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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
    SH Figuarts Mario
    This is the Mario fans have always dreamed off, with perfect detail and paint, and amazing articulation. The little chubby plumber can run, jump, breakdance, you name it, and for a significantly cheaper price than most high end Japanese toys. Additionally, whereas most similar imports suffer from being sold at specialty stores only, Mario was available all over the place, from Gamestop to Amazon. He's terrifically scaled to your other action figures, nearly all of which he can interact with, and features excellent accessories. While some have looked down on the additional accessory packs as being required to "complete" the figure and thus driving up the cost, the chance to buy only the accessories you desire - as well as multiples - just adds to the sweetness!

    Other nominees include NECA's Spider Gremlin, which has amazing paint, an amazing sculpt, amazing articulation, and isn't as expensive as you'd expect • Amazing Spider-Man 2's Spider-Man, because there was finally a Spidey as good as the old ToyBiz favorite • both Maurice and Luca from Planet of the Apes, for being plain animal action figures created with the high standards we've come to expect from NECA • Batman: The Animated Series Batman is everything animated DC figures should have been for years • ED-209 because once again, NECA has made a toy that "couldn't" be made • Night Force Falcon was an all-around solid Joe with cool colors and nice accessories • Aliens Sgt. Windrix for the execution of the toy and the story behind it • Talon has articulation and accessories, two things DC Direct tends to skimp on • the Alien Queen for being big, cool and articulated • Universal Select Creature from the Black Lagoon, with its improved articulation and stylish base • MOTUC Modulok is the most playable figure the line has ever given us • Legend of Zelda Link is surprising high quality for his price • Death's Head should have been made as soon as Hasbro got the Marvel license • Jetfire blends the classic toy and cartoon appearances, and is fun to convert • Jakks' Godzilla was two feet tall, but available at mass retail.

  • Best Line
    Game of Thrones
    Funko have done themselves proud with their introductory line of realistic action figures. These toys are nicely detailed, well painted, sculpted terrifically and with sensational articulation without breaking the bank. They're also available widely and feature a selection of characters to cover both fan favourites as well as great minor characters, most of whom are already dead by the time you read this. With this line, Funko did what many other companies have not, both improving with each new release and addressing initial QC issues, replacing all broken toys free of charge. Their scale is great, rejecting the frustrating "let's be bigger for no reason!"-ness of MOTUC and various other lines. Hopefully the Funko Legacy line grows further - the more great properties done this well, the better.

    Other nominees include the Gothitropolis ravens • the figures of the IAmElemental Kickstarter • NECA's classic Planet of the Apes does the license justice in a way no one ever has before • Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, which is reminiscent of Palisades' Invader Zim in all the best ways • Simpsons 25th Anniversary, for NECA getting right everything that McFarlane got wrong • Batman: the Animated Series delivers the toys we should have gotten a decade ago • more of a loose conglomeration than a real "line," but the 8-Bit videogame repaints • Hasbro's Hero Mashers have a great play pattern and are totally affordable • NECA's Pacific Rim took a huge step up in quality • TMNT keeps upping the value, and keeps figures available without clogging shelves

  • Best Accessory
    Robocop's jetpack
    We've had multiple Robocops. The one included in this set shares the entirety of its mold with several other releases, so no one was buying the set for that - it's not like he had new, improved articulation to set him apart. It was the Robocop 3 jetpack that sold this set. It's detailed with awesome reality, matching the screen prop perfectly.

    Other nominees include Destro's gun and briefcase • Wasp Predator's Alien-head spear • Anarky's molotov cocktail • Gipsy Danger's cargo shipthe Cosmic CubeCourt of Owls mask • Revoltech Leonardo's fully sliced pizza • Bray Wyatt's rocking chair • Batman's grapnel gun

  • Best Packaging
    It began with Star Wars Black Series. It continued with Funko's multiple Legacy Collection lines (Game of Thrones, Magic the Gathering, etc.) and NECA's classic Planet of the Apes. Collector-friendly boxes are all the rage this year, and they all tended to follow the same layout: a rectangle with a window panel wrapping around one side, and sometimes different colors to signify at a glance which character is inside. It's easier to store the figures, if you want to keep the packaging, and it's reclosable. So this year, the winner is a tie.

