Way back in October of 2006 I wrote a blog entitled Finally, Sports Figures Done Right. It was about Gracelyn Toys then brand new line of 5" articulated NFL players called RePlays.
As a casual sports fan (I’m definitely a fan, just not a fantatic) I had only a passing interest in previous sports lines such as Starting Lineups and McFarlane’s SportsPicks. From a creative point of view I thought McFarlane Toys was done a fabulous job with SportsPicks. They looked amazing. Player and team choices left something to be desired, unless you were a fan of the big market teams with superstar players.
I picked up a SportsPicks figure here or there, but just like I wrote nearly 4 years ago I wanted more. I wanted poseability.
I really enjoyed the NFL Replays line. I thought, for the most part, Gracelyn did a fine job with the figures. Sure there was some issues with skin tone on some players. And, yeah, on the few occasions where a player was helmetless the facial sculpts weren’t really all that great. But, still, they made for a nice collection.
A few years later Gracelyn released a series of MLB Replays. They saw almost no brick-n-mortar distribution. Toys R Us got a Derek Jeter and, I think, one other big player (Arod, maybe?). But not the full series. I didn’t find any of the other figures until a going-out-of-business sale at KB Toys in our local mall a year or so back. Whereas their NFL figures were pretty good, the baseball figures were pretty awful. While they were articulated, they really only looked good in one pose. Likeness were pretty poor, too.
Gracelyn was never great for giving out information, but soon even what little information they did provide seemed to dry up. They were launching a 6" line of NFL figures called Extreme Replays. But, then I noticed online retailers dropping any mention of these from their pre-order sites. And, like that, Gracelyn was a memory. Although if you visit their website it says "new content coming soon". It’s been saying that for awhile now. But, if you ask some of the online retailers who dealt with them they’d tell you that Gracelyn was done. And so was my hope of articulated sports figures. Or…so I thought!
So who should come to the rescue? Good ol’ McFarlane Toys.
McFarlane announced a new line of 4" scale, highly-articulated sports figures called Playmakers. While the announcement was scoffed at by hardcore SportsPicks collectors, for me it was a cause to rejoice. McFarlane picked up the slack left by Gracelyn and improved greatly upon the product.
MLB Playmakers (in stores now) were the first announced, with NFL following this fall. NHL is rumored to have a small assortment coming later this year, as well (fingers crossed for a Sharks player). Last I heard McFarlane’s license with the NBA had expired. I haven’t heard if they were able to re-up or if there’s been a NBA Playmakers announcement. I hope so. I’d like to see all the major sports represented.
Playmakers are better sculpted and have more articulation than their Gracelyn forerunners. And, they can be displayed in nice nuetral poses, which is the way I like to display my figures. They’ve released 12 players in the first series, many of whom are available in either batting or fielding variants. (I’m not falling for that trick, by the way. I’m only picking up one of each player). Best of all they put a player from the San Francisco Giants (pitcher Tim Lincecum) in the first lineup! Go Giants!
I haven’t heard if there’s a second series of MLB planned for 2010 yet. I hope so. I want more players! I don’t want to wait until 2011. (Boy, we collectors are an impatient lot, ain’t we?)
I love this line. Whereas I would only pick up a SportsPicks once in a blue moon, I’ll be collecting all the Playmakers figures.
As always, I look forward to reading your comments below. Also, join in the ongoing discussion in our General Toy Talk forum topic about Playmakers here.