Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Unfortunately Underdetailed, The Gandalf The Grey Hallmark Ornament Is Still Cool!

The Good: Good sculpt, Generally good coloring detail, Good balance
The Bad: Minor coloring issues, Lack of effect/gimmick
The Basics: The 2012 "Gandalf The Grey" ornament is a weird blend of amazing detailing and underwhelming attention to coloring for the hero of The Hobbit.

As fans flock to theaters this weekend to see the first of the new The Hobbit movies, Hallmark is hoping that enthusiasm translates to sales in the franchise it has not been able to exploit effectively for almost a decade now. When the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy was released, Hallmark dabbled in ornaments, but this franchise has a pretty steep fall-off in merchandising when there is no film out to support it.

For those unfamiliar with the idea of the ornament, Gandalf The Grey features the wizard from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (reviewed here!) or, I suppose, The Fellowship Of The Ring (reviewed here!). This is Gandalf The Grey in an action pose, sword drawn, staff held heroically out before him.


The "Gandalf The Grey" ornament recreates Gandalf The Grey holding his sword in his right hand and his wizard’s staff in his left. The ornament is just Gandalf The Grey, looking like he is lighting the way and preparing to fend off whatever he sees in the diminishing darkness. The ornament, released in 2012, is a very cool and accurate sculpt of Gandalf The Grey, as portrayed by Sir Ian McKellen. He is not wearing his hat and from his belt hangs his sword’s scabbard.

Hallmark clearly made quite an effort on Gandalf The Grey as he has decent detailing like the buckle on the belt. Measuring five and three-quarters inches tall, three and a half inches wide and one and three-quarter inches deep, the "Gandalf The Grey" ornament is one of the larger Hallmark character ornaments this year. At $14.95, the Gandalf The Grey ornament is also one of the more affordable genre ornaments this season, suggesting that Hallmark is betting low on the viability of merchandise surrounding The Hobbit.

The Hallmark "Gandalf The Grey" ornament is made of a durable plastic and sculpted to look like Sir Ian McKellen in his recognizable role. Hallmark detailed the staff and scabbard well and the cloak even has decent lines of force to make Gandalf look like he is swirling around. The coloring detailing is inconsistent, though. This Gandalf The Grey has realistically rosy cheeks and his hair is finely detailed with grays and browns that looks incredibly accurate. However, the sword is monotonal – it looks like a cartoon in a real person’s hand! – and the cloak is entirely too clean to be at all believable. The inconsistency robs this ornament of anything approaching perfection.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Gandalf The Grey" could have a sound effect, but it does not. Instead, this is a less-expensive option that is just the character.


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Gandalf The Grey" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. And for those creating the ultimate movie nostalgia Christmas Tree, the "Gandalf The Grey" ornament is a great option that can only enhance the tree of those who love fantasy characters. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of Gandalf The Grey's head. This is fairly obvious and necessary for the ornament. Hanging there, the ornament is absolutely perfectly balanced. The cool scabbard he has hanging from his belt helps keep the ornament in right balance and Gandalf The Grey is well-engineered in that regard.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for that review!). Within a few years, every major franchise from Star Wars to A Nightmare Before Christmas to Indiana Jones started making Hallmark ornaments. "Gandalf The Grey" is one of only a few Middle Earth ornaments on the market and at least the second of Gandalf The Grey. Sir Ian McKellen fans and fans of The Hobbit movies are very happy about the "Gandalf The Grey" ornament. They have a lot to be happy with in regards to this one. However, the track record for Middle Earth-related merchandise has been poor; investors might want to wait until this is half price before stocking up!


Fans of the Middle Earth franchise, Sir Ian McKellen, and Hallmark ornaments are likely to be excited by this ornament, and the promise of more to come. Gandalf The Grey might score, objectively, as a little more average than great, but it is still better than many of the ornaments on the market this year!

For other Hallmark genre ornaments released in 2012, please check out my reviews of:
The Final Battle Harry Potter ornament
On Stranger Tides Pirates Of The Caribbean ornament
Edward And Bella’s Wedding Twilight ornament


For other ornament reviews, please visit my Ornament Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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