Custom Transformers

May 21, 2013

I’m often unsatisfied with the inadequately-painted and inaccurate Transformers released by Hasbro, TakaraTomy, and third-party manufacturers, and frequently make modifications to my toys to more closely match their animation models, comic book designs, and live-action CGI appearances. Sometimes all it takes is a few well-placed stickers, but other times it requires extensive repainting, parts swapping, and kitbashing accessories to satisfy my aesthetic sensibilities. Here’s some of the work I’ve done over the past year or so.

Using the new “gallery” feature, you can now browse each of these images in a slideshow. Click on any of the thumbnails below to start!


A makeshift Decepticon

February 28, 2012

Last month at Toys ‘R’ Us, I managed to find one of the elusive Transformers from the final wave of Dark of the Moon figures. A deluxe scale Mercedes-Benz E-class (“deluxe” meaning “small enough to crush in one hand, but not small enough to slip between your fingers”), this navy blue luxury car transforms into Que, the mechanical engineer who appears in the third Transformers movie.

Originally intended to be Wheeljack, the mechanic and inventor from the original TV series (who appears as Wheeljack in comic books based on the movie), director Michael Bay reportedly decided to name him after the James Bond character Q instead, who outfits 007 with high-tech gadgets just as Que outfits his Autobot brethren in the film. Furthermore, Bay thought it would be funny to give him a ridiculous faux-British accent, and make him look like the alien equivalent of Albert Einstein; Mercedes-Benz is a German company, after all. The result is disgustingly ugly, especially for an Autobot character.

While not entirely accurate, the Takara designers based the look of the toy on the CGI character. The result is depressingly ugly, especially for an Autobot figure.

That head has gotta go!

Otherwise, however, the figure is pretty sweet. The vehicle mode is very accurate, and looks even better with a little touch-up paint work to bring out sculpted details (like the front grill):

I added a little flat black to bring out the panel lines, and silver highlights around the Mercedes-Benz logo. The license plate was made in Photoshop and printed onto adhesive paper.

His hand-held tools can be stored under the chassis in vehicle mode, a feature undocumented in any of the instructions (nor anywhere online, as far as I can tell):

The robot is very well-proportioned, with long limbs and broad shoulders, and features a great deal of articulation; I just couldn’t abide that face, though. I removed the head entirely, and replaced it with the head of a “Gundam Converge” Delta Plus mobile suit. Now he looks like a kick-ass Decepticon, not an ugly-ass Autobot! I particularly like the look of that translucent red visor.

Also, since there are prominent 5mm ports on his back, I decided to attach the large cannons Big Daddy wasn’t using.

All that was left was to decide on a name for this new character, who now fits in better with the aesthetics of the ongoing comic series and toy line. There was a navy-blue Autobot luxury car among the Mini-cons in the Universe line named “Makeshift,” which seemed an appropriate name for a character born of a half-assed headswap; Makeshift also happened to be the name of a short-lived Decepticon spy in Transformers: Prime, who infiltrated the Autobot base pretending to be Wheeljack. Thus, the navy-blue Autobot luxury car (pretending to be movieverse Wheeljack) becomes Makeshift, a navy-blue Decepticon spy (pretending to be an Autobot mechanic). Serendipity, if I do say so myself.

Makeshift may not be showing signs of stress in this laid-back pose, but his plastic joints tell a different story. One thing to be aware of, for those of you who managed to acquire one of these figures: there are already prominent stress marks forming in the hands and the insides of the front fenders, where they attach to the arms. Note the white lines that have formed in the plastic, and take care not to subject those areas to significant pressure; it looks like breakage could be a definite possibility, if you’re not gentle with him.

Oh, and since the Delta Plus head attached so easily to Que’s body, I figured Que’s head might as well go on the Delta Plus body:

Somehow, the childlike proportions suit this head better, don’t you think?


An unexpected journey

December 30, 2011

An article about me — or rather, my toy collection — was featured in last year’s Christmas issue of Town Joho magazine. My business partner Katsumi (who has appeared in a magazine herself) recommended me to the staff, who visited my home with a professional photographer. While the published photos aren’t particularly flattering, the staff was very pleasant and I enjoyed the attention. They asked me if I had some appropriate attire to wear that would reflect my interests, so (since I had yet to acquire my Boba Fett or Biker Scout armor) I put on an old Halloween costume for the photo shoot: an Earth Federation uniform from the original 1979 Mobile Suit Gundam TV series.

