The death of adventure

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With Kingdom of the Crystal Skull released for home consumption this past week, it’s a good time to discuss what I consider the best thing to come out of it: Hasbro’s Indiana Jones toy line. However, much like a certain Thuggee temple, it was doomed from the start.

The concept seemed like a no-chilled-monkey-brainer. As per the standard Hollywood promotion, the Indy line was launched last May, shortly before the new film, and began with assortments of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull figures, with Last Crusade and Temple of Doom waves following in June/July and September/October, respectively. To add to their value, each figure came with a special “hidden” boxed artifact to turn us into amateur archaeologists. I was so excited by the line that it got me back into action figure collecting after years of squandering my money buying other plastic things.

The Raiders assortment was especially notable for being an assumed remake of the long-forgotten and failed 1982 line that followed shortly (if not a bit late) after the film’s initial release. The new figures of course featured Indy (two of them!), Marion, Sallah, and Belloq, but also the all-important Monkey Man and the flashy Cairo Swordsman, who suffered a frustrating death from the business end of Harrison Ford’s diarrhea…er, Indy’s pistol. The Crystal Skull figures followed suit with Indy (two of them!), that new kid Mutt (two of them!)…and you can probably see where I’m going with this.

Overall, I liked the figures. They were definitely flawed: the likeness of Harrison Ford was a definite bust on the Raiders figures; paint applications were sloppy throughout and made his eyes look cartoonish, and some figures suffered from poor articulation. They were about on level with Hasbro’s ubiquitous Star Wars line, which is an apt comparison considering the fan base cross-pollination between these two Lucasfilm properties. In any case, I picked up a few of the figures from these initial waves, the results of which you can see here from this old thread of mine.

The movie came and went. It was a box office smash, sure, but reactions amongst fans ranged from brash to apocalyptic. Me? As an ex-Star Wars geek, I had already survived Ragnarok once with Episodes I through III; Crystal Skull was nowhere near their subterranean level, but still not as good as Indy’s ’80s adventures. Besides, Indiana Jones-wise, I was looking forward to something more important — the figures from my favorite Indy films, Last Crusade and Temple of Doom.

The Last Crusade wave had musts like Dr. Elsa “Jones two-timer” Schneider and the pithy Nazi Colonel Vogel, but the star of the show was the Sean Connery figure, a.k.a. Dr. Henry Jones. Online pictures showed a near-perfect likeness of Connery, and demand for him ensured he would be a tough find. When June came, I searched for this wave everywhere I went. Then July. Then August. Then September came, and it was rumored and then confirmed that Hasbro was pulling the plug on the line. Temple of Doom would be the last wave released to retail. Of course, the Fates were toying with me all along: I found the Sean Connery figure in the wake of this dire announcement at an out-of-the-way KB Toys.

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My own experience highlights the real problems of the entire line. The first and more pressing issue is that the figures didn’t seem to be selling at all. My local stops like Wal-Mart and Toys R Us always seemed to have pegs bustling over with the same four Indy figures and two Mutts, with no room for anything new. Some sleuthing online also showed the poor allocations within the case assortments (a.k.a. how the figures are shipped to retailers): new figures like Connery were shipped one per case alongside a couple Crystal Skull Indys and Mutts. Hasbro has insisted that those Indy and Mutt figures were their biggest sellers, but to fans, hearing that is akin to being stuck in a refrigerator with Willie Scott constantly screaming, only to be nuked to a co-Nazi-Communist rally, survive, and find out that the whole thing was carefully orchestrated by aliens who were being operated by CG gophers.

Messy paint applications, over-saturation caused by bad case assortments and distribution, and an overall negative fan reaction to the new film prevented this line from being anything other than a short-lived movie tie-in. Even the “hidden artifacts” turned out to be a bit of a sham; most of them were scaled for twelve-inch figures, making them pretty much worthless for the smaller size.

A true shame, as the overall quality of the line increased exponentially with successive waves; I have the full authority to say that the Dr. Henry Jones figure is one of the best toys ever released. As for the Temple of Doom wave, it looks like it might be even better than that! I can’t say for sure, though, as I’ve only seen them in pictures online, and it’ll remain that way for a while, possibly forever. Who knows (besides eBay)?

It appeared Hasbro was planning for this line to be sustainable, as a second wave of Raiders figures was planned for next year that included necessary characters like melty-face Toht. However, due to the line’s failure and subsequent axe murder, that wave was forever dumped into a crate, nailed shut, and stored in a warehouse until Hasbro needs to melt some plastic to make a few more Darth Vader variations. There have been rumblings of a fifth Indy movie, so any hope for further figures might rest on that hope. I would kill to see a “Nuked the Fridge” pack that comes with Indy and an in-scale lead-lined refrigerator for infinite immortal play possibilities. And CG gophers.

11 thoughts on “The death of adventure

  1. Those toys look absolutely awful. Greatest toy ever released?

    Interesting read either way. I used to love the old Star Wars toys, mediocre paint jobs and all.

  2. You have blown my mind that his hat comes off. I just went downstairs to try it out, and his glasses come off too! Wow! I’m totally going to lose them! :(

    The oversized grail he comes with is not useless to him. He can use it as a hat, and that is exactly what I did upon opening the package.

    I morn the loss of my chance to get a tiny little cute Shawn Connery, though. God, I love the fill in the blank Heroes line so much.

  3. Let me just ask, in a totally non-sarcastic way: do you love Temple of Doom in SPITE of the crazed orientalism and really-not-very-subtle racism, or do you just somehow not NOTICE these things? I mean, the part of me that likes the movie mainly likes it because it’s just so fascinating to watch these weirdly anachronistic neuroses play themselves out in such a naked, unadorned way, but at the same time they really ARE pretty offensive, and in spite of the dubious entertainment value of gaping incredulously at them, they make it very difficult for me to accept that it’s really a “good” movie in the same way that Ark and Crusade are.

    (and can I just take the opportunity to say that, since we’ve had a movie featuring evil Hindus as the villains, I want the next one to feature evil Jews. Turnabout is fair play, right? It would be Eldersofzionerrific!)

  4. The whole movie is just a bunch of caricatures. One of them, Indiana Jones, is especially badass in this film.

    But believe me, I have no intention of betraying Shiva anytime soon.

  5. the whole can’t find one figure because they keep shipping a ratio of 3 of the one nobody wants to the 1 everyone is looking for per case and the store won’t order any more until they sell off the figures nobody is looking for reminds me a lot when I collected starwars figures. Its nice to see Kenner hasn’t changed in over 15 years. I could never find that damn Lobot anywhere.

  6. This site is quickly becoming the spiritual successor to (and that’s a good thing!).

    Forget the figures, where the hell did you get that “playset” with the mini Harry Potter poster and that picture of Mathilda on the wall?

  7. That playset is from an old, old girls’ line called Maple Town. It’s from my childhood, so uh, I can’t really explain why I was into it. I’m just glad I have them now and mostly all 100% intact, since the scale is perfect for the 3 3/4″ figures.

    The Harry Potter Temple of Doom parody poster is just a computer print out! I should use my in-scale Grimace and Mr. Bean standees one of these days.

    And fun fact: Maple Town was an American adaptation of some anime. I think I used to watch it on Nickelodeon.

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