Monday, 16 March 2009

Keira Knightley

I´ve always had a thing for British actresses and Keira Knightley is no exception. There is just something so mesmerizing in those somehow brittle features dominated by strong jawline. Or maybe its the fact that - with correct make up - she reminds me so much of Natalie Portman. Anyway, as a doll collector, I often feel like I´m collecting people - go a head call me weird - and though that it would be nice to squeeze a little Keira of my own into a cookie jar for safe keeping! LOL.

So, when first I saw the head of a 1:6 scale Hot Toys "US Secret Service Female agent" action figure on eBay I instantly realized they were using the same sculpt they had used in their Movie Masterpiece series for Pirates of the Caribbean Elizabeth Swan figure, only that this one had rooted hair instead of plastic! I knew instantly I had to have it to be repainted as Keira.

Here is a picture of the head with its original paint:

The system they use for rooted hair is a bit weird but easy enough to reroot. The seam between two part behind the jaw line is not pretty, though. I had to do quite a lot of resculpting, sanding and painting to cover it.

This doll is the second proper celebrity doll repaint I´ve done - the first being the Takeshi Kaneshiro project I introduced on my last post. This time I did not take that many pictures of the repainting and sculpting process itself, but will try to keep this sort and just present to your the final results.

The first attempt:
I rerooted and repainted the head and modified an Monsieur Z doll bodies neck joint to fit the head - as shown on the Takeshi Kaneshiro post. The first version of the repaint became too severe and made her look like an old horsey tranny. The main issue was her hairline and for some time I pondered whether to give my Keira bangs just to cover it. Then someone commented on my flickr that she looked like Sandra Bernhard and the statement began to haunt me until all I could see in her was the ghastly Sandra - that lady just ain´t my cup of tea! After some photo research on the Internet I decided that she looks better without bangs and just deleted the first version all together.

The second version:

This time I tried to paint her as young, cute and innocent as possible and I hope it worked out better than the first attempt. I also used the photos of Keira that reminded me of Natalie Portman as reference I tried to make her seem a bit like a mixture of them both. I really prefer this one and we´ll see if she´ll be here to stay.

NOTE: If you want to try this at home you can easily find the head on eBay. It usually goes for 30-40usd and its original skin tone is pretty dark matching Colette´s (FR4, MB3). The head is pretty small though, so I recommend DG or MZ doll as a body donor - their proportions are a much better match for Keira as FR body might make her seem like a gargantuan amazone! Here I repainted her skin to match the FR2 Caucasian tone since its hard for me to even imagine a tanned Keira with her sensitive British skin - burned maybe! Lol. To find a good body donor consult my other blog, the Skin Tone Data Base for best match. Hope this was helpful! :)

Sunday, 1 March 2009

Hot Toys Takeshi Kaneshiro

Here is a blow by blow account of my first encounter with a Hot Toys action figure. I´ll add photos asap.

The doll came better packed that I have ever seen. The huge box itself was covered in a Styrofoam box and then wrapped with cardboard. Not sure was this the seller´s or factory´s packing, since this is my first Hot Toys figure.

As I opened the box I was mainly horrified. First of all the skin of my Japanese dream boy was ugly, dark olive with a distinct grey hue. He looked like a dead and decaying arab! The paint job on his face did nothing to remind me of Takeshi Kaneshiro or the prototype. I studied his face carefully - I´m usually good at seeing the potential behind a doll sculpt, but could not find him there. For a moment I though of not deboxing him at all and trying to recover parts of the money I paid in ebay.

However, the huge photo in the box reminded me that somebody had painted this very same blob of rubber to look exactly like Takeshi, and I wasn´t ready to accept I couldn´t. If it could be done, I´d do it no matter how many times I´d had to try. I took a deep breath and deboxed him.

