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Action Figure Zone Toy Fair Report 2005
By Rudy Panucci

We are a few days removed from the 2005 New York International Toy Fair,
and in this special edition of Action Figure Zone, we're bringing you the
first installment of the goodies to come. There are plenty of photos
posted here at Mastercollector.com, and we'll feature some of the to the
left of this column.

Before we get into the pre-Toy Fair news, we have a reminder for you.
Sunday February 20 at 11:30 PM, a new show premiered on Cartoon
Network's "Adult Swim" late-night schedule. "Robot Chicken" is a stop-
motion animated show from the mind of the ubiquitous Seth Green (Austin
Powers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family Guy). Why are we plugging this
in an action figure column? Well, the show stars tons of custom and off-
the-shelf action figures of all shapes, sizes, and vintages in a twelve-
minute weekly collage of sick humor. If you are an action figure
collector, and a fan of Adult Swim, you won't want to miss this show.

And now, the news:

Hasbro

Aside from GI Joe and Transformers, which are featured on the front page
of Mastercollector.com, , Hasbro's big push this year is centered on Star
Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith. These toys and games, which will
be on store shelves beginning April 2, 2005.

Celebrating the upcoming release of the final chapter of the Star Wars
saga in theaters, the Force is strong with Hasbro as it unveils the
newest and most diverse line of Star Wars toys and games ever. From role
play items that put the Force in your hands, to games that bring the pop
culture phenomenon home, Hasbro's Episode III Revenge of the Sith toys
and games are guaranteed to spark the imagination of Star Wars fans of
all ages.

"The final chapter of the Star Wars saga gives us the opportunity to
roll out the most impressive line of Star Wars toys and games ever
assembled," said Brian Goldner, President of Hasbro's U.S. toys group.
"We've been working closely with Lucasfilm for over a year to bring the
intrigue and excitement of the saga home in a way that's never been done
before."

Key offerings from Hasbro's Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
toy and game line includes:

DARTH VADER VOICE CHANGER

(Approximate Retail Price: $29.99, Recommended Age: 5 & up, Available now)

One of the hottest toys during the holiday season, the DARTH VADER
VOICE CHANGER features the realistic helmet, mask and chest plate that
made the very image of Darth Vader an icon. Kids put on the gear, but the
change will only be complete when they hear their own voice transformed
to sound like that of the evil Lord Vader! Two additional modes are
included: the first plays the ominous Darth Vader breathing sound, and
the final mode plays five of his most popular phrases from the Star Wars
movies, including "The Force is with you," "You don't know the power of
the dark side," "Don't make me destroy you," "Your powers are weak," and
"There is no escape." The child's voice can be adjusted through three
different pitch levels.

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith Electronic Lightsabers

(Approximate Retail Price: $19.99, Recommended Age: 4 & up)

Awesome new Episode III electronic lightsabers have signature features
for key Jedi including ANAKIN SKYWALKER with a color change blade that
lets kids choose on which side of the Force they want to fight on -- blue
for the 'light' side or red for the 'dark side'; OBI-WAN KENOBI with a
"Feel the Force" vibration pack in the handle so you can feel the Force
as you fight; and YODA with a Jedi training mode with real YODA phrases
that teach you to become a Jedi as you use the lightsabers.

Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith Action Figures

(Approximate Retail Price: $5.99, Recommended Age: 4 & up)

New Star Wars action figures featuring the awesome heroes and villains
from Episode III. Collection 1 action figures feature an incredible
action feature from the new film, such as a lightsaber attack, quick draw
action, or Wookiee rage, all with the squeeze of the figure's leg. The
first wave will include: OBI-WAN KENOBI with SLASHING ATTACK, ANAKIN
SKYWALKER with LIGHTSABER ATTACK, YODA with FIRING CANNON, SUPER BATTLE
DROIDS with FIRING ARM-BLASTER, CLONE TROOPER with QUICK DRAW ATTACK, R2-
D2 with DROID ATTACK, GRIEVOUS' BODYGUARD with BATTLE ATTACK, MACE WINDU
with FORCE COMBAT, DARTH VADER with LIGHTSABER ATTACK, and CHEWBACCA with
WOOKIEE RAGE. Collection 2 action figures feature incredible detail and
come with an authentic display base from the movie. Multiple waves will
be introduced throughout the year, totaling 56 basic figures in all.

