Five Points of Articulation is Plenty for Play

When I was a child I played with Kenner’s Star Wars action figures. For roughly five years it was Star Wars action figures, vehicles, and playsets that consumed my playtime. I froze them in ice. I played with them in the bathtub. I constructed vehicles and environments out of cardboard boxes. I even created tiny (and crude) clothing for my Star Wars action figures.

And not once was I bothered by the limited articulation of the toys. Most had only five points of articulation — simple 360-degree swivels at the neck, shoulders, and hips — and those joints were enough for me to have a lot of fun.

Power Attack Batman
Power Attack Batman (Photo credit: philipreed)

Since launching I have swung from being happy with a few points of articulation to wanting more and back again. Swivels, hinges, balls, and joints that merge all three have kept my attention as I have played with and reviewed action figures and I think I have settled on something very important that should forever color my opinion when it comes to action figures and articulation:

More is not always better.

You see, action figures that feature twenty or more points of articulation aren’t really any more playable when it comes right down to it. Sure I can get some remarkably exciting poses out of those toys with double-hinged knees, ball-jointed hips, cut thighs that swivel 360-degrees, rocker ankles, and hinged toes. But I also experience frustration at times because the more moving parts an action figure possesses the greater the chance that something will break. (Or, as with the Assassin’s Creed Ezio I recently reviewed,just fill with paint and fuse in place.)

Arkham Asylum Batman
Arkham Asylum Batman (Photo credit: philipreed)

And toy companies do not have the best quality control during manufacturing and some manufacturers don’t even attempt to deal with broken toys once they have your money. (Square Enix, despite their customer service rep personally promising me at NYCC to deal with the problem, has never responded to mail about the busted Play Arts Kai Armored Batman in my collection.)

Besides the higher chance of flaws or breaks there’s also the reality that more points of articulation means it takes longer to get a figure to stand on its own. And how many kids, when playing with their toys, want to sit there and struggle to balance a Batman action figure. I think the fact that the Power Attack Batman series has fewer points of articulation than the DC Universe Classics line shows that Mattel understands that children actually playing with the toys are happy with fewer points of articulation.

And if the children are happy then shouldn’t we be happy? Yes, adults (including me) collect and play with these toys, but it is the kids who are the target market for most toys and that means toys should be designed for kids.

I have been guilty in the past of complaining about toys with simplified articulation. I was wrong. With that in mind I will try to think more about playability of toys when writing reviews and posting my thoughts about a toy. Designer and high-end collector action figures and toys will, of course, be judged as collectibles, but mass market action figures priced about $15 to $20 or less will be treated as toys . . . as they should be.

I apologize to the toy designers and manufacturers who I may have unfairly criticized in the past. You were right and I was wrong. And thank you for not coming out and blasting me and instead allowing me to find my own way.

Toys are for kids. Let’s give them what they want: durable, fun, inexpensive toys.

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46 thoughts on “Five Points of Articulation is Plenty for Play

  1. That title continues to bag at me. I know it should be “are” because I am talking about five points, but then my brain fights and say “is” sounds right since articulation is one thing.

    I hate my brain. I am positive “are” is correct. “Is” is wrong. I just know it.

  2. I totally agree. Collectors like as much articulation as possible because they like to “sculpt” the figure into a perfect pose for a display shelf. But a hyper-articulated figure is usually not very playable. Articulation adds to the playability up to a point, but beyond that point it’s actually deleterious. The more joints a figure has, the more likely something is going to break or loosen. With minimal playtime, a hyper-articulated figure often becomes loose enough that it’s effectively useless. (I’m looking at you, DCUC.)

    Another thing I hate about hyper-articulation is that it often screws up the look of the figure because the joints cut into and distort the sculpt. Classic Collection Donatello and TVC Luke Bespin are good examples of this.

    The 2012 TMNT figures seem to have the perfect amount of articulation. The articulation is not so extensive that it makes the figures unplayable, and it doesn’t conflict with the sculpt, but it’s just enough to make the figures fun.

  3. As one who wields the Grammar Hammer proudly, you are correct. “Are” is the correct usage as you are talking about POINTS of articulation, not articulation itself.

