Here's some that got away……
October 7, 2009

Any geek worth their salt has had the same age old conversations: who’d win in a fight between Superman and Captain Marvel? Is Godzilla bad or just misguided? When is ‘Ten Speed and Brown Shoe’ going to get a DVD release? And what if the ‘Star Wars’ prequels had been any good? But the one that comes up all the time when you have your own toy company is, “Oh, you should do toys from….”, or, “Have they done action figures of…” or even better, “Oooo! You should make dolls from that movie.…”. Oh, if only it were that simple.

 

In a perfect world, I’d get an idea for a license I loved and then immediately call a meeting of the Bif Bang Pow! Licensing Department (located on the fourth floor of BBP! Headquarters, just past the cafeteria, opposite the R and D Division).

“Alright, we have a lot of ground to cover this week. Troy, have we heard back from ABC about ‘Life Goes On’ yet? What’s the hold up?? Chip, get on the horn to the studio, if they don’t care about approving the ‘Requiem For a Dream’ action figures and drug den playset, then we’re not going to make the holiday deadlines. And Tammy, I got a call over the weekend, I think the Akins estate is ready to talk so we can finally wrap up ‘The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo’. Come on people, there are cult properties piling up out there, and hundreds of people counting on us to deliver. Let’s roll!!”

Like I said, if only it were that simple. You see, there is no licensing department, it’s usually just me tracking all the right people down and making sure the proper rights are in place. Half the time the people you’re talking to don’t know what they have, and certainly don’t have the DETAILS needed that you’re looking for, so it can be a very lengthy process. Which is why Bif Bang Pow! has to be very particular in what it decides to go after and devote it’s time to. We like popular stuff, sure, but we love the more fringe properties, and seek out the audience that isn’t being served at the moment. But the trick is not to pick something TOO cult, that only you and the significant family members that want you to succeed will actually buy.

So, I thought I’d put together a list of properties that, in that perfect world, we would get to make (that would SELL) so I could finally stand them proudly on the shelf next to the Dude and Dexter.

BUCKAROO BANZAI- The very definition of a cult film, 1984’s ‘Buckaroo Banzai’ came fully loaded with a built in mythology and a dozen quirky characters. And what a cast! Peter Weller, John Lithgow, Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Clancy Brown, hell, even Ronald ‘Toht’ Lacey as the Prez! Problem is, it’s mired in legal confusion, and, well, most likely just too damn cult to make a splash in the toy world. But imagine the first wave, with a Build-the-Overthruster piece in each package!

BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID- One of my Top Five movies of all time, this one is easy. There’s never been any depictions of Newman or Redford ever in the history of action figures (I know, but Butch and Sundance- The Early Days’ from Kenner doesn’t count, trainspotters. Berenger and Katt are no substitutes for Newman and Redford!) and they deserve to be immortalized in plastic sculpts. Especially for two of the coolest characters the movies have ever given us. The seven inch figure route would work, but ideally they’d be a box set of deluxe 12” figures. Hot Toys, are you listening??

THE MICHAEL CAINE COLLECTION- As above, one of the greatest and most prolific actors of all time has never gotten the action figure treatment. I worship Caine, and own many of his movies, his guide to acting, and his amazing autobiography (did you know it was HIS idea for Vidal Sassoon to bottle his shampoos and sell them in his salon? Genius!),  and I’ve studied them intently. I mean, can you name another actor that’s had as many of his films re made over the years? On that note, I see the ‘Caine Collection’ highlighting three of his most significant roles: Harry Palmer from ‘The Ipcress File’, Charlie Croker from ‘The Italian Job’, and of course, Carter from ‘Get Carter’, one of THE most bad ass characters in all of bad assery. Again, 12” deluxe figures, please, with original one sheet poster box artwork.

MEGAFORCE- Oh, don’t be silly.

LIFE ON MARS- The UK version, naturally. I’ve since had someone take the John Simm Master and Eccelston Doctor figures and make me a custom Sam Tyler figure, but someone should have done retro MEGO style figures of the leads. Oh, and a retailer exclusive remote controlled Ford Cortina, with early 70’s soundtrack playing action.