Star Wars FORCE BATTLERS

(Approximate Retail Price: $9.99, Recommended Age: 4 & up)

With an all new 7" scale for the Star Wars line, FORCE BATTLERS are
ready for action! Armed with cool galactic gear and awesome weapons,
these powerful heroes and dark villains battle across the galaxy. These
bigger figures are perfect for small hands to do battle with. Characters
such as OBI-WAN KENOBI, ANAKIN SKYWALKER and CHEWBACCA take on the dark
side against DARTH VADER in this new line.

Star Wars ATTACKTIX BATTLE FIGURE GAME

(Approximate Retail Price: $5.99 - $9.99, Recommended Age: 6 & up)

Star Wars ATTACKTIX is the revolutionary new battle figure game where
kids compete with one simple goal: to be the last one standing! Only
ATTACKTIX combines the crash-and-bash fun of action figures with the
competition, strategy and collectability of trading card games. ATTACKTIX
is easy to learn, but difficult to master. With no game board or dice,
ATTACKTIX can be played anywhere, anytime. Each figure stands on a
patented game base that features all of the game play information needed.
The innovative movement system enables kids to move their figures in
numerous combinations providing for enhanced strategy and a new game each
time they play. Also, multiple strategy levels are built in to vary play
even further.

Star Wars MINIATURES Revenge of the Sith STARTER GAME

(Approximate Retail Price: Starter Set $24.99; Boosters $12.99;
Available 2005. Also, Universe Huge Pack $19.99, Available: August 2005)

The successful Star Wars MINIATURES game expands in April shortly
before the release of the last episode of the Star Wars saga. Star Wars
MINIATURES Revenge of the Sith starter game comes with a newly designed
game board, providing a more authentic-feeling setting for battles
between the available 60 unique, collectible creatures and characters. In
August, galactic battles will escalate with the Star Wars MINIATURES
UNIVERSE pack, which will feature legendary characters from the entire
Star Wars universe--including new huge figures that will tower over the
battlefield.

We will also be treated to, get this, DARTH TATER, the spud who hath
succumbed to the dark side of the Force! Falling to the temptations of
the evil Emperor, MR. POTATO HEAD is adopting a new look and heading over
to the dark side of The Force! To build on the excitement of the Star
Wars fantasy, Hasbro, Inc.'s PLAYSKOOL division is launching a new MR.
POTATO HEAD figure, DARTH TATER. Available at stores nationwide ANY DAY
NOW, kids will be able to have all kinds of mix 'n match, MR. POTATO HEAD
fun with this wacky spud dressed as the infamous Star Wars saga villain,
Darth Vader.

DARTH TATER comes complete with lots of silly parts, including
lightsaber, cape, helmet, shoes, eyes, nose, teeth and more. The figure
will retail for approximately $7.99 and is recommended for ages 2 & up.

The big "controversy" of this year's Toy Fair has been the "retirement"
of the 12" and 3 ?" GI Joe lines in favor of the new eight inch tall
SIGMA SIX GI Joes. While it's clear that these new figures hold minimal
appeal to the collectors of the existing lines, the point is to get kids
interested in these new figures. The sad truth is that, for the last
couple of years, GI Joe's sales have been steadily declining among
children. There just aren't enough adult collectors to sustain the line
in the mass market, and these new figures have a chance to hook kids with
their new look and size, and a new cartoon show. If the line succeeds,
then it will attract a whole new crop of collectors, in addition to the
kids, much the way that the Real American Hero line did back in the early
1980s. For me, these new Joes don't push any nostalgia buttons, but
I'll withhold judgement until I see them in person. They could still be
pretty cool, even if they aren't the Joes we're used to.

We can at least look forward to new conflicts between collectors. I
know folks who still think the 12" GI Joe is the only "real" GI Joe, and
I know guys for whom the "real GI Joe" has to have painted hair and hard
hands. We're getting more like Barbie collectors every day.

I do have a feeling that die-hard collectors who feel a little let down
might be in for some very pleasant surprises from The GI Joe Collectors
Club later this year.

