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Never Forget - The ICMG Petition

Brian's Toys

Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi

So the Vintage Original Trilogy Collection is here. The line is supposedly going to be a $10-per-figure deluxe series that is going to deliver ultimate versions of figures on nostalgic specialty packaging. You think you’re safe right? Well… Nothing is perfect, especially coming from Hasbro, so hold onto your hats for a couple cut corners, some lacking effort, and all for the inflated retail price!

Obi-Wan Kenobi in the VOTC line is a figure that really could’ve delivered for the fans, as the old man never has been the hottest figure at retail, and it’d be great to get that one single sculpt of him out there that makes him suitable for all his appearances in A New Hope. From every action sequence, to hanging out at his house, to burning Jawa corpses, to getting a brew at the Cantina, and so on, Hasbro could wrap “Old Ben” up nicely with this figure. This guy doesn’t change his outfit, so a single nicely articulated version of him with good accessories and cloth bits would really wrap up a figure we all want but that is retail kryptonite generally. Can Hasbro deliver such a figure?

Well, I’m sad to say that Obi seemed to get the shaft some, and he’s turned into a bit of a disappointment for me. I won’t spoil the fun, but you can read on for all those details. It can be brutal, maybe picky, but who is to say that picky isn’t just what this figure needs so that if Hasbro revisits him they maybe give us all that we want? So yes, read on and decide if the old fibber is any good in your opinion too.

PROS

-Sculpt: The old man never looked as good as he does in the VOTC line, and Obi-Wan comes out as one of the most accurate looking of the first 4 figures in this deluxe line. The detail in the head and hands really sets the figure’s “human” elements off from other characters, and while the likeness is maybe debatable as to its accuracy, there’s still a lot to admire there. The hermit/Jedi robes are loaded with life-like details that make them look like they’re actual clothes on an actual person, and that extra effort is what makes the figure “special” I guess.

The head and hands feature multiple “aged” detailing sculpted into them. For instance the hands have veins and wrinkles, setting them off from the hands you’d see on, say, Luke Bespin from the Saga line, or even Han Solo or Leia’s hands in the same wave of VOTC figures. The hand details are small ones, but they’re the kind of minor thing that lets you know that this figure is a little something extra than a regular carded figure. Though, you should probably expect the same level of quality on a $5 figure since sculpt isn’t really something that’s costing extra to the big H, and it’s more a matter of quality work from the toy’s sculptor. Still, it’s nice to see on this figure and enhances Obi’s realism quite a bit.

The headsculpt on Kenobi is equally aged, with plenty of wrinkles and the chiseled features of a Jedi who has seen it all in his time. The beard and hair are sculpted with thin hair texturing and there’s a lot of vivid detail there. The expression on Obi-Wan is very neutral, but has a look of concentration. Perhaps pondering what the message R2 is carrying could be, or how the events are unfolding around him will change the galaxy. The look is very subtle though and the figure’s got a perfect expression for almost any situation, even “preparing” to give himself to the force on the Death Star.

The body/costume is sculpted with equally thought-out detail. The shirt/tunic features a lot of heavy texturing that highlights the thick woven robes that Obi-Wan wears in A New Hope. You can almost imagine how the cloth of the actual costume would feel just by looking at the figure. The brown undershirt is a much smoother looking sculpt and the separation of fabric textures adds depth to the figure’s looks.

The figure’s legs are predominantly covered by a softgoods “skirt” but the pants underneath feature similar texturing to the tunic robes. The pants and robes are sculpted with tons of wrinkles that have a “hanging” effect/look sculpted to them that looks fantastic. The result is a thin/frail looking older Kenobi with his heavy Jedi robes hanging off of him from the years he’s aged since he was a General. The robes just drape perfectly and the depth to the figure is again one that looks extra special compared to basic figures.

The boots and belt on the figure are also nicely sculpted and full of detail. The boots are a smooth, leather-ish sculpt with few folds at the ankles just as there should be. The soles of the boots are sculpted to look separate and very realistic. The belt mimics the look of the boots and its contrast with the fabric sculpted sash is great. The belt also features a sculpted simplistic metal buckle and a small metal clip is sculpted on his left hip where his lightsaber would clip onto his belt. The detail is a tiny one, and unfortunately it’s not a hollow hole allowing for a saber hilt to attach to his belt, but it’s a nice detail nonetheless and adds realism to the figure.

