STRANGEco's Bennzi by Nathan Jurevicius
Nathan Jurevicius' Minitreehouse characters have been captivating the imaginations of toy collectors and art enthusiasts alike for more than a few years. The quirky citizens of his imagination are interesting both to our eyes and our minds since he doesn't just create a piece and move on. Instead, he has created a world full of these colorful, quirky characters who quite often interact with each other. Through the help of the fine folks at STRANGEco, Nathan's two dimensional pieces have become quite stunning toys. The newest of these is Bennzi.
Bennzi is a traffic cop by day and a yoga buff by night; or the weekends. But he's not your typical traffic cop (if the three legs and bulging eyes didn't already give that away). He is in charge of keeping the marshes' crocodile's daily swims orderly. To help in this task he has three large legs that prop his cylindrical body up high enough to see what's coming or going. While on duty he wears a sensible bowler hat and a briefcase on his back. Already, you're thinking this is a nice toy. The sharp clean edges seen from the front play well off the round organic feel of the top view. Also, the long legs work so well to visually lead the eyes up and back down the toy that honestly, STRANGEco could have stopped there and everyone would have been happy. But only going half way isn't the company's style. Instead, Bennzi also comes with his "yoga legs". These are more curved with two curling in front of him and the rear leg arching up and down behind. Also, his hat is replaced with a tentacle of sorts on top of his head and the briefcase makes way for a stylish red fan. To top it all off, he also has two more mouths that can be interchanged. That brings this toy's grand total of pieces up to 14 body parts: the head, three mouths, six legs, a briefcase, a fan, hat, and tentacle! Of course these can be mixed and matched for many different looks and poses. Technically there are three points of articulation (one at each leg), but he has a hard time standing without all three on the ground for support. With some work and imagination, you can get some great poses though.
The paint application is very clean. The red on the mouth is crisp and the subtle blue to black stripes on the legs is really nice. As always, STRANGEco used high quality vinyl for the toy with no thin spots or bubbles. I also have to say that I absolutely love the shade of blue that Bennzi's face is made from. Bob Ross would call it a happy blue. His eyes are different colored plastic: one red, one yellow. The sculpt is subtle in it's execution with not as many details as some with a critical eye may look for, but it fits Nathan's illustrative style perfectly. There are smooth nostrils and the stripes on the legs are accented with cuts between each. Bennzi comes in three colorways. Blue (shown), red, and special Night Edition black.
Where would Bennzi be without a couple crocodiles to direct? I'd say he'd be pretty bored. To remedy this, he comes with two crocs. These are made of a softer vinyl than the main toy but the clean "less is more" style is strong in these two as well. Also, one is larger than the other just for a little spice.
The box is a nice window display with the sides and back covered in Nathan's art. There are marshy, almost evil trees all around staring you down and trying to intimidate Bennzi. The top flap has a brief story of Bennzi to bring us all up to speed on this creature's habits.
I'm really impressed with this toy. The design is solid and the quality is top notch. But what really sets it off is the fact that there are practically two different toys in one box. With the interchanging factor thrown in, this is a really great toy not only for Jurevicius fans, but for collectors looking for a quirky toy that reminds them that these toys (Designer or not) can still be played with and are fun.
Check out STRANGEco's site for updates on the many toys they produce as well as a great little online shop with some exclusive toys.
Nathan Jurevicius' site is full of info on the artist and a look at some of his work.
You can pick up Bennzi at Rotofugi and many other Designer Toy retailers.
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