Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Disney Store: Phineas and Ferb Figurine Playset

Hey, I know what I'm going to review today.

Six months ago, I had no idea what Phineas and Ferb was. Now, I can't stop watching it on Netflix. Phineas and Ferb is difficult to describe to the uninitiated. It's an animated show about two brothers who spend their summer vacation constructing and inventing impossibly elaborate contraptions while their sister attempts to expose their dangerous behavior to their mother. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to any of them, their pet platypus is a secret agent battling Dr. Doofenshmirtz, a mad scientist obsessed with ruling the entire world tri-state area.

On the surface, it sounds incredibly derivative of Dexter's Laboratory... and it probably is. But I'm willing to let that slide, because this is actually better.

The stuff above isn't the plot to one episode: it's the plot of pretty much every episode. Almost every story follows the same basic pattern: the boys build something, their sister tries to bust them, Perry the Platypus confronts Doofenshmirtz, who captures him and explains that he's invented an evil device to resolve some bizarre element of his back story, then Perry breaks free, battles Doofenshmirtz, and destroys the device in a manner that incidentally destroys the boys' invention before their mother can see it. Perry gets home, and everyone is invited in for snacks while Candace laments not being believed.

There are two such stories told in most half-hour episodes.

Sounds like it should get old fast, doesn't it? I'm sure it would if the writing was anything less than exceptional. But the writers work within this format and explore it in ways I've never seen before. The characters quickly become conscious of the rules governing their world and - in some cases - begin to explore the philosophical ramifications of this. Meanwhile, despite the episodic nature of the series, there's a stunning complexity to the continuity of relationships.

Most importantly, several key characters are incredibly well-developed, starting with Candace. It would have been easy to use her as a generic antagonist, but that's not her role (at least not after the first few installments). Instead, the show delves into her psychological reaction to her predicament. Her brothers' inventions are impossibly complex, and her mother won't believe her. It's a maddening predicament, and the writers explore that angle. She's not a villain, nor is Doofenshmirtz ultimately: they're cogs in the formula's clockwork fulfilling necessary roles and ultimately leading to positive ends. Including for them: Candace's relationship with her boyfriend and Doofenshmirtz's relationship with his daughter progress as the show develops.

Ultimately, the show winds up feeling like some sort of science-fiction fable in the vein of Stanislaw Lem. It's incredibly good, and - as I often do in such situations - I found myself wanting collectibles. Toys R Us has a handful of toys, but none that really spoke to me. The last time I was in the Disney Store, I came across this figurine playset, which I found much more intriguing. Disney sells a lot of these, mostly tied to their movies, for $12.50 each. Technically, this was on sale for 2 for $20, but I couldn't find another I wanted, so I wound up paying the full $12.50.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about these figures. I love the colors and this is a good selection of core characters, but as a fan of the show, there's a lot to nitpick. While I appreciate it's difficult to transition from two to three dimensions, most of these characters are a least a little off model. The exceptions are Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Agent P.

This is a fantastic likeness for Doof, though the pose makes him look a tad more menacing than he usually comes off. Still, it's a good representation.

Agent P (posed beside Papa Smurf for scale) is likewise extremely accurate to his on-screen appearance, though his feet are a little small.

There's something wrong with the shape of Phineas's smile, and it throws him off. He almost looks maniacal here, which is about as far from the character as you can get. It's shame, because, with the exception of that one detail, the character's pretty well represented.

In Ferb's case, they got the mouth right but made the nose a little too square. There's an argument to be made that this is how it appears in the show (it depends on the angle, of course), but I think the overall look of the character would be better represented if his nose was less pig-like. Either way, It's nowhere near as big of a deal as Phineas's freakish grin.

Whatchadoin? Getting ready to discuss my favorite character on the show, Isabella. She's Phineas's next neighbor, and she has a crush on him. Also, she leads a group of scouts called "Fireside Girls." She's probably the most competent character on the show. Plus, she's really good in a fight against an inter-dimensional army of invading robots.

Once again, they came close but messed up a crucial detail. This time it's the eyes: they're too small, not the right shape, and her eyelashes are awful. It throws off the look of the character, which is a shame.

With Candace, it's the cheekbones. Again, it's not the end of the world, but it's certainly noticeable. The rest of the character is spot-on. Like Ferb, there's an argument to be made that this is actually accurate from certain angles, but I don't think it really captures her look.

Finally, we have undercover Perry. This is a pretty good approximation of how he looks on the show, so no complaints.

I feel bad putting these under a magnifying glass and picking apart the imperfections: I'm sure it gives the impression I don't like them, when that couldn't be farther from the truth. These are really neat little figurines, and at this price point, I'm thrilled with the quality. I just wish the sculptor had taken a little more time getting the details right.

These are figurines, so there's no articulation or accessories. That said, the bubble covering the toy pops off cleanly, leaving you with a handsome looking display if you've got the space:

Disney markets this as a playset, which it isn't. It's actually more like a set of PVC figures, like the ones that used to go for $50. I, for one, appreciate the markdown. Like I said, there are numerous other sets out there, but most aren't this good. Hopefully, this means Disney is upping their game: I'd certainly like more like this. There's plenty here to nitpick over, but the bright colors, great poses, and low price-point make up for the details.

If you're a fan of the show, head into the Disney Store the next time you're around. And, if you're not, you owe it to yourself to check it out: the whole thing is streaming on Netflix.

There you are, Perry.

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