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Gentle Giant has been producing mini-busts based on the Star Wars universe since Palpatine was a baby. It’s Gentle Giant’s most succesful license and the busts have been the flagship of the line, and of the company.

The latest editions to the series include Garindan and the AT-AT Driver. Both of these were must haves for me, although as a somewhat completist on the busts I tend to get most of them anyway. You could originally pick these two up for around $50 - $60 depending on the retailer, but that’s changing fast.

Garindan is part of the classic New Hope creature feature, and as such his mini-bust is long overdue. He’s not on screen more than a few seconds, but multiple generations of kids recognize him on sight. I think Star Wars holds the record for turning nobodies into celebrities.

The AT-AT Driver is popular for several reasons. First, there’s the whole Hoth thing. Everything about Hoth was cool, from the Taun Tauns to the Snowtrooper outfits. Then you add in that the AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) was one of the coolest vehicles ever created. The fact it’s also one of the most ridiculous from a real world perspective is totally irrelevant.

Put those two factors together, and if you put Jar Jar behind the wheel, he would have been cool. Almost. But they did far better than than, creating a great looking and fairly complex suit for the AT-AT Driver. This is a bust that’s been a long time coming, and I suspect that a lot of collectors are going to scramble to pick him up.

If you have any questions or comments, drop me a line at mwc@mwctoys.com, or head over to my site at Michael’s Review of the Week - Captain Toy for more reviews just like this one. Onward to the review!

Garindan, AT-AT Driver mini-busts

Both of these busts are ‘limited editions’, as you’d expect from Gentle Giant. The Driver is limited to 2500 pieces, while Garindan is 1500. There’s something about this AT-AT Driver though, as he is selling out fast all over the place. Garindan isn’t a slouch either, selling much better than other recent releases. If you want either one and you see them for retail, I’d grab them now.

Packaging - ***1/2
The box is the usual, no surprises there. It gets extra points for the display window, a big plus in my book. Without it, you have no way of knowning exactly what you’re getting inside the package, and a lot of dealers are refusing to open boxes in advance now. But with the window, you’ll at least be able to get a rough idea of the paint quality, especially on the critical portrait.

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There’s also the nifty baseball card style Certificate of Authenticity, and clear winner and one of the better examples of a truly ‘collectible’ COA.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Both of these busts sport very detailed sculpts, and very accurate screen reproductions of the characters.

Garindan has the weirdly shaped elephant nose and goggles, complete with little holes and stitches. God only knows what terrible mug he’s hiding behind the mask, but it has to be pretty bad for him to think this ugly visage is an improvement. Then again, he could look like Brad Pitt, and the weird mask is all part of the ’spy’ persona…

The cape suffers from a lack of texturing, an common problem for Gentle Giant busts, but the rest of the detailing is quite sharp and well defined.

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The AT-AT Driver steps up the detailing even further, and they’ve done a wonderful job front and back on the more intricate pieces of his uniform. He also has one of the more interesting helmets in the Republic, and they’ve captured much finer detail here than we’ve seen in other recent releases. It really is an outstanding job, and may be on my short list of best busts of the year.

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Paint - AT-AT Driver ***1/2; Garindan ***
None of the paint work can be called ’sloppy’, but there are a few issues here and there, some of them merely aesthetic.

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Garindan looks great for the most part, with clean cut lines and great colors. Of the two, his technical paint quality holds up better under close scrutiny, and yet he ended up with a slightly lower score. That’s because of the glossy finish on the ‘nose’, which seems out of place. It looks almost wet in fact, a feature that hurts the overall appearance for me.

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Unlike Garindan, the AT-AT Driver has some slightly fuzzy cut lines, and a vew areas that needed a steadier hand. The saving grace is that you will only notice these under very close, careful examination, and in person you’re likely to not notice them at all. Add to that the cool white and gray colors accented by the small detail work, and you end up with a visual, if not technical, winner.

Design - ***
Neither of these are a particularly dynamic pose or style. That’s not too surprising, considering that neither character was all that dynamic in the films. Garindan does get to have his one arm out, holding the commlink in his right hand.

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The AT-AT Driver looks…uncomfortable. You know how you’re at a party all by yourself, just standing around, and you don’t know what the Hell you should do with your hands? That’s what he looks like. I’m not saying they could have done much else - hanging at his sides or behind his back wouldn’t look any better, and across his chest would hide some of the cool sculpt details - but it does look a bit awkward.

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Value - ***
I’m assuming you can find the AT-AT Driver at around $55 or so, same as Garindan. Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case any more, as demand for this bust has outstripped supply, something that hasn’t happened with a regular release Star Wars mini-bust in a long time.

However, you can still snag Garindan for a reasonable price, and considering the current cost of most statues and mini-busts, GG’s pricing on these has remained very competitive.

Things to Watch Out For -
Short of dropping them on a concrete floor, you’ll be fine. There’s nothing to assemble, and there’s nothing small and easy to break that’s out of the ordinary.

Overall - AT-AT Driver ***1/2; Garindan ***
While I’m a little surprised that the AT-AT Driver is pulling down more than $100 already on ebay, I suppose I shouldn’t be. As a key trooper from the best film in the series in one of the best battle sequences, his popularity shouldn’t catch you off guard. Still, it’s been ages since a regular release has garnered any real after market popularity, and most folks assumed that this line was dying out. These two prove that with the right character selection, the line still has some legs. Ironic, isn’t it?

Scoring Recap -
Packaging - ***1/2
Sculpting - ***1/2
Paint - AT-AT Driver ***1/2; Garindan ***
Design - ***
Value - ***
Overall - AT-AT Driver ***1/2; Garindan ***

Where to Buy -
These two seem to be the hot items right now. Finding the AT-AT Driver is pretty tough short of going to ebay, and there prices are over $100. Even Garindan is selling out fast, gone from stores like Big Bad Toy Store or Entertainment Earth. Online sponsors that are carrying these include:

- Urban Collector has Garindan for $55, but don’t have the driver.

- in the UK, you can pick up Garindan for 44 GBP at Forbidden Planet, but still no sign of the driver.

- of course, there’s always ebay where you may find a deal.

Note: These busts were purchased by the reviewer for this review. Photos and Text by Michael Crawford, copyright 2009.

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