Toy Talk
Volume VIII

By Mark Patraw
Posted on 9/30/13

It's time for round eight of Toy Talk, and today we'll have a look at (from left-to-right) a faux-wood Deer, a 2009 LEGO Friends Stephanie, a 2005 Hasbro My Little Pony Sunny Scent Thistle Whistle, a 2006 Schleich Golden Retriever Puppy, and a 1998 McDonald's Halloween Birdie Candy Dispenser. The Deer (fifty cents on 9/28/13) and Thistle Whistle (twenty-five cents on 9/25/13) both came from the Ishpeming St. Vincent de Paul Society thrift store, while Birdie, the Puppy, and Stephanie were all in the same $2.44 bag of toys I bought from the Marquette branch of the same thrift store chain on 9/13/13. If anyone reading this knows more information about any of these figures, that I haven't already discussed below, and would like to share, or just chat about toys, feel free to e-mail me and let me know!

I don't buy a lot of resin/ceramic figurines, but occasionally I'll find one that speaks to me, as is the case with this spectacular 8-1/4" (21 cm) tall deer. While I generally wouldn't consider something like this to be a toy, on the other hand, I do have plenty of unarticulated animals in my collection (like the My Little Pony Thistle Whistle pegasus and Schleich dog on this very page), so, that then begs the question as to why I classify those items as toys, but not this, when, on a very basic level, they're essentially the same type of object. The deer's sculpt is very minimalist, but striking and elegant in design--it really captures the grace of the creature. There are dozens of whitetail deer in the forests where I live (they even come into the yard and raid our bird feeder in the wee hours of the night), so I've had many opportunities to observe the animals in the wild over the years. The faux wood grain finish on this piece is masterfully applied--until I held it in my hands and scrutinized it, I was convinced that it was carved from actual wood (which was the same impression everyone else expressed that I showed it to). It's an almost solid one-piece casting that has the look and heft of ceramic, although it could also be made from some other similar substance. I would have preferred that it was carved from wood, simply because the deer would be less fragile and more likely to survive a drop without shattering if that was the case. I can't find markings or copyright information molded anywhere on the figure, so I have no idea who produced this or when. There are four green felt pads on the bottom of the base, doubtlessly put there to prevent the hard material from scratching whatever surface you place the figure upon. One of those came off when I was dusting the bottom, prior to shooting these photos, but it was easy to reattach with plain white glue. There's not much else I can say about this item, other than I think it looks fantastic.

Here's a 2009 LEGO Friends Stephanie figure--unfortunately, I have no idea which of the construction sets she originally came with. Given the mix-and-match nature of building blocks, it's quite possible that my sample might be cobbled together from different Friends figures, which would make identification kind of a moot point. Stephanie's sculpt and pastel color scheme are simplistic but nicely done. I would have to say that this 1-7/8" (4.8 cm) tall gal looks much more like a Polly Pocket figurine than a LEGO offering. The Friends bodies can be disassembled into four components: legs/waist, torso/arms, head, and hair. That's good if you have several of them, because you can swap around parts to come up with unique looks. For some reason, the hair piece has two small holes, one at the top, and another on the left side, which detracts from its appearance (perhaps these are points for accessory attachment or artifacts from the casting process?) Stephanie has rotating cut joints at the neck, shoulders, and hips, but the two legs move as one unit, not individually. Some LEGO enthusiasts don't care for these figures because they don't fit in with classic LEGO character design, and that's a valid point (the Friends figures are taller, skinnier, curvier, less articulated, and don't have the same capacity to attach to bricks). After all, LEGO has been making female figures for decades, albeit with less-feminine blocky bodies, which does make one wonder why they felt that the new Friends body type was even necessary--they could have easily marketed the Friends line with normal LEGO figures instead. I've always thought of building blocks as being fairly gender-neutral toys, so I do find it a bit odd that LEGO decided that their female customers want "girly" figures instead of the block-style characters that they've been successfully producing for many years. Regardless of all that, I do find Stephanie (and by extension, the other Friends) to be an attractive and collectable mini figure.

On a related note, on the same day that I got Stephanie, I noticed that my local Big Lots! had two Best-Lock building sets (one of LEGO's competitors) that were essentially identical, in terms of their components, except that one was obviously designed for girls and the other for boys. Both consisted of a car, a helicopter, and a building, but the "girls" set was done completely with pink and white bricks, and came with two female figures, whereas the "boys" one was police-themed, made up of the traditional black and white colors one would expect for law enforcement equipment, and included two male officers. We all know that many women pursue careers in criminal justice, so, my question to Best-Lock would be, why didn't you just make one set with both a male and a female officer, and dispense with that pink brick nonsense? Sure, there are people that really dig pink, but it's a mistake, not to mention insulting, to think that girls, as a whole, will only be interested in your product if it's made in that particular color.

