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Monday, June 26, 2017

Cars 3: Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Faster than fast. Quicker than quick. I am the ULTIMATE Lightning McQueen! Alright everyone, boy do I have a treat for you today. Thanks to the generous folks over at Sphero, I present my in-depth, hands on review of the one and only Ultimate Lightning McQueen app-enabled "RC" car.

I say "RC" in quotes because this is much more than your typical remote controlled car. I hesitate to even use that term. The wizards at Sphero have literally developed a fully functional, fully animated, interactive machine utilizing the latest and greatest in technology. My mind was blown when I opened this up and turned it on; it was like McQueen jumped out of the movie screen and onto my desk.

Note- This post is going to have a LOT of info, but don't get overwhelmed. It ultimately amounts to all being quite simple once you get your hands on it. I thought this was going to be complicated to figure out, but it really wasn't at all. I hope this post can provide some meaningful insights to those weighing whether to buy it or not.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Before I get into more details about Lightning himself and what the heck the hype is all about, I first have to gush about the sleek packaging. Just the box alone lets you know that you have something special here. I absolutely love the red metallic shine that covers the top and the silver metallic embossed lettering throughout. Super clean and stylish. One thing you'll notice right off the bat is how heavy and study the box is.
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

The back and sides of the box give a great overview of what you can expect while playing with this...toy? (I hesitate to call it that too :p).

I just wanted to say how impressed I am with the attention to detail the team behind the scenes put into this. Pixar employees Jay Ward (creative director of Cars) and Bobby Podesta (Cars 3 supervising animator) were even involved with this project from the very beginning, making sure everything was as accurate and true to character as possible. See Jay Ward talk about Ultimate Lightning McQueen in this video HERE and see it in action.

FEATURES-
  • Running Head & Tail Lights 
  • Animatronic mouth
  • Expressive LCD eyes 
  • Bluetooth connection 
  • Responsive to touch (Five capacitive touch panels—Lightning will physically respond to a touch on his roof, hood, both side doors and near his rear window).
  • Emotive suspension 
  • Drifting capability
  • Lifelike voice and engine sounds
  • Integrated custom speaker system (the sounds come from McQueen himself, not from the app like it was for Sphero's BB-8) 
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

ADDITIONAL FEATURES (THROUGH APP)- 
  • "Drive-In" (Watch the original Cars movie with Lightning and he responds to specific moments)
  • Acting Studio (Sequence animations and dialogue for Lightning to preform)
  • "Pit Stop Panic" Game included within app 
  • Unlock skills and build strategy (find new tools, tracks and achievements as you play)
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

WHAT'S IN THE BOX-
  • Ultimate Lightning McQueen 
  • "Service Manual" (quick start guide)
  • Micro USB power cord
When you first take McQueen out of the box, you'll notice that he's attached to his base at the tires using little plastic caps. Just pop those off and you're good to go. Very simple. That leads me to my first point in that I like how simple this product is (as noted in my intro). Not simple in in the way that its made or the play value (quite the opposite), but simple as in that it's very user friendly and intuitive. This could have been an overly complex and frustrating item, but it's not.

Additionally you'll notice his eyes are actually just a sticker overlay right out of the box. Just peel that thing right off. This was a nice touch so that you don't just see a big grey space there upon opening (remember, his eyes are LCD, so they're only there when he's charged and turned on), but it's not needed once you start playing.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Slide out the drawer housed within the base and you'll find an awesome "McQueen Red" micro USB charger (love the color; super sweet detail) and the "Service Manual." And speaking of simple again? The instruction booklet is literally only three steps long. Again, they could have included a 50 page booklet, but I like how they kept things short, sweet and to the point.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Let's just take in for a second how breathtaking the look of this thing is! Just wow...or should I say KA-CHOW! His main body is made of a hard, durable plastic, while the mouth area is a softer plastic (also durable) to accommodate the animatronics (his mouth moves realistically when he speaks—it's just outstanding). He also doesn't have any paper stickers. Any stickers that may have been applied are under a fantastic, shiny protective coating. I absolutely love how glossy he is overall.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Ok let's get this thing out of my photography studio and into my home for some charging and some play.

