Certainly much of the credit for the success of the movies has to go to actor Johnny Depp, portraying the quirky, yet charming, if decidedly roguish pirate Captain Jack Sparrow. What we have here, in comparative terms, is a somewhat less moral Han Solo in pirate gear, with the action taking place in environments that even Indiana Jones would be hard-pressed to get out of. It's no darn wonder the movies have been so successful.
Certainly another measure of the credit has to go to the production values, which are as mind-boggling in their own way as any Star Wars movie, even if the action is taking place on the oceans instead of in outer space.
Pirates have become, thanks to these movies, not just box-office gold, but pop-culture gold. There's a series of Young Reader books about the young Jack Sparrow. A popular publisher of Japanese manga is starting a new series entitled "Pirates vs. Ninjas". Even here locally, a charity auction that raises money by selling huge, custom-built playhouses for families' backyards has as its main offering this year a huge pirate ship playhouse, complete with a crow's nest and rigging.
So it's hardly surprising that there are toys based on the official movies. Now, it's possible to head into Wal-Mart or Target and find several types of action figures. There's a very decent-looking line of 3-3/4" action figures, and some slightly larger figures, as well as a variety of playsets, made by a company called Zizzle.
But you can bet that the Disney Store wanted to get in on the Pirates frenzy, and they have done so in a big way. Exclusive to the Disney Store are these huge new 16" -- that's right, I said sixteen-inch -- figures of two of the most notable characters from the second Pirates of the Caribbean movie. Let's have a look at them both, shall we?
CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW
The lead character from the movies, of course. Now, I don't know who sculpted this figure. As with a lot of Disney Store exclusives, the only markings on the figure simply say "Disney" and "China". Presumably Disney does enough exclusive stuff these days so they probably have their own in-house facilities for producing these toys, but whoever did sculpt this for Disney, somebody should give him, her, or them a medal for detail. Granted, when you're working on a 16" figure, there's a lot of room to work. But it's still incredibly impressive. The rings, the buckles, the hair braids, are all just amazing. The sculpted texture to the plastic clothing is equally impressive. The face is a superb likeness, as well.
As impressive as the sculpting is the paint detailing. It's absolutely incredible. There was only one little point on the figure where I thought the paint was a bit off the mark, and it's not even worth pointing out. Again, when you consider the fine points such as the detail on the rings, the buckles, the hair braids, everything, it's just amazing. And then you consider how well the face has been painted, even being able to see individual "hairs" in the eyebrows, and the end result is just staggering.
Articulation is where we come up a bit short. On the other hand, these figures aren't meant to be taken out to the sandbox, or the beach, or the pool, or whatever. They're largely intended as display pieces. For one thing, both of these figures are so heavy that giving one to a small child to play with is basically the equivalent of handing a child a large, heavy, and potentially throwable object that could do some serious damage to furniture, pets, and kneecaps.
Basically, the upper part of the figure is very well articulated, but the figure is non-poseable below the waist. So call it a half-statue. That's still preferable to just a statue. In the case of Jack Sparrow, the head moves a bit, but is somewhat hindered by the hair. His arms move forward, backward, and outward, there's an upper-arm swivel just below the shoulder, his elbows move, and his wrists rotate. The articulation points, especially the wrists and shoulders, are quite well concealed by the sculpt.
And he talks! I actually set off Davy Jones first, but then realized that, obviously, both figures had to be capable of speaking, but blasted if I could find the activation button. I was looking for a really obvious panel or something. I should've paid more attention to the word "button", because I finally managed to track it down to one of the tiny gold buttons on his tunic. Second one up from the belt. And it's pretty darned small, no more than 1/8" in diamater. Now THAT is what I call impressive designing!
Captain Jack Sparrow has three phrases, and they include, "Captain Jack Sparrow, at your service", "Oh, please don't tell me you're an honest pirate. Wonderful. I'm sure we'll get nothing accomplished." and "Now, if it wouldn't be too much trouble to say again, what's in it for me?"
