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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 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, ToY but normal collectors did not; things that they had received as samples, but weren't due on the shelf for a few months.

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
    GI Joe Pit Commando
    The Rise of Cobra figures are generally well-done, and the Pit Commando is a nice average example of that. Yes, he's a repaint of an existing mold, but it's one that was quite rare, so it didn't look like a repaint - an important feature in today's "re-use happy" market. But beyond all that, the utter arsenal of accessories he comes with just adds a ton of value for your money; just look at the numbers in the review. Toys are getting more expensive all the time, but a toy like this makes the price bearable. Plus, he can be used for a lot more than just the line he came from: forget just blending in with Real American Hero toys, an army of Pit Commandos would be perfect enemies for Wolverine, stand-ins Gotham City SWAT or just police for a 3¾" Terminator to mow down. He's well-made, easy to find and easy to buy, and that's why he's the Toy of the Year.

    Other nominees included Big Daddy, for being big, cool, and articulated • Bionic Commando, because even if you don't know the character or the game, the toy is excellent • Hot Toys' DX01 (Police Uniform) Joker is expensive, but it's hard to deny his awesomeness - including poseable eyes and two costumes • Marvel Legends Iron Man (two-pack version) was an appropriately thin version of his best armor, one fans have been wanting for years • Marvel Universe Iron Man (two-pack version) is nearly modern toymaking perfection - best armor, great color sync • Masterpiece Grimlock, for being so darn fun and true to both the old cartoon and the old toy • ROTF Optimus Prime is fun and complex, and easily better than any of the first movie's Primes • Para-Viper, an all-new character who makes perfect sense in the context of the line and has great accessories • ROTF Ransack was plentiful, affordable, fun to play with and a first-ever altmode in a 25-year-old franchise • sexy Slave Leia with super articulation and interchangable walking/loungin' legs was pretty much a definitive version of the character.

  • Best Line
    Marvel Universe
    There's the lovely packaging, of course, but the toys are put together well, have nice sculpts, good paint, and are reliably sturdy. There have been some mis-steps (Punisher), but for the most part, you could almost buy figures on name alone and be relatively assured that you'd be getting something good. It's hard to get fans with big collections to bite on a new scale, but MU did just that, and did it handily. Plus, there are lots of similarly-sized lines to give the new toys support - not just Star Wars and GI Joe, but also Wolverine, Iron Man, etc.

    Other nominees included the 4" Cinema of Fear line, which had a good lineup, great sculpt, paint, articulation and accessories • GI Joe Rise of Cobra, with catchy graphics, well-made figures, lots of cool accessories and good variations of the main characters • Transformers Human Alliance line for offering large, complex toys with the first ever tie-in human action figures • MotU Classics for returning He-Man to his roots • Lego Space Police (Technically Space Police III) because every vehicle is awesome in its own way, the designs are varied, and availability is perfect • NECA's Terminator 2, for milking a single sculpt with small variations, but making us glad to keep paying.

    An honorable mention goes to Shocker Toys' Indie Spotlight, which shattered expectations and proved you don't need to be Hasbro or Mattel to deliver great toys. The sculpt, paint and articulation were good, and the packaging was nice. The only reason these didn't take the win is that the only way to get them was online - if these had made it to TRU stores, they would have the edge.

  • Best Accessory
    G4H Lola's ATAC submachine guns
    Okay, you know how it's cool when you can slide the clip out of a gun accessory? These things have spring-loaded slide, swing-out stocks, removable clips, and the clips have a spring-fed interior containing individual 1:6 scale bullets. We're starting to wonder if the blasted things can fire, too!

    Other nominees included Dr. Fate's spectral blast, for fitting so seamlessly onto the figure's hand • the massive Executioner's hammerGiganta's Atom, which is an accessory FOR an accessory • Martok's entire kit, which is above even the usual high level we expect from DS9 toys • Para-Viper's jump gear is all impressively detailed, and yet removable • Minimate Punisher's weapons and armor, the most a Minimate had ever come with • the ROC Pit Commando's total arsenal • Sam's pumpkins are glued together, just like every other toy pumpkin, but if you pry them open, you'll see that the insides are given just as much attention as the bits that are actually visible • ROC Shipwreck's swimfins • the tiny Optimus Prime hidden in the back of Stratosphere.