Sideshow Toy

Sideshow Toy promises a huge assortment of new action figures in 2005.
Following their successful foray into 1/4th scale figures last year,
Sideshow will continue with a variety of exciting new licensed and
historical figures both 1/4th and 1/6th scale.

The most notable new addition to the Sideshow Toy stable is Marvel, who
will be turning to Sideshow for a new line of highly-detailed 1/4th scale
figures based on Marvel's top characters. The first offering in this
series will be a striking rendition of The Punisher. Wolverine is
waiting in the wings.

Sideshow will be debuting an impressive line up, featuring popular
characters from Star Wars, Marvel, Scarface, Highlander, Buffy the
Vampire Slayer and X-Files and more. Sideshow will also be showcasing
more products from The Lord of the Rings collectible line.

Other popular lines on display will include Freddy vs. Jason, Universal
Classic Monsters, Brotherhood of Arms - Civil War, Bayonets and Barbwire-
WWI and more.

Sideshow will be bringing us figures in both scales based on the movie
"Scarface", starring Al Pacino, and Highlander, with immortal Scotsmen
lopping each other's heads off. Sadly, the Scarface figures do not
talk. That has to go down as a missed opportunity.

McFarlane Toys

Todd McFarlane, fresh from a very eventful year, is expanding his toy
line farther than ever. We can expect tons more of his usual Movie
Maniacs, Spawn, and Sports-oriented action figures this year, but he's
also bringing us three notable new lines.

McFarlane will jump on the military figure bandwagon about at a time when
other toy companies are giving up on it. At first, he will focus on
modern American troops from the four major service branches (Army, Navy,
Air Force, Marines). These are to feature soldiers in accurate
uniforms and equipment, and sculpted in real, life-based action poses.
According to the McFarlane PR, "These are not generic, static "army
men"; they're fully detailed hyper-realistic representations of American
soldiers in authentic uniforms and equipment, sculpted in standard
McFarlane scale (6 to 7 inches With exchangeable heads and hands, but
barely any articulation, these guys will start reporting for shelf duty
in May.

The first assortment includes a U.S. Army Ranger from the 75th Ranger
Regiment(Includes full combat loadout, custom base, and M249 assault
weapon), U.S. Navy SEAL (Which includes amphibious gear, custom base, and
MP5A3 assault weapon), U.S. Marine Corps Recon sniper (Includes spotter
scope, custom sniping support base, and M82A1 rifle), U.S. Marine Corps
Recon soldier (Includes Full combat loadout, custom base, and silenced
M4A1 assault weapon), U.S. Army Desert Soldier 3rd Infantry Division
(Includes desert combat loadout, custom base, and M4A1-M203 assault
weapon/grenade launcher), and finally a U.S. Air Force Special Operations
Command, CCT Air Combat Controller of the 720th Special Tactics Group
(Includes: Desert combat loadout, custom base and M16A1-M203 assault
weapon/grenade launcher).

These are very impressive-looking sculpts, judging from the pictures, but
it'll be interesting to see if there's any market for these guys.
Military figures have been in a major slump for the last couple of
years, and the folks who do buy them tend to look for high levels of
articulation in addition to the high-detail that McFarlane has nailed.
And there's also the question of whether or not modern military figures
will sell in these times of war-weariness.

However, McFarlane has managed to pull a failed concept out of the scrap-
heap of discarded toy lines before, and turned them into moneymakers
(witness his sports figures), so he may have a winner here. This could
be the fresh take needed to start off a new boom.

Speaking of discarded toy lines, McFarlane has also snagged the rights to
The Simpsons. This one is more of a risk than the military figures,
since the beloved cartoon series has just wrapped up more than half a
decade under the guidance of Playmates, who managed to create figures
based on every major, minor, incidental, and obscure character on the
show. And they did with very nice figures that captured the look of the
characters and had voice-chip technology that allowed them to speak with
dialogue from the show.

That's a tough act to follow, especially since Playmates put up with a
few years of lagging sales before they finally threw in the towel.
Making this seem like even more of a risky proposition, McFarlane
seems to indicate that they intend for the figures to be even LESS
posable than the Playmates figures were, and there is no guarantee that
they will be in the same scale. While some folks might think that the
rights to the Simpsons is a license to print money, I have a feeling that
the market for these toys may already be saturated.

