If you are a 3 3/4″ fan (and especially if you are a vintage 3 3/4″ fan) the highlight of last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con was the reveal of Super7′s ReAction ALIEN line. We all know the story by now. Back in 1979 Kenner had the license to ALIEN. A line of 3 3/4″ action figures was developed. But due to complaints about the earlier released 18″ ALIEN figure and the R-rating of the movie, Kenner had to pull the plug. Well, Frank Supiot and his team at Super7, deciding this travesty had to be rectified, went about a painstaking process to bring this cancelled toy line back to life … 35 years later! Lots that can and will be said. But in this post we are going to focus on two things:
1) an awesome interview AFi was able to conduct with Frank and
2) a review of three of Super7′s SDCC exclusives:
Let’s start with the interview…
AFi – Can you give us some of the history of the aborted Kenner line? Why did it get as far as it did without making it to toy isles?
FS/S7 – As far as we’ve been able to piece together, the license was signed with thoughts of another STAR WARS type success, and they released the truly awesome 18” Alien Figure. However, the parents of 1979 did not agree! There were many complaints about the frightening appearance (rightly so), and that has been expanded into urban legend that the toy was banned and pulled from shelves. In truth, the toy simply did not sell. I learned that many stores had them marked down to just a few dollars in order to clear the stock out. Ultimately, the R-rating of the film (the toy makers had been hoping for PG) and low sales of the large figure are the reason why the 3 ¾” figure line was never put into production! It makes me wonder if the 3 ¾” line was released first, possibly the 18” figure never would have been produced.
AFi – When and how did you become aware of the line? Are you more a fan of the Alien franchise or a fan of vintage toy lines? ie – What impelled you to take on this project?
FS/S7 – I first learned of the aborted plans for 3 ¾” ALIEN action figures from an article in Tomart’s Action Figure Digest in 1995, and as far as I can tell, that is when anyone learned about them! The toys were never announced at a Toy Fair or in a catalog. You can find solicitations for the 18” toy, the movie viewer, the board game … even solicitations for HG Toys puzzles and target shooting games … but nothing for 3 ¾” figures.
It was kind of mind blowing, since I was a lifelong fan of the ALIEN series and grew up with 3 ¾” figures In a way, I’m glad that I didn’t know about the plans as a kid. That would have been unbearably frustrating.
AFi – What was the process like tracking down information? Who owned the prototypes, card art, and whatever else existed? Was there still Kenner (Hasbro) ownership? Who held the Alien license? Was it difficult to get the rights to reproduce the line?
FS/S7 – The first step was to start tracking down people in the industry and personal collectors who own or have owned prototypes in the past. One contact leads to another, usually, and we spoke with sculptors, toy dealers … it took a few years before we felt that there was enough information to proceed and actually make these toys for real. Now armed with actual materials, I reached out to my contacts at 20th Century Fox, the owners of the ALIEN franchise, to get the necessary licensing permissions. We did not approach Fox at the beginning, since it would be pointless to negotiate (and pay) for a contract when we were not yet certain we would be able to produce the figures!
AFi – Was Kenner’s initial assortment the five figures we have seen? (Ripley, Ash, Dallas, Alien, and Kane in Nostromo Suit). I believe you mentioned you were able to track down all prototypes except Dallas. Where did you find them? How are you going about recreating Dallas from scratch?
FS/S7 – Yep, five figures were planned. I have seen it reported erroneously that there was a RIPLEY IN SPACE SUIT, but really that seemed to be from people who couldn’t identify the character of KANE.
I was told by one person that they owned a DALLAS prototype, but they never showed even a photo of it to me, so I’m highly skeptical. Outside of that, no one has reported a DALLAS and the toy seems to have been lost to the sands of time. Furthermore, it seems there is only ONE photo of the toy, making recreation even more difficult. This one was definitely a challenge, but we are quite familiar with the vintage style of sculpting and manufacturing, so it was just a process of extrapolating what we could see into its logical final state.
AFi – I use the word “prototypes” but I’m not sure that is accurate. What exactly have you been able to acquire?
FS/S7 – Regarding terminology … prototypes were made, meaning an original sculpture and then castings (hand made copies) were made from that original. While it depends greatly on the materials used, often the original sculpture can be damaged or destroyed when creating the castings. No tooling (steel molds) were ever made for the toys, as they pulled the plug before that stage. In some cases, we were able to acquire castings, in others, we were supplied with reference material and photographs. There was a lot of recreation involved, as even taking an original casting to the tooling stage means making subtle changes in engineering so that the toys function or be removed from the molds.
AFi – Having examined the prototypes closely, does it appear that Kenner reused any Star Wars figure pieces for the Alien figures? Did you come in contact with any of the original sculptors?
FS/S7 – No, these are all completely original sculptures. Unfortunately, the original sculptors Bill Lemon and Rudy Vap have both passed away, though I was able to communicate with one of Rudy’s sons who was very helpful in shedding light on the history of the toys.
