Django Unchained stands tall amidst the best of Quentin Tarantino’s films, and NECA’s new toy line absolutely does the movie justice. NECA took a risk with this line, opting for a retro approach to capture the 70’s hipster vibe of Tarantino’s films, resulting in some modern day Mego style figures. I thought this was a genius approach as soon as I heard about it, and now, having the figures in hand, I can’t think of a better way to bring these characters to life.
The sometimes-controversial Mego approach works well given the right property, and the oldschool feel of Tarantino’s films lends itself perfectly, but what NECA really brings to the table is the amazing craftsmanship that has made them famous. These figures are wonderfully realized, with an all new 8″ scale body, stunning actor portraits, and beautifully crafted cloth outfits. This combination of cool, retro styling with modern toymaking quality and design makes the Django series something special… these are, essentially, the best-looking Mego figures ever made.
The first wave of Django Unchained figures (yes, it appears NECA is planning more!) features six characters– we get Django, his bounty hunting partner Dr. King Scultz, Django’s enslaved wife Broomhilda, plantation owning fop Calvin Candie, sinister house servant Stephen and Butch Pooch. Each figure sports a uniquely sculpted head on a blank plastic body, and a full cloth outfit. The body design is good, although there are a few aspects I’d love to see tweaked for future assortments. Unlike most Mego-esque bodies, the figures feature only a swivel waist, limiting torso movement, and the lack of hip or bicep swivels also reduces the range of motion from the arms or legs. Despite these drawbacks, each figure still sports a nice articulation pattern including ball shoulders and hips, hinged knees and elbows, hinged ankles and wrists, the swivel waist, and one huge step up from any other Mego-style buck I’ve seen– a ball joint neck, which offers a fantastic range of motion just like many of NECA’s plastic figures.
Overall, the articulation of this new body is good, but what makes it even better is a sturdiness lacking in many Mego type figures. Many 8″ dolls are assembled using rubber bands like the vintage Mego’s, but the Django figures are built like modern day figures, with much stronger joints and solid assembly. This makes the figures feel much sturdier, and breakage is absolutely not a concern here, a nice change of pace for anyone who’s collected the sometimes-brittle retro figures of the past.
With a decent base body established, NECA chose to play to their strengths to make these figures pop, with the same painstaking level of detail seen in the company’s best toys translated perfectly to this new scale and style. The figures feature solid plastic heads as opposed to the soft rubber seen on many Mego’s, and this results in much sharper sculpts and exceptional paint detailing. The portraits are all impressive, ranging from easily identifiable (Leonardo DiCaprio /Candie and Jamie Foxx /Django) to uncannily lifelike (Christoph Waltz /Scultz and Samuel Jackson /Stephen are particularly stunning in their likenesses). The wonderful washes give these portraits a sense of reality lacking in many retro figures, and serve to highlight the most subtle of details, from Django’s scar to the part in Broomhilda’s upturned hairstyle.
As well-crafted as these figures are, the clothes might be even better. NECA has never been a company known for including soft goods with their toys, but they really nailed it right out of the gate. Each costume is very well-crafted, shaped nicely to the figures’ bodies to avoid an overly bulky look. Stitches and buttons are properly scaled, with no costume elements appearing disproportionately large, and even the velcro strips which fasten each costume together are svelte enough to go unnoticed. The clothes also feature an impressive variety of fabrics and textures. From the thick corduroy coat and rawhide pants on Django to the slim, silky sheen of Candie’s smoking jacket, each figure’s outfit sports an added realism thanks to this wise choice to change up the materials used.
The Django toys are light on accessories, with only our hero getting any gear– Django includes a removable hat, complete with a string so he can sling it around his neck, as well as a pistol which fits in his holster. The rest of the figures are traveling light, but their overall appearance is definitely not impacted by their lack of gear, and truth be told even Django looks best with his gun holstered, thanks to the non-posed hands. In lieu of accessories, I will say that the packaging for this line is worth mentioning. Continuing the overall retro aesthetic, the Django figures are packed in slim window boxes much like vintage Megos. The stark boxes are wonderfully stylized, with a cream, red and black color pattern that matches the film’s artwork, and some cool deco sporting the movie poster’s elements throughout. This makes the Django figures look just as striking, retro and cool in their boxes as out of them, and thanks to the simple use of tape and ties to fasten them inside, it’s fairly easy to go back and forth between the two display options.
NECA seems to love pushing the envelope, especially when they tackle a Tarantino property. Their Kill Bill Crazy 88’s were amazingly fun, with their grisly and awesome removable limbs and bloodspray-pumping action feature. That cool, fun vibe has been amplified a thousand times over by the Django retro figures. I cannot think of a property more deserving of the retro-chic Mego treatment than a Tarantino movie, and NECA’s focus on quality and smart design choices makes the execution every bit as perfect as the concept. I love the hell out of these Django Unchained figures, but even more, they leave me excited at the idea that NECA could some day apply this same awesome concept to the rest of Tarantino’s filmography. The thought of owning a retro-style doll of Vincent Vega, or The Bride, or Jackie Brown, or Aldo Raines– it boggles the mind with potential. And like Django Unchained– the movie and NECA’s toy line– that’s just too cool for school.