Once upon a time most action figures with three and three-quarter inches tall. However, they, like most youthful humans, began growing in size and the smaller sizes of the '70s and early '80s gave way to the four to five inch scales popular for the following decade until six became to the new standard size, that is until seven and eight scales began growing popular. However, many fans still appreciated the original small-scale of figures from their childhood and the market still proved strong for Star Wars and GIJoe, yet other than those two lines little to no effort in that scale was made, and what few actually attempted ultimately failed quickly. There is something magical about the scale (referred to as 3¾", 3.75 inch, 1:18, or sometimes even just "Star Wars scale") for many collectors, and like with anything from our youth, it is held in a nostalgic sense - we want more of it, but we have very particular, very individual tastes
and expectations for what it should be - and it's because of this (and most companies' failure to understand this) that has caused the scale to fail at the marketplace. But hope is growing exponentially!
Virtually out of nowhere a company few had ever heard of announced in 2005 that they had acquired the Mass Market master toy license for Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. This would be the company's first foray into the dangerous world of action figures and moreover, this is only their third product line (the first being an interactive children's toy called "Iz" and a line of blind-boxed tradable mini-figures under the banner name "Zizzlingers") and because of this, most collectors were highly skeptical of what was to come. Especially since the only confirmed information prior to Toy Fair 2006 was that the focus would be on a 3¾" scale line and it would include a nearly three-foot Black Pearl playset (based on the film trilogy's iconic lead ship). Many expected the line to be financial suicide as small-scale figures (other than the aforementioned properties) always fail and that large-scale vehicles don't move, both just stagnate on shelves - but the naysayers were proved quite wrong. To date there have been four waves (including over 20 unique figures), two waves of deluxe figures, three playsets and a series of two-packs, all with the promise of much more to come. Even the Black Pearl Playset proved to be one of the hottest toys of the 2006 Christmas season, selling out at most toy stores. Zizzle has come from virtually nothing and created a toy line popular with both children and collectors that is the first major step in repaving the industry for a full-blown 1:18 scale resurgence.
The two aspects that Zizzle really pulled off well were sculpt and paint. While the figures are not as "great" as Hasbro's juggernaut Star Wars series, the Pirates figures feature more detailed and accurate sculpts than previous attempts at the scale and has some of the better paint patterns and applications in the entire industry. Zizzle has also put an emphasis on character variety (again, not as broad as the Star Wars line, but better than many other movie toy lines) opting to offer peripheral characters over countless variations of the movies most famous character, Jack Sparrow. While some bad decisions were made (the Flying Dutchman Playset was on clearance months before the film is was based on even hit theatres and Series 1's Elizabeth Swann is still warming pegs any many if not all retailers) Zizzle really made a solid effort at figuring out what pleases collectors, what attracts kids and what Hasbro has been doing right to keep their Star Wars line in the top five sellers for the past 12 years. That said, let's take a look at the figures from the first series of toys from the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie, Dead Man's Chest.
Jack Sparrow: Prison Escape - This is what I would call "Coatless Jack." Captain Sparrow in his signature costume sans overcoat. Jack comes with 10 points of articulation:
balljointed neck, swivel shoulders, hinged elbows, swivel waist, T-crotched hips, and hinged knees. The figure features the same great paint as the whole line, rife with washes for detail, a pistol (which fits in his belt), a cadaverous leg oar and a coffin. The accessories are meant to recreate Jack's zany, if not morose, escape from the Turkish Prison towards the beginning of the film. While not quite film-accurate, the coffin is still a big and cool accessory, complete with removable lid! Unfortunately none of the figures can fit inside and be sealed up.
Classic Jack Sparrow - As the name would imply, this is in fact Jack Sparrow in his "classic" outfit. Of course "classic" is debatable as it's the Dead Man's Chest version of "classic."
Much as Luke's X-Wing gear, Han's pants and shirt, Batman's Batsuit and Harry's Hogwarts Uniform all change (some less subtly than others) throughout the sequels, so does Jacks. While the first film, Curse of the Black Pearl featured a blue overcoat Dead Man's Chest provides a brown one, in addition to a small array of additional trinkets throughout the good Captain's garb. The paint is again great; several color washes and many fine details like rings, buttons, some threading and beads. Eight points of articulation here: balljointed neck, swivel shoulders, swivel waist, hinged elbows and T-crotch hips. Accessories include Jack's hat, pistol (which can be tucked in his belt) and sword; there is also an over-the-shoulder scabbard (which will not hold the sword) that can be removed by popping off the head. Classic Jack shares the same head, torso, waist and "belt skirt" as the Prison Escape version but has new legs (without knee articulation), new arms and a soft PVC coat over the torso. The figure is what it claims to be - Classic Jack.
Classic Will Turner - "Classic" is a bit looser of a term here. Basically it just means its Will's "base" costume for the second film, as opposed a more constant appearance like Jack's. Dead Man's Chest finds Will in a pretty little number, complete with green overcoat, a luxury he was not afforded in the first film! He's articulated at the line's standard eight points: swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel waist, hinged elbows and T-crotch hips. Paint is great and his accessories are an over-the-shoulder scabbard which can hold one of his two swords, both of which are unique sculpts. The leg sculpts are a bit odd here, not only is Will in the series' only "action pose," his vest/tunic's "skirt" is sculpted onto his legs as opposed to being done as a secondary "skirt" piece like on Jack. It's not necessarily a bad thing, its just not very... aesthetically pleasing compared to Jack.
