As far back as I can remember, I’ve often been a sucker for cool vehicles in television and film.
I wasn’t taken to many movies as a child, so most of the cool vehicles I saw were on television. I soon had 1:64-scale versions of the vehicles from The Dukes of Hazzard, and The A-Team. I’m also pretty sure the reason I got a Matchbox Cars Ferrari, was due to the one Tom Selleck drove on Magnum P.I.
But then came that moment in 1986, that changed my life, forever.
Watching Back to the Future in my Grandma’s living room in 1986, I wasn’t completely sure what was going on. The film gained my attention when Marty McFly (Michael J Fox), was drawn to a strange sound, emanating from his friend Doc Browns’ (Christopher Lloyd) truck.
Slowly, a ramp lowered, and through a thick smoke-screen, out rolled a vehicle I had never seen before. It was shiny, and had all sorts of strange paraphernelia on it.
After that Summer, The Delorean Time Machine was firmly planted in my brain. I eagerly begged my parents to take me to the sequels, marveled as it flew through the air, and looked on in horror as it was crumpled to bits by an oncoming train.
I had numerous versions of the Time Machine, which included a plastic ERTL model kit, an R/C version made by JRL, and a 1:18-scale Sunstar Die-Cast model.
Despite all the publicity regarding John DeLorean’s business dealings, Back to the Future made many people like myself fascinated by this rarely-seen vehicle. When my Dad and Uncle saw a used one at a Porsche dealership, they brought me along on their next outing to take a look at it. Needless to say, I was a little disappointed that it didn’t have all of Doc Brown’s additions.
I had all manner of die-cast cars (and still do: over 6 cases full!) as a child. While Hot Wheels and Matchbox were churning out sporty cars like the Corvette, the DeLorean was nowhere to be found on store shelves.
And then, one day, I got lucky.
My family stopped into a small drug store at Grossmont Shopping Center in La Mesa, CA. I was able to convince my Dad to let me go inside with my Mom, and like any young child, requested a stop down the toy aisle. And that was when I saw it:
The packaging it came in is long gone now, but even with its not-so-perfect looks, I had to have it! Sure, the interior was white plastic, and the metal on the body was far from perfect, but in those days, it was take-it-or-leave-it when it came to some products. Plus, Zylmex’s wheels looked very similar to those on the actual DeLorean.
This DeLorean was made by a company called Zylmex. If you never heard of them, don’t worry: many people out there haven’t. Zylmex (or Zee Toys in some circles), seemed to be that generic brand of toy you often saw in smaller shops. You probably had one or two toys from this company growing up, but were often at a loss as to who actually made those toys.
What was note-worthy about the Zylmex DeLorean, is that it sported working gull-wing doors! However, the mechanism wasn’t too reliable, and I’m sure some other owners of this little car, had doors that did the following:
This would be the only (known) 1:64th scale DeLorean for probably 25 years, until one of the big players decided to do something about it.
In 2010, Hot Wheels finally brought the DeLorean into their vehicle lineup. The original release contained a unibody Die-Cast design, with the only moving piece, being a snap-up plastic rear deck, that showed the area where the DeLorean’s rear-engine was.
This mold would be used 4 more times, 3 of which showcased the DeLorean body in gold and black, along with a variation of the silver body-type.
In 2012, the Hot Wheels Red Line Club released a special retooled mold of the DeLorean. With a shinier exterior, and limited to 4000 pieces, it also is the only use of a newer Hot Wheels DeLorean mold, that features opening gullwing doors.
It seems that 25 years after the DeLorean was immortalized on film as the coolest time machine of all time, we finally got our Die-Cast dream vehicle (mainstream, anyways). But…What about that Time Machine?
In Part 2, we take a look at several iterations of “Back to the Future’s” DeLorean Time Machine, including a version you may never have seen before.
With the rise in Vinyl figurines, Funko has been one of the more popular names riding the wave. This is due in large part to their making figures based on popular properties like The Walking Dead, Marvel & DC superheroes, and even Disney characters.
One of the cuter releases they have expanded out is Funko Pop!, which takes popular characters, and places them into a world of big heads, beady eyes, and tiny bodies. With a uniform size among these types of characters, you can have Gandalf telling Michael Jackson not to pass, and Daryl Dixon squaring off against a Stormtrooper.
