Wednesday, September 30, 2009

September 2009 Recap



Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in September 2009. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Halo 3: Series 1-3
Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future
Willow

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Willow (Tonka)



Willow
Tonka
1988

Not all toys back in the 80's were winners. In fact if you were to ask me (and I'll concede that nobody has), Willow will go down in my book as the worst one ever produced.

More like miniatures without a game to call a home, the Willow figures were tiny plastic molds depicting characters from the movie. I don't know what possessed Lucasfilm to give Tonka the rights to produce such an awful toy line, but regardless of the reasoning, they did.

The toys were non posable, unmovable, and came permanently attached to a resin stand making them not even what I would consider to be an action figure. Like I said above, more like miniatures to a roleplaying game that never saw the light of day.

The series saw a total of 14 basic figures, three of which were variations of Willow himself (the third being a Nestle mail away exclusive). The series also included five horseback figures which were essentially a horse with a remolded character from the film. Like the basic figures, the horseback characters were unyielding plastic, leaving not much room to actually play with them, but rather simply as display pieces. But what kid wants to do that with their toys?



In addition to the single packed figures, Tonka released collector sets which each included two figures and one figure with a horse.  Two Hero packs, and one Evil pack have been found by collectors, while a second Evil pack has been noted on several other collectible sites, yet no photos seem to exist, and no physical set has been found on sites such as eBay for purchase.



Unlike the awful figures, the vehicles (if you could even call them that) which were released with the series had a little more going for them. The three vehicles were originally intended to be Sears exclusives, but somehow got released to retail stores across the U.S., much to the dislike of a disgruntle group of Sears C.E.O.'s. Oddly enough, since the series tanked hard, Sears never made a big stink about it. Probably because of the amount of money they stood to loose had they sold them exclusively.

A large version of the Eborsisk creature from the film was also released with the series. If you were to ask Lucasfilm, their representatives would swear up and down that this toy never hit shelves. This however would be a huge contradiction to the folk who have documented across websites that they do indeed have one, and that they have had it since their parents bought it for them from their local store. So somewhere, someone goofed.


Probably the saddest thing about the Willow action figure line is that unlike the toys themselves, the cards were really cool. I'm talking one fine piece of eye candy. They had wonderful photos of the characters from the movie on the back, and each back also had an in depth blurb about the individual. The fronts of each card varied in color depending on whether or not the character was a good guy or bad guy. The tag line on the front of the package read, "The Magic Lies Within".

Within what? Certainly not inside the plastic with these terrible toys!

Sorry about that. I get a little sensitive sometimes.



Though the series was short lived, Willow fans across the world still look for the missing pieces to their collection. It may have been one of the 80's worst toy lines, but it's still managed to make it's way into several collector's homes where it remains a cherished part of their collection.


In 2004 Warwick Davis created a limited hand numbered and signed edition (literally - he paid for it out of his own pocket) of the Willow Figure. This figure was only available via Coolwaters Productions' website, and was limited to only 300 pieces.

Check back next time when we take a look at another good or bad toy line from the 80's.

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Captain Power And The Soldiers Of The Future (Mattel)



Captain Power
Mattel
1987

"Power on!"

It's the opening line to every episode of the short lived series, "Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future."

The series suffered severe backlash from parents who deemed the live action show violent, and containing too many sexual innuendos and implied sexual encounters between characters. Though the show ran for 22 episodes, the typical length of a season for any show, the negative attention it attracted was enough to leave this series stagnant, and while a second season was planned (with an even darker tone), the series was cancelled prior to filming.

The show was initially designed around the toys - Specifically to interact with them, and be incorporated into children's playtime.

Mattel released nine figures in total across two series. Each figure came on its own unique card which highlighted the character in a drawing on the right side of the package.




Like Lazer Tag, Captain Power used the premises of light gun technology. But, rather than using actual light guns, your weapons were the fighter planes, and various other vehicles, which you could either attack the other toys with, or shoot at the TV screen during either the live action show or animated show. Your fighter would rack up points as you hit various targets.

