Minitreehouse by Nathan: Bennzi -

Toy Review

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  • Distributor: Strangeco
  • Can I Play With It?:: Buckets of fun for everyone. Without the bucket.

Minitreehouse by Nathan: Bennzi

Less is One Leg More

By JOHN DENNING     September 23, 2006

© Strangeco
Nathan Jurevicius' latest addition to Minitreehouse is a perfect specimen for an up-close review of urban vinyl. For the last two weeks in our Out of the Box column, we've discussed the urban vinyl scene and some of the artists involved, but how do you review a figure that appeals more as art than toy?

Minitreehouse is one of numerous worlds that urban vinyl artists develop in drawings, paintings, sculpture and sometimes music. In this case, the world springs first from the toys themselves. Nathan started with 12 minis in fun boxes, then expanded to larger vinyls, with Bennzi being the second to hist full size. Bennzi is a "sickeningly upbeat" traffic controller for crocodiles by day who winds down with yoga at night. Minitreehouse has a running theme of interchangable parts and costumes to allow for different modes. Bennzi has two- Traffic Controller and Yoga Buff- although the fun of the figure comes from the ability to piece it together however you like. Though some urban vinyl exists entirely for display, Bennzi is one that must be taken out of the box and fiddled with to get the full effect.

Bennzi comes in three colors- blue, orange, and gray. Unfortunately, the gray is a special release for toy conventions and the like, but it has glow-in-the-dark highlights, so if you like what you see, pick it up right then and there. The other two color schemes are mostly personal preference, though the subtlety of the black-on-blue stripes is our favorite paint job. Everything about the figure is simplicity in form with enough artistic flare to spare it most of the philistine "I could do that" remarks. The mold is very consistent with Nathan's style, too, which is important when you want something that you can recognize as the work of your favorite artist.

In Traffic Controller Mode, Bennzi has three upright legs, all with articulation, though it's hard for him to stand without all of them straightened. For accessories, there's a bowler and briefcase to keep his look professional. Its not clear which of the three mouths is best for the work day, but for a creature that lists flossing as a favorite activity, three mouths is three times the fun. Besides, when the figure comes with two different-sized crocodiles that are always getting underfoot, more teeth might be a valuable survival trait.

For Yoga Buff mode in the evenings, Bennzi swaps his bowler for the more casual "tentacle on the head" look that's so popular these days. There are two more curved legs designed to be folded in front of him and a third that curls up behind his head. Like the stand-up legs, each has articulation, and it's part of the fun to find all the ways to interchange the parts. Bennzi is the Mr. Potato Head of art lovers.

With all the elements and considerations for a great vinyl toy, it's hard to be brief. The most important thing is that the quality of the design communicates clearly the artistic intentions and the fun factor of all those parts keeps the audience entertained on a satisfyingly childish level. As far as a critique of the aesthetic, we'll let you decide for yourself what this figure says to you. In our case, it's something like "Look both ways before you cross the road!" but then we're awfully absentminded.


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