Powered By Blogger

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Vintage Cloud City Figure and Vehicle Reviews from Kenner

 "I see a city in the clouds."  It's here where I think a lotta Star Wars fans had to find a new appreciation.  At least in my case, I never liked this whole part of the movie as a child.  It's the absolute lowest point for all of the characters; Han is frozen, C-3PO destroyed, Luke's defeat and revalation, Leia and Chewbacca losing Han, Lando's betrayal, Cloud city ultimately is captured by the Empire.  I even thought how much it must have sucked or all of the characters being separated as long as they where.  Think about it, in Star Wars they are all together for most of the film time that they know each other. In Empire Strikes Back, after Hoth they aren't all back together until after Han is unfrozen and they are escaping from Jabba the Hutt.  (if you read or are familiar with Shadows of the Empire, this is a long time span)   So anyway, this portion of the film, although it had a few well done action sequences, just never seemed right.  I kind of hated the whole look of Bespin which I guess is the point since the whole place is made to make us feel like a double-cross is about to happen.  It seems too "World's Fair" to me, and although it stands out as a positive for actually being a good call (one of the only) for George Lucas to fix it in the special edition by making it look more vibrant and bigger, it just never was a winner in my book. 

That said, it did produce some interesting entries into the Kenner vintage figure line, but again, I never cared that much for this part of the movie so I only got around to getting all but three figures (Han, Lando, Cloud Car Pilot)  until this year to complete the set.  Re-enacting Bespin was never a priority of mine.   Shown above was another Bespin item I never had, the Cloud City Playset which was a four figure packed set with a plastic base, some peg holes and a cardboard background. I do like the little freezing chamber they have.  This set was rereleased under the Power of the Jedi collection completely revamped and retooled and looks like one of the cooler semi-modern playsets you can get.
 Ralph McQuarrie's concept art

 What we have is the compiled set of Bespin related figures (Boba Fett and Luke with Bespin Fatigues aren't included and I guess 3PO with removeable limbs counts but he'll be in my droids collection review)  We have Han Solo Bespin Outfit, Bespin Guard (black), Leia in Bespin Gown, Lobot, Bespin Guard (white), Cloud Car Pilot, Lando Calrissian, and Ugnaught.  Next to them is the only vehicle which came from Bespin, the Twin Pod Cloud Car.  All of these items were produced for the Empire Strikes Back line from Kenner in 1980.

 First up are Han and Leia, (they remind me of a bride and groom).  Han is actually a really well done rendition of Harrison Ford and besides small head original Solo, it's one of the only ones where they get it right.  He comes with a Bespin pistol which was released with almost every figure of the ESB line.  They change him up enough from his New Hope mold, making him more broad shouldered and better proportioned which worked well to match Ford's change in physique between the first and second film.  All I knew when I was younger was that his jacket was different.  I liked him and he was my default Han of choice to play with.

Leia...well....for toy makers it seems kinda hit or miss with Leia and this one is a miss, my version looks ridiculous.  Fortunately, this is really the only Leia figure in the vintage line that really misses on Leia's likeness.  Her face is so off kilter and her eyes so close together and her neck is massive.  In my eyes, she's just not a good figure. They tried to sculpt the dress into her legs and it looks like a metal workers apron.  They cape was the only nice feature with really good patterning, (which I do not have since the seller sold me a repro "Complete" which was just the crappy pink job seen below)  However, there are better produced variants of this Leia that do make her look more feminine as well as a "turtle necked" version of her however none make her look like Carrie Fisher. She gets the Standard Leia Blaster that she used once in the first scene of New Hope. (Set for Stun)

 Here, we have Lando Calrissian and Lobot, the two main characters of Bespin.   Lando is the city's chief administrator and Lobot is his cyborg humanoid robot security leader. (I guess?)  I don't know, I guess they really wanted us to have some great times as children recreating Cloud City scenes so they felt it necessary to produce every single person you saw during this part of the movie.  Meanwhile we never got a Dr. Evazan, Grand Moff Tarkin, Imperial Officers in green (Piett, Needa, Ozzel, Motti), Sandtrooper, Cantina Band, Mon Mothma, and so on?  These by no means are bad figures.  They are well done molds who capture the feel of the characters nicely.

As for Lando, I think they made way too dark for Billy Dee Williams.  He got a nice vinyl cape and is well proportioned.  I say this because his POTF2 model is a disaster since they give him a bear hug pose, a 12 pack set of abs and a hard plastic cape that falls off.  The Kenner model also gets a standard Bespin Blaster.  They also have him in two variants, smiling and straight faced. He does smile a lot so I guess that was an okay call for Kenner.

