I Really Want To Like Mattel’s Ghostbusters

By bill - May 11, 2016

ghostbusters-featThe new team of Ghostbusters has arrived in the toy aisle, courtesy of Mattel.  While the concept of an all-female action figure line at mass retail remains fantastic, the final product, in this case, leaves much to be desired.

Ever since it was revealed that the new Ghostbusters in Paul Feig’s upcoming reboot would all be women, the reactions have been all over the place. A small but obnoxiously vocal bunch of men railed against the project, sight unseen, simply because the new Ghostbusters weren’t dudes.  A larger swath of people questioned whether it was a good idea to dust off this beloved but long-dormant franchise.  And others were willing to go along for the ride, considering the impressive talents in front of and behind the camera.  Me? I was curious how Mattel would handle the inevitable toy line.

The world of mass retail toys is often frustratingly conservative, enforcing old and outdated gender barriers which dictate which kinds of toys are “for girls,” and which are “for boys.”  Action figures have always been assigned to the latter, which is why historically we’ve seen such a small proportional percentage of female characters to male in action figure lines… the old, incorrect logic being that boys would not have an interest in playing with girl action figures.  This way of thinking has been slowly eroding, due to its own lack of relevance and the efforts of a number of toymakers who are making moves toward a more gender-equal dynamic in their toy lines.

Mattel has made some impressive steps in this regard in 2016.  They launched the DC Super Hero Girls collection, which offers the all-female cast of characters as both 12″ dolls and traditional 6″ action figures, in a toy line targeted at both boys AND girls.  And now, that brings us to the Ghostbusters, and Mattel’s refreshingly forward-thinking toy line includes all four women that make up the new team.  The figures are roughly in scale with the previous Movie Masters vintage Ghostbusters released by Matty Collector, and feature the same decent articulation pattern– ball necks, swivel waists, ball shoulders and elbows, double hinged hips, knee and ankle hinges and swivel wrists.

Ghostbusters Mattel 004

The sculpts themselves are solid, and I love that Mattel invested to develop a unique, totally original sculpt for each character.  And unlike the old school Busters, these new figures feature removable Proton Packs, held in place by rubber shoulder straps, and connected securely to the Proton Gun which the figure can hold.

Where the figures start to falter is the portraits, which are pretty soft, as is often the case when it comes to Mattel.  Each Buster– Kristen Wiig’s Erin Gilbert, Melissa McCarthy’s Abby Yates, Leslie Jones’ Patty Tolan, and Kate McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann– is easy enough to identify, but the actor likenesses are vague at best.  The Abby figure is the farthest off, bearing little resemblance to McCarthy, and while Wiig and McKinnon’s figures feature decent headsculpts, they’re thrown off by the soapy, ultra glossy plastic Mattel has employed.  That leaves Patty as the winner in terms of likeness, though even she has a slightly cartoony look to her.

I love the new Ghostbuster uniforms, with the orange and silver highlights, and while these accents look great on the toys, there is now paint whatsoever on the tan plastic of the figures’ jumpsuits.  This plasticky finish takes away from the very nice sculpting on the costumes, and gives the figures something of an unfinished look, even in light of great tampo details like the Buster logo on their shoulders and the names emblazoned on their chests.  A wash of some shading on the jumpsuits, and a less soapy plastic for the heads would have made worlds of difference in terms of making these figures truly come to life.

The Ghostbusters carry over the Collect N Connect concept from Mattel’s DC figures, as each figure includes parts to build Rowan, the villain of the new movie.  An anthropomorphized version of the Ghostbusters logo, Rowan has an interesting look, with his plump proportions and silly red bow tie being offset by his grin of yellow, razor sharp teeth… but his figure might be the worst CNC release ever.  The character design doesn’t exactly lend itself to hyper articulation, but Rowan only features a swivel neck, swivel shoulders, and swivel wrists in terms of moving pieces.  His legs– which are separate CNC pieces– plug into the body but do not move at all, so he’s stuck pre-posed in an awkward walking pose.  I have no idea what the thinking was here, but the end result is not what I’d call impressive.

Ghostbusters Mattel 026

But Rowan is a pack-in, and for my money I was interested in the foursome themselves.  Mattel’s figures aren’t bad, but it’s disappointing that they’re not great, either, because it really wouldn’t have taken much to bring them to that next level.  Still, even if I’m underwhelmed by the figures themselves, it’s still rad to walk into Wal-Mart and see an action figure toy line made up entirely of women.  That feels like progress, and it feels pretty great.  For that reason alone, I’d strongly suggest adding the new Ghostbusters to your collection.  Hopefully the movie itself will be great, and Mattel will wind up with a hit toy line by the end of the summer… that would be another nail in the coffin of the outdated gender barriers that are still holding on to the toy industry, and that’s worth a lot… soapy plastic and all.

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