This summer sees the 5th release of Disney characters in the Funko Pop! line-up, with 12 new releases. However, I wanted to get my hands on two of them: Carl Fredricksen, and Russell. I haven’t been a big collector of this line, but when a character is done up a certain way, I have to get it.
During the release of Up back in 2009, character-based merchandise for Carl and Russell was as scarce as figures of Remy and Emile from 2007’s Ratatouille. I guess old men with walkers just aren’t marketable. The Disney Store did make a small PVC set of Up figures, but the quality was anything but great.
With the films he’s directed for PIXAR like Monsters Inc and Up, Pete Doctor’s character-building style is often set around the idea of shapes. If you look at his two leads in both of his films, they are comprised of a square, and a sphere (Sulley and Carl are cubed, Mike and Russell are round). Much like the characters are opposites in appearance, so too are their personalities, which bring them together in their wacky adventures.
Leave it to PIXAR to take a big chance, and make a lead character out of a grouchy old man with a walker.
Carl’s body and head shape in Up was already pretty exaggerated, given that his head in the film is about the size of his upper body (and as wide as his shoulders!). It was the ‘slight tweaking’ of his dimensions by Funko that really made this version work for me, such as simply smoothing out certain portions of his head.
The figure is loaded with some nice little details. Everything from the hearing aid in his right ear, down to the grooves in the tennis balls on his walker.
Carl’s glasses and nose are a separate vinyl piece that is glued onto his face. This becomes apparent when one looks at the color of his nose. It can take a few moments to register with the naked eye, but like in the photos above, the coloration really stands out.
Expression-wise, Funko sometimes likes to tweak a character’s expressions. In Carl’s case, they’ve pulled back from making him too much of a’ squinty-eyed grump.’ Here, he just looks slightly peeved.
I was hoping for a nice paint application on the figure, but there appears to be some sloppiness when it comes to the finer areas around his shirt cuffs. The glue may also have gotten out of control from the person putting mine together, as there is a dry adhesive smudge from Carl’s chin up to his left ear.
Still, I’m sure some will say, “What did you expect for $10?” He isn’t meant to be a museum-quality piece, but as a piece of Vinyl Pop!, Mr Fredricksen succeeds where few American interpretations have attempted to go.
All Russell wanted to do, was become a Senior Wilderness Explorer. Instead, he found himself on an adventure to ‘assist the elderly,’ in a way not many young children could ever have imagined.
Though more of an egg-shape by design in the 2009 film, Funko has chosen to give Russell more of a ‘figure 8’ look to his chubby frame.
Russell’s facial design really does a good job of expressing his character with minimal features. There’s a slight rise for his nose, and his eyebrows give him a ‘hopeful’ look. His cheeks were sometimes flushed in the film, and here, some light paint applications have been made to them.
To also throw off that he isn’t as proper as Carl regarding appearance, a portion of his collar and shirt are un-tucked and hanging out. They even have gone so far as to sculpt a portion of the button on his right breast pocket, peeking out from under his merit badge sash.
Speaking of Russell’s merit badges,a cute little detail has been to just make them colored dots. Minute detail is used when it comes to the Wilderness Explorer logo on the various ‘metal-colored’ pieces found on his shirt, even if the application of the designs is not perfect.
One downside to the streamlining of Russell’s design, is that his cumbersome Wilderness Explorer backpack is missing from the sculpt. I know Funko is often about simplicity and streamlining, but if you look at the profile shot of Russell at the top of this section, he seems a little ‘off’ without that extra bit of design on him. Then again, it’s not like he always had the backpack on in the film.
Like Carl, there is some paint-slop in the details, such as on portions of Russell’s merit badges.
Russell’s design is meant to evoke a little more fun given that he’s a little boy, and in that respect, his design succeeds. Even with his little fists balled up along the sides of his body, he looks like he is more than ready to take on any task (or at least, give it his best shot).
Edna Mode (Bonus Review)
Prior to Carl and Russell’s release, I had only purchased one Funko Pop! figure. I hadn’t been that enamored with what I had seen from Series 1 and 2 of Disney’s wares. But in Series 3, one figure stood out.
