Points of Articulation
Happy Halloween, or How Far We've Come
I got into collecting thanks to Movie Maniacs. Like many collectors, my first action figure addiction was that of McFarlane Toys, Todd McFarlane's gorgeously sculpted response to what he saw as a disappointing market. Actually, I tell a lie - I got into collecting thanks to that amazing Sleepy Hollow boxed set. Coming out of the nifty film, this bad boy caught my eye when browsing the internet and it wasn't long before I also wanted the amazing horror icons that Todd Toys was producing, then many of the great Spawn figures, then it wasn't long before I was in deep. It helped that McFarlane also had an excellent community resource, the Spawn Message Boards, where I could mingle with other collectors including other the OAFEs, people I consider life-long friends. McFarlane Toys were the gold standard.
Well over a decade later, I have purchased my own home and am currently putting together my own dynamic Toy Room. This has meant not just assembling shelves, but spending a lot of time cataloguing my collection and planning how to display them. Some toys seem to naturally fit alongside each other, while others are trickier to fit. A more pleasurable part of this process has been opening some of the toys I've had in their package forever, never really having had the space to open them before.
While putting the marvelous NECA Nightmare Before Christmas figures on display, I opened the McFarlane Toys Corpse Bride action figures, who fit nicely alongside their spiritual kin. Did you ever pick these up? The Vincent figure, the single one they did, is just fucking amazing. Ok, it lacks balljointed shoulders, which is a bummer - but it is perfectly sculpted, like, the look on its face is immaculate. It captures not only the likeness, but the character's core emotion from the excellent film. It has every other point of articulation you want, and it's sturdy enough to stand - it also comes with a fantastic base, featuring a globe which actually spins, and a bell jar, which is a minor plot point of the film - at the beginning, he releases a butterfly from the bell jar and the butterfly becomes symbolic throughout. To recreate this, there's a bit of thin black poseable wire extending from the base with a butterfly that you can move around him. Like, posed in the air, flying around him. It's amazing. That's some Palisades ingenuity, right there. So the question is, how does this amazing company go from highs like this, to the @$^!ing Walking Dead toys?
Have you seen those in stores? The hideous, badly sculpted, awfully painted, out of scale crap? Guaranteed to please neither fans of the TV series, nor fans of the far superior comic? And costing a small fortune? McFarlane's fall from grace is now well documented, at some point breaking away from articulation after having a run of successful series where articulation was a feature to create only statues, and then slowly running each property into the ground to make way for more and more sports figures. It's a bummer to think about McToys now.
So, this Halloween, I invite you, my collector friend, to take a step back, take a deep breath, and put aside the negative feelings we have for Todd Toys, so that we may go back and marvel at the wonders that the company did for us while they were top dog. Admire the excellent Sleepy Hollow figures, including the two different Horsemen with their unique and amazing accessories, and the Ichabod Crane that is arguably the best Johnny Depp sculpt ever. Rejoice in the Movie Maniacs line, that united not only horror icons but other cult figures like Edward Scissorhands and The Fly, made into figures that are still some of the best today. Be amazed by their long-running Spawn series, that created not only characters from the comic but a wide array of different mythological creatures and awesome beasts and bizarre monstrosities that make for really cool toys. Be surprised by their risky, incredible ventures like the creepy bondage-bound Dorothy of Oz, and the spectacularly horrifying Tortured Souls. I loved this stuff, and still love it to this day. So let's take a moment to remember what we loved and why we loved it, and why we were lucky this once great company was indeed once great.