AFi – You told me a great story about connecting with the woman who was the graphic designer on the original card art. Could you relate that?
FS/S7 – That was really a great experience! I was very lucky in being able to contact the designer and discuss the card back that was made, and I was amazed by her recall. She worked for an ad agency in Chicago that was hired to create the card fronts (no backs were created) and it seems as though they were just for presentation and not for final manufacturing. One of each character (although they were not sure about Kane, but that would seem odd to omit one of the figs) was made and each card had hand-cut corners. We used their design, but tweaked the color scheme to perfectly match the 18” Alien Figure that was released in 1979. In my opinion, the color blue that was used in the mock up would have been deemed “incorrect” and they would have changed it so that the goods would family together with items that were actually released: the big figure, the ALIEN Movie Viewer, and board game.
I also was able to learn that the ALIEN logo that we are using on the ReAction Figure packages was designed by airbrush artist George Lopac, who also has sadly passed away. I would have loved to ask him about the decision to airbrush out the inner jaws from the logo, when the source photo is used on the 18” figure package and it shows the tongue-teeth fully extended!
AFi – What will be available? When will it be released? And for how much?
FS/S7 – We now have announced:
• SDCC exclusive 2PK DISCOVERED SALES SAMPLES – BIG CHAP & KANE $40
• ReAction Figures are $19.99 each and will be available this fall.
• Preorder the set of five for $100 during SDCC and get a free EARLY BIRD PACKAGE (exclusive)
All SDCC Exclusives
A Great FAQ
AFi – Besides the action figures are you doing any other Alien related product?
FS/S7 – We have a lot in the works! We will also create ALIEN Vinyl Figures as well as our FAST FOOD style drinking glasses.
AFi – There is a small but passionate band of vintage 3 3/4″ fans out there who decry that a number of lines died before critical characters were made. ie – Mattel’s Flash Gordon line is missing Dale Arden and Prince Barin. Their Battlestar Galactica line is missing Apollo. Any chance Super7 would continue to right these wrongs with additional ”ReAction Figures” Lost Toy projects?
FS/S7 – Let me first say that we have very little interest in reproducing toys that were released. Vintage toys should remain vintage! Many people have asked us about reissuing the big ALIEN figure and I honestly don’t know why! It was released, you can still find them today … you may not like the price, but you can get them just the same. Specifically for that toy, it is absolutely magnificent and there is nothing that we could do to improve it. With that said, if we are not going to reproduce previously released figures, I’m not sure if it is possible economically to make one single figure from an “incomplete” series.
Also, are your SURE that APOLLO wasn’t released…
AFi – Speaking of that, there are a couple other vintage lines that sadly never saw the light of day. The ones that comes to mind first are Dark Crystal and Thundarr the Barbarian. Now that you’ve taken up the Alien cause, have fans been bugging you to take up these and other causes?
FS/S7 – With the ALIEN line being rescued from obscurity, I think that a lot of fans thought we would ONLY be reviving dead lines, but that isn’t necessarily the case. The way I see ReAction Figures is that it is all about the aesthetics and format, and we can apply those sensibilities to just about anything we can imagine. It doesn’t simply have to be a cancelled line, incomplete line, or even a nostalgic property. It is almost like a WHAT IF scenario – what if property X was released in 1981..what would those toys look like? What would the package look like? If you look at our SDCC exclusives for ALIEN, no EARLY BIRD PACKAGE or SALES SAMPLES were planned … but it makes sense within the narrative behind the toys. It is taking what was planned and continuing with that vision.
We were immediately flooded with requests for other cancelled series – including DARK CRYSTAL as a surprisingly popular request. I’ve only seen the THUNDARR card art, but never any prototypes – those would be a blast to create. As you may have assumed, we received many requests for the unproduced DROIDS and EWOKS figures, which I would love to make but licensing restrictions make it impossible at the moment. Too bad, since we could just take a short drive to our friend Steve Sansweet’s Rancho Obi-Wan and have immediate access to a complete set of prototypes! One stop shopping! Much easier than the toy archeology necessary to create the ALIEN line.
[AFi – O. M. G. Puh-lease!]
I actually keep a list of each request we receive…right alongside the other properties we’ve brainstormed internally. Fans can send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org or hit us up during San Diego Comic Con at booth #5245. ReAction Figures are only getting started!
AFi – Thank you for taking the time to answer all these questions, Frank! Really great stuff!
OK, onto the review!
Frank was kind enough to send us out an advance sample of the “Advance Promotional Sample” set of figures, a couple ALIEN bases, and a copy of the ALIEN ReAction Figure Catalog. Here is Super7′s official description of the 2-pack:
Super7 tracked down a retired toy sales representative who had a storage unit filled with old catalogs and toys from the 1970s, including a most amazing find: cases of “ALIEN SALES SAMPLES” designated for 1979’s Toy Fair! Each package contains two figures – the ALIEN (Big Chap) and KANE (in Nostromo Space Suit) – in unpainted “test shot” blue plastic. These samples were intended for distribution to wholesale buyers looking for the “next big space movie” product in the 3 ¾” scale. Ultimately, the line was cancelled –as shown by the large red stamp on the box and enclosed letter to the sales staff – and these samples never were taken to the trade show.
