SMALL SOLDIERS (HASBRO)
When it comes to 90s movies about toys that are actually alive, most people remember Toy Story. Or, on the more horrific side, Child’s Play. I’m not knocking either of those (well, maybe Child’s Play; not really my thing) but my go-to movie of this odd sub-genre is hands down Small Soldiers. The movie was, at best, a modest success, but it had some pretty awesome people involved. It was directed by Joe Dante (of Gremlins fame), featured the vocal talents of Tommy Lee Jones and Frank Langella (to say nothing of featuring the likes of Kirsten Dunst, David Cross, and Phil Hartman in live action roles), had visual effects by industry legend Stan Winston, a score by Jerry Goldsmith, and is one of the earliest examples of a film making use of a Led Zeppelin song. It’s an awesome movie. Toy makers Hasbro were brought on as consultants for the designs of the film’s lively action figures, and in return were given the rights to produce the film’s tie-in toys. Sadly, they weren’t quite as successful as they were in the film. Today, I’ll be looking at Archer, emissary of the Gorgonites, the heroic faction of action figures.
THE FIGURE ITSELF
Archer was released in the initial 1998 assortment of Small Soldiers figures from Hasbro. The figure stands 6 ¾ inches tall and has 6 points of articulation. Here’s where we encounter the primary issue with these figures: articulation. The toys seen in the movie had a lot of articulation (they had to be able to move around in a fairly humanistic manner). The real life toys had 6 points, all cut joints. Letdown doesn’t begin to describe the articulation here. It’s made worse by the fact that the sculpt clearly emulates the articulation seen in the movie, but leaves it motionless. Clearly, they wanted the figures to be cost-effective, and that didn’t allow for the proper articulation. I’m not sure what the best fix would have been (short of charging more per figure), but there’s no denying that this is a major failing of these figures. With that out of the way, how does the rest of the figure fair? Not badly, actually. The sculpt does a pretty good job of capturing the toy design from the movie, especially the upper half. The proportions have been tweaked ever so slightly, making him a bit more squat than his movie counterpart, but it’s not that far off. One thing that is a bit off is the pose, which has Archer’s back totally straight, despite the character in the movie always having a slight hunch. It definitely throws off the appearance of the figure, which is a shame. On the plus side, the detail work on the sculpt is pretty great, and captures a lot of the smaller details seen in the movie. The paint on Archer is definitely a step down from what was seen in the movie, but that’s fair, since the one in the movie was a professionally painted prop, and this is a mass-produced figure. Given the circumstances, he’s not bad. The best work is on the head, which exhibits some surprisingly subtle work in a few spots. The rest of the figure is reasonable enough, especially for the time. There are a few details that go unpainted, but the general application is pretty solid. Archer was packed with a crossbow (with launch-able missile) and a knife. Mine, however, does not have those pieces.
THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION
By the time I saw Small Soldiers (on VHS; I didn’t see it in theatres) the first assortment of figures had pretty much totally sold through. So, I had to settle for a weird variant version of Archer, which was the only Small Soldiers figure I owned for a good long while. When I finally had the resources to go pack and find some of the others, most of the figures had rather high after-market prices. Last October, at the suggestion of my friend Cindy Woods, I checked out 2nd Chance Toyz, a cool nearby shop that carry all sorts of older toys. They had Archer for an exceptionally reasonable price, so I picked him up. Sure, he’s not as cool as the figure in the movie, but he’s still a pretty fun toy in his own right. And that’s the important part!