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Points of Articulation

Rustin Parr
Toy of the Year

The ToY Awards started back in 1998, when yo was just doing reviews on his own. Yes, there were other end-of-year awards around at the time, but most of them focussed primarily on "child safe" toys, handing out praise for educational content, safety in manufacturing, and encouraging non-violent play patterns.

How lame.

He wanted to honor the toys that older toy fans actually liked. ToyFare magazine had (and still has) a similar year-ender, but when he started, they were nothing but whores to Star Wars. Then they went out of their way to ignore McFarlane. Plus, they had a tendency to include toys to which they as a news outlet had access, but normal collectors did not; ToY things that they had received as samples, but weren't due on the shelf for a few months (they continue this practice to this day).

Thus, the ToYs were born. The ToYs are the voice of the real fan community, covering what's really the best of the best. What started out as one "best of" award has grown and expanded to include a few more categories, but still: they're all the best of the best. We've even inspired a few imitators, but when you want the real toy of the year, you head for the Toy of the Year.

  • ToY
    This isn't a figure that significantly changed the way the toy world operates, but it did signal a change. Sandman was the first ToyBiz figure, heck, the first mass-market figure of any kind that featured a sculpt and paint that were easily on par with or better than the smaller independent companies. It was with this figure that ToyBiz stopped trailing guys like McToys, and got back out in front. The articulation is great, and it's designed to stay secure for some time to come. ToyBiz chose interchangeable arms rather than a goofy action feature to convey Sandman's powers, and the whole thing works great. Add to that the fact that this figure shouldn't have cost you more than $6, and you've got a winner.

    Other nominees included Collector Edition Batman for being what the Begins line should have been from the outset • the Batmobile because it's the one worthy mass market toy from a great film • Mezco Direct Hellboy for the real coat that does a wonderful job of complementing the figure • Oogie Boogie vs. Jack Skelington box set because we haven't seen good versions of these characters since the movie • NECA's Leatherface for getting back to the original and ignoring the remake.

  • Best Line
    Justice League Unlimited
    Mattel replaced the previous Justice League toys with the same step-up in scope with which Unlimited replaced the previous Justice League cartoon. Yes, we still get endless Batmen, Supermen and Green Lanterns, but we're also getting excellent animated versions of all the characters that customizers have been making for years. Available first in three-packs, then single-carded with new accessories, Mattel's figures cover just as wide a range of characters as DC Direct has managed; it's not like DCD has ever given us a Booster Gold, let alone his robotic sidekick Skeets.

    Other nominees included Sin City for its decent sculpts, appropriate accessories, nice package design and an impressive variety of characters with variants that actually make sense • Marvel Legends because they turned things around this year, overcoming the distribution problems they had last year and introducing the build-a-figure concept that everyone is copying now • comicbook Hellboy for the great relation to Mignola's art • Dead or Alive trading figures because they're cheaper than most imports, but incredibly poseable despite their small size • Xevoz, although they barely made it into the year • NECA's MotU mini statues for proving that the line's failure was Mattel's fault, not the fans' • and the Darth Tater/Spudtrooper pair because they're such a clever cross-marketing tool and worked out really well.

  • Best Accessory
    We went back and forth on this one - is the Sentinel a figure or an accessory? If it had been sold in one package by itself, it might have been Toy of the Year. As it is, every inch of the Sentinel looks great, and several of the parts can stand on their own as separate "battle-damage" pieces. It got people to buy figures they normally wouldn't - even more than Galactus did. Yes, this accessory is spread between seven figures, but it's still the best of the year.

    Other nominees included Galactus • 18" Hellboy's gun • Balrog Battle Gandalf's base, with the tremendously loud sound clip • the inclusion of Doop stands for all of ML10 • Gir's television • Nighttime Peter & Lois' banana • the Witchblade • Ghost Rider's flaming bike • Hawkeye's Antman arrow • and either of the two Thanos' Infinity Gauntlets.

  • Best Packaging
    GI Joe Sigma 6
    This was a good year for packaging, but Sigma 6 got the edge because it had more than just a cool design. The fact that the caps can be used to make a footlocker to store all the accessories is just the kind of creative versatility that more companies should strive for, rather than slapping everything in a clamshell.

    Other nominees were the Revenge of the Sith line, with the die-cut card, shaped like Vader's helmet, the lava along the bottom edge and the egg-shaped blister with the big square logo • Sin City, for the photos of the actors the toys are supposed to represent, color-coded pictures of the entire series on the side, and even a bio on the back written by Miller himself • Crisis on Infinite Earths because the curved blister packs really look distinctive on the shelves, and have a cool retro '80s feel • 500th Vader's ornate packaging, which duplicates his healing chamber • Figure Factory's crates, for finding a way to make blind packing good • Catwoman's vault because it's the best arguement in favor of MOC collecting • Disney Store's version of the Narnia figures, which is designed to resemble the wardrobe.

  • Worst of the Year
    The worst thing about toys in 2005 wasn't any single figure or line we got, but every one we didn't. This is the year that saw the end of the Muppets and Xevoz, and when Mattel ruined the Batman comic line by only releasing their best figures overseas. There were no Simpsons figures this year, no Movie Maniacs, no Harry Potter. GI Joe went online-only. Plan B was still reeling from the problems they had with their WWII figures, and so spent most of the year doing work for other companies. Stikfas lost their deal with Hasbro, and got much harder to find. There were plenty of bad toys on shelves this year, but you can't help thinking about all the good toys that weren't.

    Other nominees included Jazwares' Mortal Kombat for being so much worse than anything other than Jazwares' Street Fighter, another nominee • Palisades Toys, for being dumb enough to start blind-packing their figures • Batman Begins, for giving us late-80s style toys for a great 2005 movie • the supremely disappointing Hitchhiker's Guide figures • the oddly placed ML10 Spider-ManUltron for not looking at all like the character • and the entire King Kong line, which does a disservice to the film.

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2005 has joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.

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