Kenner's Robin Hood
November 29, 2011

Its not uncommon to find examples of genetic engineering within the realm of parumplasticus populus [Latin: little plastic people]. In fact, the re-purposing of action figure DNA happens frequently within a species. What’s not as common is to see unrelated species share the same genetics. Rarer still is to find that elusive action figure line that is bred almost entirely from foreign DNA. Some within the scientific community call this kitbashing. And Kenner’s 1991 line of figures from the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves took this practice to new heights.

This is not to say that the line should be condemned or dismissed based solely on its genetic composition. In my humble opinion, the line is pretty attractive. The Frankensteining of  the basic building blocks is offset by the uniform application of soft goods. Save the Sheriff of Nottingham, the head sculpts are decent, especially when you ignore the first attempt Costner noggin. Actually, I don’t know which Costner head sculpt came first but one looks like him and one doesn’t. Both versions of Robin Hood (Long Bow and Crossbow) came in both head sculpts. Below are two portraits of the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves line. The first has the Costner head Long Bow Robin Hood. The second has the Costner head Crossbow Robin Hood. Perhaps your analysis is similar to mine: genetic engineering or not, this is a cool group of figs. And dirt cheap so go get a set!

My trusted colleague, Professor xrmc20, and I went about deconstructing the genetic composition of each Robin Hood figure in an attempt to decipher its original building blocks. Here follows our findings. A couple notes before we begin:

1) In many cases a piece of a Robin Hood figure comes from some other figure but often it has been modified. For instance, the Super Powers Green Arrow’s arms are used frequently but things like forearm braces have been added.

2) The majority of DNA cloning for the Robin Hood line comes from the Kenner Super Powers line. The Super Powers figures had knee articulation but the Robin Hood figures do not. So again, a Super Powers figure’s legs will be used as the base for a Robin Hood figure but they have been modified, at the very least by removing the knee articulation and often by resculpting boot detail.

3) Although Professor xrmc20 and I are certifiable geniuses it may be the case that we’ve erred in some of our hypotheses. We also may have omitted some sources of DNA. You guys are pretty smart, too, so we welcome your insights. Kind’uv.

Now, let’s pull off those soft goods and get down to the nitty gritty, ahem.

fig 1. Long Bow Robin Hood
This figure is almost entirely a Super Powers Green Arrow. Robin is even sporting the “G” belt buckle because, as Professor xrmc20 points out, he used to be known as Robin Good. Notice that detail has been added to the boots. Robin Hood’s bow is also essentially the same bow that came with Green Arrow. The Robin Hood figure in the exhibit below has what I’ve been referring to as the “Costner Head”.

fig 2. Crossbow Robin Hood
This second version of Robin Hood also uses the Green Arrow body. Green Arrow’s sculpted arm guard detail is still visible on the backs of Robin’s forearms. The Robin Hood figure in the exhibit below has the “Not So Much” head sculpt.

fig 3. Little John
Little John’s torso and arms obviously trace back to Super Powers Hawkman. It was a bit of a challenge, however, to do the genetic deconstruction on his legs. Finally we noticed a clue to help us narrow it down. Although most had been removed there was still a hint of an angled boot detail on Little John’s shin. After microscopically examining things like sculpted leg musculature we came to the conclusion that Little John uses the Super Powers Batman legs.

 fig 4. The Dark Warrior
This is the second Robin Hood figure that makes use of the Super Powers Hawkman torso and arms. That much is clear. Determining the source of the Dark Warrior’s legs posed the biggest challenge and, in the end, left us undecided. A few times we thought we had figured it out only to identify some disqualifying factor. As humiliating as it is to us we petition your insights.

 fig 5. Azeem
Azeem has the same problematic legs as The Dark Warrior. His torso is identical to Super Powers Shazam! His arms descend from Super Powers Green Arrow but have been modified. Most noticeably, studded forearm braces have been added.

