Friday, April 23, 2010

Playmates Warp Factor Series...

If you are a regular reader of this blog you know how much I love the Star Trek Playmates toy line from the 1990s. In past articles I looked back at various different aspects of the line. Today I'll be taking a look at the line's last big push at retail with the final major assortment of Star Trek items from Playmates. These toys where released under Playmates new Warp Factor Series banner with the Paramount Toys logo right next to Playmates'. This new branding for the line featured one of the widest ranging assortment of Star Trek items ever put out by Playmates. With declining sales and constant battling for highly coveted shelf space in the boys toys aisles, Playmates figured the glory days of Star Trek toys at brick and mortar retailers were probably growing short. In prior years the company had started to focus more on exclusive items through specialty retailers. In Playmates mind if this was going to be the end of the line it would certainly go out with a bang. 5 more waves of figures hit shelves before Playmates officially cancelled the 4.5 inch line at mass retail stores. Along with these five waves of 4.5 inch figures Playmates released a wide assortment of role play toys and miniature playsets to compete with the highly popular mini figures fad of the times that had been so lucrative for such properties as Micro Machines, Mighty Maxx, and Polly Pocket.

The first wave of figures, which focused on the Deep Space Nine episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" launched with a major promotional push featuring the Triple Tribble Game sweepstakes which was supported by some of Star Trek's major licensees of the time including Interplay, Marvel Comics, Simon and Schuster Pocket Books, and off course Playmates. Paramount even offered multiple prizes themselves including a trip to Hollywood, a piece of the Deep Space Nine set, and an official Starfleet Uniform crafted by the studio's wardrobe department. Other companies like Dairy Queen and Pioneer also jumped on the bandwagon offering their own prizes and promotions. This was a pretty big contest with some major sponsors for a toy line that had already been on the market for over five years.

Subsequent waves included such figures long requested by fans as Ilya from The Motion Picture, Leeta from DS9 and Spock, Kirk, & Edith Keeler from the fan favorite episode "The City on the Edge of Forever".

Playmates also finished up their earlier line of Starfleet Academy figures by releasing figures of Cadet Data, Cadet Crusher, and Cadet Troi completing the assortment of TNG characters in this subset that had originally hit shelves more than 2 years earlier. These three figures did not include the Academy Test Simulation CD-Rom that had been issued with the original assortment.

A line of 6 inch figures focusing on characters from the Next Generation also showed up at retail early on during the Warp Factor Series run. These figures all had a specific action feature.

I didn't particularly like these 6 inch offerings until the third wave focusing on characters from Deep Space Nine was released. This wave eliminated the stupid action features focusing instead on better sculpting and in packaging the figures with some really awesome display pieces in the shape of the characters' respective control consoles. Sisko came with a kick ass replica of his command chair from the bridge of the Defiant.

I really wished we'd gotten more of these 6 inch figures with such cool accessories. Looking back on them now it seems these Galactic Gear accessories were the precursors to the bridge pieces included with the new movie figures. The idea of including bridge pieces wasn't really new to the Galaxy Series Trek figures from 2009.

At least eight more 9 inch figures where released in the early months of the warp Factor series featuring such characters as Odo, Bashir, Janeway, and Chakotay. Kay Bee toys was the best place to find these. They had so many of these a year later they had to put them on clearance at most locations.

Playmates went full force into the mini figures and playsets market with their Strike Force assortment. Having previously tested the waters with their innerspace line the powers that be figured it was time to offer an entire line of these miniatures.

These ships and playsets followed in the footsteps of Galoob's Star Wars Micro Machines line. Two character heads opened up to reveal fully equiped play environments just like Galoob had done in previous years with their Boba Fett and Stormtrooper helmets. Playmates used the popular Trek Alien species of the Borg and the Klingons as the themes for these two sets. The Borg set introduced the ridiculously crazy idea of a Borg temple. Nowhere in the series mythology was there ever any hint that a Borg would have any use for a temple so I wonder what were the Playmates designers smoking when they came up with this atrocity.

Playmates popular line of Role Play toys came to an end with two of their best offerings ever, the Starfleet Phaser from Star Trek 6 and the long requested Klingon D'K Tahg knife. Both where welcomed by fans who regulary attend conventions in costume. Remember this was a time before companies such as Master Replicas came around, so the Playmates weapons where the best bet for cosplay fans.

The last vehicle released by Playmates would be the Defiant Destroyer from Deep Space Nine. This one didn't disappoint in any way. Even today it can fetch hundreds of dollars on ebay mint in box.

After this Warp Factor series wrapped up the only new major release from Playmates came the following year in the form of 9 inch and 12 inch collector's figures from Star Trek Insurrection. The other items in the Insurrection line where repackaged pieces that had been previously released. The Insurrection line was not as widely available as the Warp Factor line. The end was near. After that the line went on to a few more limited releases as store exclusives at Target and online stores such as New Force Comics. It would be a decade before we'd get any new Trek toys from Playmates. And now once again the future of the line is in great doubt.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Nostalgic G's Star Trek collection pt. 2...

I recently updated the Star Trek collection display. Here's some pics from the latest changes.
Make sure to check out part 1 here.

Eat right, live long and prosper...

From a 1989 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine here's an ad produced by the American Cancer Society featuring Spock.

