Beard: Tracking toy trends remains popular pastime for Ann Arbor manWritten by Jim Beard | | firstname.lastname@example.org
If the recent controversy over Breaking Bad action figures at Toys ‘R’ Us proved anything, it’s that toys remain a passion for many, and not just children. Michael Crawford of Ann Arbor would agree. He’s made a name for himself as popular online reviewer who tracks toy trends for kids of all ages — even the controversial ones
“There are several [2014 action figure] trends worth noting,” he said, “but I think one of the more interesting ones is the deep dive into television properties. In the past, TV lines have fared poorly and most companies have long considered them high risk. But 2014 saw a lot of TV lines on the pegs, and doing well – McFarlane with Walking Dead; Mezco with Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad; NECA and Mattel with the ‘66 Batman; Funko with Game of Thrones; and even DC Collectibles with statues and figures based on Arrow. I think part of this new willingness to work with TV licenses is due to the more cinematic feel many of these high quality shows have. It’s nice to see this trend, and I certainly hope it rolls on.”
Under his online guise as “Captain Toy,” Crawford has also become enamored with what he sees as a move back to ¼ scale figures, echoing the 12” GI Joe figures of yore. That said, other figure scales loom large in his predictions for the year to come, much of which are aimed almost exclusively at the adult collector.
“Sixth scale will continue to boom,” he said. “Hot Toys is starting to see a lot more competition from companies like ACI, Asmus, ThreeZero and ThreeA, Star Ace, Qmx — even Mondo is getting in the act. Lots of companies have seen the success Hot Toys has had, and now want to take a shot at it themselves.
“In that same vein, I think more companies will try to mimic Funko’s success with the ‘baseball card’ collectibles. I use that term to mean something that is really cheap, but really cool and they make a billion of them. Obviously, baseball cards were one of the first, but Garbage Pail Kids, Homies, Beanie Babies … these are all examples. Right now, Funko is killing it with their vinyl figures. They’ve captured that elusive cool factor, they are relatively cheap, and they are making a billion different characters for every possible license in the universe. This makes the hoarders…er…collectors very happy, and they buy them in cases. They themselves are trying to follow this up with their ReAction figures, a line that taps into nostalgia as well. Other companies will see their 2014 success, and are going to try to replicate it.”
Crawford’s reviews at www.mwctoys.com are, of course, balanced between his own opinions and the facts of production flaws and success, but its his own passionate eye and tastes that seem to have made himself successful in serving the toy collecting community. That opinion also comes out strong in what he’d like to see in the market that’s not already being produced.
“Most of my license dreams have been met,” he said. “I used to wish for a 1966 Batman series, but that’s been answered. I’d like more of course — there are still so many villains to do — but I can die happy with what we’ve gotten. After that comes Firefly, but Qmx has started the sixth scale series with Mal, so that looks like things are going in the right direction. What I’d love to see know is someone do a high-end sixth scale line like the old Movie Maniacs — a series that isn’t based on one property, but gives us one figure from lots of different licenses. A Blade Runner Deckard, a Mad Max Max, a Beetlejuice, a [Stephen King’s] It Pennywise, etc. There’s a ton of great single figures out there that someone needs to bring together under one umbrella.”
And what would talking toys be without an eye toward the coming holidays? Crawford’s suggestions for action figure gift-giving encompasses young and somewhat more mature toy aficionados on your lists this year.
“Toys ‘R’ Us is carrying a line of Pixar-based toys right now, including action figures, electronic figures and plush toys,” he noted. “They include properties like Wall-E, the Incredibles and Finding Nemo, and I get emails from parents all the time looking for Pixar toys because they missed out when the movies were in theaters, or they have young kids now watching the movies and wanting toys. The selection is very good, and shouldn’t be overlooked for Christmas potential.
“For the collector, there are several great items available right now. For the Batman fan, I’d go after the Sideshow 1/6th figure, one of the best toys -= not just collectible, but something sturdy enough to handle – in the high-end category I’ve seen this year. For fans of Game of Thrones, the Funko line of figures is great, and can be had at the local Barnes and Noble. Simpsons fans have the new NECA figures at Toys R Us to enjoy, too.”
Thoughts of the winter holidays puts the good Captain in mind of own childhood favorites, as well as more recent picks for his top toys of all time.
“I can never pick just one,” Crawford said. “I can’t even pick just one series, although there are three that top my list. The Marx Best of the West series was my favorite as a child, and I still have many of the figures and accessories. The Palisades’ Muppets line is one of the best produced and designed lines of all time, and you can really see the love that went into it. And of course, as a big Simpsons nerd, the World of Springfield line remains one of my personal favorites.”