Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Ed Wood Wednesdays, week 164: NECA Toony Terrors: Vampira (2023)

I'm going to call this a Plan 9 from Outer Space toy. Try and stop me.

If I ever won the lottery, I'd spend at least a million dollars of it on toys. Instead of talking to a financial planner or stockbroker like a mature and responsible adult, I'd be on eBay and Amazon immediately, buying up every action figure, playset, and vehicle I ever wanted, including vintage classics from the '70s and '80s as well as items made more recently for the collector market. I'd devote an entire room -- or two or three -- of my house to that wonderfully useless plastic junk and spend many hours there. Eventually, I'd become a Howard Hughes-type recluse, content to stay indoors with all my fabulous possessions. Finally, finally, I could die happy.

This will never be my life.

The sad reality is that a lack of shelf space and a lack of money prevent me from becoming this kind of collector. Like just about everything else these days, toys are getting pricey. So I have to content myself with a few modest shelves of action figures, many rescued from dollar and discount stores and worth virtually nothing. Every once in a great while, however, I find a new item that's too tempting to resist.

Earlier this year, the NECA toy company, which mainly caters to adults, announced the lineup for Series 8 of its Toony Terrors line of horror figures: Svengoolie, Captain Spaulding (from 2003's House of 1000 Corpses), and Vampira. Anyone who follows me on Twitter knows that I'm an obsessive viewer of Sven's Saturday night spook show on MeTV. I'm also a longtime fan of cult movie star Sid Haig and have greatly enjoyed his ghoulish, gleeful Captain Spaulding character. But obviously, the main draw of Series 8 for me was that Vampira figure.

All three figures in Series 8 of Toony Terrors.
And so, way back in April, I preordered a set of all three figures from a site called Clark Toys. And then I waited. And waited. And waited some more. I was on the verge of giving up hope. Finally, just a few days ago, a box arrived at my doorstep containing Sven, Captain Spaulding, and our beloved horror hostess. I'd never purchased anything from NECA before and didn't really know what the Toony Terrors figures would be like. I thought maybe they'd be bobbleheads or similar to Funko Pops.

As I soon found out, Toony Terrors are six-inch action figures that give us slightly cartoony or caricatured versions of famous horror characters. ("Bring the fun of Saturday morning cartoons to your horror collection," the packaging declares.) Articulation is minimal. The heads are on ball joints, and the arms can be moved as well. Otherwise, the figures are immobile from the waist down. Each figure comes with an accessory. Svengoolie has a rubber chicken sculpted permanently in his left hand. (He's also the only figure with articulation at the wrists.) Captain Spaulding has an alternate, swappable head with a different facial expression. And Vampira has a prop skull that can also double as a swappable head for the Toony Terrors figures. Buyers should know that the sculpt of Vampira's hair prevents her head from being posed too dramatically. You can slightly tilt her face to the right or left, but that's about it.

Since both articulation and accessories are limited in this line, the real draw of Toony Terrors is the quality of its sculpts. All three figures in Series 8 were sculpted by Adrienne Smith, and I am pleased to say that they are uniformly excellent in terms of design, managing to be both cute and creepy at the same time. Fans of Plan 9 from Outer Space (1957) will immediately recognize Vampira. Her Morticia-like black dress, her hair, her facial expression, even her eyebrows -- all just as you remember them from the movie. Best of all, you can pose her with those long, pointy fingernails of hers sticking straight out. I'm positive Ed Wood would have purchased one of these figures himself if he'd been around in 2023. 

I'm not a collector who keeps his toys in their original packaging, but NECA has kept mint-on-card collectors in mind with Toony Terrors. The packaging design is quite attractive, made to look like the marquee and ticket booth of an old time movie theater. The back of each card can also be used as a "bonus backdrop display." Vampira's card shows a velvet curtain, some fog, and some candles. I'm guessing it's meant as a recreation of the set of her 1950s TV show.

There's not much licensed, official merch related to Ed Wood, so this Toony Terrors Vampira figure was quite a treat. Sure, the toy is kind of stiff and static, but so was the real Vampira! Her character in Plan 9 was supposed to be a reanimated corpse, after all. I'm pleased as punch to have a little plastic replica of Maila Nurmi on my shelf. To keep her company, I've paired her with a 1990s Toy Biz figure of Marvel's Kingpin that's a dead ringer for Tor Johnson. They make a great couple.