JAMES BOND, 007- I mean, come ON!! Why is it, the most successful movie franchise in history has been so neglected in action figure form?? (Forget the many 12” versions out there, I’m talking 3 ¾”- 5” scale). Over 40 years of Bonds, villains, girls, vehicles and gadgets. The mind reels at the variant possibilities, sound clips and action features that could be incorporated today. We’d do it if we could, believe me, but it’s a whopper of a commitment. Who do you think would be up for the challenge?

MONTY PYTHON’S FLYING CIRCUS- Yes, there’s merchandise out there, and yes Sideshow’s made some beautiful 12” figures from ‘Holy Grail’ and ‘Life of Brian’. Diamond even got three of it’s six proposed ‘Holy Grail’ 7” figures off the ground several years ago. But how about action figures from the original series? I’d love to see two or three waves, with Cleese in suit and bowler hat, Chapman as the Colonel, Jones in drag, Palin as the Spanish Inquisition, Idle as the ‘Nudge Nudge’ man, and Gilliam as the Most Awful Family in Britain’s bean eating son. This year is their 40th Anniversary, let’s make some action figures, please.

SPACED- Ahhh, the ‘Spaced’ license. Your legend looms larger year after year. You know, I used to love that show, and would follow everything the teams of Pegg/Frost/Wright did. But I put so much work into an enterprise that never came to fruition, that, though it’s not their faults, I’m borderline boycotting whatever those people are involved in. (I barely saw ‘Star Trek’ because of this misdirected anger). It took so long, that during it’s gestation, I managed to meet Jessica Stevenson and discuss it, at Comic Con and ran into Edgar Wright TWICE (thousands of miles apart- in LA and London), the second time mentioning how ironic it was that he’d cast Timothy Dalton in ‘Hot Fuzz’, as we were about to make the Prince Barin figure of him from ‘Flash Gordon’. But in a way, I have ‘Spaced’ to thank for getting Bif Bang Pow! up and off the ground in the first place. It was the first property I confidently felt needed action figures, and because of all that was in motion to make that happen back in the day, ‘Lebowski’ and ‘Gordon’ fell into place. I’ll still never get back the two and a half years I spent trying to put the deal together with an increasingly confused and disinterested Channel 4 (the cast and creators were on board, mind you, and LOVED our designs), but I suppose the silver lining to that is that I can now sit back and boast of what we HAVE achieved, while rooting for some other enterprising young soul to come along and make Tim, Daisy and all their pals in miniature form. And for the record, if any of you liked our figures and design perspective for ‘The Big Lebowski’ Urban Achiever line, well, you can imagine what we’d have done with ‘Spaced’.

I could go on, of course, and literally make this a weekly column, because I’m constantly playing the ‘What if?’ game with the world of toys. I mean, LJN made a toy line out of DUNE, for god’s sake, so anything’s possible, right? (And I haven’t even touched on MUSIC yet!) Meantime, maybe some current or future toy mogul
is reading this and deciding right this instant to track down the Python lawyers to discuss the finer points of articulation. For my sake, I hope that’s the case, because those shelves need replenishing.

 

TAGS:
Jason "Plastic Soul" Lenzi
A successful television producer and voice-over artist, pop culture fanatic Jason Lenzi established Bif Bang Pow! in 2005, channeling his boundless enthusiasm as a fan and collector into the creation of the company’s highly-desired toy lines. His enthusiasm has proven contagious, earning BBP! unanimous praise from the toy community and leading to creative partnerships with the likes of comics giant Alex Ross and rock icon Scott Ian. BBP! has so far released action figures and bobble heads for 'Flash Gordon', 'The Big Lebowski', 'The Twilight Zone', 'Dexter', 'LOST', HBO's 'Eastbound and Down' and 'The Venture Brothers'. When he's not chasing down new licenses, producing and narrating various TV series, or reading every music magazine on the shelves, he's obsessively playing Beatles: Rock Band until he gets every song right.
Read other articles by Jason "Plastic Soul" Lenzi.

 

 

 

13 Comments »

  • Great article. It’s always crazy to see some obscure stuff end up with a toy license, but what’s even sadder is when said toy licenses get caught up in legal mumbo jumbo. A shame too as some of those lines would be great. Of course, would they all sell? Probably not.