 fig 6. Sheriff of Nottingham
An important DNA source was almost overlooked with this figure. It was not until I read Doctor Poe Ghostal’s dissertation that I knew the head sculpt was lifted from Kenner’s RoboCop Chainsaw figure. Beyond that, the Sheriff repurposes  Super Powers Lex Luthor’s torso and legs with the typical resculpting of the boots. His arms are the same modification of the Super Powers Green Arrow arms that can be found on Azeem.

 fig 7. Will Scarlett
The torso and arms of Super Powers Robin express themselves anew with the Will Scarlett figure. Down below, Will sports Super Powers Desaad legs. An inheritor of odd DNA you are, Will Scarlet!

fig 8. Friar Tuck
Speaking of odd DNA, Friar Tuck’s genetic engineering is a bit of a departure. Clearly, his body descends directly from Kenner’s Star Wars Gamorrean Guard. But there has been quite a bit of resculpting. The chest plate is gone. The belt has additional features like a knife. The fur has been refined. But dang if those thighs aren’t just as chunky.

fig 9. Playsets and Vehicles
The Star Wars sampling does not end with Friar Tuck. The large Robin Hood Sherwood Forest playset is a smart reuse of the Return of the Jedi Ewok Village playset. The Robin Hood Battle Wagon is the product of splicing the Return of the Jedi Ewok Assault Catapult with the Power of the Force Ewok Battle Wagon.

That leaves the Robin Hood Net Launcher and Bola Bomber. Were these, perhaps, the only toys made new for the Robin Hood line? Whether or not that’s the case, I’m quite sure that these two weapons reared their DNA in the Kenner Bone Age line. Ha, Robin Hood pays it forward!

TAGS:
Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann
Action figure anthropologist, Professor Cantina Dan Neumann has been a scholastic contributor to the online community studying the complex world of parumplasticus populus {little plastic people} since the turn of this millenium. His primary focus is the visual cataloging of species exhibits through photo-journalism.
Read other articles by Danny "CantinaDan" Neumann.

 

 

 

23 Comments »

  • Ken says:

    I think the mystery legs are retooled Martian Manhunter legs. From the pics it looks like the wrinkling in the boot near the ankles and the muscle structure in the thigh might be the same. I don’t have robin hood figures in hand to compare though.

  • Thomas says:

    Pretty cool stuff. It was never that apparent to me as a kid when parts were reused. Or maybe it just didn’t matter. But as an adult, it now does.

  • Van Statten says:

    Wow… I new about the Star Wars connection to the Robin Hood line but never knew anything about the Super Powers reused parts. That’s cool!

  • bnjmnrlyr says:

    me thinks you’ve just opened Pandora’s Box with this one mate.

    I had the “not so much” Longbow Robin that I got as a “thank you” gift from an exchange student when I took her to Prom (yes, that does date me … oy). At the time I had no interest in a “Costner” toy, but couldn’t get over the amount of blatant re-use in the line to not get a good chuckle out of having it.

    Thanks for bringing this back.

  • Shellhead says:

    Wow. Great article, guys. Nice job with the research.

  • Jason Geyer says:

    Excellent article, as always!

    When these first came out we were amazed at the blatant reuse, up to then unheard of for such different lines. (We would soon see Kenner cribbing across all of its lines, though).

    I guess it was only natural following up the reuse of SP molds for the Dark Knight Collection. They also reused Robin Hood’s crossbow for the BTAS Poison Ivy a couple of years later.

    The non-Costner head definitely came first and is “rarer” in that less quantities were made. It wasn’t terribly hard to find for awhile though; I think I still have some packaged ones somewhere in my trading box. The talk at toy shows at the time (1991?) was that the likeness rights were taking so long to negotiate that Kenner had no choice but to move ahead with a generic head to hit the launch date, and do a running change later. It was replaced fairly quick, so the change happened well before the movie hit. Obviously they didn’t even bother on likeness rights for any of the other characters.

