Wheaty Wheat's Mr. Bunny by Joe Ledbetter
Wheaty Wheat's Mr. Bunny is the type of vinyl that people stop and notice. And not just rabid collectors of Designer Toys either. The casual collector or non-collectors for that matter stop to look at the guy and no one can help but smile when they do. The reason for this is three fold. The first is solid design. J. Ledbetter has become a well known artist with his fun, innocent style. His creations are almost silly to look at, but the emotion they convey brings a depth to the character that isn't present in other artists who try to immolate the same feeling. Mr. Bunny is a prime example of this. His face is wide-eyed, gazing at you saying, "Who me?" But there's something going on behind those big black eyes that we're not sure about. The wheels are spinning in this rabbit's head and he could say or do something at any minute to surprise us. Plus, it doesn't hurt that they guy is downright cute. Also, there isn't a back story that one needs to know to appreciate the character. You just look at him and you see a great looking, funny little bunny. Simplicity isn't easy to pull off though. It's hard to know how much is just enough without over doing it but leaving too much to the viewer's imagination and under working it can ruin a piece too. J. Ledbetter has mastered the art of knowing when to stop and it comes through in spades with Mr. Bunny.
The second pillar to this Designer Toy's success is the quality of the toy itself. The vinyl is top notch, the sculpt is excellent, and the paint apps are tight. First off, the sculpt of this piece is really amazing. Quite often with Designer Toys, we have a rendition of an artist's two dimensional work in three dimensions for our shelf. MARS-1 is a good example of this. With Invisible Plan we were offered six toys that each represented some of his prints/paintings very well. But with Mr. Bunny we are given a new take on this notion.
Mr. Bunny looks like he hopped right out of the canvas and landed your shelf. This is done with a new style of sculpt that is just amazing. There are hard edges along the back, bottom, jaw line, and feet of the toy while the nose, hands, and fronts of the ears are rounded. This juxtaposition of hard vs. soft edges really plays nicely off one another and gives the toy a great profile view. But what really sets this guy off in this notion of "living illustration" are the thick black lines around the edges of the toy. With these lines surrounding the piece, it truly looks like it was drawn; possibly with a Sharpie, then painted in Illustrator, and life was somehow breathed into him. The sculpt is also detailed nicely. The buck teeth protrude from his muzzle, his tail is pointing straight up as if in alarm, his arms are molded onto his belly in different positions, and the pads of his feet are recessed. That last one really impressed me. His head swivels to the left and right which isn't too much articulation but enough for more interesting poses that just a straight on look. The paint apps are really tight and there are more layers here than you first think. Besides the mentioned black outlines, there are light yellow and almost orange lines echoing them for an illusion of shading. This really adds to the depth of the toy without adding more undercuts into the sculpt. Everything is very neat and tidy from the toes to the lines on the teeth. The actual vinyl the toy is made from is high quality, sturdy material that looks to be ready to stand the test of time. Overall, this is a really nice piece from start to finish.
The third part of this piece's trifecta is the variant colorways. Aside from the original yellow version, there is a blue Snow Bunny. This toy has all the details present in the original but the yellow is replaced by light blue. Also, the highlights and shading match the palette being darker blue and light blue-gray. It's hard to say, but I think the Snow Bunny is a little more pleasing to the eye. The original yellow is hard to beat though since it looks like many of Ledbetter's actual pieces. There is also a black toy with yellow highlights called Lava Bunny, but if you don't have one now chances are you never will since it was only offered at an opening and limited to 50.
I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the packaging. The box this toy comes in is fantastic. There are three different artworks featuring Mr. Bunny on the sides and back. One is an evil bunny on a shark, the other side is a happy bunny on a dolphin, and the back is an almost abstract pattern of repeated bunnies. I also got a kick from the window display being a thought bubble from an illustrated Mr. Bunny. Like he's imagining what he'd look like as a toy. Very original.
Mr. Bunny is truly a high quality, ferociously sought after toy. This is Ledbetter's first vinyl toy and combining that with Wheaty Wheat's high quality and low production numbers (yellow is limited to 400, while Snow is a short 100) has brought collectors to a fever pitch. And for good reason. This truly is a great toy, and a great addition to anyone's collection.
Wheaty Wheat has a great site complete with an online store that sells exclusive material. That's right; they don't undercut the retailer by selling items that are available elsewhere! But they do have some great items up that can't be found anywhere else.
Joe Ledbetter's site is full of info on the artist with some highlights from past works and what's cooking in his studio. It's worth checking out if for no other reason than the animation of Mr. Bunny, Fire Cat, and Ringo Bear!
This toy is sold out pretty much everywhere but one place: kidrobot. Their order got lost in the mix and had to be resent, so if you're going to get one, that's pretty much your last chance aside from "the bay".
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Article ©2005 MillionairePlayboy.com unless otherwise noted. All characters are property their original owners.