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#41 Morgan

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Posted 28 November 2019 - 06:41 PM

bridge-1000-2.jpg

 

 

TOS Enterprise Bridge Playset Prototype, 1996
 
At Toy Fair 1996 Playmates showed this Original Series bridge playset, which did not lead to a production version. The bridge was designed to open like a suitcase, with the two sides pivoting upward and closing at the top, giving it a semi-circular appearance when closed. 
 
A few things we can note: the bridge is far wider than the TNG bridge playset, and it's relatively faithfully laid out, even if there are some gaps that help playability. More importantly, there are plenty of chairs and railings, and overall the bridge is very spacious compared to the TNG bridge which turned out to be a little too claustrophic, had a bouncy floor, and workstations that snapped off too easily. 
 
The departures from the screen-seen bridge aren't all that significant: there are some issues one could raise with the stations and some of the spacing, especially front to back, but overall it's pretty well designed. I think this is, retail-wise, as good as it could have been done at the time without costing like a hundred bucks and without being to the exact scale, which could make it the size of a car tire or something. It doesn't feel scaled down, and it's not a deep and narrow well like the TNG bridge -- there is room to stick your hand in from the side and touch the stations and figures from the vantage point of the "camera" without losing too much realism.
 
Trek line manager Chris Overley indicated on a couple of occasions that it was simply too expensive for the company to do a TOS bridge on a level that they wanted to achieve, and that the concepts they constructed were turning out to be more costly than the TNG bridge. Those are fair statements, and despite the fact that the TNG bridge flew off the shelves (and promptly became $125 in the price guides by like 1994), the retailers could have had some reservations about pricing and size. But, with 80% of the figures going to collectors anyway, as Overley noted, that was kind of moot. As long as it wasn't like $80 at retail (but remember the AT-AT though), and as long as Playmates didn't lose money producing it in a production run that they needed to break even, I think it could have worked out financially. This wasn't a money-no-object playset, and it was made to fold up and stow nicely to hide its size.
 
Playmates managers Chris Overley and Jim Garber said on a number of occasions that the company had been looking at ways to do the TOS bridge for some time, but to do it in a way that the company wouldn't lose money while being appealing to retailers. But ultimately, we got the cardboard TRU special with the figures, at the very least, for $30. Playmates had hung on to the concept of a TOS bridge playset a little past 1996, but after 1996 the door was really closing on something like this, as the hype had abated. The company was now focused on the First Contact lineup in the autumn of 1996, and a wider run of TOS characters on the 1996 cards, Voyager, and Warp Factor cards. It doesn't appear that retailer demand would have been easy to capture after the publicity highs of 1996 and all the 30th anniversary events, not to mention First Contact in theaters, so if a TOS bridge would have happened it had to happen in 1996 and not at some other point in time.


#42 Matty-lad

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Posted 29 November 2019 - 12:17 PM

This is 1 of the main things I was upset about getting cancelled. I got so excited when I saw this in magazines.

#43 Jpatrik

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Posted 30 November 2019 - 07:39 PM

Incredible photo dude - but I'm confused - I seem to remember a 6" line of TOS figures that came with individual bridge stations?  Is this that or am I mis-remembering?

 

I seem to recall that they were sort of like the 6" Deep Space Nine figures with the (partially cardboard) Defiant stations.



#44 Morgan

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 11:50 AM

Incredible photo dude - but I'm confused - I seem to remember a 6" line of TOS figures that came with individual bridge stations?  Is this that or am I mis-remembering?

 

I seem to recall that they were sort of like the 6" Deep Space Nine figures with the (partially cardboard) Defiant stations.

 

These are just the 4.5-inch ones straight out of the TRU set. There's a partial photo of this bridge set on your site somewhere -- I don't get why they didn't show the entirety of it then and there.



#45 Tiberius

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Posted 01 December 2019 - 02:44 PM

There was a proposed 6 TOS set, with bridge sets, and I wanted them, even though it meant repurchasing figures that I already had. 🤔

#46 Morgan

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 03:55 PM

I think they just missed the window to get it out into stores when fans and retailers were still excited about the line, and the "compromise" TRU set then sat around in stores for like 2 years. And then it was too late to get retailers on board for a big pricey item that was "for real this time."



#47 Morgan

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 04:01 PM

overley.jpg

 

 

Ultra Trek Mirror Kirk (1997)
 
This was one of the Ultra Trek 6-inch figures that were planned for production in 1998, but were ultimately shelved for various reasons. Playmates exec Chris Overley, who was the chief of the Star Trek license, here poses with a Mirror Kirk pre-production figure in the autumn of 1997. 
 