Having been impressed by a photo of Shaun Wong on his Website, I decided to follow suit and wore sunglasses. It didn’t really work with the ensemble, but my wife was relieved; I’m harder to recognize this way, you see.

The toy room was photographed with a wide-angle lens, which actually makes the room look even smaller than it really is!

The staff spent some time debating where and what to photograph in my house — I have showcases and displays in almost every room — and also took separate pictures of larger items, like the three-foot long “Tumbler” Batmobile from Hot Toys’ 1:6 scale Batman Begins line.

These infamous photos of the toy in my driveway I shot (from a deceptively low angle) have fooled numerous people over the last couple of years!

I was asked what items were the most valuable, and which I liked best, and in both cases I pointed out event-exclusive Boba Fett figures from Medicom’s “Kubrick” Star Wars action figure series, my favorite of which accurately reproduces the original vintage Kenner figure and packaging:

I also gave a shout-out to Shoji Kawamori, the genius mecha designer responsible for the transformable fighter craft of Macross, as well as the recent Yamato Toys’ 1:60 versions.

Of course, if the interviewer asked me to pick three favorites now, I’d likely give three completely different answers.

With so many fantastic figures and vehicles, how could I possibly choose?

If you can read Japanese, click here to read the full text of the article.

Since the magazine publishes interviews with collectors on a semi-regular basis, I was hoping the staff might introduce me to a like-minded individual. I asked the interviewer if she knew anyone with a similar collection, and she appeared to give it some thought as her eyes moved from one showcase to another.

“No,” she answered, “nothing like this.”

She pointed to my Bearbrick shelf, telling me she’d met someone who collected those figures, and had also seen a similar collection of 1:6 scale dolls (although apparently not nearly as many as I have on display). My collection far exceeded everything else she’d seen in both amount and variety. According to her, Japanese collectors tend to restrict themselves to a single product line — or at least, a single media franchise — rather than the ever-expanding mass of interests my action figures represent.

However, subsequent to the article being printed, there was a collector who contacted her wanting to be introduced to me. Koji, a vintage Star Wars enthusiast, had seen the magazine in the convenience store where he works, and was eager to meet other dedicated fans. He’s a member of the 501st Legion, a worldwide organization of costumers with exacting standards for membership; only screen-accurate costumes are accepted, requiring the investment of a great deal of time and money to meet their rigorous standards. I helped him put together this Stormtrooper costume.

Affiliated with both Lucasfilm and charitable organizations like the Make-a-Wish Foundation, the Salvation Army, and the Red Cross Hospital, he’s one of “the bad guys who do good.” He’s encouraged me to join the Japanese garrison of the 501st, which meant I needed to put together a costume of my own:

Now officially approved, I have the membership badge to prove it.

My debut appearance with the 501st will be in Tokyo on New Year’s Day, promoting a new Star Wars-themed clothing line from A Bathing Ape. Lucasfilm has requested numerous promotional appearances in movie theatres across the country over the next few months, and I’m joining a charity marathon in Nagoya to benefit sick children as well.

Toy collecting can lead your life in unexpected directions!


New from The Clone Wars: Five different vehicles, five different scales… -_-

December 7, 2011

As 2011 comes to a close, I’ve decided to review the new Clone Wars vehicles I’ve acquired over the past year.  Hasbro continues to produce an exciting array of action figures and accessories for this latest line of Star Wars products, and their figures remain as consistent in quality and scale as ever.  Unfortunately (given the compromises necessary to maintain such a large and varied toy line in an ever-changing market), their vehicle line is constantly hampered by gross inconsistencies in scale and proportion.  To my frustration, the five new vehicles presented here (while all intended for use with their line of 1:18 action figures) were each produced at a uniquely different scale.

The only one accurately to scale with their action figures is the “Republic Swamp Speeder,” or ISP (that’s Infantry Support Platform), not to be confused with Kenner’s ridiculous ISP-6 (nor your Internet Service Provider, for that matter).  Among the various automobiles in Star Wars — or speeders, to use the in-universe nomenclature — this one’s one of my favorites, even though it can only barely be glimpsed in Revenge of the Sith, and doesn’t appear in The Clone Wars TV series at all.  The best reference image I could find comes from Star Wars: Complete Cross-Sections (one of the only images in the book that isn’t, in fact, a cross-section):

Illustrated by either Hans Jenssen or Richard Chasemore (or John Mullaney, or Jon Hall); DK Publishing is not clear on this point.