Lobot is a very basic figure.  Another reveiwer on Youtube said he's the easiest figure to find in great like new condition since no kids ever played with him.  Honestly, what would you do with this figure who just walks around and has no dialogue.  Seriously, his big moment was opening his eyes when his head pods blink.  He has tight joints, a basic Bespin blaster and (not shown) has some decent paint detailing on the back of his head piece, which was a nice surprise when I got him compete for 1.99. haha.
 This pair of figures are the Bespin guards.  They come in both Caucasian and African American mode (I guess this would be African Besponian?)  Again, background characters that you would need to play a Bespin scene out.  They are actually really well made figures and aren't just repacks.  They both have completely distinct separate sculpts from head to toe, different stances and nice detailing.  Their faces are expressive although, again, the black guard is just way too dark even compared to the actor they based him off of.  Both come with Bespin blasters.
I never got them until this year but I like them a lot and they are figures you need as a pair.  The gold piping and leafing on their jackets are my favorite touch and I think it was a good call for kenner to not give them white turtlenecks as shown in their cardbacks.  Probably Kenner being cheap saving on white paint but still good call nonetheless.

Lastly, we have the Cloud Car Pilot and the Ugnaught.  The Ugnaught's actually are a pretty necessary character since they freeze Han and try to melt down C-3PO, what little bastards for being in the film for about a minute.  They seem like the city's technichians.  The figure comes with a cloth tie around apron (variants are in blue and purple and apparently red although I've never seen that one) which is know to fray very easily and a small white tool case accessory which is a very expensive after market item to get and sellers know this since Ugnaught is probably a big last figure many collectors get around to getting to finish their collections off.  His sculpt is nice and has an apron molded into his body in case you lose the original and his head has good paint with white hair, tusks and little devil eyes on him.

The Cloud Car Pilot is possibly the most ridiculous figure ever made for the line.  Honestly, I don't even know where they dug up the production shot of him in the Cloud Car since you never saw him in the original film.  He even looks more like a Voltron character to me but is a neat item.  He's a all white figure so that means a lot of him you find will have some yellowing. (as mine does)   He came with a communicator in his left hand and blaster in his right.  He also got a different weapon, the TIE pilot blaster.  The guys at Kenner must have been laughing their asses off since his vehicle has two seats so kids would have to get two of this dude.  At least in the special edition, you see more of him if not for a split second. 

 The last item from the Kenner toy line for Bespin was the only vehicle they produced for the line (they made a Bespin inspired mini-rig but I wouldn't say that counts)  This is the Twin-Pod Cloud car.  Nice box art depicts a pretty well done scene even though the figures are all standing on what looks like clouds.  This is a pretty simple vehicle, it had two standing legs under each pod to make it look like it was flying or hovering but they weren't made that strong and it tends to sloutch.  There is a faux computer screen on the inside and fits the pilots well, with a hinged plasti-glass canopy over head. It is a pretty loud shade of orange with 4 decals in total for the computers and the center engine portion.  It is nicely made to scale and serves its' purpose as the security vehicles for Bespin.  Again, barely seen in the original film but shown more extensively in the special editions in the background and when they are harassing/escorting the Millenium Falcon. 

Shown below,  we have really the only cool playset or item produced for cloud city which I never had and the later Micro Machines set which mirrors it shown above.   It was the Micro Collection Bespin World.  Look at it, it came in three separate pieces you could buy on their own or as this final compelted set.  It was a diecast precursor to micro machines and God it looks so much better. Compare it to the Darth Vader Bespin head playset shown above which was creative but severely limited.  The old one has everything from the carbon chamber, the window Vader shoots Luke through, the duel scene, to the "I am your father" scene.  with a ton of well posed and detailed mini-figures!  I always loved the look of these playsets.  Hoth and the Death Star looked really cool and were jam packed with features and they even had Return of the Jedi sets in the works before Kenner pulled the plug on the Star Wars line.  Damn...

Friday, March 30, 2012

Standout Birthday Toys over the Years

My wife, God bless her, gave me a great idea.  She suggested since I'm doing a toy blog and it's my birthday to feature some of the toys I remember getting for previous birthdays while growing up.  Here's the deal,  I'll show the piece and say a word or two about it.  Let's go!