One of Brad Bird’s strengths as a Writer and Director, is casting minor characters, that are able to entertain the audience to the point of making them wish those characters had more screentime.
With his 2004 release The Incredibles, Edna (E) Mode became that break-out character. Her opinionated-yet-hilarious attitude made her scenes so memorable, that when the lights came up after the film, the first thing my Dad said was: “I really liked Edna!”
While most of the Funko Pop! figures seem to have been modeled on exaggerating the final art/design of a character, I can’t help but feel that the Funko Artists were inspired by Edna’s concept art. One piece that hangs heavily in my mind, is this mixed media piece done by PIXAR artist, Lou Romano:
If you look at it and compare it to the Funko figure, it looks like it was a good source of reference.
Unlike Carl, Edna’s glasses are part of her sculpting, and it’s impressive the simplicity of her expression, given the half-moon eyes, and the turned-up swoop of her painted lips.
Edna is one of the series’ shorter figures, but not by much. This allows her body to be smaller, but can make it hard to display her. A good shove, and she’ll topple easily.
An on-again/off-again part of her marketing design, was the cigarette-holder she often carried about. Funko has given her the holder as part of her ‘judging’ pose, but has kept the cigarette out of the picture.
There isn’t that much detail to paint on Edna, and most of the little issues have to do with some of the hard-to-reach areas on her, such as around the rims of her glasses. A few of these areas I touched up with black Sharpie, but not by much.
To me, Edna’s figure is the perfect example of what Funko can do, when they exaggerate a character in an appealing and fun way. Though Carl and Russell come very close in my book, I have to echo my Dad’s sentiment regarding her, and say “I really like Edna!”
Since December of 2011, there have been 60 figures released in the Disney-related Funko Pop! line-up, with 12 figures to each release. Average prices can range from $9.50-13, depending on where you purchase them from. Disney has also allowed the line to be separated by movie themes, as seen with Wreck-It-Ralph, Monsters University, and an upcoming Monsters Inc line-up.
As Series 5 has just been released, the latest wave featuring Carl and Russell may have just started showing up near you in stores. The wave also includes vinyl likenesses of Dumbo, Mary Poppins, and even The Genie from Aladdin.
If you can’t find them where you are, you can always look to the internet. Aside from a few limited-edition pieces, the majority of the figures can be found at reasonable price from many places online retailers. Just remember:
Adventure is out there!
In 1972, a crack commando unit was sent to prison by a military court for a crime they didn’t commit. These men promptly escaped from a maximum security stockade to the Los Angeles underground. Today, still wanted by the government, they survive as soldiers of fortune. If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire:
And with those words, the grown-up equivalent of cops and robbers would play on televisions throughout the world in the early 1980’s. Every week, the A-Team would find some unlucky individuals, and through a well-stocked weapons cache and shot-below-the-chest montages, would take on the crooked persons taking advantage of Honest, Hardworking Americans. In the end, a vehicle would be flipped, the bad guys would surrender, and leave Hannibal Smith (George Peppard) to declare, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
Looking back on it now, the show doesn’t hold up well once the nostalgia goggles are off. It rarely deviated from a standard formula, and by the time season 4 rolled around, the show seemed to be reaching for ratings (how else to explain the group encountering Boy George, & Hulk Hogan?).
I didn’t recall much about the show’s episodes in my youth. To me, it was all about the cool vehicles. ERTL was the provider of many film and TV diecast vehicles in the 80’s. Here’s a sample of what I still have:
At one point, I even had a metal A-Team Van the size of a shoebox. Since those days, the license for the show’s toys has fallen into the hands of Hot Wheels, who have added two of the show’s iconic vehicles to their Retro Entertainment Series, of 1:64-scale die-cast.
The A-Team Van
To get the job done, and outrun the Government men assigned to bring them in, the A-Team needed a fast set of wheels. Thanks to B.A. Baracus (Mr. T), the group found themselves tooling around in a custom GMC Vandura Cargo Van. On the show, it was abundantly clear that the van was B.A.’s pride and joy. Mess with his van, and you were most likely gonna get your lights punched out.
