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Figures and Speech: NECA’s Bill and Ted Versus TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2

Figures and Speech: NECA’s Bill and Ted Versus TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2

Welcome to Figures & Speech, Nerdist’s regular column by, for, and about grown-ups who still play with their toys but might want to know more before they buy. From product reviews to informed editorials, these are most definitely the articles that’ll make you want to strike a pose.

I admit, I was a skeptic when NECA first announced their “retro-style” figures based on Mego toys of the ’70s. As a kid whose first figures were Star Wars, I could never get behind the more doll-like seven-inch figures with removable clothes and (occasionally) rooted hair. I liked my details sculpted, even if the “details” of the time weren’t even close to the caliber of those today. And every time some company in the ’90s or thereafter would try to revive “the Mego style,” it looked like the same thing I never liked in the first place.

NECA first took up the style for Django Unchained toys that proved so controversial they were almost immediately withdrawn from toy stores; the ’70s style was purportedly at the request of Quentin Tarantino, who was a child of the Mego generation. But they’ve kept it around for an important logistical reason. As the figures are bigger than their norm, they can charge more. That said, as they all use the same base body, the tooling costs are less.

Only major A-list licenses and new movies would promise the kind of sales entailed to make up for the coss of entirely new, top-to-bottom sculpts. This simplified method allows NECA to take on niche licenses that wouldn’t otherwise be profitable. Hence Bill and Ted, Chop Top, Leatherface.

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While all four figures use the same base body, the packaging is very different. Leatherface and Chop Top come in the standard clamshell packaging that fits over two hooks in the store aisles. Bill and Ted come in a box that puts their Wyld Stallyns band logo front and center, just as they’d have wanted.

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An interesting detail on the back of Chop Top’s packaging is the special thanks to Bill Moseley. I presume this is because likeness rights weren’t included with the movie license and had to be negotiated with Moseley himself, as nobody in 1986 ever imagined there’d be Chop Top toys someday. (In fact, this is the second Chop Top action figure ever; Mezco produced one when they had the license.) And that’s bad news, somewhat, because it means the odds of Dennis Hopper as Lefty Enright in this figural form are slim and none. Hopper had no objection to toys when he was alive—you can own figures of him from both Super Mario Bros. and Waterworld—but it’s likely his estate would want a decent return on the right to use his face.

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(Note: Be careful opening the figure. The packaging looks like it pulls apart easily, but it actually snaps into jagged shards when you try. Scissors are your friend.)

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The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2 is my favorite film in its franchise, and one of my favorite horror-comedies ever, and Chop Top is emblematic of why. He goes big and crazy at every turn. This is a movie where Dennis Hopper is the good guy, the chainsaw is a blatant phallic symbol, the setting is primarily tunnels in and around an abandoned amusement park, and the aforementioned supporting character keeps scratching the metal plate in his head with a coathanger sterilized in cigarette-lighter flame. The original film felt gritty and real; the sequel gets away with insane gore and subtexts by being so surreal.

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The Chop Top action figure has everything you’d want in a toy version of Leatherface’s Vietnam vet brother. Removable wig, sunglasses, and necklaces. Not just his coathanger and lighter, but also a hammer and an opening straight-razor. Articulation on him (and all of these) is standard: ball hips, neck, wrists, and shoulders; hinge elbows, knees and ankles; cut waist. Ironically, while the advantage of old Megos was their “super-posable” body, NECA now sports better articulation on most of their more standard action figures.

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As much as I love NECA, I’m afraid their treatment of ol’ Bubba Sawyer himself leaves something to be desired this time. Oh, not in the look, which is right-on, nor in the clothes, which fit very nicely. It’s the execution. First of all, his head joint is a ratcheting one, unlike all the others, and required the “soak under hot water” trick to free it up. And that’s not a great trick to use when the outfit is fabric; it took him two days to dry. But that’s a minor issue.

The real problem is the choice to make his hands closed-grip (i.e. the fingers are all molded together with a hole down the middle for holding accessories, so the hand will not open) and hard plastic, unlike Chop Top, who has flexible fingers that open—what we used to call Kung Fu Grip. The signature chainsaw has handles that can pop off so you can slide the hands on, in theory. In actuality, even if you use the bonus extra hand, the moment you try to slide his hand in place over the silver handle, it snaps in two. At least mine did.

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It’s not a total deal-breaker, appearance-wise, but it’s noticeable and was avoidable. An open hand, or a softer plastic one, could have made all the difference.

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Leatherface also comes with an electric carving knife, but let’s be real: you’re never going to display him with that.

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Bill and Ted’s box plugs the recent Blu-ray set, as well as the exclusive Rufus figure available from Shout Factory.

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And yes, as a bonus it also contains a cardboard TARDIS phone booth time machine that everyone involved swears had nothing to do with Doctor Who, but rather college stunts about packing people into phone booths.

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It’s not much—it is literally a cardboard box—but it adds to any potential dioramas.

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From Ted’s “Save the humans” bumper sticker to Bill’s hand-drawn “Stallyn” and name tag, the outfit details are right on. My Ted came missing his guitar strap, which is unfortunate, but you should be able to see in the box if yours is before you buy.

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One of the drawbacks of generic bodies is that Bill and Ted have old man hands. Now, that’s definitely better than Leatherface’s “snap the accessory in half” molded gloves, and they can at least hold their instruments and do air guitar poses. But they look a little bit weird close up.

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You can’t complain about those likenesses, though. NECA has done it again with fantastic portraits of Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter.

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Check out those totally sweet abs!

But when figures collide in your toyroom…who wins?

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I just have a feeling it ends in humiliation, and world peace.

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And that’s why villains should never wear cloth underwear. San Dimas-style wedgie attacks.

Who wins when you play? Hit me up on Twitter @LYTrules and let me know, or just comment below.

Images: Luke Y. Thompson

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