GETTING STARTED-

Step 1: Download the free "Ultimate Lightning McQueen" app in your app store (compatible with Apple iOS and Android devices)

Step 2: Plug the included charger into McQueen's "fuel tank" to start the power flow (by the way, I thought that was a super clever place to put the charging socket; it's like you're fillin' him up with gas). Once he boots up, which takes about 30 seconds, he'll immediately start talking and responding to your touch.

The initial charge takes 30 minutes. For future charges, while some sources say it takes two hours to fully charge Lightning, the official Sphero site says one hour (which matches my experience). Once charged, you get about 40 minutes of continuous play with him. Note: battery level can also be checked at any time on the settings page in the Lightning McQueen app.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Step 3: Open the app and hold your device next to Lightning. Make sure your device's Bluetooth is turned on and has either Wifi or data turned on for updates. Wait for the update to complete and press start (as seen pictured in my screen shots below).

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Step 4: On the app (for first time users), speech bubbles will appear and guide you through the interface and tell you how to navigate the app. You can review these points at any time by pressing the red question mark button in the top left corner.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review
Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Step 5: Time to drive! Unplug McQueen and place him on a smooth, solid, preferably clean floor. Note: This product is NOT intended for outside use. His tires will no doubt get chewed up on pavement/gravel and he would most likely get super scratched up underneath him. This thing is definitely too high end to risk taking it outdoors, for me at least (especially since Sphero does not replace parts); but to each his own. He is also by no means waterproof.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

LEARNING TO DRIVE / NAVIGATING THE MENUS-

Here comes the learning curve as this does not drive like a typical remote control car. If you're not used to how Sphero products operate/are controlled (I have the 2015 Sphero BB-8, so I was used to it already), then it may take a little getting used to.

Stand behind Lightning (so he's facing away from you) and then press the "compass" button (pointed out in my screenshot below) to orient yourself in relation to McQueen. From there, push up on the control pad/ joystick to drive Lightning forward and toggle it left or right to turn (pretty standard). Pulling down on the control pad, however, will NOT make him go backwards (even though it will be instinctive for you to do); instead pulling down will make him do a U-Turn. In order to go backwards, you need to hold down the reverse button at the same time as using the controller.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

On the main control screen, there is also a "donuts" button (hold that down while driving to make McQueen spin out and do "donuts") and a speed boost button (hold that down while driving to make McQueen go faster). Touch the speech bubble button (near the top right) to make Lightning talk at any time—even while driving. 

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

To learn more about how to drive Ultimate Lightning McQueen, Sphero has actually created a handy video tutorial that will help set you on the path to becoming a great driver (of McQueen, that is). Check it out HERE.

Hit the map icon button in the top right corner to give you the tabbed menu options. One of the options there, as mentioned, is the "Pit Stop Panic" game. This is pretty fun, but what was really cool for me was hearing McQueen comment on exactly what's going on during gameplay. He knows!

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

There is also the "Acting Studio"; this is where you can drag and drop any lines of dialogue into a given "script" and place them in any order for Lightning to preform.

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

The "Drive-In" is where you can watch the original Cars with Lightning and he responds appropriately to specific moments! This is an amazing feature. His reactions are too funny and I just marvel at how it all works. For example, when Chick Hicks hits another racer during the film's opening race, McQueen responds "Totally uncool Chick!" Note: McQueen has to be plugged in for this feature to work.

So far, there is no option to watch Cars 2 with Lightning...bummer I know. Lets hope that will be included in a future update down the road as well as Cars 3 once it arrives on home video!

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Important: How do I turn Lightning off when not in use? Well, there are three ways. First, 20 minutes of inactivity will put Lightning to sleep automatically. Second, if you'd like to put him to sleep sooner than that, go to the settings tab (gear icon) and press "sleep now." After he goes to sleep, force quit the app so it doesn't reconnect and make him wake up. To turn him on/resume play, just open the app near him and he'll come alive again—ready to race!

