Much as George Lucas would prefer to wipe the stain that is the Star Wars Holiday Special from history's record books, it'll never happen: not because people are desperate to see Bea Arthur singing and dancing, but because every hardcore geek knows that, in between the un-subtitled Wookie dialogue and Carrie Fisher's coke-fueled rendition of the main theme song (did you know it had lyrics? Neither did anyone else.), there was a brief cartoon that introduced Boba Fett to the world.
Boba Fett isn't the only major Star Wars villain introduced to the world via the medium of animation: the last episode of Cartoon Network's ultra-cool, yet ultra-brief Clone Wars cartoon's second "season" introduced a new droid commander, General Grievous.
General Grievous is a brilliant military fighter and commander of the droid armies. He was trained in lightsaber combat by the Sith Lord Darth Tyranus, making him a particularly deadly opponent for the Jedi.
Grievous was introduced very well, with the creeping threat of a great movie monster. When the Jedi discovered a massive droid factory on Hypori, they led a group of Clone Troopers to the planet, but the campaign quickly collapsed into disaster: orbital mines caused the transports to crash behind enemy lines, and the Clone Troopers were all killed. Grievous appeared and offered the surviving Jedi a chance to face him alone, earning a warrior's death.
There are two figures of General Grievous available - one in the regular, realistic style that will blend in with all your other Star Wars figures, the other in Genndy Tartakovsky's animated style as he was seen on the show.
Seeing the two versions next to one another is really something. The "normal" version is detailed well, showing off what the costume will look like in the film. Well, not that a fully digital character has a costume, but you know. Hasbro has been delivering surprisingly good sculpts for a while now, and Grievous is up to the level you'd expect.
One of four Revenge of the Sith "sneak preview" figures, Grievous looks truly menacing. His android body is skeletal, making him a walking spectre of death. He's painted a bony white, with a brown wash on top that pushes it closer to beige. The "interior" bits of his carapace are a dark grey, with some extremely dark green in his chest.
Grievous' face is... well, it's not a face. It's just a pair of eyes peeking out of his rather equine mask. The design directive for Grievous was just "a droid commander," but it was Warren Fu who decided that he should be partially organic. You can see the scalded flesh around his eyes, which is a great detail, both in terms of sculpts and paint: this isn't just some flat spot on his face, it really looks like it's inside his helmet. Guess that's what happens when you've been cut in half and chucked down a shaft.
This big beast moves at the neck, shoulders, elbows, torso, hips and knees, which gives you plenty of play options. He comes with a removable cape, a blaster and a blue lightsaber. He looks very commanding. The cape is a light blue with deep red lining, and there's a tan insignia on the back.
A review of the Ep. 3 Sneak Preview figures would be incomplete without a mention of the packaging. This is a really striking design, and it really stands out on the shelf. The card is die-cut in the shape of Vader's helmet. The backdrop sees that familiar black face floating ominously above roiling red lava - a great nod to what we all know is going to happen. The blister, instead of being a simple rectangle, is rounded and tapered, with a squared-off, raised Star Wars logo along the bottom. An early contender for the year's best packaging.
Since Hasbro has lost the Batman license to Mattel, their sculptors haven't had much of a call to put their animated sculpting skills to use. Now that Cartoon Network is giving us these five-minute installments of Star Wars, however, the company who for so long handled the Batman: The Animated Series toys can again stretch its cartoony muscles.
Obviously, the animated version is not as detailed as his RotS brother - he's got the sleek lines of the cartoon, not the varied textures of real life. Basically it means he's blue and not as intricate. He no longer looks skeletal, or very organic at all, to be honest.
Animated GG has a cape like the other version, but his is not removable. He does, however, have cooler accessories: while the Episode 3 figure only has one 'saber, the cartoony one is weilding two, with another pair on his belt. One of the coolest scenes in the already-awesome Clone Wars cartoon was Grievous throwing down with three Jedi masters in a multi-bladed duel. He collects the lightsabers of fallen opponents, so it's nice that at least one figure of the character has that.
All four lightsabers have different designs, which is a surprising attention to detail on an animated figure. The ignited blades are solid pieces, with a nice "flare" effect at the base. His hands are molded to hold the 'sabers perfectly.
The figure's face looks just like it did on the cartoon, and since that's where he first appeared, that's the version that looks "right." Articulation is minimal, of course: head, shoulders, elbows and waist. That isn't even enough to qualify him as an"action" figure, but the design is so dynamic that he still looks fun - the elbows are peg joints, so they just rotate, but it give you variety. His big clawed feet give him plenty of stability, but he includes a Clone Wars logo base if you should decide to use it.
The new series of Clone Wars figures is on the same card that was nominated for a 2004 ToY award - an insert in the bubble shows the character in an action pose, while the back features a static pose and a few storyboard animatics. The best feature, however, is a simple one: the upper left corner of the card is rounded off, patterned after the Clone Trooper's helmet.
The third season of Clone Wars, set to debut at the end of March, will show the events described in Episode III's opening crawl, so the cartoon is obviously tied closely to the actual movie. It's pretty cool that George Lucas gave them the go-ahead to introduce a major character in the cartoon. Of course, the second-most popular Star Wars character came out of its most hated installment; what will fate hold for the characters introduced in such a popular series?