Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Action Man: (Part Two) 1993 - 2006: The return.

From a collectors perspective, the 1993 return of Action Man figure was disappointing. To kids it was very exciting. The Hasbro figure seemingly learnt nothing of the lessons from the vintage Palitoy Action Man, which by its retirement was an exceptional toy that reached its final guise by a process of evolution. The new figure appeared to throw away the textbook and start again to a degree, and with it valuable lessons which could be learnt from the past. The new figure didn't hold complex poses, had clumsy hands that would not hold the new out-of-scale weapons, and was made crudely by comparison to its 30 year old 'father'. But children's play patterns had changed, a generation on, now the formula was to sell the figure and clothing and accessories in one purchase. Children were now more likely to reject the purchase of additional accessories at 80% the price of a new figure - they would rather pay the extra for another figure!
The original Palitoy Action Man had soul and a kind of dignity - His early uniforms were copies from the Second World War. It seemed every kid in the 1960s and 1970s had a Father, Uncle or Grandad who served during WWII and we as children acted out the heroic acts of those special family members with Airfix kits and Action Man. We all wanted the Astronaut figure when the Apollo 11 mission landed man on the moon.
The new Hasbro Action Man's initial uniforms by comparison were generic, contrived and unauthentic. The new Hasbro theme was an all-action fictitious hero, day-glo clad, multi-weaponed eco-warrior, positioned somewhere between James Bond and Indiana Jones (who had the scar first?) and any number of extreme sports personalities! The new Hasbro Action Man gained new foes such as Dr. X, No-Face and Professor Gangrene. Again, draw comparisons with all of James Bond's myriad of evil foes, with their signature clothing and clumsy henchmen! The Action figures came comparatively cheap, and typical children would own a multitude of figures, but uniforms and weapons were commonly bonded onto the figure so exchange of clothing and weapons, and ultimately inventiveness in play were now partly gone. Action Man's head sculpt changed many more times than the original, which is a strange policy to adopt, but the tell-tale Action Man trademark scar remained.
The innovative Hasbro packaging was a great improvement over the earlier Palitoy Action Man. A 'wall of orange' greeted children as they visited toy shops. Many more vehicles were created than before to enhance the Hasbro Action Man's new missions (or X-Missions!) - transport to come in handy on land, under the sea, across the snow or ready to traverse Dr.X's evil Island. Action Man had new allies too - the Australian skateboarding 'Flint', and Red wolf the Native American archery specialist.
Hasbro finally pulled the plug on Action Man with some remnants remaining in stores for early 2006 - now Hasbro was marketing the smaller Action Man A.T.O.M figures (Alpha Teens on Machines) easing these gently in (12" figures at first) to win the affections of the children and subtley replace the Action Man for good, the smaller plastic figure again positioned to be Action Man's new successors (David beats Goliath once again!)

1996 - Action Man Collector's Edition
Hasbro UK Ltd celebrated Action Man's 30th Birthday in 1996 with the issue of a 30th Anniversary Collector's Edition, limited edition boxed Action Man that was more akin to the original Action Man of 1966. He had painted hair, and many accessories based on the 30 year old recipe, only for some reason everything was at a larger scale. It came in a special edition window box, and included inside a reproduction box that was similar design to the first box, albeit in a shoe-box 2 piece shape. The limited edition number of five digits is to be found inkjeted in black to the small of his back. Because of its intended resemblance to it's 30 year old big brother, comparison of the two figures is inevitable. So compare if you will the two Action Men as they stand shoulder-to-chest! Note especially the height difference, and the size of the 1996 Action Man's hands!

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