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10 - Walking Dead
Their last great line was the 5" series of Walking Dead figures. It got off to a rocky start, with some God awful sculpts and almost worse paint work. Throw in some really funky, weird articulation, and that first series or two was just butt ugly. But they got back to their roots and turned things around, creating a very successful series of dozens of figures by the end. They made the decision to go to a larger 7" scale last year, creating a 'Color Tops' series of all sorts of licensed characters similar to the old Movie Maniacs, and they folded the Walking Dead (and Fear the Walking Dead) into it. There's plans for the occasional exclusive or special figure to come out in the original scale, but it won't be quite the same.
9 - Matrix
Here's a line a lot of folks have forgotten, but it has some terrific figures. Along with the single pack releases over a couple waves, we got the terrific APU and the Sentinel. And don't forget the great action Chateau diorama! After almost 15 years, I still own all of these and have no intention of selling them off. If that's not a sign of a well executed line, I don't know what is.
8 - Simpsons
I complained a LOT about the McFarlane Simpsons series when it was being produced, but over time it really grew on me. While it will never take the place of the World of Springfield, they did great some great sets, like the Island of Dr. Hibbert shown below. They made the series their own, but I suspect the timing was simply too close to the earlier Playmates line for it to be a huge success.
7 - Austin Powers
Oh, baby! One of their earlier licensed series, the Austin Powers line up included talking background pieces that provided various lines from the film. They weren't shy about incorporating anyone and everyone, from Fat Bastard to almost nekkid, very hairy chested Austin. They also used some pretty risque lines - they were R rated comedies, after all. And yes, this was a series that pissed off that one mom who took it upon herself to save the children.
6 - Corpse Bride
McFarlane has done their share of cartoon lines - I already mentioned the Simpsons, but don't forget Hanna-Barbara, Wallace and Gromit, or the Grinch - but my favorite was the Corpse Bride. While the film is sort of a poor man's NMBC, it does have its moments, and I loved the character designs. They were able to translate those to plastic extremely well, and gave us the majority of important characters over a couple waves.
5 - Halo
Often people will complain that McFarlane doesn't know how to do articulation. The guy hasn't done himself any favors by repeating in interviews his disdain for joints and their damage to the aesthetic. But that doesn't mean the company hasn't stepped outside their comfort zone on occasion, and the Halo line is a perfect example. A creative design allowed them to include a TON of useful articulation without hurting Todd's all important aesthetic. It's also been one of their more successful lines, spanning quite a few years and waves.
4 - 3-D Posters
Remember these? Man, I wish we'd gotten a dozen more. I still have them hanging on the wall in my bar, and they always garner praise from visitors. This was a great example of the sort of creative thinking that put them on top, and the sort of thing I wish we'd see more of today. Not every new idea or attempt to push the envelope will be successful, which is why you need to do it over and over, always looking for new, creative directions.
3 - Where the Wild Things Are
One of their early non-Spawn successes, Where the Wild Things Are sports some truly amazing sculpt and paint work. The series captured the look of the characters beautifully, and was a huge hit at the time. They remain very much in demand, although they are a set better enjoyed in the package than out. That's due o the wonky designs, which look great, but tend to topple over and fall in actual practice.
2 - Movie Maniacs
In the mid-90's, McFarlane had offices in Michigan. One of their main marketing reps also lived here. At the time, I was co-founder of a large collector organization called A.T.O.M., the Action Toy Organization of Michigan. The group reached close to a 100 members during it's peak, but usually had about two dozen hard core characters that met regularly to swap toys and BS. Our organization was approached by the company to do a sort of focus group, where we would bring about 10 collectors to their offices for some pizza and discussion.
The meeting was great, with lots of things brought forth by both sides of the table. We got to hear about ideas and concepts that were still in their infancy and provide input on the best approaches, and we gave them our ideas on what would improve their current lines, and what licenses we'd love to see them go after.
I don't remember half what we discussed that night, but I do remember one idea, because it was so damn good. We talked about how many licenses were out there that only had one or two really great characters that collectors would want to buy, and the difficulties with getting those licenses and branding them in a way that would be profitable. But what if you created a single brand, a single umbrella, and brought in multiple single character licenses under it? You could use this brand to market to licensees, retailers, and the public! That brand would reserve peg space, that brand would be something Toys R Us could understand, and that brand could be used to develop consumer loyalty. Not long after that night of discussions, Movie Maniacs was born.
It was a great idea, so much so that it was repeated by SOTA (Now Playing), Mezco (Cinema of Fear), and NECA (Cult Classics). And McFarlane used the line to produce an amazing array of fantastic characters, some of which command big bucks to this day. Perhaps my all time favorite was the Jaws diorama, with poor Quint meeting his frothy end. The beauty of the series is everyone got something they loved, and it actually created a completist feeling across very diverse properties.
1 - Spawn
Well, duh. Dozens of waves, tons of variations, a multitude of themes and styles, this was the line - and comic - that really started it all. In fact, a top ten list of just the best Spawn figures is also on my list to put together eventually, since it's so large and encompassing of a series. Sometimes there was lots of articulation, like the 10th Anniversary version...other times they were merely Nerd Hummels. But they were always amazing to look at.
Conclusions:Once upon a time, McFarlane was a titan in the industry. Sadly, it's all too easy to forget that now. While I was putting together this list I considered dozens of licenses, and probably forgot as many as I remembered. Lines like Lost, Hanna-Barbara, the Grinch, Wallace and Grommit, Napoleon Dynamite, X-Files, Sleepy Hollow, Dragons, Military, Sports Picks, Shrek, Tortured Souls, Twisted Christmas, Twisted Fairy Tales, Twisted Oz, musical icons, 24, Sin City comics...it goes on and on. I really hope they can work their way back to that sort of presence on the pegs, because it would be a boost to the entire industry.
If you're enjoying this top ten concept of Captain Toy Picks or have a suggestion for a future list, drop me a line and let me know! I've added a section below with links to all the past Captain Toy Picks... features:
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Bad Action Figure Ideas!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Toy Fair 2017 Reveals!
Captain Toy Picks...The Top Ten Unproduced Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...The People's Picks for Best of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Best/Worst of 2016!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Poppies Winners of the Past Ten Years!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten DC Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Christmas Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Joker Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Superman Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Animated Action Figure Series!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Toy Things I'm Thankful For!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Premium Format Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Sixth Scale Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Horror Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Over $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Disappointments Under $100!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Palisades Muppets!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Wanted Licenses in Sixth Scale!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman Black and White Statues!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Masters of the Universe Classics Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Female Action Figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Prop Replicas!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Simpsons World of Springfield action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Batman action figures!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Grails!
Captain Toy Picks...Top Ten Sixth Scale Figures!
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