REVIEW: REVIEW: McFarlane The Walking Dead Building Sets

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    REVIEW: McFarlane The Walking Dead Building Sets

    Ideal For Walking Dead Fans, Model-Makers, & Brick-Building Enthusiasts...



    When news first hit that McFarlane Toys was going to give fans building sets based on The Walking Dead, I was interested to see what would come of it. Todd McFarlane arguably created the modern figure collectibles industry, and his company’s ongoing commitment to realistic, highly detailed aesthetics seemed to clash with the usual cartoonish worlds in brick-building toy patterns.




    But let’s be honest; when it comes to brick-building, there’s money to be made. With LEGO becoming the number 1 toymaker in the world in 2014, it’s no surprise that McFarlane Toys would want to put itself in the building arena. Mattel has done so with the acquisition of Mega Bloks and Hasbro has been a presence for years with it’s KRE-O line (manufactured by Oxford). Even K’NEX has marked its territory in most toy departments thanks to its Mario license. That being said, no one should be surprised at any new building-based lines to come in the near future.




    McFarlane Toys revealed the first wave of The Walking Dead Building Sets at SDCC in 2014, and fan interest in both building toys and the property have only grown since that time. In fourth quarter 2014, the line debuted at Toys"R"Us, and this spring will see its wider release with new sets added (see our story HERE).

    The age limit on the box of these sets says ages “12+”, and it is appropriate. McFarlane’s building sets are not, “McLEGO”, they are something entirely different yet also comfortably familiar. In his usual fashion, McFarlane has refused to be an imitator; and rather than mimic LEGO (a la KRE-O, MEGA Bloks, or Best Lock), McFarlane has produced a wholly unique building pattern - one that is both compatible with other brands but also distinctly his own. If McFarlane can keep his word and expand this line beyond a single license, he may very well develop an entirely new branch of his business for years to come.




    The building sets are composed of two distinct types of collectible: the figures and the construction elements. In fine McFarlane form, the figures (which require some minor assembly) are small in size (2”) but large in detail (similar to the Spawn Trading figures that McFarlane released in 2007). They are neither fully articulated nor completely interchangeable, but one can pose them in most cases by moving the limbs or head, with some risk of rubbing down the swivel joint’s strength. I think the best aspect of the figures is that the Walkers can break or lose limbs and still look wholly appropriate. Most figures also have a hook at the bottom of one of their feet to connect to transparent stands or studs that appear on some of the tiles, if you prefer.




    McFarlane's Walking Dead figures are sold blind bagged (SRP $2.99 each) and unique versions of the characters are included with the sets (ie: Daryl riding his bike as opposed to standing). To ease the pain of a blind bagged purchase, McFarlane has marked the packaging in the upper right hand corner with either an "H" for Human or "W" for Walker. The convenient labeling system allows collectors to quickly amass a Walker horde without the risk of Daryl duplicates (though some would argue that you can never have enough Daryls). For those keeping track, the first wave of blind bagged figures includes: Michonne, Daryl Dixon, The Governor, Carl Grimes, Sophia Walker, Herd Walker (Female 1), Herd Walker (Male 1) and Michonne's Pet Walker 1.




    The other facet of the line is the construction parts, and McFarlane offers the goods. Rather than strictly follow the mold that all parts should interface, McFarlane adheres to the old modelers code of making the items as authentic as possible. Somehow, however, he’s also managed to fuse these two philosophies. Daryl’s chopper and the Governor’s furniture provide a perfect example of the modeling parts. The former was a bit of a nightmare to put together - it’s much more like snap-kit than your typical building block set, yet it also looks better than any building block cycle you’re going to see - in fact, it looks like it would fit well into any high-end display (and the rubber wheels spin). The Governor’s furniture is similar; the nightstand and lamp are basically a pop-and-slide model.




    Yet, these “modeling accessories” are outliers in the sets. Most remaining parts, from the platforms and tiles to the bricks, function together in the same parts “system” (to borrow a term from LEGO). If one does not desire to put together the sets as the instructions show, the vast majority of pieces at one’s disposal can be combined in seemingly endless ways and overlaid with tile to create a more aesthetic effect. The connecting studs and ports are essentially circular, but they have some ridges within them to provide for better “clutch power” (again, borrowing a term from LEGO).




    Which leads us to the multi-million dollar question when it comes to any brick building line on the market: is it compatible with LEGO? I am happy to report that it is, and this means that LEGO builders of all ages will find much to love and use in these building sets. The various tiles will add detail to any display, and I look forward to using them on my own custom projects this year.




    That being said, whether you are a The Walking Dead fan, a model-maker, or a brick-building enthusiast, this line could be for you. The price points are standard to market for this type of line. The model elements (like the cycle) are fragile, but the figures themselves are more durable than your average snap kit, and the building elements are excellent. Once again, McFarlane delivers, offering what feels almost like an evolution of model making rather than yet another company’s attempt to jump into the building blocks market.




    One wonders what else McFarlance could produce with this concept. One-off diorama builds for past licenses could allow for sets such as for Jaws vs. the Orca, Edward Scissor hands in a sculpt garden, or the haunted hamlet of Sleepy Hollow, (the last film is certainly an evergreen idea and coming toward its 20th anniversary soon). Then there’s the possible resurrection of McFarlane’s Military, Dragons, or Monsters in this smaller scale. The possibilities from the back catalog alone seem promising, and the additional concepts that lend itself to the pattern seem as endless. Whatever comes, this reviewer looks forward to all the line has to offer (except sports, really).

    Check out MCFARLANE BUILDS for more info on this excellent line!

    PS: For Builders out there - and you know who you are - you will want a standard, orange brick separator when building these, cause the corners on these jaunts are sharp.



    Review by C.J. Stunkard
    All Photos by Jeff Saylor
    Review Samples Courtesy of McFarlane Toys




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    Last edited by JeffSaylor; 02-03-2015 at 11:35 AM.

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