Treebeard & Sauron
The saga of Lord of the Rings is epic, and so are the characters that inhabit the world of Middle Earth. Some are epic in scope, and some in purpose. Some are epic in their evil or goodness. Some are epic for their accomplishments, some for their age and some for their power. And there are a few who are epic simply because they are really big!
The characters in the three films of the Lord of the Rings trilogy are larger than life, and two of them are quite literally larger than the average human, hobbit, elf or wizard. The two are a contrast in terms of attitude, but both are very old and wise in their own ways. The two never do actually meet in any of the films (or books), and they are showcased in different films. Treebeard is one, and Sauron the other.
One of the toughest parts about any toy line is when there are deluxe figures and playsets designed to supplement the line. Usually the cost to develop and produce these are higher than the standard figure fare, and when retailers see this higher price they can often decide not to carry them. The oft-lamented Balrog from Fellowship of the Ring is in this category, and the three strikes against him were being an expensive toy, being a villain and having no lines or quotes. These combined to make the Balrog a toy that retailers passed on and has remained unproduced (much to the chagrin of many fans). Toy Biz is trying to re-work the design of the figure to lower the cost and make it more attractive for the future (and they have some other plans afoot for the demon of smoke and fire).
Enough of the Balrog, the following two deluxe figures have been made and are now available to lord over your toys. The figures of Sauron and Treebeard can join the Cave Troll as the three deluxe figures for the 6" line of toys, and they have followed the lead of the Cave Troll with innovative features. The two new deluxe entries both have light-up eyes and sound clips from the films they were in. They both also come packaged in 'try-me' packaging which is enclosed to prevent the duplication of the Cave Troll's habit of having his face peeled off by the myriad of would-be Hannibal Lectors who buy toys. Both the boxes are colored with the deeper reds used for The Two Towers, though Sauron is labeled as The Fellowship of the Ring.
Click on a picture below to see more pictures of that action figure.
Age before beauty, and while neither of these two is a spring chicken, Treebeard has the edge in the age department. Treebeard (or Fangorn, as he is called by close friends, telemarketers and other Ents) has the distinction of being the oldest living being in Middle Earth. He also has a forest named after him but sadly no sports arena... On just-plain Earth he'd be the third oldest behind Strom Thurman and Dick Clark, and this explains his reluctance to up and move. Plus he's a little rooted in his own ways. Ba-dum-bump!
Being old isn't the only thing that makes Treebeard different from you or me - he also looks like a tree. Note he looks like a tree, but in actuality he is an Ent. Unlike the Lorax (who speaks for the trees), the Ents are shepherds of the forests and trees and they were created around the same time as the elves. Ents are rather deliberate in their actions and some have become so tree-like they might as well be trees. Others are rather active and might as well be fairly slow-moving trees. The Ents of Fangorn seem to be the last outpost for the Ents in Middle Earth, and their other halves (the Entwives) left them years ago (probably over 'leaving the seat up' issues). Being tall (around 14 feet) and strong are the upsides of the Ents. The downside is waking up every day with morning wood and having no women to get the kinks out. Life can be cruel.
The first look we had of the actual Treebeard toy was at the Toy Biz offices in New York. There were several loose Treebeards around, and a few package mock-ups and a test run of the final package that were being checked over for quality control. All the figures were fully operational and even then you could see how incredible this toy was going to be. One of the more interesting traits was from one packaged in Tom McCormack's office (placed on a shelf over his 'middle age' Captain America Famous Covers figure) who seemed to have a sticky button. After Tom showed us what he sounded like and put it back on the shelf the figure kept talking at random intervals, which was both humorous and creepy.
The first thing you notice about Treebeard is that he is big, and I mean really big. When you have over fourteen inches of wood to play with, you notice (and maybe understand why the Entwives made for the hills). The scale for the figures in the line is built around a rough 6" scale, meaning six inches represents roughly six feet and each inch is a foot in scale. Maintaining the scale for a Balrog wouldn't be practical, but it works well for Treebeard. He's 14.5" tall to the top of the head, and 17" with the branch that comes out of his back added in. Either way, he's pretty big and makes a great place to climb up and watch from above.
Being big and electronic would be enough for some toys, but Treebeard likes to move around as only an Ent can, so he needs to have articulation. The knees, elbows, shoulders and wrists all have ball-joints, though some of the bark that surrounds these joints can limit their movement. The knees are not even (they are at different heights), and this is a great touch from the film. The thighs have swivel joints and there are mid-hand hinge joints so he can grab things. The right arm has an action feature that lets the arm raise when a lever is pressed down on his back, and this doesn't interfere with moving the arm independently of the lever.
Treebeard isn't packed with the pair of hapless Hobbits who befriend him in the film, but they fit right in with the figure. The best figures to use with Treebeard are the Merry and Pippen that are sold with the new 2-packs (each comes with an Orc) because they have their Lorien Cloaks (though both still has the clasp) and they have articulated knees, so they can site more easily upon Treebeard's back.
