Sunday, January 30, 2011

R2-D2 Doll (Lili Ledy, 1979)

I know, I know. You're wondering why I'd post a picture of an old and tattered looking Kenner R2-D2 figure. Well, joke's on you! It's not what it appears to be.

The large fellow is actually a nearly seven-inch tall version of R2 that's modeled directly on the original 2-inch Kenner version. It's made by a company called Lili Ledy, which held the license to make Star Wars figures in Mexico.

This is one of my favorite Star Wars toys. It's just so weird! It's literally a four-up version of the R2 figure we know and love. From the sculpt to the chrome head to the sticker, it gets all the details correct -- just... bigger. The line between genius and madness is straddled by a large, plastic toy robot.

The large Lili Ledy R2 is pretty uncommon, and it's often found in... "played with"... condition. I've seen three for sale since I bought mine, and all looked even worse for wear. Maybe kids in Mexico were rougher on their toys or something.

Lili Ledy also made a standard size R2 action figure, and on a superficial level it looks pretty much exactly like the Kenner action figure. The small R2 featured in these photos is actually a Kenner toy. In fact, it's the very first Star Wars figure I bought when I got back into the hobby about three years ago.

Here's the Lili Ledy R2 next to a Kenner large R2 figure. Significantly different!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Surpise! Stuff You Never Expected To Like

Posted this in my other blog, the Attic of Astounding Artifacts, but hey, I'm allowed to plagiarize myself!

There are a number of items in my collection that, until I actually saw them in person, left me feeling lukewarm, at best. Their photos never did them justice, I guess, or maybe I just never saw anything about them that made them compelling. Whatever the reason, they were on my "meh" list, and I figured they'd never leave.

But then I'd see them in person, and it was like having a fire lit under me. I had to have 'em! And now that I do, I can't imagine ever letting them go.

So I'm wondering: What are some of the pieces in your own collections that surprised you with how much they've come to mean? Maybe it was something that went from zero to hero in a moment, or maybe it was something that grew on your over time. Regardless, tell me about the pieces that once were ignore, but now you'd never do without. Feel free to link to pictures if you're able.

I'll write about my own examples in a future post.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Gojira (Bullmark/1970s)

Here he comes, stomping your toy shelves to smithereens! Rarrrrrgh!

I love Japanese die cast toys. There's something satisfying about a toy made out of cold, heavy metal. Companies like Popy, Bullmark, Tokatoku, and others really knew how to cram as much quality and play value into a tiny package as possible. And as far as I'm concerned, it's hard to get much better than the King of the Monsters himself, Gojira! Or... if we must... Godzilla.

Run for your life!

This guy might be little, but he hides a big surprise. It's not enough that he sports articulation in his head, legs, shoulders, elbows, and jaw! It's not enough that his vinyl tale can (kind of) swing back and forth. Oh, no. Bullmark decided to push this giant lizard over the edge by turning him into a walking, fire-breathing, building crushing super base!

That's right! If you flip down Gojira's chest, you'll find the requisite missile launchers, a launch bay for what looks like an SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, a futuristic tank, some sort of telescoping observation post, and storage for two additional missiles.

What. The. CENSORED!

No, but seriously: Who designed this thing, and what sort of mind control were they operating under? Because there's just no way any normal, rational human being could come up with something this cool. Nope, uh-uh.

Gojira. With missile launchers. And a plane. In his chest!

Suck on that, Mothra.

Note the little handles on his shoulders. Because lifting the arms is too difficult?

Twin missile launchers. Also check out the tale, which is segmented and made of vinyl.

The front of the box. Love the Japanese block lettering and the classic Bullmark logo.

The back of the box is a riot of description -- none of which I can read. But the arrows all give a pretty good idea of what Gojira's supposed to do. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Killer Batman Fan Film: "The Rat"

If you guys are Batman fans -- and I know a number of you are -- you need to check out this short film by a director named Dale Fabriger. Dale's a buddy of mine out in sunny California, and he really knows his stuff. I suggest clicking through to YouTube and watching it in HD if you can.

Have I ever steered you wrong? Of course not. Watch the film.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Double Telescoping Lightsaber Prototype (Kenner, ca. 1978)

As I mentioned in this previous post on the Star Wars Early Bird kit, the Luke Skywalker figure with the double telescoping lightsaber (a.k.a. the "DT Luke") is one of my all-time favorite action figures. When I finally picked one up for my collection, I figured my DT lust couldn't be any more satisfied.

