One of the things I have commended the Planet Heroes line for is that it may well attract kids to the planetary exploration and space sciences, an emphasis which I believe is sorely lacking in America today.
Technically, Planet Heroes is a preschool toy. However, the figures are reasonably close to action figures, and are generally very creative and imaginative in their characterizations and backgrounds. I can appreciate that sort of thing regardless of which aisle these toys are supposed to be stocked in.
Although the line is seeing a considerable share of repaints these days -- which is understandable to some degree -- it's not as though Mattel/ Fisher-Price can just invent new planets for character to represent -- some new characters do turn up here and there. There are two new concepts within Planet Heroes. One is called "Voice-Comm", and features figures that can speak. There's a new entry in this line that I will review another time. The other is called "Metallic Squad", which is repaints of existing figures, given color-chromed uniform sections. This was EXTREMELY tempting to me, as I do enjoy this sort of feature on action figures. However, as impressive as the characters look, I couldn't quite justify the expense. Until I noticed that there was a new character in the group.
This new individual represents a "Star", and has been given the name "Hollywood". Granted, given the rather complicated names most stars in our galaxy seem to have, this is probably as good a name as any, and doubtless more pronounceable to a preschool-age child than "Betelgeuse", "Proxima", or "Bellatrix", or some such.
Nevertheless, I decided to add Hollywood to my collection of Planet Heroes characters.
However, there is a little matter to be dealt with in the instance of this particular character. The packages to all Planet Heroes figures tend to feature a few scientific facts on the front of the package, underneath the character's name. Although simplistic -- these are preschool toys -- the space facts have generally had a reasonable degree of accuracy.
This one, unfortunately, blows that pretty badly, at least in one instance. The first stated fact is "Stars grouped together in clusters to form shapes are called constellations." Okay. I'd call that true as far as it goes, which isn't very. I'm not sure a lot of the constellations that we see in the night sky could fairly be called "clusters", and of course in reality, those stars are many light-years apart, and don't really form much of anything. It's just how we see them from here on Earth. In fairness, that's probably a little too much to expect a preschooler to grasp.
I have used my reviews of the Planet Heroes figures to present some legitimate, and more extensive, scientific information, with a little help from other sources, regarding the various planets and other cosmic phenomenon represented in the Planet Heroes line, in the hope that those reviews might be used to further inform a child once he's a little older, and might be ready to fund out what Mars, or Jupiter, or Saturn, or the Sun, is really all about. And after reading the drivel on the front of Hollywood's package, I'd say an education into the specifics of stars is desperately needed.
A star is a massive, luminous ball of plasma that is held together by its own gravity. The nearest star to Earth is the Sun, which is the source of most of the energy on Earth. Other stars are visible in the night sky, when they are not outshone by the Sun. For most of its life, a star shines due to thermonuclear fusion in its core releasing energy that traverses the star's interior and then radiates into outer space. Almost all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium were created by fusion processes in stars.
Astronomers can determine the mass, age, chemical composition and many other properties of a star by observing its spectrum, luminosity and motion through space. The total mass of a star is the principal determinant in its evolution and eventual fate. Other characteristics of a star are determined by its evolutionary history, including the diameter, rotation, movement and temperature. A plot of the temperature of many stars against their luminosities, known as a Hertzsprung-Russell diagram (H-R diagram), allows the age and evolutionary state of a star to be determined.
A star begins as a collapsing cloud of material composed primarily of hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of heavier elements. Once the stellar core is sufficiently dense, some of the hydrogen is steadily converted into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. The remainder of the star's interior carries energy away from the core through a combination of radiative and convective processes. The star's internal pressure prevents it from collapsing further under its own gravity. Once the hydrogen fuel at the core is exhausted, those stars having at least 0.4 times the mass of the Sun expand to become a red giant, in some cases fusing heavier elements at the core or in shells around the core. The star then evolves into a degenerate form, recycling a portion of the matter into the interstellar environment, where it will form a new generation of stars with a higher proportion of heavy elements.
Binary and multi-star systems consist of two or more stars that are gravitationally bound, and generally move around each other in stable orbits. When two such stars have a relatively close orbit, their gravitational interaction can have a significant impact on their evolution. Stars can form part of a much larger gravitationally bound structure, such as a cluster or a galaxy.
The concept of the constellation was known to exist during the Babylonian period. Ancient sky watchers imagined that prominent arrangements of stars formed patterns, and they associated these with particular aspects of nature or their myths. Twelve of these formations lay along the band of the ecliptic and these became the basis of astrology. Many of the more prominent individual stars were also given names, particularly with Arabic or Latin designations.