It appears more frequently in movie tie-in video games, and its single Clone Wars appearance comes from a comic book.

The toy is lovingly detailed, with appropriately weathered paint applications, and includes a design feature entirely unique to Star Wars vehicles: seat belts! 

However, despite being made of soft, flexible rubber, actually fitting them over a figure in Clone Trooper armor requires the patience and dexterity of a Jedi.

I somehow managed to get the starboard driver belted in without incident, but the port seat belt wouldn’t stay in its housing and eventually needed to be glued down.

The figure’s hands kept popping out of his forearms, too, since the control sticks on the seats are just a little too far forward for the figure to comfortably reach. Again, Krazy glue provided a permanent (if problematic) solution, and my Clone Troopers look right at home at the controls.

There are pegs molded into the platform on either side of the craft, so other figures can be mounted standing on the vehicle.  Of course, unless there’s some kind of “anti-gravity plating” or “acceleration compensators” built into the floor, there’s no way anyone could remain standing while the craft is in motion… and if they could, then seat belts for the drivers hardly seem necessary, do they?

Those pegs are perfectly adequate for keeping figures firmly attached, even when the vehicle is in motion.  Wheels concealed on the underside of the toy allow it to roll smooth and easily across the floor.

The package even comes with this gorgeous cardboard backdrop depicting Felucia… although for some reason, mine didn’t.

The other speeder I picked up this year also came with an impressive cardboard display diorama, this one beautifully depicting a vast industrial sector of Coruscant:


The painting accurately recreates a setting featured in the Clone Wars episode “Lethal Trackdown.”

In the episode, Plo Koon and Ahsoka take a Praxis Mk. I down into the seedy underworld of Coruscant.

It’s a huge speeder (larger than even most of the fighter craft seen in Star Wars), and its sleek, manta ray profile suggests great speed.  The open-air cockpit looks awfully dangerous — no seat belts here! — and the windshield’s not quite high enough to cover the top of Plo Koon’s head. 

Maybe that’s how he lost his hair.

The toy version, as you can see, is considerably under-scaled; about 1:24, I estimate.  Two figures can sit in the cockpit (provided they’re of frail Clone Wars proportions), but the windscreen’s reduced to little more than a dashboard cover.

Behind the cockpit there’s an astrodroid socket, and putting an R2 unit back there makes the scale discrepancy even more apparent… but without a droid there’s just a gaping hole in the fuselage, which is equally unattractive.

Still, the dashboard’s nicely detailed, including instrument panel stickers, and even the floor of the craft has sculpted detail!

Unfortunately, there are unsightly holes in the engine pods for loading and firing spring-loaded missiles.

More missile launchers are concealed in the front of the speeder (retractable sections pull out from either side), and the rear section opens to reveal further guns facing fore and aft, with pegs to attach gunners.  Jedi don’t carry guns, of course — as Yoda famously tells Luke, “a Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack” — so naturally, Hasbro’s “Jedi Turbo Speeder” is armed to the teeth.

Another toyetic compromise to appeal to gun-loving American boys, perhaps?  Or is this part of a larger Hasbro agenda to fuel the military-industrial complex?  (Hey, what blog is complete without wild conspiracy theories?)

Despite its abundant play features, however, this one does not have wheels concealed in the undercarriage; it may look fast, but it won’t move an inch.

The graceful backswept wings are made of soft PVC plastic, and don’t hold their shape well; they also have hinges attached at their base, for no apparent reason. In order to keep the engine pods properly aligned, I needed to pull the ends of the wings out of their housings in the fuselage.  They have to sit at an angle facing forward in order to hold the engine pods parallel to the plane of the speeder.  A minor design flaw, but it does further detract from the sleek lines of the vehicle (even with all the weaponry concealed).

The engine pods, the wings, the clean lines and symmetry of the design, and the total lack of weathering all give a distinctly Star Trek feel to the craft, and I’m sure it would look at home in J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek movie series.

