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View Full Version : Reviewing the History of the 12" Line: what went right, what went wrong?



Tycho
06-20-2005, 11:59 AM
Let's just jump into it, wave by wave. Let me know if I forget any. I'm probably not going to write about the whole line from '96 up to now all in one post though, so please stop where I stop.

The first question should be:

Should the line issue limited-time-only available figures, or keep Han, Luke, Leia, etc. on the shelves in one form or another, so that NEWBIES can also collect the line thereby increasing its lifespan as older enthusiasts drop out due to everything from loss of income to loss of interest, or dislike of the 12" quality?

LIMITED AVAILABILITY or CONTINUOUS MAIN CHARACTER WAVES? - What do you say? Think about it if you were selling the figures, not collecting them, and you wanted to always have customers.

THE PRICE POINT? $20 was not too much. It was high enough to typically make me buy only 1 of each figure and not army-build or do more scenes, but I'd be scared of what they offer us for figures if they charged less. I'd have paid $30 or $40 for very top-quality figures - at maybe 6-9 per year. You?

Next, the figures:


! DARTH VADER sucked! There was no way to get excited about a shrunken, rubber head, and just slapped on an undersized body (they used the standard body-type the 12" started with). I never bought Vader because it was so aweful, and with that in mind, I knew I'd never have a cool complete collection at that time. When later additions to the line made me reconsider, I was able to get the old figures I'd turned down before - but repeatedly avoided Darth Vader.

LUKE SKYWALKER - the outfit was cool and nostalgic of the vintage 12" Luke for me - so I liked this. Too bad there was no grappling hook like the vintage, but that was always supposed to be with a stormtrooper outfit, not Luke's farm tool belt anyway. His bright yellow hair was a turn-off and they didn't capture Mark Hamill with the sculpt. I reconciled my disappointment with that by telling myself I was buying an artistic piece representative of Luke, not made to look exactly like him. Selling myself that, I began to collect the line. Also disappointing was that early lightsabers did not have their blades come out of their hilts to be worn on their belts.

HAN SOLO - the outfit was a bit stiff. The jean material they seemed to use for his pants was not as flexable as the vintage era days - whose extra soft material might not have taken as well to sewing on the bloodstripes. The holsters were always open backed. They couldn't mold these things completely closed like a real holster? Han was pretty good. I love his character so I liked having the 12". His face and head sculpt was so-so. It was better than Luke's but left you wondering how they were getting closer with the 3 3/4" scale and they were so far away with the 12"? The hands did not grip the blaster that well either, btw. It seemed the gun was just under the size required by a figure that scale. The limited poseability on these figures were also frustrating.

^ OBI-WAN KENOBI - this figure was nearly perfect! Limited articulation, maybe. But the look like Alec Guiness and the accessory clothing left you appreciating this figure even years later when more good figures had been produced. The ONLY problem for me was the blade not being removeable from the lightsaber hilt. This figure either sold well, or was shortpacked since it was always the hardest to find. I went for 2 of these myself (one to make "Jedi Spirits" with.

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^ TUSKEN RAIDER - this figure is also a gem in the line. They did a very good job on the head sculpt and the accessory clothing and the gaffi (gaderffi) stick. I really like my Tusken. More arm articulation for gaderffi poses would've improved it. I never cared for a stormtrooper blaster version and didn't buy that. (I did buy 2 gaderffi stick ones). If they wanted to include another weapon, they should have sculpted the long "farmer's rifle" for this figure early on. I may pose one of mine with it since I got several of those rifles with other figures.

LANDO CALRISSIAN - this figure's costume was great and his accessories appropriate, but later on we found out for sure that they could sculpt a better Billy Dee Williams resemblance. Lando sat about for not looking that much like Lando I think. There may be the 'black factor' which is ashame in our day and age, but there was also the fact that Lando, especially in his Bespin outfit, was not exactly a hero, but more of a betrayer until the end of the movie. Still, does a character's role (for a main character like Lando) actually make that much difference in an action figure's sale? Some VOTC Lando's pegwarming still at my TRU makes me ask the politically incorrect because I don't hide behind false-politeness. I bought an extra when they went on clearance, because I wanted other figures to pose with new ones I'd hope they'd make (like Leia Bespin) so I kept some stuff I thought I'd need.