In the early 1980’s, ERTL produced several versions of this vehicle. In 2002, they would revamp it for the last time, as part of their Racing Champions die-cast line. 2011 would see Hot Wheels’ first iteration of the van, though more in line with their inexpensive die-cast seen on most store shelves. With the Retro Entertainment line, they took their van mold, and turned it into a thing of beauty.
If the 2011 version was meant moreso for the uninitiated, the 2013 version shines in numerous ways:
1) You may not have realized this, but the area of the van above the red stripe, was a dark grey color, and this version’s got it!
2) The light-bar atop the van’s roof is set with the proper colored lights.
3) The tires utilize a special wheel that closely resembles the one on TV. And, each tire is stamped with the same markings as those in the show!
These details are so amazing, that the design can be forgiven for the slightly-large GMC logo on the trunk, and the lack of a license plate on the vehicle. We won’t get into the controversy regarding the red-or-black painted GMC logo on the front of the van. I figure if anyone has a problem with the logos, there’s always ‘Mr Sharpie’ to the rescue.
While Hot Wheels has released larger and pricier versions of their Retro Entertainment offerings, this one is a steal at around $6-9 (depending where/if you find it). If you have a penchant for cool die-cast, vans, or both, grab this the next time you see it. I’ve not seen a store yet that still had these on the shelves…and I think the quality of this one is making it non-existent out there.
The A-Team Corvette
Of course, B.A.’s van wasn’t the only vehicle the Team had at their disposal. After the first season, Templeton “Faceman” Peck (Dirk Benedict) was seen tooling around in a Chevrolet Corvette several times. The vehicle would rank second in iconic vehicles for the team. Just like the splash of red on B.A.’s van, Faceman’s Corvette had a red stripe on its exterior.
One of the funniest bits of trivia about the car, was that it was not a permanent vehicle the crew had on standby. Whenever the script called for the Corvette, the production people would rent a white Corvette, and apply the red striping decal to it. Once filming was over, the decal was removed, and the Vette was returned.
Complimenting B.A.’s 1:64 scale van, Retro Entertainment has only released a 1:64 scale version of the Corvette. Unlike the newer mold for B.A.’s van, Faceman’s vehicle borrows the mold from a Hot Wheels vehicle dubbed 80’s Corvette. The original mold (which produced my silver vehicle below), was later redone in 1996, and it is this mold that has been used on all 80’s Corvette stylings into the present day.
As a kid, Sports Cars were awe-inspiring, and the Corvette was no exception. When my Uncle stopped by our city going cross-country in his Corvette, I was amazed to see one in person (though he was cautious about letting me touch anything on it).
The Corvette release for the Retro Entertainment line does a decent-enough job, but it could be better. This seems to be the case with many of the vehicles in the line (with only a few like the van making it into the must-buy territory).
The solid silver wheels are a nice touch, reminding us a little of the wheels on those early-80’s Corvettes. I was also surprised that what looked like plastic tires, were actually rubber! The paint and the interior of the vehicle also appear to be done well, matching the colors nicely. The vehicle even has the familiar Corvette logo and branding on the front and rear.
What makes this toy fall short of my standards, is the hard-top. Most of the shows had the Corvette featured with its hardtop removed, but when the vehicle did have one, it was white. Even my Ertl A-Team Corvette had a white top. One has to wonder just how something so simple to color, could have been overlooked.
I’m also a little disappointed with the 96′ mold. The remolding of the Corvette saw the removal of the recessed rear license plate slot, and the lower portion of the chassis has been extended back to the rear bumper (as can be seen in the comparison shot above-left). These are features I wish they would have carried over from the original.
Corvette collectors and the casual collector may get a charge out of the Corvette, but if you’re low on finances, there are plenty of other options regarding the Retro Entertainment line. Of course, you may be tempted to get this just to have a matching set of A-Team vehicles.
And there you have it. One incredible little van and a slightly-disappointing Corvette, from one of the 1980’s most iconic shows.
