Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Toys R Us Toyology 2012

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Toys R Us are once again recruiting toyologists. The application brief is to review a 'must have toy or product for your child's age'. Despite setbacks such as smashed cameras and children being away at their grandparents, my application is finally complete. Officially it's for the 4-6 age group, but unofficially I think you'll agree it's a 'must have' for everyone, young and old.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Construction: Ghostbusters 2 Louis

The Ghostbusters are dead. The toyline from Mattel, at least. The third movie too, more than likely, which has a great deal to do with the toys no longer being produced. Mattel, no doubt, when they bought bought the rights to make toys, has assumed the new film would be well into production by now, if not out in cinemas. But it's not, so interest in the toys has been limited from the get-go.

The line died with a number of figures lacking being immortalised in plastic. People like Janine, there's not much I can do about, however there are a number of 'obvious' variants of existing figures that even someone like me could create using other figures as a base.

Last November Mattel heavily (and I mean heavily) reduced all their Ghostbusters stock and I bought up a bunch to potentially make variants. I sat on them (not literally) until SDCC this year in the off-chance that new figures would be announced (in which case I'd sell on the stuff I'd bought). There was nothing really announced at SDCC other than a confirmation that the line was 'on hold' indefinitely, and so I began working on my custom figures.

The first to be completed was this one: Louis Tulley as seen in Ghostbusters 2.

Thursday, 16 August 2012

News: Toyology 2012

As you are more than likely aware, last year I was a Toyologist. This meant that Toys R Us sent me a lot of toys and in return I wrote(/created) a lot of reviews. Some of the formats I used were a little...unusual. Crossword? Yep, did that. Choose Your Own Review? Yeah, did that too. And a comic and a bunch of videos and various other things. I like to experiment.

They're all listed here, if you happen to have missed them.

The programme is running again this year, albeit with a few modifications. This time around it'll be running for 3 months and to ensure people receive toys appropriate for their children there will be 3 age categories.

Interested in taking part?

Applying is simple. Just review a toy & fill out a form.

To save reinventing the wheel (aka 'typing out a load of stuff someone else has already done') I'll direct you to the Toys R Us Facebook page, specifically this bit which tells you all about it.

The application deadline is Thursday 23rd August.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Review: Beast Wars Transmutate

For those who think cartoons are all about action and lack emotional impact, watch Beast Wars, the kind-of sequel to the 80s Transformers cartoon which was shown in the 90s. In the episode 'Code of Hero', the once evil-Predacon turned heroic-Maximal, Dinobot dramatically sacrifices himself to save a group of primitive humans. I cry every time I watch it.

The following episode is 'Transmutate', in which an innocent is killed due to the petty fighting between two others. Tears once again.

Transmutate was in a single episode. Trying to keep the Beast Wars technical lore to a minimum (though you should really go watch it - it's very good!), I'll describe Transmutate as a 'damaged' Transformer. It was unable to transform and had the mind of an infant. Megatron deemed the robot useless and ordered it destroyed. Even the Maximals saw little worth in it.

So it was that 'evil' Rampage and 'heroic' Silverbolt, both seeing something of a kindred spirit in Transmutate, went against their respective leaders' advice and attempted to befriend it. In the end the rivalry between Rampage and Silverbolt resulted in the destruction of Transmuate and everyone cried.

The toy version wasn't released in the original Beast Wars line of toys in the 90s. Why would it? It wasn't as though it could really be sold as a 'Transformer' since it didn't actually do any transforming. It eventually showed up, however, collector-a-piece style, in the 10th Anniversary line, which re-released the original toys in more cartoon-accurate colours (more, but far from completely accurate colours).

Articulation is extremely limited - at the head, legs and arms only. And even then there's only way way to position the legs and have Transmutate stand upright. It was a nice addition to the line, however, and no doubt a number of people bought up all the Anniversary figures purely to get this figure.

One of the great things about the Beast Wars toys was that the scale of the toys was exactly the same as the scale of the characters in the cartoon, and Transmutate is exactly the same. The colour & sculpt are near-identical to the screen counterpart, however the paintwork isn't quite as nice as it might have been. The face is just as freaky as the cartoon version, however.

Transmutate is a bit of a nightmare to get hold of these days, appearing on ebay rarely. It took me years of searching before I managed to get hold of one, so good luck if you're on the hunt!

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Construction: Helm's Deep

Many moons ago, when the toy shops were littered with Lord of the Rings toys, I bought a number of them. For reasons I can't quite remember (probably space) I decided to keep them all in the office when I was busily working on my PhD. Since no one complained about it to me directly I continued to add to them even when another research group started using the desks under the shelves (honestly, I'd have happily moved them if someone had complained. But they never did).

One of the toys I bought was the Eye of Sauron. This basically took the form of the top bit of Barad Dur, with an eye containing a little light that talked. I promised myself that I'd make the rest of the tower for the Eye to sit on.

Well, it took a while but finally, last Autumn, I got round to making it.

And I was happy. For a while.

So now I'm beginning to think I should make Helm's Deep. Helm's Deep. This, for the couple of people out there who don't know, is the big castle/fort thing that featured in The Two Towers. You may remember that it was quite big. Well you're wrong - it was very big. Far too big to make a version for 6" action figures.

But despite all sense and reason telling me it's a bad idea, I still want to make it.

I have no idea where I'm going to put it (3yo says there's plenty of space in the middle of the living room. Wife disagrees). So while making it as one great big lump of fort would have been relatively easy, I've got to figure out some way of making it collapse, or fold away for storage, or something.

As you may have guessed, I haven't got it all figured out yet.