Okay, full disclaimer: These two-packs are brand new and we are joking about “discovering” them. As far as we have been able to ascertain, ALIEN figures were never displayed at any toy show or event, which made us wonder what really happened behind the scenes. Taking that curiosity further, we decided to create “the sales samples that never existed” and turn it into fun collectible … and a great way to kick off the ReAction Figure series!
Super7 will bring a limited quantity of the “Discovered Sales Samples” to San Diego Comic Con! This will be the first opportunity for collectors to own the ALIEN and KANE in ReAction Figure format – five points of articulation, extendable inner jaws, removable clear dome, removable clear space helmet. Each two-pack in “cancelled” packaging (including the sales staff letter) retails for only $40.00.
Brilliant idea for an exclusive. And for those of us chomping at the bit for the final figures, this is a terrific hold-over. No detail was overlooked in Super7′s effort to make this “sales sample” look and feel authentic to the property and era. Right on down to the great homage to Kenner seen in the design of the ReAction logo.
Just including the actual figures in the box was obviously not enough. A mock “Note to Sales Staff” gives us a glimpse of what potential buyers might have been pitched with back in ’79. Loved this section:
These two “advance samples” are for you to review with your team members and prospective clients. The guy with the helmet is called KANE and the other thing is the ALIEN. We have not seen the final movie yet, but we’re sure that they will be great space-friends!
Get a load of these awesome baggies patterned with the ReAction logo!
Yes, I got advance samples to review. I’m a lucky dude. Regardless, this is the kind’uv thing that makes San Diego Comic-Con so exciting for me. Had I not received this set I would’ve bee-lined it to Super7′s booth the second the doors opened on Preview Night. I mean, I’m still gonna. But just not with quite the same level of panic! That said, my best guess is that this 2-pack exclusive is going to sell out fast. However, keep in mind that these are just a teaser for the entire line of fully painted figures.
There is a great vintage-y solid plastic tactile feel to the figures. I almost said they both have five points of articulation, but Big Chap’s tail bumps him up to six. I’ll tell ya, the sculpts on these are so authentic and awesome that it didn’t even phase me that they’re not painted.
I love the bulkiness of Kane in Nostromo suit. Given the era in which this was originally sculpted, the accuracy to the actual suit is pretty awesome.
Big Chap the Alien would’ve been one of my favorite figures as a kid.
As you can see, once you remove Big Chap’s clear dome, there is a small lever that slides forward and back which controls his extendable inner jaw. 3 3/4″ figure collection, prepare to have your faces eaten.
I was a little worried at first when I noticed Kane’s helmet was loose in the baggie. But it snaps on securely.
Maybe its good that we will be getting these figures as adults instead of as eight year olds. ‘Cause chances are high that the helmet and dome would’ve been lost to the toy box black hole.
The peg holes in the feet are identical to the hexagon shape holes in vintage Star Wars figure feet. And vintage Star Wars figures fit snuggly and securely on the ALIEN stands.
So besides the action figure 2-pack, Super7 will be giving away (as in “free”) ALIEN ReAction Figure catalogs. Until they run out, of course. True to form, this neat little catalog has been designed to fit right in with those great mini-catalogs that were packaged with vehicles and playsets. Here is a photo of the ALIEN catalog next to a vintage Star Wars catalog that came with the old Creature Cantina playset.
The ALIEN ReAction Figure catalog is 12 pages full of photos and information about the line of figures and other ALIEN goods Super7 will be making available.
For me, the fact that this really is a vintage line, just 35 years delayed, ups the epic-factor exponentially. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see what Super7 comes up with as it continues the ReAction line. I love that Frank spoke about possibly applying this vintage aesthetic and format to properties that may not in themselves be vintage. But when I opened this 2-pack and felt the figures in my hand, it felt like a coming home. And my other “contemporary” 3 3/4″ figures did their best to make Kane and Big Chap feel welcome!
Here’s Kane hanging out with the fellas.
Here’s Big Chap hanging out with the, umm, other ugly creatures.
Kane wasted no time in joining the Clear Dome Club.
Big Chap joined the Alien’s-Have-Big-Hearts-Too committee.
What do you want? The Nostromo self-destructed. Kane is borrowing another interstellar ride.
Speaking of rides, the Dewback seems a fitting transport for Big Chap.
Didn’t take long before Big Chap found a place to call home in the world of vintage 3 3/4″ action figures.
Last word? Thank you, Frank and the team at Super7 for making this project real. You’ve kinda put the wonder of childhood back into the action figure collecting hobby. The bummed-out “what could’ve been” conversations are now being had with a “hey, ya never know” twinkle in they eye! You guys sum it up well in the mini catalog’s back page copy …
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