JACK SKELLINGTON (Pajamas)
It is the perfect time of year to be reviewing some Halloween themed action figures and what could be more Halloweeny than the Pumpkin King. I instantly fell in love with Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” when it was released back in 1993. There was just so much to like about it that I don’t know why it didn’t attract a wider audience. The film wasn’t truly appreciated until years later. It has now achieved cult status and has gone from under-appreciated to over-exposed. NBX merchandise can be found everywhere and the characters faces have been slapped on everything you can imagine. I have no less than 5 variations of NBX mugs that have been given to me as gifts over the years and a co-worker once bought me a set of NBX nesting dolls. As a fan of the property this deluge of marketing kind of gets on my nerves. It just feels so watered down now. But on the other hand, I remember a time when I would have loved some NBX merchandise (namely action figures) but there were none to be found.
I was still in my early teens when this movie came out and though I had always been a fan of movies I think it was this flick that turned me into a legitimate movie buff. I knew what movies I liked as a kid (Die Hard, Young Guns, Bill & Ted) but I didn’t have the foggiest idea who the writers or directors were behind them. I was familiar with Tim Burton before but having his name above the title really drew my attention and made me aware of his “presence” in the film. For years afterwards Tim Burton was my favorite director. All of his films were infused with such personal style. His other movies from around that time, Batman, Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands to name a few, are all oozing with Burton’s signature style. But as great as all those movies were they only seemed to provide a glimpse into Burton’s warped imagination. The Nightmare Before Christmas immersed us in his mad genius and even though he didn’t actually direct it I feel it is the most “Burton-esque” of all of his films.
The character designs in the film are just brilliant and the model set pieces are beautiful. The textures and shapes of the crooked buildings and the spiraling hills really draw you into this magical world. I loved my inaugural visit to Halloween town and have enjoyed re-visiting it every time since. I paid a visit again just last night when I put the film on as background entertainment for my halloween party.
So let me set the stage for you a bit as to what my life was like when I got this figure. It was 1998. I had graduated high school in ’96 and had went to university the year after. I realized that accounting wasn’t my calling and opted not to return to university the following year. I took a year off to work full-time and to save money while I figured out what I wanted to do. During that year I was working at both Blockbuster Video and Pizza Hut which were directly across the street from one another. Some days I worked 9 to 5 at one job and then I’d dart across Sackville Drive to work 5 -12 at the other. I worked a lot that year and managed to save up a decent chunk of money which I put towards animation school the next fall. While I was putting most of my money aside, I was still accumulating more disposable income then I had ever had before. I was still living with my folks rent free and was totally free of debt. I had always collected comic books all through junior high and high school but I had almost completely walked away from action figures for the better part of a decade at this point. Not because I had lost interest necessarily but because all the lines I liked (G.I. Joe, Transformers, Battle Beasts) were no longer around.
Well around this time the original Star Wars trilogy had been re-released to theatres and new action figures were being produced by Hasbro to gear up for the upcoming release of the prequels. Toy Biz was producing a bunch of Marvel toys based on the Spider-Man, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Iron Man and Silver Surfer cartoons that were airing at the time. This was also around the time that the first Gundam action figures were finding their way to North American shores. Me with a pocket of disposable income and this influx of cool new toys did not make for a good combination. This was the birth of me as an action figure “collector”. Star Wars became my first major modern collection, which quickly eclipsed my childhood Star Wars collection. I started buying every goofy variation of Spider-Man that I could get my hands on and soon my Toy Biz collection was huge. I was back on the action figure train, full steam ahead and loving it.
The internet was still relatively new at the time believe it or not. We only had one computer in the house and I only ever really got to use it late at night after I’d get home from work. My early internet use consisted of going to chat rooms based in California to ask people about up and coming punk bands which I’d then go download from Napster. I got my first email account (which is still the one I use today) and used the Hotmail directory to reconnect with old friends. I even used it to contact a French actress I was crushing on, Emilie Dequenne, with whom I became pen pals with for a short while. Funny story about that shared family computer, my dad found some gay porn sites in the internet history on a number of occasions and eventually confronted my little brother about it. Brian was still in the closet at that time and instead of confessing to looking at it he threw me under the bus telling Dad it must’ve been me looking at them during one of my late night computer sessions. But of course dad didn’t buy it, I was way too much of a ladies man.
I also spent my internet time marvelling at the wondrous new auction website known as ebay. Everything I could ever hope to buy was available to me, it was mind blowing. I would type in searches and discover merchandise that I never knew existed. This was even before the days of Toy focused magazines so unless I saw an item in the Sears catalogue or on the shelf of my local Toys R Us I wouldn’t have ever known about it. Ebay introduced me to all kinds of new things to spend my money on.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was one of those properties I typed in one day. I knew a few figures had been released back when the movie was first released and that’s what I was hoping to find but I discovered something far better. A Japanese toy company called JUN had recently begun releasing amazingly detailed 16” Jack Skelington dolls. There was one doll being released each month of the year. Each one had a unique head sculpt and came packaged in a different colored coffin. Most of the bodies were pretty much the same and featured Jack’s signature black suit but there were a couple of variations such as his Santa outfit. I remember bidding on a number of those black suited dolls but the auctions always breached the $100 mark which was more than I was willing to spend on a toy at the time. But oh how I wanted one. After a few failed attempts I eventually found a version of Jack in his pajamas currently sitting at about $50. I tossed in my bid and if memory serves I think I won him for about $75. With the shipping from Japan he ended up costing me about $100 in total. I remember how unsure I was of the purchase and even asked my dad whether I should do it. My dad has always been supportive of my hobbies and basically said “go for it ” so I did. For a long while this Jack Skellington was the signature piece of my toy collection. In the 15 years since I’ve acquired many more signature pieces including one of those black suited Jacks but this figure holds a special place in my heart. Today I wouldn’t think twice about blowing $100 on action figures and in fact I do it on a regular basis but this is the one toy that set the precedent for it.
I’ve rambled on long enough so I’ll try to make my actual review quick. This figure is stellar. If you told me that this was one of the puppets used in the actual film I’d believe you. The quality is outstanding. The head sculpt is great and is still my favorite of all the various expressions that were available. There were smiling and angry options but I just love this inquisitive frowning face. The pajamas look just as they did in the film and I especially love the long night cap. The figure’s joints are firm and he can hold poses well but he doesn’t stand on his own because of the scrawny legs. It’s crazy how skinny his limbs are when you roll up his sleeves or pant legs to reveal them. His hands aren’t articulated but they’re made of a softer plastic so you can move his fingers about without worrying about snapping them off. His only accessory was a copy of the ”Scientific Method” book he’s seen reading in the film as he struggles to figure out Christmas. It’s very detailed as well with finely sculpted pages that look as though they can be turned. The text on the pages is actually a synopsis of the film. The dark blue coffin he came in makes for a great display piece or storage unit. An excellent figure that stands (quite literally) head and shoulders above most of the NBX merchandise out there. If you’re a true fan, go out and buy yourself one of these JUN figures. 10 out of 10.