A few weeks back The LEGO Group was kind enough to send me a box of their Disney collectible mini figures to review. With the Stuckinplastic #Seattletoyphotosafari just around the corner, I decided to give them away instead of keeping all that LEGO goodness to myself. (If you want to see those same figures in the wild, you can follow their journey with this tag #Seattletoyphotosfari_DisneyCMF.) Well now it’s time to pay the piper, so to speak, and review this series.
I’ll confess the Disney collectable mini figures aren’t as bad as I first imagined they would be. When this latest series was announced (or leaked as the case may be) several months back, I will freely admit I wasn’t impressed. I was stilling feeling burned with not one, but two series devoted to the Simpsons TV show. I’m a mini figure photographer – not a toy collector – which means I’m looking for new characters to tell stories. I’m not interested in re-telling classic Disney stories.
With that said, I will admit that I love the Disney universe. I grew up with all the movies and have been to their theme parks multiple times. I wasn’t sure how a series based on these beloved characters would help me in my own personal mission to tell original (and hopefully universal) stories. I mean, how can you re-invent or re-interpret such iconic creations as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck?
The Simpsons’ mini figures with their pastel colors and sculpted heads are still fresh in my memory. While I many not have been enamored with the specific Simpsons figures, they were accompanied by some awesome accessories. With so many great add-ons, it almost made up for those sculpted heads. As a toy photographer I approached this series, based on classic Disney characters, with some trepidation.
There are certain aspects of this new series that has me scratching my head at the decisions behind it. While there are certainly a fair number of figures that are exciting – Stitch, Maleficent, Cheshire Cat and Ursula – I can’t help but think we’ve already seen the Alien from Toy Story (isn’t it an exact copy?) and Buzz Light Year (the original Buzz had a much better face!). While Genie and the Little Mermaid technically are new to the CMF world, they seem very familiar. Peter Pan is lovely but he doesn’t seem to be good fit in the mini figure world. I can’t imagine Peter Pan without his arms akimbo and his legs apart – two positions that a LEGO mini figure can’t achieve unless he’s computer generated.
Accessories are a big part of the CMF sets. While there are lots of great new hairstyles in this series, several of the figures aren’t accompanied by any accessories at all! The accessories that are included aren’t new to the LEGO universe, unless of course you count hats, bows and skirts. I wonder if this is how LEGO offset their licensing costs? Or maybe the lack of accessories is a tradeoff to such great additions as Alice and Minnie’s skirts. Speaking of strange accessory pairing, why does Aladdin have a lamp? Shouldn’t he be accompanied by his side-kick Apu instead?
One cool detail in this series, is that each character is paired with a counterpart from his or her story line which allows for some awesome play and photographic opportunities, i.e.: Mickey & Minnie, Donald & Daisy, Syndrome & Mr. Incredible. Two notable exceptions are Stich and Maleficent; where is Lilo and Princess Aurora? I would love to know the thinking behind the decision to omit these characters. Is it because they’ll be in the next series? By leaving these two characters without their natural counterparts, it certainly makes a nice lead into the next Disney mini figure series.
While a second Disney series hasn’t been announced, I have no doubt there will be one. These figures have been extremely popular; the love of all things Disney runs deep. My Instagram feed is a steady parade of wonderful photos featuring these figures, plus my local toy store can’t keep them in stock. There is no doubt that Disney and LEGO make a powerful combination.
I will say that for all my misgivings, these figures photograph beautifully. It doesn’t matter if you’re a die hard Disney fan or a casual collector, these figures offer much in terms of play possibilities. If you’re a mini-figure collector or a photographer, you’re going to want a complete set of the Disney collectible mini figures.
What’s your favorite mini figure from this series and why? Feel free to add a link to the best image you’ve taken using one of the figs from this series. I would love to see what you’ve been up to.
Perfect timing on this post… I just got my first wave of the Disney series yesterday! I was a bit conservative on the budget so just picked up 6, or a third of the series, so I’m looking forward to completing the set. I love the pairings of characters and also questioned the missing Lilo and Snow White. I just could resist the draw to these Disney figures… generations of childhood include them! Oh, and now my grown daughter is cursing my love of Lego figures… she also pickup her favorite characters LOL.