So, I've been wanting to pick up a My Little Pony (hereafter abbreviated as MLP) for a while now, but I've been waiting for the right one to come along. I knew I wanted either a pegasus (winged) or a unicorn (horned), or, better yet, an alicorn (wings and a horn), rather than a mundane earth pony (normal horse). Well, it took some time, but I finally found a MLP that appealed to me and had the more exotic anatomy I was looking for. This is Thistle Whistle, a pegasus from Hasbro's 2005 MLP Sunny Scent line. As you probably guessed from the name, the Sunny Scent ponies all had a fragrance--Thistle Whistle's was coconut. Surprisingly, given that it's 2013 and the smell should have faded a long time ago, you can still catch a whiff of it if you hold her up close to your nose and inhale. Thistles immediately make me think of meadows and fields, not the tropics, so coconuts seem like a bit of an odd choice for her, but, considering that she can fly, I'm sure Thistle Whistle gets around. I'm not sure why, but secondhand MLP figures seem to consistently accumulate more dirt and grime that any other toy line out there. Thistle Whistle had several unwanted markings on her body that I removed, or at least faded, with diluted nail polish remover. Her hot pink and blonde mane/tail are in good shape, with nice, thick rooting and fairly smooth hair. All I had to do was run a brush through it a few times and it was good to go. Thistle Whistle's cutie mark is a bunch of star-shaped flowers with a bee buzzing around them, and she also has a heart on the side of her left front hoof. Unfortunately, she has no articulation whatsoever, not even the neck, which limits her play value compared to more poseable toys. On the upside, she has a pink magnet embedded in the bottom of her left front hoof. When I bought her, I didn't even know that it was a magnet, I just assumed that it was some kind of ornate My Little Pony copyright mark that Hasbro had put there to differentiate its official MLP products from cheap knockoffs. Later that same day, when I consulted My Little Wiki to identify which pony I had purchased, I discovered what that pink hoof really was. The magnet is fairly strong, you can get Thistle Whistle to adhere to a vertical surface, like a refrigerator door, but, alas, it's not powerful enough to hold her upside down. I'm not sure why, but I found the magnet to be the most entertaining aspect of this toy--maybe because it makes me think of her as having Spider-man's wall-crawling power. Thistle Whistle was also released again, in 2007, with Sing and Dance Pinkie Pie and Sew-and-So, but that version lacks the magnet and fragrance of this 2005 one, so, if you have the choice, I'd go with the original release, simply because it has more features. Brand new, Thistle Whistle retailed for around $5 and would have come with a light blue hair brush, but that item is no great loss.

Here's Thistle Whistle hanging onto the refrigerator.
Maybe she thought that those Coke and cookie magnets were edible?

When I first pulled this 1-7/16" (3.7 cm) tall canine out of the bag of toys that I had purchased, I immediately noticed that it had a higher quality sculpt and paintjob than the other dog figurines in said bag, so I knew that it just had to be something special. I wasn't familiar with the Schleich name molded on its bottom, but an online search quickly educated me. This is the German company's 2006 Golden Retriever Puppy, which retails for about $5 (not too shabby when you consider that I paid about half that for the entire bag of stuff that the dog was in). Schleich makes all sorts of high-quality miniature figurines like this one (animals, elves, dinosaurs, Smurfs, etc.)--I've seen their stuff in stores, and it's quite pricey, but I never knew anything about the company until now. The detail on the puppy is definitely above average. There's subtle airbrushing all over the fur, the eyes and nose/lips have a gloss finish to make them look wet, and the nails and pads are individually painted. I'm a cat person, so, just on principle, I'd rather have a kitten, but this is an impressive miniature Golden Retriever pup if that's your thing, albeit overpriced if you buy it new.

Halloween seems to come around earlier and earlier every year, a phenomenon that this 1998 McDonald's Birdie Candy Dispenser is all too eager to demonstrate for us. First off, it's a nice change of pace to find a toy of an actual McDonald's character for once, rather than an adaptation of someone else's intellectual property, which is more typical of the fast food chain's playthings. I also think that it's a shame that McDonald's doesn't seem to have any interest in using Birdie, Grimace, the Hamburglar, etc. in their advertising/promotions anymore. The sculpt and paint on this item are solid work (the cat mask's tongue was left unpainted though, which makes it blend in with the rest of the feline face). I'm guessing that whomever designed this toy's costume was trying to be comical (cats eat birds after all). The removable mask rotates up-and-down via two pivots on the side of her head, and snaps securely into her stomach thanks to a square-shaped plug molded underneath the blue ribbon. On the bottom of the figure, there's a spring-powered panel that can be slid open to reveal a circular opening for loading/unloading candy. I thought about putting some sugary goodies in her for these photos, but who knows what kind of nasty stuff has been inside her body cavity over the last fifteen years? Even after washing it out, I don't think I'd want to take any chances, unless the candy in question was individually wrapped. Since she's pretty small [2-1/2" (6.4 cm) tall], you'd probably want to use something like M&Ms, jelly beans, Skittles, etc. I probably wouldn't have bought Birdie if she hadn't some in a big bag of toys, but she's an interesting novelty piece representing a character that seems to be all but forgotten these days.

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