Stars are formed within extended regions of higher density in the interstellar medium, although the density is still lower than the inside of an earthly vacuum chamber. These regions are called molecular clouds and consist mostly of hydrogen, with about 23-28% helium and a few percent heavier elements. One example of such a star-forming region is the Orion Nebula. As massive stars are formed from molecular clouds, they powerfully illuminate those clouds. They also ionize the hydrogen, creating an H II region.
The formation of a star begins with a gravitational instability inside a molecular cloud, often triggered by shockwaves from supernovae (massive stellar explosions) or the collision of two galaxies (as in a starburst galaxy). Once a region reaches a sufficient density of matter to satisfy the criteria for Jeans Instability it begins to collapse under its own gravitational force.
As the cloud collapses, individual conglomerations of dense dust and gas form what are known as Bok globules. These can contain up to 50 solar masses of material. As a globule collapses and the density increases, the gravitational energy is converted into heat and the temperature rises. When the protostellar cloud has approximately reached the stable condition of hydrostatic equilibrium, a protostar forms at the core. These pre-main sequence stars are often surrounded by a protoplanetary disk. The period of gravitational contraction lasts for about 10-15 million years.
Early stars of less than 2 solar masses are called T Tauri stars, while those with greater mass are Herbig Ae/Be stars. These newly born stars emit jets of gas along their axis of rotation, producing small patches of nebulosity known as Herbig-Haro objects.
Stars spend about 90% of their lifetime fusing hydrogen to produce helium in high-temperature and high-pressure reactions near the core. Such stars are said to be on the main sequence and are called dwarf stars. Starting at zero-age main sequence, the proportion of helium in a star's core will steadily increase. As a consequence, in order to maintain the required rate of nuclear fusion at the core, the star will slowly increase in temperature and luminosity. The Sun, for example, is estimated to have increased in luminosity by about 40% since it reached the main sequence 4.6 billion years ago.
The duration that a star spends on the main sequence depends primarily on the amount of fuel it has to fuse and the rate at which it fuses that fuel. In other words, its initial mass and its luminosity. Large stars consume their fuel very rapidly and are short-lived. Small stars (called red dwarfs) consume their fuel very slowly and last tens to hundreds of billions of years. At the end of their lives, they simply become dimmer and dimmer. However, since the lifespan of such stars is greater than the current estimated age of the universe (13.7 billion years), no such stars are expected to exist yet.
In addition to isolated stars, a multi-star system can consist of two or more gravitationally bound stars that orbit around each other. The most common multi-star system is a binary star, but systems of three or more stars are also found. For reasons of orbital stability, such multi-star systems are often organized into hierarchical sets of co-orbiting binary stars. Larger groups called star clusters also exist. These range from loose stellar associations with only a few stars, up to enormous globular clusters with hundreds of thousands of stars.
Stars are not spread uniformly across the universe, but are normally grouped into galaxies along with interstellar gas and dust. A typical galaxy contains hundreds of billions of stars, and there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. While it is often believed that stars only exist within galaxies, intergalactic stars have been discovered. Astronomers estimate that there are at least 70 sextillion stars in the observable universe.
Most stars are between 1 billion and 10 billion years old. Some stars may even be close to 13.7 billion years old--the observed age of the universe. The oldest star yet discovered, HE 1523-0901, is an estimated 13.2 billion years old.
When stars form they are composed of about 70% hydrogen and 28% helium, as measured by mass, with a small fraction of heavier elements. Typically the portion of heavy elements is measured in terms of the iron content of the stellar atmosphere, as iron is a common element and its absorption lines are relatively easy to measure. Because the molecular clouds where stars form are steadily enriched by heavier elements from supernovae explosions, a measurement of the chemical composition of a star can be used to infer its age. The portion of heavier elements may also be an indicator of the likelihood that the star has a planetary system.
The nearest star to the Earth, apart from the Sun, is Proxima Centauri, which is 39.9 trillion kilometres, or 4.2 light-years away. Light from Proxima Centauri takes 4.2 years to reach Earth.
Now, let's consider the toy. As I said, Hollywood is the lone (to date) new character in the Planet Heroes Metallic Squad, which otherwise consists of repaints of previous figures, such as Ace from Earth, Dazzle from Venus, Shiver from Pluto, and others, now given color chrome metallic uniform portions, generally their torsos. This metallic effect has been done very nicely and is extremely tempting to someone who appreciates this sort of thing. However, I have the original figures, and will have to be content with those.
Nevertheless, ANY of the Metallic Squad figures definitely have my recommendation! They're all in the same price range at the moment, and it's the lower price range for Planet Heroes figures -- about ten dollars each. And for those of you with the disposable income to bring them into your collection even if you already have the originals, here's a little added incentive -- every one of them has all-new accessories! Credit to Mattel for doing what they can to keep the line fresh even with a cosmically-mandated limited cast.