    As an adult who still plays with toys, I don’t really care about the grammar. You make a very interesting point with this article. I too go back and forth. To me, I think it depends on the product. I love that newer Transformers have more articulation than the Transformers of my youth. I love that Hench can be put into a ton of different poses as opposed to Braun. I’m not crazy about adding point of articulation just for the sake of making a toy more articulated. I HATE the thigh cut, for example. It usually results in the thigh muscles of the figure no longer lining up. I’d much rather give up that cut for a figure that looks good.

    As long as action figures have enough articulation to use their vehicles and accessories, I’m fine with that. I had no problem with Star Wars articulation back in the day. They could still fit in my land speeder or X-Wing. I actually preferred their simple articulation to all of the GI Joe articulation. The figures weren’t really solid enough to take advantage of the added articulation. I just ended up with GI Joe figures that fell over.

    I certainly appreciate the added articulation for photographs, but as I don’t run a toynews/review site, I don’t really need that. It helps for fun poses on my shelves, but as I’m stricken with what I call Collector’s OCD (where I have to complete a series that I start), my shelves get very crowded. I ultimately will just stand them up so that I can fit more on my shelves.

  4. “Is” sounds fine to me, since “five points of articulation” is already a pretty standard term to describe limited articulation.

    Anyway, I have mixed feelings on this topic. I love posing figures, so I want plenty of articulation. I even remember liking the figures with more articulation more as a kid: the Chameleon – the one with the JJJ head – blew my mind, with his elbows. Imagine, articulated elbows! Don’t get me started on the “Super-Articulated” Spider-Man from the same line, who started a lifelong love affair. I never actually had any Kenner figures growing up, but I had several MOTUs and turtles, and I loved them all, but even then, I loved being able to put them in more interesting poses than “raised outstretched arm”. Part of me thinks that once I got the more well-articulated figures, I just never looked at the worse articulated ones the same way again. I had several GI Joes and the idea of a He-Man (or even a Batman) that could move like that would’ve been paradise for me as a kid.

    Even now, I don’t like getting DC Direct figures, because even with amazing sculpts, they’re about as articulated as the old Batman: The Animated Series figures. Somewhat paradoxically, they make me feel like I’m getting very expensive children’s toys, when I can only get them in such exciting poses as “standing straight up” and “standing straight up with raised arms”.

    I don’t know, I was a more solitary child, so I rarely played with my toys with other kids, maybe that’s why fiddling with poses was always more of a draw for me.

    Honestly, I think it’s all up to the individual kid. Some will like more articulation, some will be happy with the sculpt and paint. There has to be a happy medium between articulation and playability. I also like the Power Attack Batman line, but imagine if it had, say, balljoints on the limbs instead of swivels? It’d improve playability ten-fold.

  5. >I just ended up with GI Joe figures that fell over.

    The figures with the too tight o-rings that ended up permanently hunched over or too back-heavy were the bane of my existence.

    Snake Eyes v4 will always be a sentimental favorite, though.

  6. I must respectfully disagree with you, Phil. Even as a child I preferred more articulation. For example, I found Power Lords a notable toy line because of the extra articulation, and any time a figure I had included more articulation than usual (for whatever reason), that figure was special.

    Maybe I was an odd child in that regard – I can accept that 🙂 But I unquestionably loved it when a toy had more articulation than normal. Ball jointed shoulders were always amazing. Captain Power figures, while not as beloved a license as Star Wars, were better toys (in my childhood opinion) for their ball-jointed shoulders and hips.

    Now, of COURSE more is not always better. That goes without saying. I do think there’s such a thing as too much articulation. DC Universe Classics always struck me as just about the right balance. Marvel Legends has too much, and leaves the figures feeling loose and looking weirdly thin. But then, I disagree with you classifying those figures as “mass market toys for kids” (see below).

    I agree most kids would be satisfied with five points for play, especially if they weren’t aware they had other options. But hand an eight-year-old one of the current Playmates Ninja Turtles and some five-jointed McDonalds Turtles toy? I bet they’d prefer the former. (Admittedly I don’t have any research to back that up, but I’d be very surprised if they didn’t prefer the one with more, to use an industry term, “finger food.”)

    Kids might be “happy” with five points, but it’s not what I, as a kid, wanted in my dream figure. And I suspect many of today’s adult collectors felt similarly, given how popular articulation is on adult collectibles.

