Review: Mattel’s Onward Figures Bring Pixar’s Fantasy to Life

Any movie set in a fantasy world of elves, trolls, unicorns and magic seems like ripe fodder for toys. So it may come as a surprise that Pixar‘s Onward only offers a few so far. Perhaps it’s the fact that the fantasy characters exist in a modern-day setting. Few movies have gone there before, and the last — Netflix’s Bright — scored decidedly mixed reactions. And early word is that Onward is more of a tearjerker than a rousing quest, which may explain the distinct lack of obvious villains in the line. The trailer shows a large dragon; the toy line so far appears to contain only heroes. So how do Mattel‘s Onward figures hold up to other fantasy toys?

One of the first points to notice is that they’re in the 7-inch scale. Not that there are a lot of compatible animated fantasy lines out there, but it does put them in scale with the Filmation-style Masters of the Universe Classics. Want He-Man and Skeletor to enter this realm? It’s doable in the toy room. A distinct possibility is that they were made this size so as to do the tiny “Sprite” characters in reasonable scale. As is, they just fit into Ian Lightfoot’s hands.

Another odd point is that the figures are open-box, a style typically used for toys with “try-me” action features. Features these distinctly lack. It seemed to work well enough for Toy Story 4 figures, but makes them ultimately less likely to be clean. One will never know how many unwashed kid hands have been on these toys before the final buyer.

The first three figures depict the males of the Lightfoot family. Brothers Barley and Ian attempt to conjure their dead father Wilden with a spell, but only manage to bring back his lower half. Questing for the power to bring him back in full, they have to fake an upper torso for his fully sentient legs. As such, the Wilden figure can split apart, and his arms are a sticky, flimsy, rubbery texture to flail around like an empty padded shirt. This feels like major dust-magnet potential, but lets kids shake the figure and watch his upper limbs hang loose. He also has cut neck, restricted mid-torso ball joint, disc-ball hips, hinge knees, and cut ankles. The waist split also works as a cut joint when put together.

Barley is the highlight so far. A big chunk of a figure, the Chris Pratt-voiced older bro wears the kind of denim jacket with band logo patches that metalhead kids are prone to. His sole accessory is a sword, which doesn’t quite fit as neatly as it should into his grip. Articulation includes restricted ball neck, ball-disc shoulders/elbows/hips/knees, right wrist cut, and ankle cuts. The gauntlet/cast on his left wrist precludes a joint, but features the sort of small details I suspect will be key to the plot somehow.

The real highlight, though, is the level of detail on his patches. Each fake band logo somehow feels true and looks right.

Tom Holland‘s Ian looks dorky, as he should, and comes with adorably doofy dragon-dog Blazey. Blazey has a cut neck joint; Ian does too, plus disc-ball shoulders/elbows/hips/knees, and cut ankles and wrists. He loosely holds the magic staff accessory, which can also be used to help him stand up. Though for a skinny, top-heavy toy, he balances well, mainly thanks to having long feet.

The Sprites come packed with Wilden, and are too small to have effective articulation.

In addition to the large action figures, Mattel has two “Minis” – Hot Wheels-ish vehicles with PVC figures to drive them. Ian comes with the film’s signature unicorn van, while two sprites come with their motorcycle. And both have trouble fitting. The van has a hollowed out section on top that looks shaped for a figure’s feet — but not Ian’s, for some reason. They seem designed for a different figure entirely. The side door also opens so Ian can ride inside. This might be a good option for parents buying on a budget.

The sprites’ cycle has several sets of paired holes for their feet, but collectors will be lucky to get one of the feet in. These characters do not want to fit both feet in at once. The female sprite character included is notably different from the mohawked one that comes with Wilden, having blue “mouse ears” instead.

The figures run about $11.99 apiece, which is extremely cheap for 7-inch scale figures that have this level of detail. The minis, which feel more like bargain stocking-stuffers, run around $10; they’re available now at sites like Entertainment Earth, which provided these samples for review.

Now, why no unicorns or big dragons, Mattel?

Check out more photos of the toys in our gallery below.