Next up is the HMP (Heavy Missile Platform), a flying battle droid seen over the skies of Kashyyyk in Revenge of the Sith:

At about 1:32 scale, the HMP toy (known simply as “Droid Gunship”) is considerably smaller than it ought to be… although its actual size is difficult to determine onscreen, since they only appear briefly in a few aerial shots.  The scale of the toy is largely irrelevant.

This craft also has a Star Trek flavor to it, reminiscent of Klingon or Romulan starship design.  It’s appropriately bristling with weaponry, most of which can be rotated, aimed, and fired.  Unfortunately, these play features require large, round buttons for launching missiles and dropping bombs, protruding from the surface of the craft both on the sides and on top.

They might’ve been less obtrusive, if the sculpted detail on the hull had been painted to stand out a little more, but the two-tone blue color scheme is so bland that the HMP almost looks like an unpainted model kit.

As with the Octuptarra Droid and the Corporate Alliance Tank Droid toys, Hasbro has seen fit to include a cockpit to accommodate a Battle Droid pilot.  Why a droid needs a droid to pilot it remains a mystery to me, but I imagine Hasbro sells more action figures this way…

Again, the intricately sculpted detail cries out for a decent paint job.

Props to the Hasbro design team for the practical addition of a retractable landing leg.  Without it, the only viable display option would be to hang it from the ceiling (which is what I’m going to do anyway)…

This next vehicle, the AV-7 Mobile Cannon, actually makes a couple of significant appearances in The Clone Wars, first in the dismal pilot film and again in the second-season episode “Weapons Factory.”

The Hasbro toy is well-proportioned (with the possible exception of the legs), and appears to closely match the CGI model.

The gunner seat fits Clone Trooper figures, and looks appropriately scaled…

…until you attach it to the cannon.

See the scale discrepancy?

It looks even more pathetically small when posed with troopers on the ground.

In the aforementioned episode, Clone Troopers can be seen walking under these cannons — that’s how big they’re supposed to be — and if the legs of the toy were better articulated, the base of the cannon could at least be raised a little higher off the ground; alas, the legs only hinge upwards, the ankle joint is severely limited, and the knee joint is fake.

To add insult to injury, Hasbro has seen fit to include half-assed play features, such as a flimsy flip-down platform to mount additional figures on the left side.  There are pegs for three figures, but it can barely handle the weight of one, much less three; see the precarious angle these two are leaning at?

Fold up the back legs, and spring-loaded tank treads swing down from the undercarriage.  There’s no mechanism to lock them in place, however, and they collapse back into their housing with even the slightest downward pressure.  What’s more, the treads are as fake as the knees, merely a single plastic piece painted black on the outside edge.  The whole thing is even more awkward and unstable than it appears.

If only they’d spent those tooling costs on properly-articulated legs instead, this vehicle might not be a total write-off… but being so pathetically small to begin with (not even 1:35 scale, I reckon), it wouldn’t make a whole lot of difference.

I really wish I hadn’t wasted my money on this one.  It’s a big disappointment.

Even more ridiculously under-scaled, however, is the improbably-named Republic Attack Shuttle, seen early in the first season of The Clone Wars.  Being a big fan of the Imperial Shuttle from the original trilogy, I fell in love with this ship as soon as it appeared in “Rookies”:

Hasbro’s toy version is reasonably well-proportioned (all things considered), and looks almost as cool.

This elegant design is both aggressive and graceful at the same time.

The cobalt-blue engines and gunmetal grey housings have a distinctly Gundam vibe, and from the rear it looks more like a Bandai toy than a Hasbro one.

The triangular folding wings, the shape of the fuselage, and the overall dimensions of the ship are clearly derived from the Return of the Jedi shuttle design, another nice touch of visual continuity bridging the gap between the original trilogy and The Clone Wars.  As the wings fold up and the shuttle lands, the pilots are visible through the cockpit canopy:

That’s Captain Rex and Commander Cody in the two-man cockpit.

The toy cockpit actually seats two figures — well, perhaps “seats” isn’t the right word, since they’re in more of a standing position — but only one is visible through the cockpit cover.

The included Clone Pilot figure features an entirely new helmet sculpt, and isn’t merely a repack of 2008′s “Odd Ball” figure.  It’s an extremely well-articulated figure, by necessity: you’ve got to get him into a pretty funky pose for him to fit in that cockpit, after all!

