Toy Review: Carl & Russell, by Funko Pop! (with Edna Mode)
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!