Given what I’ve seen regarding the last few waves of the Retro Entertainment line, Mattel had a great opportunity to deliver us some of the most incredibly-detailed little vehicles around. Instead, they have a spotty release of some great examples, but the addition of ‘supporting’ vehicles that many of us never knew we wanted (like the Pontiac Fiero Mia Sara’s character drives in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Seriously, a Fiero is part of this line?).
I have other vehicles from the Retro Entertainment line that I plan to review soon, but for now, it’s time for The A-Team to drive off towards their next great adventure.
Since I last ventured through the archway of Universal Studios Hollywood in 1997, alot has changed. While I and many have mourned the death of Back to the Future: The Ride (which was replaced by The Simpsons Ride in 2008), there was one new property that had many Transformers fans (like myself) excited.
After the increasing success of the live-action Transformers films, Paramount Pictures & Universal Studios combined forces to allow Universal Theme Park guests to ride into the world of the film’s battle between the Autobots, and Decepticons.
Transformers: The Ride originally debuted at Universal’s Singapore location in 2011, but its first Stateside appearance was at Universal Studios Hollywood in May of 2012.
During the course of the ride, the guests in line learn that Megatron is attempting to retrieve a shard of The Allspark (an ancient relic that can create life). It is up to you to help protect this important Cybertronian artifact. Of course, you won’t be going alone. Along with 11 other guests, you’ll find yourself inside the Autobot, EVAC. EVAC is getting his first taste of battle in the excursion you’re about to take.
The Ride‘s scenario is very similar to some rides where your guide is about to go off into a place/zone/mission for the first time. What could possibly go wrong? All together now: EVERYTHING!! This seems to be a recurring theme in regards to simulator rides. Whether it be Star Tours at Disneyland, the former Back to the Future: The Ride, or even the current The Simpsons Ride. One has to almost wonder: can you use a ride simulator for any other ride-based scenarios?
Still, the attraction does build on simulator technology that moves you through a world with giant screens, and physical props. The ride is moreso an upgraded version of the Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man attraction at Universal Studios Florida. Just like in that ride, Transformers features interaction between characters on large screens, your ride vehicle, and the physical ride environment around you.
The screens aren’t crystal-clear (and you’ll need to use the ‘wonderful’ technology of 3D to experience it), but the experience may soon cause you to stop thinking you’re in a ride the size of a studio soundstage. What helps is that the 3D glasses actually are wired into the experience. They help keep the image on the screen looking 3-dimensional, even as you shift your focus all over the place.
What I appreciated, was that Transformers: The Ride utilized the same effects company that worked on all three films, Industrial Light & Magic. Utilizing the same computer information they used for the films, ILM is able to give us the same level of quality, and use alot of the city information they gleaned when building their digital Chicago, in Dark of the Moon (I think I even saw my workplace building in part of the ride!).
Detail has been placed in the queue lines inside the building, with everything from Scorponok’s severed tail section (last seen in 2007’s Transformers), Hieroglyphics with Cybertronian writing, and even the Allspark shard that is the focus of the ride’s storyline. Flat-screen televisions keep us entertained with reports of Decepticon activities, along with information about EVAC, and a computerized voice that helps provide some comic relief.
I will include a warning if you decide to go on this ride. If you thought it was an ordeal trying to keep track of moving Transformers on a static movie screen, you may not be up to the challenge of moving camera visuals in 3D, with a jolting ride vehicle. One of my friends who went on the ride, didn’t think he could handle a return trip.
If you can handle Transformers: The Ride, you may find yourself waiting over 45-60 minutes on average, if you take the regular queue. Luckily, the ride has a separate entrance that can accommodate single-riders. If you don’t mind being separated from your relatives or friends, this line might be just the ticket. My friends and I took this route first thing in the morning, and it took only 7 minutes to board our ride vehicle. Our attempt later in the day at the height of the crowds, pushed that single-rider wait time to around 20 minutes.
In regards to the themeing for the ride on the lower lot of Universal Studios, the structures are unfortunately constrained by limited space for tourists, and the studio’s soundstages that tower nearby. As such, there isn’t a whole lot of room to do super-detailed themeing, like in Florida, or Singapore.