Elizabeth Swann: Pirate Outfit - The only Elizabeth Swann figure in the entire three series of Dead Man's Chest figures
and the only one chronically warming pegs across the nation. Its not a bad figure in any sense, I assume they just way over-produced her. Ol' Liz comes in her pirate (or male sailor, to be more accurate) disguise from the film, but with her golden locks a-flowin'. She has the standard eight points of articulation (swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel waist, hinged elbows) but it should be mentioned that her hips are V-crotched, rather than T-crotched, as it is decidedly more lady-like and less play-with-able. She comes with two swords and an over-the-shoulder scabbard that sadly is, for some unfathomable reason, sculpted shut and, like Jack's, can't hold a sword. The coat over her torso is a separate piece but her hat is permanently affixed to, or should I say, strongly on the head of this headstrong young lady - ba-zing!
Pintel - The final returning character from the previous film in this series is Pintel, the chubby bald half of the classic "fat guy/ skinny guy" comedy pairing of Pintel and Raggeti popularized in Curse of the Black Pearl. The paint on this guy is as strong as ever straight to his grimy fingernails. Articulation is the standard eight (swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel waist, hinged elbows and T-crotch hips). Accessories include a big sword that fits in his over-the-shoulder scabbard as well as a big honking double-barreled gun. The only confusing thing is why Zizzle chose to release Pintel in Series One and Ragetti in Series Three. Since they are a specific team, duo and pair, it seems like the more prudent thing would have been to release both in the same series, but as Pintel is still available, there hasn't caused too much of a problem.
Davy Jones - At the San Diego Comic Con International in 2005, Disney gave away poster of the main concept painting of Davy Jones and upon seeing it I immediately fell in love. There are few things in this world I find more visually pleasing than this squid-bearded, lobster-handed,
crab-legged barnacled mess of genius. Mix in the astounding performance stylings of Mr. Bill Nighy and I just love this darn guy six ways to Tuesday and thankfully, the figure does not disappoint! While Davy's beard and lobster-claw and much larger than in the film, the sculpt is nicely detailed with tons of barnacles, coral growths and tattered, sea-worn clothing. The paint is exceptional - each barnacle is painted, there are three layers of color to the head and multiple washes on most of the rest of the figure. The hat is permanently affixed, the lobster-claw is not articulated and the tentacle-finger is permanently sculpted into a coil but none of it's really a problem at all. Articulation is the same eight points as the previous figures. The only detail missing is the rusty sword and scabbard on the character's belt, but I promise you won't even miss it. The figure included his walking stick, the much sought-after "Dead Man's Chest" and the key to it. The chest is impressively detailed for it size but sadly does not open. I really think this is the show-stopping figure of the series, even more so than Classic Jack. If you buy one Zizzle Pirates of the Caribbean figure, make it Davy Jones!
Bootstrap Bill Turner - Another new character to the second film in the franchise is that of Will Turner's pappy, the much discussed (in the first film) Bootstrap Bill. After being tossed overboard ("to the crushing depths of Davy Jones' locker" says Pintel) Bootstrap essentially "sells his soul" to Davy Jones becoming a crewmember aboard Jones' ship, the Flying Dutchman, and thusly subject to what doctors call Rapid Oceanic Anthropomorphology, or ROA. What we see here is effectively stage two of Bootstrap's conversion into briny madness as is detailed by the starfish on his face and massively corralled shoulders. The paint is again fantastic. From the fresh seaweed and the old barnacles to shiny blue mussels, this thing is just cool! He's articulated at the standard eight and included a sea-corroded sword and pistol.
Palifico - This duder is, obviously, one of Davy Jones' illustrious crewmembers (and another sufferer of ROA). The operative element in Palifico's transformation is coral and while his design isn't one of my favorites, what can I say but "wow!" The detail in the sculpt and paint on this guy is fantastic. He's another prime example of why this line is succeeding, one can't help but think "that's amazing at this scale." He has the same eight points of articulation (swivel neck, swivel shoulders, swivel waist, hinged elbows and T-crotch hips) but no accessories. This guy's trademark crusty swords are sculpted as part of his hands (in fact, he has no distinguishable fingers) emphasizing the life-altering effects suffered by those living with ROA around the world today.
All in all, these are very good figures. They range in price from $4.99 to $6.99, and are well worth $5, but a little over priced at $7. The flesh tones on the face, around the hair, and the chest, by the shirts, often bleeds over so be prepared for some figure-comparing to find the better paint job. Really though, I only have one complaint, and fortunately, or unfortunately rather, it applies to ever figure Zizzle has released - articulation. These figure need, at the least, balljointed shoulder articulation. At this scale, balljoints at shoulders add an incredible amount of playability and are preferable to almost any other point. Hasbro has even made balljointed shoulders (and even balljointed elbows and knees, now) a staple of new Star Wars figures and I think Zizzle would be very wise to make the same move. Additionally, many of these figures' hands are separate pieces glued into the forearms. I don't understand why Zizzle opted to made them square-peg inserts rather just make them cylindrical pegs allowing for a swivel joint - if you're going to spend the money to make them a separate piece, why not make them an additional feature at no extra charge to the company? Articulation concerns aside, thought, I do very much love this line and urge everyone to go out buy the figures. Support the line, support the movies, support the scale!
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