In the show, troops are seen exiting the ship from the front ramp.  Cody and Rex walk down the ramp side-by-side.

The shape and inclination of the ramp is more apparent in this image from “Lair of Grievous”:

The engineers at Hasbro even managed to get the height of the landing gear correct (something they failed to do with either the Imperial Shuttle or any of their various iterations of the Millennium Falcon).

There’s just one problem:

Scale.

Obviously, a shuttle properly scaled to the action figures would be ridiculously large and prohibitively expensive — making it impossible to market as a toy — so why make this half-hearted attempt to accommodate 1:18 figures in a 1:48 scale vehicle?  The inclusion of a couple 1:48 figures would’ve made a lot more sense, and the ship wouldn’t look so absurdly small by comparison; the interiors could’ve been reproduced as accurately as the exterior, providing much more authentic play value.

Instead, we get intricately detailed interiors that look terrific empty…

…but are much too small to suit the action figures they’re designed for.

How are these guys supposed to get out?

A child-like “Kubrick” figure, at least, would likely fit through that door…

…but even Kubricks are too tall to get though here.

I did, however, manage to find one appropriate Hasbro figure suited to the interior proportions.

Regardless of the scale issues, this vehicle is packed with electronics and play features.  Flip up the wings, pull up the top of the fuselage, and pop out the side panels, and suddenly the ship is transformed into an “attack base” with “recon fighter.”  It’s completely apocryphal, of course (having no basis in Star Wars fiction whatsoever), but it’s the perfect playset for kids who care more for cannons than canon.

Figures can be pegged in all over the place, manning consoles, pillboxes, and rotating gunner stations; it could easily be marketed as Hasbro’s first Star Wars/G.I. Joe crossover.

Figures can even be mounted on the lookout tower, although it doesn’t look like a particularly safe place to stand…

This guy appears to be in the firing path of his own guns!

Even the recon fighter has a slot on top to accommodate a gunner for the built-in cannon.

The weapon racks molded into the panels on both wings are both functional and aesthetically pleasing.  The white rifle is included with the vehicle, and appears to be the same ABS plastic as the hull; the black guns are PVC plastic accessories sold with individual figures.

Criticizing the accuracy of Hasbro’s Star Wars toy line is becoming increasingly time-consuming, and preparing this latest post has clarified the reasons why this blog was neglected for such a long time: it takes too much damn time!  I’d much rather be painting model kits and customizing Transformers than writing weblogs, after all.  While the continued attention and feedback this blog receives is encouraging, I lack the motivation to keep this up on a regular basis.

Thanks to anybody who’s actually read this far, and Season’s Greetings for 2012!  I’ve got some awesome new Transformers acquisitions to share, but I doubt I’ll get around to it before Christmas…  -_-


When 1:1 equals 1:18

November 25, 2011

Ever since I acquired a Rubies “Supreme” Boba Fett costume back in September, I’ve been researching and exploring the world of Star Wars props and costumes.  In my attempt to accurize that costume, my attention has shifted away from the 1:18 scale Star Wars miniatures, and more towards 1:1 scale reproductions of weapons and armor.  This has led me to a whole new group of friends and Star Wars aficionados, and toy collecting has taken a back seat of late.

However, the more I learn about what bits and pieces were used to construct the various costumes, the more I find this new hobby overlapping with a previous obsession of mine, the studio-scale filming miniatures.  The same model kits that were cannibalized to detail the spaceships in Star Wars — a time-saving process known as “kitbashing” — were also used for detailing the props and costumes worn by the actors (Carrie Fisher’s Boushh outfit, for instance), and having spent as many years as I have obsessing over the original Millennium Falcon miniature, rediscovering these parts in other areas of the Star Wars universe is as exciting as an archaeological find that links birds to dinosaurs.

And thus it occurs to me that, while spending all that time researching and constructing my own replica of the “studio-scale” Millennium Falcon model, I’ve really been reproducing a 1:1 scale prop, rather than a 1:18 scale playset for my action figures.  It was that glorious coincidence of scale that prompted me to begin my reproduction to begin with: having discovered that the filming miniature built by ILM for A New Hope in 1976 was almost exactly 1/18th the size of the Falcon set constructed at Elstree Studios in London, I realized that the original model was the perfect scale for 1:18 (otherwise known as 3 3/4″) Star Wars figures.

