Planet of the Apes (Classic): Dr. Zira by NECA

I know, I know… I promised when next I visited with NECA’s line of damn, dirty apes, I’d be looking at the Gorilla Soldier 2-pack. I’ll get to them soon enough, but today I wanted to take a detour because I just got Dr. Zira in and since I’m still undecided on whether or not I’m picking up Dr. Zaius 2.0, Zira may finish off Series 2 for me. But first, let’s talk movies! The thing about acting under a lot of ape makeup is that you can change actors without it becoming too jarring to the continuity. As a result Cornelius was played by the late, great Roddy McDowell for the first and third films, he was played by David Watson in Beneath the Planet of the Apes. Likewise, Dr. Zaius was portrayed by two actors in the first two films. Dr. Zira, on the other hand, was portrayed by Kim Hunter for not one, not two, but the first three films, right up until she was shot dead at the end of Escape From The Planet of the Apes. SPOILERS!!! Ah, Escape… it would be such a charming film if it didn’t teach young, impressionable chimpanzees that it’s alright to drink alcohol while pregnant. Anyway, now that I’ve marinated you in meaningless ape film lore, let’s check out the figure.

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Hey, we’ve seen this package before! Yeah, it’s the same style of window box we saw with General Ursus and all the Series 1 figures. The boxes are sort of color coded to fit the character and there’s a some character art on the front. You also get the character’s name printed on the side of the box, which is a big plus in my book. The window allows you to see the figure and each of the accessories and everything is collector friendly, which is more than I can say for NECA’s old sealed clamshells. Sure, the incredible hit of plastic smell when you cut into those was pretty rad, but I’m still glad they abandoned them.

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Woah… softgoods! I wasn’t expecting that! Truth be told, NECA is not a stranger to using mixed media in their figures. They did it most recently in their Bioshock Infinite line with Elizabeth and the two Motorized Patriots. In this case, Zira has a cloth skirt under her plastic one, which looks good and offers a little less restriction on the figure’s articulation. Indeed, for what is essentially a robed figure, Zira features a couple of neat ways NECA avoided restricting her articulation. The plastic sleeves have strategically placed cuts right by the elbows that allow her to bend her elbows without any problems. Couple that with the rotating hinges in her shoulders, elbows, hips, and knees and you get a figure that has a pretty good range of motion. No, she’s never going to be an action star, but there’s far more poseability here than I would have expected from the character. That having been said, this is still a figure of a chimpanzee psychologist from films in the 60’s and 70’s, so your excitement may vary.

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I got a little ahead of myself talking articulation, but that’s not to say the sculpt isn’t good. I like the tribal embossing in her chest piece and the way her shoes are sculpted to fit her ape feet is really cool. Her robes are basically just smooth without a lot of texturing or sculpted wrinkles, but they still look quite screen accurate. At first, I thought Zira’s head looked over-sized, but I think it’s in line with the screen makeup used in the film. When I display her next to the other Apes it looks just fine. The detail here is every bit as good as what we’ve been seeing so far. Zira has a slightly surprised or perplexed expression which would be good for expressing the first time she heard Bright Eyes speak. The eyes are especially well done. There’s almost a spark of life in there. My only complaint would be a little mold flashing in her hair, which in all fairness should be easy to shave off.

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Zira comes with some of the most off-beat accessories I’ve ever seen with an action figure. For starters, you get the paper airplane that George Tayler made in order to convince Zira and Cornelius of his intelligence. Yes, this accessory is actually a tiny piece of paper folded into a tiny paper airplane. Insane!

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Next, and perhaps the least interesting, is the board that Tayler scrawled his name on, again to prove his intelligence.

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Finally, you get a little cardboard portrait of Zira and Cornelius. The thing I love so much about this little piece is that NECA actually recreated the picture with the action figures, rather than just pull a still from the movie. I don’t know why, but this just makes me smile.

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Zira is admittedly going to be the least exciting figure in this line for a lot of collectors, but that doesn’t make her any less welcome to me. She was a crucial character in the first three films and my Cornelius figure would never have been complete without a Zira to go with him. Another reason I was particularly pleased to finally get Zira was because she was surprisingly tough to find at the MSRP. I didn’t go for a case assortment because I didn’t particularly want to spring or a second Zaius figure. General Ursus was easy to get at the regular $20, but Zira was sold out at all my regular haunts and selling for upward of $30-35 where available. Crazy! I was finally able to track her down for $18.99 at Gamestop.com of all places. And after tossing in a $10 set of NECA figure stands, which I needed anyway, I was able to get free shipping to boot. It pays to hunt around, folks!

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