It's no surprise by now that block figures have hit the big time. Comics, music, movies and television all have tiny, pocket-sized representation from any number of companies. Now there's one more player in the game, Palisades.
Their first line of PALz is based on fan-favorite Buffy the Vampie Slayer. Though the real figures aren't due out for a while, Palisades brought an exclusive preview along with them when they stopped at Wizard World Chicago.
The figure is Buffy herself - or at least it will be one day. There's no paint or decoration on this piece, so this is really a preview of how the very construction of the PALz will work. Sure, it's got Buffy's hair and a pair of accessories, but the figure is a plain flat gray all over - the color of the plastic it was molded from.
When the first digital images of prototype PALz were revealed, the figures looked almost exactly like Art Asylum's Minimates. Now that the first actual figure has been released, the differences can easily be seen.
Buffy stands 2 1/2" tall, which makes her (and her compatriots) taller than the Marvel and DC Minimates, but just the same size as LotR. She has the same 14 points of articulation as a Minimate: neck, waist, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees and ankles, so she's mobile enough to slay even the toughest undead foe.
Though the points are the same, the PALz articulation isn't as reliable as the Minimates'. The elbow pins don't have a "cap" on the end to hold the pieces together, so Buffy's arms have fallen apart almost every time I tried to move them. The shoulder joints also pop off easily, but that's only something that has happened while trying to reattach the elbows. The knees' problem is similar to the elbows', but since the figure's legs are thicker than her arms, it doesn't happen as often.
A Palisades representative, however, has said that these are not the finished joints - when the real figures ship, the pins will have the proper caps to hold everything together. Part of the point of a test shot is to see how things work in real life, and then to tweak them. So no worries! Buffy and the Slayerettes will be entirely sturdy when they ship.
In terms of construction, the PALz are more cubic than Minimates - particularly the arms and hands, which are more squared-off than the mates' round arms. Really, the only round element is the figure's head. On the production figures, the hair will conceal variant faces, just like Medicom's Kubricks. The piece stays on the figure's head well, but not so tightly that it would scratch the paint off.
Another cool little difference is separate bodies for the male and female characters - the girls' torso is molded with a little shelf to create a chest, while the boys remain rackless. Poor boys.
Prototype Buffy comes in a black and white box with a bit of information about the upcoming line printed on the back. In addition to her little ponytail hairpiece, she comes with two weapons: a stake and a pool cue. Either can be held in her square little hands. Fight, Buffy, fight! All the parts in this set are molded from the same gray plastic.
Casual shoppers may confuse PALz and Minimates, but to actual toy fans, the small differences should be clear. Are the potential joint problems enough to drive people away from this line? That's a decision everyone will have to make for themselves, but I doubt it - block figures from overlooked properties like this are more than worth it.
Think they'll do anything to fix the joints? Tell us on our message board, the Loafing Lounge.