-Accessories: Obi-Wan comes with more accessories than average VOTC figures seem to. Featuring a softgoods robe, and a lightsaber, that’s more than 2 of the figures in the same wave came with, but it’s not to say that Hasbro couldn’t have done better for $10. Still though, the robe and saber are nice in general, and the robe itself is a fairly elaborate piece.

The lightsaber, oddly enough, utilizes the older styled saber sculpts that don’t have the “flare” at the base of the blade. The hilt’s a good sculpt though, despite the blade’s detail being somewhat lost, and the hilt also features a nice paintjob of black and silver details. The paintjob really makes the accessory, as it’s not the plain silver hilts often seen with past Obi-Wan figures.

The robe, first off, is softgoods/cloth, which wins points with me right away. The fabric chosen is a bit on the puffy side however, and it matches perfectly to the Saga Obi-Wan Pilot figure’s robe. The fabric bulks the robe up on the figure and had Hasbro used a fabric that was limp and thin, they would have had a perfect softgoods robe for this figure. As it stands though, this is the first “Old Ben” we have ever gotten in the modern line that actually could sit in the landspeeder for a trip to Mos Eisley, so it gets some props for that. The robe is cut just right too, so it’s a great pattern, just a poor fabric used.

In the VOTC line, sadly, it seems that 2 accessories is about as good as you’re going to get too, considering most figures seem to only have one at best. Obi-Wan’s got much more catching up to be worth his $10 price tag though, and accessories are cool but not enough to make a great figure.

-Paint Aps/Deco: The figure has a fairly simple paint job to it, and not a lot can be said negative because what Hasbro did is well applied. There are some little details here and there that Hasbro caught, and these make up for the lack of variety or complex paint applications, and the figure turned out quite nice.

The head is where most of the paint aps take place overall. The hair/beard on the figure is the wispy grey we all recall from A New Hope, and Hasbro saw fit to add some wash to the figure so there’s depth and realism. It really highlights the intricate sculpt of the hair, and that’s a positive. Ben’s eyes are equally well painted, and they feature the complex 3-layers of color that Hasbro’s perfected when painting eyes on at least the human characters. There’s a light white base, with a small blue iris, and then the pupil gets a single dark dot. The eyes are both even, not crossed, and there’s no bleeding at all. While your mileage may vary with details like this (it’s always best to look figures over if you have the ability to pick/choose through several on the pegs), my sample is flawless.

The other paint details are simple little things on the costume that needed a bit of paint here and there. The boots and belt are a simple brown, and the under shirt beneath the tunic seems to be painted the same color as well. The paint on these is simple, and while the boots could’ve used some wash on them to give them a more worn look, it isn’t necessary and doesn’t detract from the figure. The belt has a brass colored buckle and the saber clip is painted silver to set it apart from the belt. The soles of the boots are painted black to simulate the tread underneath, and that’s an appreciated detail on any figure Hasbro makes. The paintjob is what you should expect on any figure, just like the sculpt, irregardless of it being a $5 or $10 figure, but when it’s done right it’s worth praising for certain.

-Softgoods Skirt: Hasbro’s been reluctant to bust out the cloth on figures, and generally they’ve catered to the “sculpted” robes crowd. To me, it was high time that a softgoods clad Obi-Wan came about in the line for all his sitting around that he does. Aside from the robe I mentioned in the accessories portion, the figure sports a softgoods “skirt” as well, leaving the legs free for poseability.

The cloth is perfectly colored, and matches the color of the sculpted tunic and pants. The texture of the softgoods skirt is fairly similar to the sculpted texturing on the robes as well, and the way the two items match is nice for a realistic look, which is something a lot of people complain about with the use of fabric on figures in this scale. The fabric is about as even a match as you can get though, and it’s very thin so it doesn’t look poofy and awkward on this figure at all really. There’s a lack of the sashes hanging down on the figure though which is disappointing and unexplainable as to whether Hasbro just got cheap on fabric or if they just forgot this detail on the costume, so there is a slight inaccuracy with the way the final figure looks.

-Packaging: The packaging on the VOTC figures is probably the most ornate and eye-catching package for a Star Wars figure to-date. While the basic OTC line that shipped alongside the VOTC figures was nice, the VOTC definitely drew your attention as being something special.

A downside to the dazzling packaging was the cost, which like other features I’ll touch on that shortly in the “Cons” portion, however it was a cost a lot of people were willing to bite for “ultimate” versions of various figures.