Apparently, a number of these were quite close to being greenlit for production and they would have been offered along with a background plate of sorts that would have acted as a base. Asked about the difficulty of the producing the Ultra Trek Borg Queen figure, Chris Overley said:
 
"We have over 120 decorated pieces on it," Overley said. "That's more than any other action figure of all time. We've taken it to a much, much, much farther step than you can with plastic. Batman is usually about 20 paint operations. X-Men figures are usually about 30, I would think. We're producing something that's four times that amount. The only thing that comes close, when we counted it out, was about 60 paint operations on a Spawn figure -- is the only one that we feel has really done things right when it comes to producing figures and the likeness directly for the collector/consumer."
 
If 120 paint operations sounds expensive, that's because it ultimately would have been expensive. Even though the Ultra Trek line would have been aimed at the wallets of adult collectors, retailers likely judged it too pricey -- these would have been well above Spawn prices. And that's where the business case likely began to break down. Department stores may not have wanted to carry the lineup.
 
The super obvious problem with the Ultra Trek figures was that the First Contact 6-inch figures were $6.99 in stores. A company can't do that, and then ask $14.99 or $19.99 or whatever for another 6-inch figure of the same size in a nicer box, no matter how many paint processes are used. That pricing and fancy box might play with collectors, which comprised 70% of the buyers of all Playmates merch according to Overley, but that doesn't play with retailers or parents. And if there are not enough retailer orders, you can't put it into production to break even unless there is wildly high profit per unit and equally high demand that you can not lose money on a smaller run. That's not really the niche where Playmates operated.
 
Anyhow, I think this format was needlessly "exclusive," when positioned alongside regular 6-inch Trek figures that collectors weren't too enthused about. The difference between Playmates and McFarlane was that McFarlane could actually achieve phenomenal detail and keep the price non-crazy and relatively retailer-friendly. You would think that Playmates would be able to achieve a lower production cost due to the size of its operations to produce McFarlane-style figures at a low MSRP, but somehow the opposite was true. 
 
This concept, despite not making it into production at that time, was nevertheless made by Playmates as a 9-inch figure, and was then also made by Art Asylum in 2003 as a 7-inch figure, then in an 8-inch format by DST in 2008, and was also recently remade by Mego along with Mirror Spock. So, Playmates was not wrong per se about the format or the character.


#48 Jpatrik

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Posted 15 December 2019 - 08:01 PM

Another rare gem of a pic dude - thanks for sharing - plus a rare glimpse at Chris!

 

Its hard to tell whether these figures psort any articulation at all.  I mean the pose is dynamic enough.  I've seen a Seven of Nine - in Brown Outfit - in the same format.  Man I would have loved to have owned that one!



#49 Morgan

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Posted 20 December 2019 - 12:52 PM

card-700.jpg

 

 

Cardassian Galor-Class Warship, (1994)
 
Here's a Galor-class warship that Playmates showed at Toy Fair 1994. The ship pretty much made it to the pre-production stage: it was painted, it had transluscent parts, it had a battery pack and electrical wiring, buttons, metal screws, and working lights and sounds. The buttons were positioned about halfway down the back of the ship, and in addition to various sounds they made the illuminated deflector dish and the four illuminated engines up front light up.
 
So this thing was pretty much ready to go -- this wasn't some one-off scratchbuilt mockup.
 
Here's something fun to contemplate: a bunch of these were built, perhaps a dozen or more, some already with working lights and sounds, and people still have these prototypes somewhere. I mean, they couldn't have trashed them, right?
 
It's easy to see how Pmates would have expected the Galor-class warship to be a big deal on the series, and it was, but it's equally easy to see how retailers could have been skittish about something pricey and large on the shelves that wasn't one of the "hero" vehicles from the series, or some crowdpleaser like a Klingon ship that was shaped like a bird. Because the Cardassian ship was not that. I think it's clear that this was a tougher sell.
 
It's easy to groan at the fact that the company didn't produce the warship, but if the Galor-class bombed at retail would Pmates have greenlit the USS Defiant? For all they knew at the time the Defiant could be seen on screen once a season or something -- it wasn't a sure thing either.
 
I think when it comes to big alien ships, Pmates had not really been burnt at this point by anything but the Transporter Playset which a lot of retailers did not pick up but that had already been produced in large numbers and just sat in a warehouse, but at the same time I think there was a recognition that after the various Enterprises, the Klingon Bird of Prey, Romulan Warbird, Borg cube, and the Vor'cha cruiser, consumer familiarity with ships kind of dropped off a cliff. That's why we didn't see any big alien ships from TNG besides Vor'cha, Klingon bird of prey, the Romulan warbird and the Borg Cube. After that it was pretty much Weird Alien Ship of the Week, which was more often than not a redress of something that had already been used a bunch of times. And let's not forget that the Romulan warbird and Vor'cha cruiser did kind of sit around on shelves. So I can see some good arguments on the part of Pmates execs and the buyers for the big retailers against producing the Galor-class. 
 
