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ACTION FIGURES AND MOVIES  (Posted by dumbo of NYC, NY - October 26, 2006 17:44)
Even the most casual visitor to toy stores or toy-related Web sites like this one knows that a vast majority of the action figures in the market today are tied to movies and simply represent another piece of the merchandising pie for any Hollywood blockbuster movie which includes, among others, games, lunch boxes, posters, T-shirts, etc. Simply mention the title “Star Wars” and you’ll have no trouble imagining how vast and ever-expanding the merchandising universe is…

But in some cases action figures are themselves the protagonists of the movie. The Buzz Lightyear character from the film “Toy Story” is an obvious example of this. Another example is “Small Soldiers” and its platoon of kick-ass, “Dirty Dozen”-style toy soldiers. Naturally, action figures were marketed based on these, huh… action figure characters. But which came first, the toy or the movie???

And in some rare cases the action figures make it into the movie they were based on—-sort of. I am thinking of the “Reservoir Dogs” 10th anniversary Special Edition DVD that includes a special features segment entitled “Small Dogs: Action Figure development documentary” where the “Reservoir Dogs” action figures released by Mezco seem to be re-enacting some of the most memorable scenes of the movie…

And while we are on the subject of the “Reservoir Dogs” figures, it is interesting to note that Mr. Brown, the character played by Quentin Tarantino, was originally not going to be made into a figure at all, not until Quentin said that he “wanted in.” Movie directors don’t get their own action figure, no matter how successful the movie is, unless, of course, they appear in the film itself. Quentin must have liked being one of the figure dog pack, because he got his own figure for “Kill Bill” as well (see shot 2 below). What is remarkable, of course, is that he doesn’t appear in the movie at all! This is probably the one and only figure of a film director from a film in which the director doesn’t act in the film as well. But other film directors have had the honor of being made into an action figure. Robert Englund is an example (see shot 3 below); everybody knows him as Freddy Krueger, but he directed “976-EVIL” and has just directed another movie, “Killer Pad.”

So action figures are based on movies, or are the subject of movies, and sometimes the film directors themselves get their own action figure. But action figures are useful filmmaking tools as well. Directors often use models of sets or locations to set up their shots. What’s more, they sometimes use small “pencil” video cameras that they move across the mini sets in order to plan certain complex camera moves. Naturally, action figures are likely to populate these sets, if the sets are big enough. Another more mundane use of action figures in filmmaking is their use as photographic models. I’ll use an example from my own experience to illustrate this, because, yes, I am a filmmaker besides an action figure collector.

When preparing the DVD art for my film “The Last Fart” about a Mexican gunfighter with a (hilarious) flatulence problem, I needed a shot of the back and legs of a gunfighter about to engage in a quick-draw duel. Instead of hiring a model and costuming him for the shot, I simply photographed the back and legs of an 12-inch figure which, appropriately accessorized, suited my needs to perfection. After some cutting and pasting in Photoshop, here is the result (see shot 1 below). BTW, you can buy the film from amazon.com or directly from me at bigdaruma.com. Click on the link below for more information.

One day I hope to have my own film director action figure, but, for now, I am content with directing action figures and making silly fart movies!



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