The packaging is a recreation of the original vintage Kenner action figure cardbacks from the 1970’s and 1980’s. If you were like me, and can recall these figures adorning your local toy store (Ah, Children’s Palace… The days when a trip to the toy store meant something), then you no doubt have a feeling of nostalgia, just as Hasbro intended. The old style cardbacks are nice to see on the pegs, and they really do catch the eye like no modern packaging has been able to.

While Hasbro went to great lengths to recreate the front of the packaging, the back of the packaging was a modern style displaying 3 other figures from a specific wave. The waves were broken down into a Star Wars wave with the original Star Wars style card, an Empire Strikes back wave styled accordingly, and then a Return of the Jedi wave.

Hasbro’s work to recreate the cardbacks was nicely done, and appreciated. This has so far been the only packaging I’ve wanted to save really. And Hasbro made saving the packaging easy if you were careful in getting the figure off the bubble, as they included a reseal-able protective clamshell over the figure’s card/bubble. Just perfect for keeping everything minty fresh, aside from that X-Acto knife slice along the bubble to get the figure out.

The end result is some nicely displayed toy on the pegs. A full set of the 12 VOTC cardbacks looks really nice displayed amongst your figure collection.

CONS

-Puffy Softgoods Cloak: While I appreciate Hasbro including a softgoods robe, one of Obi-Wan’s biggest flaws is that Hasbro used a completely inappropriate fabric for the figure’s neat accessory. With fabric robes on Darth Vader figures being almost the perfect style, it’s disappointing to see Hasbro continue using a thick, “puffy” looking fabric on Jedi robes when they have better options readily available.

The robe sits awkwardly on the Obi figure, and if you want the hood up on him it looks even more awkward. It’s possible to trim the excess fabric of the robe down at the seams and sewing lines on the robe (inside the robe). This does help it fit somewhat better, it looks a little better overall and is easier to manipulate so it is tolerable, but in the end Hasbro would’ve done well by fans to have simply used a limp, light fabric. The “Total Control Mace Windu” figure from the Saga line features the ULTIMATE in Jedi softgoods robes and the thing isn’t even sewn! Had Hasbro used the same pattern to sew a robe using that Mace figure’s fabric, it would’ve given us a perfect fit and a robe that folds realistically in this small scale to the figure’s contours. Sadly, Hasbro’s stuck on using the bulky fabric, so hopefully future softgoods efforts feature something a little more innovative and aesthetically pleasing. The effort to make sure he had a cloth robe is still appreciated though.

-Articulation: Among the VOTC line, articulation is a key to any and all of the 12 figures, and without it these figures feel like they’re worth MUCH less than the $10 price retail wants for them. Some figures were complete duds in this department, and Obi-Wan is probably the second worst of the bunch unfortunately. Articulation is the “Achilles Heel” of the Obi-Wan figure and really takes him down many notches.

Obi-Wan Kenobi features articulation at:

- 2 ball/socket shoulder joints
- 2 angle-cut elbow joints
- 2 standard wrist joints
- 2 standard hip joints
- 1 ball/socket neck joint (limited movement)
- 1 standard waist joint

The figure’s articulation total is 10 points, which is not the worst Obi-Wan figure out there by far… Quite the contrary, as this is probably the most poseable version of the old fogy. Unfortunately though, some of the articulation is poorly thought-out, and the figure does feature a low tally for a line of $10 figures that some of which have ball/sockets at every joint imaginable.

Obi-Wan’s arms are highly limited even though they have 6 points of articulation between the two of them. The elbows in particular are where the flaws lie. The angles of the elbow joints are very sharp, and force the figures arms into an awkward position no matter how you pose them. Angle-cuts on the Princess Leia figure were a much more solid effort, and their reversible nature at the shoulder meant you could get perfectly neutral arm poses with her arms at her sides, or you could have her holding a weapon in combat poses. Obi-Wan can basically hold a saber and that’s all that looks natural at all with him.

On top of the arm articulation being unnecessarily awkward, the figure’s leg articulation is practically non-existent. This makes Obi-Wan sitting around with his favorite pupil, or chilling in a booth with Han Solo at the Cantina, pretty much impossible… or at least not something that looks right. If the figure had featured ball/socket knees like Han Solo, Luke, or even hinged knees like Prince Leia, then the flaw of the leg articulation would be greatly reduced. The softgoods skirt still allows for sitting in the Landspeeder though which is great, but the figure should be so much more poseable than he turned out to be, especially for $10. It is really excuseless that he was limited like he was, and his poseability is easily the biggest disappointment in the VOTC Obi-Wan Kenobi figure.

