Lanard’s Kong: Skull Island toys are some of the most unexpected– and fun– action figures we’ve seen in 2017.
The slate of movie and other mass media properties at the top of the year makes every January an intriguing time in the toy aisle. One of the biggest surprises of 2017 was the Kong: Skull Island collection, released exclusively at Wal-Mart by Lanard.
A long-time mainstay of low price generic brand toys, Lanard’s military toy line The Corps has thrived at retailers throughout the ups and downs of Hasbro’s struggling GI Joe collection… but Kong represents the first time the toymakers have tackled a third party property. The results are actually really solid– a lineup of figures, vehicles, and creatures with a good quality and fun factor that belies their entry-level price point.
The Kong: Skull Island series breaks down into three sub-categories: Figure vs monster environmental packs, deluxe vehicle packs, and the undeniable star of the show, a massive 18″ tall King Kong figure. Each of the three environmental packs contains one 3.75″ human figure, a giant monster, and a small vehicle or playset. The body of each figure is a straight up repaint of a Corps figure, and on their own they’re nothing to write home about, with odd proportions and oversized weapons. What did catch my eye, though, were the new actor headsculpts which bear strong likenesses to Tom Hiddleston’s Captain James Conrad and Samuel L. Jackson’s Lt. Colonel Packard. The former is packed with a jeep and a giant spider, while the latter includes a very cool base bunker adorned with files and photos of Kong and the other mythic creatures on Skull Island. Packard also includes a clip-on ghillie suit and a Skull Crawler, one of the more prominent monsters we’ve seen in the Kong trailers. Rounding out the series is a generic soldier from the Monarch team, packed with a raft and a Pterodactylus (think the winged dinosaur by way of HP Lovecraft) with semi-bendable wings.
Articulation on the monsters varies greatly, with the Spider gelling the most thanks to its articulated legs. The Skull Crawler is pre-posed in mid-walk, but features a hinged jaw, and the Pterodactylus features no moving parts, aside from the bendable wings. Despite this limited articulation, the sculpts are again great, highlighting the bizarre and otherworldly aesthetic this Kong movie’s production design is using for its creatures.
Moving up one scale, we have the vehicle/ driver sets, which help build the “Sky Devils” army. The helicopter includes a pilot while the boat features a Patrol Sergeant driver. Each vehicle can fit multiple figures, and sports very nice paint apps including weathering and tampo markings. The only downside here is, as we’ve seen with other kid-focused toy lines such as Playmates’ TMNT figures, the vehicles are only partially painted. Half of each is really nice looking, while the reverse side is largely unpainted. It’s hard to be too critical of this, though, because A) this is very much a toy line designed to be played with by kids as opposed to displayed by collectors, and B) the insanely low price points– $10 for an environmental set, $15 for a vehicle set– make such shortcomings much easier to swallow.
As I said up top, the true star of the line is the massive 18″ Kong figure, and he is fantastic. While somewhat limited in articulation, Kong still features a neck joint, ball shoulders, ankle and wrist swivels, and double jointed elbows, which allow him to strike a classic chest-pounding pose. From the fur to the muscles, to the scars that adorn Kong’s chest, the sculpt is very nicely detailed despite Kong’s limited paint apps, and bears a solid resemblance to the on screen appearance of the King of Skull Island.
For a retail price of $25, this huge Kong feels like another incredible bargain, and the inclusion of a generic Monarch soldier in the set only increases that value even more. I’ve already seen some motivated customizers give this Kong figure a new paint job, and it truly shows off what a great sculpt Lanard created.
I was drawn to the Kong: Skull Island toys due to the impressive quality of the movie sculpts and the very approachable price point. But my biggest takeaway is how FUN these toys are. I would have been obsessed with this line, had it been released when I was a kid. And even today, opening these sets, playing around with these charmingly clunky figures fighting weird looking dinosaurs caused a wave of nostalgia to wash right over me.
This is the exact toy line we should have seen for Jurassic World… I’m glad Lanard figured out that when you have a toy line filled with monsters, dinosaurs, and kaiju, the best way to make them fun to play with is including some guys for them to fight/stomp/eat/etc. For a first-time venture into licensed action figures, Lanard crushed it with the Kong: Skull Island toys. It makes me dream of the fun they could potentially bring to other giant monster properties in the future. And with more Godzilla and Pacific Rim movies on the horizon, I genuinely hope that whoever winds up making toys for those films takes notes on Lanard’s winning Kong: Skull Island concept!