Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 3 – The Winter of Indiana Jones
*Click Here to read Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 1 – The Summer of Indiana Jones
*Click Here to read Raiders of the Lost Toyline: Part 2 – The Fall of Indiana Jones
When last we left the Indiana Jones toyline, things were not looking so hot for Dr Jones and his cohorts. The summer had yielded a new film, that in turn, had yielded a return to Indiana Jones products in many different forms. However, when it came to action figures, children and toy collectors were treated to an avalanche of products. Not only were there figures for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but Hasbro had also released a figure line-up related to Indy’s first adventures, from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Stores across the nation were soon finding themselves in a fix, when their over-abundance of faith in Indiana Jones yielded plenty of product still left on the shelves. As such, when it came time to order the next round of action figures based on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, one could fine next to nothing on the shelves! I was lucky enough just to find a few figures at a couple nearby KMarts.
But that wasn’t the most bitter blow of all. Let us not forget, there was one more film that was to have action figures released to it: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. These figures were meant to be the final figure wave before the start of 2009, but as it seemed Indy-mania had died out several months ago, there wasn’t a single Big-Box retail store that even got the last line.
Though in a pre-Christmas miracle that year, I actually came across the remnants of a Temple of Doom case. When I visited Gepetto’s Toy Shop at Fashion Valley Mall in San Diego, CA, I came to a standstill when I found myself holding a carded Mola Ram figure! Figuring I’d never see another one like it ever again, I paid the full $13 fee, and walked out with it.
That would be the cheapest I think anyone would have for a carded Temple of Doom figure, as secondary market values on eBay pushed these figures into price ranges that I wasn’t willing to pay.
Then it seemed, salvation came in the form of the secondary market. Word was spreading about numerous sellers from China, selling bagged packs of 10 Indiana Jones figures, of which 6 of them were from the Temple of Doom line! I took a chance on purchasing the set, and found it a rather inexpensive way to complete my collection.
Once I got a good look at all six of the figures from Temple of Doom, I was hit with a feeling of sadness. The Crystal Skull line had shown that great sculpting could be had with these figures, and the TOD line showcased 6 that just screamed quality in numerous ways!
Out of all the films, Temple of Doom to me, seemed the perfect film that lent itself to action figures. Armies of Thugee warriors with swords, a daring minecar ride, and that great rope-bridge scene. These were things that kept me coming back to watch the film over and over again as a kid. For some reason, the ending of Raiders terrified me, but seeing a man’s heart pulled out of his chest didn’t phase me at all.
Speaking of heart-tugging, Mola Ram himself is probably the greatest figure of the entire 6. Hasbro even went the extra mile by making his ceremonial headdress removable, allowing you to pose him bald. But, that’s not all. Mola Ram also comes with a wrap of black-and-red cloth that can be draped around his body, as well as the skull-headed chalice from which the Blood of the Kali flowed, and…a flaming human heart that fits in his hand!
A close second is the sculpting done on Indiana Jones. Unlike his other appearances, Indy really had a major wardrobe change in this film. He not only loses his jacket, but his shirt gets torn to shreds during his time in the Temple of Doom. Needless to say, Harrison Ford got in shape for his close-up, and his action figure is pretty well done in replicating his look.
One area where this figure succeeds in a big way, is in its many details. His shirt is muddied, there’s a tear in his pant-leg, and he has whip marks on his back. But the most amazing feature is in the knapsack accessory that Indy has (see right). We could have just had a sculpted knapsack with strap, but they have made the flap on the knapsack able to be opened…and inside, we see the tops of two of the Sankara stones!
Bad guy-wise, the Thuggee army were definitely the kind that I could see someone buying multiples to pit against Indiana Jones. As well, the Chief Temple Guard whom Indy goes up against gets his own figure. In almost every Indy film, he always has to go up against a foe bigger than himself. Within the film, Indy and this guy have a major fight on a conveyor belt, and here, he’s pretty impressive with his build and whip. He’s so big, Indy just barely clears the guy’s shoulders in height!
Temple of Doom was a film that was more like the old Republic Serials than any of the other films, and that ridiculous, madcap (and somewhat illogical) feel to it, probably turned a lot of people away. In a sense, Lucas has often stuck to those serialized tangents (which to me, explains a lot about the Star Wars prequels, and how they’re structured).
Unlike the other films, this one takes place before the events of the others (yes, it’s a second film, yet…a prequel). So, Indy’s cohorts like Marcus Brody and Sallah are nowhere to be found. As such, a new group of sidekicks are at Indy’s disposal. An orphan Chinese boy named Short Round (left) is his close confidante, but on his latest journey, prissy nightclub singer Willie Scott finds herself roped into Indy’s latest adventure.
As a kid, I think Temple appealed to me because of Short Round (I’m half-Chinese, and seeing a boy like him on a big adventure must have struck a chord!). His figure is a pretty decent sculpt, and is the only “child” figure of the entire Indy line.
Willie Scott is probably to the entire series, what Jar Jar Binks is to Star Wars (actress Kate Capshaw has commented that even she found Willie’s prissy demeanor to be annoying). For her figure release, Willie is in her ceremonial garb as she is prepared for sacrifice to Kalima. The design on her dress reminds me of the quality Hasbro gave to the many dresses of Padme Amidala. The downside is that her poseability is constricted by her plastic skirt. If anything, it would have been more interesting to see her in her black-and-white outfit that we see her in after she leaves Shanghai.
If the sculpting on this line is something to crow about, “balance” is where my negatives come into play. The majority of the figures just can’t seem to stand up without some support. Mola Ram always has the most dramatic un-balancing act. When he topples over, every single accessory comes off. Short Round is fine without his accessories, but with them, both balance him out…otherwise, he goes splat.
Regarding possible playsets that could have been, a picture surfaced online of a prototype of the mine car that was utilized in the big chase near the end of the film. Vehicle-wise, there wasn’t really as much that could be done as the other films, though that Dusenberg Convertible Short Round drives through Shanghai could have been cool. I could see playsets such as the Thuggee temple, or even the suspension bridge scene at the end.
And thus, with the start of 2009, Hasbro quietly ushered out Indiana Jones like an old sardine. At Comic-Con in 2008, Hasbro had teased images of the upcoming Crusade and Doom lines…but also had offered a glimpse of figures for 2009, with one slide labeled that 5 figures from Raiders of the Lost Ark, would be on shelves starting 1/15/09. Of course, that day came and went like any winter day.
Many like myself were saddened at what had happened. To those of us who had been excited by the line, we were looking forward to the kind of figure quality and variety that Hasbro had given fans of Star Wars for years. But with the fandom for Indy not being what Hasbro had hoped for, we had to contend with the fact that figures of Marcus Brody, Walter Donovan, Harold Oxley, and even a Crystal Skull Marion Ravenwood…would never come to pass.
The doors to the temple had closed for good…or, had they?
*Next Time: At the end of 2008, it looked like the end of the (toy) line for Dr Jones and his friends. But, 3 years later, Hasbro gave the line one last gasp…a gasp that was heard, at Comic-Con 2011. Find out more in Part 4 – The (Late) Spring of Indiana Jones*