Clone Trooper Lieutenant (Toy Fair Edition)
Gentle Giant Studios
Released February, 2004
Reviewed by Adam Pawlus
Photography by Michael Sullenger
Reviewed on March 3, 2004
Can you smell that? It's potential. Years of potential that may have gone and never been realized because it took this long for Gentle Giant to see a void and fill it. While you didn't know you needed these, you do now. Bust-Ups are the next evolution of the small Star Wars collectible, bringing better sculpts and decoration than anything we've seen in this size. Gentle Giant isn't alone in the new small busts, as comapnies like NECA are joining in with teeny-tiny He-Man busts this year. At Toy Fair 2004, Gentle Giant gave out advance samples of the product, and if you went to their booth you got a Clone Trooper Lieutenant. We did just that, and let me tell you-- these are something special.
This figure is packaged in six pieces with a small promotional flyer. As this is a sample, we fully expect changes to be made to the final bust when it comes out as at least one error was made in its decoration.
Oh, and before I forget, the target price of these is $4.99.
Gentle Giant has made a reputation on replicas of masks and helmets that are usually nothing short of amazing. Their humans have been hit and miss, but they have yet to miss the mark on anything made of rubber or plastic. As such, I was totally blown away by it.
You really can't do much better than having a digital model to translate to a plastic collectible, and Gentle Giant really nails the transition from 0s and 1s to oil-based figures. Even more amazing is the size-- these things are the same size as Hasbro's action figures. Basically, you could cut a Hasbro figure in half and stick this on the top and the scale wouldn't seem too out of whack. Customizers are going to have a field day with these things.
There are numerous paint ops, basically proving that a four-inch scale figure can have a lot more detail than we've been getting all these years. The figure is more of an off-white, not very shiny and for whatever reason it just feels much less prone to discoloration, which is a big plus if you've seen how some of the red Clone Troopers from Attack of the Clones have aged under store lights.
Of course, it isn't perfect. Die-hard clone junkies probably see this already, as the blue coloring on the helmet is the one spot where a mistake seems to have been made. The blue color usually extends striaght down the "face" of the helmet, and here it cuts off between the mouth and chin. The paint that is present is right on the mark and seemingly all in place, with a nice vibrant blue color and good clean markings everywhere. There were a few grey spots on the back of the belt-- which you'll most likely never see-- that seemed a little funky.
There's no mistaking this for any other Star Wars collectible. It's a very small bust, and it can be used to customize action figures. In their own right, these have a lot of potential because they're small and cheap, and look great. It's hard to describe just how nifty a bunch of these would look on a shelf on your wall, but man, they're something special.
The downside is that these are statues. There's no articulation here-- you can't turn a wrist, an arm, or a head. But you knew that going in. For what they are-- the world's best desk decorations-- you can't really complain.
Of course, some assembly is required. Since none of the pegs fit in any hole other than the intended ones, this is pretty much a no-brainer.
The gun is stuck to the hand, but the hand is as separate piece from the arm. They stay together well and no glue is required. Also keep in mind that you aren't meant to futz with these, so for all I know heavy handling would mean you would need to do some gluing.
Since the final packaging hasn't been approved, and because costs for a Toy Fair sample are meant to be low, this is what we got.
Neat, eh? The final toys come in little boxes like the Kubricks or other blind boxed Japanese toys from the likes of BanDai that don't come in capsules. Of course, these are patterned after Japanese capsule toys, better known as gashapon, which leads me to how they're going to be sold.
This is where it's going to get sticky. As of last week, the only place you can get these was from your buddies who got extras or from eBay. Gentle Giant also had a special offer through their Web site a little bit later.
This particular bust, we were told, was not intended to be exclusive to Toy Fair and could very well end up in the first few assortments of these when they come out. But wait a minute-- how about those assortments?
As of now, Gentle Giant has yet to determine how these will be sold. They're looking for input from buyers and, hopefully, the likes of you and me. ToyFare magazine reported these would all be blind-boxed, meaning you buy a box for five bucks and you don't know what you get until you open it. Some Gentle Giant staffers at Toy Fair told some reporters that these would be specifically marked, so you know what you got. When I talked to their representative (a really nice cat, I might add) he told me that as of then, there was no definite answer to how they would be sold.
If anyone out there wants to know what I, a fan with a soapbox far larger than he deserves, thinks, let me tell you. I'd like to see these released as a complete set, so I could get all 6-8 or however many are in a series, or in individually marked boxes. I didn't like getting the prize I didn't want in my cereal, and I don't much like the idea of springing $5 to get stuck with my eighth Darth Sidious Bust-Up, either.
This is also the first concept I've been genuinely enamored with in a while. Outside of the Hasbro toys and Dark Horse's comics, there's little I've felt the desire to go an "collect them all," but these seem to be right on the mark for what I want, the kind of space I have left, and the kind of thing I feel I'd need to buy. Plus it might mean that this is the only way we get a really good 4"-scale head for Chewbacca.
I was told these would be sold in the usual collectible channels, which means comic shops, Suncoast stores, and their ilk.
Aside from the missing blue on the "chin" of the helmet, this is the finest Clone Trooper I have ever seen. Except maybe for the regular size minibusts. It's a great, lightweight, durable little piece that I just can't get enough of. I look at it and go "wow, that's a nice piece." It's the kind of thing that could really be a shot in the arm for Star Wars collecting because they're neat, small, cheap, and very well done.
Plus there's the whole customizer angle. I fully expect customizers to get a ridiculous amount of use out of these little guys since they're the same size as Hasbro's figures, just missing a couple of key limbs.
I really don't know if the concept will fly, but it definitely has wings. There's always a market for well-made, high-end, low-cost collectibles and Gentle Giant has found a new way to present something we've already seen. If you have the means to get one of these little buggers, I think that you should. You might not be as excited as I am over them, but there's a lot to like here and it's really hard not to see an endless mountain of potential in such a line.
Should you go through the trouble to get this one, even though it may come out later? Considering deco changes, I'd say yes. Besides, it's just so gosh darn nice looking on my desk.
Our sample was obtained from Gentle Giant Studios at their Toy Fair Booth in New York in February, 2004.