Review > Action Figure Displays

afd_8You may never have heard of JDP Designs before, but they’ve heard of you–the action figure collector who wishes they had a better way to show off their figures than just placing them against the same old $20 IKEA shelving or off-white apartment walls. I stumbled upon an article about their Action Figure Displays last week, and I knew I had to investigate.

There have been a few attempts at producing action figure displays, most notably Ultarama. While Ultarama displays are great for figures in the 3″-5″ range, the effect isn’t quite as good with larger figures. Enter JDP Design.

Here’s how JDP, based right here in my home commonwealth of Massachusetts, describe how their idea came about:

In the past we found that toys in advertisements were brought to life through detailed backgrounds, 3-dimensional sets, and dramatic lighting. Without these things, the toys you brought home never had the same impact or presentation. What our toys needed was some sort of themed environment. We searched in stores, online, and in catalogs and found that no one was offering themed displays that would accommodate many different types of toys.

So we took matters into our own hands and decided to create our own action figure display. The display we built dramatically enhanced the action figure and helped create a world for that figure to live in. Because our display worked so well, we started to think about other versions we could make for the rest of our toys. That’s when we started thinking…if we wanted themed displays for our toys, then so would other toy collectors. And the idea for Action Figure Displays was born.

The folks at JDP were kind enough to send along a sample display for review.

They already have a nice variety of backgrounds to choose from, from city alleys and rooftops, to castles, to jungles, to space stations, and to most any professional sports setting you can think of. (In fact, I would think these are a dream come true for McFarlane Sports collectors; I may pick up a baseball one for my dad.)

afd_5My review sample was the alley set, which works perfectly with figures such as Batman or the Ninja Turtles. The set comes in pieces but is extremely easy to assemble: you just have to remove the adhesive stickers and push the background board onto them. Flip the set over and you’ve got your action figure display.

Design: Each set is 13½” wide, 7¾” tall and 7¾” deep, so it’s perfect for most 6″-7″ figures (though your BAFs might be a little tall).

afd_2There are rubber feet on the bottom of the display for balance, and to keep it from sliding around. The displays themselves are made from foamcore and are very light–you’re not going to have any trouble with weight on your shelves due to these.

One minor drawback is storage; once you’ve put the display together, it’s not going to come apart without some ripping. You can’t just fold it in half and put it away. However, the ripping would be on the back, so it wouldn’t harm the image, and you could easily re-glue the set together later.

afd_4Art: The folks at JDP have done a great job creating a backdrop that offers a sense a depth and dimension. I’m not even sure whether this is a photo of an alley or a photorealistic painting (though I suspect it’s the former), but with a figure in front of it, it looks great.

The graffiti-sprayed pavement of the floor piece lines up well with the alley, and the resulting effect afd_3at the joint of the two pieces, while not seamless, isn’t jarring.

One thing I appreciated is that the printed image isn’t too glossy, so they don’t reflect too much light. That helps both when on display and when you’re taking photos.

Value: You could look at the construction of these and think you could make one yourself with some foamcore, a photo printer, and some rubber feet. But chances are you’ll spend some money doing so, not to mention the time and work put into it–I suspect finding the right high-resolution photo is a lot harder than it looks.

At $20 apiece, these are a pretty good value for those of us without the skill, time, or resources to make our own displays.

Overall: Many of today’s collectors mourn the death of the large-scale playset. Gone are the days of Castle Grayskull, the U.S.S. Flagg and the Technodrome. With these displays, JDP has tapped into collectors’ need for something better to show off today’s modern figures than plain shelving.

Where to Buy: You can order these right off the Action Figure Displays website.

Scroll down for more photos!


Pic of the Day


Toy review roundup (via Fanmode) for 1/16/09


  1. Wes

    PrfkTear: I saw that part — so I guess I'm saying I agree with it! I doubt it would come anywhere close to $20 (for each one; matte photo paper packs probably cost more than half of that), though (especially if I ditched the foamcore stuff).

    But the fun thing about choosing your own images is that you don't have to go for a generic background. With TMNT figures, for example, I'd probably blow up a background from one of the games and run a few filters to downplay the pixelation. Doctor Who figures? A screengrab from any episode just before the TARDIS lands (or just after) would be ideal. Again, that stuff might not look as good in a generic, objective sense, but it'd have more personal value (at least to someone like me) on top of the fact that one made it oneself.

  2. @Wes: Did you miss the part where Poe said yeah, you could prolly DIY, but you're still gonna have to spend a few bucks, and it just wouldn't look as good. For giggles I just did a Google Image search for "alley" under extra large images, and although I found a couple decent ones, I don't think it'd still look as good. What makes the display so great is its visual perspective, it almost looks 3D, and you might not be able to accomplish that with something you find online. If you DIY, its just gonna look like a figure standing in front of a picture of something. Just my thoughts, but hey, if you can pull it off, more power to you! Its a great concept either way.

  3. Wes

    These sets do look very cool… but at $20 a pop? I'd just as soon buy some matte photo paper and print out my own backdrops. They might not look as good, but they'd definitely be cheaper!

  4. Yeah don't care much for these Poe, but thanks for turning me on to Ultarama. Never heard of them before and it looks mighty cool.

  5. These displays sound like the closest thing we're going to get these days to the old "cardboard backdrop" playsets. (Sure, the AT-AT playset I owned as a kid wasn't as great as the actual AT-AT but it was my AT-AT so I dealt with it.)

    Thanks for the review and the link. I hadn't heard of these until now.

  6. Poe

    No, and no. I would have mentioned it if they did 😉

    These are particularly good for casual fans who own a few figures they display on their desk at work or something, and want to give them more of a home. Ultaramas are better for the serious collector, and again, they're also better for the 3"-5" scale.

  7. Scott

    Are these stackable or do they have peg holes for feet like the Ultaramas?

  8. Thanks for the review and the great pix! I will definitely be purchasing one of these in the future!

    As you noted, gone are the days of the large playsets, but even still, who has room for Castle Grayskull on their desk? These are perfect!

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