    Finally: “mass market action figures priced about $15 to $20 or less will be treated as toys”? DCUC, Marvel Legends, Movie Masters, MOTUC – these are all aimed primarily at adult collectors. There may be some crossover with kids, and Mattel’s upper management may continue to delude themselves and claim they’re selling DCUC to “moms and dads,” but in any realistic view of the world, they’re marketed to adult collectors. Under your system, I think they should be reviewed as adult collectibles. NECA figures run between $10-$20 – are you really going to review those as kids’ toys?

    You can tell I feel strongly about this topic – yes, I’m a big defender of extra articulation. But I also think you may be selling kids a bit short, assuming they’re all going to be “happy” with less articulation. I know young Poe wasn’t.

    But again, I’m willing to entertain the idea I was the exception and not the rule…but all those highly-articulated adult collectibles make me suspicious about that. If there were no demand for more articulation – if it didn’t sell better – then why would companies introduce it at all?

  7. I agree 100% with you Philip. ‘Articulationazis’ is what I call them, and I have always felt that they are missing the point entirely. A toy collector collects…wiat for it…TOYS. And what’s good for a toy isn’t always good for statue/marionette/high end dolly collectors.

    Collect what you collect, like what you like, but a defining condition of being a ‘toy’ should be ‘playability’ and eggshells with 756 points of articulation can definitely be argued as not sufficiently playable.

  8. BubbaShelby: That seems like an unfair comparison, especially when you compare “more articulation” with “statues”, not to mention calling things “dollies”, which seems unnecessarily pejorative and mocking.

    Also, describing something like a Marvel Legends figure (and here, I’m on Poe’s side, in that the additional joints, especially in the earlier series, tend to make them look like robots in some cases) as an “eggshell” is highly inaccurate, as for the most part, they’re very durable toys.

    If you’re referring to a figure like the Ezio figure that broke, then that’s poor quality control, not a problem with the figure or the articulation itself. Granted, with more moving parts, more things can go wrong, but for the most part, companies are good about this (with some notorious exceptions, like Jazwares).

  9. I think the comparison is valid, if you get my meaning: McFarlane ‘articulated statues’ are no more toys than are Hot Toys high end ‘dollies’ (anyone who follows my blog knows I use the term ‘dolly’ often and always in jest). DC Universe Classics and MOTUC try to blur the lines, but fall short due to rampant line-wide QC issues, based in large part to the fact that the level of articulation cannot be matched properly with the ‘low cost’ mass production business approach.

    Like I said, collect what you collect and like what you like. But to say you are a ‘toy’ collector when you only collect things that wouldn’t last five minutes in the hands of a toddler misses the point of the term ‘toy’ entirely.

    In Poe’s defense, the new TMNT turtles are highly articulated and do stand up to the hands of a toddler (as I can personally attest with my little one.) So it is of course not black and white – there are at least fifty shades of grey. (did I just go there? Yes.)

    I think the issue comes down solely to semantics. A toy is a child’s plaything. If a child can’t or shouldn’t play with it, it needs a different designation.

  10. I also have to chime in and say that as a kid, I always prized figures that had lots of articulation. It’s probably half the reason I loved Beast Wars as much as I did, and why I can still collect those figures today while passing on G1 bricks.

    I do get the whole angle of “more isn’t always better”, that said. There’s definitely a balance to be found, but it’s nowhere near Mattel’s 5 points of articulation, as seen on stuff like those TDKR 4″ figures.

    Now, stuff like the new Playmates TMNT toys? The non-Turtles aren’t quite as posable, but they make up for it by looking really cool and having enough posability to get by. If the sculpt and paint are really nice, it can be enough to get one to not miss articulation – Todd Mcfarlane’s probably the biggest beneficiary of that lesson – but the figure will probably not get played with that often because you can’t DO much with it.

    Best toys for me were always posable ones with removable armor/costumes. I still can’t get enough of that kind of gimmick.

  11. If we’re going to make this about semantics, I will continue to happily call anything with articulation a toy, regardless of its cost or quality. Semantics are often little more than a matter of opinion, and I like calling myself a toy collector.