As collectors we're always in favor of the more the merrier, but if Pmates would have lost money on it that could have closed some other possibilities for DS9 down the line. Not to imply that they weren't closed after like season 5 -- characters and vehicles from the most interesting seasons just went unproduced.


#50 Morgan

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Posted 23 December 2019 - 01:29 PM

kazon-2.jpg

 
Kazon Raider Ship with Exclusive Kazon Figure (1995)
 
At Toy Fair 1996 the company exhibited a Kazon ship prototype, which made it as far as the retailer catalogs. So it was shelved relatively late in the process.
 
Pmates faced a difficult choice here with Voyager: it was difficult to tell early on in the first season just how long the Kazon would actually stick around in the show, since Voyager was rapidly traveling back home. They could have been around for just a few episodes, for one season, or for more seasons. But they certainly would not have been around for the whole series run, however many seasons that would have been. The ship also did not look sleek or particularly cool -- it had a rusty industrial look and random scoops and vents. It was also not bird-shaped, unlike all the Klingon and Romulan ships, which at least had that going for them.
 
So placing a bet on this thing being important and recognizable to show fans and collectors was a risky bet.
 
I think the decision to not produce it was the right one; those who wanted a model of the Kazon ship could have bought the Revell-Monogram model kit, which was already in stores at the time. I even bought one of those. It's also not known if Pmates would have been able to achieve the complex coloring of the ship in mass production: the prototype seen here features some detailed streaks and pretty complex shades, while the paint processes for all other ships were usually of one single color at a time. So how these complex streaks and shading would have been achieved is an open question.
 
Rather, what I would have liked to see produced was one of Voyager's own Type-9 shuttles, or the Delta Flyer. The Flyer appeared too late in the show's run to have been produced, but the shuttles were seen pretty regularly and could have been done very early on. The first appearance of the Type 9 shuttle was in the 2nd season, episode 15, which aired in January 1996. That's actually something that could have sold well had it been done to a high enough standard. The TOS shuttle was supremely bad and was built to a cost and to retail shelf size requirements. And that's a shame because that could have been a large and detailed toy. But instead it was like a jumbo-sized tricorder or something that figures just happened to fit into.


#51 RizzoPSU

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 01:59 AM

I remember a picture in ToyFare? that had the exclusive Kazon action figure.....did you post that already??

#52 Morgan

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 10:05 AM

Yes, it's on the first page.



#53 Morgan

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Posted 24 December 2019 - 03:34 PM

resins.jpg
 
 
Ultra Trek Lineup, 1998
 
Here's the entirety of what would have been the Ultra Trek line of 6-inch figures, as seen at Toy Fair 1998 and San Diego Comic Con 1997.
 
In this photo we can see some of the articulation on these figures, which would have differed from figure to figure. For example, Locutus would have had very advanced articulation, including rotating thighs and upper arms, but Mirror Kirk didn't even have bending elbows. The figures would have been sold in larger boxes, and would have included a wall base.
 
Note that all figures have the exact same wall sculpts behind them, just painted differently and featuring different stickers. That's some impressive mold recycling, though it remains an open question if they would have gone into production like that, merely with different paint processes and stickers. Looking at them individually, without the others, the wall backgrounds seem pretty naturally suited to the figures, like on the Reliant for Khan and the Borg ship for Locutus -- nothing looks particularly out of place -- until you see that they're all the same. That's pretty wild.
 
resins-500.jpg
 
These concept figures faced pressure from above and from below, really. The 6-inch format was in stores at this time and was priced just like the other 6-inch First Contact figures. The 8-inch figures were also in stores, and they were priced somewhat higher but also offered real clothing and other features.
 
Was there room for 6-inch figures that had a back wall that wasn't quite a mini-playset, but that were priced above both 6-inch and 8-inch formats? That's doubtful in retrospect, even though in later years Hasbro expanded its Star Wars line to many different (and pricier) formats aimed at collectors, rather than kids. The main issue that the Ultra Trek figures faced at the time, in my view, is that they didn't really offer something significant above what the other 6-inch figures offered. Let's recall that the DS9 figures in this format featured unique workstations for the various figures, while still being well under $10.00 at retail. Even those figures couldn't make the 6-inch format work for Pmates with actual mini-playsets, so even more expensive Ultra Trek figures may have been a tough proposition at retail unless they would have been priced below $10.00.
 
Here's Playmates Trek boss Chris Overley at the 1997 San Diego Comic Con with some Klingons, where Ultra Trek prototypes were shown.
 
chris.jpg


#54 Morgan

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Posted 12 January 2020 - 01:16 PM

runabout-1.jpg
 
Runabout, 1994
 
At Toy Fair 1994 the company showed a pre-production version of the Runabout that was hand-painted, and featured some different details, namely the lack of surface texture. This model was one of the two DS9 vehicles shown -- the other was the station itself -- but the Galor warship was not completed at the time and was only shown in 1995.
 