Margaret – They are addictive! Like you I have Disney deep in my DNA and its hard to resist this series. I look forward to exploring them further photographically, but its going to take awhile! But then, that s most of the fun! Cheers! Shelly
Great look into the Disney figured. I ended up getting a complete set and a few doubles. I have yet to take photographs with them but have a few ideas brewing. And like you said it’s hard to tell a new story with established characters. But you can always tell stories about them after the movie plots showing where they ended up. Or even things that happened before the movies they were in. But I still see your point. Thanks as always for sharing your photos and thoughts!!!
Thanks Donald for joining the conversation! I think you’re right, there is lots of opportunity to write your own prequel or sequel to any story. That is the joy of these CMF, they help to tell any story you can imagine! Smart man to grab a few couples! Cheers! Shelly
Malificent would be paired with Aurora (sleeping beauty), not Snow White
Thank you for pointing out my mistake; much appreciated. I have corrected the post. :D
Sincerely, I love Disney so much. Nothing can replace it; nowadays kids should watch Disney’s cartoons and movies. I grew up with Disney, but also with Looney Tunes. P.S: I hope Lego will make a Looney Tunes series! :D I’ve been in Disneyland Resort Paris 10 times or more, and I’m always happy when I go there with my family. It’s one of the best places of my childhood but of the present, too. As you, when I saw the first images of the upcoming series (Disney), I wasn’t so excited. I didn’t like the heads; they seemed very big.… Read more »
I hope you can find a Mickey soon! Like you I am a big Disney fan. My parents took me to the California park as a kid and I have taken my kids more times than I can count. I was thinking it might be fun to do a series of Mickey as Steamboat Willie. Once I start to wrap my mind around the series the ideas start flowing. I look forward to seeing what everyone does as we all begin to work them into our photography.
Thanks for joining the conversation!
I have some another questions: How are these figurines to work with as a photographer? What Puzzels you when you use them as part of your own storytelling? Which character works when and why? Could Alice become something outside of the fairytale or is she forever doomed to be in the same context? How do you make your own world within Disney’s? I would love to hear some insights about that. For me the limitation is that these figures comes with a great deal of back-story I wonder how do you work to side-step that?
Isn’t that what makes them even funnier or better? Trying to change their stories or mixing them with others or creating new ones.
I have to confess I’m a sucker for Disney’s stories and even though I don’t like them all I have my favorite ones, I wanted to revive (portrait) the story I already know, but also look forward to mix it up!
I know we will see great shots from you of them, I hope we do!
Missing your jokes K.
Miss you to Ana :)
Kristina, All these are good questions which will take time to develop answers too. I think its really hard to review a new set of mini figures in less than a month. I haven’t even begun to wrap my head around what the photographic possibilities are here. Since there are so few flesh colored faces the opportunities to change expressions is limited. Who wouldn’t want to send Peter Pan off to work. Seriously little boys do, occasionally, need to grow up. I think you can take each of these characters and rewrite their story. Wouldn’t it be cool to develop… Read more »
Hello K! As usual, you have brought the existential into the plastic! It is my favorite thing. I think that you can look at any minifigure, but the Disney ones in particular, in a different way than you have questioned here and find an answer. Let me ask you some questions in response. Recently you photographed Cheyanne, Shelly, and Leila from the Seattle stuck in plastic event. How did these subjects work with you as a photographer? What puzzled you when you incorporated them into your storytelling? Which subject worked when and why? Could Leila become something outside of the… Read more »
I’ve been surprised how much I’ve enjoyed these figs and how easy they are to photograph — within a world of “their story” and outside of it. I find their fame, their colors, their relation to each other all sources of inspiration. Thanks for this piece Shelly. (And I have no idea how to post a pic here, but my Disney life and beyond is at @doughleyg on Instagram.
Doug I really enjoyed your recent Cheshire Cat photo. The choice to shoot him rom behind as well as the color pairing, worked really well. I think this character is going to become iconic for a lot of photographers.
You can always post a link in the comments. But I think this is easier on a PC rather than on mobile.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us!
The only Disney character in this set whose story I cared about was Stitch. And maybe Maleficent only because I recently watched it and have an image I want to recreate from the movie. But all others I’ve collected mainly to steal cool parts from (like putting Minnie’s skirt onto Stitch), to distort existing stories or create my own.
I too agree that these CMF series are released too often. My wallet can’t handle it anymore! haha