What followed was years of online research, various attempts to reconcile discrepancies between interior and exterior sets, prototype mockups in foamcore and styrene, and combing through hundreds and hundreds of Tamiya, Bandai, and Airfix model kits trying to find the exact parts used to detail the original model.

While the pioneering work of Robert Brown and David West Reynolds has been instrumental to my project, the actual work of fitting 1:18 scale reproductions of the Falcon interiors into a replica of the studio-scale model required months and months of planning.  I used Photoshop to produce blueprints of the model, utilizing multiple overlapping layers to determine exactly what would fit where, and deciding where and what to compromise to actually make it work.  The documents themselves are extremely detailed high-resolution images, but this simplified multi-layered rendering should give you the basic idea of what I’m attempting:

I started with a foamcore mockup of the outer hull, to determine the exact shape and dimensions required for an accurate reproduction.  The base was this large piece of dense foam I bought at a hardware store, and cut to the proper shape:

I cut foamcore ribs and hot-glued them to the base to provide an endoskeletal structure to build on.

Next, curvilinear parts were measured, cut, and folded into the proper shapes to form the hull.

The unique and distinctive shape of the cockpit required particular attention…

…as did the port and starboard docking rings, below which our heroes are often seen entering and exiting the ship.

Having attached the lower hull and the cockpit, the Falcon was beginning to take shape.

Next came the upper hull, and the boarding ramp.

The hydraulic struts on either side of the boarding ramp are a combination of wood, styrene, PVC plastic and metal rods:

The engine grill is comprised of 68 separate styrene fins, each cut to exactly the same shape and glued one centimeter apart from each other.

The rectenna dish, carved from a wooden tea saucer with PVC detailing, is the only part to have been primed for painting:

I then began to attach the model kit parts I had identified from the studio model, starting with the Tamiya 1:35 Panther engine covers (seen behind the lower three exhaust vents on the engine block).

Given many of these vintage model kits are quite rare and expensive to acquire, I did my best to scratchbuild whatever parts I would require multiples of:

After building a styrene skin to attach all the kitbashed parts to, the engine deck began to take shape.

The exhaust grills are cut from exactly the same material ILM used in the ’70s (which is also the texture used to mimic the solar panels on the TIE Fighter wings):

Having discovered that the seats used in the Falcon cockpit set were taken from a Porsche 911, I found a 1:18 scale diecast Porsche (with accurately-colored upholstery) to steal the chairs out of:

Han’s chair was mounted much higher than Chewie’s, to account for their considerable height discrepancy.

Luke’s chair (behind Han’s) is just a temporary LEGO mockup.

The front mandibles were then covered with a styrene skin, so that kitbashing could begin in earnest.  The panels on the front are Tamiya 1/12 Ferrari 312B engine blocks, identical to those on the original model.

The inner mandible walls are lined with the undercarriage of an AMT/Ertl 1:25 ’57 Chevy Bel-Air.  Quite an exciting find!

For the sake of scale comparison, I photographed my Falcon mockup next to the old Hasbro toy:

…and the new Hasbro “BMF” version, once it came out.

My accurately-scaled version will have a great deal more interior space, as Han inspects first-hand:

Chewie appreciates the headroom, while Han considers possible smuggling compartments.

Here’s a shot of my workspace, on the living room floor.  The HD video projector is an invaluable asset.

I’ve just begun cutting the hundreds of panels that will be required for detailing the upper and lower hull.

Now the real fun begins…  -_-


(Some of) the Star Wars toys

November 20, 2011

Now that I’ve made the acquaintance of several hard-core Star Wars fans through the 501st Japanese Garrison and the Jedi Order, I thought I should upload some photos of my Star Wars toy collection as a whole… which is just about impossible, actually, since it won’t fit in one room (much less the confines of a single photograph)!  Here’s the best I’ve been able to do, without the benefit of a wide-angle lens:

That’s the bulk of my Star Wars displays… at least, the 1:18 scale Hasbro merchandise.