LUKE BESPIN - this figure's outfit was very stiff. The fact that he had the muscle shirt on underneathe (I think he did - mine's put away at the moment, am I remembering correctly?) was pretty nice attention to detail. What next? The super-blonde hair and the non-detachable blade were bummers. So was the open-backed holster. A darker haired Luke Bespin was corrected later, but the sculpt they were using still did not look like Luke. The outfit was very cool however, with all the pockets, etc. The more durable material was probably just that - more durable. But I think a softer material on the clothes would have looked more authentic.

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^ PRINCESS LEIA - this figure is ok. I think she stood ok on her own, too. Not the high-heeled posed feet on their worse Barbie-style bodies for female figures. You had to watch her hair buns though. Most looked terrible. I turned down a figure that was hard to find on several occasions until I got one with the hair that looked right. The sculpt did look like Carrie - which wasn't too hard on them. She had a baby-face in ANH. Her gun is cool - the sport blaster from the Blockade Runner which was nice they bothered to sculpt it since that gun saw limited use for Leia.

! BOBA FETT - ugggh. Revenge of the undersized head! I bought this Boba because it was Boba and who'd know they'd do 2 sculpts for a b-character? The costume was almost perfect though - the shoulder-armor and neck piece didn't fit him right, and I don't see how they could possibly help defend him when Hasbro sculpted it in that condition. Plus his sleeves were too short and that could look silly when his arms were bent to put him in cool poses. I don't think the rocket fired either.

^ LUKE X-WING - I liked this one a lot. His hair was colored much better and the flightsuit is still one of the best costumes for 12" to this day. He could have had a holster and gun belt and I wish he did. Other than that, with his cool helmet, this figure lacked only better articulation.

STORMTROOPER - I'm indifferent here. I never bought this one though I had the chance. I was army-building with the 3 3/4" up to 70 or more, and I thought I'd keep my 12" displays simple by not even allowing myself to be tempted to buy stormtroopers. Having Sandtroopers though, I'm guessing the sculpting was good and these were cool. I don't know if their holsters worked, but that would have been cool. I'm ill equipped to rate these. They looked nice though.

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WAL-MART CANTINA BAND MEMBERS - I was glad they did these. They made their money selling the figure 6 times over with 6 different instruments. I don't know how others coped because of what they case assortments on them were, but I only bought Nalan because I liked his instrument and didn't want to forfeit space to setting up the whole band like I did with the 3 3/4". Hopefully I didn't ruin anyone's complete set out there (that wanted one). The clothes were simple and could have been nicer for how much Hasbro was making selling 6 of these though. The poseability improved a lot though - so the Bith aliens could hold their instruments.

^TARGET LUKE HOTH vs. WAMPA - this was originally so hard to get for many collectors (I read. I got mine pretty easily). But Luke had amazing detail to his clothing and his hair was a normal color. His Hoth accessory binoculars were very cool. The figure gets a good mark. The Wampa was different, but for a furry creature it was certainly stuffed better than another I can think of. It was too small of course. Size would have been an improvement. I don't think that would have cost them more considering how they made this. Mine stands fine and the wire frame supports it great - probably due to the nice amount of stuffing. The yellow "life stains" on the wampa were both cool that they though to add that, and disturbing that it looked more like pee than yellowed-blood & sweat, and that it was painted on him so geometrically instead of looking like random animal stains. I like stuffed animals I suppose, so I liked my Wampa and am still excited to have this piece in the collection.

^^TOYRS R US HAN HOTH ON TAUNTAUN - I started collecting because of this huge masterpiece! I saw it on ToyFare Magazine's cover about half a year before it came out, and I decided I'd better go out and get all the 12" I mentioned above because this thing was getting me into that line. Han's outfit is perfect and his poseability is improved. The TaunTaun is a great sculpt and is huge and impressive. I wished it wouldn't tip over with him riding it (or even without him riding it). I had to tie luggage locks to its tail by fishing wire and hang them out of view to keep my TaunTaun displayed standing. Boxed, it could have had Han holding his gear instead of blister-packing it to the floor in the box, but I open my stuff anyway. Still, what a great piece.

