The biggest development out of McFarlane Toys in 2014 is the toymaker’s launch of their first ever brick-based building toys, and the first wave of Walking Dead figures and sets are hitting Toys R Us stores nationwide now. Never one to follow a trend to the letter, McFarlane’s building toys are unique in a number of ways, most overtly a focus on realistic sculpts instead of the familiar blocky aesthetic seen in Lego, Kre-O and other building sets.
This realistic appearance carries over to both the veneers of the building sets– making them feel as much like snap-together model kits as building toys– as well as the minifigures, featuring a wide variety of heroes, villains and zombies from the AMC TV series. Figures are included with each playset, as well as a five-pack boxed set and a series of blind bags, composed of four unique zombies and four human characters.
I checked out a bunch of the blind bagged single figures, and I have to say I’m impressed by the sculpts. Considering their small scale (they clock in at under 2″ tall), there’s a remarkable amount of detail packed into these guys. Each figure is mostly pre-posed, often with a character appropriate stance, so Michonne is captured in mid-sword slash, which Daryl readies his crossbow and The Governor brandishes his machine gun toward his foes. The figures can be disassembled at the neck, waist, shoulders and (for the zombies) the hips, and many of them are swappable, allowing for some customization. Some poses are too specific to do much with, and smaller characters like Carl and zombie Sophia are simply too far off scale with their adult counterparts to really mesh well, but I like the game customizable dynamic anyway, especially for the zombies.
The figures come fully painted, and while they lack minute details such as eyes, there’s some great shading and highlighting that makes the intricate sculpts shine and further conveys the remarkable realism that McFarlane’s design team was going for. Every figure features a “C” shaped ring sculpted onto one foot, which can clip around any block peg to stand them upright, or clip onto the clear plastic stand each blind bag comes packed with.
As for the bags themselves, they really ARE pretty much blind. McFarlane gives collectors the courtesy of marking off humans and zombies (with a “H” for human figures and “W” for walkers) but aside from that there is no way to distinguish who is inside other than luck or sending some time feeling them out. This is a common practice for Lego collectors, and the unique sculpts make finding most of the Walking Dead characters fairly easy… but make sure to feel around carefully, as the smaller parts and more intricate sculpts are a lot more fragile than the average Lego figure. Someone obviously roughed up my Daryl bag before I got to it, because when I opened him, his hand holding the bow was snapped clean off and had to be glued back together.
These issues feel like predictable growing pains, and they pale in comparison to the quality and ambition on display in these figures. Todd McFarlane himself has been very vocal in his excitement for this toy line, and that enthusiasm is both understandable and infectious. I didn’t know how deep I was going to go into this line, but by the time I had opened my third minifigure, I was already making my plan to pick up the Governor’s Room next time I hit the store. There is a lot of potential in this toy line already, and with a launch this impressive I cannot wait to see what other surprises McFarlane has up their sleeve for this bold new collection.