Treebeard isn't entirely hollow, and his trunk is packed with some magic from Real Earth. This comes in the form of a sound chip to repeat lines form the film, and light-up eyes and a moving mouth. The eyes and mouth are keyed with the same button as the sound clips (on his 'shoulder'), and they match his elocution perfectly. The sound for the figure is very loud (probably to ensure consumers can hear it through the package) and so you may not wish to place it close to your ears when keying the clips. It can make a good alarm clock for those rather tree-like sleepers who need to be roused to action much as Treebeard does the Ents. He says 5 phrases from the film, and the voice is a dead-on match for John-Rhys Davies who voices the character (and plays Gimli) in the film.
On the short list or rather unpleasant beings you have to give Sauron an indecent spot. He's evil, he's formless and he has a very big red eye! Many people think he's the baddest of the bad for Middle Earth, but that is a rap he doesn't deserve since he was just an apprentice evil guy back in the day...
Sauron got his start as a Maiar, a being in the same basic class as Gandalf and the Balrogs. The Maiar were helpers to the 'gods' (who worked for the 'God'), and Sauron was one such helper. He was corrupted by the god who went bad - Melkor (known as Morgoth by those always-gotta-make-up-their-own-name-for-everything elves). Now Melkor was the real deal when it came to bad guys, but eventually everyone else got sick of his stunts so they kicked him out of the clubhouse, metaphorically speaking. Even though he was gone, his loyal and faithful followers (read Sauron) hung around to cause mischief and make the old man proud.
The First Age of Middle Earth (which logically preceded the Second Age) ended when Melkor was banished, and the Second Age was pure Sauron. The start may have been rocky, but Sauron got quite a bit accomplished in the 3400-odd years of the Second Age. He did get beaten at the very end of it (shown in the prologue for Fellowship of the Ring and also used as the action figure incarnation), but he did get a few blows in himself. Résumé highlights include creating the Olog-Hai (super-trolls), inventing the Black Speech, building Barad-Dur in Mordor, creating the Nazgul, creating the rings of power and the One Ring, and corrupting the Numenorean people to the point where they made a major boo-boo and pissed off the big God into totally destroying their homeland and reshaping the entire world. Not surprisingly, this wasn't quite enough to secure a job for the IRS, but it does set the bar for evil geniuses everywhere. The man also made the best quiche on Middle Earth, bar none.
This version of Sauron is called the Second Age version, but since he wore so many hats during that age a better description would be the Final Alliance Sauron. The 'Big Armored Mean Guy from the Prologue' would work just as well. He is fitted out in full armor, has a ragged cloth cape and carries a trusty mace. Just having the One Ring might be enough for some guys, but Sauron carries the mace to add insult to injury and it's handy for playing a little 'Elf baseball'.
The figure is 9.5" tall to the top of his head, and 11" if you count the top of his helmet's crown. This puts his height at just over nine feet (the figures are scaled to roughly one inch to a foot), which shows just how high they stack evil in Middle Earth. The shoulders and thighs are ball-jointed, the knees and elbows can bend and both biceps have swivel joints in them. The ankles can bend and the wrists both twist. And the neck has a modified ball-joint so it can twist and the head and look down, though the movement is limited. The mail skirt is a softer plastic so you can get more movement out of the legs.
Probably the best feature is that the right hand is designed for the fingers to be removable (and replaceable) and the ring can come off. Making the four fingers as a single piece is probably for the best, since single fingers might be easily lost. The ring is also an item that can be easily lost (though for some men, not easily enough) and the kind folks at Toy Biz thoughtfully provided some help - five golden rings. There are four extra rings attached in a small bag taped inside the package to replace any that you may lose, and you may need to look closely in the package because it isn't obvious that this is there. How they were able to make all these 'One Rings' for each figure is an ancient Chinese secret. The rings are metal but not really gold, they just look that way.
Sauron is fitted with the latest in electronics to give him the amazing power of glowing eyes and speech. The eyes tend to glow when he speaks and not all the time, but when he speaks you will listen! The voice for the figure is quite loud and he says several phrases, most from the film. Since he didn't get the really good joke lines, like 'only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise' (oh... wrong movie), he settles for serious stuff and these are replicated with accuracy from the factories or China (also known as East Mordor). He has four phrases, three of which were in the theatrical film. He says 'I see you', 'Build me an army worthy of Mordor', 'You cannot hide', 'There is no life in the void'. He can also say anything you want in a fake Sauron voice as long as you do your best impression.
More pictures of Sauron
More pictures of Treebeard
Lord of the Rings Links
|Where to buy Treebeard and Sauron: The Sauron action figure retails in the $20 USD price range, with Treebeard a bit more expensive at around $30. They are sold in most places which sell the rest of the Lord of the Rings action figures, including Toys'R'Us (Sauron, Treebeard) and various online toy stores.
Several such online stores are RTM sponsors Big Bad Toy Store and The Outer Reaches. (Be sure to check the other RTM sponsors, listed on the Shop Center.)