^FAO SCHWARTZ LUKE JEDI & BIB FORTUNA - this is another nice set. Great alien headsculpts are always nice because they have to make more effort on them. Bib's head is spot-on and I love his outfit. Luke's head is one of the best sculpts they've done for him. His outfit and his green lightsaber are great. This is the only Luke Jedi to come with his dark Jedi cloak which feels wonderful to have.

FAO SCHWARTZ GRAND MOFF TARKIN & DEATH STAR GUNNER - the gunner was too skinny if I recall correctly. It looked like anorexia was a problem in the service of the Empire. I traded this set before I opened it however - got the KB 2-pack for it in a great trade! Tarkin was pretty good. I was glad to get him later as a single piece, and I'll bring that up then and there. This was not the highlight of the collection, but it did come with the interrogator droid I think.

^ KB TOYS HAN & LUKE IN STORMTROOPER DISGUISE - this came with a 12" scale Mouse Droid? How cool is that? It didn't smell like anything though. But the Han and Luke Trooper costumes were very cool. I like having them with their helmets on because as I noted, I didn't buy regular stormtroopers the first time around. It was also nice that this set came with the long blaster rifle that Chewie uses later.

Overall, we covered the start of the 12" line to its rise to one of its peak years in 1997. There's more to discuss, but if you were collecting THEN, why did you or did you not want (or like) these? If you didn't like them, why did you collect them? If you were enjoying yourself, did you think it was going to totally continue to get better and better?

Were the exclusives a bad idea? Wouldn't these choices have sold in all the stores if they shipped them there? Or would some like Luke & Bib actually have started to become the shelf-warming, damaged window boxes we saw way too many of in later years? Was limiting production a better idea?

I'd have to say that the exclusives were good and fun hunting. Making a little bit more of them would have helped most people find them - but they could have still kept them limited and exclusive. I don't think we would have gotten as much variety up to this point though if the exclusives they did were in-wave assortments and they started to pile up on the shelves.

The nice thing about the collection at this time was that if you wanted to jump in late - like I did, you could still go to the store and find some of the earlier releases and complete your sets like I got Han, Luke, Lando, Luke Bespin, and the Tusken much later than their initial release.

Tycho
06-20-2005, 01:45 PM
As we get into the next wave, ROTJ was still very weakly covered compared to the other 2 classic films.

!CHEWBACCA - fur on a wire frame that could barely pose right, let alone stand. I think packaged-collectors ruin it somewhat for those of us who open our figures. I mean if Hasbro thought more people were going to be opening Chewie and wanting to pose him, they might have never done this tragedy! I do love real fur. Don't get me wrong. But take the vintage Chewie 12" at his 15" height, put nylon stocking covered fur over the body tightly, and add the furry head they used on this figure we got (so the face could have real fur coming out of it too). I'm not sure if they looked at that when doing their cost-projected revenue comparisons, but it'd be interesting to have seen that if it was covered. There had to be a better way. This was one of the biggest let-downs early in the 12" line.

ADMIRAL ACKBAR - Return of the Jedi got a little bit more attention here. The head sculpt is a fine example of art done well. I think Ackbar looks great and it was a nice surpise to have him offered. The uniform is fine, and while not impressive, it's accurate. Ackbar lacked accessories, but what would he have come with? Had it been a larger exclusive or a higher price point, his command chair from Home One would have been sweet!

C-3PO - except for limited articulation in the arms and the inability to grip anything, this is what we expected and what we wanted. They used a great paint application for this clean C-3PO.

TIE PILOT - annorexia for the Empire? Probably his uniform being so loose fitting on the soft material - maybe the reason they didn't use that light of material on most other figures - but his legs looked real skinny. Other than that, he was what most people expected. I didn't need him and never bought him. The legs always bothered me. He looked top heavy and too weak to be threatening.