 By far the earliest toy I ever remember getting, the Peanut's Gane Snoopy Pound a Ball Pinball machine produced in 1978 which I got it in 1985 for my third birthday.  How I got one, I have no idea.  I just remember loving it and it breaking soon afterwards.
 This one I remember because I've seen pictures of me playing playing with it on my fourth birthday when it fell on Easter Sunday that year.   I'm in my little pastel suspenders rocking out with the dragon walker in my grandfather's back yard.  Good times had by all.  I also remember getting this bitch'n Mask Condor cycle...That was definitely brought in for show and tell!

 Up next was my fifth birthday 1987, it was a dinosaur year for me and Definitely Dinosaurs was the way to go.  I remember getting a ton of dino related stuff but this guy was the standout winner.  (would have preferred dino-riders but can't complain, haha)

1989, Age 7:  On my seventh birthday (bowling party) got me this sweet-ass Arctic Blast, one of the only Joe vehicles I ever got in the box.  It was a hit most definitely.
  1990, age 8: Holy hell, my eight birthday was insane, got the lego sets in my Easter basket, the Super Soaker 50 and the video games all came from my God Parents and neighbors.  Let those good times roll, baby! 

 Btw, They were three damn good games too.  Tropics was the absolute best though, hands down.

 1992, age 10: This was an absolute monster of a set! I got this number at Toys R Us in Wilkes Barre and it took me all of Sunday to complete it.  Remember The Ten Commandments being on while I built it.  It set the mood nicely. :)

 1994, age 12:  Purchased this baby with my birthday money, and trying like hell to hook it up on my own, stupid metal prongs!   I remember getting Dragon's Lair too and not being able to play it because I was assigned to read the Hobbit over the weekend, I just remember reading that book made me want to take on the Lair even more!

 1995, age 13: distinctly remember eating tacos, it raining really hard that day and getting Spawn Issue 4 fromy my parents who paid wayyyy too much for the only issue I didn't have of the series. 
1997, age 15: a year a little too old for some to be getting toys,  I didn't care.   The Power of the Force line was just getting off the ground and I clamoured for the chance to get these rereleases since my only shot at these toys were half broken flea market finds in my earlier years.  This one was a nice item because it was an exact match of the old-school kenner version even if the figures looked like hell.

Birthday Review!!! Kenner Bounty Hunters Review and Hasbro Comparisons

"Bounty hunters!?  We don't need their scum."   Who would ever think that a 40 second clip from a movie would spawn six such iconic characters? Five of which you never hear from or see (unless you possess a keen eye) again.  This review shall exist to serve as a measureable comparison between the old 1980 kenner figures and the new vintage collection figures of the past few years.  Lets start with a group shot, shown above is the classic group shot, below is the modern collection.  These characters also serve as an absolute measure of difference between how great the original trilogy is and how horrible its subsequent prequels are.  The reviewer Mr. Plinkett said something along the lines of  "how is it that a nothing character like IG-88 so much more interesting qualities than Gloomu Uptoo or Dexter Jexter?"  A valid question.

Close ups are provided as well as cover and cardback art as well to give a full rendition of what both kenner and hasbro did with their figures.
First up, like you had to ask, is Boba Fett:

You can see the great attention to detail they put into both figures.  Boba Fett was an instant sensation since he was revealed as a mailaway "mystery" figure as a kenner promotional long before the Empire Strikes back came out in theaters leaving kids to wonder, "who's this Fett character?" He was originally slated to have a spring loaded rocket firing feature which was pulled in the prototype phase due to concerns over potential injuries.  Some of these prototypes made it out of Kenner's in house production labs and can pull the price tag of 20,000.00 (Jordan Hembrough sold one on Toy Hunters for 17,000 dollars at NY Comic Con) or more depending on the backpack model (known as J or L slot version)  You can see on my reverse shot that his rocket is included it was simply glued in place.  Fett also made his first appearance on the animated portion of the Star Wars holiday special and (as goofy as he looked) pretty much stood out as the only positive thing to come from it.  Boba fett is by far one of the most iconic and favored Star Wars figures in the canon and even by 1978 standards he is a very well painted and detailed figure with detailing on his helmet, armor and wrist guns.   I'm also showing the 1995 Shadows of the Empire version of Fett who was released in two color variations. (I had the Empire version of him)  Not a bad figure but still a bit "meatier" with the Hasbro POTF puffed out chest and bow legged stance...ehhh.