Sparrow comes with four very nice accessories -- his pirate hat, a sword, a pistol, and the one item that came up a little short in the manufacturing, a compass with a "shark fin" pointer. It's hinged so the top can flip up, but it has a tendency to just fall off.
Still, a decidedly minor point in an otherwise truly amazing figure. Now, let's consider the other one...
When you've got a "hero" in the movie that's not exactly all sweetness and light, and you've already gone up against a ghost ship in the first movie, you need an enemy that's that much worse. And brother, they sure found one foe the sequel -- the legendary Davy Jones himself, and I don't mean the one that was part of that pop band in the 1960's. I'm talking about the one from pirate legend.
Davy Jones and his crew of half-fish buccaneers were such a frightening sight in the second Pirates movie that if Aquaman or Prince Namor had figured anything like this was hanging around under the waves, they'd both have started looking into desert property.
As complicated and detailed a figure as Captain Jack Sparrow was, Davy Jones is that much more. This -- whatever the heck he is -- part-man, part cobbled together sea life, with enough barnacles hanging off him to sink the Titanic for a second time, is one seriously ugly customer. I don't think he'll be the mascot for Long John Silver's or Red Lobster anytime soon. And the people that had to design, sculpt, and paint this big fellow had to figure that in comparison, Captain Jack Sparrow was a walk in the park.
First off, you've got the head. Remember the "Squid Head" aliens from Star Wars? Meet their ugly brother. This guy has more tentacles hanging off his face than someone who's just been to All-You-Can-Eat-Calamari night at an Oriental restaurant. The really creepy thing, in its own way, is that in the midst of this fish-face are two all-too-human eyes. Somehow, that makes it that much scarier.
Jones' body is more or less human, but there's differences. The index finger on his right hand is one more long tentacle, and his left arm, apparently having been cut off or rotted off just above the elvor, has been replaced by a massive lobster claw.
Similarly, although the left leg is human, the right leg is a peg leg. But not of wood. It's another claw-like appendage.
Jones' wardrobe has seen better days, too. He can't even wear his outer coat over his left arm, but in another superb bit of sculpting detail work, the "folded" sleeve can be seen on the back of the coat, which is almost like a cape on this figure. It's full of rotted holes, and covered with barnacles and other undersea growth, but the overall detail is amazing.
Jones' left leg is where most of the sea life tends to be. Barnacles, shells, and who knows what else, a truly ugly miasma that looks like a really disgusting, walking coral reef. Between having to sculpt the clothing detail of this figure, and then having to make sure it looked appropriately underwater-rotted, the sculptors did not have an easy job with this figure. But they, and the painters of the production version, did a truly amazing job. I'd love to see this level and quality of work in more action figure lines.
Jones talks, too. Actually, he sounded off when I was dragging him out of the package. But I couldn't find the switch. Once I knew where it was on Jack Sparrow, though, I checked Davy Jones for something similar. Sure enough, the button above his belt, which is painted a dark silver, is the activation button. Again, this level of concealment is truly impressive.
Jones' phrases are: "Davy Jones always keeps his promises", "Perhaps a wager then -- heh-heh -- for your soul?" and "Don't'cha be thinkin' of welchin' on that deal."
Articulation on Davy Jones is about the same as it is on Sparrow. The head sort of moves, but the tentacles hinder it. The arms move forward, backward, and outward, and there's an upper arm swivel just below the shoulder. The elbows are jointed. The right wrist turns, and since the left hand ends in a huge claw, the upper part of the claw moves in and out.
Davy Jones comes with a barnacle-ridden hat with seaweed hanging off of it, a walking stick, and a rusty sword that fits very nicely into a scabbard. There's also a little round piece of plastic that snaps onto the sharp point of his lobster-like peg-leg. This is probably needed to let him stand properly.
These figures are not inexpensive. They were sent to me as samples to review, otherwise they would not have fit within my rather limited budget. However, I have to say this -- if you're a major fan of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movies, and there's a lot of people who are, and you're looking for the ultimate versions of CAPTAIN JACK SPARROW and DAVY JONES to display in your home, then these 16" editions should definitely warrant serious consideration.
They both have my highest recommendation!