    I wonder how well these sold? It was a heck of a toy push for such a non-kid’s movie. But I didn’t think the second assortment ever got further than solicits. I’ve never seen any prototypes show up anywhere.
    http://www.toyotter.com/hood2.jpg

    • Danny CantinaDan says:

      Thanks for those extra insights, Professor Otter! I apologize for not having mentioned that your articles about this very topic were the inspiration for the blog. And thank you for the link to the wave 2 image!

      • Clutch says:

        I remember the figures going on close-out about a year or so after the movie was released. Friar Tuck showed up in droves around that time at places like Kay-Bee in my area. I would have loved for the second series to have made it to retail because the second Azeem, King Richard, and the Celtic Barbarian looked sweet indeed!

  • starvingartist says:

    Bone Age’s Bola Bomber and Tangle Trap Photo: http://www.mikethepod.com/050108pic8.jpg

    It seems like Kenner’s Bone Age toy line was released (or announced) in 1988, before Robin Hood: http://www.mikethepod.com/mm050108.htm

  • demoncat says:

    nice insightful article knew Kenner used the ewok village for the sherwood playset. but never knew that they also took some of the super powers figures and borrowed their parts to make the robin hood figures. plus also always wondered if friar tuck used a gamoran guard mold.

  • Clutch says:

    Priceless! I knew you’d get to this line sooner or later. The soft goods used for these figures more than made up for the blatant re-use of various bodies and parts. Those unknown legs were probably modified from either Martian Manhunter or Red Tornado’s molds. Now that I’ve seen them up close and personal, I’m thinking that the SP head on a Sheriff body would make for a alternate Armored Lex custom. Likewise, Little John and the Dark Warrior could be modified into Thanagarians. Lots of possibilities here, guys. Excellent work as always.

  • Shogi says:

    Very cool article, I’ve been cataloging Kenner mold reuses for the past year myself :) One thing I noticed about the Robin Hood Bolo Bomber is that it uses the bottom half of the Bone Age Spear Slinger. I guess the original bottom half of the Bolo Bomber looked too “caveman” like for the Robin Hood line

  • Captain Zero says:

    Good article. Nice research.
    I hope this bodes well for the future of the action figure line with the GREAT work of the Four Horsemen on the DCU Classics line.
    Great body molds for the future!! Or re-issues sometime in the future.

  • Marlies says:

    Good research and actually pretty cool stuff.
    Never noticed parts being re-used and I don’t really mind. It’s fun to see the pictures.

  • [...] out this fun AFI article on the DNA of Kenner’s frankensteinian Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves line (which I’ve previously discussed [...]

  • Julius Marx says:

    This is a great, well researched article… but now I have that damn Bryan Adams song stuck in my head. Thanks a lot Dan.

    Great work. Great pictures!

  • absolutely brilliant stuff – exhaustive research! and you’ve convinced me that the robin hood figures are worth getting in spite of everything…

  • Robb says:

    Wow! I knew about the obvious kit bashing done on the vehicles and the fact that Friar Tuck was the Gamorrean body, but I had no idea what was under the robes for all of these characters. Nottingham using the Luthor body was especially cool. Great article!

  • [...] Figure Insider has posted a great article over on their blog about how the designers of Kenner’s Robin Hood line borrowed many ideas [...]

  • [...] had to have used the original Gamorrean legs). Kenner did a lot of borrowing for Robin Hood, as this post on Action Figure Insider illustrates. They even reused several ewok playsets to make Robin Hood [...]

  • [...] Here's a blog done by Cantina Dan that shows a lot of the reused stuff from the Robin Hood line. Action Figure Insider – Men of Action Kenner’s Robin Hood [...]

  • [...] time. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves simply uses a bunch of those previously sculpted pieces. Action Figure Insider has a rather thorough run-down of the entire toy line, including Azeem. He used the Super Powers Green Arrow arms which are really awkward on this [...]

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