But, here's the catch. The targets on screen shot back. This too would register on your plane. Take too many shots and your pilot is ejected from the cockpit with a game over sound.




The show initially started out as a three volume animated series, all of which were available only on VHS. Each cassette was designed to be more challenging than the last, with the very first being specifically entitled as a "training mission".

When the series was turned into a live action show, five more VHS volumes were produced and released. The five VHS tapes contained two episodes per tape, for a total of ten episodes.

In 2011, the complete live action series was released on DVD. As a whole, and from an adult's perspective, the series wasn't bad. It just wasn't designed for children. While it's true that none of the producers of the series ever claimed it to be, the fact that it was based off of a children's toy, and designed to interact with them didn't do anything to attract a more mature viewer.

Captain Power was unfortunately a misunderstood, confused about its audience, toy and series that never found its nitch. For what it's worth though, the toys were incredibly fun, and to collectors are a cherished piece of their childhoods, even if they didn't understand the content of the show.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Halo 3: Series 1 - 3 (McFarlane Toys)



Halo
McFarlane Toys
2007 - 2008

McFarlane Toys, a subsidiary of Todd McFarlane Productions, Inc., is a company started by Todd McFarlane that makes highly detailed models of characters from movies, comics, musicians, video games, and sport figures. Founded in 1994, the company was originally dubbed "Todd Toys," but the name was changed in 1995 following pressure from Mattel (who feared the new company's name would be confused with that of Barbie's younger brother).

Exquisite attention to detail is the most defining feature in a McFarlane Toy. However, it is almost always at the expense of articulation, making them more akin to semi-poseable statues than action figures. Still, the line proves popular especially among young adults, and is arguably the most commercially successful toy line at the moment. It has also influenced many other toy lines to try and imitate McFarlane Toys' style.

As production begins on the upcoming series five and six toys, I thought we'd take a look at the first three series which burst on the scene in 2008.

Each set is broken up into two categories. The first being "Campaign", which focuses on characters that the player of the game used in the campaign version, and "Multiplayer", which as I'm sure you can guess at this point is based on characters one can use in multiplayer mode. Because the multiplayer characters vary in color and design, this left McFarlane toys quite a bit of artistic freedom to make a wide variety of characters.

The first series comprised of five campaign figures (six if you include the variant Grunt figure), and six multiplayer figures, three of which were exclusive to specific vendors (two at Walmart, one at GameStop). The silver Gamestop Spartan is by far the hardest to come by from series 1.

There were also three variants produced for the series. These figures were not a part of the Capaign or Multiplayer line, but rather stand alone figures. Each one was available via a different store or means. Most notable is the "Spawn Faced" Spartan which was limited to only 3000 pieces.


By series two, Halo 3 mania had caught on big time. Not only was it the top selling game at most retail outlets, but fans couldn't get enough of the toys that McFarlane Toys were busy pumping out in mass quantity.

Series two featured five figures from the campaign line, and ten for the multiplayer line. However, by this time in the series, the majority of the multiplayer figures were made to be exclusives for various retail and online stores. Places like Transworld (online store only), Toys R' Us, Walmart, D&R Line-Ups (online store only) and GameStop all had an exclusive figure (with the exception of Walmart, which had two) to keep fans running around from store to store to track them down.

An additional figure was also produced as a San Diego Comic Con exclusive for the year.




With each series came more figures, and more exclusives, and series three was far from exempt, being the largest series to date.

A total of six campaign figures and eighteen multiplayer figures were produced. This of course meant even more exclusive figures to chase down.

At this point in the toy line, I can personally attest to it getting out of control. People I know who are die hard fans of the series began to take a step back and frown at all the various exclusive figures. This in turn caused them to take a little more cautioned approach to collecting the toy line, and even abandon it completely.



But, despite the very few people I know who were no longer contributing their twelve to twenty bucks per figure, the series plowed through the market, selling out in most retail and exclusive online chains. With series four already out on store shelves, and selling like hotcakes, and series five and six gearing up for release, it's a safe bet to make that McFarlane's Halo 3 toys are going to be around for a while.

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