Toy Review: Fresh Monkey Fiction Naughty or Nice Wave 1: Classic Santa

For a variety of reasons, it's been a while since I last reviewed a toy. We really don't have room for me to collect the way I used to, the blog's focus shifted more towards movies, and - frankly - after a while, I felt like I was repeating the same basic descriptions I'd written a thousand times before. Also, we rarely saw much interest in those posts relative to the time it took to write them. That's why you don't see reviews of random toys the way you used to in the early years of this blog.

However, once in a while something special comes along. And that brings us to the "Naughty or Nice" line from Fresh Monkey Fiction. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of them - I hadn't either before these showed up on preorder a couple years ago. As far as I've been able to piece together, they're a small toy company specializing in original creations. And most importantly, they're the company that finally realized there'd be a market for six-inch action figures of Santa Claus.

I've wanted something like this for decades. Despite being public domain, no one ever bothered to make a generic, affordable, articulated figure in this scale until now. The six-inch (also called twelfth scale) is the current standard for superhero action figures and the like. So if you've got Batman (Mattel, McFarlane, or DC Direct) toys, Marvel Legends, Star Wars Black, or anything of the like, this is the size you want for them to hang out together.

"Classic Santa" was one of a dozen or so toys made available for preorder in late 2021, with the caveat that anything failing to hit its target wouldn't go into production. There were a number of Santa variants, two versions of Krampus, nutcrackers, elves, and an accessory pack in the first wave. I believe everything except some of the nutcrackers and elves met their goals. In addition to Classic Santa, I preordered Zombie Santa and Krampus - I'll have reviews of those up over the next few days. The Santa figures ran around $37 each, with deluxe characters (such as the Krampus I'll be reviewing) at $50. It's not unreasonable for figures with a limited production run, but it's still a significant chunk of change: that's why I skipped the other Santa figures, despite being intrigued by all of them. The elves and nutcrackers ($20 each) didn't really appeal to me.

These were supposed to arrive in time for Christmas last year, but due to a combination of shipping and weather delays, I received them a couple days after Christmas, which is the only reason I didn't rush out reviews then.

The packaging for these is simple but nice. Fresh Monkey Fiction is clearly going with the template used by Hasbro and Mattel for figures of this kind. Packaging doesn't hold much weight for me, but anyone who picks one of these up to leave in the box should be happy enough.

Let's jump right to the figure itself. In case it's not clear from the photos, this sculpt and paint are fantastic. While this isn't a direct translation of any single version or painting of Santa (at least as far as I know), it's reminiscent of the Haddon Sundblom Coke ads. I'd be shocked if this weren't a source of inspiration for this figure. I've seen some complaints about the decision to give Santa's hair and beard a yellow tinge - it doesn't bother me, and it's in keeping with the color scheme in several of Sundblom's paintings. But if you really want one with whiter hair, they're re-releasing these with that change.

Sorry - that's as close to Coke as I've got in this scale. 

Regardless, this is the straightforward, classic version of Santa Claus, as depicted in American media throughout most of the 20th century. It's not quite the version I'd most like - that would have a longer coat, black gloves, and a slightly serious expression - but this is a close second.

They went with a bald head, possibly to help with the fit of his hat. If so, it worked: the hat fits snuggly. At a glance, it looks like like it might be sculpted on, which is impressive. The sculpt looks slightly cartoonish, but that's in keeping with the style: this is supposed to look like he stepped out of a children's book. 

Up close I can find a few spots where the paint isn't perfect. The most notable issue is around the mouth, which can appear like a scowl when viewed from below due to the painting on the underside of the beard. It's a trivial detail, though: overall, this is a great looking figure.

The articulation is slightly more restrictive than you'd see on, say, a new Marvel Legends or Star Wars Black figure, but - to be frank - it's worth the trade-off to not have tons of obvious joints. The articulation that's present provides a wide variety of posing options without interfering more than necessary with the look. You get quite a bit of articulation in his wrists, elbows, and knees. In addition, the ankles include pin joints, and the right foot has a rocker (I'm not sure why they only included this in one foot, but it's plenty to offer a variety of realistic poses). 

Just as importantly, the figure's balance is fantastic, particularly considering its heft. This is a large, bulky figure, and yet I had no trouble getting it to stand. Hell, even this wasn't hard:

This is a versatile figure that looks great in a variety of positions. The only note I have is that the neck is a simple ball joint. While he can look around, he can't really look up much, though you can get a little range thanks to a joint hidden by his belt.

This comes with a number of accessories, including two heads, a removable hat, a gift box with a removable lid, a milk glass with removable milk, a plate, two cookies, a list, three alternate hands, and a base for Santa to stand on.

That's an impressive assortment, both in terms of quantity and in use. It's always nice having an alternate head, though I'm planning on using the default for display. The cookies and milk are great, though the fact the milk is a separate piece is a little odd (maybe it was easier or cheaper to produce this way). I really like the list, and the extra hands offer some nice options. The gift box is a nice add-on, as well.

The base is bit underwhelming - the words "Naughty or Nice" are sculpted in, but the lack of paint makes it bland and uninteresting. That said, he really doesn't need the base to stand, so it certainly doesn't hurt the figure. All things considered, I'm extremely happy with the variety, range, and quality of extras this comes with.

I mentioned at the beginning that I was a bit wary of the sticker price when preordering. But as soon as I had this in hand, it was clear this was well worth the $37 it cost, even without taking the small production run into consideration. This is an extremely nice action figure, and - assuming you're able to order one when you're reading this - I'd absolutely recommend doing so. As of right now, this line seems to be exclusive to Big Bad Toy Store, so that's your best bet for ordering future waves or grabbing extras in stock.