Action Figure Analysis: Star Wars in 2002, when action trumped articluation
Looking back on the older days of my action-figure collecting, 2002 stands out in my mind. Up until this point, I was still collecting Star Wars figures, just not at the rate I had done in the era when The Phantom Menace came out. The line after this, Power of the Jedi, lasted only a few years, and some of my money went there, as the line encompassed figures from Episodes I, IV, V, & VI.
2002 was a year where Hasbro decided to take the figures for Attack of the Clones, and seemed to throw what they had learned in the last 7 years out the window. Much of what was done turned me away from purchasing many of the figures when they were originally released. Here are a list of what I feel made many of these figures hit-and-miss for the Attack of the Clones’ 1st year of availability:
After many of the figures in the original 1995 release had action-stances, Kenner‘s releases afterwards made them more basic in posture. With Attack of the Clones, many characters soon were locked into wide-legged action stances, which often kept them from fitting into some of the vehicles that were offered. One example is Padme Amidala, whose stance made her more statue than action figure.
Starting with some sneak preview figures in the Spring of 2002, Hasbro began to have little plastic-sculpted laser blasts and force-effects lightning included with various characters and their weapons. Up until this point, not much had been done with Force-effects lightning, other than some bolts to attach to the Emperor’s hands. It took a little of the fun out of using your imagination, when things like Force Energy became removable ‘action features.’
It sounded like a cool idea at the time: put magnets in some Jedi’s hands, and give them metal-hilted lightsabers. However, the magnet concept soon stretched to other areas. It was what allowed Obi-Wan to hang onto an assassin droid, or allowed Anakin to ‘Force-flip’ open a crate. Even so, the magnets often couldn’t be hidden, and left Obi-Wan with a magnetic disc ‘implanted’ in his right hand.
Several figures had these, including the ‘Hanger Duel’ Anakin, who had a wheel on his back that when rotated, caused his hand to spin. A couple like Count Dooku and Mace Windu, had a rotating upper-torso feature that occurred when you squeezed their legs.
There were also clear-plastic items that would click into place for release for action, from force-blasts for the Jedi, to a fireball for one of Jango Fett’s figures.
There were also figures like the Super Battledroid that ‘exploded’ at the push of a button.
One has to wonder where the decision to add more action to the figures came from. One of the major upgrades that was touted regarding the line, was that the sculpts of the character’s heads were taken from 3D scanning data, to make them seem more accurate to the actor’s appearance (which explains such draw-dropping accuracy as this sculpt of Mace Windu).
In the end, it does seem odd that I’d find something wrong with Hasbro giving these action figures ‘action features,’ but it really seemed like they did take a big step backwards.
Attack of the Clones would be folded into the Saga Legends releases over the next 2 years. Someone must have gauged fan-reaction to the Clones figures, because by the time 2003 came around, much of the action features and added ‘oomph’ of the line had died away, and the figures began to return to their less ‘extreme’ poses.
A downside to the first wave of figures, was that until the recent Vintage Collection did new sculpts of several characters from Attack of the Clones, a lot of what we had to hold onto were figures from this wave. Some figures were ‘corrected’ shortly after their 2002 incarnations (Padme, for example), while some like the young Boba Fett have never been recast.