TV Toys, and how they Suck

I collect action figures. Not religiously, but I probably accumulate them at a rate of around half a dozen per year. So when DoubleBitch made the topic suggestion, I jumped on it. I think the title may have given away my feelings on the action figure lines most shows get, though.

heroes-figures-01Here we have some of the recent Heroes figures. Now, were the heads and the bodies sculpted by different people? The bodies look well proportioned and realistic, and the heads seem to have been sculpted using caricatures of the actors for reference. They’re also limited in poseability to doing the robot and looking to the side. This last point does speak to a bigger issue with action figures in general, being what balance to strike between the quality of the sculpt, and the level of articulation.

lost-figuresAt the far pro-sculpt end of the spectrum you have MacFarlane Toys, such as these Lost figures. Sure, they look really great and exactly like the actors, but let’s be honest. These aren’t action figures, they’re sculptures that happen to be cast in plastic. If you’re lucky, you may be able to make them turn their head. Most toy companies go for a bit more of a balance between sculpting and articulation than MacFarlane, though.

heroes-figures-02I for one am a fan of articulation. There’s no point in buying a toy if all it can do is sit in one pose and/or fall over if you attempt to do something crazy like have them lift their arm. I want to make fun scenes, like Jack Bauer teaming up with Veronica Mars to beat Jay and Silent Bob in a basketball game. Speaking of VMars, I’d like to get back to bitching about the Heroes figures. I was actually looking forward to picking up the Elle figure, for the actual purpose of using it as a Veronica Mars figure. Unfortunately, what Mezco gave us was a great action figure of Holly from The Office. Who can’t bend her legs. Good work failing at both ends of the spectrum there, Mezco.

Okay, I’m treating the Heroes toys a bit unfairly. bsg-figuresThey did make a couple that actually look pretty close to the actors, and they’re certainly better likenesses than some other lines manage. Take these BSG toys for example. First up, we’ve got Apollo and Chief’s lovechild, then a young Murphy Brown, and finally… well that’s supposed to be Hotdog. I’m not sure why exactly action figures with licensed likenesses always suck so hard, when we can get Batmen that accurately give a 3D rendition of a specific artist’s style.

serenity-figuresI have more examples I could give (and if you were wondering, that’s Jayne and Mal. Yes, they sold those. No, I don’t know why they decided making them look terrified was a good idea) but I think I’ve thrown up enough pictures of crappy action figures now. So let’s move on to TV toys that don’t completely suck. First up is Smallville (yeah only a link, I took up too much room showing you bad toys), which took a bit more of an impressionistic angle for the sculpting, which I think works much better than getting failed actor likenesses. They also went crazy and decided to throw in hip and knee joints, just in case you wanted the ‘action’ part to be represented in your action figures.

My choice for the best actionbuffy-figures-01buffy-figures-02 figures based on television would be the more recent Buffy ones. I think they do a great job of realizing the difference between trying to capture the likeness of the actor, and trying to catch the essence of the character. They also provide a crapload of joints, so your Buffy and Faith can have big fight scenes (I say the more recent toys specifically because the earliest ones had much more basic articulation). And ironically, the Buffy toy line was cancelled sometime last year.

So, why do most of the TV toys suck? I think I’ve figured it out, it has to do with the likenesses. Too many people need to sign off on the likenesses for legal reasons, so by the time they get a sculpt everyone likes and the finalized toy comes out, all redeeming characteristics have been sanded off by red tape. As for the articulation, it takes some strategy to work in joints without messing up the sculpt, and I think after all the effort needed to get a sculpt everyone likes, the less further tweaking needed the better. I guess we could just be happy that there are any toys based on TV programs not aimed at kids in the first place, but why settle for mediocrity?


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~ by Jerk on December 1, 2008.

6 Responses to “TV Toys, and how they Suck”

  1. why be happy about something we can bitch about? I liked this post A++ will buy from again!!1!

  2. They settle for Mediocrity because if you put a show logo on a steaming pile of crap, fans will still buy it.

  3. Heroes figures would seem alot less like a waste of time if they werent just normal people in normal people clothes. Fan Expo had an exclusive Future Hiro figure which I thought would be cool until I realized it was just an asian guy in a trenchcoat.

    If they made say, a small bust of a Peter vs Sylar scene, then I’d be interested.

  4. the Hiro figure in the new set looks amazing, its Ancient Japan Hiro.

  5. I actually like that they’re making figures of people in normal clothes, but the problem is you need really good head sculpts to pull that off. Also, I want more articulation. I’d buy a Linderman if I could make him fight Spider-Man, and not just stand there.

  6. Find a Clockwork Orange figure if you want Linderman.

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