Poe’s Point > I Never Loved You, Action Features

I try to avoid participating in arguments on forums these days, but I ended up chiming in when a He-Man.org thread comparing DCUC to MOTUC veered into a discussion about action features and whether those were–and are–really as popular among kids versus something like articulation.

The easiest place to start with this particular digression is with a post by “MegaGearMax”:

Today’s kids have waaaaay better toys than we did in the 80’s. It’s like comparing a Model T to a modern car.

Put up NECA’s TMNT against the 4 original Playmates Turtles, Super Powers against DC Universe Classic, G.I. Joe 25th up against the original RAH figures or the poseable Transformers Universe Classics against the barely-poseable G1 figures. Or even pit the MOTUC that we have now against their vintage incarnations.

As good as the old stuff was, the companies got alot better at making figures of those old characters from 20 years ago.

“Mr. Shokoti” responded to this post thusly:

None of those toys you mentioned are even targeted for kids in terms of either price or features. The TMNT toys are based on comics that, as of yesterday, are no longer published(in terms of style, they haven’t been published for years) and aren’t nearly as inviting to children as any of the Playmates lines. Super Powers were of a more collectible size for kids, came with a mini-comic, and had action features. DCUC are large figures featuring many characters only longtime comic readers would recognize. The 2 Hasbro lines are based on old characters & designs with nothing to support them(unless you give the kids reprints of old comics or DVDS featuring cartoons 25 years old). I also think the vintage MOTU is far better than MOTUC when it comes to durability during play. This latest line has pieces falling off if you look at them funny. Also, I didn’t care about articulation as a kid and I care even less about it as an adult. Kids want toys that do cool things and not ones that have ankles that can bend.

My response, posted below, was almost entirely based on that last sentence. (However, I think there’s an argument to be made that MOTUC isn’t quite as brittle as he suggests, and that the vintage figures, while hard to break, also refused to stand up after a single day’s play thanks to those rubber bands in the hips.)

Let’s not make generalizations. I loved it when figures had more articulation as a kid–that extra swivel joint on Fisto or Jitsu was great. It’s one of the reasons young Poe found lines like Captain Power so cool–those figures could move a lot more than your average Star Wars figure. And the young G.I. Joe: RAH fans certainly didn’t seem to complain about the articulation.

Also, I generally hated action features as a kid. I remember being so bummed that the only Egon figure I had was the one with the “Fright” feature, and not the regular one. Thank God my favorite lines, Star Wars and Transformers, didn’t really employ action features. There was the occasional firing missile or Rancor jaw, but for the most part neither line ruined the sculpt of a character with some goofy action feature. I was so happy that Jedi Luke had a removable, hand-held lightsaber instead of that silly slides-into-the-arm gimmick.

So I’m just saying, don’t assume that your own childhood preferences are what all kids prefer. And don’t assume that because kids seem to enjoy playing with toys that happen not to have a lot of articulation, those kids must not want or care about articulation. Articulation is a very expensive feature on a toy, and it’s one of the first things most toy companies will sacrifice. However, it’s still entirely possible that if more articulation was added to those figures, the kids might enjoy them even more.

Some kids like action features. Some kids like articulation. Some kids just like a cool-looking toy. And all kids like all three things in varying proportions. What those preferences were when you were a kid most likely informs your preferences now. Adult collectors who, as kids, liked articulation tend to love Marvel Legends, DCUC, MOTUC as adults. Collectors who, as kids, loved cool-looking toys might like DC Direct, NECA or McFarlane stuff nowadays, and might be more likely to be fans of Millennium MOTU than MOTUC (unless they’re particularly fond of the vintage line aesthetically). Collectors who, as kids, really liked action features…OK, I’m not sure what they’re collecting. I can’t think of a collector’s line that pays tribute to action features, which suggests there isn’t much of a market there–possibly because action features are all about “playing” with the toy, which is not something most collectors do as adults. (And don’t make the mistake of thinking that collectors’ love for articulation is based on wanting to “play” with the toy–there’s a big difference between posing your figures for various display options and actually playing with them as a child would, making sounds and making them talk to one another and so forth.)

Anyway, my point being, I think the distinctions made between the preferences of “adult collectors” and “kids” are fairly irrelevant. The kind of toys I like today are generally the kind of toys I liked–or wanted–as a kid.

Mr. Shokoti’s response:

Obviously not every kid is going to feel the same way, but when you look at toys aimed at those under 10, the vast majority of them had action features. You didn’t feel that way. Obviously toy companies feel kids like you were in the minority. Tranformers, Thundercats, Gobots, Roboforce, MASK, Sectaurs, Super Powers, Silverhawks; they all had action features and most of them were extremely popular. Either other kids didn’t have the same hangup that you had with action features or they just suffered in silence.

Finally, after some more thought, I posted this:

On further consideration, how about this: I submit that while many kids love action features, the ones that grow up to become lifelong toy collectors are often (obviously not always) the ones that tended to prefer articulation, sculpting, and ancillary media over action features.

Because as I’ve pointed out, very few collector’s lines–in fact, I can’t think of any–cater to action features. So either collectors did like action features as kids and don’t like them now, or they never liked them. Based entirely on my own experience and from talking to fellow collectors, I lean toward the latter.

Anyway, this seems like just the sort of thing to drum up some spirited debate, so I ask you: what do you think? How would you break down the proportions of how important sculpting, articulation, action features and I’ll add one more category, ancillary media (cartoons, comics, movies, etc.) were to you when buying toys as kids, versus today? (“Ancillary media” means how likely you were/are to buy a toy regardless of how good the other aspects–sculpt, articulation etc.–were/are, simply because it was Star Wars/He-Man/Marvel/Transformers, etc.)

Here’s how mine would probably go:

Young Poe
Sculpt: 20%
Articulation: 25%
Action Features: 5%
Ancillary Media: 50%

My favorite toy lines as a kid: He-Man, Star Wars, Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Poe Today
Sculpt: 25%
Articulation: 35%
Action Features: 0%
Ancillary Media: 40%

My favorite toy lines as an adult collector: Movie Maniacs; Spawn (The Dark Ages, primarily); MOTU (Millennium and MOTUC); Marvel Legends; ToyBiz’s Lord of the Rings; DCUC; Mezco’s Hellboy; NECA’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


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  1. Late to the party, but my main concern when I was a kid was having toys of my favorite characters. Action features and poseability were fun additions, but not what I sought out. Even today, I collect based on characters. I like them to look good and be able to pose, but I also enjoy an action feature if it's cool but unobtrusive,

  2. Action features are the imagination killers, the same way video games that kill the imagination today. The missile that launches from your Iron Man's arm-cannon has a set distance, a set speed, and a set power. The repulsor beam fired from your child's mind does not.

  3. I do not mind when they are well executed. Transformers often come to mind, Animated Blitzwings head, auto-morph/mech-alive in the movie verse toys most of the weapons that shoot, some of the cyber key gimmick. But some , like most of the minicon gimmicks in Armada and the combination from Energon interfered with what could have been a better figure.

    When I was a kid my faves were G.I. Joe (both parents were in the military which probably contributed) and had tons of the figures and vehicles. Transformers have always stuck with me though. Beyond that I had a bunch of TMNT.

    Now, Transformers still hold the majority of my collection, I also cherry pick DC Universe Classics but my current vice is Marvel Universe. These are all the toys I imagined I had when I was a kid.

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