The modern rendition by far outranks the old one with super detailed features, a pistol, holster, wiring for his grappeling and flame cannon, a sawed-off blaster, a removable helmet and rocket pack and a cloth multitextured cape.  They even sculpted in Wookie pelts and a small rubberized but highly detailed targeting reticle.  In my heart I still have a warm place for the vintage guy because I found him and Weequay (my favorite skiff guard)  in the Twin Pod Cloud Car I got at the flea market for dirt cheap and luckily it was the only time I ever saw a vintage Fett for sale out of all the times I returned to the Star Wars sellers.  Memories.

Boba was produced in various stages throughout the modern line.  He was offered through two separate mail-away offers; the first being a reproduction of the rocket firing vintage fett looking like the 1977 model in 2010 and the second being a release of the prototype white armor Fett from Ralph McQuarrie when he was only supposed to be a "super storm trooper" in 2011.  I only got my hands on the prototype Fett, sadly.  Also, he was release on numerous cardbacks with the headings Empire Strikes Back , Return of the Jedi, or the Revenge of the Jedi which was originally realeased at the 2011 SDCC in an 11 pack encased in a huge second death star package but eventually released as a chase set in various retailers.   I also am showing that the Empire and Return/Revenge models had very different paint jobs to show the differences between the two film's depictions of fett.  In Return/Revenge his suit is a lighter blue/grey, his helmet is darker with less paint variation, his rocket pack has way more color on it with burgundy and gold, his wrist guards are now burgundy, his ammo pouches go across his entire waist and his thigh pouches are tan instead of gray.  Totally worth getting and, in all reality, I think the Return of the Jedi version is the one we all remember more commonly.

Moving down the line, (finally) we go into Bossk.  Another cool character who got a lot more attention paid to him in recent years through the Clone Wars cartoon.  Besides a bit of an alien grunt he makes at then Captain Piett there's not much more to him in the film.  His race is Sauren and he was known to work with various hunters, Boba Fett being one of them.  If you keep your eyes peeled you can see him on Jabba's Sail Barge.  There are shots you can see at  skiff guards . com.  Anyway, Let's take a look at the figure.

I have him next to a Zuckuss (misnamed, we'll get that next) cardback...  You can see what I mean about these characters, as awesome as they became, being pretty much afterthoughts being that the production photos chosen from the figures even look like they were dug up.  Even the group shots for pre-production don't have all 6 bounty hunters together.  I remember thinking how cool it was when I finally got to see him in somewhat action in the Dark Forces PC game, even though you had to fight dozens of him.

  You can see that the retooled version is definitely better produced with an actual flight harness a moveable collar piece, super detailed painting including the face, the leg grenades, his gun, patches; he's just an awesome figure.  He looks way more menacing too the way he did in the film instead of the older one who just kinda looks a little dopey.  (don't get me wrong, I love all of the simple charm about the old figures. But really look at those faces and tell me which one's better?)  Also Bossk was released alongside a Snowtrooper and IG-88 in a great Imperial Three pack Target exclusive for 17.00.  Great price for three modern figs.

Next we have a dual set of misnamed bounty hunters 4-LOM and Zuckuss.  This is a case of mistaken identity which still carries on today because of Kenner putting the reverse names on the cardbacks. 4-LOM really is the silver metal robot with the 4 long alphanumeric droid code standing for For Love of Money (which I hated in his back story...bit cheesy for me) and Zuckuss was an insectoid cloaked bounty hunter.  I always thought they were related even as a kid because of their such similar heads and apparently they are a team who work together on jobs and even have a double agent story about working with the rebellion.  Zuckuss' (4-LOM's) cardback is above with Bossk's lets look at 4-LOM's (Zuckuss').
Always thought the 4-LOM pic was cool and he was the only bounty hunter I never had as a kid.  Although my friend Tim gave me his plastic chest piece in second grade along with an Imperial Royal Guard, a Tusken Raider and an AT AT drive... Score. haha.

The misnomer went as far as even to have them released again on the incorrect cards as a Bounty Hunters exclusive with modern sculpts with vintage paint jobs.  Cool two pack and revisit into action figure history.

Lets look at the two sets of figures:

4-Lom really doesn't have all that much different besides the improved paint on his head, his rusting effect and his little red chest insignia.  I liked how they made him look more droid like in articluation but the old 4-Lom was a good figure in my eyes, like an angry C-3PO.  I liked how clean he was and he was a very stiff jointed figure for a flea market purchase.  The only thing I didn't like about him was his rudolph red nose.  Whatever that was about, I have no idea.  Not pictured is his weapon which is one of the biggest guns you got for a Kenner vintage figure, it was really fat though and not at all like the really cool rifle the modern LOM gets.  I love the fact that you can prop him on his gun with the new figure as well.