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

Third, to power down McQueen completely (for longer term storage), tap the "Advanced" button under settings and touch "Power Off." McQueen will totally shut off. In order to power him up from there once you're ready to play again, all you need to do is insert his power cord just like you're going to charge him. He'll start right up, never having missed a beat.

Also under settings, you'll find all the volume controls, the aforementioned battery level display and the headlights control (you can turn them to always on or automatic). 

Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen Review

ADDITIONAL SPECS / DETAILS-
  • Top Speed = 6 mph
  • Range = 98 feet (30 meters)
  • Number of parts in Ultimate Lightning McQueen = More than 450 (including 6 motors and 3 processors)
  • Number of animations created = More than 150 and counting (considering future app updates)
  • Size (roughly) = 10" length x 3 1/4" height x 5" wide
  • Weight = 1.98 lbs 
  • Made for iPhone 5s or newer, iPod 6th Gen or newer, iPad 3 or newer, iPad Mini 2 or newer. Made for Android with Bluetooth(TM) v4.0 and running Android 5.0 or newer.
Cleaning Process: One of the very first things I noticed when I started playing with this McQueen was that his front mouth area (the soft plastic) is a little sticky. That being so, when you drive him around, he inevitability attracts some dust, hair and fuzz there. When I went to clean him, I tried damp paper towels, cloths and napkins and all of them left even more residue. THE SOLUTION? Sanitizing or baby wipes. They work like a charm. Wiping that area down with those after play will help McQueen retain his pristine presence. I've done it numerous times and he's left shiny like new every time.

cleaning Cars 3 Sphero Ultimate Lightning McQueen

You might be wondering about the "building strategy", "unlocking skills", "finding new tracks & tools", etc. as noted on the side of the box. That's one thing that I was a little confused about, but then I think I stumbled upon the answer. Apparently a new "racing" feature will be integrated into a future update and I assume those will have to do with that. What do you think?

The recommend age range for Ultimate Lightning McQueen is 8 and up, but I'm thinking older Cars fans/serious collectors will get more out of owning this. The price, as you probably already know, is a doozy. This McQueen retails for a whopping price of $299.99, a price that is honestly well earned (given all the sophisticated robotic technology that resides in this guy), but hard to swallow nonetheless.


FINAL THOUGHTS-

The moment I saw this in action in person, it really knocked me off my feet. I just LOVE the realistic mouth moments, the expressive LCD eyes, the working lights and overall make of this incredible car. It still blows my mind how loud and clear his voice is/sounds are, how smooth he drives and drifts and how simple everything is laid out. The way that Lightning leans when he turns and the emotive suspensions (even when he's just sitting there talking; subtly moving up and down / left and right as he says his phrases) adds so much of Lightning's personality to this product. It's truly unlike anything I've ever seen in a "toy."Have you seen the animatronic cars at Cars Land (specifically Radiator Springs Racers) in Disney's California Adventure? This is like a small scale version of one of those—that's my best comparison.

As far as any problems or glitches, I haven't had any personally. It's run smooth for me since the moment I plugged it in. If anything, the price could be considered a pretty massive con, but I understand why it is what it is. Some people might not like the driving controls (I know there's a learning curve that requires some patience), but for me, I don't have any major complaints rights now. I'll be sure to add to this post if anything comes up though!


I can absolutely highly recommend this to any massive Cars fan. If you're a collector who's been invested in the franchise like I've been, then this might be considered a "must have." Visit the direct Amazon link below to purchase (also available at Toys R Us, Target and the Disney Store). If you have any questions at all, please email me or leave them in the comments section below and I'll be happy to help.

My hat goes off to the entire Sphero (and Pixar) team for this achievement!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Cars: Crusty Rotor (Vinyl Toupee)

Cars Crusty Rotor Vinyl Toupee mattel

Before I begin reviewing my massive Mattel Disney·Pixar Cars 3 diecast collection, I first want to finish up taking a look at the last few Mattel mainline 2017 pre-Cars 3 characters that were released earlier this year; one of them being Crusty Rotor here (better known by his sponsor Vinyl Toupee, No. 76) from the original Cars. As usual, this is a 1:55 scale diecast.