In the tight confines of the lower lot, there are several other Transformers-related items to experience:
-Character Meet-and-Greets: During the course of the day, visitors can line up and have their pictures taken with Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron. These characters even tower over Mom and Dad, and depending on what you’re doing, will respond accordingly. At one point, Optimus made note of a little boy drinking from an Optimus Prime cup: “I hope my head serves you well,” responded Prime. One of my friends wore his Autobot logo shirt, and Prime seemed pleased that my friend had decided to side with the Autobots.
–The Recharging Station: A “slightly” Transformers-themed eatery to the left of the Ride’s entrance. While it serves all basic manner of counter-fare for Theme Park guests, it also offers a specially-themed Energon drink. For those of you not in-the-know, Energon is the substance that keeps Transformers going (and is often the subject of many battles between Autobots & Decepticons). The Energon drink provided, is little more than creme soda, with a color-changing ice cube inserted inside. Universal offers the drink in both liquid and frozen forms, and also encourages guests to get theirs in a Souvenir Glass.
–The Supply Vault: The place to go for all your Transformers merchandise needs. You can purchase all manner of merchandise here, including a 1:1-scale replica of The Allspark (for only $225!), and even special NEST gear (FYI, NEST is the special Human unit assigned to work with the Autobots in Bay’s films). Of course, don’t just assume that the vault only caters to the movie’s fans. There’s plenty of other Transformers material related to other iterations, such as the early years of the toy line/series (aka Generation 1). There’s also a special action figure that can only be purchased at the Supply Vault. For more info on it, just keep reading.
EVAC Toy Review
Almost every Theme Park these days is going to have exclusive merchandise, and when it comes to Transformers: The Ride, Universal Studios and Hasbro teamed up to bring us an exclusive figure of the Autobot/ride vehicle: EVAC.
EVAC has actually been produced in two different versions. If you’ve cruised the toy aisles at Target or Walmart, you may have seen the smaller, Legion-Class version of EVAC. However, if you want the Deluxe Class version that is more in-scale to your larger Transformers, you’ll need to stop by the Supply Vault at Universal Studios.
If you check out this figure after going on the Ride, you’re likely to notice a number of differences. Unlike the Ride Vehicle that looks like an open-air, 12-seat cockpit with a couple big wheels on the back, the EVAC figure seems to have been assembled along the lines of an actual vehicle. The best I can figure, is the toy designers created EVAC by mashing together components from different vehicles (something about the front part of his vehicle mode just screams Mitsubishi to me). As well, his interior seating has been scaled down from 12 to 4, with a sealed canopy overhead.
AS EVAC serves as our ride vehicle for the entirety of the ride, we never get a shot of him transformed into robot mode during our mission. The only traces of his robot mode, are on the large-screen monitors stationed throughout the ride queue. The one thing I’ve never been able to figure out regarding some of the figure coloring decisions, is not painting a character’s eyes the proper color. Unlike the blue lights from the packaging and in the queue videos, EVAC’s figure eyes are yellow.
If you purchased any of the Transformers toys based on the movie vehicles, please be advised that EVAC’s transformation modes are of the same difficulty level (the package lists it as Intermediate Level 2). This means that if you are buying this for a little one, you better be prepared to have them come to you requesting to change EVAC back to a robot, or car. EVAC is by no means the most complex Transformer out there, but he has enough moving pieces to make you question some of your moves if you don’t have the instructions handy. Though compared to my attempts to transform my 2007 Camaro Concept Bumblebee, EVAC at least feels like all the transformation work you do isn’t going to snap something off.
Like most exclusive merchandise, be prepared to pay a Premium price. Whereas a toy EVAC’s size should run about $15-20, you’ll end up paying $25 at the Supply Vault. Given that the ride has been at the park for over a year, it’s a pretty good bet that if you come looking for EVAC, you’ll have plenty of figures to pick through.
An interesting production side-note, is that EVAC sports a small hole on top of his vehicle mode. When I attended Botcon 2011 (a yearly Transformers convention), we were shown early prototype images of EVAC.
This hole was apparently intended for a roof-mounted weapon, that one can also assume would have been used as a gun/weapon for EVAC in robot mode. Since those prototype images, this addition was scrapped, and the only weapons EVAC has, are his arm-mounted firearms in Robot mode, and small guns mounted in the front ports of his vehicle mode.