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Action Figure Zone: August 30, 2005

Summer’s end is rapidly approaching.  Stores are getting ready to reset for Christmas, and catalogs are gearing up for the holiday and leaking tidbits of their special selections on the web.  Standing at the crossroads, we’ll  look back at what were hits and what were misses over the summer, and look forward to the cool stuff coming our way as the stores fill up and toy sections expand.   

What worked, what didn’t.

So far this year, the action figure world still seems somewhat mired in a slump.  Star Wars toys did as well as expected, but action figures based on hit movies Batman and Fantastic Four under-performed.  Had it not been for the role-playing toys (Thing hands and feet, and Batman capes), the merchandising for those films would be seen as a strong disappointment.   There was no breakout hit this year, but there was no total disaster, either.  Toys based on “The Incredibles” didn’t perform up to expectations, either.

Retailers are telling me that they miss GI Joe already.  While they didn’t really support the line as fully as they could have in previous years, this year, they’ve seen the whole category take a few months off.   Despite the best efforts of Lanard and M&C Toys to fill the void, retailers are getting antsy about losing an entire category—military action figures—that was still making them money.  That can all turn around if the new GI Joe Sigma Six line is a success.   The cartoon, which just began airing, could draw back the kids in droves, and they won’t have any resentment over the size of the new figures.  But it’s still a risky move, and shows just how dominant GI Joe was as the mainstay of the military toys segment. 

Lanard has launched an interesting new 12” concept, K-9 Corps, which is gaining fans at a steady pace, and could be an underground cult sensation.  It’ll be interesting to see if they have any kind of media tie-in, or if they’re just being clever and creative. 

McFarlane Toys have impressed folks with their “McFarlane’s Military” line, but as usual with McFarlane, distribution, articulation and selection are all problems that need to be ironed out.

The G.I. Joe Collector’s Club came through big time for fans of the 12” and 3 ¾” guys.   By continuing the 12” 40th Anniversary line,  the club has brought joy to the hearts of many an aging collector.  We loved this line, and it was a shame to see it cut down before its conclusion.   If the remaining eight sets do spectacularly well, then maybe the club can give us all the other reproduction sets that we’ve been clamoring for.  But you have to order these sets, first.    Details on ordering can be found elsewhere on this site.   Fans of the Real American Hero GI Joes are not only going to get a selection of great stuff from Hasbro’s new Direct To Consumer website, but the club is said to working on some top-secret club exclusives that I can’t go into detail about.   Stay tuned to this site for more information.

The Catalog Game

It’s still early, but here are some tips. 

Back to Basics Toys (http://www.backtobasictoys.com) has an exclusive reproduction of the Evel Knievel Stunt Cycle, complete with a ring of fire and a breakable wall.  I don’t know if this is the Playing Mantis reproduction, or a new set by a new company, but once they have it available, it’ll be fifty bucks.   They also have lots of other cool repro toys—pricey, but comforting.

Target has a couple of Pro Bull Riders available on their website.  These are said to be fully-articulated figures with Bulls to ride.  They cost thirty two bucks, and the size isn’t clear.  They look sort of like SOTW figures, but the package size indicates that they may just be 1/8 scale or smaller.   Target also has a web-only series of Knights figures.  Very sharp-looking, indeed.

Sears has photos of lots of the new GI Joe Sigma Six figures, as well as some of the last 12” GI Joes.  They aren’t ready to order yet, but you can get a look at them. 

JC Penney’s website and Christmas Catalog features a wealth of 12” sized vehicles.  Strike Force Trucks are back this year, as is a new Strike Force jet.  Power Team is well-represented, and lots of the offerings from previous years are still available, like the larger military HQ playsets and Lanard figures. 

 

What the future holds

Just taking a cursory look, collectors will be eyeing GI Joe Sigma Six with skepticism, but they’ll pounce on this line if kids start buying it.   12” collectors will just be grateful to get the remaining 40th Anniversary sets. 

Sideshow has a huge buzz over their impending takeover of the 12” Star Wars line.  This is a marriage made in Heaven, as Sideshow has the detail and dedication to make fans happy, and Star Wars is easily the biggest property they’ve ever handled.

McFarlane’s figures based on the cult movie “Napoleon Dynamite” will click with the Hot Topic crowd and they’ll get a huge boost from repeated airings of the movie on HBO.

Marvel is switching their Toy Biz brand name to “Marvel Toys”, at least with the new figures based on NWA TNA Wrestling.  Those figures are just now hitting retail.  With this upstart wrestling fed getting a national TV spot in October, this could be a chance to get in on the ground floor of a new action figure line with the legs to last for years. 

Next week we’re going to look at what’s new from Ban Dai, DC Direct, and more. 

Later, Rudy