This Runabout was made with production tooling, but a number of painted details were different. The major paint differences, aside from the smudged grey corner accents, are that on this model the side door is painted in darker gray, whereas on the production version it's the same color as the body. Perhaps the toymaker didn't want to draw attention to something that was obviously not to scale with the figures. Note that there is also a very pronounced step underneath that door that's present on this model, but not the production version. Additionally, the front of the engines under the pylons on this runabout are not painted orange, as they were on the production version. Some of the sticker positioning here is also a little off from spec. 
 
Of course, the production Runabout is not painted when it comes to the body -- that's just the plastic color.
 
The major sculpt difference is that this model does not feature the indented, rectangular surface texture of the production version. This is most visible on this model on the pylon -- the surface is clearly flat. The production version had a much more detailed surface texture. All of the sides and top of the ship are supposed to feature concave, textured lines.
 
Another major difference is that the bussard collector is translucent rather than painted plastic. I think it's pretty evident that this prototype was fitted with light-up bussard collectors.
 
 
runabout-detail-1000.jpg
 
 
The Runabout was ultimately let down by the bizarre decision to alter the shape of the windows, introducing a dummy wall instead. This wasn't really tied to manufacturing costs because they could have preserved their shape but had been painted in black plastic, instead of being rendered in two small windows which don't do anything anyway. This was the major letdown with this toy, but there was also the issue of the center of the interior being completely taken up by the battery compartment. So the Runabout was able to hold fewer figures than the TNG shuttle, which was supposed to be less roomy, one would think. So that whole battery compartment ate up all the interior space except for the front and back seats. The back seat itself is kind of a strange detail as well, because the row of side windows is not to scale. 
 
Some modelmakers have modified this Runabout toy to feature correct window shapes, by simply Dremeling out the window holes after carefully painting their outline with a market, and putting in a curved transparent plastic plate to the interior, and filling into the two top black windows present on the model. The same transparent window conversion could be done for the rear row of smaller side windows, but that's a little more time consuming but worthwhile. 
 
Yet another cool thing you can do with this model, aside from painting it properly in a darker dray color, is adding a weapons roll bar from the model kit. The scale is a little off, but if you can add it in and paint it like the rest of the Runabout it looks very cool. Customizers have also gotten rid of the battery compartment by taking the model apart, and just adding shuttle seats in there, or seats from the bridge set. Customizers have also given it translucent bussard collectors from the Ent-D model kits.
 
So this toy is very upgradeable when it comes to all the stuff that you can do to it.


#55 Morgan

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Posted 21 January 2020 - 01:09 PM

riker-proto.jpg

 

 

Commander William Riker test shot, 1997 
 
Here's a test shot in a mockup package, which represents one of the intermediate stages from the first sculpts to the finished and painted figures on production card backs. The back of this card is simply cardboard, and the bubble is stapled and taped to the seemingly Xeroxed cardback. There would have been a relatively small number of these in existence, as this test shot is completed without the paint processes, but is already molded with production tooling assembled as designed and is fitted with accessories. As shown, it is about 80% through its development cycle: the next stages would have been loose hand-painted figures, and then loose factory-painted figures on color pre-production printed cards. The very next step after that is a retail production figure you'd see in a store.
 
This particular lineup seemed to have a number of conflicting priorities: the larger figures were supposedly aimed at collectors, and Pmates has said on several occasions that 70% of the figures were bought by collectors anyway, yet it had this firing phaser feature seemingly aimed at play. The likeness was better than that of 4.5-inch figures, but not by a huge margin, and Pmates also knew by this time that collectors preferred the smaller 4.5-inch format over the larger First Contact figures. So the goals of this lineup seemed to contradict each other a little, and the company really wanted to make this format and play action happen regardless of actual demand for it.
 
This lineup seemed like a late, half-serious effort to push the 6-inch line uphill with a focus on actual play rather than collectibility, and predictably enough it landed flat in the retail landscape.
 
I think it's safe to say that if Pmates had spend money producing an equal number of figures on TOS-era movie uniforms in a 4.5-inch format, compared to this big-for-the-sake-of-big "action-firing" lineup, it's not a mystery which line would have sold better.
 
Another thing that seems odd about this 6-inch lineup is that they did this TNG uniform Riker and Picard, but were they going to do all the TNG characters now again in 6-inch format? Obviously not. And the Worf that's part of this set is in FC uniform. So this lineup was kind of an add-on item in a way, which didn't really commit to advancing the 6-inch lineup. It looks like they started with the concept of action-firing figures, but then went "well, we can't do more than a bunch really," and then did a similar thing with DS9 figures. So what it adds up to is its own little standalone batch, like the Space Talk figures, and that's about it.





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