  • Best Packaging
    "Toy Story Collection" Buzz Lightyear
    Rather than a typical blister card or a plain window box, Thinkway decided to sell their 12" talking Buzz Lightyear in a rocketship-shaped box that directly mirrors the Buzz Lightyear toy packaging seen in the Pixar films. It functions as packaging, an accessory for the toy, and a real-world movie prop all in one, and shows the kind of care and thought that went into the release.

    Other nominees included Futurama boxes are incredibly eyecatching and cool, with great use of color, design, and source art • Marvel Universe takes everything Hasbro has learned about doing Star Wars packaging and continues it, but the blue and white color scheme is eye-catching and the available-nowhere-else artwork is a fun bonus • the McCullen Clan History book showed off the figures, had history lessons, and still looks great closed • Minimate boxes with windows that allow you to see the actual figure, yet still hides surprise accessories behind the solid bits • MotU Classics are effectively retro and modern at the same time • Star Wars (Legacy Collection) is compact, makes the figures easy to examine closely, and has large character portraits that make seeing what's on the pegs easy.

  • Worst of the Year
    Mattel's attitude toward collectors
    Mattel is a perennial powerhouse in this category, going so far as to win a special "Lifetime Achievement" award in 2004. They shovelled out so much crap this year - the lack of any distribution beyond DCU Series 7, the disappointing James Cameron's Avatar toys, the famous Gleek situation - that we actually talked about separating them into their own category, or just removing them from contention altogether. But then it wouldn't really be the Worst thing, would it?

    Any company can have trouble with their shipments, or release toys with bad paint apps, but it takes a special kind of over-the-top asshattery to interact with fans the way Mattel does. They treat us like children, but expect us to buy product the way Barbie or Matchbox/Hot Wheels fanatics would - and they can't understand why we don't. When they're not condescending to us, blaming us or ignoring what we say, they're just blatantly lying. They refuse to show even a hint of contrition when things go wrong (which is often), and they set up a "collectors' site" that seems to be the most anti-collector thing in existence. Mattel has had six years to learn how to deal with our market segment, and the fact that they haven't was at the root of most of their (many) problems this year.

    Other nominees included DCU Classics Adam Strange & Starfire because the set managed to wildly screw up both characters • TF2 Arcee is an utter mess of a figure, with a bad design and an incomprehensible transformation • Hasbro cancelling the last few series of classic GI Joe figures and leaving us hanging for six months before movie product arrived • Digital River, the customer service company Mattel uses for their terrible website, is so bad at its job that even Mattel can recognize the problem • DC Direct's handling of the Hal Jordan exclusives, which made even Mattel's yearly screw-up look stable and well-managed • the axing of Marvel Legends in favor of Marvel Universe • Hasbro's poor performance on the 6" Spider-Man line, both in regard to design and distribution • Playmates' Star Trek made toys worse than what we had in the '90s, absolutely squandering the opportunity of a movie that made Trekkies cool again • meanwhile, Playmates' Terminator Salvation line made seems to have been made solely to make the Trek toys look better by comparison • ToyFare magazine slipped swiftly downhill this year, dropping its pagecount and padding their content with ever-more vaguely related filler material • Transformers 2 - the toyline is (mostly) good, but the movie was crap.

  • Best Exclusive
    Grifball Spartan (Recon Armor)
    McFarlane's Halo toys are well-made - they were nominated for both ToY and Best Line last year - and this one fulfills our criteria exactly: the color is new, and the armor was previously only available through McToys' website; on the other hand, other than the orange paint, there was nothing in the set you couldn't get through other means; and finally, while the Grifball Spartan is fun, there's nobody who needs him to fill a spot in their collection. This figure marked the first time TRU went to SDCC, and it's the best exclusive of 2009.

    Other top finishers included:
    Slimed Egon Spengler (Second Place, Mattel)
    Isaac Clarke in Unitology Suit (Third Place, NECA/SDCC)
    Gooey Ray Stantz/Exploding Stay Puft (Fouth Place, Art Asylum/TRU)
    BSG Minimate Miniflyers (Art Asylum/TRU)
    The Invaders (Hasbro/SDCC)
    Mez-Itz Hellboy (Mezco/SDCC)
    Mon Calamari Home One (Lego/TRU)

    The "Best Exclusive" category is open to every exclusive (convention, store, online, anything) released this year, and the winner determined based on our criteria for the perfect exclusive.

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2009 joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.

It's hard to believe that this is the tenth anniversary of the ToY Awards - we are officially the longest-running action figure awards around! Thanks for sticking with us for an entire decade!

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