Making up for the high risk of the previous two new lines, McFarlane
Toys has announced one clear "sure thing". "Corpse Bride" carries on in
the dark, romantic tradition of Tim Burton's classic films "Edward
Scissorhands" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas." Set in a 19th
century European village, this stop-motion, animated feature follows the
story of Victor (Johnny Depp), a young man who is whisked away to the
underworld and wed to a mysterious "Corpse Bride" (Helena Bonham-Carter),
while his real bride, Victoria (Emily Watson), waits bereft in the land
of the living. Though life in the Land of the Dead proves to be a lot
more colorful than his strict Victorian upbringing, Victor learns that
there is nothing in this world, or the next, that can keep him away from
his one true love. It's a tale of optimism, romance and a very lively
afterlife, told in classic Tim Burton style.

. Warner Bros. Consumer Products selected McFarlane Toys to be the master
toy licensee for "Corpse Bride" which is scheduled for release by Warner
Bros. Pictures in Fall 2005.

Capturing the film experience, McFarlane Toys will produce a full
product line inspired by the upcoming feature film, including collectible
action figures, bendable figures, PVC and plush toys. Additionally, this
agreement marks the first time McFarlane Toys has expanded its categories
to include fashion dolls, bobbleheads, novelties and gifts such as
candles, glassware mugs, pewter pieces and ornaments. The suggested
retail prices will range from $1.99 to $149.99; however, key price points
will be set at $4.99, $9.99 and $19.99.

This exciting new line of merchandise from McFarlane Toys will be
geared toward the teen to young adult market, both male and female, and
will hit stores nationwide in conjunction with the film's launch. "Corpse
Bride" products will be distributed in specialty and mid-tier retail
outlets nationwide. McFarlane Toys is developing its largest licensing
program ever around the "Corpse Bride" property. Retailer-specific
programs will be announced in Spring 2005.

"Having worked with Tim in the past, I've seen how much creativity he
pours into all his various projects," said Todd McFarlane, founder of
McFarlane Toys. "Because of that passion, I believe this property will
bring to life a wonderful new world which will be embraced by both his
current fans and an upcoming generation. I will be putting the full range
of all my company's talent to bringing as many interesting and innovative
concepts as possible to the marketplace. The `Corpse Bride' property will
thrive for years to come, much as Tim's film `The Nightmare Before
Christmas' has been doing for the past decade."

With the large cult following that "Nightmare Before Christmas" has
inspired, and the terrific demand for toys based on that film, "Corpse
Bride" is a sure bet to be one of the top toy hits of the year.

Unfortunately, there are no photos of McFarlane's Simpsons or Corpse
Bride figures yet. We'll bring them to you as soon as possible.

Bandai

Bandai America, a struggling arm of the third-largest toy company in the
world, is unleashing the hype big time at Toy Fair this year. They're
claiming to be responsible for introducing Japanese culture into
mainstream America. A prime example of this trend, according to Bandai,
is the ongoing popularity of the Power Rangers franchise, the colorful
taskforce of teen do-gooders that is now entering its 13th year in the
United States. Never mind that the US version of the show replaced the
Japanese actors with a group of American teens.

At Toy Fair, expect Bandai to heavily push the new D.I.C.E. concept,
as well as the Power Rangers SPD and Teen Titans lines. Teen Titans will
be the guinea pig to see if the popular-in-Japan "super-deformed" look
can catch on in America. One happy surprise is that Gundam seem to be in
line for a renewed push.

"We introduced the Gundam action figure model kits in the United
States six years ago, and together with the animated TV series on Cartoon
Network, Gundam consistently finds new die hard fans in this country who
carefully follow the brand's intricate and dramatic storylines each
season," said Sandra Leo of Bandai America Inc.

Bandai America's Power Rangers SPD (Space Patrol Delta), Teen Titans
and Gundam Seed toylines will all be on display at this year's American
International Toy Fair in New York City from February 20-23, 2005.

That's it for now. Stay tuned to Mastercollector in the coming days for
more Toy Fair coverage! We still have big news from ToyBiz, Playmates,
DC Direct, and many others.

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