  • ChipCataldo Chip Cataldo says:

    Python is an admirable goal, methinks. Soooooo many worthwhile characters from the movies & show that it could go on for many years.

  • Danny CantinaDan says:

    007 3 3/4″ scale line sounds awesome. I mean, if some executive is afraid of a line of figures wearing tuxedos just show him the old MEGO Love Boat line.

  • chad says:

    nice article makes me sad that you were not able to get the okay to do buckaroo banzie for they would have been cool and butch cassidy and the sundance kid surely something could be worked out with newmans estate. and as for spaced one should never give up for as you pointed out the cast is interested its just trying to get the burcrates of the studeio to okay the thing at least consider trying for spaced. and as for buckroo there is always hope that the legal mess could untangle itself and the thing would be free for over due toys.

  • Cesar Zamora Masked Avenger says:

    I was just thinking about the James Bond line of figures. Corgi dropped the ball on this, I was super excited for a 3 3/4 scale Connery Bond. I thought it was a done deal, 2 years later and I’m still complaining about the faults of the Indiana Jones line. At least Mattel is coming through with Ghostbusters, I thought that would never happen.

  • Lt. Clutch says:

    I would pay good money for a Claude Akins figure. I watched every show he was on from Movin’ On to Sheriff Lobo. Great character actor.

    There is one man that deserves a movie line as much as Michael Caine does. And his name is Lee freakin’ Marvin!

    Someone needs to do a Starsky & Hutch range. Not the movie, but the vintage TV series with PMG, Soul, Antonio Fargas, and Bernie Hamilton. Heck, I want a whole 12” line of 70′s detectives: Jim Rockford, Cannon, McCloud, Columbo, and the baddest cop of all: LT. THEO KOJAK!

    Talking about westerns? THE MAN WITH NO NAME TRILOGY. Eastwood! Van Cleef! Wallach! Or how about THE WILD BUNCH? Anyone who recognizes my avatar knows the greatness of Robert Ryan. Please immortalize him in plastic so that I may die a happy man.

  • Brainlock says:

    Since it is coming up on Hallowe’en: Whatever happened to Vital Toys and the Rocky Horror license?

    They did six of the characters as HeadLiners, and Frank, Riff, and Col as 8″ figures, with plans for more that never happened. Most notably, Eddie was NEVER made! The movie that really launched Meat Loaf’s career and he got the short end of the stick!
    (No, State Fair and that Rock Band ‘Lars Umlaut’ figure does NOT count!)

  • Whatever your process is, I’m grateful for it. I love my Dexter and The Big Lebowski figures, and I suppose I have you to thank for those.

  • agaurdiandevil says:

    you need to go after rights for a doctor house figure. and some figures from bones.

  • Jason says:

    OK, I grant, Michael Caine has a huge body of work, but I would include Peachy from “The Man Who Would Be King” in your list.

    And (I’m now officially high on something wicked) someone should do an entire Rorke’s Drift action set, including at least six of the red coats. Zulu == Greatest War Movie Ever.

  • Traie says:

    I just want to say thanks so much for making the Mystic Seer as a bobble head, it’s that kind of niche stuff I admire your company for.
    To actually come up with the idea and manufacture a cool as hell toy that a nano fraction of the population would even recognise is incredible (not to mention the first bobble head I’ve seen that actually makes sense in the format), and I hope you can continue with this sort of thing. It is currently the pride of my collection, but when is the life sized one due ;)
    Keep on dreaming…

  • MikeJ says:

    HUZZ!! Great news the critically acclaimed award winning buddy comedy detective series Tenspeed and Brown Shoe will be getting a legitimate dvd release March 9.An all-time favorite.Not so great news the excellent Tv movie pilot.Called one of the best ever made will NOT be included. Paramount/CBS owns the rights and would not make a deal with the company releasing it.The jerks! “You put me between the American Nazi party and the mob and you say calm down!!” “In 10 hours you’ve ruined my life!!” “Things have been Kind of strange?” “Private eyes you and I?” “Why not?”We’ll be a laugh a minute.” “You know Tenspeed and Brown Shoe” Lionel”Brown Shoe” Whitney and E.L.”Tenspeed” Turner.

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