As I peeled of the intricate clothes layer by layer I began to appreciate my purchase more. The clothes were true to the movie and the historical period and had no short cuts for dressing them. The top layer of his clothing including a fur lined hat, jacket and trousers were padded for cold weather. Still they kept their ability to move and fold and I love the way the fabric is worn around the edges and smudged with dust in parts. Under the jacked I discovered 3 more layers of clothing. First, a grey cotton high collar jacket with the same perfect tiny chinese buttons that the padded jacket had, a collarless light grey cotton shirt with more buttons and finally and typical sleeveless diagonally wrapped tank top with high collars. The clothes of the top layer were lined, the wrest were not.

The accessories I pretty much discarded without a second glance since they are all made of rubber, but they too were very true to the original movie costume. The huge sword seems rather crappy and doesn´t even go all the way into its hilt. Don´t know if I should sell these to some action figure enthusiast or keep them for a rainy day. I suppose I could repaint the sword and the scabbard and carve the scabbard a bit to make it fit. Sounds bothersome, though. Its not like my Takeshi is getting into sword fights hanging out with my FRs. Oh, almost forgot, I didn´t know Hot Toys guys don´t have feet, but have shoes instead. Well, this guy came with ancient military armoured boots that will not look good with a pin stripe suit he´ll be wearing so I popped those off and plan to build the body new feet with epoxy putty so he can wear proper shoes.

I had seen the Hot Toys body nude before I ordered and had a FR Homme replacement body waiting, but alas the skin tone was completely wrong. I had to decapitate a Francisco to find a closer colour match. What surprised me in a positive way was that the size difference between FR and Hot Toys is almost non existent. The 12" scale is always so untrustworthy - my friend bought a Jack Sparrow 12" figure only to find out it was around 11" instead and useless around the gargantuan FR girls. I´m happy to inform everyone that Hot Toys scale really is perfect! HT guys might have a tad shorter legs, but the clothes are totally interchangeable! Also, the body does look good with its clothes on and I don´t need to see my Francisco naked anyway - Takeshi I do!

Body swapping:
The head came of with a simple pop without any use of hot water or anything. In order to put the HT head into Homme body you need to cut the Homme neck joint into a small ball similar to the HT´s neck joint. If you heat a Homme head in hot water it will pop into place on HT neck joint without any modifications. It seems a bit loose though but I do appreciate the articulation. You can also help the FR Homme neck stiffness issue by carving the round hole in their neck joint into a fish eye shape. The extra nudge will grant you that mobility you need for them to be able to look their girls in the eye.

I´ve seen some HT severed head sold in ebay that still have their necks attached, does anyone know if the head is sculpted together with the neck or do they consist of two parts? If the neck is together with the head it might required some serious surgery to do a body swap...

This part is still a bit under construction. I´ve made three failed attempt to recreate the prototype now. Well, not exactly the prototype since I modified the head sculpt quite a bit more. The of the hair and beard. This rubber is very nice and easy to sculpt with a surgical knife and responds well to sanding. It doesn´t melt from acetone either, so you can use that for removing make up and smoothing the skin after sanding. My main issue with the repainting is that no matter what I do this bloke ends up looking like Heath Ledger. I wouldn´t mind having him in my collection, but I want Takeshi Kaneshiro and I want him bad. Hopefully today, I´ll finally succeed.

+ great sculptor
- useless painter
+ finely detailed clothes
+ accessories are true to original
- accessories are poorly painted
+ body has great articulation
- body looks hideous naked
- no feet!!!

A Hot Toys Movie Masterpiece figure costs around 150usd (plus shipping and taxes). Was it worth the money? Can´t say. I think I´ll just buy separate heads in the future - although I have already pre-ordered the Godfather. I hope he´s face up is better... In short, this must be the most expensive repaint project of my life.

The final phase:
Thanks to a goody bag my friend Mutsuo send me I had an extra black wig lying around. He was cute with cropped hair too but somehow it just didn´t feel right - its not that often you see Takeshi Kaneshiro without his signature mullet! I never though I´d be giving a mullet to a any doll of mine but here I was glueing on a wig, cutting it to layers and styling it to not-so-sweet 80´s. Oh dear oh dear! :D It did make the likeness more pronounced so I suppose its fine no matter how retro it is... So here he finally is wigged and all.