    Hell, lots of people call iPads, videogames and even sports cars “toys.” Toys are something you play with. Whether it tends to break easily, whether it costs a lot of money or is geared toward adults or kids, seems irrelevant to me, semantically. By posing them or making dioramas, I think I “play with” the action figures I collect. And I find all of that more fun when they have more articulation, rather than less.

    That said, I don’t think Phil is really making an argument about semantics here. I think all he seems to be saying is, “I’m sorry I’ve complained in the past about mass market action figures not having enough articulation. I won’t do that moving forward.” I’m not as certain what, if anything, he’s saying about the larger question of articulation on, for example, higher-end collectibles.

  12. It’s true, and I think we could all argue in circles for days while getting further and further from Philip’s point, which is his point and his opinion on his blog so our opinions don’t really matter anyways.

  13. My previous comment must have been accidentally deleted, but to speak to Poe’s point, I think we all had action figures as kids that we loved because of their articulation. But today’s hyper-articulation is way beyond anything we had as kids, and it weakens the playability of the figures.

    The problem is that we as collectors don’t actually play with toys so we can’t imagine how hyper-articulation works with real play time. We just put figures in our favored poses and plop them on a shelf, never to be touched again. But I’ve actually given one of my DCUC Batman figures to a kid, and soon after, it became so loose that it can’t hope to ever be playable again. The other Batman lines are so much more useful as toys because they don’t have the hyper-articulation that makes them so unstable.

  14. a lot of the question of articulation, what’s too much, too little, or goldilocks perfect, comes to a number of other qualities, rather than the articulation count itself.

    one of the problems we collectors have w/ articulation often boils down to “but the figure won’t stand up!” or “it can’t hold it’s weapons”… that’s engineering…

    or “the figure looks like garbage when it’s all cut up” and that’s design work and engineering too, along w/ obvious mental incongruities from collector to collector (i’ve often debated when marvel legends ball hips are uglier than dcuc square cut knees, and in reality, both are hideous, as they fail to pass the test of “truism” to the human body)…

    or we pose the thing and the joints go all floppy. that’s a materials choice. some plastic hold up to some kinds of articulation better, some don’t. cheap plastic will suffice for cheap toys, but anything load-bearing or stress bearing had better be good plastic. even in 5 POA figs, this varies from fig to fig, how tight were the tolerances being engineered, and how well can the plastic grade hold up to the stresses on that joint.

    i would posit this… we, phil and i and i bet many others here, had kenner star wars figs… i also had many secret wars figs, some of which i still have, and had great fun w/ them… and some of those secret wars figs today show less joint wear than some of the motuc products i buy from the same company which are only a year or two old… but my kids are huge into the hero factory stuff from lego… those things are LOADED in ball joints, minimum entry for those figs is 13 ball joints. they hold up well to play, they’re still tight, they’ve been pulled apart and put back together more times than prometheus himself, and they’re still great toys… so are my memories of 5 POA toys wrong? yeah, kinda… it’s not the number of POA that make the toy, it’s how that toy inspires the imagination of the kid playing with it. so long as the articulation allows itself to follow a play pattern, and holds up over time, it’s well done, whether the count is 5 or 35.

  15. Quick learning curve on gatherings comments… 😉

    While I also agree in premise that five can be enough, I still have to side with my uh… *ahem* fellow articulationazi, Poe, too.

    I think many a ML were over-articulated to the point that they looked gangly and getting them to stand was often a crooked, annoying endeavour. At the same time, the early MU figures have been an annoyance in the other direction when some key joints that I prefer to have went missing. A lot of those have slowly worked their way back in though as MU has improved.

    So while I don’t want so much articulation that my figures are fragile or can’t stand, I also need enough so that they can crouch, reach, bash one another, and play dead… at least.

    I could say something along the lines of Twenty-Five Points of Articulation is Plenty for Play, but the truth is probably that it changes per toy. Just looking across my desk shows that.

    I’ve got my Hot Wheels ’78 Highway Patrol Car in hot pursuit of my Hot Wheels ’71 Dodge Demon. A basically non-moving G1 Six-Gun with a fresh set of Reprolabels being surrounding by an army of well-articulated Rainbow Ragers, and a MOTUC Dekker flying around on a BTTF Hoverboard. Lots of different levels of articulation, but everything’s plenty fun.

