Figure of the Day: Day 635
1/31/2008 8:54:32 PM | Reported by Adam

AIRSPEEDER PILOT with Airspeeder
Power of the Force Expanded Universe Vehicle Assortment
Item No.:
Asst. 69620 No. 69774
Number: n/a
Manufacturer: Kenner
Includes: Vehicle, Projectile
Action Feature: Firing projectile, pop-out wings, opening cockpit
Retail: $14.99
Availability: Spring 1998
Appearances: n/a

Bio: A series of publications called The Art of Star Wars unveiled how a group of artists whose talent for intricacies revealed a far-away galaxy that continues to capture the imagination of Star Wars fans everywhere. Several versions of the Incom T-47 airspeeder, also known as the snowspeeder, were created before deciding on the definitive model seen in The Empire Strikes Back. This vehicle was designed and built based on several production sketches by artist Ralph McQuarrie. (Taken from the toy's box. This box didn't make mention of the fact that many of these designs were also shown in a series of Star Wars sketchbooks. I checked my art-of books and both the figure and vehicle were attributed to Ralph McQuarrie.)

Image: Adam Pawlus' TV tray with the Concept Cloud Car Pilot, Concept Speeder Bike Pilot, and Concept Rebel Trooper.

Commentary: When unveiled at a convention in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1997 (which happened to be local for me) fans called this a Snowspeeder pilot-- to which a Kenner representative quickly corrected them and called it the Airspeeder Pilot. It's a very tall figure and it comes with a particularly nifty vehicle. This was one of three concept-based vehicles released in 1998, each of which included an exclusive figure. The figures and vehicles were largely based on the designs of Ralph McQuarrie or Joe Johnston. But I digress-- this guy is unusually tall, much taller than the other concept-based "generic" Rebel figures released in 1998 and 2007. One of the highlights of this figure was that it had a great face sculpt that looks like it might actually be based on someone specific, but as of yet there's no evidence that this is a real person here. The figure is molded in white and the face's flesh was painted over it, which gives it a much richer look. There's not a lot of paint on the body, just some grey on the gloves, belt, and binoculars, a little yellow on the goggles, and a pair of stripes over the right shoulder for no readily apparent reason. The end result is a figure that looks almost unfinished, which works well with the "concept" theme-- it's just that it really does feel incomplete. The figure has the typical-for-the-time 6 points of articulation and has no problems sitting down. The figure looks almost exactly like the original illustration and is a wonderful adaptation of the sketch into a finished, three-dimensional product.

Collector's Notes: Today, fans are all about the concept-based stuff but back in 1998 fans were complaining that the resources weren't being spent on movie-based vehicles or figures. How times change! Recently, a small number of fans have been clamoring for more new art-based vehicles spanning from reissues of items like this to new items. It doesn't seem terribly likely in the short term, but man, how cool would it be to see a concept-based X-wing with a matching pilot, or perhaps one of those Snowspeeders that look like Y-Wings? There's a lot of great figures and vehicles in the "Art Of" books and Sketchbooks, so here's hoping Hasbro mines that territory for future low-price vehicles and figures.

Fans of the McQuarrie Concept figures of 2007 should absolutely consider adding this to their collection. Also, consider the Cloud Car and Speeder Bike. I think this is the best overall of the three, but they're all pretty spiffy and cheap.

Day 635: January 31, 2008

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