And then a fellow SW collector offered up a double telescoping lightsaber prototype for sale, and it was like my brain did a back flip into a pool made of awesome. Of course I had to get it!

I made this stand using pieces from a wrecked 12-back card. The description of the lightsaber use is specific to the DT saber; it was used even after Kenner abandoned this version of the toy, though they did change the text on later versions of the 12-back card.

The prototype DT lightsaber differs from the final production piece in many ways. First, note the upward curve. This is because the saber was attached to its sprue (the plastic frame that models are initially part of when being molded) by only one point. As the plastic cured and hardened, it curved upwards. Later sabers were attached to the sprue at three points to prevent this bowing.

Second, you can see bits and pieces of flash -- jagged plastic edges -- at both the front and rear of the piece. This is because the lightsaber was quickly manufactured in only small batches at the Kenner headquarts, without any of the precision and quality control you'd find at a larger factory. Since it wasn't intended for the public, no one was worried about making it look pretty.

And finally, perhaps the coolest difference: The saber is translucent. There are a couple theories floating around as to why Kenner used translucent plastic for this round of the DT prototype. One of them is that it was so engineers and execs could actually see the double telescoping mechanism. Another is that Kenner might have possibly considered making the saber translucent -- hey, it's supposed to be made of light -- and were just trying out the material or something. (The former theory comes from someone who really knows a lot about these toys; the latter is my own random speculation and has no real evidence to support it.)

Light shining behind the saber shows how the inner piece fits into the body.

1. Close up of the translucent effect; 2. & 3. Bits of flash from the molding process.

1. More flash; 2. The break point where the prototype was attached to the sprue; 3. The handle is marked "MM," which designates the mold used; 4. More flash along the saber's top edge.

Prototype collecting is a big part of the Star Wars hobby, and there are many people out there with amazing collections of pre-production items. I know people who own the original design drawings for Darth Vader figures, clay sculpts, card artwork, you name it. Pick a stage in the manufacturing process and you'll find collectors out there who own pieces from it.

Unfortunately, it's also a potentially expensive part of the hobby, and I don't really expect to own much other pre-production stuff. It doesn't help that I'm attracted to the earliest Star Wars toys -- prototype material is much less common, much more desirable, and way harder to get than stuff from the later part of the toys' runs.

But that's okay. If I can have only one piece, for me, the DT prototype is really the piece to have. So I'm pretty happy!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Kikaider Figure (Popy, 1970s)

A few years ago, I got into Japanese vinyl toys in a big way. I was specifically drawn to the character Kikaider, a cyborg super hero who liked to strum the guitar when he wasn't using karate to beat the hell out of a variety of weird, mutant monsters. He starred in his own show in the Seventies, and the episodes I've seen here in the States are a lot of fun.

I had a pretty good collection of vinyl Kikaider figures going, but I ultimately decided, for a variety of reasons, to divest myself of my vinyl collection. I never regretted it -- the money bought me a couple amazing vintage robots ray guns -- but I always did wish I'd hung on to a few of the Kikaiders.

I most missed this odd version made by Popy, at the time a division of Bandai in Japan. So when one popped up not too long ago on eBay, I had to bid. Toy Karma was on my side, and I was able to return the figure to my collection.

I love the transparent -- okay, translucent with age -- vinyl, and all the cardboard inserts. Look, technology! Sort of!

The tinsel in the head is great, too. It makes absolutely no sense, but it looks so awesome. Vibrant, shiny colors are never wrong.

I don't feel much need to get any of the other Kikaiders in my past collection. I mean, okay, there's a little itch in the back of my head -- I am a collector, after all -- but I'm pretty cool with just this guy. He's not the rarest, but I always considered him the jewel of my collection on account of how fun he looks. I was definitely grinning when I opened the package the day he arrived.

I actually won the baggy, header card, and insert with this toy as well, but stupid me, I forgot to take photos. If I get around to it, I'll update this post. The artwork's not too complicated, but it's still really neat.


Hey guys and gals. For some reason, Blogger didn't alert me via email that I had any comments... But I've since tweaked the settings and all should be good. If you've commented on anything thus far, your comments have been added.

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