    Other nominees include the new Marvel Legends boxes, because they're small, stylish and recolseable • GI Joe 50th Anniversary, where the blue and black really stand out from the last few rounds of Joe cards • Doctor Who "Impossible set", shaped like the eye of a Dalek or a Victorian window • DC Direct's various boxes, which all shared the "fold" graphics on the front panel, creating a unified style for the releases • Funko ReAction uses art honoring the retro figures that inspired these • 8-Bit BatmanTransformers: Age of ExtinctionArcher

  • Worst of the Year
    Bridge Direct's handling of The Hobbit
    The movies asked us to come along "one last time." But for the toys, that last time was last year, and we didn't even know it. There were no toys this year, in any size category. Oh wait, there was a comically small Smaug that cost $70, looked awful, and went with nothing. We never got toys of all the dwarves. We never got some of the main villains. We never got any humans. We never got a lot of things we should have. The first prototypes a few years ago gave us all hope, but in 2014, that hope was smote against the mountainside. All we got was a big empty space where Hobbit toys should have been.

    Other nominees include MOTUC Battle Ram because the front half was sold by itself, then the whole thing • Mattel's 4" DC figures are utter garbage • Bombardier proved that obscure in-jokes do not a good toy make • Super Powers Riddler for the same reason • Mr. Mxyzptlk was $30 (plus shipping) for an accessory • DC Direct's Batman: The Animated Series toys were plagued with broken joints • Grand Slam was a waste of a subscription slot • Space Iron Man is molded from bad plastic and was a design no one wanted • Mattel not informing buyers that Doomsday was a pre-order, not telling anyone why their orders weren't shipping, and not shipping the in-stock items until Doomsday was available as well • Hasbro vac-metallizing their large Transformers • Toys Я Us removing Breaking Bad toys not because they were poorly made, but because of a stupid moral crusade • Mattel making much-wanted movie toys (Reeve Superman, Keaton Batman) in the wrong scale • the waste of space that was Masterpiece Prowl's packaging • the confusing Age of Extinction packaging, which failed to adequately differentiate between different lines, leading to messy, muddled pegs • the paint on Ajani Goldmane.

    And special mention goes to the alleged toy fan who pulled some GamerGate-style bullshit by doxing Scott Neitlich, posting his home address, and "cutely" threatening his life. What a spectacular piece of crap.

  • Best Exclusive
    The Knights of Unicron
    Using nothing but existing molds, this SDCC Transformers exclusive casts Optimus Prime, Jazz, Megatron and Soundwave as an '80s hair metal band, complete with instruments, clothing and, well, hair! They have new glam-rock paint jobs, but are otherwise unchanged. This was not an exclusive that anybody needed, but it is unlike anything you possibly already have.

    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.

    Other top finishers included "Concept" Boba Fett (6") (Second Place, Hasbro/Walgreens) • Bluster & Trench (Third Place, Mech Ideas/TF Con) • 1989 Batman (NECA/WB) • "clean" Knifehead (NECA/TRU) • Star Wars Shadow Squadron (Hasbro/Target) • Agent Venom (Hasbro/Walgreens) • Tyrion Lannister (Funko/Walgreens) • Tyrion Lannister (Funko/SDCC) • Tuxedo Archer (Factory Entertainment/SDCC) • Days Gone Bye (Art Asylum/SDCC)

  • Best Trend
    Improved online availability
    This is a new category, inspired by our readers: after all, if we have a general "worst" category, why not a "best"?

    Major retailers have improved their online stores, often offering lower prices online than in stores. In many cases, you can order hard-to-find toys, or items from manufacturers you'd never see, and have them delivered to your local store for free. It allows us to show retailers that there is a market for these items, and keeps us from having to over-pay.

    Other nominees included the increase in multiple companies finding ways to use the same license without stepping on each other's toes • the increase in collector-friendly branding (resealable boxes and figures assigned and identifying number within their line, etc.) • Hasbro improving its Marvel Legends bodies • the "faux retro" trend applied to modern licenses • DC Direct finally making an attempt at improving its articulation across the board.

Now that you know what's won this year, you can head on over to see our past winners. The Class of 2014 joined some illustrious ranks, and they're all archived here.

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