I'll post (semi-)regular updates on how things are going. In the meantime if anyone happens to come across (cheap) Uruk Hai at car boots or similar I'd be very interested in getting hold of them. I currently have 3. There were 10,000 in the film. While 10,000 might be a few too many, I would like some more to make it a bit more like an army rather than a couple of guys who wandered the wrong way and thought 'Hey, let's attack this giant castle! That'd be awesome!'

News: Masters of the Universe Classics

Panic over. We may all now continue with our lives without fear of cancellation.

Until next summer...

Review: Power Rangers & Ben 10 Mini Figures

This is a sponsored review.

Blind bags - you either love them or hate them. On the plus side there're relatively cheap, thus great for pocket money or keeping a small child quiet while you're shopping. On the negative you never know what you're going to get and - as evidenced by us getting 2 Pink Rangers from the 3 Power Rangers packs we were sent. This is where having friends who collect them comes in very handy, or - as a last resort - ebay.

There are 6 different characters in the Power Rangers Samurai range - 5 Rangers plus a villain in the form of a Mooger. These are duplicated in regular colours, plus single-colour translucent versions. They are partially articulated, with the arms having a swivel.

Ben 10 features 16 characters from across the various cartoon series, again in both 'normal' colours and a translucent green. These are non-articulated and a little smaller than the Power Rangers. While the children don't have a particular preference between the two sets, personally I prefer the Ben 10 ones and their chunkier sculpts.

There are two aspects about these in particular that I like. Their small size means they're perfect for a bunch of them to fit in a child's pocket. In addition, children can throw them around to their hearts content and they're not going to break them. A bit of paint might chip off, but that's about all the damage anyone will be able to inflict. There's no sitting with a tube of glue, holding an arm in one hand and a torso in the other and wondering how on Earth you're ever going to stick the two back together with these figures!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Review: Renderform Gold Scout

Making toys is expensive, you only have to look at the rising prices of things in toy shops to know that. Inflation, combined with rising oil prices have pushed almost all toys into the realm of Expensive these days.

But toy manufacture has always been a pricey business and any way to reduce that cost has always been embraced by manufacturers. Making a steel mould to form plastic parts from is the most expensive part, so any way to reuse that mould as much as possible will be jumped on by Management. In the case, for example, of Masters of the Universe toys in the 80s, many of the limbs were designed so that they could be used on as many characters as possible. He-Man is basically the same as Man-at-Arms with a new head, etc etc.

Parts-sharing is a bit more difficult with Transformers, where many pieces have to exactly come together to allow transformation from robot to vehicle. With Transformers, Hasbro generally duplicated a figure exactly but gave it a different paint job and biography to form new characters. This worked better than you might imagine and children were very happy to rebuy multiples of essentially exactly the same toy in order to get Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp etc.

Parents, however, were not quite so happy, but their opinions tend not to matter when faced with the Pester Power of children.

The same parts-reuse strategy is still in use today. If a figure can be repainted and rereleased as something else, then Hasbro will do so. Sometimes, like in the 80s, repaints like this are renamed as characters which hearkened back to those from the 80s.

One day a fan hit upon the notion of improving these repaints by making their own heads which made them a lot more closely resemble the characters they were supposed to homage. It's amazing how such a simple alteration will make to the look and appeal of a toy.

Renderform is one of, if not the, leading producer of these head and accessory kits. I've upgraded a number of figures thanks to Renderform kits, the latest of which was Gold Scout, an upgrade for Bumblebee.

News: Masters Madness!

Further to the Saurod video I posted the other day, Blade and the director of the 80s Masters of the Universe film have also produced videos encouraging people to sign up for the 2013 toy subscription. These movie guys really want their characters made!

I'm expected Dolph & Courtney to post videos any day now.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

News: The end of Masters of the Universe

It's the 30th anniversary of Masters of the Universe! Yippee! He-Man has been around for almost as long as I have. Amazing.

So it's kind of ironic that this could be the year that Masters of the Universe Classics dies.

MOTUC is a line that sells exclusively on The line is subscription-driven, with sign up for the following year taking place around the time of San Diego Comic Con each year. Last year there were problems with the Ghostbusters line (which was ultimately cancelled due to lack of people signing up) and DCU (which had to fight to get its line). MOTUC had no issues with interest whatsoever and easily passed the benchmark for continuing into 2012.

How things change...

Despite a great reception to the new showings at SDCC (the press photos for which are here), subscriptions for 2013 are down. Way down. To the point that the line is under threat.

Various reasons have been speculated for this, but I suspect the main ones come down to:

Cost. The price for each figure has risen from $20 to $25 figures. This has had a knock-on effect for UK fans since it now puts every figure above the import limit and means everything is liable for customs fees (and the £8 handling fee Royal Mail slaps on). International shipping costs have also risen.

Obscure figure reveals. This is a lesser issue, but anyone on the fence after the price rise was unlikely to have been won over by the Fighting Foe Men. Personally, I think the reveal for this $75 3-pack was poorly timed, especially after the controversy after the Star Sisters last year. It should have probably have been better revealing this at Power Con later in the year.

There's not a lot Mattel can do about rising prices, although they have stated that the $25 price point will hold for 2014 as well. The 'obscure' figures, however, Mattel are dealing with. While 2013 is already locked in, they have stated that the 2014 line (should it continue that long) will consist entirely of 'heavy hitters', ensuring that by the end of 2014 almost all the major Masters, Princess of Power and New Adventures characters will have been immortalised in plastic form.

There have been a number of appeals from various fans online to encourage people to sign up. The most bizarre of which comes in the form of this...

After watching that, how can you possibly not sign up for 2013? I know before watching it I couldn't have cared less about a Saurod figure, but now, hell, he's right at the top of my Want list.

For an interesting discussion with fans & the MOTUC brand manager check out this podcast from It's a little lengthy but does go into a lot of interesting details about the line and its future. There's also this video which summarises things: