There is one significant problem with NECA's Harry Potter toys: specifically, that they didn't have the license from the beginning. We had to suffer through three movies' worth of disappointing releases from Mattel before NECA came along, which means a good chunk of the story never got the toys it deserved.
NECA did try to correct that oversight, at least a little bit. Although their license started at the same time as Goblet of Fire, they immediately dropped back one film to do the Dementor, and later made this nifty "Year 2" box set, meaning that we got a Dumbledore based on Richard Harris. Sure, he was the less impressive of the two actors to take the role, but that's not a slam against him: it's just that Dumbledore himself didn't get really interesting until later in the story.
Considered by many the greatest wizard of modern times, Dumbledore is particularly famous for his defeat of the dark wizard Grindelwald in 1945, for the discovery of the twelve uses of dragon's blood, and his work on alchemy with his partner, Nicolas Flamel.
Richard Harris originally didn't want the role: he knew his health was declining, and didn't think he would be able to fulfill the commitment. Then his 11-year-old granddaughter threatened to never speak to him again, so he relented. The toy presents a good likeness of Harris, though the face should perhaps be thinner if it's really meant to be Year 2.
Although, it's entirely possible this is secretly a Year 1 Dumbledore - he wore the same ornate purple robes in both. NECA didn't really have a body to sculpt, but they did a superb job on the draping cloth. The outer robe has a diamond pattern on the thick hems, and two etched lines near the lower edge. The inner robe has smaller wrinkles, a very ornate pattern down the center where it buttons shut, and is cinched with a thick belt and a fancy crescent moon belt buckle. He even has a distinct texture on his hat - including a few patches and a band of stars! And it's all very nice, but the majority of the details come from the paint.
As we said, the robes are purple - flat purple for the inside, and metallic purple for the outer layer. Then there's a stunningly complex series of tampographed black designs that run perfectly over all those big folds. We're talking celtic crosses, interlinking rings, tiled paisleys and more. That had to be murder to design, and even harder to make sure the factory could apply it correctly and quickly. His hair and beard are cast from translucent white plastic, just like Lucius Malfoy's was, and his glasses are a separate piece that's glued in place.
Dumbledore's articulation is minimal. He has a balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, balljointed wrists and swivel ankles. This is a figure designed for standing around in one basic pose: the stiff sleeves of his robe only look right when his arms are down at his sides. Plus, he leans backwards just far enough to fall over if he's left unattended, and the ankles can't adjust for that. Either find him a display stand or plan to lean him against something.
You could probably guess without us telling you that there was going to be a Harry Potter in this Harry Potter set. It's not like that's some mind-blowing new direction in the toy industry; if you're making a special box set, you put the main character in it.
While Dumbledore could have been from either of the first two movies, Harry is unmistakably from Chamber of Secrets - his pose gives it away. With one arm extended and the other curled up behind his head, this figure clearly comes from the Dueling Club scene; all we're missing is a smug Malfoy for him to face off against. And a Gilderoy Lockheart to watch them. And a platform for them to duel on and a snake to threaten Justin Finch-Fletchley... okay, we're missing quite a lot.
The coolest thing about this figure is that, since this is a Year 2 Harry Potter, it gets a new Year 2 likeness. NECA has long shown the ability to sculpt actors the way they used to look, and that skill is continued here. Harry's got a rather spherical head, just as Daniel Radcliffe did at the time, and his glasses are glued on.
Harry's articulation is even
worse than Dumbledore's. He gets a balljointed head, swivel wrists and ankles, and a swivel/hinge chest. His Hogwarts robe is a single piece that's slightly flexible, but yet again this is a figure that's not going to have more than one pose. He comes with his wand, which is good, because the pose would look really weird otherwise.
The Year 2 box set includes a few other pieces that don't really belong to anyone. For instance, the sorting hat, sculpted perfectly with its face created from nothing but wrinkles. It's a bit small, considering that it was originally Godric Gryffindor's own headgear, but the design is top-notch! And there's also the Sword of Gryffindor, which can be pulled from the hat by any Gryffindor in their hour of need. So it's like the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, but pointy. You could probably work the sword into Harry's hand, but it's not easy.
Finally, we get Fawkes the phoenix, Dumbledore's rather unique pet... and possibly Godric Gryffindor's, too. The sword
and the hat were his, after all, so why not the bird? They do sort of live forever, so what's a thousand years among friends? At that point the only question is who owned Fawkes between the time Godric died and when Dumbledore got him.
Fawkes is attached permanently to his large perch, a crossbeam and tray atop a fancy pedestal. The entire piece of furniture is golden, with a little bit of darker paint right beneath the bird. Is that supposed to be poop? Or the ashes he bursts into from time to time? The bird himself is sculpted very well, and his paint is lovely, all reds and golds with a bit of black for his feet and beak. His tailfeathers and the three long feathers on the top of his head are flexible PVC, which means they tend to stick to other things if they're left touching for too long. Fawkes (who's named after Guy, since he periodically explodes) has a balljointed head, allowing him to look around and display a little personality. When Richard Harris first saw the Fawkes puppet on stage, he commented on how well trained the bird was.
The Harry Potter Year 2 set was like most of NECA's box sets: it never showed up in stores. But since this was the only time NECA ever stepped backward into Harry Potter's history, it's worth tracking down on that point alone. There are a lot of figures we wish NECA had made while they had the license, but at least we got a small glimpse of what might have been.