Friday, December 18, 2009

DST Salt Vampire Figure Cancelled...

It's official, DST sends word that they have canceled their plans to release the Salt Vampire figure based on the original unproduced Art Asylum figure from the early days of the line. Back in 2003 AA canceled the figure saying they had run across too many tooling problems during production. This year DST informed fans of their plans to finally produce the figure and they were going as far as locating the original AA molds. Now due to poor sales of the line, the release of this long lost masterpiece has once again been put on hold.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Starfleet Gear...

Over the years Star Trek licensees have put out multiple collectibles based on items used by Starfleet officers or students at the Academy. Many of these have been exclusives to the Official Fan Club or Star Trek venues such as Las Vegas' Star Trek The Experience. Let's take a look at some of my favorite Starfleet-themed collectibles, gear, and supplies.

The Starfleet Away Team Kit -- Originally offered by the Official Fan Club for a brief period of time near the end of the club's existence this kit came in an awesome looking field backpack with a Starfleet survival team logo o its shiny metallic grey surface. Inside the pack you'd find a glow in the dark flashlight, water bottle, and a blanket made out of space age materials. This to me seemed like one of the coolest collectible ever, the backpack alone is one of the coolest looking trek items I have ever seen, but the fan club discontinued it rather quickly and then they closed their doors for good so I was never able to get it. I still check for it on Ebay from time to time but unfortunately I have never found a complete one for sale.

DS9ers baseball hat -- This is one of my favorite pieces of Trek wear. From one of the most fun Trek episodes ever, DS9's Take me out to the holosuites, this cap is an exact replica of the one used on the show by cast members in Captain Sisko's baseball team. I used to wear this cap a lot during my early college years and it brings back fond memories of my favorite Trek T.V. series and a very special period of my life every time I see it.

Starfleet Academy Diploma -- For those us us who've always dreamed of attending Starfleet Academy this diploma was an awesome thing to have. You could order it from the Official Fan Club and it would come in personalized with your name on it as well as George Takei's signature.
The diploma was printed on beautiful parchment paper just like the real deal. It would come encased in a blue vinyl holder with the Starfleet Academy logo embossed on the front. A beautiful collectible and a great conversation piece for your wall.

Enterprise crew shirts and hats -- Some of the coolest gear from Enterprise was the hats worn by the crew on away team missions, as well as the black undershirts. The fan club made these two pieces of apparel available pretty early on during the show's first season. I still wear these from time to time. They are perfect to wear anywhere and if someone recognizes them as Star Trek gear they are also hardcore fans since the only visible branding is the small NX-01 text. The only complaint I have about these is that the cap does have the Enterprise logo on the back, even though the ones on the show didn't.

The Starfleet Survival Guide -- Published by Pocket Books this book is written for Starfleet officers as a field guide to brief them on multiple subjects such as nonstandard uses for standard equipment, unconventional medicine, dangerous life forms, and extreme scenarios. Very creatively put together by David Mack, author of multiple Star Trek novels, and full of great illustrations by Timothy Earls. A perfect piece to go along with the Away Team Kit.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

2 day only deal on 12 inch figures....

Some of the best collectibles from the 2009 Star Trek movie were the 12 inch line of figures from Playmates. Toys 'R Us has a great deal on them today and tomorrow only. Originally selling between $29.99 and $34.99 at most retailers you can now get them for $19.99 each at TRU. The deal includes the Sulu and Pike exclusive figures too. If you haven't gotten these yet this is the perfect time to do so. This offer is good in stores only.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Star Trek Master Series from Skybox...

Lets take a look at my all time favorite Star Trek trading card series, the Skybox Star Trek Master Series featuring original art compositions from some of the genre's top illustrators.
These cards were released back in 1993, and to this date I don't think we've gotten another trading card series with art as beautiful as these. I used to try and buy 2 or 3 packages of these every time I went to my local comic book shop back in the day.

Some of the artists whose work is included in this set had been illustrating Star Trek posters and novel covers for many years and they truly know how to capture the essence of our favorite characters, aliens, and ships. Artists like Sonia Hilios, Keith Birdsong, and even Trek production illustrator and FX guru Dan Curry all contributed paintings for this set. These are just beautiful to look at. There is so much detail in each image that you could just stare at them for hours.

Usually one has to spend a lot of money buying limited edition prints or lithos to get this level of quality in Star Trek art, but this set was the perfect way of bringing high end Star Trek art to every fan. Skybox did an amazing job at putting these together. During the many years they had the Star Trek license they put out some amazing card sets, much better in my opinion than what Rittenhouse Archives puts out these days.

SkyBox International Inc. was a trading card manufacturing company founded back in 1989 as Impel Marketing, the company became SkyBox not long after. In 1991 they picked up the license to produce Star Trek trading cards. Skybox, which was later bought by Fleer, continued to produce Star Trek card sets until the year 2000, when their license expired.

Since these cards were produced back in 1993 the set only features art from the first 6 motion pictures and The Original Series, The Next Generation, and DS9. There was a second series produced the following year, I'll share my thoughts on that one as well as my favorite images in a future post. It would be great to see a new series of art cards in the same style released today so it could include art from all the Star Trek shows and films produced since these Skybox sets were released. Now lets take a look at a couple more of my favorite images from the Star Trek Master Series 1.

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