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GREEDO - Pretty cool. A removeable gun instead of one molded in would've worked. His outfit, though a little too liesure suit instead of flight suit, was pretty nice. The vest needed improvement, but you got the idea that this was Greedo pretty well from this figure. I was so glad they were making aliens for the 12" line. Greedo is a must have for his look, his character, for what he represents - even if what he represents is not perfection in the 12" line.

!LUKE CEREMONY - the head sculpt makes you want to puke! Plus back came the yellow hair. The outfit was fine. How the head sculpt passed quality control? I have no idea.

TARKIN - pretty cool. Exactly what we'd want and expect. The Interrogator Droid was a nice touch!

^ SANDTROOPER - very nice. The backpack, shoulder pauldron, and long-barreled rifle all make him different from a regular stormtrooper, but the dirty armor gives him a great edge.

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^AT-AT DRIVER - it's not hard to have this figure and no 12" scale AT-AT. That's only because this figure is so cool and looks pretty darn sweet.

^SNOWTROOPER - yeah! This one rocks as well. I bought 2 myself.

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YODA - super-non-poseable. He was small and cute and the outfit was good, but he was very limited with what you could do with him.

R2D2 - a great little guy. The mold stands the test of time. I like my R2.

Jawa - nice light-up eyes, cool blaster. This figure worked out pretty well. I don't know if he's too little. A bigger one would have been nice at this time.


Before I do the exclusives, I wanted to point out that many characters were re-shipping:

Han and Luke Hoth were available single-boxed, as was The Emperor (who's more worth covering as the Exclusive), Luke Jedi came back available that way, Barquin 'Dan recycled the Cantina alien exclusive, Chewie in Chains recycled the furry, and some stuff were available again in exclusive multi-packs.

I think a lot of this stuff sat in stores more and gathered dust because re-released stuff were not new offerings and the first collectors to buy 12" already had these in a different form, and unless they were absolute variation collectors, they weren't going to move on these re-releases. However, on a different note, you could be starting late and still get a Han, Luke, Chewie, some kind of Bith alien, Greedo, Tarkin, Sandtrooper, and Emperor - snowtrooper too maybe.

So you didn't just walk into the store and see the b-characters from a prequel movie shelf-warming, but you had some variety to get a chance to get the stars.

tagmac
06-20-2005, 11:08 PM
Obi-Wan was shortpacked in the initial waves. There were 3 Vaders and only one Obi per case. And I agree about Chewbacca (also shortpacked at 1 per case) - your suggestion was exactly what I'd hoped they would do, and I was extremely disappointed in the final product. As for the Luke/Wampa and Han/Tauntaun, those were originally limited to one case per store, and I remember reading about fights breaking out in stores because one person would walk out with the full case. After letting myself be completely ripped off and spending over $400 total for one each of these, a year later I found 6 Wampas sitting in the Target that had just opened by me, and TRU suddenly had dozens of Tauntauns that sat there for almost a year, until eventually being clearanced out.

Tycho
06-20-2005, 11:22 PM
Wow. So do you hate exclusives or do you think they provide variety we normally wouldn't see on mass-market?

Do you think you just jumped the gun to pay that much for the two Hoth sets?

What did you think of the Classic Trilogy collection so far (up to about 1998)?

Jayspawn
06-23-2005, 09:41 AM
I think it really started going bad durring the AOTC years. The 1st Obi-Wan, Anakin and Clone Trooper were decent.

BUT then we got Padme (skinny body, HUGE head), Geo Warrior, and Anakin w/ lightsabers (bad likeness).

Then it was Zam Wessel (why?), Super Battle Droid, and Count Dooku. Without a dought, the Count was the best in the line -that figure is still awesome!

JediTricks
06-24-2005, 12:41 AM
Jayspawn, are you talking quality or sales?

Jayspawn
06-24-2005, 08:35 AM
I was thinking quality.

Tycho
06-24-2005, 11:28 AM
Zam's problems:

1) her arms were skinny molded plastic instead of real clothing over real arms.