    But I do have to lean towards a little more being better. My G1 Optimus & Grimlock will always be special treasures, but the MP-10 Optimus capable of posing in a fistfight with Grimlock? That’s an improvement and the articulation is to thank.

  16. I guess my issue is, things like Play Arts Kai Batman and Ezio are NOT for kids to play with. They even say they’re adult collectibles. If you’re talking about Kenner’s Star Wars figures then and now, sure I’m fine with that but most of the “super” articulated figures are meant for adult “kids”.

  17. my favorite toyline of all time is the 90s aliens vs predators line. they all limited articulation but they are great. i have a shelf full of them in my house and standing there next to them are the equally awesome neca predators, which have lots more articulation, paint apps, etc, etc…
    and there was a time when i was really into added articulation, thanks mainly to toybiz…but now i find myself more drawn to less. the batman kids line is wonderful and the tmnt blows me away everytime i play with them. great sculpts, just the right amount of articulation, tough enough to handle rough play, and the price is right. it’s a true testament to what figures can be. i only wish there were more companies turning out work like the turtles.

  18. I can remember a pang of sadness when I realized my G1 Devastator couldn’t move his legs, or when Luke couldn’t turn his lightsaber at an angle like in the movies I’d watch on VHS. To me, articuation was something required in a toy to achieve full play-value.

    I realized that I was (at least among my friends) unique in my desire for articulated toys. Friends who came over to play (and broke Devastator by bashing him into Grimlock, then of the concrete steps…) were more than content to enact school-yard rules (big guys beat of the little guys!), and weren’t bothered by lack of articulation.

    Fast forward 20 years, and thanks to toyfare, I discovered that (some) toys are now capable of new levels of posed expression? It’s what led me back into collecting, even when I sold off every toy I owed as a teenager.

    Yet, it was companies like Toy Biz and their gangly knots of joints which vaguely resembled superheroes which led me to start creating my own as a customizer. Finding the exact balance of articulation and sculpt is something I strive for.

    Within the past year or so, I feel NECA found that ideal balance – combining inset hinges and ball joints within flexible sculpted overhangs (the new Friday the 13th Jason is a great example of this). It’s the first figure I’ve bought that I didn’t feel the need to change in some way.

    If someone handed me a figure like that as a kid? I’d have set down whatever H-cut figure I was playing with, and had some amazing imaginary adventures. As some commentors pointed out though – not all kids are like that. Some are just content to bash their figures together, in what I always considered ‘thoughtless play’. It’s fun, but it’s not as involved or, well… ‘cinematic’ as it could be.

    My childhood play sessions had story arcs and character development – something that I found GI Joes and Visionaries were great for because of their increased articulation above Star Wars 3 3/4 figures.

    I’d fully admit I was probably just a weird kid. 😉

  19. Okay, wow. I expected a few responses, but I didn’t expect this many (or so many great — and detailed! — comments).

    My main point (as some of you already know) is that increasing the number of points of articulation on an action figure doesn’t make the toy better. Is five perfect? That’s up for each person to decide, but I feel that five is “plenty.”

    And by plenty I mean that it covers the basics that kids need to play with their toys. You can raise arms to point and aim weapons. You can turn the head to look around. And you can sit down (the old Star Wars vehicles were nicely designed so the figures looked good seated in the cockpits).

    All of these responses deserve more attention than I have this evening. But tomorrow I’ll try to block out time to get a few intelligent responses in place. For now I’m sticking with a simple “Wow.”

  20. @Blayne – I could basically re-post your last comment there without changing anything except for the comments about Visionaries and G.I. Joe, which I never played with.

    @Phil – I could be guilty of misreading your post. But I stand by my firm support for greater articulation (or at least more than five swivels).

  21. It depends on the method of such articulation. I always point to JLU and how they failed the Kenner test. Kenner could put 5 points in, but bend the elbows and such just enough that you could feel like you had more articulation.

    Mattel’s JLU, everyone had straight arms and legs, thus they couldn’t be posed. They looked like robots.

    It’s all about how things are designed. Most of the new TMNT Nick Turtles are amazing. They don’t have tons and tons of articulation, but they’re sculpted smart and the articulation is used well (with a few exceptions mind you) but I’ve still hear lots of people complain about the lack of articulation. I contend that most are still fine.