Zuckuss is another cool unsung character in my opinion even as a figure.  Generally, he's got a lot going on in both versions and I absolutely love that!  The old one has a full pleather coat with great stitching, a plastic harness to hold it wall together with fine detailing and almost a sawed off shotgun looking blaster.  I remember seeing him in comic stores without any of his accessories as a bare figure for 5.00 and that was just not doing it for me.  I found mine complete on ebay for 3.60 which was an amazing deal and if you ever do buy the old guy with no cape and such, there are sellers who make repro coats for him.   The modern figure is super cool with a similar gun that he can hold across the waist (nice feature) shin guards, a stained dark cloth cape and rubberized plastic chest plate, detatchable air hoses and a separate backpack (not detatchable) for the hoses to plug into.  The head sculpt is a nice touch too but all in all pretty similar to the original however I must say he's really short (I guess to scale?) and has a little trouble standing but comes with a stand. In my opinion, Kenner really nailed the original and amazingly enough Hasbro was able to find ways to improve an already awesome figure.  Bravo.

Onto IG-88.  A pretty badass designed figure, standing menacingly in the background. There are two backstories to him which seem to clash in my mind that Boba Fett destroys his ship (or decoy ship) in Shadows of the Empire but Wookipedia says that IG-88 was secretly leading a droid revolution on the Death Star during the battle of Endor where he was untimately destroyed.  Eh, whatever, this is why, besides Dark Empire I never got into side stories.  I loved the figure and always thought of him as like the T-800's grandpa.  He came with two guns (one of the few kenner figures who got two besides Bespin and Jedi Luke)  and was a super detailed sculpt which was actually reused and just a repaint in the POT2/SOTE 95 line.  Side Note: Looking back it kinda pisses me off how much the POTF2 line seemed to slack by either destroying any mold they tried to do on their own (monkey face leia, sasquatch chewbacca) or just ripping off the Kenner molds.  Also, I remember him being a great boss fight in Shadows of the Empire and him having like a menacing dot matrix printer sound when he walked. Don't know how accurate that is to the canon but it stood out and worked for me.

Lets look at the figure:

Even as a classic, he was a huge figure and I think the tallest along with EV-9D9 but the modern one is even taller.  They did a great job with the Kenner version from the paint, size, shape and sculpt.  The weapons fit firmly in place and they have a neat long rifle for him and a stormtrooper blaster as his secondary weapon.  He straight up looks like a killing machine which is what his purpose is. 
The new Hasbro model is great too (although very delicate)  He has amazing detail in the tubing and wirings interconnecting his joints, he has a nice rifle mold, a double articulated head and a long vibro blade with holster on his back for that and an addition one for his smaller imperial model rifle.  The weapons also have grooves in the handles to fit nicely into his now bendable and rotatable arms. Great figure that I got as a three pack for 7 dollars with Zuckuss and Bossk with free shipping, holy cow!

Last and least is my least favorite.  It is Dengar who I never cared for... poor Dengar.  Our final bandaged bounty hunter and shortest tall figure released.  He's just goofy looking and one of those figures you get to simply complete your set. I got my old one in a mass buy with a collectors case and my new one came in a three back with the AT-AT driver and Imperial naval officer so you can see how much I went out to get him.  I'm sorry for not being objective but he just doesn't do anything for me.  Let's take a look.

Notice they did make him taller for his modern figure.  As crappy as I think the old one is, (he didn't even get a unique rifle but a repacked Snowtrooper rifle) the modern does show some major improvements.  His paint is nice, he has a removeable backpack, extra blaster, a great long rifle and removeable... cod piece?  Okay...  Even the newer expression is great and looks like at least a bad guy whereas the older version just has kind of a dopey blank face on him.   I guess if you read his back story he is supposed to be expressionless since he cannot feel emotion but whatever.  The Kenner version's backback was stuck to him always making him tough to stand, he head seemed too small and his paint was boring... God, I'm sorry for hating so bad on him but I can say the silver lining is that his newer counterpart was a very pleasant surprise when I got him in the three pack.  Nice work Hasbro! Also, he too resurfaced in Return of the Jedi lurking around in Jabba's palace.