Since you may be wondering, I’ll answer a few questions pre-emptively:

I don’t how many figures I have, nor how much I’ve spent acquiring them.  I would estimate over 2000 Star Wars figures are in my collection, but (as I’m sure you’ve noticed) there’s a lot of other stuff on display as well, even in the toy room… and among my regular purchases, Star Wars merchandise is the least expensive.  I spend far more on 1:6 scale figures, die-cast cars, and transformable Japanese toys.

Almost everything on display was purchased at Toys ‘R’ Us in Okayama (when they still distributed Star Wars toys to Japan), or through online distributors.  Some of it is acquired by friends in North America, to help me save on shipping and avoid paying Japanese import prices; some of it is purchased through online auction sites, like Yahoo! Japan auctions or eBay.  The only stuff that I brought with me from Canada are my vintage Kenner figures, a complete collection of loose figures I’ve had since the ’80s.

I’m not a vintage Kenner enthusiast, mind you; I much prefer the modern Hasbro toy line, and love to watch the product evolve from year to year.  I lose interest in older figures and vehicles as soon as more accurate versions are released.

I don’t feel compelled to purchase every Star Wars toy produced, even within a single scale or sub-line; I’m actually rather picky about what I buy, and don’t obsess about what I have or haven’t managed to acquire.  I’m even pickier about cost, and sometimes put off buying a particular figure or set until I can get it sufficiently cheap, often waiting years until it falls into my price range.  Much of my Star Wars collection was purchased at considerably less than its retail value — I probably don’t spend as much as you think I do.  ^_^


Mark Boudreaux’s gallery of shame

October 18, 2008

Unbelievable. As it turns out, the reason Hasbro’s new Millennium Falcon toy failed to correct any of the problems that plagued the original toy is… because they hired the same guy to design the new one!

Mark Boudreaux was apparently responsible for designing the original toy AND the new “BMF” version, which goes a long way towards explaining why they’re both so depressingly off-model. As I explained earlier, my biggest problem with either Falcon toy is the grossly inaccurate proportions, including a comically oversized cockpit and a pathetically undersized rectenna dish.

Here’s how the Falcon‘s supposed to look (image taken directly from Star Wars):

Note the cockpit (left) and rectenna dish (right) are approximately the same size.

Now here’s Boudreaux’s original version, beloved by all us ignorant children of the ’80s:

See the difference?

And here’s his latest failure, which looks almost as bad and costs way more money.

One area where clear improvement was made over the Kenner toy is the new boarding ramp, which now looks a lot more film-accurate (and makes a nifty sound as it automatically lowers!). However, while Han will likely be able to squeeze his way into the ship, Chewie and Artoo are denied access.

Even if they could fit up that narrow ramp, though, they’ve got a very steep climb!

Compare that inclination to the original Falcon set from Star Wars:

Even model kits from the ’70s managed to get the ramp inclination right…

…although Boudreaux never cared to (as this photo of the old Kenner toy shows).

When it came to his new version, though, Boudreaux’s biggest insult was to include one of his ill-conceived “Mini-Rig” toy designs, this bizarre one-man pod that fits into the port docking ring.

That space should’ve been used for an elevator tube leading to an emergency top hatch (as seen in The Empire Strikes Back and the 1978 TV special), as opposed to that so-called “escape vehicle” (as seen only in Boudreaux’s runaway imagination). What a waste of money and resources.

And just to further annoy obsessed Falconophiles such as myself, this new sculpt was clearly based upon the 32″ studio model built for The Empire Strikes Back, itself a much smaller and less detailed miniature than the original Millennium Falcon used for Star Wars (and for all the close-up shots in Empire). One dead giveaway there is the absurd testicle-like protrusion on the front mandible wall, just ahead of the cockpit, which never existed on any other model or full-scale set mockup apart from the 32″ Empire model.

These bizarre protrusions on either side of the top cannon are even more inexcusable, as their only reason for existence is to trigger (non-existent) missiles from the top cannons, and don’t represent any version of the Millennium Falcon.

I’d go on, but I can see you’re clearly sick of hearing me whine about this toy, and would rather see my recent Transformers, Gundam, Battlestar Galactica (and of course, new Star Wars) acquisitions. I promise I’ll upload some new content eventually…  -_-

If you really do care about the BMF, however (and some of you obviously do!), you’ll notice I’ve expanded my previous entry about this toy with further photographs as well… ’cause I just can’t quit bitching about it!


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