From the far-out mind of Jim Woodring comes Mr. Bumper. This piece boils everything that fans love about the artist down to a perfect head trip of a toy. The colors almost assault you (in a good way), the sculpt is surprising (and involves an amphibian), and the overall design is just about the most surreal I've seen. The back story on this guy is surprisingly short, but is wide open for interpretation. All that the box tells us is he's "The boss for sure!" It seems that he lives in a world full of frog-like creatures who travel the streets with cloaks over their large bodies giving the illusion they are driving vehicles. Mr. Bumper is the fanciest on the box's illustration giving the indication he is the big-wig in town. Not necessarily the mayor, but definitely the rich citizen who runs things from behind. But, that's really up for you to decide since like most art the viewerís interpretation is very important.
However, there are a few things undeniable about this piece. Most importantly is the sculpt. In my eyes, STRANGEco produces the best sculpted toys on the market and while Mr. Bumper is drastically different than the uber detailed Invisible Plan for example, the sculpt is still mighty impressive. Nearly every detail of Mr. Bumper isnít just applied with paint, it's sculpted into the form. When you first see Mr. Bumper you think that he is a frog of sorts driving a crazy red car that has eight legs instead of wheels. But the surprise is that the cowl is removable exposing the fact that it's all Mr. Bumper under there! The first time I saw this at Toy Fair, I was blown away. The cowl itself has sixteen eyes, three fins, a horn, and an almost lamprey-like mouth. The top of the cowl has what at first appeared to be a smoke stake with flames shooting out, but I think it's actually a large feather plume. There are wrinkles cut into the face and tail of the cowl which adds a subtle dimension to the design. Also, there are two flower shapes molded into the form that arenít painted. The cowl rests snuggly with its concave cut to hold onto Mr. Bumperís belly. Under the cowl lies Mr. Bumper's greatest secret and his more than likely pride of his family: The enormous belly pattern! Heís right to look smug with his arms folded with an amazing birthmark like that! Again, all the details arenít just painted, they are sculpted into the form. He also has a cool, but less impressive mark on his back. Each leg (all eight) is articulated and has an eye on its knee. The bottoms of the feet even have a pattern to them. Compared to the impressive detail of the sculpts, the paint applications are a little lacking. While there aren't any bleeds from one color to the next, there are a few places where the paint was a little thick and pooled onto the form, or a worker picked it up before it was dry and put a finger print onto the body. It seems that the important parts such as his belly were examined closer than the base coats or smaller details like the blue on the legs. These are picky concerns, but some that arenít usually present in STRANGEcoís toys and so it was a little disappointing. Also, I canít say the entire run is like this, it could just be mine. However, Iím not saying the job is a total loss. The use of color in this piece is just stunning. It really stands out in a collection. Also, the edges of the details are clean with no bleeds. I found it particularly interesting that the cowl was made of a shiny vinyl and the body of Mr. Bumper is matte. As usual, the vinyl used by STRANGEco is top notch and feels sturdy enough to be handled and played with a little bitÖ. not too much though it makes me nervous!
The box that Mr. Bumper comes in is a throw back to the metal toys of the 1950s. I showed this to my folks (who actually played with those toys) and they were thrown into the way back machine and started talking about all the great wind ups they had when they were kids. So I think itís safe to say the box design hit the nail on the head and successfully referenced these old fashioned toysí boxes. The front of the box has a great illustration of Mr. Bumper ďdrivingĒ down a street with some citizens watching and waiting to cross. I love the father and son.
While personally, Dorbel is my favorite Woodring toy, Mr. Bumper successfully brings all that the artist is known for into the vinyl. It has a surreal design, is cute at first glance but becomes almost sinister when you really stare at it, and involves an amphibious creature. I'm impressed with the cowl concept and the belly design is just fantastic. Besides the colorway shown, there is a black and purple version that is totally sick and another (albeit less) colorful version for three colorways total. I'd be surprised if these didn't sell out fairly quick so if you are a Woodring fan you need to pick up this piece.
STRANGEco has so many things cooking it's amazing. The number of toys they put out with the high quality given to them is almost unbelievable. Check out their site for info on their projects as well as a news reel of sorts with some great links. STRANGEco.com
Jim Woodring has an excellent blog that is well worth your time. Check out the Woodring Monitor!
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