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Action figure

From Academic Kids

An action figure is a posable plastic figurine of an action hero, superhero or a character from a movie or television program. These dolls usually are marketed as merchandise intended for boys.

Action figures are useful in making stop motion movies which are gaining popularity among children due to the availability of easy to use computer software for making animated movies.

History

The term "action figure" was first used by Hasbro in 1964, to market their G.I. Joe figure to boys who wouldn't play with "dolls". G.I. Joe was a military-themed 11.5-inch action figure inspired by the TV series "The Lieutenant". The action figure featured changeable clothes, with various uniforms to suit different purposes. In Britain and other markets, these figures were localized as "Action Man," and had different uniforms.

During the 1970s, the action figure market was dominated primarily by the Mego Corporation and their standard 8 inch dolls, including the Action Jackson doll. These were constructed with standard plastic bodies and interchangeable heads.

At this time, Takara Toys was licensed by Hasbro to make and sell G.I. Joe toys in Japan, and decided to make their own: the Henshin Cyborg-1 toy used the same G.I. Joe molds, but with transparent plastic revealing cyborg innards, and a chrome head and cyborg feet. Takara wanted to produce toys and playsets for the new character, but the expense was prohibitive. So, a smaller version of the cyborg toy was developed, standing at 3-3/4 inches high, and was first sold in 1974 as Microman. The Microman line was also novel in its use of interchangeable parts. This laid the foundation for both the smaller action figure size and the transforming robot toy.

In 1976 Mego brought the Microman toy line to the United States as the Micronauts.

Takara began producing characters in the Microman line with increasingly robotic features, including Robotman, a 12" robot with room for a Microman pilot, and Mini-Robotman, a 3-3/4" version of Robotman. These toys also featured interchangeable parts, with emphasis placed on the transformation and combination of the characters.

Mego eventually lost control of the market after rejecting the license to produce Star Wars toys in 1976. The widespread success of Kenner's Star Wars 3-3/4" toy line made the newer, smaller size the industry standard. Instead of a single character with outfits that changed for different applications, toy lines included teams of characters with special functions. Led by Star Wars-themed sales, collectible action figures quickly became a multi-million dollar secondary business for movie studios.

Similarly, comic book firms were able to get figures of their characters produced as well, regardless of whether or not they appeared in movies or animated cartoons. One difference from the traditionally costumed characters was that all sorts of specialized costumes ("Ice Batman") and removable equipment (wings and swords) were added as well. Figures were eventually made for the player-characters in video games. Later, figures for a more limited market of older consumers were produced from the characters in "graphic novels." Finally, there are models of performers in adult movies.

In the early 1980's, the burgeoning popularity of Japanese robot cartoons such as Gundam encouraged Takara to reinvent the Microman line as the Micro Robots, moving from the cyborg action figure concept to the concept of the living robot. This led to the Micro Change line of toys: objects that could "transform" into robots. In 1984 Hasbro licensed Micro Change and another Takara line, the Diaclone transforming cars, and combined them in the US as the Transformers, spawning a still-continuing family of animated cartoons.

There was at first a hesitancy to produce larger figures of the more specialized German armed services of the Second World War, such as the SS. But by the end of the century, Japanese and Chinese firms did so.

 action figure
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Aragorn action figure

Notable action figures

See also

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