2) Her likeness wasn't great.

3) Her character was killed early on, and not that inspiring.

Why Zam?

I'm sure the thought was that more female "action" characters in the line would spice up a mostly male-figure line.

TPM could have had a Shmi Skywalker figure, for as well as you all think that might have sold, but they did have a lot of Padmes.

AOTC left Luminara, Barriss, Shaak-Ti, Aayla Secura, Baltar Swan - that's almost it, for "action characters," unless Hermione Bagwa (Dexter's waitress) deserved a 12" action figure ;) Zam presented the whole line's only possible "bad girl." The choice wasn't stupid. The quality was what really lacked. Still, any of the other lady Jedi would have sold - as we can tell today since Shaak and Barriss are not sitting on any shelves. Aayla would've been sweet though!


The Super Battle Droid - this was almost good to go - and an army-builder at that. All it needed was rotating wrists so the Droid could fire its arm blaster as you saw it do in the movie. An added - "blow apart" disassembling feature might've been cool (or if it came with a second "destroyed droid torso and arm" or something as an accessory. Oh - and the paint was off. A more metallicized paint on the body, and ANY paint on the 'stomach' flex range would have seriously helped. The mold wasn't bad, thus I think this figure had less problems than Zam and could've been corrected in its production run, or even re-released today, corrected. A new wave with this droid corrected, amongst Aayla and an E3 Obi-Wan or something could cut Hasbro's costs of continuing the line. Something to think about.

JediTricks
06-26-2005, 06:04 PM
I was thinking quality.
Ok, yeah, I guess Ep 2 is really where the downhill slide picked up steam. The Ep 1 line had a few more weak spots than it should have as well though IMO, the Watto figure being worse than the 3 3/4" version was unbelievable, neither Anakin was any good, and one thing that really bugged me about the Ep 1 line was how much the scaled back the accessories, each figure came with only 1 or 2 at the most.


Tycho, Zam was an awful figure with a HUGE melon, likeness issues were the least of her woes, she's STILL collecting dust at some WMs and TRUs. And like you said, she's a total nobody in the movie. If they had to have an action female fig, they probably had to go with her though since stores were still suffering from fear of Padme & Amidala figures that didn't sell from Ep 1 (not that the Ep 2 Padme was any better than awful 12" Zam Wesell though).


The mold on the SBD was cheap, I like the droid and even I didn't buy the figure (though I kinda regret not getting one, I waited hoping Hasbro would release it with better articulation for ROTS and they didn't), it was pretty much on-par with the Ep 1 BD which could have been good but they actively limited its design from transformation. In the end, the SBD, Watto, Zam, the BD, and 6" Anakin from TPM all were worse than their 3.75" counterparts and nobody is going to pay extra for that.

tagmac
06-27-2005, 04:38 PM
Wow. So do you hate exclusives or do you think they provide variety we normally wouldn't see on mass-market?

Do you think you just jumped the gun to pay that much for the two Hoth sets?

What did you think of the Classic Trilogy collection so far (up to about 1998)?

Looking back, I obviously jumped the gun, although at the time, I thought it was the only way to get the figures. Back then, I wasn't on this message board, and only got info from a different site, one I haven't been to since coming here a few years ago. The problem was that the exclusives were announced as being limited to only a case or two per store, and the stories on that site were of cases going out the back door, 20 people lining up at a store that only had 6 figures (4 of which went to the first guy in line), etc. At the time I felt lucky that the scalper I used to buy off of even had these in stock (I know, and I'm ashamed to admit it - it took me a few years to become wiser to scalpers and stop buying off them altogether). I don't have a problem with exclusives that are limited to just one store - my problem was that they were released in such limited numbers originally, they became a boon for scalpers. No one knew Hasbro would re-release them en masse a year later.

The classic trilogy collection was ok. I bought most of them. The Snowtrooper was definitely my favorite. I was also lucky enough to snag both FAO 2-packs (got my name on the list early enough) and the Stormtrooper Han/Luke (having worked at KB the year before, I knew a couple of the workers, who held one of the 6 they got in for me).