So -- what about Hollywood? Well, for starters -- he's kind of short. Now, height range on the Planet Heroes figures is a pretty variable thing. It's not even necessary dependent on planet of origin, although this does play a factor. Not surprisingly, the smallest character is Shiver, from Pluto. The largest is Commander Sun. Everybody else is all over the map, and a couple of them barely qualify as humanoid.
Now, if we take Ace from Earth as being an average-sized human boy, then we can also extrapolate that Dazzle, from Venus, is an average sized humanoid. She's the lone female on the team and doesn't have a particularly exaggerated appearance. She's taller than Ace, and comes in at about six inches in height. Hollywood, by comparison, is more like 4-1/2", managing to get to 4-3/4" only by virtue of a fin on the back of his helmet.
This could be argued to be a little deceptive, since most stars are pretty massive objects. Quite a few of them are much more immense than our own sun. However -- they don't look that way in the night sky. This is a matter of distance, of course, but there's still the basic visual perception here, which I suspect is what came into play when creating this character.
Star appears to have yellow skin, a roundish head (what of it can be seen), fairly large arms relative to the size of his body, and very strange and distinctly short legs, with the most bizarre feet ever seen in the Planet Heroes line. His arms are almost as proportionately large as Digger's, the Mars character, and his legs are more stubby than anyone's. They end in these very peculiar, ridged, star-shaped feet.
Most of Hollywood's uniform is white. His torso is chrome silver. This is the one thing that might get me to pick up more of the Metallic Squad if I can afford them. I'd like some color chrome. This is straight silver chrome. However, for the character, it works, and it's been done very well. It's only on the front of the figure.
There's a fair amount of dark grey trim on the costume, including the helmet, around the collar, some sort of back piece, the belt, and leg cuffs. There's also some very dark blue trim, which consists of a stripe on the helmet, fingerless gloves, and broad stripes down the arms that have two white stars each inside of them. Just to finish off the trim. Hollywood is wearing opaque orange goggles, one side of which flares out into a star.
Hollywood's main accessory is a vehicle called a Star Cruiser. This item has been molded mostly in red -- interesting color choice since it's nowhere on the figure -- and it looks something like a cross between a motorcycle and a Dust Buster. It doesn't have any actual wheels. One infers that it's some sort of flying machine or hovercraft. Its moving parts include the handlebars, and a little missile launcher.
He also comes with a comic book, a new adventure featuring some of the newer characters in the line, but not Hollywood himself. It's listed as "Volume 3". Think I missed #2 somewhere...
Star, unlike the Red Giant character Slash, is one of the good guys, an ally to the Planet Heroes. The text on the back of his package explains the character, as well as the origin of Metallic Squad. It reads as follows:
When disaster starts heating up the solar system, it's time for the Planet Heroes Metallic Squad. Designed by Uranus "Yuri" to deflect solar radiation even in the highest recorded temperature in the galaxy, these cool new uniforms really come in handy when Black Hole "Professor Darkness" gets too hot to handle. And when they need a top-notch navigator, the team looks to Star "Hollywood". He's always ready to light the way home after a busy day saving the universe. And his Star Cruiser is always ready for battle. Across the galaxy, near or far, Star "Hollywood" is a super-star!
Actually, assigning this character the specialty of navigations expert makes a lot of sense. Sailors and other explorers used the stars to figure out where they were and which way they were going thousands of years before anybody invented GPS tracking...
Any complaints about the toy? Just one. The arms show a lot of mold creases. They're rather bulky pieces, and this is a problem that has plagued the action figure world for far too long. I didn't expect to see it in a preschool toy, and after checking some of my other Planet Heroes figures, they don't seem to have this dilemma to the same degree. Additionally, there's a little chip in the dark blue paint strips on one of his arms. If this paint is at all prone to flaking off, Mattel could have a serious problem on their hands. This is a preschool toy, people are a lot more touchy about that sort of thing in this realm, and the last thing Mattel needs is another product recall. Hopefully, this is an isolated situation, and if I can find some matching paint, I should be able to tend to mine. Still, this sort of thing SHOULDN'T happen in ANY toy line regardless of what age group it's intended for.
So what's my final word here? Hey, I'm glad to be able to add a member of the Metallic Squad to my Planet Heroes collection. And even if I can't entirely justify the expense of the others, at least there's a cool photo of a lot of them on the back of the card. Dazzle from Venus, Ace from Earth, Lunar from the Moon, Shooter the Shooting Star, Shiver from Pluto (with his new six-legged critter), and others, all with their fancy new chrome pieces.
As for HOLLYWOOD, he's a cool new character in the line. The package may have some pretty awful science on it, but there's ways to rectify that. Hopefully this review is one of them. And anything that gets kids interested in real-life space exploration is a good thing in my book. PLANET HEROES METALLIC SQUAD STAR "HOLLYWOOD" definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!