-No Saber Hilt/Belt Clip: The VOTC Vader figure sports this little feature, and sadly Hasbro didn’t see fit for it to follow over to the Obi-Wan Kenobi figure as it should have. It would certainly have been nice to see a saber hilt with a belt peg packed in with this figure so you could clip his saber to his belt, especially since the saber clip was even specifically sculpted onto the belt.

The detail would’ve added to the figure’s accessories, and Hasbro has suitable accessories they could have issued with this figure so as not to have to sculpt an all-new one. The lack of the saber hilt is incredibly disappointing from the standpoint of a collector who likes to pose his figures more “at ease” than in the action poses. It would’ve been great to have set Obi-Wan up in the Cantina even, perhaps reaching for the saber to defend him against drunken thug aliens. Either way, for the cost of the VOTC figures, Hasbro sometimes didn’t go the extra mile that they should have for us to have fully felt that we got our money’s worth out of our purchases. Obi-Wan is a figure where Hasbro seems to have cut many corners sadly.

-Retail Cost: Without a doubt, and probably the worst aspect of the VOTC line, is the cost that came with each figure. Some have been lucky to have bought their VOTC sets on clearance, however most people paid the retail price which came to approximately $10 per figure or so. Not the cheapest price to pay for a single figure.

The cost of the figure can be blamed on a number of reasons. The VOTC line was touted for its “limited” nature, for instance, driving up costs due to lower production runs. The packaging was ornate, recreated by hand, and it required a lot of extra work for it to be done appropriately. The coffin blisters on the packaging even, to recreate the vintage look, were also “special” and added very slightly to the packaging costs. The special protective case surrounding the figure also would’ve been a noticeable increase in overall costs in producing these figures also. And that’s really only starting on where increases in costs could be hiding with the VOTC figures over basic modern figures.

I personally feel the VOTC figures are not any more intricate or complex in their design than a basic figure is, as far as costs go. If you put VOTC on basic cardbacks, and at basic production numbers, you’d see a figure that would sell profitably at a basic figure’s price. But with the packaging, you have something that, unless it becomes the line’s standard, it definitely inflates the production costs of the figures.

The cost seemed to noticeably hurt the VOTC line as well, as it also has hurt the Ultra/Deluxe lines over the years. $10 is a lot to pay for a figure, and it showed at stores that ordered the VOTC line heavily like Wal-Mart who couldn’t move the later waves out quickly. I love the VOTC concept though, and think that either a better price or case ratios would have alleviated all issues with product movement.

OVERALL

The Vintage OTC line really does dish out some of the best figures the modern line has ever seen, and some that may never be rivaled even. At the same time, the $10 retail price demands that Hasbro step things up a notch on ALL the figures in the line, not just a select few, and corners cut on any figure will shine a bit too brightly for what Hasbro may be comfortable with, as far as criticism coming from collectors (such as yours truly) may be willing to unload on them.

The packaging doesn’t justify a $4 - $5 price increase in my book, so I’m looking for the ultimate version of every figure, or something that’s damn close to it. Obi-Wan Kenobi in the VOTC line fell terribly short because of his articulation though, and Hasbro’s still got some work to do to make that truly ultimate “Old Ben” we all would like to have. There’s work on the softgoods robe that can be done, the saber hilt that clips to the belt is a must-have feature I believe (and it’s so simple that it sucks not to see it here), and if they don’t beef the articulation up big time on this figure, then it never is going to be accepted as the “definitive” version of this character.

Obi-Wan features a low point in the A New Hope wave though, and while he’s not the worst figure in the VOTC line (I’m sad to say that, but it’s true), he is pretty close. Top (err, bottom?) 3 I’d say is where I’d likely place him at this point.

He’s cool to sit in your landspeeder, especially if you can rework the hood/robe to look a little less ridiculous on him, but as far as having him dueling Vader on your Death Star, sneaking around shutting down Imperial tractor beams, or just chilling out at his hermit pad, he isn’t the best for any of those things sadly. It’s showing too at retail because he was one of the worse selling figures of the entire line it seemed.

So I send you out with a “buyer beware” attitude towards this figure. If you’re not a completist and poseability is important to you, I wholeheartedly suggest waiting. However with the VOTC most people want the set with no gaping holes in it so I suspect most of us have this figure. If you like to pose your stuff though, well I won’t say “I told you so” when you’re lamenting this one.

 

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