    Good to know I’m not alone!

  22. Newt and General Tekno bring up great points in that the main difference between the awful TDKR line and the old Kenner Star Wars figures is that the Star Wars figures still FELT dynamic in their sculpt, while the DKR figures just stand at attention, with poor sculpting and paint. It feels somewhat unfair to bring up the DKR line, when it’s so far below even the Power Attack line in quality, but… it has exactly Five Points Of Articulation. And they’re just not fun.

    I’d be interested in hearing more of people’s personal experiences with how they played with toys as kids. Are those more inclined towards “social” toy play generally more inclined to less articulation, and vice versa? Are there any correlations to be drawn?

    BubbaShelby: Sure, McFarlane’s figures tend to resemble statues. But they haven’t been on the market in what, five, ten years? They also often have significantly LESS than five points of articulation. Comparing them to, say, Marvel Legends is like comparing apples and wax apples.

  23. (Well, in MY opinion, the TDKR 4-inches are terrible toys. Didn’t mean to state that quite as emphatically as I did)

  24. When it comes to articulation, my main thoughts are “how do I WANT this articulated” and “is the value there for what is presented”.

    I think one of the reasons that I played with my Gi Joe figures so much as a kid was that they had the arguably perfect level of articulation – and it all worked properly. A Joe can, in most cases, double-arm grip a gun, sit on or in any number of vehicles, look good throwing a punch…
    Sculpting-wise, the joint at the elbow is kinda ugly. But for $3, you can’t go wrong.

    On the other hand, Kenner figures are dynamic. The AvP figures already mentioned had really great posing and a higher level of detail than Joes, even if they couldn’t do full splits or double-grips. Do I need a Carey Mahoney who can do a hundred poses? On occasion, they’d even throw in an extra joint like the knees on Super Powers. It looks good and works.
    Even though they were more expensive than a Joe with less articulation, I always saw Kenner figures as more “deluxe” than Joes.

    As we pushed into the McFarlane-era, I saw figures turning more into statues. Do I need a Norman Bates with 100 points of articulation? Not really. They put him in his iconic pose and that was that. Jason, on the other hand, I want to have the ability to move him around so I can emulate his teen-crushing moves.
    Based on what I would see happen at Hot Topic and other stores that carried lines like Mezco’s Cinema of Fear, though, a different thought comes to mind. I might argue that the majority of the people buying these figures could give a crap about the articulation. Jasons would always sell out. Are action figure collectors the targets for these things, or general nostalgia people? Even Jason Goes to Hell was one of those sell-out figures from that wave. Is the guy in the tattoo shop who buys him going to care if he has double-hinge leg joints?

    Transformers is a line where things have really improved from the older days – but at times, the number of moving pieces results in a messy product. I had to pack the new MP Prime feet because his ankles were too weak to allow him to pose. If I spend $100+ on the ultimate G1 Prime, he should be able to hold the advertised pose.

    In recent times though, my main collecting focus has become Glyos. And I’m happy with them having the basic five points of articulation, with a little bit of ability at some of the knee/hand areas to spin the feet a little differently (or the accessory kits, if I really want to give a character a range of movement).

    Would I want a Microman figure with five points of articulation, or a Gi Joe? I don’t think so.
    But in general, I’m good with a slightly-modified five points on my current figures.
    Other points I could do full paragraphs on are prices (really, would I rather have a five poa Kenner Jason Vorhees for $6, or the current one for $20? Tough to say) and exposure (I wouldn’t pay $25 for a Joe in the classic style after having a thousand of them, but I’m still paying that money for Microman figures because I’m not overexposed to them) and finally, fragility (I feel like the biggest chump in the world when I buy a $20 ALIEN and snap the foot right off).

    Good topic.

  25. @Nathan – “Articulation adds to the playability up to a point, but beyond that point it’s actually deleterious. The more joints a figure has, the more likely something is going to break or loosen.”

    We’re totally on the same page here! Until someone comes up with a joint that can withstand a lot of hardcore play, and won’t arrive pre-fused/broken, I think fewer joints are better for longterm playability of a toy.

  26. @Paul – “As long as action figures have enough articulation to use their vehicles and accessories, I’m fine with that.”

