When it comes to toys, licensed products seem to rule the shelves - take a look at your collection, and odds are that the majority of it has some relation to another form of entertainment. Even Lego's Bionicle line, which started as a toy unto itself, has grown into comics, video games and an upcoming movie.
But there is still a market for unlicensed toys. Game and hobby shops are a haven for niche products, as are specialty toy stores like Imaginarium or Zany Brainy. If you're tired of photorealistic statues of some forgettable film, there is an antidote - a lot of young companies are thinking outside the toybox.
One such company is Playmind. Taking a cue from the Spartan fun of Stikfas, Playmind created a generic body around which they could build all their properties. Combining molded plastic with die-cast metal, the straightforward "Titanium" figure can be used as the basis for any character - just some paint and a few accessories, and the versatile Titanium can be transformed into anything at all.
Playmind's first three lines cover a wide variety of interests: "Body Rockers" are an urban breakdancing crew, "Heavy Artillery" is a futuristic group of post-apocalyptic warriors and the "Monsters of Rock" live up to their name as classic monsters - like the Mummy or the Wolfman - strap on guitars or step behind the drums to lay down some heavy metal. Each of the lines has four characters, all built around the basic Titanium figure.
To build interest in their line, Playmind sold an exclusive Titanuim at SDCC '03. Molded from red plastic and with his gray metal pieces showing through, the Titanium has a painted smile on his face and a big yellow "SD03" on his chest. The figure is a limited edition of 1,680 pieces (1680? Why 1680?), and each is individually numbered both on the packaging and on the figure's back.
Designed by Nathan Tabor, the 6" Titanium has 32 points of articulation: neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, thumbs, index fingers, hands, chest, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. Though somewhat reminiscent of a Stikfas, the figure's design is a bit more complex: he has the double-joints that Marvel Legends uses for its elbows and knees, and the three points of articulation in each hand give him a bit more range for accessories. The sets are more expensive than a Stikfas, but they're also bigger, assembled and pre-painted.
The figure's feet and torso are die-cast metal, which you'll be able to feel as soon as you pick one up - these are weighty figures. The feet give the toy a nice stable base, while the chest seems mostly for show. There are several holes molded (or cast) into the figure's body, to allow accessories, armor or other goodies to snap into place. Some of the figures' accessories will also be die-cast, giving them a nice believable heft.
According to Playmind president Vincent Thai, "the bottom line is creating dynamic and innovative toys that are still exciting once the box is long gone." The Titanium was designed to be a blank canvas, easily adapted to any new line and therefore always at the front of new social trends. With no licensing, the figures can live longer than a movie's opening weekend.
When I first got this Titanium, I wasn't too impressed - sure, it was bigger than a Stikfas, and pre-painted, but that was all. It seemed like more of the same. But that's just because this exclusive is a generic body - when I started picturing the Monsters of Rock or the Heavy Artillery troops hanging on the pegs at a hobby store, I could see the line's appeal. There are too few original concepts in toys these days, so I wish Playmind nothing but the best.
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