes - little more than small, reflective beads, but they really do the trick.
Unfortunately, the plastic used on his head is thin and hollow: put a light behind it and it glows like a light bulb. Right idea; wrong character.
The rest of the toy is made from a hard, thin plastic that appears to have been snapped together. Mold lines are apparent, particularly along the arms, and these detract from the figure's appearance.
Add to all that a black smudge on his nose, and you've got a whole lot of problems. When all is said and done, I'm going with a modest 7 - there's a lot right, but there are some serious issues, as well.
Packaging and Extras: +1
I still like the packaging, which is pretty much the same as Rudolph's:
They don't incorporate the same innovative ties they used on Rudolph, but then they don't really need them here.
Santa comes with a removable hat, a sack, and three presents.
Lets start with the hat. First, I appreciate that the hat comes off: they didn't need to add this touch and I'm glad they did. That said, they could have executed this a lot better. The hat is made from a heavy material, while the figure is not. This means that getting the hat into place is harder than it should be, and, once there, it destabilizes the figure (more on that below). It does look good, though.
It's nowhere near the haul we got with Rudolph, but at this price you won't hear me complaining. I'm handing Santa a bonus point for the accessories. There's enough here to almost justify two points, but the problems keep me from going that high.
Play and Display: -1
First the good news: Santa Claus can, in fact, stand up. He's less steady with his hat than without it, but you'll still be able get him to stand upright.
Now the bad news: this figure has very limited articulation. His head turns a small amount (less than you'd think) and each arm has a single joint near the elbow along with the cut shoulder, but that's the extent of movement you're going to get. His legs are completely locked in place.
This means you have a few options for posing, but not as many as you'd expect.
The accessories add some possibilities, and I'm happy they've given us the choice to display him with hat on or off. He can hold the sack... sort of. Okay, you're basically going to have to tie it to him.
He can hold two of the three presents (possibly all three: the back on the third looks like it MIGHT come off, but I don't want to force it). He looks good holding a gift, but I wouldn't trust it to stay: his grip is a little weak. These work better as display options, anyway (personally, I'm not going to display them with Santa at all, but I will use them elsewhere).
I'm taking away a point for the limited articulation. He's saved from a more severe deduction only because he's balanced well.
Price Tag and Final Analysis: 7 out of 10
The accessories are canceled out by the limited articulation, leaving us with a score of 7 for Old Saint Nick. The figure will run you the same as Rudolph: eight bucks. So, the big question: is it worth it? That's a hard one this time. I'm going to say barely, but that might be generous.
Rudolph felt like a bargain, a collector-quality figure at a mass-market price. Santa Claus feels like a mass-market toy at a mass-market price. You're getting what you pay for, nothing more. Maybe a little less, in fact: the material Santa's made out of has a very cheap feel to it. Still, he looks good enough on the shelf, so I don't regret buying him. "Which shelf?" you might ask. Well, believe it or not, I didn't buy him to put him next to Rudolph. NECA never made a Nightmare Before Christmas Santa, and while this isn't exactly right, it does the trick:
If you've got questions or comments, leave me a note on The Middle Room.