    And maybe that’s what is most important. Rather than any specific number it’s how well the toys work with their intended vehicles and accessories. Though vehicles feel (at times) less popular than they once were. But maybe that gets to the division between toys designed for kids and toys designed for “adult collectors.”

    Example: Where is my Batmobile for DC Universe Classics Batman? It doesn’t exist. But the Power Attack Batman line had a Batmobile from Day One.

  27. @LXNDR – ” I also like the Power Attack Batman line, but imagine if it had, say, balljoints on the limbs instead of swivels? It’d improve playability ten-fold.”

    I wonder how much ball-joints would have added to the cost. Having never handled professional action figure manufacturing I can only go on discussions with others, but my understanding is that every joint adds more money to the project’s cost. It’s possible that ball-jointing the toys would have pushed the MSRP past $10; and one incredible thing about Power Attack Batman action figures is their low cost.

  28. @Poe – “Finally: “mass market action figures priced about $15 to $20 or less will be treated as toys”? DCUC, Marvel Legends, Movie Masters, MOTUC – these are all aimed primarily at adult collectors.”

    So where is the line for MSRP on toys for kids? Is it $10/figure? Or does it have to do more with the popularity of the line than price point? I would say that if Hasbro sold 6-inch Star Wars: The Clone Wars action figures at $15/each kids would be happy with those.

    It’s possible that the reason $15 to $20 action figures are “Adult Collectibles” is because of the chosen characters: How many elementary school kids are going to get excited when they spot a DC Universe Classics Kamandi or Hourman on the pegs?

  29. @BubbaShelby – “Collect what you collect, like what you like, but a defining condition of being a ‘toy’ should be ‘playability’ and eggshells with 756 points of articulation can definitely be argued as not sufficiently playable.”

    Ug. I’d rather gouge my eyes out than try to pose an action figure that articulated. Every joint of every finger moves? That’s one of the problems I ran into with 3A and one reason why I stopped buying their toys; they would arrive broken or snap in moments sometimes. And do we really need each joint on a finger to really work?

  30. @LXNDR – “. . . but for the most part, companies are good about this (with some notorious exceptions, like Jazwares).”

    My own experience with Square Enix hasn’t been the greatest. I’ll stop by their booth at New York Toy Fair and ask what their plan is to deal with my busted Batman.

  31. @BubbaShelby – “In Poe’s defense, the new TMNT turtles are highly articulated and do stand up to the hands of a toddler (as I can personally attest with my little one.)”

    I can agree with the TMNT series being great for kids; it’s the one spot in stores where I often encounter a child and parent looking at the pegs and actually buying a toy. (The others being Star Wars, Transformers, and the Hot Wheels/Matchbox toys.)

    So what makes the TMNT articulation on the turtles work so well? I think the plastic quality is partly responsible; I love the toy-like feel of the figures.

  32. I would argue it’s all in the type of articulation. Jazwares’ Hanna Barbera is a good example of this. Take their Space Ghost for instance. A great toy, but missing something very essential to the character due to limited articulation budget- He can’t even activate his own power bands due to the lack of a bicep swivel! Likewise, a lot of choices in Jazware’s lines are poorly conceived- I’ve seen elbow joints that bend the limb on the X-axis rather than the Z-axis. But then, they at least tried. Five points being plenty, well… It all depends on the design and usefulness of the points. You have to have some element of dynamism in your design that doesn’t feel pre-posed for that to really work. Good example is comparing a Kenner BTAS Batman to one of Mattel’s Dark Knight Rises offerings. Kenner’s Batman, despite having the same points, can feel like he’s throwing a punch- because Kenner gave the arm enough of an angle to pass for that, if you posed him right. On the other side, TDKR Batman just looks awkward in any position but standing.