This particular single pack release is from this year's "Piston Cup" sub series (#4/11), but Crusty has been released a few times previously. His first release was in the 2007 "Dinoco 400" 8-pack and then again in 2008 in the incredibly limited Speedway of the South set. He hit store shelves again in 2009 (his first release as a single) as part pf the Kmart exclusive "synthetic rubber tires" line and then lastly in 2010 with a launcher. That means this is Crusty's very first release as a standard single with the normal plastic, non-rubber tires.

Cars Crusty Rotor Vinyl Toupee mattel

Since I missed getting Vinyl Toupee originally, I'm very happy that he's finally (after seven years) back on the pegs and finally part of my personal collection. I'm that much closer to finally having all the Piston Cup racers. As shown in the screenshot above, Crusty is briefly seen zooming past the camera a few times (and spinning out) during the film's opening Motor Speedway of the South (Dinoco 400) race. He is one of the 36 race cars competing for the Piston Cup. He's only on screen for a couple moments, so don't blink or you'll miss him.

Cars Crusty Rotor Vinyl Toupee mattel

Mattel made Vinyl Toupee here maybe a little too pink, I'd say (he has more of a purple shade in the film), but this is a great looking racer overall. And come on, "Vinyl Toupee" is a hilarious and clever sponsor. Who comes up with this stuff?

If you're still looking to add Vinyl Toupee to your Cars collection, your best bets (at this point since Cars 3 took over the isles) are eBay using THIS link to current listings or Amazon using the direct link below. Best of luck on the hunt! 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Inside Out: Bing Bong Dorbz (Clear "Limited Chase Edition")

Inside Out Bing Bong Dorbz Clear Limited Chase Edition

If you're looking for a reminder of THAT incredibly heart wrenching scene from Inside Out to display on your desk or office shelf, look no further. ;) Here we have the clear "Limited CHASE edition" Funko Dorbz Bing Bong vinyl figure—a continuation of the Inside Out Dorbz collection released back in April (check out that original post for an overview of the line)!

This Bing Bong Dorbz retains the same sculpt and number as the standard version (#296), but now the character is translucent as if to represent Bing Bong fading away. Funko did a very similar thing with their Hot Topic exclusive clear Bing Bong "POP!" figure from exactly two years ago.

Now honestly, I have no idea where this one ever ended up being released at. Over the past couple months I've consistently checked at GameStop, Hot Topic, Toys R Us, Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble and really wherever Dorbz are sold around me—with no luck. For those of you who found him in stores (not online), where did you end up tracking him down? I understand that he's designated a "limited edition", so I knew he'd be rare, just not this rare. I'm also not sure of how many units  exactly he's limited to (LE 1,000? 2,000?). Any info would be great if you have it.

Inside Out Bing Bong Dorbz Clear Limited Chase Edition

I was lucky enough to get this Bing Bong for my birthday from my parents last month, though they did have to pay those eBay prices in order to get him. I'm super grateful they did that for me! eBay prices for this one are currently right in the $20-$30 range.

I like how the outlines of his facial features and outfit were kept and in Bing Bong's signature "cotton candy pink" color. He stands at about 3" tall, has one point of articulation (head can rotate a full 360 degrees) and originally retailed for the typical Dorbz price of $7.99.

Inside Out Bing Bong Dorbz Clear Limited Chase Edition

If you're an avid collector of the Disney/Pixar Funko Dorbz figures and/or just a huge fan of Inside Out, this might be one you'll want to track down. I think it's really neat looking, plus as a completest, I needed it to finish up my Inside Out Dorbz collection. At this point, eBay and Amazon are your best bets if you're looking to purchase this; visit Amazon using the link below or eBay using this direct link to current listings.
 
Don't forget to share your thoughts in the comments below or through any of my social media channels!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Toy Story: Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" (Disney Treasures Exclusive)

Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive

"Disney Treasures", brought to you by the oh-so poplar Funko brand, is a Disney themed subscription box which features 100% exclusive items delivered right to your door every other month. Every box has its own unique sub-theme and array of collectibles; for example, the box for this month was called "Festival of Friends" (seen below) and included a Dumbo Funko "POP!", a Pluto "POP!", a Thumper pin, a Piglet patch and this Woody "Mystery Mini" vinyl figure with collectible tin which I'll be reviewing in this post!

