Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 2 – The Fall of Indiana Jones
*Click Here to read Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 1 – The Summer of Indiana Jones
The Summer of 2008 was thought by many to signal the return of one of the greatest cinematic heroes in the last 50 years: Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull would reunite Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and George Lucas, as they brought Indy into the 1950’s, and the world of B-movie fare.
The toy aisles would also signal a return for Indy, as Dr Jones and his cohorts would find themselves alongside the likes of Star Wars characters in the action figure aisle, for the first time since the early 1980’s.
But by the end of that Summer, things looked different on both fronts.
Even with Crystal Skull pulling in enough money in the United States box-office to put it behind The Dark Knight and Iron Man, public opinion was that George Lucas had done to his creation, as he had done with Star Wars. Apparently, Indy jumping out of a plane on a rubber raft, going down a mountain, through trees, and over a cliff into raging waters was acceptable…but the idea of Indy being flung from an atomic blast inside a refrigerator was considered ridiculous.
While the film slowly began to leave theaters as summer turned to fall, the one place where Indy could still be found, was in the toy aisles. Many stores had eagerly ordered plenty of stock, but by the end of the summer, very few of the toy aisle pegs had been cleared out. Of course, the general consensus is that when one line doesn’t sell well, the ordering of the next stock for that line will decrease quite a bit.
This was the case when it came to the next wave of figures, based around 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Needless to say, the honeymoon was over. While there would be acknowledgement of the fans of the film series, it seemed a given that the demand for these figures, was not on the same level as that of Star Wars. Empirical Stormtroopers in armor and strange-looking alien creatures could enthrall children, but German Stormtroopers and men in well-dressed clothing didn’t push their buttons.
When it came time for the Last Crusade to roll out in stores, it was done with as much fanfare as putting on a new pair of socks.
Unlike the 9 figures from Crystal Skull, and the 8 figures from Raiders, Last Crusade’s line-up would only number 6:
*(Left to Right): Indiana Jones, Dr Henry Jones, Elsa Schneider, Col Vogel, The Grail Knight, Young Indy*
In terms of quality, the Last Crusade line would hang somewhere between the more accurate Crystal Skull figure sculpts, and the more generic Raiders ones. Here are a few images of the figure details of this line:
In terms of Elsa’s head (upper left), the fact that they sculpted and painted a stray hair out of place on her head, was a cool sign of going above and beyond. Even the pages of Henry’s Grail Diary (second from left), they included little bookmarks, and some frayed edges on the pages. One detail that shows how times have changed, is in Col Vogel’s armband on his left arm (upper right). The picture doesn’t show it too well, but there is a faint circular area where a certain symbol should go. One has to assume that this decision to not include the character’s detail, had to have been made after the molds had been approved.
Much like the Crystal Skull line, some gigantism ran through this line. Just take a look at Henry Jones Sr, next to Henry Jones, Jr (from the Crystal Skull) line, and Henry Jones III (aka Mutt):
This size difference perplexed me quite a bit, considering how well scale and sizing had been done with the Star Wars figures. Then again, maybe Sean Connery and Shia LaBeouf had final say of their sculpts, and felt that their heads weren’t big enough.
And, if you really wanted to have some fun times with accessories, just try keeping Henry’s glasses on his face. The fact that those glasses are incredibly small, makes them easy to lose.
Of all the figures included in this wave, I felt the biggest disappointment was The Grail Knight (left). We all know he’s supposed to be incredibly old, but the articulation job on his legs is rather sad. Unlike the other figures, he cannot stand up straight. He has no ankle articulation, and the jointing of his legs, makes him look as if he’s about to collapse from exhaustion.
Even with a semi-decent paint-job, some semi-decent detail (as seen above), and the True Grail that comes with him, he’s probably one of the weakest in the line. In fact, I think this picture gives the figure more dignity, than if you were to see him in person.
Though there are 6 figures here, only 5 tie into the quest for the Grail. The sixth gives us Indy as we saw him in a previous adventure. Portrayed by River Phoenix, we saw the action-packed (yet semi-ludicrous) story of how Indy gained his penchant for uncovering lost relics, and the action-packed way he would escape from his would-be captors.
There has never been a number released on just how many boxes of the Last Crusade wave were made, but it surely had to have been a very small number compared to the summer of 2008’s releases.
I searched high and low at various stores, but in the end, I only managed to find them at one store: K-Mart. But even there, my searching only found me one figure: The Grail Knight.
Even this would be a briefly-lived triumph, as once I got him home and started to pose him, his left arm, from forearm-to-hand, snapped off!
Over the course of the next few years, I would slowly hunt these figures across the internet, and various comic conventions. The younger and regular Indy figures were the ones priced decently, but when it came to Elsa and Col Vogel, that was a different story. In-package, these two would often fetch prices of $18 and up. Luckily, I was able to find a few loose ones for around $8 apiece.
I often-times try not to ‘dream of what might have been,’ but when a line like this comes out to a popular film, one can’t help but imagine a lot of the missed opportunities for figure and vehicles.
The Last Crusade line is the only one where the main villain was not made into a figure. Walter Donovan (above left) went around through much of the film wearing a nice suit, and that might have made him less of a draw for Hasbro to release him.
However, I doubt actor Julian Glover (who played Donovan) felt bad about not having a figure in the Indy line…because he had already been immortalized in plastic several times in the Star Wars line. Just in case you didn’t know, Glover played the Imperial Officer known as General Veers in The Empire Strikes Back, leading the AT-AT’s against the rebel assault on Hoth.
It seems that bad guys for the figure series were not considered, unless they had a non-normal dress-style. Like the Rene Belloq figure from the Raiders line. Though Belloq wore suits as well, a figure was only produced of him wearing the ceremonial garb from the end of that film.
The only vehicle from the film that saw release, was a German soldier on a motorcycle (right). Many have mentioned that it would have been great to have released Indy and his Dad in a motorcycle/side-car set, but there was one vehicle that many would have loved to have seen on store shelves:
Almost noone can talk about this film without mentioning the action setpiece in the desert, with the German tank. However, it can be assumed that this vehicle would have run somewhere in the $100-$120 price range. With a price-point like that, the series would have had to have been selling like gangbusters before Hasbro would have committed to making it.
*Next Time: Indiana Jones and his cohorts managed to escape from the Temple of Doom…but would their action figures be doomed to never see the shores of the United States? Find out in Part 3 – The Winter of Indiana Jones*