  33. I guess I’m an articulation nazi. I love my Marvel Legends and DCUC. Heck I used to have wrestling matches with them and my ToyBiz TNA figs. Plan on starting that up again after Christmas. I love the 25th era GI Joe. Play with them too. Love the extra articulation. My only complaint is the hip joints need a bit more range to allow proper sitting in the vehicles. The TF Classics line, love it. Love the Alts/Masterpiece line but the faster transformation times of the classic ones make for better play time when a bunch of Autobots and Decepticons need to transform to pound on each other. I find as an adult the extra articulation helpful when it comes to playing with my figs. My old GI Joe and and TF toys sit in a bin and are kept for nostalic sakes and not because I plan on doing anything with them. Stopped collecting McFarlane when they went from articulated toys to statues, which I have given away. I don’t see the appeal of limited articulation anymore. When I was a kid, yeah it was amazing. But back then we besides GI Joe, everything seemed to have the big 5. My current “fragile egg” toys have stood up to just as rigorous play as my GI Joe and 5 poa toys had as a child. Maybe even better. Couldn’t tell you how many MOTU, GI Joe, TMNT, etc figs broke as a child. Only casualties my newer toys have had wre a broken Muppet wrist and a busted Chun Li knee. Not bad really. And my 18 month old when not playing with his own toys goes insane over my Sigma 6 figs. Which stand up just fine to his playing with them. His favorite is headless Duke. The figure’s neck shattered when my son accidentally knocked him off my desk while watching a video online, but the erst stands up to his play

  34. I think Doc Kent brought up a good point, that the articulation should be appropriate to the character. My pet peeve for this is C-3PO: I don’t see why a hyper-articulated Threepio is necessary when the actor could barely move in the suit. Threepio would be a figure that would only need 5-7 points of articulation, but then we got this one with 14 POA. Yipe.

    I agree with those who say that GI Joe figures were more playable because of their articulation. But vintage Joe figures only had 12 points of articulation, which is about the same as the 2012 TMNT figures (figures that collectors often say don’t have enough articulation). When I was a kid, I loved the Bravestarr figures for their articulation. They only had 8 or 9 POA, but it was how the joints worked that was important. The joints were solid swivel-hinge joints that posed well and didn’t get loose easily. They worked perfectly as toys… unlike the 20+ POA of MOTUC and DCUC figures.

  35. Philip:
    Yeah, you’ve had some bad experiences with higher end figures. I feel bad about that, since I’m one of the people who wanted you to give NECA another chance. Maybe it’s just that particular line, but I don’t want to be all “come on, give them ANOTHER chance” after two bad experiences, just because mine have been mostly positive. I have two of their Lost Predators and the leg broke on one of them, and I found out that it’s apparently a common issue with that particular batch of plastic, so it clearly does still happen. I have like 8 or 9 other NECA figures that are all fantastic, that I haven’t had a single problem with, so I guess it’s all in the luck of the draw. I wish they had better customer service for situations like this.

    Apparently, the Play-Arts Kai line has some quality issues, too, but I have four or five of them and haven’t had any issues there, either.

    It sucks when you have to put a caveat like that on a figure, but I’ve had figures with way more articulation that have been very sturdy and high quality, and figures with less articulation that have disintegrated in my hands. I guess I maintain that it’s an issue of quality control (and engineering) rather than an issue with the number of joints, themselves.

    Keep pestering Square-Enix about that arm, because it really is a great figure if it doesn’t break.

  36. So many great points and comments!

    I do want to respond to Philip’s question first, and hope it isn’t getting off topic:

    “So what makes the TMNT articulation on the turtles work so well? I think the plastic quality is partly responsible; I love the toy-like feel of the figures.”

    I agree re: quality, and I think too that the physical design of the turtles allows them to be engineered in a way that the articulation fits/works/is not (for the most part) obvious or ugly. With the heavy thick feet, thick limbs, front and back shells over hips and shoulders, and knee/elbow/wrist pads, the design of the turtles is near perfect for sturdy, valuable and useable articulation that in fact does enhance play. I have to imagine engineering and design worked hand in hand to put these toys together.

    On the contrary, guys in tights (comic book versions of Batman and Superman, for instance) are slick and streamlined by design, and DCUC’s articulation on every POA (except maybe the neck) screams out ‘I’M A CUT JOINT! SCREW YOU, AESTHETICS!’

    So it’s like a bell curve then, with ‘aesthetics’ on one side and ‘articulation’ on the other. You eventually get a loss of return on one or the other as you push further into either. Where that loss begins and ends is in the eye of the toy-holder.

    And to clarify, Articulationazis to me are those who will push as far as inhumanly possible into the realm of articulation with little to no regard for aesthetics, lauding articulation uber alles. But I think it’s a funny word and appreciate so many adopting it for themselves on this comment thread 😉

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