I'm not a Disney Treasures subscriber, but I am a [Pixar] Funko Mystery Mini collector...so of course I had to get this adorable Woody figure which I ended up resorting to eBay for. Down the road though if there's ever a full Pixar themed box (which I could very well see happening), you can count me in as a subscriber— at least for that one.


Woody stands at about 3" tall and, if you couldn't tell, is completely and utterly cute in his design. Just look at that face! The paint job here (at least on mine) is extremely well done with some really great detailing overall (love those subtle rosy cheeks). He has no articulation (not even the head) and is quite precarious when standing up, but he's still pretty irresistible if I do say so myself. 

Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive

As mentioned, Woody even comes with this fantastic [Disney Parks] Toy Story Midway Mania inspired collectible tin container to store him in or next to! How cool is that? Check out all the awesome artwork which covers all sides of the tin.

Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive
Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive
Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive
Toy Story Funko Woody "Mystery Mini" disney treasures exclusive

To learn more about the Funko Disney Treasures boxes and how to subscribe/pick a plan that meets your needs, visit their official site HERE (the prices range from $28-$30 per box, depending on which plan you go for). If you just want this Woody Mystery Mini figure without getting the whole box (like me), you can visit eBay using this direct link to current listings.

As usual, have a wonderful weekend and be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments below! What do you think of this Woody? Are you a Disney Treasures subscriber? If so, which has been your favorite box so far?

woody funko disney treasures mystery mini
Check out my Instagram @danthepixarfan!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Toy Story 3: Trixie Plush (Disney Parks Exclusive)

toy story disney parks trixie plush toy

Currently available exclusively at Disney Parks, here we have the new for 2017 Toy Story 3 Trixie plush! I was able to pick this up during our visit to Walt Disney World just last month (it can also be found at Disneyland/California Adventure as well). Trixie measures about 12.9" long x 6.5" tall x 6.4" wide and retails for $16.99.

Trixie is one of those few Toy Story characters, like Stinky Pete, Wheezy, Rocky and others, who has never gotten a true, mainstream, full size toy/replica release after all these years. Isn't that odd? How easy would it be to make her, right? In the film, she appears to be a pretty cheap plastic mold with minimal detail (right around Rex's size); a real life version of her wouldn't have to be much more than that in terms of quality. Also, all of Bonnie's other toys have gotten the replica treatment (heck, Mr. Pricklepants, Dolly and Buttercup were even released as part of the high end Thinkway Toys "Toy Story Collection")— so where's Trixie? OK, rant done. ;)

With that said, since no official full scale plastic Trixie toy has been made (yet), this is a great alternative for the time being (to at least have the character represented in your collection). That was my way of thinking—so I most definitely had to pick this up when I saw it!

toy story disney parks trixie plush toy

As far as plushes are concerned, this one actually has a very good likeness to the character, feels sturdy yet soft and stands up very well on her own. I like the the high sheen of the fabric as well. Everything from the quality of the stitching to the embroidered features looks very nice here overall.

toy story disney parks trixie plush toy

Whether you're looking for a alternative to a plastic Trixie toy for the time being (like me) or you just like the character and want this as part of your Disney plush collection (kids especially might just like her to cuddle with), I can highly recommend picking this up.

At Disney World, you can find her all over the place (just check the Shop Disney Parks app for the exact locations she's sold) and I'm sure she's just as easy to find currently in Disneyland as well. If you can't make it to either park soon, you can order this straight from the Shop Disney Parks app and have it shipped conveniently right to your home.

With Toy Story 4 a couple years away, maybe we can look forward to a "to scale" Trixie toy then...but for now, we'll just have to wait and see! Let me know your thoughts your thoughts in the comments below.

toy story replicas bonnie's toys
Find me on Instagram @danthepixarfan